Jennifer Scappettone

Jennifer Scappettone
Associate Professor
Walker 509
Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, 2005
Teaching at UChicago since 2006


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.

Select Publications



  • “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

Poetry Chapbooks: