Working with literary archives, this dissertation seeks to establish a critical methodology of narrative bibliography. The critic as bibliographer is able to witness the production of literature as a communal process, represented by materials pertaining to all stages of composition and execution. In the pursuit of both textual meaning and literary argument, the narrative bibliographer is in a unique position to tell the stories of how books enter the world. Through this practice the archive becomes a poetic space of cultural memory, expanding the possibilities of criticism to make arguments not just about texts, but also about the readers of texts. In three chapters, each focusing on a specific American work, the archives of Stephen Vincent Benet, Thomas McGrath, and Walt Whitman are explored. An introduction outlines the stakes of the methodology and also the significance of American poetry for democracy.