Stephen Paul Miller
Stephen Paul Miller, Professor of English, joined the faculty in 1991. He has also taught in the English departments of Columbia University, NYU, and Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland as a senior Fulbright Scholar. Tel Aviv University has nominated him for a second senior Fulbright fellowship to teach in Tel Aviv University’s English Department, and the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars in Washington has approved this nomination.
Dr. Miller has made substantial contributions in various facets of cultural and literary studies and poetry. “Stephen Paul Miller is an established American critic,” says Timothy Gray In Contemporary Literature. Critics note synergy between his criticism and poetry. “Miller’s work,” comments David Shapiro “is an amazing synthesis of experimental and narrative modes. An astonishing creative and critical force, he’s the most radical poet-critic I know.”
Miller’s first critical book, The Seventies Now: Culture as Surveillance, published by Duke University Press in 1999, begins an academic reassessment of the seventies. Miller provides critical apparatus capable of an in-depth account of the decade. “Miller shows why and how we need to think comprehensively about the seventies—now,” W. J. T. Mitchell says. “Interdisciplinary wit and a bold intelligence bring together poetry, politics, and a popular culture in a broad survey that is provocative, engaging, and timely for our posthistorical age.” Miller relates a plethora of phenomena diverse as John Ashbery’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” the Watergate affair, Star Wars, and Phil Glass’s music. “Most remarkable of all,” according to Ian Smith in Scope, “is Miller's analysis of the famous missing eighteen minutes of tape.” “Miller closes a mysterious missing gap in American cultural history,” says Jeremiah Creedon in Utne Reader. Andrew Ross in American Literature observes, “Miller’s lesson is about an interpretive methodology teaching us to listen to things we had not heard before.”
Miller’s influence crosses many interdisciplinary boundaries. Observing how useful Miller’s innovative literary methodologies are for noting small historical shifts in what Miller terms “micro-periods” and “rippling epistemes,” Kenneth Gloag in Rethinking History calls Seventies Now, “A remarkable cultural history of the 1970s.” Many see new possibilities for historical study in Miller’s work. David Bowman reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that “Miller makes cultural comparisons that are equal parts genius and madness. Maybe a perspective on the 1970s will help our current condition make sense, maybe not. Either way, Stephen Paul Miller's book is a valuable and erudite hoot.” Howard Brick in Journal of American Historypoints out, “Miller shows how a few artifacts, at a unique moment, mark a break in conventional means of apprehending reality.” “Looking beyond surface tendencies, Miller's thesis is that during the 1970s 'institutionalized external surveillance' familiar from the cold war era of the immediately previous decades became a more internalized phenomenon. From the women's movement to the environment, Americans became accustomed to 'surveying themselves,’” observes Jerome Klinkowitz of American Literary Scholarship. Timothy Gray inPostmodern Culture maintains "One would be hard pressed to find a more detailed or nuanced appraisal of the uneasiness and paranoia that reigned during the 'undecade.'” “Miller draws suggestive and lively comparisons between disparate cultural documents. It is a fascinating and scholarly study which sheds much new light on a complex decade," maintains David Seed in European Journal of American Culture.
John Brenkman points out, “Miller’s commentary on the role of spies, lies, and audiotape in the Watergate era brilliantly resonates his whole analysis of seventies culture, from poetry and film to the new technologies of surveillance and new modes of recording history.” “Miller posits the ‘70s as the era when Americans got used to perceiving multiple simultaneous narratives—seen, unseen, implied, and excerpted," notes Julia Scher in Bookforum. “If Whitman had taken a Ph.D., this might resemble its outcome. Miller is not Whitman, but he is a Wit-man. Both are poets who have written large period pieces that signify their awareness of America in crucial times,” says Daniel Morris in Modern Fiction Studies.
Miller’s next critical project has an even wider breadth of interest than his first. He is considering post-World War II culture in terms of the “liquid totems” of Holocaust, computer, and suburbanization. Several versions of Miller’s evolving argument have already appeared in print in essays and, interestingly, in poems. “Stephen Paul Miller has written a great deal of poetry that is simultaneously cultural criticism or even scholarship,” notes Thomas A. Fink inA Different Sense of Power: Problems of Community in Late-Twentieth-Century U.S. Poetry(Farleigh Dickinson University Press). Miller, says Fink, ‘braids together treatments of various seemingly disparate cultural phenomena while [expositorilly] developing” expository relationships.
Miller’s poetry culminates in a new kind of poetry-criticism that uses engines of critical thought to drive poetic insight. After the publication of first poetry book, Art Is Boring for the Same Reason We Stayed in Vietnam (Domestic Press, 1992), M.L. Rosenthal said, “Stephen Paul Miller is an endearingly casual and lyrically resonant philosophical post- and pre-everything moment poet.” Katherine Arnoldi, in The St. Mark’s Poetry Project Newsletter says of Miller’s book length poem that “we follow Stephen Paul Miller’s poem, skipping down the page...not exactly surprised to find a candy house, Derrida, General Schwarzkopf, Blake, Magic Johnson, the Lower East Side....” Thomas A. Fink takes the title of his critical study, A Different Sense of Power, from a phrase in Miller’s first book, and, according to Fink, Art Is Boring for the Same Reason We Stayed in Vietnam “seems the ultimate enactment of self-critical reader response” that “indefatigably and brilliantly poses the immense question of how a thoroughgoing openness to differences can be situated in concrete intellectual practice.”
