Eric J. Rettberg


  • Ph.D., English Language and Literature, University of Virginia, 2012. Dissertation: “Ridiculous Modernism: Nonsense and the New in Literature Since 1900.” Committee: Stephen Cushman, Jerome McGann, Jahan Ramazani.
  • A.B., English cum laude, Dartmouth College, 2003. Honors Thesis: a two-part project comprised of a critical essay, Digits, Digits: A Poetics of Keyboard-Based Digital Media, and an interactive digital art project, Tender Buttons, Tender Keys.


  • Georgia Institute of Technology School of Literature, Media, and Communication: Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow, 2014-present
  • University of Virginia Department of English: Edgar F. Shannon Postdoctoral Fellow, 2013-2014
  • University of Virginia Department of English: Postdoctoral Preceptor, 2012-2013
  • University of Virginia Transition Program: Lecturer and Assistant Director, 2011-2012

Current Book Project

  • Ridiculous Modernisms, Outrageous Conceptualisms, and The Stakes of Literary Experiment explores a range of writers in the experimental literary tradition who find inspiration in the putatively unserious, from Gertrude Stein to Kenneth Goldsmith, from Dada to Flarf, from poets who cull the canon of classics for allusions to those who copy the inane comments of YouTube users. Critics have sometimes associated experimental writers with high seriousness verging on self-seriousness, but I argue that these writers have found tenuous shape for the nebulous category of literary experiment at the borderlines of seriousness and unseriousness. Such writers appear ridiculous to the public at large not incidentally but necessarily, for they “make it new” by dynamically crossing, mixing, and inverting binaries of good and bad, smart and dumb, meaningful and nonsensical, original and plagiarized, important and trivial, and grave and laughable. My project offers an account of modern and contemporary literature that argues experimental literature must be unserious as well as serious, that posits unseriousness as a disruption to the hermeneutics of suspicion, that rethinks relationships between avant-gardes and audiences, and that asserts shallow pleasure as crucial to the deep experience of experimental literature.

Honors and Prizes

  • Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2010-2011
  • Bradley Fellow, University of Virginia, 2009
  • Teaching Resource Center Outstanding TA Award, University of Virginia, 2009
  • President’s Fellowship, University of Virginia, 2004-2009
  • Edward R. Perkins Literature Prize (First Prize in English), Dartmouth College, 2003
  • John G. Kemeny Prize for Innovative Computing, Dartmouth College, 2003
  • High Honors in the English Major, Dartmouth College, 2003
  • Rufus Choate Scholar, Dartmouth College, 2003


Conference Papers

  • “The ‘Dumb’ Poetics of Everyday Speech in Stein’s Melanctha and Goldsmith’s Soliloquy.” The Louisville Conference, February 2014, Louisville, KY.
  • “Bob Brown’s Readies and the Comic Experience of Electrified Reading.” Electronic Literature Organization Conference, June 2012, Morgantown, WV.
  • “The Variability of Sound, the Voice of the Amateur Reader, and the Digital Textual Condition.” Society for Textual Scholarship Conference, May 2012, Austin, TX.
  • The Cubies’ ABC and the Modernist Debt to Anti-Modernist Satire.” MLA Convention, January 2012, Seattle, WA
  • “Remediating the Ridiculous in Hugo Ball’s Sound Poetry.” Modernist Studies Association, October 2011
  • “Auditory and Visual Form in Hugo Ball’s Sound Poetry.” Princeton Graduate Student Comparative Poetics Colloquium, May 2011, Princeton, NJ
  • “Hearing and Seeing the Ridiculous in Hugo Ball’s Sound Poetry.” American Comparative Literature Association, April 2011, Vancouver, BC
  • “Hugo Ball, Nonsense, and the Language of Ridiculous Modernism.” University of Virginia Huskey Graduate Research Exhibition, March 2011
  • “Ridicule, the Ridiculous, and Popular Modernism.” Modernist Studies Association, November 2010, Victoria, BC
  • redschoolhouse.org: Building and Using a Digital Teaching Tool.” Council of Writing Program Administrators, July 2010, Philadelphia, PA
  • “The Serious Importance of Sensing Nonsense in the Voice of T.S. Eliot.” University of Virginia Department of English Graduate Conference, April 2010
  • “Gertrude Stein, Nonsense, and To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays.” Northeast MLA, April 2010, Montreal, Quebec
  • “Gertrude Stein and the Nonsense Tradition.” University of Virginia Department of English Dissertation Presentation, March 2009
  • “Stein’s Embrace of a Childlike Persona.” “Children and War” Seminar, MSA, November 2008, Nashville, TN
  • “Verbal Materiality and Poetic Musicality in ‘Sirens’.” University of Virginia Department of English Graduate Conference, April 2007
  • “Cuteness and War in The World is Round.” Dartmouth Futures of American Studies Institute, June 2006, Hanover, NH
  • “Cuteness, War, and the ‘Toothsome’ Book-Object in Gertrude Stein’s The World is Round.” University of Virginia Department of English Graduate Conference, March 2006
  • “Stein in Nets: Reading the Network in Tender Buttons.” College of William & Mary American Cultures Conference, March 2006, Williamsburg, VA
  • “Textual Illumination in the Digital Age.” University of Virginia Department of English Graduate Conference, April 2005

