Experimental Modernism and the Poetics of Articulation
Avant-garde writers and artists of the 20th century radically reconceived poetic language, appropriating scientific theories and techniques as they turned their attention to the physical process of spoken language. This modernist “sound writing” focused on the bodily production of speech, which it rendered in poetic, legible, graphic form.
Tobias Wilke considers sound writing from its inception in 19th-century disciplines like physiology and experimental phonetics, following its role in the aesthetic practices of the interwar avant-garde and through to its reemergence in the postwar period. As modernist writers aimed to capture the acoustic phenomenon of vocal articulation by graphic means, their projects revolved around the possibility of crossing over from the audible to the visible, from speech to notation, from body to trace. Employing manifold techniques and concepts, this search transformed poetry into a site of far-reaching linguistic experimentation. Considering the works of poets, theorists, and artists—including Raoul Hausmann, Kurt Schwitters, Viktor Shklovsky, Hugo Ball, Charles Olson, and Marshall McLuhan—Wilke offers a fresh look at the history of the 20th-century avant-garde.