Miller is also the author of The Bee Flies in May (Marsh Hawk Press, 2002). About The Bee Flies in May, Andrew Ross says, “Miller’s mind is exactly the kind of soft, self-perpetuating machine that you want to access when your own is running out of juice.” In Sidereality, Madeline Tiger says, “Chinua Achebe refers to the Igbo earth goddess, Ani, ‘who cradles creativity as a child on her left knee and holds up the sword of morality in her right hand.’ Stephen Paul Miller, in his stunning collection shows that he has heard this mandate. Miller retrieves history from unspeakable despair. There's a new air in the fast-talking quality of these poems, which go beyond ‘New York School.’ This collection shows how Miller has kept many worlds active.” Eileen Myles calls The Bee Flies in May “entertaining because it just happens” and “New York as poetry is....Stephen writes his poems on an invisible surface that breathes and grows. It’s like watching good poetry happen.”
Concerning Skinny Eighth Avenue (Marsh Hawk Press, 2005), Miller’s third book of poetry, Joyelle McSweeney, in Constant Critic, says, “Skinny Eighth Avenue is a lively, brainy, probing and variform collaboration between the latter-day New York School poet/critic Stephen Paul Miller and his artist son, Noah Mavael Miller, who was in third grade at the time of the book’s release about a year ago. Miller’s erudite, humane, and yes, talky poems are punctuated by young Noah with exuberant drawings of mastodons, turtles, and other fauna, often climbing into and out of computer-generated holes....Skinny Eighth Avenue is as packed, fleet, worldly, busy and exhilarating as any New York thoroughfare, neither cute nor particularly skinny, a hurtling and compelling book.” In the Brooklyn Rail, Carol Wierzbicki calls Miller’s means of disseminating content “uniquely affecting. Miller has redefined the confessional poem.” In the Boston Review, Barbara Fischer observes, “there’s no place for compression or fragmentation in Stephen Paul Miller’s third book of poems, which embraces a mode of ‘ongoing discourse’ in order to narrate, argue, and inquire at length and in complete sentences. Miller’s expansive lines migrate across the page from margin to margin, an undulating motion that propels a breezy prosaic tone. This conversational fluidity and unstrained syntax enables him to address politics, current events, theoretical concerns, and personal experience with both critical acumen and wry self-mockery.”
Skinny Eighth Avenue “addresses ongoing effects of the Holocaust, secular Judaism, children and academia,” according to Publisher’s Weekly. “Miller reacts to his time and raises many questions we often do not want to confront about religion, politics, and art. He does all of this within open forms that explore the page. He shows us connections that might usually be at play below our visual or perceptual range,” says William Allegrezza in Galatea Resurrects: A Poetry Review. Jordan Davis, in the Paterson Review, remarks, “Miller can be as funny -- funny -- as Lenny Bruce....I'm ready to reread such Stephen Paul Miller classics as "I Was on a Golf Course the Day John Cage Died of a Stroke" (in Best American Poems 1994), and Art Is Boring for the Same Reason We Stayed in Vietnam.”
“Stephen Paul Miller is either the Last Poet of the New York School or the First Poet of the New New York School. Probably both. These poems twist on a diamond, creating the shape of art and some sort of wisdom on the inside. Like an ice cream cone....Something postmodern, post-postmodern, post-everything. Finding something to live for in the pain is the joy of this poetry,” says Bob Holman. “Skinny Eighth Avenue is poetry of the future. But it’s grounded in a wildly flexible strength of language,” Maria Mazziotti Gillan comments. Sam Truitt, inAmerican Book Review, envisions, “Our consciousness needs a new conscience: human consciousness needs a new keel. Some of its lines of design may be found on Skinny Eighth Avenue.”
Dr. Miller, with Terence Diggory, co-edited Scene of My Selves: New Work on the New York School Poets, (National Poetry Foundation, 2000). He is currently editing Radical Poetic Practice/Secular Jewish Culture. Talisman House Press is publishing a fourth book of his poetry, Being with a Bullet, in 2008. Miller earned a B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies from CCNY in 1972 and 1983 and a Ph. D. in American Studies from NYU in 1990. Dr. Miller was a NEH Summer Seminar for College Professors participant in John Brenkman’s “Emergent American Literature” seminar at CUNY in 1995. In 1995, he earned a Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library Research and Travel Grant, and, in 2002, a Columbia University Seminar Office Grant. He co-chaired the Columbia University American Studies Seminar from 1999 to 2002. He served as a tenure evaluator for CUNY, and he was a Ph.D. dissertation reader for the Comparative Literature Department, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been a manuscript reviewer for University of Toronto Press, University of Southern Illinois Press, Purdue University Press, University of Mississippi Press, Transformations, and PMLA (Publication of the Modern Language Association). He is now a member of the Transformations Editorial Board, a Trustee of the New Jersey College English Teachers Association. He currently is a St. John’s University Faculty Association Executive Board member, St. John’s University Center for Teaching and Writing fellow, and editor of Cultural and Poetic Inquiry.