Footnotes / Introduction

Footnotes: Introduction

1. This humanism is perhaps most evident in anarcho-syndicalists following in the tradition of Max Stirner, or the staunch individualism of William Godwin, and, much later, Emma Goldman. It is also clearly evident in the deference to human nature of anarchists like Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. But, elements of a primal humanism are still present even in the most communal of anarchism, such as the anarcho-communism proposed by Peter Kropotkin.

2. Evren and Rousselle make a distinction between Todd May’s work and Saul Newman’s work by arguing that while May uses anarchism to make poststructuralism more effective, Newman uses poststructuralism to make anarchism better (10), seemingly implying that, in this dynamic, May is the philosopher, and Newman the pragmatist.

3. For example, the anarchist seeks to destabilize hierarchy and hegemony, and what could be more hierarchical than the academy and its valuation of tenure? Indeed, the very system of the academy is based on a hierarchy of presidents, deans, assistant deans, full professors, associate professors, assistant professors, sessional or adjunct instructors, graduate students, and support staff of various types. I will admit that classical anarchism does not object to or reject the authority or expertise denoted by specialization; after all, in God and the State, Mikhail Bakunin famously argues, “Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult the architect or the engineer. … But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect … to impose his authority on me” (229). But, the academy, in its hierarchical nature and its concomitant privileging of certain voices, seeks explicitly to impose its hegemonic authority on others.

4. As evidence of this anarchist vanguardism, consider the classical anarchists’ interest in propagande par le fait (propaganda by/of the deed), the concept popularized by French anarchist Paul Brousse, and later taken up by mnay activist circles, anarchist and otherwise, that privileged unique and spectacular resistance tactics, both violent and non-violent, as a means of disseminating political statements.

5. I admit that there can be experimental potentials of the lyric. Canadian poet bpNichol in his acclaimed The Martyrology series, is a good contemporary example. Additionally, the modernists (among them, of course, Eliot, Pound, and Williams) called for, in a gross oversimplification, the experimentalization of the lyric. Indeed, attempts to radicalize the lyric have been, and continue to be, numerous and wildly popular. That said, this project positions the lyric poem, with its irrepressible contemporary popularity, its rich canonical history, and its predominant interest in a unified, singular writing subject supposedly in control of his/her use of language, in opposition to the radical, experimental poem purely in terms of form. The primary elements of experimental form are elusive, as indicated in this introduction, but necessarily work against the primary elements of the lyric.

6. Here Bey uses the phrasing “poetry of the deed” in contradistinction from Brousse’s “propaganda of the deed” to refuse the vanguardism attributed to the latter.

7. And here I define the experimental, first and foremost, as a matter of formal innovation. In this way, the experimental text is one that does not discount or ignore innovation in terms of content, but that necessarily ties innovative content to the creation of new, alternative forms of expression.

8. The terms themselves are clearly etymologically linked. As the OED notes, “vanguard” is “avant-garde”’s contemporary aphetic.

9. Poststructuralism has long been concerned with critiquing the vanguardist nature of resistance or oppositional movements. See, for example, Paul Bové’s foreword to Deleuze’s Foucault: “Deleuze emphasises that Foucault’s sense of the diffusion of power is a challenge not only to Statist theories but also to theories of the oppositional or vanguard party” (xxix).

10. And yet, it should be noted that, despite indeterminacy’s indebtedness to the scientific meanings of “experiment,” its end-goal is markedly different. The scientific experiment seeks category, system, hierarchy, and Truth (bolstered by juridical, medical, logical, and scientific discourses); the experimental poem seeks to disrupt these methods of overcoding.

11. While I refute Ashbery’s notion here, I do want to make note of the fact that Ashbery holds this very true for his own work, and this is the primary reason why his poetry has proven so difficult to classify in terms of experimental school/genre.

12. It is important to note that, at some point in the scholarship surrounding them, each of the authors studied in this project have, in some cases mistakenly, been described as a part of the avant-garde. While I will expand on these distinction on a text-by-text basis in the plateaus on each piece, I should now note that ascribing an author a position in the literary vanguard is a political choice that runs counter to the explicitly anti-vanguardist stance of postanarchism as a reading practice.

