Sociopoetics and ‘Forms’ of Political Engagement: A Transnational Study of 21st Century Russian and American Poetry

Divya Nadkarni | University of Amsterdam | Sociopoetics and ‘Forms’ of Political Engagement: A Transnational Study of 21st Century Russian and American Poetry  | Supervisors: Ellen Rutten & Arent van Nieukerken | 2016-2020

The practice/institution of contemporary poetry – including its production, publication, readership, global outreach and socio-political relevance – is closely associated with digitality and its allied social media technology. As scholars such as Katherine Hayles (2008) and Adalaide Morris (2006) have demonstrated, the digital network environment is a systematic feature of the poetic process today, beginning with the fact that any literary text is already, primarily, a digital artefact (Hayles 2008, 43). Their work has amply analysed the complex spectrum of media interventions in the very architecture of poetic form, from interactive virtual texts and multiplayer networked games to internet-based media like weblogs and social-networking sites (Morris 2006).

My project zooms in on the last of these interventions with a specific focus on political engagement. Seeing social networking sites as a stage where poets can ‘perform’ politics, my project investigates how poetry, politics and social media technology interact. By analysing three politically engaged poets each from Russia and the United States, this project aims to explicate a link between the poet’s social media activism, and, a feature that in digital literary studies has sparked renewed scholarly interest (Engberg and Botler, 2010): formal aesthetics. The poets I choose to discuss rest on a cusp between poetic tradition and digital media practices, making extensive use of social media as a form of activism alongside their poetic work, and each is crucial to the understanding and reception of the other. In conjunction this project asks what role social networking sites play in constructing the identity of a poet as a political activist and how they shape the very ‘form’ of his/her poetry.