Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Study of a Literary Period: Poetry, Technology, Gender, and Globalization

ENGL 104.601
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

Concerns about the relationship between poetry and technology have become pervasive in the 20th century due to the invention of typewriters, computers and the Internet.  But writing technologies are not just a 20th century phenomenon. The invention of the letterpress, the scroll, and even the alphabet itself are all technologies that have radically altered poetry. This course will trace the history of the relationship between poetry and technology and ask where its future might lie. We will begin with the turn from an oral to a written poetry and the impact of moveable type before shifting, for the most sustained portion of the course, to the poetry of the 20th and 21st centuries. Examining poetry of our contemporary moment, we will pay particular attention to the impact that globalization and gender have on poetry. Why are the majority of technologically innovative poets today male? How does globalization—and specifically the Internet—impact how, why, and what poets write? We will consider Charles Olson and Charles Bernstein’s typewriter poems; Johanna Drucker’s letterpress experiments; Brian Kim Stefans’ digital poetry; PennSound and the Electronic Poetry Center’s role in global dissemination; and Christian Bök’s Xenotext, a poem biologically engineered to live forever.