13. I acknowledge here, and will repeatedly acknowledge throughout my project, my own role as critic in the limitation of readers/readings. This limitation is, I will concede, a necessary evil of the English Department.

14. Foucault notes that this primary element is historically determined, writing: “It is important to notice … that its status as property is historically secondary to the penal code controlling its appropriation. Speeches and books were assigned real authors, other than mythical or important religious figures, only when the author became subject to punishment and to the extent that his [sic] discourse was considered transgressive” (Language, Counter-Memory, Practice 124).

15. And here (in light of committee member Stephen Cain’s comments) I am careful to distinguish Perloff’s work as conservative relative to the work of other scholars, namely Dworkin in this case, who consider the same experimental texts, but do so without (or with a less prominent influence from) the vestiges of a conservative, hermeneutically-driven scholarship.

16. Dworkin engages frequently in Reading the Illegible with the work of Guy Debord and his theorizations of Situationist experimentation. Most important for Dworkin is Debord’s concept of detournement, which is articulated most clearly in Debord’s “Methods of Detournement” (1956). In this statement, Debord argues that “[o]nly extremist innovation is historically justified” (1), and that the most extreme and effective forms of detournement (what he terms “ultradetournement”) occur on the level of everyday life (5). In this way, the Situationists, and by proxy Dworkin, politicize the poetic form as defamiliarization, a break from the essentializing and reductive factors of the quotidian. Detournement, for both authors, is a form of parody, but rather than seeking comedic effect, it seeks to devalue the original (Debord 2).

Importantly, the Situationists, and their role in the May ’68 riots in France, provide the artistic and literary backdrop for Barthes’s and Foucault’s arguments about authorship and readership. Thus, Debord’s work, while not significantly referenced in my project, provides an important sociohistorical context to postanarchism’s revaluation of the relationships between author, reader, and text.

17.  In his introduction, for example, Dworkin writes: “In short, the basic thesis of this book is ………..…………….” (Reading the Illegible xviii)

18. Indeed, complicating semantics and denotation is central to the experimental poem, and especially to a postanarchist reading of that poem. But, I should note here that this complication of poetic denotation has long been a hallmark of formalist poetics. Consider, for example, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s now infamous quip in Zettel: “Do not forget that a poem, although it is composed in the language of information, is not used in the language-game of giving information” (§106).

19. See, for example, Jacques Lacan’s “Signification of the Phallus,” Gayatri Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak,” Jacques Derrida’s “Disseminations,” or Luce Irigaray’s This Sex Which is Not One. Also of interest are Helene Cixous’s “The Laugh of the Medusa,” or Deleuze and Guattari’s Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature, for their notions of experimentation as a means out of the exclusionary nature of linguistic signification.

20. For example, Cohn’s literary readings focus on writers like Leo Tolstoy (who has clear and frequently discussed anarchist sympathies).

21. It should be noted here that Cohn is a vocal critic of postanarchism, and especially the controversial connotations of the post prefix. For Cohn’s aversion to postanarchism, see “What is ‘Postanarchism’ Post?” Review of Saul Newman, From Bakunin to Lacan: Anti-Authoritarianism and the Dislocation of Power.” Postmodern Culture 13.1 (Sept. 2002), or “What’s Wrong with Postanarchism?” (co-authored with Shawn Wilbur).

22. Landow writes: “Like Barthes, Foucault, and Mikhail Bakhtin, Jacques Derrida continually uses the terms link (liasons), web (toile), network (rèseau), and interwoven (s’y tissent), which cry out for hypertextuality” (53). He could have easily appended Deleuze and Guattari, and Lyotard to this list.

23. Here I use the term “plateau” much in the same way Deleuze and Guattari use it: “A plateau is always in the middle, not at the beginning or the end. A rhizome is made out of plateaus. … We call a ‘plateau’ any multiplicity connected to other multiplicities by superficial underground stems in such a way as to form or extend a rhizome” (A Thousand 21-22). Brian Massumi, in his forward, puts this another way: “Each ‘plateau’ is an orchestration of crashing bricks extracted from a variety of disciplinary edifices” (A Thousand xiv).


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