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Rethinking and Revaluing Poetic Rhythm


Event Summary

The Motion and Meaning project, sponsored by the Neubauer Collegium and the Center for Gesture, Sign and Language at the University of Chicago, explored the relations between bodily motions and those more elusive entities known as feelings, thoughts, and words. The semiotics of Indian dance, the tacit signals conveyed by hand gesture, and the poetics of manually signed communication are prominent among the objects of study. Poetic meter, often thought to be a technical and forbiddingly specialized subject, has a great deal in common with dance, sign, and gesture: it is a bodily practice learned and transmitted by humans; it is regulated by conventions; those conventions change over time and may be affected by other systems of perception or cognition; and it bears on meaning without being reducible to meaning itself. Participants at this seminar took verbal rhythm in the widest sense and examined moments of change in the exercise of poetic meter – suggesting that meter, perhaps, is too important to be left to the poeticians.

Event Outline

Haun Saussy (University of Chicago): Introduction

Roi Tartakovsky (Tel Aviv University): “The Rhythm of Chopped-Up Prose: Charles Reznikoff’s Source-Based Poetry”

Ben Glaser (Yale University): “Prose, Hip-hop, and the Generic Domain of Rhythm”

Steven Meyer (Washington University, St. Louis): “Collect of Cadences: Rhythmic Entrainment in the New World Poetry of Jay Wright”

Thomas Wisniewski (Harvard University): “She Said/He Said: The Rhythm of Dialogue”

Jake Wilder-Smith (University of California, Los Angeles): “Reading—Drastic or Gnostic?: Rhythm and Time in John Ashbery’s Poetics of ‘Ongoing Experience’”

Christopher Hasty (Harvard University): “Writing/Reading/Saying”


Diane Brentari (University of Chicago)

Anastasia Giannakidou (University of Chicago)

Haun Saussy (University of Chicago)

This event was co-sponsored by the Center for Gesture, Sign, and Language at the University of Chicago.