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HJ Burgess 
UMBC/ 
NC State 
@polyrhetor 
FOURTEEN RECIPES FOR 
A SONNET
EXPRESSIVE OBJECTS 
 “ . . . we ’ r e e n te r in g a t ime wh e n s o u n d , l i g h t a n d moveme n t a r e 
equally ...
THE STARTING QUESTION 
What does a 
poem do in a 
programming 
age? 
Can we bui ld 
a poem using 
computing 
principles? 
...
PROCEDURAL OBJECTS 
 P ro c e d ur al l i te ra cy: “ e n t a ils the abi lity to reconfigure basic 
concepts and rules t...
MACHINES AND POEMS 
 “ To ma ke two b o l d s t a teme n t s: T h e re 's n ot h i n g s e n t ime n t al 
about a machin...
LOOKING AT/LOOKING THROUGH 
 A p o em may b e a ma c h in e , b u t i t ’ s e a s y to g e t d i s t r ac te d by 
meanin...
THE PLAN: USE A POEM TO BETTER 
UNDERSTAND DIGITAL CONCEPTS 
 …a n d u s e digital l iteracy to better understand the 
me...
SONNET SEQUENCE: TRANSLATION & 
PROCEDURAL RHETORIC 
A four-par t assignment sequence in which a Shakespearean 
sonnet is ...
SONNET #14 
Q1 NOT from the stars do I my judgment pluck, 
And yet methinks I have astronomy; 
But not to tel l of good or...
SONNET CONSTRUCTION IS HAPPENING 
HERE.
EXERCISE ONE: IMAGERY AND 
DIMENSIONALITY. 
 Key c o nc e p t: “ d imens io ns. ” 
 In this context, dimensions are qual...
#1: IMAGERY. 
THE PLANETS ALIGN.
#1: IMAGERY. ALTERNATE FORTUNES 
INSIDE A CREEPY FACE BOX.
EXERCISE TWO: STRUCTURE AND 
SCANSION. 
 Go through the project l ine-by- line, and come up with an 
object made of preci...
#2: STRUCTURE. MOLECULAR 
SHAKESPEARE.
#2: STRUCTURE. RHYME SCHEME.
#2 STRUCTURE: PARTS OF SPEECH.
#2: STRUCTURE: IAMBS & QUATRAINS.
EXERCISE 3: ENCODE/DECODE 
 Key concepts: encoding schema, lossy/lossless 
 A schema: a set of rules or agreed-upon lang...
#3: LOSSY ENCODING. STRING.
#3: LOSSLESS ENCODING. 
COLOR-CODED BRAILLE.
#3: ENCODING. 
POSTAL CODE LETTER POEM.
EXERCISE 4: ALGORITHM 
 C r e a te a “ p ro g ram” t h a t wi l l “ b u i ld” t h e p o em wh e n exe c ute d . 
 T h e ...
#4: ALGORITHM. SONNET BURGER.
#4: ALGORITHM. JENGA TOWER.
(VOLTA): IS THIS ELECTRONIC 
LITERATURE OR NOT?
HOLDING THE LIGHT 
 T h i s c o nfe r enc e’ s c a l l wa s a b o u t “ h o l d ing t h e l i g h t” o f 
electronic l it...
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ELO Sonnet

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Fourteen Recipes for a Sonnet. ELO 2014.

