PLOTTING POETRY 7: Metres of Humour.
26-27-28 June, 2024
Call for Papers
Plotting Poetry is a conference series focussed on computational, statistical and other quantitative approaches for the study of poetic texts, and of poeticity more broadly.
This quantitative focus, this insistence on the formalization and operationalisation of texts, from simple pen and paper counting and compiling to complex algorithms, provides us with a number of paths to analyze, describe, interpret, attribute, classify, track and generally access the texts. The Plotting Poetry conferences bring together a friendly community of researchers, and articles rooted in the conference papers have given rise to several peer-reviewed collective volumes.
The name of the group stems from an effort to translate a (perfectly serious) pun by the French modernist poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who in 1917 wrote that poets should “[machiner] poetry as has been done for the world”, where the verb machiner is visibly used for mechanize, although it really means to plot, as one would plot a coup. In this group, we are plotting against our own limitations by trying to plot literature on graphs, devising mechanized approaches to dissect the mechanics of poetry.
This year’s conference welcomes a focus on the many forms of humour in verse. Although verse and humour might appear to sit at opposite ends of a literary hierarchy of taste and sophistication, the two have appeared together for as long as verse has been written, sung, played, shared or shouted. Versified humour can be found in popular productions and in highbrow literature, with poets writing lighter pieces alongside their other productions, as well as including humorous passages within their serious works.
Both materials - humour and verse - rely on a departure from bona fide communication, seeking to harness the shortcomings of language, to create layered meanings and to trigger an additional effort from the recipient trying to make sense of incongruous or opaque utterances. Whilst ambiguity would be an enemy of efficient communication, it is a staple of both humour and poetry.
Versification usually provides us with a reassuring sameness, and versified humour sometimes relies on this learned expectation of sameness, taking advantage of our prior knowledge in order to mislead us. This happens when an unexpected approximate rhyme brings to mind the obscene word that would provide a similar yet perfect rhyme. Or when the choice of a specific metre, with its baggage of associated uses and meanings, helps create parody or satire. Or even, very simply, when the stanzaic structure of a poem builds then breaks the monotony of lines, signaling the humorous intent of its punchline. In French, the punchline of a joke and the striking end of a poem are both named la chute: the fall.
Verse has an ability to leave an impression on our minds and memories, and as such can readily serve persuasion efforts, from slogans or commercials to epic poems and state propaganda. Humour is often a deeply political reality. Despite its affinity with taboo subjects and irreverence, one of humour’s regular uses is to spread and maintain stereotypes, assert domination, and strengthen the feelings of belonging and allegiance through a so-called universality. This humour of the dominant tends to suppress minority voices and singular perspectives, requiring the dominated to laugh along in an effort to fit with the in-group. And yet, it can also be used as a weapon for attacking the order in place, voicing singularities, and questioning the established norms.
Examining the powers of those two phenomena, one can wonder: What happens when a versified text is humorous, and what when a humorous text is in verse? Can shared regularities be found in the many verse forms of humorous texts? Can we measure those, and how? Should, or can, the funniness of it be taken into account, or even just its humorous intent, despite the high degree of cultural, linguistic and historical specificity?
Papers addressing humour alongside verse or other highly-controlled and rhythmical forms are all welcome, whether written, read, sung or smuggled, from the lowest to the highest registers, from any time period and any language area.
This focus on humour in verse is not an exclusive one, and we encourage the submission of papers that use quantitative tools and methods in investigating poetry or poeticity, regardless of their link to humorous poetry. Besides, as has been traditional at Plotting Poetry conferences, works on other genres may also be included, provided that a mechanization or quantification apparatus is being used to explore their poeticity.
Some of the topics to consider include but are not limited to:
Verse forms and meters used and misused for lighter pieces
Stanzaic structures and their use in humour
Puns and their relationship to versification
Versification as a target of humour
Slogans and propaganda
Standup as poetry
Musical forms of humour (song, rap…)
For this 7th Plotting Poetry conference, we will be convening in the Swiss village of Einsiedeln, in the canton of Schwyz. In order to secure a better deal and to make this event affordable for everyone, we will be handling and largely funding the conference hotel ourselves, and the participants will be charged a reasonable fee.
Please, submit your abstracts (max. 1600 characters including spaces) via this form until March 1, 2024.
Should you have any further questions, you can get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline for submission of abstracts: 1 March, 2024
Notification of acceptance: 15 March, 2024
Confirmation of participation: 1 May, 2024
Organizers & programme committee :
Anne-Sophie Bories, Nils Couturier, Petr Plecháč, Pablo Ruiz Fabo