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Authors | Jane Malcolm

Jane Malcolm is an Associate Professor of English at the Université de Montréal. She has published essays on the work of Laura Riding, Gertrude Stein, Muriel Rukeyser, and Alice Notley, among others, and is co-editor of a critical edition of Laura Riding's 1928 treatise, Contemporaries and Snobs (University of Alabama Press) and most recently of A Description of Acquaintance: the Letters of Laura Riding and Gertrude Stein 1927-1930 (University of New Mexico Press).

Articles on Amodern by Jane Malcolm


Toward a Theory of the Perfectly Unreadable

Yoko Ono was a primary innovator of the event score, a mainstay of procedural poetry from the 1960s and 1970s. Looking closely at Grapefruit: A Book of Instruction and Drawings (1970), alongside Ono's perennial interest in idleness and whimsy, this essay asks how valuing the somatic dimensions of instruction-based poetry challenges our methods of reading and apprehending poetic texts and insists that we distinguish between procedure-as-poem and the speculative text that is created by bodies performing instruction-based poems. The unknowable, unreadable outcomes of these embodied poems become increasingly legible and nuanced as we shift critical focus from the textual to the extra-textual surround in social and pedagogical spaces.


In this special issue, we argue that the familiar narrative of the dematerialization of art since the mid-twentieth century has obscured procedural works’ significant relationships to the somatic and to the environment. The essays gathered here, individually and collectively, illuminate embodiment and emplacement as key stakes and concerns within the proceduralist tradition. They identify Cecilia Vicuña, Yoko Ono, Adrian Piper, and Bernadette Mayer as key practitioners of proceduralist aesthetics, and they discuss the material relationships between textualities and bodies within poetry, performance, pedagogy, and playable media.


Muriel Rukeyser’s Meta-Poetics and the Communal Soundscape

This paper addresses the creation of imagined communal soundscapes and a poetics and politics of audience exchange in the archival recording of Muriel Rukeyser’s 1969 SGWU reading.  Rukeyser’s prefatory question to her audience, “How many of you have ever written a poem?” and the inevitable silence that follows highlight the importance of negative space in the phonotext. If the lack of sound (or incomplete silence) is a prime feature of the sonic archive, we can read the archival recording itself as an imaginary/poetic text. What is unspoken and uncaptured thus points to a critical lacuna in the study of this archive (exemplified by Rukeyser’s unanswered question), as well as to the possibilities for sonic insurgency it signals.