CompostModern Discussion Forum

Spring / Summer 2009

Every Wednesday 2:30-5:30

“CompostModern,” a salon-style discussion forum, revolutionizing the way we present the work of poets and writers to the public. We have opened the floor to the community, bringing you in to participate in the planning, discussion, and hopes for the future of art, poetics and science. As the name implies, the CompostModern forum aims to re-cycle our rich aesthetic history. If the project of postmodernism was to deconstruct traditions, it has left us with a fertile soil out of which new forms may emerge. It is with the belief that all new forms of art must evolve from a history we approach the guiding question of the forum: What is creativity? At each weekly meeting, Dactyl members, noted artists, poets, [continue…]

Support and Awards: because science is sometimes too important to leave just to scientists

CLOSED: Awards Are No Longer Offered

Essay Awards Dactyl Foundation offers a $1,000 award for essays on literary theory, aesthetics, or poetics, which are grounded in science. The award is given periodically only when a suitable recipient is found. Awards are determined by the board. We are no longer accepting unsolicited entries. (The award amount was formerly $3,000 1997-2001)

Travel Award & Research Support Dactyl Foundation currently offers partial support (in the form of small cash awards, travel to conferences, and a think tank environment) for several scholars. We provide researchers with the opportunity to invite scientists and artists working in relevant fields to visit Dactyl Foundation in order to consult or collaborate.

Wendy Wheeler, 2009 essay award recipient

“Creative Evolution: A Theory of Cultural Sustainability,”

forthcoming in Communications, Politics and Culture. Dactyl Foundation is please to award Wendy Wheeler this year for her essay which helps to bring the sciences back into the arts.

‘Under the name of something called postmodernism, or of a condition called postmodernity, the idea of the artist as someone possibly doing something special has been derided as romantic [continue…]

John Allen Paulos, discussion

Thursday, November 6, 6:30PM

Wine & conversation with John Allen Paulos: Discussion Forum

Co-hosted by The Center for Inquiry

Paulos has written on the vagaries of the stock market in A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market, arguments for God in his most recent book, Irreligion, and the mathematical and philosophical basis of humor in Mathematics and Humor and I Think, Therefore I Laugh. [continue…]

Jennifer Michael Hecht, discussion

Monday Sept 8th

TRUTH UNCORKED: Where Wine Flows Like Conversation – a discussion Forum with Jennifer Michael Hecht

Join the Center for Inquiry and the Dactyl Foundation for the Arts & Humanities for a Truth Uncorked event, with author, poet, and intellectual historian Jennifer Michael Hecht. Our main event, featuring a salon conversation over wine and light hors d’oeuvres, begins at 6:30 p.m. An optional, intimate dinner with the speaker will follow. [continue…]

Phillis Levin with Ciaran Berry, poetry salon

Wednesday, Sept 24, 2008
POETRY SALON 6:30 – 8:30PM

Featuring Phillis Levin with Ciaran Berry: Poetry Salon
Seating is limited, suggested donation $10 [continue…]

Marie Ponsot with Kevin O'Sullivan, poetry salon

Friday, June 6th, 7:30-9:00

Marie Ponsot, Award-winning Poet and Mentor to Generations

with Kevin O’Sullivan Dactyl Foundation’s Emerging Poet of the Year [continue…]

Maggie Jackson, discussion

Thurs., Jan. 15, 6:30 PM

wine & conversation with Maggie Jackson: Discussion Forum

Cohost: Center for Inquiry

CFI’s next Truth Uncorked wine and conversation event will take place on Thursday, January 15 with Maggie Jackson. Jackson is an award-winning author and journalist known for her penetrating coverage of U.S. social issues. She writes the popular “Balancing Acts” column in the Sunday Boston Globe, and her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Gastronomica and onNational Public Radio. Her latest book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age (Prometheus Books, 2008) [continue…]

Dorion Sagan, reading and magic

Friday Oct 12, 2007 7:00-9:00 PM

Notes from the Holocene: A Brief History of the Future

In a thought-provoking, humorous, and engaging style, Dorion Sagan, the eldest son of Carl Sagan and evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis, combines philosophy, science, magic, an understanding of illusion, and the fantastical writings of Philip K. Dick to probe the deep questions of existence. Operating on the precept that the universe if far [continue…]

Society for Literature Science and the Arts

November 9-12, 2006
New York Art Science Festival
20th Annual Conference for the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts

Plenary Speaker: Lynn Margulis
Keynote Panel: Dorion Sagan and Eric Schneider
Special Presentation: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Site Chair: Victoria N. Alexander, Dactyl Foundation for the Arts & Humanities
Program Chair: Bruce Clarke, Texas Tech University [continue…]

Lecture, ‘Homage to Guido Llinas’

Thursday, November 3, 2005

6:30 p.m.

