Lannan Center is made up of rooms 408 and 411, located on the 4th floor of New North.
Phone: (202) 687-6294
Concept and Purpose
Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University is a literary, critical, and pedagogical undertaking devoted to the situation of poetry and prose in the contemporary world. Based in the President’s Office, the Center brings attention to a traditional domain of academic research, but sees poetry as a current practice rather than as a field of historical research. The Center recognizes that “art’s social presence,” in the phrase of Adrienne Rich, is vital to contemporary culture; that poetry, or writing more generally, traverses the fields of aesthetic, social, political, and religious thought: it reconfigures these fields according to the designs of imagination.
In the broadest of terms, the Center is concerned with the plural forms of culture and the advance of cultural freedom in the world today. It is guided by the idea that writers — poets, novelists, film-makers, playwrights, and critics — offer more than what is sometimes called a “valuable perspective” onto culture. In a crucial respect, writers disclose the hiddenness of culture, its human complexity and irreducible difference, and its filiations. As the Czech linguist Roman Jakobson wrote, “The relationship between art and the social order is in constant dialectical flux.” Poetry as social practice — as a mode of social life — bears the turbulent imprint of that flux.
The Lannan Center pays special attention to what is emergent, or uncapitalized, in the cultural field. The withdrawal of the old European empires, the rise of American hegemony, the circulation of transnational capital, the movement of the world’s peoples, and the global articulation of culture have in recent decades altered the horizons of literary study in the academy. The racial and linguistic homogeneity of the Western nation-state has been revised. Writers, and writing, are seen as part of a world system.
Yet, at the same time, local concerns continue to circumscribe social life and to inform its re-materialization as poetry and other forms of art. Writing is a practice and an engagement through language with members of linguistic communities; it fashions and records social relations that are found to be near at hand. Thinking about such incongruent kinds of influence — the local and global, the social and aesthetic — is what the Lannan Center proposes to further. While it may be said that the arts do not progress, it is possible to imagine — or desire — an active role for them in a progressive and more just social order. How such a role might be described, and what forms it might take in actuality and at any given moment — these questions are as pressing as ever, and provide the Center’s conceptual orientation.
Building alliances with faculty and programs at the university is an important part of the Lannan Center’s collaborative and inter-disciplinary posture. There is an evident sympathy among the arts that the Center recognizes and works to engage: not only between the liberal arts and “creative” forms, but also between the verbal and visual arts, writing and performance, literature in traditional media and symbolic practices arising from new formats such as digital environments. Culturally self-aware, the Center can help to stimulate, expand, diversify, and sustain this inter-related chorus of art forms across the university. From this perspective, the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice is only one of many centers of intellectual life on campus devoted to the openness and freedom of the arts.