Or, Tyler’s Making Progress
The past half-year I’ve been consumed with dissertation preparations: narrowing down a topic, questioning that topic, narrowing it again, compiling a bibliography around which my comprehensive exams will be built, drafting a dissertation proposal, revising that proposal, and revising again, then again. And I’ve only really just begun. Now that my proposal has been approved by the graduate director in Idaho State’s Department of English and Philosophy, I have to tackle the real work. This includes 1) gutting the works on my exam lists so I can be ready for my comprehensive exams, which are tentatively scheduled for mid-may/early-June, and 2) beginning to draft my dissertation, which I’ve committed* to finish by the end of spring semester 2012.
But I digress.
This post is really meant to pass along that approved version of my dissertation proposal, which dissertation is titled (at this point)—drum roll, please—“Performative Poesis and the (Un)Making of the World: Alex Caldiero’s Sonosophy as Ethnography.”
Contrary to what I’ve written in the past about this all-consuming writing project (see here and here), I’ve moved away from a sole focus on Mormon poetry, though Mormonism as part of Caldiero’s cultural/performance heritage is at the heart of my interest in his work. As such, it will be a sustained presence in my dissertation. This change to writing about Caldiero was spurred on by, among other things, 1) recent efforts to archive, share, and discuss Caldiero’s work—including Torben Bernhard and Travis Low’s documentary The Sonosopher: Alex Caldiero in Life . . . in Sound (now available for pre-order from Ken Sanders Rare Books), Scott Abbott’s continued engagement with Caldiero, and the publication of Caldiero’s latest collection of poems, Poetry is Wanted Here—and 2) by my fascination with Caldiero in performance. I’ve yet to see him perform live (one of the drawbacks of living in Idaho), but from what I hear and what I can sense of him in these online recordings, he asserts a powerful presence on the stage and has much to say about the making and maintaining of poetry, culture, language, and humanity. So I’m investing my scholarship in him and his performative poetics for at least the next seventeen or so months.
For anyone interested in reading my complete proposal (all 47 pages of it, including works cited and exam lists), here’s a full-text copy. And for those who’d appreciate the Reader’s Digest version, here’s a summary my advisor wrote when she wanted to help me be sure I was getting my point across (and I think her summary is spot on):
Alex Caldiero, a contemporary performance poet who lives in Utah, calls his poetics sonosophy, which literally means sound-wisdom. Sonosophy is a useful idea not just for understanding Caldiero but also for helping us understand other performance poets and performance itself. We can use performance theory to analyze Caldiero and sonosophy. This requires an ethnographic method (which is not what literary scholars usually do): transcribing the poetry to reveal how sound and movement are meaningful in the poetry, as well as the words, and analyzing meaning through relating the poetry to its performance arenas, to the contexts that Caldiero claims as influences, and to other applicable contexts such as the late 20th century performance art movement. This analysis reveals the expressive power of performance poetics. Ultimately, the analysis further reveals sonosophy as an auto-ethnographic practice through which Caldiero meaningfully questions his own culture and its assumptions.
Any feedback you’re willing to offer is welcome.
*To the only person that really matters: my wife.