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ELO Sonnet

  1. 1. HJ Burgess UMBC/ NC State @polyrhetor FOURTEEN RECIPES FOR A SONNET
  2. 2. EXPRESSIVE OBJECTS  “ . . . we ’ r e e n te r in g a t ime wh e n s o u n d , l i g h t a n d moveme n t a r e equally impor tant par ts of the creative palette. Everyday objects whose expressive elements have long been static wi l l now glow, sing, vibrate and change position at the drop of a h a t . ”  (NY T, C a r l a Di a n a , “ Ta lki n g , Wa l kin g Ob j e c t s, ” J a n . 2 6 2 01 3 .)  “Di g it al l i te rac y me a ns not rote l e a rni ng b u t ex p er imentat io n, process, creativity, not just technology but multimedia imagination, expression–and principles too. ”  - Cathy Davidson
  3. 3. THE STARTING QUESTION What does a poem do in a programming age? Can we bui ld a poem using computing principles? Do we need to involve a computer? or
  4. 4. PROCEDURAL OBJECTS  P ro c e d ur al l i te ra cy: “ e n t a ils the abi lity to reconfigure basic concepts and rules to understand and solve problems, not just on the computer, but in general. ”  p ro c e d ural rh eto r ic : “ a type of rhetoric tied to the core af fordances of computers: running processes and executing rule-based symbol ic ma ni p ulat io n. ”  Ian Bogost , Procedural Literacy; intro to Persuasive Games
  5. 5. MACHINES AND POEMS  “ To ma ke two b o l d s t a teme n t s: T h e re 's n ot h i n g s e n t ime n t al about a machine, and: A poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words. When I say there's nothing sentimental about a poem, I mean that there can be no par t that is r e d u n dan t . …  Prose may carry a load of i l l -defined matter l ike a ship. But poetry is a machine which drives it, pruned to a per fect economy. As in al l machines, its movement is intrinsic, undulant, a physical more than a literary character . ”  (Wi lliam Carlos Wi l liams)
  6. 6. LOOKING AT/LOOKING THROUGH  A p o em may b e a ma c h in e , b u t i t ’ s e a s y to g e t d i s t r ac te d by meaning and not see the mechanisms working on us underneath.  Students of ten resist looking at the formal attributes of poetry, preferring to stick with more fami l iar representational aspects: imagery, metaphor, emotional resonance.  “ Pe o ple l o o k fo r me s s ag e s i n p o ems ; c e r t a in ly mo s t o f my s t u d ent s d o , no ma t ter h ow mu c h I t r y to d i s c o u r age t h em. ” – Piotr Gwiazda  Students are easi ly flummoxed by the economy of a poem, preferring free expression to af fordances and constraints.
  7. 7. THE PLAN: USE A POEM TO BETTER UNDERSTAND DIGITAL CONCEPTS  …a n d u s e digital l iteracy to better understand the mechanisms of a poem.  Try working with a some key digital concepts that l iterature students tend to avoid (of ten on purpose) :  Encoding: writing is a code, not a conveyor of transparent meaning  Algorithm: understanding a poem as programmatic, i .e. constructed according to a set of procedures
  8. 8. SONNET SEQUENCE: TRANSLATION & PROCEDURAL RHETORIC A four-par t assignment sequence in which a Shakespearean sonnet is reinterpreted in various forms according to the prompt: 1) Visual imagery 2) Sonnet structure & scansion 3) Encoding and decoding with a key 4) A “ k i t” fo r a s s embling a ve r s io n o f t h e s o nnet wi t h a program, recipe or other kind of instructional document.
  9. 9. SONNET #14 Q1 NOT from the stars do I my judgment pluck, And yet methinks I have astronomy; But not to tel l of good or evi l luck, Of plagues, of dear ths, or seasons' qual i ty; Q2 NOR can I for tune to brief minutes tel l , Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind, Or say wi th princes i f i t shal l go wel l By of t predict that I in heaven find. Q3, volta BUT from thine eyes my knowledge I derive, And, constant stars, in them I read such ar t As truth and beauty shal l together thrive If from thysel f to store thou wouldst conver t: couplet OR else of thee this I prognosticate, Thy end is truth's and beauty's doom and date.
  10. 10. SONNET CONSTRUCTION IS HAPPENING HERE.
