Joel Duncan



Areas of Interest
American literature & culture, the history of capitalism, poetry & poetics, visual culture, writing & rhetoric

University of Sussex, BA, MA

My dissertation, “The Song in the Machine: Organic Forms of American Poetry,” elaborates how organic and machine forms have been mutually constituted by American poets writing in free verse. Organicist poets from Walt Whitman to Ron Silliman have, curiously, produced a rich and contradictory formalist tradition, the consistent innovations of which—from parataxis to the markings of precise time—transform the machinery of capital into poetic song. I show how modernists like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, in promulgating machine metaphors for their art, ended up furthering the aesthetics of organic vitality. Experimental poets consistently imagine their work as being oriented toward an organic, “human universe”—to steal a phrase from Charles Olson—which would be antithetical to capital’s own imperatives. But in continually “sounding out” capital, these poets have authored poetic innovations that can only be fully comprehended in their dynamic relation to industrial developments.

I have taught two of my own courses, “Poetry & Modern Life in Crisis” and “The Art of Writing: Rhetoric and Visual Objects,” as well as having been a teaching assistant for American Studies and American Literature courses. 

Recent Scholarly Activity

  • “Ron Silliman’s Ketjak Beyond Programmatism.” Forthcoming in Textual Practice
  • Review of Whitman Noir: Black America and the Good Gray Poet, ed. Ivy G. Wilson. Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 32, no. 1 (Summer/ Fall 2014): 83-86.