As If Poetry: Algorithmic Authorship and Participant Readership in Contemporary Japanese Verse

Prof. Scott Mehl1

1Colgate University, United States

This paper discusses the innovative use of soft-AI computer algorithms in the creation of tanka, a form of poetry with roots in classical Japanese culture. Among the recent surge of interest in computer-generated poetry in Japan, I look particularly at two computer programs: the instant tanka generator Inu-zaru created by Sasaki Arara, and the so-called “guzen tanka” Twitter bot of programmer Inaniwa and poet Sekishiro. These programs engender new paradoxical models of technology-mediated authorship and reading, whereby human agency is at once subtracted from the composition process while also being presupposed as a necessary component in the participant reader. Such forms of reading and writing shed new light on theoretical matters such as the death of the author even as they pose intractable questions concerning international copyright conventions, especially as regards circulation of online material in different language zones (in this case, among Japan, China, and Korea). I draw on the work of philosopher Anthony Appiah and cultural critic Otsuka Eiji to explore implications for future work in literary studies.


Biography:

Scott Mehl teaches Japanese literature, culture, and language at Colgate University. His publications include various articles on modern Japanese poetry and fiction, and translations of modern Japanese poetry and criticism.

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