Research Questions

The ‘Poetry Beyond Text’ project formed part of the wider AHRC programme, ‘Beyond Text: Performances, Sounds, Images, Objects’ (2007-12), which involved over 40 individual projects and aimed to ‘create a collaborative, multi-disciplinary research community’.

In a culture marked by rapidly diversifying forms of visual and textual presentation, the interaction of textual and graphic forms is crucial to the development of critical, creative and scientific thought. The ‘Poetry Beyond Text’ project began from the premise that ‘beyond’ does not simply imply transcendence, nor the non-textual. Rather, it implies an exploration of the dynamic relations (at the level of creation and reception) between poetry as text and other elements of poetic works. These other elements include visual images which may be combined with poems (such as photographs, prints, drawings), but also the visual and material properties of poetry itself: the shape of the words on the page (especially in Concrete and Visual Poetry); the feel and structure of the book or other material form (notably in Artists’ Books); the code and intermedial processes of poetry in digital media; the temporal and material aspects of time-based poetic works, including Text Film and Digital Poetry. In another sense, ‘beyond’ also implies the cognitive processes and constraints which enable and frame our responses to poetry, as well as the imaginative and creative processes involved in its making and its reflective interpretation.

There is much relevant research taking place within humanities, art practice and psychology, but only a small body of work links all these disciplines. As an interdisciplinary project ‘Poetry Beyond Text’ addressed this issue, focusing on four key research questions:

  1. When art works combine textual and visual elements, how do the modes of attention specific to reading text and viewing images interact and modify each other?
  2. What factors determine whether the combination of textual and visual elements in such works enriches or limits their meaning and aesthetic value?
  3. How are evaluative and interpretive responses to such works affected by the development of enhanced reflective awareness about the processes involved?
  4. How can critical and psychological models of perception and aesthetic experience inform and be informed by the creation of new works of art?

The project sought to contribute to knowledge and the development of new ideas within literary criticism, creative practice and experimental psychology. We hope the outcomes will be of interest to scholars, scientists and practitioners in all these fields, as well as to the wider public audience for poetry, visual art and digital media.