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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Professor Willard Bohn

IAS Fellow at Hatfield College, Durham University (January - March 2008)

Professor Willard Bohn is a well-known scholar, comparatist, and art historian who has degrees in French, English, and Comparative Literature. He obtained his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was a Chancellor's Fellow. Before coming to Illinois State University, where he is a Distinguished Professor, he taught at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Professor Bohn was a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University in 2006 and was chosen to deliver the Oliver Smithies lectures at Balliol College, Oxford University, the year before. In 1999, he was elected Fowler Hamilton Visiting Research Fellow at Christ Church College, Oxford University, where he spent the fall semester. He has been the recipient of grants or fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, the Fulbright-Hays Commission, the Camargo Foundation in France, the Institut Français de Washington, and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, among others.

An active scholar with an international reputation, Professor Bohn specializes in the study of avant-garde literature and art. He has lectured on numerous occasions at universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, Yale University, the University of Illinois, and UCLA. His work on modern visual poetry and on Guillaume Apollinaire has attracted favorable attention from scholars on both sides of the Atlantic. He has authored one hundred thirty articles and twelve books, including The Aesthetics of Visual Poetry (1986, 1993), Modern Visual Poetry (2000), Apollinaire, Visual Poetry, and Art Criticism (1993), Apollinaire and the Faceless Man (1991), The Dada Market (1993), Apollinaire and the International Avant-Garde (1997), The Rise of Surrealism (2001), The Other Futurism (2004), and Marvelous Encounters: Surrealist Responses to Film, Art, Poetry, and Architecture (2005). Entitled Apollinaire on the Edge, a thirteenth volume is scheduled to be published this year.

Professor Bohn is currently working on a book-length study to be entitled Reading Visual Poetry. During his time at the IAS, he will be conducting research on, and writing about, the dynamics involved in deciphering this fascinating genre, which has interested many modern poets. Visual poetry itself may be defined as as poetry that is meant to be seen-that presupposes a viewer as well as a reader. Although its roots extend back several millennia, it has become one of the hallmarks of our modern age.

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Visual Poetry in France after Apollinaire

Dating from 1914, modern visual poetry was invented by F. T. Marinetti in Italy and Guillaume Apollinaire in France. This lecture will examine several of Apollinaire's successors, who practiced during the 1920s and 1930s and who were associated with Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism.

Professor Willard Bohn Publications

Bohn, W. (2010) Reading Visual Poetry. New Jersey: Farleigh Dickinson University Press

Bohn, W (2008) 'Three Spanish Ultraist Poets', Revue des Littératures de l´Union Européenne, 8, pp 13-27

IAS Insights Paper


For all intents and purposes, visual poetry can be defined as poetry that is meant to be seen - poetry that presupposes a viewer as well as a reader. In contrast to traditional poetry, visual poems are conceived not only as literary works but also as works of art. Whether the visual elements form a rudimentary pattern or whether they constitute a highly sophisticated design, they transform the poem into a picture. Visual poetry itself has a long and fascinating history, going back to ancient Greece and perhaps even earlier. Around 1914 it experienced a dramatic rebirth and began to interest poets and painters, who were intrigued by its possibilities and who have experimented with it endlessly ever since. Between 1914 and 1918, when he died at the age of only 38, Guillaume Apollinaire created approximately 150 visual poems, which he called calligrammes. Following his impressive example, many poets experimented with visual poetry in France following and even during the First World War.

Insights Paper