Dr. Tomasz Stompor
Department of Literature
Academic Education and Employment
Lecturer at Freie Universität Berlin, John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Department of Literature
Postdoctoral researcher at the Freie Universität Berlin, John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies
Title of Project: “The Metropolis and the Global City: Urban Characters and the Construction of New York City’s Urban Imaginaries”
Doctorate in American literature (magna cum laude)
Graduate School of North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
Title of thesis: “Precise Intersection Points – The Textual Materiality of William S. Burroughs’ Cut-Up Experiments” (publication pending)
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Ulla Haselstein, Prof. Dr. Heinz Ickstadt, Professor Oliver Harris (Keele University, UK)
Visiting Doctoral Student at New York University, research at The Fales Library, Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library
Research visits to William S. Burroughs’ archival collections in the US:
• The Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection, Thompson Library, Ohio State University, Columbus OH
• The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library, New York NY
Diploma in Applied Theater Studies (Diplom Theaterwissenschaftler), Justus-Liebig Universität Giessen
Title of thesis: “Schreiben als performativer Akt am Beispiel von Georges Batailles Le coupable” (“Writing as a Performative Act in George Bataille’s Le coupable”)
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Helga Finter
Follow-up Fellowship of the GSNAS
Doctoral Grant, Graduate School of North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
• Grant from New York University for participants of the direct exchange program with Freie Universität Berlin
• Travel Grant from the Dahlem Research School, Freie Universität Berlin
“African-American Slave Narratives” BA seminar at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
"Afrofuturism – African-American Speculative Fiction” MA seminar at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
“Urban Imaginaries – The City in American Literature” BA seminar at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
“The Literature and Culture of the Beat Generation” BA seminar at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
• Urban studies, urban characters in literary works, mapping, psychogeography
• New York literature
• African-American studies, Afrofuturism, slave narratives & neo-slave narratives
• Modernism, avant-garde movements, experimental literature, montage & collage techniques, visual culture, intermediality
• Textual materiality, literary small presses & magazines, artist’s books
• Counterculture, the Beat Generation, popular culture
Current Research Project
The Metropolis and the Global City: Urban Characters and the Construction of New York City’s Urban Imaginaries.
My postdoctoral research project compares two distinct historical discourses of urban development in the United States – the emerging metropolis around 1900 and the globalized city at the eve of the twenty-first century – as reflected in American literature with a focus on New York City. The reason for choosing New York as the subject of inquiry lies in the fact that it is a city which has established its status as a metropolitan capital of finance, commerce, entertainment, art and literature in the nineteenth century that has persisted in changing configurations until today. Passing through periods of crisis and decline New York has reemerged as a global city in the 1990s paradoxically drawing on the cultural capital accumulated during these bleak phases of stagnation. This contrasting perspective is set out to juxtapose corresponding tropes of perception and representation of New York as a metropolis, as a literary center, and as a symbol of modernism which the city still relies on as cultural capital. During my preliminary research, I have identified six recurring subject positions in literary representations of urban environments that can be encountered in both periods: the flaneur, the detective, the reporter, the clerk/commuter, the bohemian, and the immigrant. Each of these positions not only implies a certain literary mode of representation but also a certain social and institutional situation of a writer in and narrator of the city. Following this double-perspective, I will examine how New York as a literary metropolis has defined these author positions and how, in turn, these positions have influenced the representations of the city.
Most previous criticism has studied the modes of description and representation of the metropolis through comprehensive, and often contrary, metaphors (e.g. a site of commerce and progress vs swamp of vice and corruption, the city as machine, the city as text). Shifting away from these all-encompassing metaphors, towards the subject positions in which the city is experienced and described in literary texts and towards the institutional conditions that inform these accounts, I want to suggest a multi-faceted perspective that bridges two decisive urban developments across one century, in order to give a more complex account of New York’s urban imaginaries. This approach suggests that the listed subject positions correlate with aspects of city life and urban development that have dominated the early metropolis, as well as its globalized form: the problem of urban legibility, crime, poverty, mass-media, immigration, and bureaucracy. Adding to the existing body of research on city literature, this project aims to track corresponding patterns in the construction of urban imaginaries of the metropolis and the global city by focussing on the characters that shape them.
Precise Intersection Points. The Textual Materiality of William S. Burroughs’ Cut-Up Experiments
My dissertation deals with the cut-up experiments of William S. Burroughs with a special focus on their textual materiality. Until now, these experiments have been perceived and analyzed mainly through the prism of a trilogy of novels (The Soft Machine 1961, The Ticket That Exploded 1962, Nova Express 1964) that came to stand as paradigmatic examples of cut-up texts. Notwithstanding the known fact that Burroughs’ artistic experimentation extended beyond text and included collages, photomontages, tape experiments, and film, this variety has been conceived of as a uniform practice and attributed with the singular article as the cut-up. This general understanding of cut-up practices poses two problems. Firstly, it brackets their media specificity and the multiplicity of material procedures involved. Secondly, it poses the question whether one should refer to the cut-up as a set of artistic techniques or as an artistic movement.
