Open Channels: Divinatory Poetics and Critique of the Lyric (Roundtable)


Comparative Literature / American/Diaspora

Brandon Menke (Yale University)

Sara Judy (University of Notre Dame)

This roundtable explores how poets deploy divination, automatic writing, and other occult or ritualized methods of composition designed to circumvent authorial control and/or engage in forms of polyvocality; in so doing, these writers seek to resist the primacy of the lyric “I” and revitalize generic clichés and commonplaces. Analyses of occult poetics and literary mysticism tend to emphasize how these methods facilitate communication with the dead and engage in a reimagination of the past; our roundtable hopes to enrich this discussion by considering how poets challenge traditional approaches to the lyric through the introduction of subliminal, supernatural, or vatic material. How are divinatory practices—including but not limited to chant, speaking in tongues, angelic communication, possession, automatic and asemic writing, chance operations—marshaled toward literary experimentation? How might these practices work against hegemonies, both aesthetic and cultural? Where do poets engage in these practices as extensions or manifestations of belief, and where are they taken up irreverently or as outlets for play? We are particularly interested in papers that take a comparative approach, engage with new religious movements and alternative spiritual communities, and take up decolonial perspectives. Although concerned primarily with figures from the 19th century to the present, we welcome proposals from earlier periods.
This roundtable explores how poets deploy divination, automatic writing, and other occult or ritualized methods of composition designed to circumvent authorial control or engage in polyvocality; in so doing, these writers resist primacy of the lyric “I” and revitalize generic clichés and commonplaces. How are divinatory practices, such as chant, speaking in tongues, angelic communication, possession, asemic writing, and chance operations, marshaled toward literary experimentation?