The Epilogue considers the possible fate of the artistic critique of labor in the decades to come. As demand for labor weakens because of ongoing structural transformations, the link between art and labor will likewise weaken, Bernes argues. Thus, artists would do well to revive older traditions linking the poet to wagelessness. The Epilogue examines these traditions, beginning with the Renaissance ballad and continuing through the Romantic poetry of vagrancy and the African American fugitive lyric, linking this poetic history to a theoretical investigation of what Karl Marx calls “surplus populations.” The long history of the poetics of wagelessness gives some indication of the aesthetic outlines of the coming era. In closing, Bernes looks at two contemporary poets, Fred Moten and Wendy Trevino, who engage this long tradition and mobilize it to meet the specific conditions of twenty-first-century capitalism.
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