The Poethics of Scholarship (POP – Post Office Press)


This panel explores ways in which to engage scholars to further elaborate the poethics of their scholarship. Following Joan Retallack, who has written extensively about the responsibility that comes with formulating and performing a poetics, which she has captured in her concept of poethics (with an added h), this panel will examine what connects the ‘doing’ of scholarship with the ethical components of research. Here, in order to remain ethical we are not able to determine in advance what being ethical would look like, yet, at the same time, ethical decisions need to be made and are being made as part of our publishing practices: where we publish and with whom, in an open way or not, in what form and shape and in which formats. Should we then consider the poethics of scholarship as a poetics of/as change, or as Retallack calls it, a poetics of the swerve (clinamen), which continuously unsettles our familiar notions?

This panel considers how, along with discussions about the contents of our scholarship, and about the different methodologies, theories and politics that we use to give meaning and structure to our research, we should have similar deliberations about the way we do research. This involves paying more attention to the crafting of our own aesthetics and poetics as scholars, including a focus on the medial forms, the formats, and the graphic spaces in and through which we communicate and perform scholarship (and the discourses that surround these), as well as the structures and institutions that shape and determine our scholarly practices.

Kaja Marczewska tracks in her contribution OA’s development from a radical and political project driven by experimental impetus, into a constrained model, limiting publishing in the service of the neoliberal university. Following Malik, she argues that OA in its dominant top-down implementation is determining the horizon of the publishable. Yet a horizon also suggests conditions of possibility for experimentation and innovation, which Marczewska locates in a potential OA ethos of poethics and praxis, in a fusion of attitude and form.

Janneke Adema explores in her paper the relationship between openness and experimentation in scholarly publishing, outlining how open access in specific has enabled a reimagining of its forms and practices. Whilst Adema emphasises that this relationship is far from guaranteed, through the concept of scholarly poethics she speculates on how we can forge a connection between the doing of scholarship and its political, ethical and aesthetical elements.

In the final contribution to this pamphlet Whitney Trettien and Frances McDonald ask a pertinent question: ‘how can we build scholarly infrastructures that foster diffractive reading and writing?’. To address this question, they reflect on their own experiences of editing an experimental digital zine: thresholds, which brings the creative affordances of the split screen, of the gutter, to scholarship. By transforming materially how we publish, how we read and write together, Trettien and McDonald explore the potential of thresholds as a model for digital publishing more attuned to the ethics of entanglement.

POP (Post Office Press)

Kaja Marczewska ( is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures, Coventry and a member of the Information as Material editorial collective. In 2018, she will be a Reese Fellow for American Bibliography and the History of the Book in Americas, a visiting fellow at the Getty Research Institute, a Terra Foundation fellow. Her research is positioned at the intersection of cultural studies, publishing, and art history and theory.  She is the author of This is not a Copy (Bloomsbury, 2018). 

Janneke Adema is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University. In her research, she explores the future of scholarly communications and experimental forms of knowledge production, where her work incorporates processual and performative publishing, radical open access, scholarly poethics, media studies, book history, cultural studies, and critical theory. She explores these issues in depth in her various publications, but also by supporting a variety of scholar-led, not-for-profit publishing projects, including the Radical Open Access Collective, Open Humanities Press, and Post Office Press (POP). You can follow her research, as it develops, on

Frances McDonald is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Louisville where she works on critical theory and twentieth-century American literature and film. Her current book project examines the textual forms that laughter takes in twentieth-century literature and philosophy. Her work has appeared in American Literature, LA Review of Books, and The Atlantic, among other venues. She is also the co-editor and co-designer of thresholds, an occasional digital zine for creative/critical scholarship.

 Whitney Trettien is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where she writes and teaches on the history of text technologies, from early printed books to digital forms and formats. Her first book, Cut/Copy/Paste, examines bespoke publishing projects of the seventeenth-century and is an open access print/digital monograph being staged on the Manifold Scholarship platform of University of Minnesota Press. She also recently co-edited Digital Sound Studies, due out October 2018 from Duke University Press. She is interested in creative/critical scholarship and toward that end has recently co-founded thresholds, an web-based zine for experimental writing.