Amusements Électroniques

  • Johanna Drucker University of California, Los Angeles


An 1842 compendium of literary curiosities assembled by bibliophile Gabriel Peignot presents a collection of works and rules for their composition that has interesting correlations with electronic, computational, and digital productions of poetic works. Because these works were written under constraint, their rule-bound approach has an algorithmic character that can be compared with the compositional tactics used in computational work. This paper analyzes Peignot’s collection in terms slightly different from those on which he organized his compendium. Rather than sort the works in a typology of formal properties, this paper presents a typology of production methods and compositional techniques. Though not all electronic approaches are anticipated by the works collected in Peignot’s remarkable work, the range and variety of these methods, many of which reach into antiquity, establishes a long lineage for conventions of rule-based poetic composition.


composition, algorithmic techniques, electronic poetry, macaronic verse, combinatorics

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Author Biography

Johanna Drucker, University of California, Los Angeles

Johanna Drucker is the inaugural Martin and Bernard Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. She has lectured and published widely on matters related to the history of print, visual poetry, artists’ books, graphic design, digital aesthetics, and contemporary art. In addition to her scholarly work, she is known for her artist’s books, many of which involve innovative typography. Her most recent publications include Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity (University of Chicago Press, 2005), Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide, with Emily McVarish (Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2008), SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Speculative Computing (University of Chicago Press, 2009), What Is?: Nine Epistemological Essays (Cuneiform Press, 2013), and Graphesis: The Visual Production of Knowledge in a Digital Era (Harvard University Press, 2014).


DISRAELI, Isaac (1881). Curiosities of Literature. London: Frederick Warne & Co. First edition seems to be 1793. Online for an 1835 edition published in Paris.

MORGAN, James Appleton (1872). Macaronic Poetry. New York: Hurd and Houghton, and Cambridge: Riverside Press.

PECK, Harry Thurston (1897). Harper’s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities, Vol. 1. New York: Harper and Brothers.

PEIGNOT, Gabriel (1842). Amusements Philologiques. Dijon: Victor Lagier.
How to Cite
DRUCKER, Johanna. Amusements Électroniques. MATLIT: Materialities of Literature, [S.l.], v. 6, n. 1, p. 27-35, aug. 2018. ISSN 2182-8830. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 22 aug. 2019.
Secção Temática | Thematic Section