UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Performing memory : American poets theater and the poetics of the archive, 1945-1995 Dodd, Rebecca Jane


This dissertation uses the methodological tools of archival research to interrogate the relationship between performance, community, and memory in an extended study of American poets theater, a quasi-genre or aesthetic tendency that aligns poetic practices with the conventions of theatre and site-specific performance. At the same time, archival theory provides a theoretical framework for thinking through poets theater’s coterie function. I trace a poetics of the archive across American poetry after 1945 to argue that poets theater creates an accessible record of past communities and community events. In keeping with this community-focused approach, each chapter of this dissertation addresses the origins of American poets theater in the social and aesthetic contexts from which it develops, including the New York School and second-generation New York School of poets, the San Francisco Renaissance, and the New Narrative Movement. Each community, I argue, contributes to the development of poets theater as we recognize it today. Building on these situated contexts, this dissertation also draws on the work of Rebecca Schneider to suggest that poets theater should be read as both a form of re-enactment and an archival-theatrical event. I argue that poets theater operates as a trans-historical tool of the coterie that, through the process of re-enactment, works to capture, recreate, create anew, or signal affective connections across spaces and times. This allows poets theater to extend the parameters of coterie to include both the original event and the re-performance of it, eliciting community membership to both audience members and performers alike across times and performances.

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