Jennifer Scappettone

Jennifer Scappettone
Associate Professor
  • Department of English
  • Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality
  • Committee on Creative Writing
  • The College
Walker 509
My research and teaching interests span the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries, with particular emphasis on comparative global modernism; the history and presence of the avant-garde; poetry and poetics; the evolution of cities, geographies of modernity, and current transmogrifications of place and space; literatures of travel, migration, and displacement; barbarism, polylingualism, and other futures of language in global contexts; translation; Italian culture and its echo in others; gender and sexuality studies; ecopoetics; relations between literary and other arts, including visual poetry and performance writing; and art history, visual culture, and aesthetics.

I have devoted my recent research, writing, and teaching to delineating the cultural topographies of modernity’s phantasms and underbellies, identifying literary artifacts and scenes from the built environment that render manifest its ideological vulnerabilities and uneven development. My work in poetics addresses language’s migrations and contaminations across geographical and disciplinary borders, focusing on the sociopolitical ramifications of both the global dissemination of national languages and the transnational aspirations of the avant-garde.

Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein in Venice

Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library,
Yale University

My first critical study, Killing the Moonlight: Modernism in Venice (Columbia UP, 2014), shifts the gaze of modernist studies from the rising urban centers of Paris, London, and New York to their shadow at the imagined edge of Europe: Venice, a premodern urban aggregate whose apparent resistance to modernization renders it a haunt for artists and intellectuals grappling with the stakes and costs of modernity. Outmoded but irrepressibly seductive, Venice forms a crucible for modernist values because its topography and cultural heritage seem to embody all that the modern ethos wishes to pathologize and suppress: the fluid, the feminine, the sentimental, the “Oriental,” the decadent and obsolete (characteristics spurned in the 1910 Futurist manifesto “Against Passéist Venice”). Spanning 150 years of literature, art, and architecture—from John Ruskin and Ezra Pound through Manfredo Tafuri, Italo Calvino, Jeanette Winterson, and Robert Coover—Killing the Moonlight tracks the pressures that modernity has placed on the legacy of romantic Venice, and the distinctive strains of aesthetic invention that resulted from the clash. In Venetian incarnations of modernism, the anachronistic urban fabric and vestigial sentiment that both the nation-state of Italy and the historical avant-garde would cast off become incompletely assimilated parts of the new. Killing the Moonlight brings Venice into the geography of modernity as a living city rather than a metaphor for death, and presents the archipelago as an elusive touchstone for those seeking to define and transgress the conceptual limits of modernism.

Theoretical and aesthetic questions raised by Killing the Moonlight surrounding Venice’s status as an “extraterritorial” locus come to the fore in my second critical book project on poetics lacking a single “fatherland” or “mother tongue.” This manuscript—“Between Pentecost and Babel: Wireless Imaginations in Postwar Literary Arts and the Dream (or Nightmare) of a Transnational Language”—explores the links between poetic experiments with graphically explosive form and the aspiration to forge a supranational language in the aftermath of World War II—exploring artists’ efforts to deflect ideological inscription, and ultimately to expose the mongrel sources and futures of segregated languages.

An abiding fascination with the sensed lack of a mother tongue has triggered my work on the “Babeling deeply moved” of Amelia Rosselli, a musician, ethnomusicologist, and self-described “poet of research.” Raised in exile from Fascist Italy between France, England, and the United States, Rosselli composed in the interstices among French, English, and Italian, estranging each from its conventional usages. Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli was published in 2012 from the University of Chicago Press. Other translation projects include Venezianella the Futurist, a 1944 “aeronovel or aeropoem” by F.T. Marinetti, and Self-Portrait, by Rivolta Femminile founder Carla Lonzi. I founded and recently launched the first edition of PennSound Italiana, which is devoted to contemporary Italian experimental poetry.

As a poet, I am committed to engagement with living literature, hands-on approaches to culture, and experiments in aesthetic collectivity, including those that cross formal lines such as those of verse, digital media, and dance. My first poetry collection, From Dame Quickly (Litmus, 2009), takes as its point of departure Marx’s assertion that “the objectivity of commodities as values differs from Dame Quickly in the sense that ‘a man knows not where to have it.’” My second collection, Exit 43, was commissioned by the cross-genre publishing project Atelos. Conceived as an archaeology of landfill and opera of pop-up pastorals, this forthcoming work scores the labyrinthine effort of researching the sprawling “malice in Underland” of toxic terrain. My teaching in creative practice emphasizes interdisciplinary and cross-media approaches to poetry, while anchoring students in the architectonics of verse’s furrows and “rooms.” In 2015-16 I will be sharing a Mellon Fellowship in Arts Practice and Scholarship with Caroline Bergvall and Judd Morrissey, to pursue a collaboration titled “The Data That We Breathe” at the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry.

