Why would anyone read a reference work cover-to-cover? Aren't they designed to be consulted selectively, at need? Isn't that why so many of the old standards--the Oxford English Dictionary, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and the Encyclopedia Britannica--have reinvented themselves as searchable web sites?


Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855) is a towering figure in Central and East European literary history.  You'll find monuments to him in three national capitals—Warsaw, Minsk, and Vilnius—as well as the Ukrainian city of Lviv.  In Krakow, he's buried in the Wawel, alongside Polish kings.  Haven't heard of him?  Me neither, not till long after I finished my Ph.D.


I've recently returned from an American studies conference on "transnational poetics" at Ruhr-University Bochum.  Many of the papers were first-rate, but there was a recurrent problem, namely, a lack of certainty regarding the meaning or value of the word "transnational." What differentiates a "transnational" approach to a literary topic from an "international" or "comparative" one?


I've just finished my third year as Director of Graduate Studies for my university's English department.  I've read a couple thousand applications for our MA/PhD program and spoken in person or on the phone to who knows how many prospective students (and to unsuccessful applicants).  I thought I'd share a few of the common mistakes that people make, in the interests of perhaps improving the process for everyone involved.


Recently I gave my first poetry reading. Since I am not a poet, this presented a problem.


While I am, in theory, a big proponent of the digital humanities, I'm also frequently underwhelmed by projects sold under that label. That's why I was excited recently to find a low-key, creative, straightforward example of how the internet can contribute substantively to humanities scholarship.


In 2009, I visited Kraków for the first time.  One day I bought a book by Wysława Symborska (1923-2012) and carried it around with me for a few hours.  Everywhere I went people stopped me to ask what I thought about her poetry.  I spoke at length with a hotel clerk and a grandmother on a bench in a park. I can't imagine anything similar happening in the United States.


Okay, I've turned forty.  On my birthday I celebrated my obsolescence by translating a sonnet titled "To a Corpse."


It's been a while since I posted to Arcade.  So many deadlines!  Several times a day I find myself mumbling, "But at my back I always hear / Time's winged chariot hurrying near." 


As Director of Graduate Studies for the University of Washington English Department, I am responsible for reading every application to our MA/PhD program.  I just finished file number four hundred sixty five and am allowed a few days' rest.


Brian Reed's picture
Brian Reed
Professor of English
Brian Reed is Chair of English and Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Cinema, and Media at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is the author of three books--Hart Crane: After His Lights (2006), Phenomenal Reading: Essays on Modern and Contemporary Poetics (2012), and Nobody's Business: Twenty-First Century Avant-Garde Poetics (2013)--and the co-editor of two essay collections, Situating El Lissitzky: Vitebsk, Berlin, Moscow (2003) and Modern American Poetry: Points of Access (2013). A new book, A Mine of Intersections: Writing the History of Contemporary American Poetry, is forthcoming in 2016.


Nobody's Business: Twenty-First Century Avant-Garde Poetics
Cornell University Press | 2013
Phenomenal Reading: Essays on Modern and Contemporary Poetics
University of Alabama Press | 2012
Hart Crane: After His Lights
University of Alabama Press | 2006

Brian Reed is reading

Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics