A series of programs exploring the past, present and future of Pataphysics - the "science of the particular" - in Philadelphia and beyond


'Pataphysics, Then and Now

An imaginative conference exploring the life, works, and continued influence of Alfred Jarry (1873-1907) and his "science of imaginary solutions"

Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Philosophy / Theory

Organizing Institutions

Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania, Slought

Contributing Institutions

The Kislak Center for Special Collections, Kelly Writers House, International House


John Heon, Katie Price, Linda Klieger Stillman


Aaron Levy, Jean-Michel Rabate, Mari Shaw


David McKnight, Robert Cargni-Mitchell, Emily Brewton, Andrew Hugill

Opens to public





4017 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Kislak Center for Special Collections
Van Pelt Library
University of Pennsylvania
3420 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Organized by scholars, poets, collectors, curators, architects, musicians, and visual artists, this conference explores the life, works, and influence of French modernist Alfred Jarry (1873-1907). Jarry's "science of imaginary solutions"—which he termed 'pataphysics—has had a substantial influence on 20th- and 21st-century art, theory, and culture, from Duchamp, Joyce, and Beckett to Satie, Terrasse, and Cage; Deleuze, Baudrillard, and Foucault; William Anastasi, William Kentridge, and Thomas Chimes. 'Pataphysics has influenced not only avant-garde practices throughout the past century, but also popular culture, from science fiction to Monty Python and The Beatles.

This conference aims to present an overview of pataphysical art and thought from Jarry's time to the present, beginning with Alfred Jarry's own oeuvre. Engaging the work of contemporary artists and thinkers as well, the presenters will explore a variety of systems of knowledge and power and debate why so many avant-garde artists and thinkers have seen it as an ideal ludic tool for creative production and socio-political change. This two day conference will begin on the evening of March 21, 2014 at Slought, and continue on March 22, 2014 at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts at Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Friday, March 21, 2014, 4-7:30pm

at Slought

Pataphysics in Philadelphia (4-4:30pm)
Jean-Michel Rabaté, and Aaron Levy, "Slought's Pataphysical Exhibitions"
Mari Shaw, "Philadelphia Pataphysicians: Chimes, Duchamp, Rhoades"

Pataphysics & the Arts (4:30-6pm)
Jill Fell, "From Painting to Poem: A Pataphysical Perspective"
Michael Taylor, "Pataphysics in Philadelphia: The Strange Case of James E. Brewton"
Steve McCaffery, "The Fraternal Contaminant"
Moderated by Christine Poggi

Reception & Exhibition (6-7:30pm) Screening of Geoff Dunbar's "UBU" animation, 1978 (Courtesy Linda Klieger Stillman)

Saturday, March 22, 2014, 10:30-7:30pm

at University of Pennsylvania

Welcome by David McKnight (10:30-10:45pm)

Jarry: History, Philosophy, Aesthetics (10:45-12:15pm)
Jean-Michel Rabaté, "Pataphallics: Jarry's Novels and Ityphallicism"
Line McMurray, "The Rhizomorhododendron: An Ecopsychological Portrait of Alfred Jarry"
Linda Klieger Stillman, "Robotics and Tyrants: Jarry, Miró, Kentridge"
Moderated by Gerald Prince

Lunch Break (12:15-2pm)

Pataphysics & Poetry (2-3:30pm)
Katie L. Price, "Playing at Pataphysics: Contemporary Poetry and Imaginary Solutions"
Craig Dworkin, "Text Engines: On the Potential Energy of Literature"
Christian Bök, "The Xenotext—(A Progress Report)"
Moderated by Charles Bernstein

Coffee Break (3:30-4pm)

Conclusion & Keynote Address (4-5:30pm) John Heon, "Pataphysics at Penn: Syzygy and Synergy"
Keynote Address: Andrew Hugill, "Pataphysics and Computing"

Closing Reception (5:30-7:30pm)

These programs are presented in conjunction with Philadelphia a la 'Pataphysique, a March 2014 festival and long-term effort
by various groups in Philadelphia and at the University of Pennsylvania to build a physical and digital collection of scholarly resources related to 'Pataphysics.

For more information and associated programs: https://www.english.upenn.edu