Cognitive Impact Poetics

A Survey of 20th Century Poetic Experimentalisms

Department of Artistic Research (Comparative Literature) University of Helsinki, Fall 2004

Diagram of conceptual structuring, Ray Jackendoff, 1996
Diagram of conceptual structuring, Ray Jackendoff, 1996

This course explores how key innovations in (mostly) 20th Century poetry have relied on evolving notions of the mind. In the experimental tradition of American poetics, with important influences coming from France, poets have repeatedly sought to bring their language-work up to date with new understandings and experiences of consciousness, to enhance that work’s ability either to express the contemporary mind, or to engage and impact it. We will read poems and poetics statements from Mallarmé, Pound, Stein, Breton, Allen Ginsburg, Jackson MacLow, Lyn Hejinian and Madeline Gins, that demonstrate how the notions of what a poem is, or how it gets made, get updated according to new interests in the issues of consciousness.


ABCArchitecture, Jim Andrews, 2000's
ABCArchitecture, Jim Andrews


Lectures relate these experiments to their theoretical influences (e.g. Freud, William James, Buddhism and cognitive science), and short supplemental readings will introduce students to recent cognitive perspectives on the study of literature. Twice during the course, students will be asked to write a brief (1-2 page) response to a weekly reading of their choice, and their grasp of the whole material will be tested in a final exam. French readings will be in English translation. Supplemental readings reflect material that will be covered in lecture, and that may be useful in preparing the exam, but are optional for weekly preparation.




William Wordsworth: passage from The Prelude, Preface to Lyrical Ballads Poems: Tintern Abbey, Intimations of Immortality


Stephane Mallarmé: Un Coup de Dés, Preface, Passages from Divagations


Ezra Pound: (w/ Hulme) Imagist Platform, Selected Imagist lyrics (H.D, Lowell, Pound)


Gertrude Stein: Tender Buttons, Portraits, Meditations Lectures in America


Dada – Pataphysics – Oulipo: Passages from Schwitters, Tzara, Jarry, The College of Pataphysics, Queneau and the F.A.S.T.L. project


Rimbaud – Surrealism – Beat Improv Poetics: Jack Kerouac: be-bop lyrics; statement on prosody; Allen Ginsberg: sel. poems, essays; Rimbaud: prose poems, letters; Breton: writings, manifestos


Jackson MacLow: Stanzas for Iris Lezak, Gathas, dance scores, Lecture on Non-Intentional Poetry


Lyn Hejinian: The Cold of Poetry, “The Rejection of Closure”, Two Stein Talks


Madeline Gins: Passages from Wordrain, “The The”, “Breathe”, selections from The Mechanism of Meaning


Arakawa and Gins: Reversible Destiny project and writings, passage from Architectural Body


Mez (Mary Ann Breeze): Mezangeles and “code poetry”

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