Helena Van Praet

Panel 1A: Literary Transcodifications/1
Session 1 – July 1, 11:00 – 13:00

From Print to Digital and Back Again: Network Aesthetics in Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband

In Network Aesthetics (2016), Patrick Jagoda makes a cogent case for “the network as the new dominant configuration and category of life” (16), but his comparative media analysis of the relationship of networks to cultural forms fails to include the genre of poetry. This paper seeks to address that gap by exploring the interaction between our digital networked culture and contemporary poetry. To this end, it approaches Bolter and Grusin’s concept of remediation (1999) as an instance of repurposing by exploring how contemporary poetry responds to and repurposes network forms.

Through a case study of Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband (2001), a long poem written in twenty-nine tangos of narrative verse, I focus my discussion of network forms in poetry on the use of intertextuality. More concretely, this paper seeks to investigate how the use of intertextuality inspires a network aesthetic making for infinite connections. In invoking the concept of a network aesthetic, I follow the lead of Brillenburg Wurth (2012). My reading suggests that Carson’s networked poem operates by means of a poetics of delay, as expressed in a network of intertextual links that defer closure. In this way, the poem never arrives at representation and yet evokes the marriage by connecting it to other ideas and historical figures.

This paper thus builds on Brillenburg Wurth’s (2012) observation that a stark distinction between digital and paper-based writing is not productive. Through a transcodification of the network from print to digital and back, networked poetry scotches any illusion that thought is disentangled from feeling and thus urges a new understanding of the relationship between the lyrical and conceptual. Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband may therefore open up a new period in the history of poetry: a new modernism, an emergent metamodernism (Vermeulen and van den Akker 2010).


Helena Van Praet is an assistant in Dutch Literature and PhD student at Université Catholique de Louvain. She studied English and Dutch Literature and Linguistics at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and University College London (UCL), and is the 2018 laureate of the BAAHE Thesis Award for her MA dissertation on Canadian writer Anne Carson. Her research focuses on the conceptual poetry of experimental contemporary poets Rozalie Hirs and Anne Carson.