Narrowcast explores how mid-century American poets associated with the New Left mobilized tape recording as a new form of sonic field research even as they themselves were being subjected to tape-based surveillance. Media theorists tend to understand audio recording as a technique for separating bodies from sounds, but this book listens closely to tape's embedded information, offering a counterintuitive site-specific account of 1960s poetic recordings. Allen Ginsberg, Charles Olson, Larry Eigner, and Amiri Baraka all used recording to contest models of time being put forward by dominant media and the state, exploring non-monumental time and subverting media schedules of work, consumption, leisure, and national crises. Surprisingly, their methods at once dovetailed with those of the state collecting evidence against them and ran up against the same technological limits. Arguing that CIA and FBI "researchers" shared unexpected terrain not only with poets but with famous theorists such as Fredric Jameson and Hayden White, Lytle Shaw reframes the status of tape recordings in postwar poetics and challenges notions of how tape might be understood as a mode of evidence.
About the author
Lytle Shaw is Professor of English at New York University.
"Each page of this book contains some new insight, some unlikely connection, some reframing of a familiar problem thought long settled. Narrowcast not only challenges us to reconceive the relationships between poetry, technology, and state surveillance; it ignites new thinking about the intersections of politics and poetics in the 1960s."
—Anthony Reed, Yale University
"Lytle Shaw's examinations of the unexpected interactions between seemingly disparate figures are revealing and suggestive, groundbreaking and completely compelling. His deep forays into particular archives course with centrifugal energy, illuminating wide vistas around them and revealing the far-reaching implications of his fine-grained analyses."
—Drayton Nabers, Brown University