Professor Lytle Shaw (NYU): Third Personism: The FBI's Poetics of Immediacy in the 1960s

Wednesday 30 January 2019 (14:00-16:00)

Professor Lytle Shaw (New York University) draws from his new book, Narrowcast: Poetry and Audio Research (Stanford, 2018), to explore the relationship between poets of the New Left and FBI and CIA surveillance in the 1960s.

This talk positions the tape recording Allen Ginsberg undertook in his VW van on a cross-country trip in 1966 in relation to the surveillance recordings performed by the CIA and FBI on poets associated with the New Left including Ginsberg himself.

Reframing this surveillance as a form of research, the talk demonstrates how, when the state’s Yale-trained literary critics “overheard” poets, they confronted problems similar to those encountered by poets using tape, especially the bleeding of voice into sonic environments that overwhelmed audibility. Designed to immerse Ginsberg in pro-Vietnam war radio broadcasts and capture this toxic ambiance on his new reel-to-reel, his 1966 tape in fact relativized Ginsberg’s voice to the extent that the poet translated his project from the medium of tape to that of print. What does it tell us about the social life of tape recording in the 1960s, then, to compare Ginsberg and the state’s responses to tape’s relativization of voice?

Please note that the time of this talk has been changed - it now takes place earlier than originally advertised.