PhD Oral Exam - Klara du Plessis, English Literature
The Relational Poetry Reading Series in Live Performance and Audio Archives, Montreal from the 1960s to the Present: Positing Framed, Open, Self, and Deep Curatorial Modes of Literary Event Organization
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Recognizing a gap in audiotextual criticism that focuses on the poetry reading series as subject, my interdisciplinary doctoral research imports vocabulary from curatorial into literary studies through sound archives of poetry performance. I borrow Irit Rogoff’s distinction between practical curating and the curatorial as a dynamic field of critical exchange (“Curating/Curatorial”) to schematize and theorize four curatorial modes relating to the formulation of literary events: framed, open, self, and deep curation. Each mode shifts the relational tension between the responsibility of the curator and the creative field activated at the series by featured authors: some curators direct expected outcomes, while some model an open space that invites experimentation; some curators are themselves performers, while some conceptualize curating as artform. My research recognizes the interconnection of innumerable elements active at literary events and calls this network of exchange curatorial relationalities, highlighting the vibrant reciprocity between curator, poets, poetry, audience demographic, venue, technology, historical moment, and more. My research originated in parallel to Beatrice von Bismarck’s 2022 monograph The Curatorial Condition that contends that “the activity, the subject position, and the resulting product [of curating...are] always already dynamically interrelated in their genesis, articulation, and function” (8-9). It is also indebted to Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and Édouard Glissant’s Poetics of Relation, pivotal studies on art and poetry that rely on sociability, knowledge transfer, and an unstable locus of constant interchange. I apply the terminology of curatorial modes and relationalities to a Montreal-based context, using case studies from the past sixty years with a chapter each on the Sir George Williams poetry series (1966-1974), Véhicule Art Inc. (1973-1983), the Words and Music Show (2000-ongoing), and Deep Curation (2018-ongoing). While Deep Curation is a curatorial mode, it also materializes in a personal research creation project and experimental curatorial practice. I have organized and archived eight Deep Curation events in collaboration with leading Canadian poets, including Oana Avasilichioaei, Liz Howard, Kaie Kellough, among others. My dissertation thus straddles an investigation into contemporary, local poetry in performance equally as it theorizes vocabulary that can be applied and developed in relation to other literary curatorial performative contexts.