Affect and Audience

This cross-disciplinary research cluster, funded by the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington, hosted an annual symposium or speaker series annually from 2013–2017. The core goal of the workgroup was to explore emergent modes of creative public scholarship, with a particular interest in scholarly, pedagogical, curatorial, and creative practices that attend to the digitally mediated character of contemporary poetry.

Affiliated group members have included Amaranth Borsuk, Sarah Dowling, Brian Reed, micha cárdenas, and Gregory Laynor

Related material can be found on the Essay Press website, including two chapbooks published as outcomes of Affect and Audience symposia.

2017: Affect & Audience: Activist Poetics

Video and photo documentation of this event are available on

Some wonderful images by Robert Wade are available at his website.

#Blacklivesmatter, #sayhername, #blacktranslivesmatter: these hashtags are incantations, poetic phrases used to mobilize social movements through digital networks. Recent years have seen a series of public controversies within North American poetry around the use of racially-charged and, in some cases, racially-insensitive material used in the name of an avant-garde aesthetics based on shock-value. This work has been widely criticized; many have argued that the world itself is already a far more shocking place than such works reveal, and that the aforementioned hashtags have done more to draw attention to its horrors. Cathy Park Hong, Associate Professor at Sarah Lawrence College and poetry editor of The New Republic, has named contemporary activist poetics as the new avant-garde. Writers working in this vein have been influenced and inspired by—and have also participated in—the surge of public, digitally inflected social movements, which are themselves a mode of poiesis—an act of making that forges coalitional bonds.

The symposium Activist Poetics examined notions of activist poiesis and activist poetics to investigate the intersections between digital activism, contemporary experimental writing and performance, and new media practices. This symposium included a public performance shaped by the engagements of our participants.


Alexis Pauline Gumbs (PhD in English, African & African American Studies and Women & Gender Studies from Duke University), founder of the School of Our Lorde, an inter-generational multi-media education initiative

C Davida Ingram (Independent Artist), 2014 Stranger Genius award winner and co-founder of Seattle People of Color Salon

Dawn Lundy Martin (English, University of Pittsburgh), co-founder of The Third Wave Foundation and Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP), whose most recent book, Life In A Box Is A Pretty Life received a 2015 LAMBDA Literary Award for Best Lesbian Poetry

Kai Green (Feminist Studies, UC Santa Barbara), a scholar, poet, and filmmaker who combines scholarship, art and activism in his research on race, gender, and sexuality in black LGBT communities and cultural production

Fabian Romero (English, University of Washington), workshop facilitator, member of Hijas de Su Madre, Las Mamalogues and Mixed Messages: Stories by People of Color, and author of the chapbook Mountains of Another Kind

Layli Long Soldier (English, Diné College), a Lannan Literary Fellow, recipient of a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation artist fellowship and a Whiting Writers Award, and author of the forthcoming Whereas (Graywolf, 2017).


The symposium was well-attended, and an evening reading by our panelists at the Seattle Public Library broadened the conversation into the community. It received attention from The Stranger, Poetry Northwest, and UW Today.

2016: Affect & Audience: Translational Poetics

Affect & Audience in the Digital Age: Translational Poetics was a one-day symposium investigating contemporary scholarly, aesthetic, and activist projects that engage the processes and thematics of translation. The symposium explores translational crossings that move from analog to digital, from notation to embodiment, and from one interface to another. Building upon our collaborative research cluster’s previous conversations about the rhetorical power and affective charge carried by digital methodologies in contemporary art and literature, this event gathers scholars and practitioners whose work challenges commonplace notions of medium specificity.

We seek to investigate, in Adorno’s terms, how digital ­age artworks “go over into their other, find continuance in it.” By considering digitality through the lens of translation and translation through the lens of digitality, our symposium aims to uncover and theorize emergent practices that go over into and find continuance in their movement across different media. We will look at artistic, archival, and activist projects that move from the digital to the analog, from embodied performance to notation, and from one interface to another. Our aim is to use the thematics of translation to better understand the affects and effects of digitally-mediated art and literature.

