The rematerialization of poetry: From the bookbound to the digital
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My dissertation "The Rematerialization of Poetry: Space, Time and the Body from the Bookbound to the Digital" is a deep-reaching account of what digital poetry is, what it does; it presents the reader with a historically and theoretically-based model for reading digital poetry within a limited scope of twentieth and twenty-first century science, media theory, and American/Canadian poetry. In this much-needed account of digital poetry, I first draw from media theorists ranging from Vannevar Bush to George Landow and Mark Poster as well as contemporary critics of electronic literature (such as N. Katherine Hayles, Marjorie Perloff, and Jerome McGann) in order to broadly contextualize the genesis of digital poetry and its relationship to the larger field of electronic literature. I then explore, in a section titled "My Digital Dickinson," the methodological possibilities and limits of using our understanding of the digital to inform our readings of bookbound poetry and vice-versa. In Chapter 2, I then discuss Ezra Pound's Vorticism and William Carlos Williams's variable foot; interwoven between these two sections are three paratactic interludes--close readings of what bookbound and digital texts whose underlying spatial structure is both an analog to and a distinct departure from what Pound and Williams attempted to embody in their bookbound texts. My intention is to create a formal and thematic conversation, as both Pound and Williams do in their own work, between bookbound and digital works whose impetus arises from and departs from the same dedication to translating scientific and mathematical principles of space into the poetic realm. Despite what can often appear as an unbridgeable gap between digital and bookbound poetry, surely we can now say, looking at Williams through our present moment of electronic literature, that his work stands as a bookbound example of what we now recognize as an emergent, flexible poetics? The third chapter is dedicated solely to providing the framework for much-needed close-readings of digital poetry; here I focus on one of the most influential digital poets, John Cayley. In the final chapter, I turn explicitly to the pressing question of what a poem is, of how the computer challenges our conceptions of how to read and write poetry, by considering the relationship between human and machine in computer-generated, bookbound poetry by Erin Mouré and computer-mediated poetry by Kenneth Goldsmith.