Sarah Moxham (UCL) - 2017-18 Students

Poetic Happenings: The relationship between twentieth-century French and Italian poetry and performance art

Whilst the relationships between poetry and music, the visual arts, cinema and, to a certain extent, dance have been discussed by numerous academics, current scholarship regarding the interaction between poetry and performance art is extremely underdeveloped, particularly from a non-Anglo-American perspective. Although the academic interest in the performative aspects of poetry has gained momentum, critics tend to write about performance poetry (poetry written specifically for performance rather than for the page; a medium that differs from performance art, which arose from visual art, due to its emphasis on text-based vocal performance) instead of poetry as an element of performance art or the performative aspects of poetry on the page. Therefore, my research will demonstrate the dynamics between twentieth-century French and Italian printed poetry and performance art to provide a much-needed appraisal on the artistic output of two countries at the forefront of modern poetic and performative experimentation.

I will focus on two main periods: 1900-1930, the formative period of twentieth-century performance art, and the 1960s to the early 1980s, the era when performance gained prominence in society as a medium of political and artistic expression. My work will investigate how the emergence of performance art influenced French and Italian poets to change the way they wrote on the page and how twentieth-century performance art in France and Italy was not only expressive but also poetic in nature. I will discuss how the incorporation of the vocal, visual and gestural into poetry – from Apollinaire’s early twentieth-century visual-verbal experimentations to the Gruppo 70’s use of extralinguistic materials in the 1960s and 1970s – produces an ultimate ‘total poetry’ by moving beyond the limits of the written word. Consequently, I will reveal how performance art, a privileged space for the fusion of the arts, epitomises this notion of poetic totality.

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