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Intermedia Poetics

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Organizer: David Nowell Smith

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Intermedia Poetics

‘Poetics’ as a discipline has evolved to incorporate apparently mutually incompatible elements: it now is used to describe both reflection through creative practice, and theorisation, and as theoretical endeavour different strands of 'poetics' grasp their object in relation to linguistics, to literary genres, and to the pantheon of the arts. The proposed seminar aims to bring these different conceptions of poetics into dialogue, through a reflection on poetry’s medium, but also its intermediality: the way that poetic making and the theorisation of poetry are shaped by and in dialogue with different art media.

A standard narrative tells that with modernist abstraction, each art form shifts away from representation towards an exploration of the specificities of its medium: the plastic/visual arts become less concerned with figure, more focused on the materialities of its support, the modalities of vision; music becomes increasingly interested in the production of sound; poetry turns inward to become as reflection on language itself. And yet, modernism emerges out of nineteenth century attempts to blend the arts, whether in Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk or the Symbolist dissolution of individual art forms into what Mallarmé called a ‘total Art’. Indeed, the period at which the story of increased medium-specificity was becoming widely accepted coincides with renewed experiments in collaboration between poets and artists in other media, and a greater attentiveness to text as material and visual production. In addition to this, new technologies allowed for poetry to open itself up to electronic sound, non-narrative film, and typographic innovation.

But poetry’s entanglement with other art forms reaches back centuries: illuminated manuscripts, poems composed for sung performance as much as textual circulation, or used as epitaphs. In what ways can the history of intermedia poetry illuminate contemporary productions—whether mixed-media works, collaborations, or work which refuses categorisation in terms of medium? And how do these relate to a different kind of ‘medium’ in which poetic work is produced: the social practice of the production and circulation of works?

Topics might include (but are not restricted to):

Interactions between particular poets and visual/plastic artists, musicians, media artists: cross-media dialogues, collaborations;
Artists who work across media, whether poets who have also produced visual or sound work, or artists, filmmakers, musicians, who also deserve to be recognised as poets;
Intersections and points of diversion between the conceptual vocabulary of poetics and that of other artforms, for instance the different valences of terms such as ‘rhythm’, ‘vernacular’, ‘image’, ‘material’;
Ekphrasis and adaptation;
Text, song, performance;
Histories of mixed-media works, or of the notion of medium specificity;
Critiques and/or defences of the concept of ‘medium’.

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