Curriculum & Course Offerings

Transcultural Poetics: Alternate Languages, Writing Systems, Text-Forms, Oral Cultures & Performances

These courses offer non-Eurocentric studies of the world history of poetics, focusing on non-Western cultures and practices from the ancient to the contemporary.

Genealogies & Continuities of the Avant-Garde

These courses provide clearly delineated historical contexts for contemporary innovative practices, and include study of particular constellations of writers as well as single authors.

  • Poetics: Classical, European, Modernist, Postmodernist
  • Philosophy/Critical Theory on Poetry: Classical, European, Modernist, Postmodernist
  • Poetry Movements: 20th-C and 21st-C (i.e., Objectivists; English-American poetics in debate across the Atlantic; Language Poetry; Feminist Innovative Postmodern Poetries; etc.)
  • Major Authors (i.e., Gertrude Stein, Charles Olson etc.)

History of the Book & of the Media of Poetry

These courses investigate the history and textual-critical issues pertaining to the codex and related forms, editing and canon formation, and alternative modes of printing and distribution, as well as the non-print media of poetry (such as recorded sound or visual works).

  • The Poetics and Philosophy of “Voice”
  • Textual Bodies: the Architectonics of the Book

Present Practices in Innovative Poetics

These courses offer students current maps of the field as well as in-depth study of diverse contemporary experimental poetries, as connected to critical issues and practices in other disciplines.

  • Poetry/Poetics as Interdisciplinary Exploration (“Eco-poetics & Bio-politics”; “The Poetics of the Political Economy of Affect,” etc.)
  • Poetry/Poetics and Its Global Communities (i.e., contemporary cross-cultural poetics, translation, etc.)
  • Poetry/Poetics and Current Critical Issues (i.e., “Violence and Representation”; “Gender and Experiments in Form”;  "The Poetics of Minor Literatures", etc.)
  • Poetry/Poetics and Media Technologies (i.e., History of the Book, New Media, Multi-media/Cross-Platform Writing, etc.)
  • Poetry/Poetics and the Performances of Popular Culture

Speculative Poetics and Contemporary Imaginations

These courses explore untapped or under-investigated areas of current innovation, to speculate on poetries yet to come and to think from the outer edge of the thinkable.

  • Poetry/Poetics as/and Philosophy (i.e. The Poetics and Philosophy of “Poetry,” The Poetics and Philosophy of “Voice”)
  • Poetry/Poetics and Scientific Research
  • Speculative Poetics (i.e., "The Poetics of Scale," “Parapoetics.”)
  • Nanopoetics and Biopoetics

The Political Economy of Affect

Judith Goldman

On the debt my mother owed to sears roebuck

we brooded, she in the house, a little heavy

from too much corn meal, she

a little melancholy from the dust of the fields

in her eye, the only title she ever had to lands --

and man's ways winged their way to her through the mail

saying so much per month

so many months, this is yours, take it

take it, take it, take it               

—Ed Dorn, “On the Debt My Mother Owed to Sears Roebuck”

They took enjoyment in those who owed them something.  We love you to stay this way, poor, working for us, they said, we want to be your Patrons. 

—Lorine Niedecker, “Uncle”

This course aims to traverse a vast and complex body of portrayals and theorizations of affect, feeling, emotion with special focus on our contemporary social-political-cultural dispensation: the current disjunctive convergence of accelerated neoliberalism, biopolitics, environmental extremity, and new media.  As we engage with the poetics of feeling, the grounding conditions, formal qualities, and potentially non-linear processes bound up with affective ontology and phenomenology, we will be concerned with its politics, how feelings shape and are shaped by material economies of relations among asymmetrical social positions.  To think this political economy of affect, we will especially hone in on and question protocols of affective assignation and propriety, towards understanding feeling as always historically contextual, transpersonal, and differential.  

