She Had Me at Embodiment

I’m thinking about my presentation on N. Kathrine Hayles’ Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary and Chris Funkhauser’s Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms, 1959-1995.  As I read, I am so certain of my ideas and emerging theories (which really are just comprised of my basic comprehension of their ideas and theories), but after I close the covers of the books, I am instantly inadequate, and Digital Poetry reverts back to a strange, slippery realm.  Two days ago, I was explaining to someone my understanding of the connection between Hayles’ ideas of heterarchies and her persistent slide into examples of embodiment.  Today I had to look up the word “heterarchies.”  I’d like to outline here the main ideas that I’d like to talk about, and if anyone has any thoughts (warnings, epiphanies, questions) before 3:45 on Thursday, send them on.   Also, I’m itching to start talking about specific works, so if anyone knows of one that could just snuggle right up to the ideas that I want to talk about, send me the URL.

  • Hayles’ and Funkhauser’s differing definitions of digital poetry (which also differ from Glazier’s).  While we’ve talked a lot about what constitutes digital poetry in our last class, I think it’s important to continue the discussion, especially since definitions of a genre are going to be, by their nature, exclusionary.  What may rate as digital poetry according to Hayles may be designated otherwise by Funkhauser (and others who believe that digital poetry is created to be viewed on a computer).  I’m thinking specifically of codework, which Funkhauser designates as “mediated poetry.”
  • The changing relationship between digital poetry and print poetry.  Or, I should say, the changing perception of the relationship between digital poetry and print poetry.  I detect an evolution of perceptions as we moved from Glazier (2002) to Funkhauser (2007) to Hayles (2008).  I choose the word “evolution” and include the dates of the text deliberately.  Yes,  I do think that Hayles’ perception of the relationship is more evolved than Glazier’s, but I also think this is necessarily so as Glazier had a different purpose than Hayles.  I think Glazier’s primary job was one of distinction, whereas Funkhauser and Hayles are working to find lineage and connections.
  • The inclusion of non-verbal work in Hayles’ collection (and definition) of Digital Poetry.  She had me sold through her emphasis on embodiment, but Funkhauser seems to emphasize a textual or verbal foundation of digital poetry (at least as far as I’ve read).
  • Embodiment.  Hayles touches on this a bit in her introduction and first chapter, and delves into it even farther in her second chapter when she talks about heterarchies and fluid analogies.  I’d like to touch on this only briefly (I’m pretty sure that most of the class didn’t get to the second chapter), but she sold me, again through embodiment (in the context of heterarchies), on automatically generated texts, a technique I resist considering poetry.  I’m hoping to tie this into Funkhauser’s discussion of text generation, but I’m not sure if we’ll get to all of this.

Again, in my presentation, I would really like to ground it in a discussion of texts (texts?  works? examples?), so let me know if there’s one that fits (or that you are dying to discuss.  I’m sure we could fit it into one of these categories).

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2 Comments »

  1. Lori Emerson said

    MIchele, looks *great* – very excited to hear more of your thoughts on Hayles and Funkhouser! For your section on codework, maybe works by Mary-Ann Breeze aka “Mez” and her poems in “mezangelle”? Or Talan Memmott’s “Lexia to Perplexia” (only viewable on a PC w/explorer – I will bring my PC to class). For computer-generated texts, we could stick with the ones Hayles mentions to stay consistent – maybe Cayley’s “Translation”? Really, just some thoughts – I’m not attached to talking about any of these – I’m just excited for the discussion in general!

  2. Michele, I am looking forward to class tomorrow based on what you are going to present! I agree with much of your, not statements, rather, ambiguities: it is hard to pin down digital poetics whether as form, genre, or a multitude of forms/processes as is displayed in Funkhouser’s text. It is interesting to note Brian Kim Stefan’s (who is fast becoming my favorite digital poet and theorist) assertion of the general negative definitions that have thus far been articulated for digital poetics; this negative element speaks to, as far as I interpret Stefan’s, that digital poetic may have yet to validate itself as a “genuine verse-form” (Funkhouser 24). One other, possibly menial, consideration I had when reading the various processes of the text was the nature of revision in poetry: many poets I know spend months revising and shaping their work toward particular aesthetic standards; so much so that revision is nearly a more important part of the process of the creation of a poem than the first generation of text; when revising a digital poem: does this merely mean making sure the code runs properly and generates what text may be generated: this would like making sure the sonnet had all the proper rules and formal constraints fulfilled w/o consideration of its semanti aspects. What is ‘revision’ in digital poetics?

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