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Marjorie Perloff

Marjorie Perloff

American academic
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American academic
Countries United States of America
Occupations Literary critic
Gender female
Birth September 28, 1931 (Vienna)
Education Barnard College, The Catholic University of America, Oberlin College
The details

Marjorie Perloff (born September 28, 1931) is a poetry scholar and critic in the United States.

Early life

Perloff was born Gabriele Mintz into a secularized Jewish family in Vienna. Faced with Nazi terror, her family emigrated in 1938 when she was six-and-a-half, going first to Zürich and then to the United States, settling in Riverdale, New York. After attending Oberlin College from 1949 to 1952, she graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College in 1953; that year, she married Joseph K. Perloff, a cardiologist and Streisand/American Heart Association Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics Emeritus at UCLA. She completed her graduate work at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., earning an M.A. in 1956 and a Ph.D (with a dissertation on W.B. Yeats) in 1965.


After completing her degrees at Catholic University, Perloff taught at the school from 1966–71. She then moved on to become Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park (1971–76) and Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California (1976–86) and then at Stanford University (1986–90). She then became Sadie Dernham Patek Professor of Humanities at Stanford (1990—2000, Emerita from 2001). She is currently scholar-in-residence and Florence Scott Professor of English Emerita at the University of Southern California.

Her work has been especially concerned with explicating the writing of experimental and avant-garde poets and relating it to the major currents of modernist and, especially, postmodernist activity in the arts, including the visual arts and cultural theory.

The first three books published by Perloff each focused on different poets: Yeats, Robert Lowell, and Frank O'Hara respectively. In 1981, she changed directions with The Poetics of Indeterminacy, which began her work on the avant-garde, paving the way for The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant-Guerre, and the Language of Rupture in 1986 and many subsequent titles. Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy, published in 2004, won the Robert Penn Warren Prize in 2005 as well as Honorable Mention for the Robert Motherwell Prize of the Dedalus Foundation.

Perloff has done much to promote poetics that are not normally part of the discourse in the United States such as works of Louis Zukofsky, Kenneth Goldsmith, or Brazilian poetry. She is credited with coining the term — "unoriginal genius" — to reflect on the changing nature of literary writing including poetry in the Internet age after artistic originality and creativity were allegedly replaced by the ability to pass along information. Her work on contemporary American poetry and in particular poetry associated with the avant-garde (such as Language poetry and the Objectivist poets) has significantly opened up the "Official Verse Culture" to critique and dialogue from outside the classroom and lecture hall: even as poetry in the U.S. today continues its division between categories like "experimental", "mainstream", and "spoken word".

Selected works

  • Poetics in a New Key: Interviews and Essays (University of Chicago Press, 2014) ISBN 978-0-226-19941-2 Read an excerpt.
  • Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century (University of Chicago Press, 2010) ISBN 978-0-226-66061-5
  • Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy (University of Alabama Press, 2004) ISBN 978-0-8173-1421-7
  • The Vienna Paradox: A Memoir (New Directions Books, 2004) ISBN 978-0-8112-1571-8
  • The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant Guerre, and the Language of Rupture, with a New Preface (University of Chicago Press, 2003) pbk. ISBN 978-0-226-65738-7
  • Poetry On and Off the Page: Essays for Emergent Occasions (Northwestern University Press, 1998) ISBN 978-0-8101-1560-6
  • Frank O'Hara: Poet Among Painters (University of Chicago Press, 1998) ISBN 978-0-226-66059-2 (originally published by Braziller, 1977)
  • The Dance of the Intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition (Northwestern University Press, 1996) pbk. ISBN 978-0-8101-1380-0
  • Wittgenstein's Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary (University of Chicago Press, 1996) pbk. ISBN 978-0-226-66058-5
  • Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media (University of Chicago Press, 1991) ISBN 978-0-226-65733-2
  • Poetic License: Studies in the Modernist and Postmodernist Lyric (Northwestern University Press, c1990) ISBN 978-0-8101-0843-1

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