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Lea Pao

by rjp218 Aug 08, 2017
Lea Pao

2016/17 Rock Ethics Institute Humanities Dissertation Fellow

252 Burrowes Building
University Park , PA 16802


  1. Ph.D. Comparative Literature, The Pennsylvania State University, 2017
  2. Mag. phil. Comparative Literature, University of Vienna, Austria, 2013
  3. B.A. Chinese Studies, University of Vienna, Austria 2010


Lea Pao is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature. Her research interests include modern poetry and poetics, philosophies and theories of information, and graphic narrative theory. She mostly focuses on poets writing in German and English, and also works with material in Russian, Chinese, Latin, and Greek. In the past, she has translated and published poetry from Chinese to German and is currently working on an English translation of German philosopher Peter Janich’s “What is Information.” 


Her dissertation, “The Informatics of Poetry,” is on the ways that ideas about information (developed largely in the post-WWII context by engineers and sociologists) shape how we think about the social, cultural, and linguistic work poetry accomplishes. Her project focuses on the historical opposition between poetry and information as two antagonistic forms of human language and thought. Drawing on but ultimately moving away from the major scientific and technical theories of information developed since 1948, she proposes a humanist theory of information through an analysis of poetry in German, English, Chinese, and Russian. Treating poetry as a kind of information, as an engagement with informational practices taking place long before our contemporary quantitative concept of information, such an approach asks: how has the social life of information been formed by poetic practices and predecessors, e.g., memory, storage, diction, and constraint? What happens if our concept of information includes poetry from the beginning, rather than treating it as an outlier or an exception to information’s normal use? And what happens to our theories of information (or of the digital as a cultural force) if that is so? By laying out a typology of informational practices in poetry, this project aims to renew and re-engage the discourse of information and poetics. It will show how poetic form manages these practices of information (via representation, organization, transmission, and storage), and how various methods of reading and literary criticism—from formalism and structuralism to Digital Humanities approaches—have developed alongside something like “information” as literary quality.