Graphing the Self: Modern Poetry and Portraiture

deadline for submissions: 
March 28, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Modernist Studies Association
contact email: 

MSA Annual Conference "Graphic Modernisms" 

Columbus, OH

November 8-11


"Graphing the Self: Modern Poetry and Portraiture"

From Gertrude Stein’s portrait poems, to TS Eliot’s and William Carlos Williams’ own “Portrait(s) of a Lady,” the idea of portraiture captivated the imagination of many modernist poets. This sensibility extended into postmodern verse as well, as writers like Frank O’Hara (“Self-Portrait with Masks”) and, most famously, John Ashbery (“Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror”) turned the mirror on themselves. Tracing the tradition of poetic portraits back to 19th century verse, Frances Dickey argues in The Modern Portrait Poem From Dante Gabriel Rossetti to Ezra Pound that the genre “investigates a variety of possibilities about the self, whether viewing persons as discrete and thing-like or exploring the way that selves blend and intersect.”

Building on Dickey’s premise, this panel aims to explore the wide “variety of possibilities about the self” that modern and postmodern self/portrait poems articulate or, indeed, ‘graph.’ How do these poems orient, disorient, or reorient idea of the self or subjectivity? What verbal and/or visual processes do they utilize?

The panel particularly welcomes papers that examine works by women poets, poets of color, and queer poets (and the various intersections therein) on their own or in conversation with others. Papers may discuss explicit or more implicit modes of poetic self/portraiture. All abstracts on relevant topics will be given careful consideration.

Possible lines of inquiry include but are not limited to:

1. the self/portrait poem & race, gender, and sexuality

2. the self/portrait poem & theories of the lyric

3. the self/portrait poem & contemporary (post-1975) poetry

4. the self/portrait poem & the visual arts tradition

5. the self/portrait poem & serial forms

6. the self/portrait poem & historical/political events

7. the self/portrait poem & transnationalism

Please send a ~350-word abstract, short bio, and A/V needs to Alexandra Gold, agold25@bu.edu, by March 28th.