The following is a guest post by Jason Michael David Steinhauer, program specialist in the Library of Congress Office of Scholarly Programs.
The John W. Kluge Center welcomes promising young scholars from the United Kingdom to conduct research at the Library of Congress. The scholars—all currently pursuing doctorate degrees—are funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which have been collaborating with the Library since 2006 to provide short-term opportunities for scholars based in the U.K.
British Research Council Fellow Francesca Bratton talks about her research on American poet Hart Crane.
Tell us about your research.
While at the Library of Congress, I’m researching Hart Crane’s appearances in fifteen rare U.S. modernist avant-garde periodicals. This will make up a considerable amount of raw material for my doctoral thesis, “Hart Crane and the Little Magazine.”
What collections are you focusing on?
The majority of my time here will be spent working with periodical and newspaper collections. I am particularly interested in working with a group of what are known as the “tendenz” magazines of the 1920s, such as Broom, Secession and S4N. These are often fun to work with, being rather argumentative and often with intriguing editing policies. It is also a great privilege to have the opportunity to immerse myself in whole runs of journals like The Dial, The Little Review and Poetry, a Chicago-based magazine which still exists today.
How did you first get interested in Crane?
I first came across Crane purely by accident—in a London bookshop killing time between seminars, during my second year as an undergraduate. I was struck by how beautiful and unusual his poetry was. After that initial “meeting,” I suppose my engagement became preoccupied with understanding how Crane’s poetry tugs at our heartstrings. Beyond that, I am interested in the processes of composition and reader reception.
What, in your opinion, is it about poetry that pulls on the heartstrings? Can it be articulated? If so, how would you describe it?
That is an incredibly tough question—which I won’t pretend to be able to answer in a general sense, but I can tentatively sketch out some of my own thoughts regarding Crane. I think the crucial thing is that this changes contextually—that, in a way, is the point of my project. A name or image which might have had specific resonances during Crane’s publishing time (1916-1932) might have, subsequently, shed some of those meanings. In the publishing environment of the little magazines, this would have meant fast-paced changes in appreciation within multiple magazine audiences. To some extent, this project is an attempt to reconstruct these meanings at certain points in time in the hope they might illuminate Crane’s verse.
Where is your research taking the discussion of Crane’s poetry?
Primarily, I hope to show the ways in which tracing these periodical networks can illuminate readings of Crane’s poetry—this is a new, and I think fruitful, approach. Even at this stage, it has become fascinating to see how utterly immersed he was in contemporary magazine culture. He published roughly 90 times in 25 different literary organs, held an editorial position with Joseph Kling at The Pagan, and worked closely with his friend Gorham Munson, who edited Secession. My research will, firstly, be disseminated through the academic community by means of papers and publications and will intersect with exciting work currently being done on modernist periodicals. In terms of Crane studies, resituating Crane’s verse in context has the added benefit of drawing out the ways in which many critical ideas that have continued to shape discussion of Crane’s work were formed contemporaneously. Additionally, I have found a new prose item which has been previously been missed by scholars of Crane. The discovery of this item might have implications regarding the level of his engagement with contemporary periodicals, which is very exciting.