Abstract

Adapting Jahan Ramazani's concept of imaginative travel to contemporary conceptual poetics, this article argues that Ara Shirinyan's Your Country Is Great (2008) presents a canny vision of travel and identity in a global, digital age. Shirinyan uses a plagiaristic method to compose his poems, repeatedly Google-searching the phrase “[country] is great” and building poems from the results. For some, the result has seemed a flattening of language and of transnational experience, but I argue instead that Shirinyan provokes the reader's laughter and delight to confront her with her own complicity in cross-cultural appropriation. The comic tone of Shirinyan's work, I argue, has been characteristic of contemporary “uncreative writing,” conceptualism, and Flarf. Shirinyan's work, moreover, can be understood in a historical tradition of comic representations of cross-cultural experience, which brazenly preempt suspicious reading by knowingly showcasing their problematic, appropriative, and offensive aspects.

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