  11. 11. EXERCISE ONE: IMAGERY AND DIMENSIONALITY.  Key c o nc e p t: “ d imens io ns. ”  In this context, dimensions are qual ities that can be used to structure a piece of information. (Concept from Edward Tuf te)  Dimensions could include anything that can be quanti fied or g ro u p e d, fo r example , “ d u r at io n ”, “ d i st an c e , ” “we at h e r, ” “ v i s io n. ”  A dimension is useful for identifying structure and pattern in poems – fo r exampl e, t h e “ p rimar y d ime ns io n” wo u l d b e a n a l o g o u s to t h e “ c o n c e p tual me t a ph o r ” t h a t h e l ps s t r u c t ur e the poem.  Students identified and came up with sample visual representations for each dimension (e.g. clock=time, eye=vision), and then created an object that expressed the poem in some way.
  12. 12. #1: IMAGERY. THE PLANETS ALIGN.
  13. 13. #1: IMAGERY. ALTERNATE FORTUNES INSIDE A CREEPY FACE BOX.
  14. 14. EXERCISE TWO: STRUCTURE AND SCANSION.  Go through the project l ine-by- line, and come up with an object made of precisely 14 par ts, that shows how the poem is structured.  Could represent the rhyme scheme, or other features of grammar or scansion ( leads to a discussion of what a unit is, & how one might measure or represent it) .  Designed to show how a sonnet is constructed as a form, irrespective of its par ticular content/message. .  But at the same time, to show how that content might be integrated into the structure (e.g. where is the volta, and what i s t h e “ t u r n ” i n t h e me a n i n g o f t h e p o em?)
  15. 15. #2: STRUCTURE. MOLECULAR SHAKESPEARE.
  16. 16. #2: STRUCTURE. RHYME SCHEME.
  17. 17. #2 STRUCTURE: PARTS OF SPEECH.
  18. 18. #2: STRUCTURE: IAMBS & QUATRAINS.
  19. 19. EXERCISE 3: ENCODE/DECODE  Key concepts: encoding schema, lossy/lossless  A schema: a set of rules or agreed-upon language that is used to encode a piece of text  Lossy & lossless: Are you going to encode the whole poem, or just key par ts of it?  The assignment: choose an encoding schema, use it to translate the poem into another format, and then provide a “ d e c o de r. ”  The encoding could be of the structure of the poem (ie quatrains, iambs etc) or of the words themselves
  20. 20. #3: LOSSY ENCODING. STRING.
  21. 21. #3: LOSSLESS ENCODING. COLOR-CODED BRAILLE.
  22. 22. #3: ENCODING. POSTAL CODE LETTER POEM.
  23. 23. EXERCISE 4: ALGORITHM  C r e a te a “ p ro g ram” t h a t wi l l “ b u i ld” t h e p o em wh e n exe c ute d .  T h e p ro g r am i s ex p l ain e d a s a k i n d o f “ r e c ipe , ” wh i c h h a s t h e benefit of several key computing concepts:  Procedure: series of instructions  Function (smal l procedure that can be repeated over when needed)  (maybe, stretching the analogy a bit) : objects, smal l p r e a ss emble d “ i n g r e die n t s” t h a t c a n b e c omb i n e d
  24. 24. #4: ALGORITHM. SONNET BURGER.
  25. 25. #4: ALGORITHM. JENGA TOWER.
  26. 26. (VOLTA): IS THIS ELECTRONIC LITERATURE OR NOT?
  27. 27. HOLDING THE LIGHT  T h i s c o nfe r enc e’ s c a l l wa s a b o u t “ h o l d ing t h e l i g h t” o f electronic l iterature, and brings up a number of questions:  Wh a t’ s e l e c t ro n i c l i te r atur e a nyway ?  Is it necessarily beholden to a computer?  I f n ot , wh a t ma ke s i t d i f fe r e n t f rom “ n o n- e l e c tro n i c l i te r atur e ” ( i f there is such a thing)?  S h o u l d we b e “ h o l din g t h e l i g h t” a n d d r awi n g c l e a r b o u n d a r ie s a ro u n d wh a t we c o n s i d e r “ e l e c t ro n i c”?  Wh a t h a p p e n s wh e n “ e l e c t ro n i c” i s i n te g ra te d i n to u s a n d o u r environment, so that we are no longer working with screens and input devices? Wi ll it sti l l be electronic l iterature, or just l iterature?

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