Cybernetic Poetics and New Approaches to Understanding Literature

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association

2023 ACLA CFP: Cybernetic Poetics and New Approaches to Understanding Literature

We are organizing a seminar called “Cybernetic Poetics and New Approaches to Understanding Literature” for the 2023 American Comparative Literature Association annual meeting, which will take place in Chicago March 16-19, 2023. If you are interested in joining us, we will need an abstract (around 25o words) with title submitted to our seminar via the ACLA online portal by October 31, 2022. Please feel free to reach out to the organizers with questions!

Here is a link to the CFP on the ACLA website:

Organizer: Yiren Zheng (

Co-Organizer: Jack Chen (

This panel proposes to use cybernetics—which Norbert Wiener defined as “the study of control and communication in the animal and the machine”—as an analytical approach to understanding how literary activities and aesthetics work in and as complex systems. We gather scholars working on various types of literary systems of communication (e.g., networks of relations that involve authors, readers, texts, poetics, conventions) developed within different historical periods and traditions to discuss how identifying systems of feedback and circularity in literary materials (defined broadly) shed new light on how literature is produced, perceived, circulated, and consumed. In this way, literary systems can be thought of as complex systems that generate complexity through the application and adaptation of rule-based procedures, and cybernetics a method for understanding how these systems (including the human mind) “think” and communicate on their own terms. We propose that cybernetics challenge us to be more attentive to dynamics of interactions between human and nonhuman participants in a way that decenters human consciousness and agency. Questions to be considered include the following: How do literary texts emerge from procedural systems, and what components (human, nonhuman) contribute to the formation of a given literary text? How do metaphors, rhythms, narratives, and other literary entities construct autopoietic systems that extend beyond human intentionality and control? How does adopting a cybernetic and/or posthumanist perspective on literary discourses and conventions lead us to perceive the mediality of institutions, processes, and networks that may otherwise remain transparent as a result of their ubiquity? How does engagement with cybernetic theory lead us to reflect on literature as communicative media and to reconsider what makes language and writing human? We welcome papers that explore the intersections among literature, communicative media, and cybernetics in all kinds of interesting and new directions.