“Homage to Guido Llinas” Lecture & Discussion. Sponsored by Cuba Art NY. To view Guido Llinas’s work, check out

Walter J. Freeman and Jennifer Ruth Hosek, 2005 essay award recipients

2005 Award Recipients for “Osmetic Ontogenesis, or Olfaction Becomes You: The Neurodynamic, Intentional Self and Its Affinities with the Foucaultian/Butlerian Subject,” Configurations 9 (2001): 509-541. Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Society for Literature and Science. The authors will present at Dactyl Foundation’s Poetics-CogSci Colloquy in September 2005. Walter J. Freeman, UC Berkeley, is a Professor of the Graduate School in Biophysics, Graduate Group in Bioengineering. See The Freeman Laboratory for Nonlinear Neurodynamic. Jennifer Ruth Hosek is a Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley in December 2004, for a dissertation entitled: Cuba and the Germans: A Cultural History of an Infatuation. In addition to work in cultural, gender, postcolonial and film studies, Jennifer is interested in representations of selfhood in scientific and literary texts.

Poetics-Cognitive Science Colloquy

September 16-18, 2005
John Ashbery, Angus Fletcher, Walter J. Freeman, Rebecca Goldstein & Steven Pinker

Among the disciplines informing cognitive poetics, neuroscience has been undersung and underutilized, a trend that seems to suggest imminent remedy. Indeed, the recent experimental and theoretical advances offered by neuroscience question the traditional judgment that literary knowledge is incompatible with scientific knowledge. What insights might detailed attention to the neuronal activity of the brain lend to the creative process? Might this directionality be reversed, that is, might the complex structures interrogated by poetics yield a formal understanding that could, in turn, shed light on neuroscientific problems? [continue…]

Discussion, Ha Jin & Eliot Weinberger

Sunday, April 17, 2005

12:00 – 1:30

PEN World Voices: The New York Festival of International Literature. Conversation: Ha Jin with Eliot Weinberger.

David Herman, travel award


David Herman received a travel award for his work in narrative theory

Lisa Zunshine, travel award


Lisa Zunshine was awarded travel support based on her work on

Why We Read Fiction

My  title  is inspired by the question that I asked myself about fourteen years ago, when I first came to this country and was going through one of those periods of reading fiction voraciously. It was then that I first started wondering what is this strange craving? Science can explain much of what happens in our brain and the rest of the body when we want to eat, to drink, and to sleep, but what about wanting to read? It can certainly feel as strong as a mild [continue…]

Sharon Lattig, research support


Sharon Lattig received travel awards and research support for her work on

The Perception of Metaphor and the Metaphor of Perception

Within The Prelude’s “Book the First” is nested the epic’s celebrated “boat-stealing episode,” the story of the boy Wordsworth¹s clandestine launch of a shepherd’s skiff discovered on a twilight ramble. This salient passage, in what Wordsworth referred to as a “preparatory poem,” charts what is effectively an archeology of the pathetic fallacy, rooting it in a breach of intentionality, as the term is revised by Walter Freeman to mean the neurological process by [continue…]

Ecopoetics: poetry reading

September 30 20047 pm

with Marcella Durand & Lytle Shaw
Introduction by Victoria N. Alexander

Discussion to follow

The Status of Emergence, roundtable

Friday, October 24, 2003

Society for Literature and Science 17th Annual Conference Austin, TX

October 23-26, 2003The Status of Emergence Roundtables Victoria Alexander (organizer/chair), Susan Oyman, Katherine Hayles, John Johnston, and Eve Keller.

Introduction by Victoria N. Alexander [continue…]

Trauma at Home: After 9/11

June 6th 2003


Discussion: Trauma at Home: After 9/11 (University of Nebraska Press, 2003) Speakers will include: Jim Berger, Elizabeth Baer, Donna Bassin, Judith Greenberg (editor), Marianne Hirsch, Irene Kacandes, E. Ann Kaplan, Nancy K. Miller, and Richard Stamelman.

Interrogating Dichotomies in the Arts & Sciences: panel discussion with Susan Oyama, Victoria N. Alexander & Sharon Lattig

November 8th 2002, 2-4 pm

CUNY Graduate Center

A panel discussion on new ways of interrogating dichotomies in the sciences Hosted at CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, Room 5409, by the 20th Century Group & Dactyl Foundation Panelists:

Susan Oyama is Professor of Psychology, Emerita, at John Jay College, and at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York City. Books include Cycles of Contingency, Developmental Systems and Evolution and Evolution’s Eye: A Systems View of the Biology-Culture Divide.


