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Defining poetry: instruments, methods, visions

12 apr 2022 15:00 - 13 apr 2022 18:00
IEA de Paris
17 quai d'Anjou
75004 Paris

Interdisciplinary workshop and roundtable organized by Sonia Gentili, 2021-2022 Paris IAS Research Fellow, with the support of the Paris IAS and the University of Rome La Sapienza.

Free admission with mandatory registration, see the forms at the bottom of the page.
*The session of April 12 will only be accessible remotely (by zoom). The connection link will be sent the day before the event.
*All sessions of April 13 will only take place at the Paris Institute for Advanced Study.


Poetry is a «literary genre associated with versification and subject to particular prosodic rules, variable according to cultures and eras, but always tending to highlight rhythm, harmony and images» (CNRS, Ortolang lexical data bank).

However, she «touches music through a prosody whose roots plunge further into the human soul than any classical theory indicates» (Baudelaire, Les fleurs du mal, 1867, notes, p.376). Object of a large prescriptive literature and yet indefinable by a "technical" perspective, linked but not identified with versification, both pre-cultural and product of a cultural tradition, poetry seems to resist any effort of definition.

This two-step intersectoral workshop is aimed to explore the topic by different disciplinary perspectives and to integrate the history of the idea of poetry with an analysis of the real aesthetic experience of the poetic text in its creative process.

Indeed, these meetings explore possibilities for new descriptive models of poetry by considering the multiple aspects of the poetic text: its phenomenological dimensions (the experience of the process of poetic creation in the author and the reception of the text by the reader or the public); its musical and visual aspects (the rhythm; the visual and "architectural" structure of the text); its epistemic potential (the relationship between poetry and knowledge); its historical and cultural definition (history of ideas of poetry in literary and philosophical traditions).

The workshop consists of three steps, which are conceived as a debate among different disciplinary perspectives, as well as between authors and researchers. The first step is devoted to the description of the processes of experiencing poetry (creation and reception of the poetic text). The second step tackles the history of the idea of poetry in Europe (with special attention to France and Italy). The perspectives of understanding unfolded in th first two steps will be discussed and expanded in the closing round table.


April 12, 2022 from 3pm to 6pm
Part 1.
Experiencing poetry: the reader, the author

The motion towards a form experienced by the reader during the progressive mental perception of the written text is empirically evident. Such a process is similar to what the poet  experiences during the emergence of the poetic text.

The meeting aims to consider such a process with an interdisciplinary approach crossing psychology (how can this process be clarified by the psychoanalytic theory of “regression in service of the ego” provided by Ernst Kris), literature (can philology and textual analysis bring some light to the material work-in-progress of the text in terms of creative process?), poetic authorship,  aesthetics (can we identify a feature specific to poetry in comparison to other creative processes?), neuroscience (do the sciences of the brain - and their application to literature called “cognitive poetics”- really provide means to interpretate poetry and its creative process?).

With the participation of
Valérie Beaudouin (EHESS – Oulipo), La poésie comme forme pour un « oeil-oreille » (Jacques Roubaud)
Philippe Di Meo, poète et traducteur, Déclaration de poétique et poème
Vicente Ordonez (Universidad de Valencia), From Beat to Beat: Philosophical Remarks on Rhythm Facts
Irene Santori, poète et traductrice, Found in translation. La nouvelle collection bilingue de poésie, Parallela: une idée de ‘trans-linguisme’
Chantal Maillard, poète et philosophe, Sur la trace. Petite zoologie poétique
Sonia Gentili (Sapienza Università di Roma - Paris IAS), La poésie comme mouvement vers la forme
Salvatore Aglioti (Sapienza Università di Roma), Embodied and embrained poetry

April 13, 2022 from 10am to 4pm
Part 2. Cultural history of the idea of poetry in Western tradition

Poetry has been defined throughout the ages by a centuries-old literary and philosophical tradition, but despite of studies about particular authors and issues, a history of its concept remains to be written. Is it possible to fill this lacuna by reconstructing [tracing] the main long-standing ideas of poetry in the Western cultural tradition? Some examples: the opposition between the Platonic-Aristotelian concept of poetry as “mimesis”, imitation of reality (Plato, Republic, book II-III and X) and the romantic idea (based on E. Burke’s theory of poetry) as a subjective “light” revealing a new reality (on the opposition cf. Abrams, The mirror and the lamp, 1953)  ; the creative process as an extra subjective an irrational inspiration (the platonic theia mania, ‘divine madness’) still alive, although transformed, in the Twentieth Century; poetry as a reflection of a transcendent order or, at the opposite, as an expression of the pure chaos of becoming . The seminar will try to provide samples of in-depth analysis of long-standing idea related to poetry in the Western culture.

  • From 10am to 1pm
    With the participation of
    Virginie Leroux (EPHE, Paris), Le sommeil du poète. Variations sur une métaphore
    Marco Nievergelt (Forward College, London), Esquisse d’une phénoménologie de la poésie médiévale :  Geoffrey Chaucer et l’expérience de l'autorité
    Laurent Baggioni (Université de Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle) Poésie et histoire à la lumière de l'expérience italienne de la fin du Moyen Âge
    Enzo Neppi (université de Grenoble Alpes), Deux courants dans la modernité littéraire (XIXe-XXe siècle): la poésie comme vie et comme représentation
    Salvador Cuenca
    (Universidad de Valencia), The experiencing of aura : poetry and uniqueness

  • From 2pm to 4pm
    With the participation of
    Sonia Gentili (Sapienza Università di Roma), Représenter ou créer. Racines classiques et historie médiévale d’une opposition romantique
    Gaia Litrico (Istituto di Studi Storici, Napoli), L'homme, la poésie, la vérité : un itinéraire dans la pensée de Benedetto Croce

April 13, 2022, from 4.30pm to 6pm
Final roundtable
Defining Poetry. Frome creative experience to concept

After studying the poetic experience from the point of view of creation and reception, and having reviewed the history of the idea of poetry, the workshop will close with a round table discussion linking these two approaches: can we find in the cultural history of ideas about poetry intuitions about the concrete mental processes involved in the experience of poetry?

This will lead us to question the place that poetry occupies in contemporary societies. Is it still the freest of all the arts, as Immanuel Kant asserts? The discussion could start on a concrete note: among the arts, poetry seems to be the least dependent on the market today (compared to prose literature, music, cinema, visual arts).

With the participation of Valérie Beaudoin, Salvador Cuenca, Philippe Di Meo, Sonia Gentili, Marco Nievergelt.

Practical Information

Free admission with mandatory registration, see the forms below.
*The session of April 12 will only be accessible remotely (by zoom). The connection link will be sent the day before the event.
*All sessions of April 13 will only take place at the Paris Institute for Advanced Study.

Les inscriptions sont closes. Néanmoins l’entrée sera possible 5 minutes avant le début de l’événement en fonction du nombre de places disponibles.
For a History of the Idea of Poetry. Poetry and contingency in the Italian Middle Ages
01 September 2021 - 30 June 2022
13 Apr 2022 18:00
Sonia Gentili
Conferences and workshops