In spring 2022, Dr. Paul Jaussen will begin a sabbatical leave in Montreal to explore the intersection of technology and humanities at Concordia University’s Centre for Expanded Poetics and the University of Waterloo’s Council for Responsible Innovation in Technology . The purpose of his trip: to focus his vision for a new Center for the Study of Humanities and Technology at Lawrence Tech. Much like the centers at Concordia and Waterloo, such a center at LTU would provide new opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and the community at large to explore the social, ethical, cultural, economic, and political consequences of technological innovation.
During his time away from the classroom, Jaussen will be learning valuable lessons from similar interdisciplinary humanities and technology initiatives at these institutions while completing his second research monograph, Rumors of Utopia: Contemporary Literature’s Public Language.
Jaussen and his colleagues in the College of Arts and Sciences believe that there is a pressing need for humanists and technologists to collaborate in research and the classroom. “Our country is embroiled in important discussions (fights, really) about the very character of our society: democracy, elections, the meaning of free speech, and the exchange of knowledge. All these debates are inseparable from technology. We can’t address culture, politics, and history without understanding things like social media and integrated information systems,” Jaussen says.
A way to think about Jaussen’s area of study is that there is not a divide between technology and humanities. “They provide a constant feedback loop.”
Jaussen joined Lawrence Tech in 2014 as assistant professor of literature and was promoted to associate professor of literature and earned tenure in 2019. He is also director of the Honors program, co-founder and co-director of the “Humanity+Technology” lecture series, and co-principal investigator on the Course-Based Research Experience leadership team.
Prior to joining LTU, he was at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and the University of Washington.
He received joint doctoral degrees in English and Theory and Criticism from the University of Washington in 2010. His research focuses on poetry and poetics, literary theory and criticism, modernism, and contemporary literature. His first book, Writing in Real Time: Emergent Poetics from Whitman to the Digital (Cambridge University Press, 2017), uses systems theory as a model for interpreting long poetry across historical periods, ranging from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass to contemporary works by Nathaniel Mackey and Rachel Blau DuPlessis. His essays and reviews have appeared in New Literary History, Contemporary Literature, Comparative Literature, Journal of Modern Literature, and ASAP/J, among others. With Dr. Franco Delogu , he co-directs the Humanity+Technology lecture series at LTU, which has received funding support from the Michigan Humanities Council.
Currently, Jaussen is co-editing A Companion to American Poetry (Wiley Blackwell) while finishing his second book project on the topic of political language in contemporary literature.
He teaches courses in world literature, modern poetry, literary theory, and literature and technology.
Jaussen’s research reflects his personality. “I was always interested in science,” he said, “and assumed I would major in a scientific field. But I loved literature, and by the time I applied for college, I pivoted to English, eventually writing my dissertation on American poetry.” Poetry in most people’s minds involves rhymes and rhythms, iambic pentameters and maybe a couplet or quatrain. To Jaussen and others in the world of literary studies and technology, the original meaning of “poetics” is “making.” When they merge, the result is a combined emphasis on making, whether as digital fabrication and modeling, or as philosophical and historical inquiries into the cultural effects of these practices.
Dr. Paul Jaussen
In addition to his own research, the Humanity+Technology lecture series , and the emerging plans for a center dedicated to these topics, Jaussen and his colleagues have recently launched a new undergraduate degree for students interested in the relationship between society and technology: the Bachelor of Science in Technological Humanities . Jaussen said, “I think it’s vitally important for us to train students to understand both how these technologies work and their cultural significance.” Such training will enable them to be “informed and free citizens, because these technologies are now inseparable from our public sphere.” All students in this program will take courses in philosophy, literature, and communication alongside computer programming and electives in a technological field of their choosing. Seniors will write an interdisciplinary thesis based on their independent research.
Unique about LTU is that it combines theory and practice. Our degree in technological humanities is endlessly adaptive, offering students a chance to pursue their own interests. As Jaussen notes, it is “a utility knife degree for the twenty-first century. By combining multiple disciplines, we incorporate specific knowledge of technologies with culture, history, politics, social justice, and so much more. We’re preparing our students to be reflective and adaptive, which will position them well for the jobs of the future.” Most importantly, “students in our program can craft their own pathway of learning to create a career that feeds their soul.”
Feeding the hands-on maker and feeding the inquisitive mind.
by Renée Ahee