To some extent, this course is thus also addressed to the affects of political economy—from new forms of affective labor, to the potent affective fabric generated through precarity, massive inequality, and debt, to the production of “bare life” as “human waste” (people rendered permanently “extraneous” to capitalist economic relations), to the traumatic fallout of resource-motivated, postcolonial necropolitics in Africa and elsewhere, to the perma-fear basis of the unfathomably expensive US security state.  Other topics may include the circulation of affect through new media and ubiquitous computing; disability, affect, sexuality, and caretaking; race and performance; affect under and “after” slavery; the gendering and queering of affect; relational art and its critiques; the affect of environmental disaster; music and affect (especially contemporary forms of personalized consumption and modes of mimicry and fandom); sub-personal affect and the body; vulnerability studies and the affect of the state of exception; Occupy-; military affect; practices of national memorialization and reconciliation; affect in sports.  Theorists of affect we’ll cover potentially include Plato, Aristotle, Smith, Hume, Freud, Lacan, Klein, Riviere, Kristeva, Abraham and Torok, Tomkins, Sedgwick, Butler, Deleuze, Massumi, Ngai, Berlant, Sedgwick, Ahmed, Hardt and Negri, among others.  There will be two special topics in feeling, one in melancholia and one in grudge-holding and vengeance.  

While we will work with music, visual art, novels (for instance, Shelley’s Frankenstein; Kincaid’s Annie John), and film and video (for instance, Ryan Trecartin; Denis’ White Material; Black’s Life and Debt; Muniz’ Waste Land; Chang-dong’s Poetry; Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing; selected Youtube videos), we will be especially attentive to poetry.  As we read theories of how poetic language carries emotion (Kristeva; Blasing; Riley), translation theory, and theory of the lyric, of particular interest and focus will be North American and British poetries from the 1990s forward: for instance, Lauren Shufran’s Inter Arma, which forcefully entwines metrical, military, and sexual disciplinarities in its wild and brilliant prosodic imagination; CA Conrad’s somatic poetry and Robert Kocik and Daria Bain’s Phoneme Choir, which politicize towards reworking the reciprocally informing connections of body, language, and affect; Laura Elrick’s video poem Stalk, which live-captures and comments on the (non)relations of NYC as (non)polity to the ghostly figure of a Guantanamo prisoner wandering midtown at lunchtime; Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, interlinked multi-media prose poems that work the nexus of race, mass media, nihilism, and affective management through psycho-pharmaceuticals; Rob Halpern’s Music for Porn, with its self-conscious eroticization of wounded soldier’s body and inquiry into patriotic affect; Rob Fitterman’s Holocaust Museum, a list of captions that in suppressing visual content intensifies trauma, interrogates cultural memory, and foregrounds museological conduction of sentiment.

Poetics of Scale

Ming-Qian Ma

What is an anagram and where does it occur in the architectonics of language? How do we approach a printed poem once it gets installed in a museum, as is the case with Poetry Plastique, or in a specific site, as is exemplified by Fiona Templeton’s Cells of Release? What happens when we move from Robert Smithson’s “non-site” to “site,” and from his earth sculpture “The Spiral Jetty” to Eduardo Kac’s DNA molecular art of Genesis? What do we have to do when reading Kenneth Goldsmith’s 800-page-plus Day along side of Rae Armantrout’s minimalist poems? What is required of us when language’s speed of delivery becomes slowed down? What does it mean when a poem is considered as “unreadable” or “unintelligible”? How do we perceive an artist’s autonomy and individual uniqueness in the all-encompassing networks of technological production and dissemination? ….

This seminar will explore the above poetic phenomena and theorize their implications as well as ramifications through the issue of scale. Underlying, either explicitly or implicitly, the contemporary exploratory poetry and its experimental practices, the concept of scale has lately become one of the focal points of speculative rethinking, not only brought to the forefront of current critical inquiries in diverse disciplines but also radically broadened by the recent advents of new technologies and extended by various branches of the newly emerged philosophy of the non-human. The questions this seminar will engage include, among many others, what is scale and what is its function? Why does size matter (Bonner)? What are the “scale effects” (Clark)? How is scale reconfigured by new technologies and new philosophical speculations, and what are the concomitant consequences? What does it entail when scale is changed? What is the significance of scalar metamorphoses in terms of our perceptual, conceptual, epistemological, and “enactive capacities” (Bak and Reynolds)? ….