The University Record, October 9, 1995

FACULTY AWARDS: Laurence A. Goldstein, University Press Book Award

Laurence A. Goldstein, a perceptive literary critic and poet in his own right, explores the beginning of a little-examined tradition in American verse—poems about the movies—in his book The American Poet at the Movies: A Critical History, published by University of Michigan Press.

A lifelong movie lover and a native of Culver City, California—”The Heart of Screenland”—Professor Goldstein recounts growing up in Hollywood’s backyard. The facade of Tara, the plantation house in “Gone With The Wind,” was stored in a backlot of the Selznick studio not far from his home. He and friends occasionally climbed the fence to play hide-and-seek among the abandoned ruins of movie history. In his book, which was timed to coincide with the centennial of the advent of motion pictures, Professor Goldstein carefully examines the influence this saturation of movie culture had upon his poetry, understanding of literature, and experience of American life.

A faculty member in the Department of English for 25 years, Professor Goldstein offers an amalgam of cultural history, literary criticism, and autobiography in his critically acclaimed The American Poet at the Movies. Examining how the history of film is intertwined with the development of twentieth-century poetry, Goldstein focuses on poetry by some of the most important writers of this century, beginning with Vachel Lindsay and including Hart Crane, Archibald MacLeish, Delmore Schwartz, Frank O’Hara, Adrienne Rich, Louise Erdrich, and Jorie Graham. He offers numerous examples of poems made more vivid by the “engagement between artists and popular culture.”

Professor Goldstein’s premise is that for the better part of this century films have functioned as a catalyst for an engagement between artists and popular culture. He suggests that while film is evanescent, a poem about a film preserves and re-enacts the film lexically rather than visually.

Though its early content was frivolous, film quickly displayed mythmaking powers equal to those of great poetry. Replacing Greek and Roman mythology as a common cultural experience, film stars became our new Olympians and their stories on screen emerged as our myths, according to Professor Goldstein.

Editor of the Michigan Quarterly Review for 18 years, Professor Goldstein is a Senior Fellow in the University of Michigan Society of Fellows. He has received many awards, including the University’s Distinguished Service Award and several summer fellowships and grants from the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

Recognizing his many contributions to the intellectual life of the University, particularly his authorship of The American Poet at the Movies: A Critical History, the University of Michigan commends and congratulates Laurence Goldstein for winning the prestigious 1995 University Press Book Award.