Call for papers


In 1917, commenting on the rise of new media, Apollinaire urged for “plotting/mechanising (“machiner”) poetry as has been done for the world”. A century later, the slogan’s rich metaphor is made all the sharper with the new technologies’ emergence in literary studies. What role have machines taken up in text reading? What do they teach us about the mechanics of poetry? What mechanical and strategic devices are we developing, with what results?

We are producing all sorts of computing and statistical apparatuses to describe and analyse metre, style and poeticity. We entrust them with part of our research to gain in speed and/or power, escape the physical boundaries of what our mind can embrace, rethink the usual questions and address new ones previously out of reach of traditional readings. Statistical analyses, digital corpuses, miscellaneous inventories shed light upon literature and provide our interpretations with the physical evidence they had to do without so far, but they in turn raise hermeneutic challenges.

To apply mechanical processes to the reading of texts is to raise the question of poeticity. Is it to be found in the measurable sum of artfully assembled processes, or does it escape normalisation efforts? Reading machines, by allowing a distant vision, measure phenomena that a natural reading would not detect, thus questioning the role of such invisible features in readers’ perception. Jacobson’s poetic function has objective linguistic features at its centre, but shall its efficiency be reduced to that of a machine, with levers and pulleys we can take apart?

Finally, the machine carries some notion of dehumanisation of the processes where it replaces us, and symmetrically, we readily adopt an anthropomorphic perception of it. Its use questions the usefulness and legitimacy of adopting “non-human” readings to access a fundamentally “human” material. Must the literary scholar, whose object is not a natural phenomenon, meet the burden of proof, or can one rely on intuitions? How shall mechanically enhanced “readings” and more traditional ones be linked together?

We are keen to gather scholars wishing to show computing or statistical tools they develop to raise questions in poetics, metrics, and stylistics. Devices that did not yield the expected results, provided their shortcomings provide an interesting insight, are welcome too.

Possible themes could include, but are not limited to:

  • metrical analysis;
  • stylometry;
  • poeticity and computer tools;
  • “distant reading” and literary reading;
  • computer-assisted interpretation;
  • visual representations of poetry;
  • History of reading machines and perspectives;
  • possibility of symbiosis between human reader and non-human apparatus.

We welcome abstracts for papers about poetic texts, versified or not, or even texts outside the poetry genre provided that machines are being used to explore their poeticity. Papers of 25 minutes may bear on corpora from any time and in any language, but shall be delivered in English or French.

Abstract (300 words) are to be sent no later than 1st March 2017 to: Anne-Sophie Bories (, Gérald Purnelle (, Hugues Marchal (

This international conference will be held in Basel (Switzerland) on 5-6-7 October, 2017.