Teaching Interests

  • American Literature: Twentieth-century poetry, fiction, and drama; comedy and satire
  • British Literature: Twentieth-century poetry, fiction, and drama; history of lyric poetry
  • Transatlantic Modernism: Interrelation of modern art, music, and literature; theories of experimental writing
  • Digital Humanities and New Media: Theory and methods of digital humanities; material textuality in the Internet age; electronic literature & culture
  • Composition & Critical Thinking: First-year writing; academic & professional writing; writing for the web

Courses Taught

Georgia Institute of Technology

  • ENGL 1101, “Data, Information, and Culture” (3 sections), Fall 2014

As Instructor of Record, University of Virginia

  • Literature in the Digital Era, Spring 2014
  • Modern American Authors, Fall 2008, Spring 2014
  • How to Read a Poem (or, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Poem), Fall 2013
  • American Modernisms, Fall 2013
  • Academic Writing II, “College Culture” theme, Spring 2013 (2 sections), Spring 2014
  • Academic Writing I, “Giving and Taking Offense” theme, Fall 2012 (2 sections), Fall 2013
  • Skills of Scholarship: What’s the Point of College?, Spring 2012 (2 sections)
  • Academic Analysis and Research: Researching the University of Virginia, Fall 2011 (3 sections)
  • Critical Reading, Writing, and Reasoning: Civil Disobedience and Obedience, Summer 2011
  • Academic Writing I (composition course for students in need of intensive writing instruction), “Comedy and Culture” theme, Fall 2007
  • Accelerated Academic Writing (first-year composition), “Comedy and Culture” theme, Fall 2006, Spring 2006, Fall 2008

As Teaching Assistant, University of Virginia

  • History of Literatures in English, 1650-1850, discussion leader for Professors John O’Brien and Stephen Arata, Spring 2008
  • Academic and Professional Writing, (upper-level writing for third- and fourth-years), workshop leader for Professors Greg Colomb and Jon D’Errico, Spring 2006
  • Shakespeare I: Comedies and Histories, discussion leader for Professor Katherine Maus, Fall 2005

Administrative Experience

  • Assistant Director of the Transition Program, University of Virginia, 20011-2012
  • Director of First-Year Writing, University of Virginia, 2009-2010

Digital Projects

  • Project Manager (2010), Staff Writer (2012), redschoolhouse.org, for University of Virginia Writing Program & Professor Greg Colomb
  • Project Manager, Artists’ Books Online, for Professor Johanna Drucker, 2006-2008
  • Developer, Tender Buttons, Tender Keys, 2003

Related Experience

  • Graduate Assistant, UVA Summer Transition Program, 2008, 2009, 2010
  • Member, Curriculum Development Team, University of Virginia Writing Program, 2008-2009
  • Tutor, University of Virginia Writing Center, 2005-2006 and 2008-2009
  • Research Assistant, Prof. David Golumbia, Summer 2005

Professional Memberships

  • Modern Language Association
  • Modernist Studies Association
  • American Comparative Literature Association
  • Society for Textual Scholarship
  • Electronic Literature Organization


  • Spanish (reading knowledge), French (reading knowledge), HTML, XML, XSLT

References (dossier available on request)

  • Jerome McGann, John Stewart Bryan University Professor, University of Virginia
  • Stephen Cushman, Robert C. Taylor Professor of English, University of Virginia
  • Jahan Ramazani, Edgar F. Shannon Professor, University of Virginia
  • Johanna Drucker, Martin and Bernard Breslauer Professor of Information Studies, UCLA
  • Jon D’Errico, Assistant Professor of English and Associate Director of Academic & Professional Writing, University of Virginia

Documenting digital pedagogy and research about modernism, conceptualism, nonsense, seriousness, poetry, and digital culture