21 ago. 2008

If reading is about the formation of identities, subjectivities...

Where does the sub come in to subjectivity? What are we beneath, so to speak? What are we subjected to? We think of the subject as the one under control but obviously in the French theory tradition, if I can speak of it shorthand, the subject is the one subjected, formed by other discourses.

There is a kind of compulsion here: I couldn't any more give up my Creeley than give up my Coltrane. The grooves are strong and deep, the scarring is permanent. We speak of "déformation professionelle." My graduate students use the concept of "agency" as a counteracting force to this compulsion: the subject is autonomous and can speak for itself.

For graduate students, the process is double: there is a subjection to the norms of the "profession." And a subjection to the literature itself. To say there is a tension between these two things is the understatement of the century. At best there is a tension, at worst the second subjection simply fails to take place.

But how to conceive of this tension? One view is that the subjection to poetry is purer and less conditioned, but poetry is also an institution, or rather, it is inseparable from its various institutions, its concrete instantiations on this earth. (Any particular way that it exists materially.) So then it becomes a question of which institutions matter and who is in control of them, not of finding a space outside of institutions. The way Silliman, for example, insists that other institutions outside of academia should be the true legitimators. But he is no less invested in there being a legitimating mechanism.

All arguments about poetry are about this.

3 comentarios:

Henry Gould dijo...

I don't know, Jonathan, but off the top of my head it seems like you are fusing & identifying distinct things...

doesn't it go back to the purpose(s) to which the medium (language) is put? That is, scholarly-intellectual discourse - philoosphy, criticism, science, history - is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. This is its goal. Poetry, the arts in general - have a somewhat different aim. It's not so much knowledge or information we get from a poem : it's something more like experience - aesthetic/ethical, you might say. In this sense it (poetry) is somewhat intransitive, reflexive, self-contained... non-utilitarian...

Can you simply reduce this so as to identify poetry itself with its institutions, as if it were a "product" of the labor of those institutions, the way "knowledge" is a product of scholarly disciplines?

Isn't the "legitimacy" of a work of art the consequence of its own (aestehtic) effects?

Jonathan dijo...

I'm not so much confusing (I hope) as juxtaposing different discourses about poetry. How often does the anti-institutional impulse come down to a struggle between different conceptions of the institution? That was disillusioning, at first, for me. When I read Barthes defining literature as that which was taught, for example. Barthes the champion of intransitive writing! It took me years to get over that.

I didn't necessarily want to go where I went in that post. It was where the post seemed to be taking me.

Henry Gould dijo...

Then again I guess you could say I'm a product of BLAKE School, in HOPKINS, Minn. (along with Allen Grossman). Religious poet factory. We're all products of our education, to a degree. But who was the teacher?