My research has been supported by fellowships from the Mellon Foundation and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Phi Beta Kappa, the Huntington Library, and the American Academy in Rome, where I was the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow in Modern Italian Studies for 2010-11. Locomotrix was awarded the 2012 Raiziss/De Palchi Book Prize by the Academy of American Poets and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Translation Prize. Killing the Moonlight is shortlisted for the Modernist Studies Association’s annual book prize.


2016-17 courses: Winter 2017, Literature of the City: Between Utopia and Dystopia (undergraduate); Ecopoetics: Literature and Ecology (undergraduate). Spring 2017, Advanced Poetry Workshop: Found in Translation (graduate & undergraduate); From Pentecost to Babel: Writing Between Languages (graduate).

Graduate: Breathing Matters: Poetics and Politics of Air; Cultures of Distraction; Radical Documentary; Realism and the Abracadabrant Word; Obsolescence and Sentimentality; Modernism and the Invention of the Metropolis; Poetics of Dislocation

Undergraduate: Modernity in London: Its Enemies and Demagogues; Radical Documentary; Henry James and the Sense of the Past; Poetry Of and Off the Page; Poetics of Dislocation; Urban Zones of Modernism and Modernity; Media Aesthetics; Introduction to Poetry



Killing the Moonlight: Modernism in Venice




Workshops: Poetry Of and Off the Page; Forms and Media Old and New; Translation Across Theory and Practice; Found in Translation; Documentary Across the Genres: Writing Between Salvage and Change

Selected Publications


Killing the Moonlight: Modernism in Venice, (Columbia University Press, 2014)

Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli, editor and translator (University of Chicago Press, 2012)


“Phrasebook Pentecosts and Daggering Lingua Francas in LaTasha N. Nevada-Diggs: Tuning to the ‘Clusterf-ck of Tongues,’” Articulating Contemporary Poetics, ed. Charles Altieri and Nick Nace (Northwestern University Press, forthcoming)

“Out of Marsh and Bog: H.D., Imagiste and the Poesis of HERmione Precisely,” for The Poet’s Novel, ed. Laynie Browne (Nightboat Books, forthcoming)

Festina Lente: The Invention of a Modernist in the City of Aldus,” Paideuma, forthcoming

“In Correspondence: Laguna as Archive,” with Nathanaël, MAKE Literary Magazine, forthcoming

“The Trash-Mount and the Vault: Two Underbellies,” Occupy Poetics, ed. Thom Donovan (Essay Press, 2015)

“Cantonidisintegratidella / miavita”: Closure and Implosion of the Canto(n) in Amelia Rosselli, and the Dream (or Nightmare) of a Transnational Language,” Moderna: Semestrale di teoria e critica della letteratura 15:2 (2015)

Introducing PennSound Italiana,” Jacket2 (June 2015)

La santità dei santi padri,” Alfabeta 2 (March 2015)

The Thick and the Slow of Knowledge (On the Poet-Scholar),” Jacket2 (June 2015)

Of Fishiness, Flesh, and the Radical Undead,” Boston Review (September 2014)

“Garbage Arcadia: Digging for Choruses in Fresh Kills,” for Terrain Vague: The Interstitial as Site, Concept, Intervention, Ed. Patrick Barron and Manuela Mariani (Routledge, Fall 2013)

“Xenoglossia,” for The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

“Tuning as Lyricism: Performances of Orality in the Poetics of Jerome Rothenberg and David Antin,” Critical Inquiry 37:4 (Summer 2011)

“Walcott in Concerto,” an interview with Derek Walcott on rhythm, theater, and the public of poetry on the occasion of the world premiere of Ti Jean in Concert, Il manifesto, April 2, 2011

“Versus Seamlessness: Architectonics of Pseudocomplicity in Tan Lin’s Ambient Poetics,” boundary 2 36:3 (Fall 2009), special issue on poetry after 1975. 63-76. Translated and reprinted in a special issue on contemporary U.S. poetics in POLJA (Belgrade), ed. Dubravka Djuric (February 2010).

