New College Associate Professor of English Robert Zamsky, Ph.D. has earned the 2020 Elizabeth Agee Award in American Literature for his forthcoming book, Orphic Bend: Music and Innovative Poetics (the University of Alabama Press (UAP), August 2021).

This newest edition in the UAP’s Modern and Contemporary Poetics Series restages fundamental debates about the relationship between poetry and music.

“Poetry, music and mythology converge in this elegantly conceived and exceptionally well executed study,” said Yolanda Manora, an Agee Prize committee member. “Zamsky examines the relationships between poetry and music in works from a thoughtfully selected and richly diverse group of writers. Drawing them into conversation with one another in the process, he offers scholars from multiple disciplines new critical lenses for considering some of the most compelling poets of the 20th and 21st centuries.”

Awarded annually by the UAP’s faculty editorial board to the manuscript chosen as representing outstanding scholarship in the field of American literary studies, the Agee Prize was established by the Stubbs and Agee families to honor longtime Birmingham bookseller Elizabeth Agee who described herself as “a reader and lover of books.”

Zamsky’s innovative study explores the impact of music on recent pioneering literary practices in the United States.

Adopting the myth of Orpheus as its framework, Zamsky argues that 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). The text provides an important opportunity to consider the specific legacy of modernism and situate contemporary writers in broader historical contexts.

Zamsky’s scholarship has also appeared in Modernism/modernity, Callaloo, Arizona Quarterly, and Texas Studies in Language and Literature.

Pre-order the book, which will be available in August, on Amazon here.


Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the state’s Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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