Jennifer Scappettone

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


I am a poet, scholar and translator interested in the cross-contamination of these practices, on the page and off. My research and teaching interests span the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries, with particular emphasis on ecopoetics, environmental justice, and the environmental humanities; art and activism; radical documentary; comparative global modernism; the history of the avant-garde and of marginalized art collectives; the evolution of cities, geographies of modernity, and critical occupations of place and space; poetry and poetics; literatures of migration, travel, and displacement; barbarism, translingualism, and other futures of language in global contexts; translation; Italian culture and its echo in others; gender and sexuality studies; relations between literary and other arts, including visual poetry, book arts, new media, and performance studies; and art and architectural history, visual culture, and aesthetics. I am a faculty affiliate of the Committee on Environment, Geography, and Urbanization and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality.


I have devoted my research, writing, and teaching to interdisciplinary study of the underbellies of modernity: of what we call the Anthropocene and the Great Acceleration. Having grown up across the street from a hazardous waste site and fallen in love with cities subject to flood and fire, my work across poetry and scholarship conducts archaeologies of vulnerable landscapes and the communities who call them home. My work in poetics seeks to trace the utopian schemes and the political consequences embedded in poetic language, as well as language’s cross-contaminations across geographical borders and other scenes of translation. 

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. At once sheltered from modernization by the waters of a vast lagoon and prey to rising seas, this medieval cosmopolis becomes a haunt for artists and intellectuals grappling with the stakes and costs of modernity. Venice forms a crucible for modernist thinkers 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 monograph on poets lacking a single fatherland or mother tongue. This manuscript—“Poetry After Barbarism: Fascism, the Xenoglossic Word, and the Invention of a Motherless Tongue”—explores the political ramifications of poetic experiments across national languages in the immediate buildup to and aftermath of Fascism. A “wireless imagination” spawns the aspiration to forge a supranational language in the twentieth century—but this dream quickly caves to ultra-nationalist and imperialist imperatives, while the work of marginalized artists composing in orphan tongues 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 Rosselliwas published in 2012 by the University of Chicago Press. Translations of Milli Graffi and other postwar and contemporary poets appear in Asymptote and in a special feature of Aufgabe that I edited, devoted to Italian “poetics of research” (a phrase borrowed from Rosselli). I am also 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 but invisible histories, site-specific engagements with troubled landscapes, radical collaboration, and experiments in aesthetic collectivity, including works that cross formal lines such as those of verse, digital media, and dance. I have collaborated with Deep Time Chicago, digital media artists Judd Morrissey and Ava Aviva Avnisan, composer Marco Ariano, and architect Seung Jae Lee and choreographer Kathy Westwater. My first poetry collection,From Dame Quickly(Litmus, 2009), takes as its point of departure Marx’s assertion about social relationships under capital based on a minor Shakespeare character, the inn-keeper Mistress Quickly: “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 ecological, medical, and legal discharge of a noxious suburban landfill on my block that was listed as a National Priority with the EPA’s Superfund program, while scoring the labyrinthine effort of researching the “malice in Underland” of toxic terrain.  

My teaching in creative practice emphasizes experiments with the archive and exploratory approaches to the present moment, immediate engagements with Chicago’s distressed and utopian environments, and interdisciplinary and cross-media approaches to poetry, including the art of the book, while encouraging students to forge their own micropublishing ventures and literary collectives. 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. Over the coming year I will host two international symposia between Chicago and Paris on the challenges and opportunities facing urban watersheds. 
My research has been supported by fellowships from Harvard’s Villa I Tatti, the Stanford Center for the Humanities, the Wesleyan Center for the Humanities, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Huntington Library, the Getty Research Institute, Phi Beta Kappa, and the American Academy in Rome, where I was the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow in Modern Italian Studies for 2010-11. Locomotrixwas 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 a finalist in the Modernist Studies Association’s annual book competition. I have been a resident at the Djerassi Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation, iLAND, Nature Art Habitat Residency, the Whiteley Center, Civitella Ranieri and the Center for the Italian Modern Art. My current book project, "Pennies from Nether: A Score for Copper Lyre" was a finalist for the 2023 Creative Capital Award in Literature. 

Select Publications


Selected Essays: 

  • “Tempo,” for An Anthropocene Guide to Venice, ed. Shaul Bassi and Cristina Baldacci (Venice: Wetlands Books, 2022) 
  • “On ‘X-RAY,’ by ‘the Baroness’ Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven,” The Difference is Spreading: Fifty Essays on Modern and Contemporary Poems, ed. Al Filreis and Anna Strong Safford (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022) 
  • “Out of Marsh and Bog: H.D., Imagiste and the Poesis of HERmione Precisely,” for A Forest on Many Stems: The Poet’s Novel, ed. Laynie Browne (Nightboat Books, 2021)  
  • “Agitating a Copper Lyre; Or, Geolyricism for the Age of Digital Reproduction,” Geopoetics in Practice, ed. Sarah de Leeuw, Eric Magrane, Linda Russo, and Craig Santos Perez (New York: Routledge, 2020) 
  • “Amelia Rosselli’s Disintegrating Cantons: Songs for a Community to Come,” Exile and Creativity, ed. Alessandro Cassin (New York: Centro Primo Levi Editions, 2020) 
  • “Fog is my Land: A Citizenship of Mutual Estrangement in the Painted Books of Etel Adnan,” in Reading Experimental Writing, ed. Georgina Colby (Edinburgh University Press, 2019) 
  • “Chloral Lines: Toward a Feminist Pedagogy,” a pamphlet for the collection Urgent Possibilities: Feminist Poetics and Pedagogy, ed. Andrea Quaid (eohippus labs, 2020) 
  • “Smelting Pot,” in Dimensions of Citizenship: Architecture and Belonging from the Body to the Cosmos, catalog of the U.S. Pavilion for the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, published simultaneously on e-flux, ed. Nick Axel, Nikolaus Hirsch, Ann Lui, and Mimi Zeiger (New York and Los Angeles: Inventory Press, 2018/e-flux, May 2018)  
  • “Precarity Shared: Breathing as Tactic in Air’s Uneven Commons,” Poetics and Precarity, ed. Myung Mi Kim and Cristanne Miller (SUNY Press, 2018) 
  • “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) 
  • “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) 
  • “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) 
  • “In Correspondence: Laguna as Archive,” with Nathanaël, MAKE Literary Magazine, November 2015 

Editorial Projects: 

Edinburgh Critical Studies in Avant-Garde Writing 

Edinburgh Foundations in Avant-Garde Writing 

Aufgabe #7, devoted to Italian “poetry of research” 

Poetry Chapbooks: 

More work across poetics, scholarship, translation, performance and the visual arts is available at this archive