Utopia Interrupted:  Archipelago as Structure in A Draft of XXX Cantos,” PMLA 122:1 (January 2007). Translated into Polish by Piotr Bogalecki as “Przerwana utopia. Archipelag jako struktura socjoliryczna w Draft of XXX Cantos Ezry Pounda” and reprinted in Miasto w sztuce—sztuka miasta (Universitas, 2010), Ed. Ewa Rewers.

‘Più mOndo i:  tUtti!’:  Traffics of Historicism in Jackson Mac Low’s Contemporary Lyricism,” Modern Philology 105:1 (August 2007)

Bachelorettes, Even:  Strategic Embodiment in Contemporary Experimentalism by Women” (response to Jennifer Ashton), Modern Philology 105:1 (August 2007)

Accommodated, Unaccommodated Man, and Daughter:  Adapting Home in Moby-Dick and Moby Dick,” online catalog essay on the work of Guy Ben-Ner for the Smart Museum’s Adaptation: Video Installations by Ben-Ner, Herrera, Sullivan, and Sussman & The Rufus Corporation, May 2008


Books and Chapbooks:

A letterpress edition of tracts From Exit 43, forthcoming from Compline Press

From Dame Quickly (Litmus Press, 2009)

Belladonna Elders Series #5:  Poetry, Landscape, Apocalypse, featuring work by Scappettone, Etel Adnan, and Lyn Hejinian (Belladonna, 2009)

Ode oggettuale/Thing Ode (La Camera Verde, 2008)

Beauty (Is the New Absurdity) (dusi/e kollectiv, 2007)

Err-Residence (Bronze Skull, 2007)

In Progress:

Exit 43, an archaeology of the landfill and opera of pop-ups, for Atelos Press

Park, a research-based performance work surrounding distressed landscapes, in collaboration with choreographer Kathy Westwater and architect Seung Jae Lee, supported by residencies at Dance Theater Workshop, Freshkills Park, iLAND, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the Millay Colony

Sound and Video:

Author page at PennSound

Selected Visual Texts:

Of the Monitor’s Fight, exhibited at Una Vetrina Gallery, Rome, September 2015

Leave Loom: A Memory, WUHO Gallery, Summer 2015

Trash Triptych, Descrizione del Mondo, Unione Culturale Antonicelli, Turin, Spring-Summer 2015

Neosuprematist Webtexts
, featured at Infusoria


Novas Poéticas de Resistência/Poetics of Resistance (forthcoming 2012), La alteración del silencio: Poesía norteamericana reciente (Das Kapital, 2010), Zoland Annual (Random House, 2008), Viz Inter-Arts Event:  A Trans-Genre Anthology (University of California, Santa Cruz, 2007), The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century (Cracked Slab, 2007), Bay Poetics (Faux Press, 2006), War and Peace, Volumes II, III, and IV (O Books, 2005, 2007, forthcoming), The Best American Poetry 2004 (Scribner, 2004), Enough (O Books, 2003)

Journal Publications:

Sibila, The Volta, Zoland Poetry, Jubilat, Counterpath Online, Dusie, GAMMM, 2nd Avenue Poetry, Aufgabe, The Brooklyn Rail, Drunken Boat, 26, P-Queue, Model Homes, Chain, The Poker, Boston Review, Wild Orchids: A Journal of Devotional Criticism, Dandelion, Jacket 2, Interim, Poets for Living Waters, LIT, Floor, Blackbox Manifold, textsound, Evening Will Come


Guest editor, Aufgabe 7, featuring work by 13 contemporary Italian poets and several critical pieces (2008)

Journal Publications:  Boston Review, Asymptote, Best American Poetry Blog, Gulf Coast, Lana Turner, The Paper Nautilus, Chicago Review, Washington Square, GAMMM, Zoland Annual, The Brooklyn Rail, Circumference, Bombay Gin, Mid-American Review, American Poetry Review, American Reader, American Poet, Sibila


Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, 2005.  Teaching at Chicago since 2006.

Still from Summertime, with Katharine Hepburn

Courtesy of David Lean by Stephen M. Silverman (1989)