What do experiential poet Bruce Andrews and former Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly have in common? On the surface, almost nothing—the former is a highly regarded, retired academic and the latter a disgraced TV host and conservative partisan. For a brief four minutes in 2006, however, the two met and discussed on national television the nature of politics and higher education, with predictable obtuseness on the part of O’Reilly. Nothing was concluded or conceded, and arguably nothing was learned. Yet both did portend a fundamental change to the operation of American political life. O’Reilly’s attempt was far more public (and destructive), but Andrews’s political project has remained confined to a small contingent of scholars. This article reexamines Andrews’s claim that the only effective means of political resistance can come from an experimental poetic practice that challenges the ideology of American individualism at the heart of contemporary sense making. The author argues that the limitations of this political project are instructive and relevant beyond the confines of a scholarly interest in poetry, which are revealed through readings of Harryette Mullen.
Laying Bare the Device: Bruce Andrews, Harryette Mullen, Billy O’Reilly, and the Politics of Poetry
Mitchell Gauvin is a PhD candidate and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council doctoral fellow in the Department of English at York University and is scheduled to graduate in 2021. His doctoral thesis analyzes the rhetoric of citizenship and the overlap between literature and the semiotics of political belonging.
Mitchell Gauvin; Laying Bare the Device: Bruce Andrews, Harryette Mullen, Billy O’Reilly, and the Politics of Poetry. the minnesota review 1 May 2021; 2021 (96): 82–100. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00265667-8851548
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