As a step toward a more precise terminology, my study places the cut-up experiments within the broader historical context of montage practices that thrived among the historical avant-gardes at the beginning of the twentieth century and their revival after 1945. This historically comparative perspective has shown that the cut-up experiments can be understood as a variation of montage in its generic definition as a technique which combines disparate elements into a composite arrangement. The idea of a genuine character of cut-up experiments can only be upheld in the area of language experiments. It is precisely in the sphere of language where cut-up definitions are proclaimed in the early stages of its development, and consequently it is language as an instrument of power and control that is at the core of the political agenda propagated by the cut-up practitioners.
As the title of the dissertation suggests, it deals with Precise Intersection Points. In the course of his experimentation Burroughs quickly realized that the juxtaposition of disjoint elements in montage-informed works of art is not entirely random, but that it can be structured through recurrent similarities, analogies, repetitions, and contiguity. He described this phenomenon as Precise Intersection Points, and thematized these occurrences as moments of uncanny recognition and points of departure for paranoid scenarios, which are traced in selected examples.
With a shift of perspective away from the cut-up trilogy toward the early cut-up pamphlets Minutes to Go, and The Exterminator (both 1960), and contributions to such small magazines as My Own Mag, that make up a significant but forgotten part of Burroughs’ writing, this study reconstructs the material and thematic origins of these experiments. The guiding concept behind these early cut-ups is Burroughs’ analogy between language and virus which he borrowed from the scientific conceptualizations of the DNA as a software and language of life that became popularized during this period. In Burroughs’ appropriation of this concept, language is a code-script that conditions and controls human behavior. The cutting-up of media messages and personal writing is then conceptualized as a mode of resistance against such control. Besides the ideological framing of the cut-up experiments, the final focus is placed on the application of newspaper layout in Burroughs’ contributions to small magazines of the Mimeo Revolution, which reveal these activities as an interactive artistic project based on exchange and collaboration.
"William S. Burroughs’ Folios – An Archival Machine for Artistic Creation" CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 18.5, "Global Beat Studies" Special Issue (in preparation)
"Chance Encounters in New York" (Review of Rona Cran Collage in Twentieth-Century Art, Literature, and Culture: Joseph Cornell, William Burroughs, Frank O’Hara, and Bob Dylan Ashgate Publishing 2014.) http://tinyurl.com/oyq7l37
"Stimmen der Mimeo-Revolution. Carl Weissner und die Undergroundpresse – Tomasz Stompor im Interview mit Jan Herman und Jürgen Ploog, Februar 2013" Fabrikzeitung 289, Zürich, March 2013
Wie Worte vor Augen geführt werden. (Review of: Klaus Peter Dencker: Optische Poesie. Von den prähistorischen Schriftzeichen bis zu den digitalen Experimenten der Gegenwart. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter 2010.) IASLonline [27.09.2013] http://www.iaslonline.de/index.php?vorgang_id=3710
"Interzone Passages" Fabrikzeitung 296, Zürich, November 2013
"Fun and games what?" (Review of: Burroughs, William S., and Bill Morgan ed. Rub out the Words: The Letters of William S. Burroughs 1959-1974. New York, NY: Ecco, 2012.) American Book Review vol.35 no.1 Nov/Dec 2013.
"Das Entfernte Echo der Schnitte" Fabrikzeitung 264, Zürich, September 2010 (Special Issue on Cut-Up experiments, ed. with Gregor Huber)
Stompor, Tomasz; Suntrup, Elisabeth – "‘Siete domingos rojos. Novela de la prerevolución española’ (1932)" in Bettina Bannasch & Christiane Holm ed. "Der spanische Bürgerkrieg in der deutschen und spanischen Literatur und den Bildmedien," Tübingen, Narr 2005, 87-100.
Conferences & Presentations
"Precise Intersection Points – William S. Burroughs’ Cut-Up Formats" lecture and workshop at the Universität Duisburg-Essen, Department of North American Studies, 25.09.2014
"William S. Burroughs’ Folios – An Archival Machine for Artistic Creation" paper presented at the third annual conference of the European Beat Studies Network (EBSN) in Tangier, Morocco, November 2014
"The Photographic Composites of William S. Burroughs" paper presented at the second annual conference of the European Beat Studies Network, Aalborg University, Dänemark, August 2013)
"Larval Entities – William S. Burroughs’ Concepts of Time" paper presented at the Inaugural Conference of the European Beat Studies Network, The Roosevelt Study Center, Middelburg, The Netherlands, 6. September 2012
"Precise Intersection Points: Intermedial Constellations in the Word-Image Hybrids of William S. Burroughs" paper presented at the The New York University Graduate English Organization’s Conference on Literature and the Mass-Produced Image, 02. April 2010