Minding Machines/Machining Minds

Adalaide Morris

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195398779
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Minding Machines/Machining Minds

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)


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This article attempts a switch in perspective. Instead of arranging modern and contemporary American poets in a forward-moving lineage or scanning such a lineage for generative breaks, it asks what poetries come into view if we look backward from the circuitries of twenty-first-century digital writing. The thought experiment of this article is to start the story with the body electric of the cyborg used to introduce the website of the performance artist Stelarc. The shock of Stelarc's performance—the claim that the bounded, flesh-and-blood body has been overtaken by networked-and-programmable flesh-and-wire circuitry—obscures a more complex and interesting hypothesis. It is suggested that there is not a break but a synergy between Stelarc's claim and the thinking of twentieth-century American poets who position their work at the human-machine interface in order to protest conditions of industrial labor, to appropriate for writing the aims and strategies of emergent recording and storage technologies, and to participate in the human-computer collaborations of late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century cybernetic culture.

Keywords: American poets; poetries; modern poetry; cyborg; thought experiment; Stelarc

Article.  14944 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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