Rewiring the Avant-Gardes: Brian Kim Stefans’s Digital Poetics
In the age of digital information, poetry and praxis are integrated with wireless technologies and hardware circuitry. These technologies not only permit unprecedented access to a variety of material, but they also enable preexistent texts to be easily sourced, reproduced, recycled, and repurposed into surprising new forms. In the case of Korean-American poet Brian Kim Stefans, this repurposing extends even to avant-garde strategies of appropriation. Stefans’s works use twenty-first-century digital technology to rearticulate both historical and contemporary avant-garde practices and texts. In this thesis, I interrogate five of Stefans’s digital projects from 2000 to 2010 in chronological order: “One or Two Things I Don’t Know About Her, or, ‘Dick’s Sister’ (Bellamy)” (2000), “the dreamlife of letters” (2001), The Vaneigem Series (2002), Circulars (2003a), and “Suicide in an Airplane (1919)” (2010). These projects selectively remediate historical and contemporary avant-garde texts in the digital environment. Through close readings of these projects, I investigate the use of algorithm, blogging platforms, and the World Wide Web as poetic devices. In addition, I address the relation of digital media to the avant-garde strategies and appropriated texts on which Stefans draws in his works. I demonstrate that Stefans’s digital poetics continues the struggle of the avant-garde to enunciate acts of resistance to linguistic, social, and political structures and conventions. Through Stefans’s work, I also identify ways that this struggle has been reframed, recontextualized, and complicated by the media-specific characteristics of digital programs and online spaces. Stefans illustrates the question about how to find oppositional positions without reusing normative structures in language and text. Yet his works highlight that digital media are not staged in utopian spaces. Rather, the use of convention-based electronic systems is necessary for linguistic disruption. Stefans’s texts demonstrate the need to revise our understanding of the relationship between conventions and disruption, as well as the impossibility of finding a place outside language and convention-based systems.
Advisor: Edmond, Jacob
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: English and Linguistics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: digital poetics; electronic literature; new media; avant-garde; Brian Kim Stefans
Research Type: Thesis