Jennifer Scappettone

Jennifer Scappettone
Associate Professor
  • Department of English
  • Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality
  • The College
  • Program in Creative Writing
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, and the environmental humanities; radical documentary; art and activism; literature of labor struggles; relations between literary and other arts, including visual poetry, electronic writing, and performance studies; and art and architectural history, visual culture, and aesthetics.

I have devoted my recent research, writing, and teaching to the cultural topographies of modernity’s phantasms and underbellies, exploring literary artifacts and scenes from the built environment that manifest its uneven development and ideological vulnerabilities. My work in poetics addresses language’s migrations and its contaminations across geographical and disciplinary borders through the current day..

Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein in Venice

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

My 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 cosmopolis whose apparent resistance to modernization renders it a haunt for artists and intellectuals grappling with the stakes and costs of modernity. 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”). 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.

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 Twentieth-Century Poetry and the Dream (or Nightmare) of a Transnational Language”—explores the political valences of poetic experiments with graphically explosive form. A “wireless imagination” spawns the aspiration to forge a supranational language in the twentieth century—but the work of polyglot artists to implode traditional verse forms does more to express Babel than Pentecost, exposing the mongrel sources and futures of segregated languages.

An abiding fascination with the poetics of displacement 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 am the founding and ongoing editor of PennSound Italiana, a sector of the audiovisual archive hosted by the University of Pennsylvania 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, The Republic of Exit 43: Outtakes & Scores from An Archaeology and Pop-Up Opera of the Corporate Dump, (Atelos, 2017), excavates the medical, ecological and legal discharge of a suburban landfill on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List, while scoring the labyrinthine effort of researching the “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 shared a Mellon Fellowship in Arts Practice and Scholarship with Caroline Bergvall and Judd Morrissey to pursue a project titled "The Data That We Breathe" at the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, accompanied by a course on the poetics and politics of air.

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 was granted honorable mention in the Modernist Studies Association’s annual book competition.


2017-2018 Courses: Winter 2018, Center for Disciplinary Innovation Seminar, with Haun Saussy: Exploratory Translation (graduate), Radical Documentary (graduate); Spring 2018, Ecopoetics: Literature and Ecology (undergraduate), Advanced Poetry Workshop: Poetry Of and Off the Page (undergraduate)

Graduate: From Pentecost to Babel: Writing Between Languages; 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: Literature of the City: Between Utopia and Dystopia, Design and Occupation; Found in Translation; 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

Creative Writing: Poetry Of and Off the Page; Found in Translation; Documentary Across the Genres: Writing Between Salvage and Change; Advanced Poetry Workshop; Introduction to Poetry

Note: Some teaching materials and archives can be found at



Killing the Moonlight: Modernism in Venice




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)

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

From Dame Quickly (Litmus, 2009)


“Precarity Shared: Breathing as Tactic in Air’s Uneven Commons,” Poetics and Precarity, ed. Myung Mi Kim and Cristanne Miller (SUNY Press, forthcoming)

“Phrasebook Pentecosts and Daggering Lingua Francas in the Poetry of LaTasha N. Nevada-Diggs,’” The Fate of Difficulty in the Poetry of Our Time, ed. Charles Altieri and Nicholas D. Nace (Northwestern University Press, 2017)

Entries for Counter-Desecration Glossary, ed. Marthe Reed and Linda Russo (Wesleyan University Press, in press)

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

“I 0we v. I/O: Poetics of Veil-Piercing on a Corporate Planet,”Jacket2, December 2016

Prose and verse at the Poetry Foundation.

“Chloris in Plural Voices: Performing Translation of ‘A Moonstriking Death’,” Translation Review 95 (July 2016): 25-40

“Festina Lente: Invention of the Modernist Poet as Editor in the City of Aldus,” Paideuma 42 (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): 131-56, a special issue edited by Emanuela Tandello and Chiara Carpita

“In Correspondence: Laguna as Archive,” with Nathanaël, MAKE Literary Magazine, November 2015

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

Poetry Chapbooks

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

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

Err-Residence (Bronze Skull, 2007)

Performance Work

SMOKEPENNY LYRICHORD HEAVENBRED, with Judd Morrissey and Abraham Avnisan: a mixed-reality performance that excavates sites, histories, and languages of mining in a poetics of generative telegraphy, geophysical extraction, and the multilingual hauntings of forgotten laborers. Immersed in a 3D point-cloud derived from Lidar scans of a defunct copper mine, performers operate a custom augmented reality system to extract, hoist, encrypt and decrypt language from original and archival sources while composing through a database of 30,000 telegraph codes used for electrical communications of the mining industry in the 19th and early 20th century. Iterations of this work in progress have taken place in 2016-17 at the Chicago Architecture Biennial at 6018|NORTH, the Electronic Literature Organization Festival in Porto, the Ordinary Media Conference at Northwestern, and the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago.

THE DATA THAT WE BREATHE Salon, with Judd Morrissey and Caroline Bergvall, at 6018|NORTH. The performative culmination of our Winter 2016 research and pedagogical project surrounding the poetics and politics of air. Via the shared roots of breath’s circulation—through poetics, bodywork practices, particulate and data structures in the air, the channeling of architecture—the IN>TIME salon at 6018|NORTH invited participants to listen for junctures of interconnection, transformation, and receptivity.

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

Penn Sound Italia, a new sector of the University of Pennsylvania's audiovisual poetry archive devoted to experimental Italian poetry.

Author page at PennSound


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


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)