Erin Kappeler F'21, F'12

Erin  Kappeler
Assistant Professor
English
Tulane University

ACLS Fellowship Program 2021
Assistant Professor
English
Tulane University
The Songs of White Folk: Anti-Blackness, Settler Colonialism, and the Invention of Free Verse

Free verse is poetry by and for white people. Or at least, that is how white editors and critics pitched free verse to readers when it started to come into vogue in the United States in the 1910s. This book tells the story of how these critics turned free verse into a weapon wielded against Black and Indigenous poets. From the 1910s through the 1930s, free verse was defined in academic journals, textbooks, literary anthologies, and popular magazines as the formal expression of a white race. This project shows the need for a radical restructuring of literary histories of modernism, which continue to position free verse as a salutary break with the poetic forms of the past rather than as a racialized construction that created real barriers for Black and Indigenous poets and critics.

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2012
Doctoral Candidate
English
Tufts University
Shaping Free Verse: American Prosody and Poetics ,1880-1920

This dissertation uncovers a forgotten tradition of poetics in American literary history. It argues that literary scholars in the late nineteenth century abstracted social relations into verse traits and turned a set of ideas about racial and national identity into the genre of free verse poetry. The dissertation analyzes popular poetic theories in the late nineteenth-century American academy; details the process whereby Walt Whitman was constructed as the father of free verse poetry; analyzes the role that anthologies of the so-called new poetry played in creating the genre of free verse; and examines the ways in which Poetry magazine's readers resisted the newly genericized metrical conventions of free verse experiments.