Josip Novakovich, reading with introduction by Victoria N. Alexander

Friday Oct. 25, 2002

Croatian-born Novakovich has published numerous works of fiction, including, Yolk and Salvation and Other Disasters. He received the Whiting Writer’s Award (1997), Guggenheim Fellowship (1999), two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1991 and 2002), and a fellowship at The New York Public Library’s Center for Scholars and Writers in 2001/02. Novakovich also teaches in the English Department at Penn State University.

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Michael Davidson and John Taggart

Feb 22 2002

Discussion with poet-critics Michael Davidson and John Taggart.

Angus Fletcher, 2002 essay award recipient


Angus Fletcher’s essay “Long Amazing Unprecedented Way,” appears in murmur Vol ii (New York: Donc Alors, 2000) and can be obtained for $10 by writing to The essay is based on a lecture delivered at Dactyl Foundation April 5, 2000 on John Ashbery’s “middle poetry.”  More info.

Nabokov, Evolution, and Insect Mimicry, lecture by Victoria N. Alexander

November 10, 2001

Emergent Teleology and Nabokov’s Aesthetics

Although Vladimir Nabokov may be better known for his outstanding literary achievements, he also had gift for science. While acting as curator at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology in the 1940s, he became an expert on a group of butterflies popularly known as “Blues.” He named one species and several have been named after him. He published nine articles on lepidoptery in prestigious scientific journals. During this time, he also developed compelling ideas about evolution. He argued that some instances of insect mimicry did not result from Darwinian survival strategies; that is, slight resemblances could not be furthered by the function or purpose they served, leading gradually to better resemblances. I contend that Nabokov’s understanding of the origins of biological forms can be compared to recent work in evolutionary biology, namely structural evolution and neutral evolution. I also argue it was Nabokov’s aesthetic interest in the mechanisms behind teleological phenomena that gave him the insight to construct a theory of mimicry that now appears quite progressive for its time.

History, Memory, Trauma, lecture by Dominick LaCapra

September 28, 2001

History, Memory, Trauma,” a public lecture by Dominick LaCapra, recipient of the Dactyl award for aesthetic theory.

Ever since Theodor Adorno argued that “writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric,” all kinds of artists, not just poets, have been debating whether or not one can depict life optimistically. The Holocaust certainly questions how one can believe that every event ultimately serves some divine [continue…]

“The Poet, The Critic, & The Interpreter: A Crash Course,”

April 26 2001

A public lecture under the title “The Poet, The Critic & The Interpreter: A Crash Course”

Angus Fletcher (Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Graduate School, CUNY)
Nico Israel (Asst. Prof, English, Hunter College, CUNY; critic, Artforum International Magazine)
and Victoria N. Alexander (Dactyl Foundation)
Hors d’oeuvres will be served at 6:30. Lecture begins at 7pm.

Dominick LaCapra, 2001 essay award recipient


Award Recipient: Dominick LaCapra, “Trauma, Absence, Loss,” in Writing History, Writing Trauma (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ Pr, 2000)

In his essay, “Trauma, Absence, Loss,” Dominick LaCapra shows a sensitive understanding of the subtleties of deconstructive technique, and then, without refuting any of its claims, he advances the next intellectual step that takes us beyond postmodernism and into a [continue…]

Chaos in literature, science and art

April 4 – 6, 2000

Chaos in literature, science and art. Sponsored by Pfizer Corporation &Herbert Lee Grayson Foundation Panel Discussion:

Tuesday, April 4th & Wednesday, April 5th, 6pm
Angus Fletcher
, CUNY on Spenser’s “Mutability Cantos”and the poetry of John Ashbery

Thursday, April 6th, 6pm John Ashbery, Bard College, poetry reading
Jim Crutchfield, Santa Fe Institute, on the physics of chaos
Joan Richardson, CUNY, on science & poetry
Angus Fletcher, CUNY, respondent

In history, chaos is anarchy, mutability, disorder, chance, indeterminacy, flux, non-linearity, entropy, irrational thought, creativity, destructive emotion and the primal source of all that is.


April 4-6 2000

Retrodiction  –The History of Chaos in Literature, Science and Art.

Retrodiction is a series of audio recordings designed for an Internet experience with visual, musical, interactive, and educational components. The series will explore the concept of chaos and the fundamental question: Do things happen by chance? or does nature govern by fixed laws? The goal is to increase public understanding of science through fiction, poetry, and philosophical writings. The project is a collaborative effort among Dactyl Foundation for the Arts and Humanities, the Santa Fe Institute, and the Art and Science Laboratory. [continue…]