Both of these books study the effects of various filters on the conveyance of information in literary texts. Word of Mouth focuses narrowly on one such filter: how the voices, audiences, narrative structures, and social functions of gossip operate in the work of four mid-twentieth-century American poets (Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Frank O’Hara, and James Merrill). In contrast, Somebody Telling Somebody Else ranges across two hundred years’ worth of literary and popular novels, short stories, and memoirs in pursuit of what Phelan calls a “comprehensive” (63) rhetorical theory of how authors, narrators, and other tellers interact with audiences to shape a narrative’s “cognitive, affective, ethical, and aesthetic dimensions” (258). Word of Mouth follows some prominent trends in poetry scholarship, most notably a historical poetics concern with what has come to be called lyric reading. Somebody Telling Somebody Else resists some prominent modes...

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