Participants: Jordan Abel (Simon Fraser University), Amy Sara Carroll (Assistant Professor of English Language & Literature, University of Michigan), Lori Emerson (Associate Professor of English and Intermedia Arts, Writing & Performance, University of Colorado at Boulder), Kara Keeling (Associate Professor of Critical Studies and American Studies & Ethnicity, University of Southern California), Rodrigo Toscano (New York Labor Institute), Stephen Voyce (Assistant Professor of English, University of Iowa)

As an extension of the thematics of the symposium, we composed a collaborative chapbook that would not reproduce, but carry over and across the key ideas proposed by our panelists. In February 2017, Essay press published the free digital chapbook Affect And Audience: Translational Poetics as EP-84. In addition to a transcript of the closing roundtable–a conversation among panelists and audience–the chapbook includes photographs, drawings, media art, and notes by attendees: documenting the event by displaying the transit through which presenters’ propositions were received and transformed by the gathered group.

2014-2015: Affect & Audience in the Digital Age Speaker Series

The primary activity of the Affect & Audience in the Digital Age crossdisciplinary research cluster for 2014-15 was a series of seminars and colloquia with guest speakers on the UW campuses and in the community.

Spring 2015: Joyelle McSweeney on the Necropastoral, plus a conversation with Don Mee Choi and a performance of Dead Youth or The Leaks at the Institute for Neo-Connotative Action.

Winter, 2015: Judith Rodenbeck on Bipedal Modernity, followed by a presentation at the Institute for Neo-Connotative Action, “Bipedal Modernity: the other foot,” a peripatetic survey of walking practices, both social and anti-social, accompanied with some floor exercises.

Rodenbeck’s talk took as its starting point a short text by the philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who locates the first fully scientific physiological description of the mechanics of walking alongside the chronophotography of Etienne-Jules Marey, the incipience of Taylorization, and the disappearance of walking as an everyday practice. Folding the history of the late 19th century onto the 21st, the talk surveyed the mood and politics of today’s proliferation of artists’ walking projects as well as of developments in robotics of both “walking” and “feeling” machines.

Fall, 2014: Ronaldo Wilson at the Fall Convergence on Poetics at UW Bothell

Wilson participated in a panel discussion, “Thinking Liveness” and will delivered a performance of new work incorporating text, dance, and video.

Wilson is the author of the collections Poems of the Black Object, which won the Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award, andNarrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man. With poets Dawn Lundy Martin and Duriel E. Harris, Wilson cofounded the performance-based Black Took Collective.

2013: Affect & Audience in the Digital Age

Affect & Audience in the Digital Age was a one-day symposium exploring emergent modes of creative public scholarship. Specifically, we are interested in scholarly, pedagogical, curatorial, and creative practices that attend to the digitally mediated character of contemporary poetry. While poets have long enjoyed a position as public intellectuals, teaching readers through carefully constructed emotional appeals, much poetic work is now written through impersonal digital methodologies such as crowd sourcing and data mining. Nevertheless, digitally mediated poetics have a particular affective density: even appropriated text from the internet conveys the “powerful feelings” that Wordsworth described as the ideal for poetry. Given the new realities of digital composition and distribution, how has the position of the poet changed? Can digital mediation impact the direction in which knowledge and expertise flow? Where is creativity located now?

Because these changes have had a major impact on the publication and distribution of writing, this event opened with a hands-on examination of artists’ books and works of conceptual writing that take advantage of appropriation, crowd-sourcing, digital archives, or other methodologies that interlink the work’s concept and form. How has print on demand publishing facilitated the creation of artists’ books that might once have been thought unpublishable? How do such works align with unique and hand-made artists’ books that take advantage of similar techniques?

This session was followed by a roundtable discussion with our invited participants addressing the institutional, curatorial, and pedagogical implications of emergent modes of digitally mediated poetry, and the ways in which digitally mediated works make use of affect in their public appeals.

We closed with an evening of performances by invited poet-scholars and artists, who consider the communities addressed by digitally mediated poetry and the means through which such artistic-intellectual products reach them.

Participants: Kate Durbin, Craig Dworkin, Adam Frank, Ray Hsu, Rachel Zolf

As an outcome of this symposium, we published a free digital chapbook with Essay Press comprised of conversations among the participants that took place after the event. I provided the introduction and curated this first installment in the Affect and Audience series.


The symposium and chapbook were covered on the Simpson Center website in May 2015.