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Cook Hall 214
Cook Hall 214

English | Literature


Ph.D., English, University of New York at Buffalo
M.A., English, University of Nebraska
B.A., English, Oregon State University
B.A., Economics, Oregon State University


Robert Zamsky’s research focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to literary study, with a particular interest in the relation between poetry and music in modern and contemporary writing. His book, Orphic Bend: Music and Innovative Poetics, won the 2020 Elizabeth Agee Prize for Outstanding Scholarship in American Literature from the University of Alabama Press. In Orphic Bend, Dr. Zamsky argues that contemporary experimental works by Charles Bernstein, Robert Creeley, John Taggart, Tracie Morris, and Nathaniel Mackey restage ancient debates over the relationship between poetry and music even as they develop work that often sharply diverges from traditional literary forms. Dr. Zamsky frequently presents his scholarship on modern and contemporary poetry and poetics at national and international conferences. He is currently at work on a critical biography of the poet, Robert Creeley.

In his teaching, Dr. Zamsky focuses on two broad areas: poetry and poetics, and modern and contemporary American literature. In the first area, Dr. Zamsky is especially interested in students developing the skills, habits of attention, and vocabulary of close reading, and to be able to use this lens to engage with a wide range of poetry, whether that be in the tradition of the voice-based lyric or in experimental modes that might torque the form of poetry itself. Dr. Zamsky also encourages students to explore the ways in which theoretical approaches can open up new modes of both poetic practice and critique. This same interest in close engagement with primary material also shapes Dr. Zamsky’s teaching in American literature, which focuses on major poetic movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as well as their 19th century predecessors. Whenever possible, Dr. Zamsky incorporates materials from digital archives (such as The Modernist Journals Project, or the Emily Dickison archives), to both allow students to see materials in their original forms and modes, and to explore critical approaches made possible via the digital humanities.

Recent Courses

Acoustic Machine: Modern Poetry and Music
Lines of Sight: Poetry and the Visual Arts
1922: the Making of Modernism
Black Mountain and the NY School
Lyric Traditions
Reading Poetry

Media Coverage

Agee Award

Selected Publications

“Orphic Bend: Music and Innovative Poetics”. University of Alabama Press. 2021.

“Ezra Pound and Charles Bernstein: Opera, Poetics, and the Fate of Humanism.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language. Spring, 2013.

“The ‘Umbilicate Ear’: Audition in Ed Roberson’s Lucid Interval as Integral Music.” Callaloo. Summer, 2010.

“A Poetics of Radical Musicality: Nathaniel Mackey’s ‘— mu’ Series.” Arizona Quarterly. Spring, 2006.

“‘A Narrative of Prepare for Saints’: Lyric, Narrative, and the Problem of Nationalism in Four Saints in Three Acts.” Modernism/modernity. November, 2004.