Zoom talk by Dr. Melih Levi: “Gesturing Beyond the Avant-Garde: Frank O’Hara and the Performing Self”, June 25

Department of Western Languages and Literatures presents a zoom talk by Dr. Melih Levi: ”Gesturing Beyond the Avant-Garde: Frank O’Hara and the Performing Self” on June 25 at 2 pm.


FEF Meeting Room 2 is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Time: Jun 25, 2020 02:00 PM Istanbul


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Meeting ID: 954 2613 8697


Abstract: Legacies of the avant-garde in post-war America provide compelling case studies for understanding early departures from modernist conceptions of objectivity and impersonality. These departures also announce the onset of confessionalism in lyric poetry and the aesthetic  appreciation of personality attributes like authenticity, truthfulness, reliability, and sincerity. The New York School poet Frank O’Hara is often celebrated for the urban, spontaneous and performative style of his “I do this, I do that” poems and his effortless movement between diverse perceptions. But his earlier experiments with various avant-garde techniques (those of Surrealism in particular) reveal deeper and lengthier attachments in the object-world. Though the fluidity of Surrealist assemblages prepares O’Hara’s poetry for a swift responsiveness in urban contexts, the Surrealist interest in disguise and distortion puts pressure on his direct and plainspoken performance. As a result, his speakers consistently worry that undue emphasis on the activity of the self may end up turning the self into yet another object of study. How does O’Hara overcome this anxiety and perform a dynamic sense of self that resists being turned into a linguistic construct? We will observe that O’Hara stages purposeful encounters with modernist art to imagine what it would take to escape modernist claims of impersonality, as well as turning to gestures and painterly grammars to increase the resourcefulness of plain language.