Parallax has just released a new special issue devoted to “Diffracted Worlds – Diffractive Readings: Onto-Epistemologies and the Critical Humanities,” edited by Birgit Mara Kaiser and Kathrin Thiele. The special has essays from Karen Barad, Kiene Brillenburg Wurth, and Johnny Golding, amongst others. I’m very honoured to be in such company with a piece on “Diffracted Waves and World Literature,” my attempt to rethink Franco Moretti’s use of the wave metaphor for world literature through the concept of diffraction and to develop an alternative, iterative model for thinking about place and media in the context of globalization and digitalization. I develop this model through a consideration of Yang Lian’s collaboration with John Cayley on the transformation of his poem Dahai tingzhi zhi chu 大海停止之处 / Where the Sea Stands Still into a digital HyperCard and performance piece and, subsequently, a hypertext poem on the World Wide Web. You can view a short clip from Yang and Cayley’s 1997 performance of the piece at the ICA gallery in London here.
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Tagged Birgit Mara Kaiser, comparative literature, diffraction, Franco Moretti, John Cayley, Johnny Golding, Karen Barad, Kathrin Thiele, Kiene Brillenburg Wurth, world literature, yang lian, 杨炼
Jacob Edmond’s engaging study A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature makes an impassioned call for an increasingly global mindset for comparative literature. To do so, he opens with a striking engagement with and then redeployment of Fredric Jameson’s article ‘Postmodernism; or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ in The New Left Review before its expansion into his most famous book. Edmond notes Jameson’s references to China in the article and the San Francisco poet Bob Perelman’s poem ‘China’, followed by the recognition that any contemporary understanding of the notion of late capitalism or the logics of multinational capital today could not undertake the assumption of incongruency upon which Jameson’s emphasis relies. Thus propelled to a global scope, Edmond moves from Russian to Chinese, American to European, poetics. In order to explore the binary of commonness and strangeness that fuels his critical focus, Edmond links six avant-garde poets: Bei Dao (pseudonym of Zhao Zhenkai), Yang Lian, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Dmitri Prigov, Charles Bernstein, and Lyn Hejinian. This combines his study of poetics with a transnational project bridging China, Russia, and America. Charles Olsen also receives attention at several points in the book, as do Charles Baudelaire and Alexander Pushkin, and San Francisco as a poetic centre is also discussed, though given the subject matter it is perhaps surprising that Kenneth Rexroth does not figure (though this would create political and perhaps methodological conflict). The broader disciplinary matter of a transnational comparative literature in the rising moment of world literature plays an important role in Edmond’s theoretical work here, as do shifting discourses of globalization and the geopolitics of late-stage capitalism. There is much here to enliven comparative literary studies as well as the internationalization rather than community-studies orientation of American literary studies.
––From the “American Literature: The Twentieth Century” article in the latest Year’s Work in English Studies. Read the full article here.
In the “Poetics” section of the latest Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, Josh Robinson reviews a range of books on poetics published in 2012, including A Common Strangeness, which he describes as “sensitive and far-reaching.” The abstract for Robinson’s article appears below and you can read the full article here.
This chapter reviews a selection of the books on poetics published in 2012. Taking as its point of departure the variety these books display in their aim, approach, scope and even object of study, it considers the possibility of identifying commonalities between them. The chapter begins with discussion of two books published in the Verbal Arts series (FordhamUP), Kiene Brillenburg Wurth’s Between Page and Screen: Remaking Literature Through Cinema and Cyberspace and Jacob Edmond’s A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature. It then makes some tentative conceptual distinctions, before attempting to orient against these distinctions a wide range of books, including several that are not obviously related to the study of poetry. It then turns to the fourth edition of the Princeton Enyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, identifying some differences in its conception of the field of poetics with respect to previous editions of the Encyclopedia. It concludes with discussion of Alexandra Socarides’ Dickinson Unbound: Paper, Process, Poetics, Peter McDonald’s Sound Intentions: The Workings of Rhyme in Nineteenth-Century Poetry, and Reuven Tsur’s Playing by Ear and the Tip of the Tongue: Precategorial Information in Poetry, on the basis of which it makes some tentative suggestions as to the relationship between poetics and its object of study.
I am delighted to see that A Common Strangeness has been reviewed in the Journal of Cold War Studies, especially since the book does try to engage questions of Cold War history and politics, as well as literature. You can read Sonia I. Ketchian’s review here.
I’m still waiting, however, for someone to notice the footnote where I link literature most directly to political events. In that footnote, I speculate that Club-81, a KGB-sponsored group for unofficial writers in Leningrad, may have been part of Yuri Andropov’s campaign against Brezhnev supporters, including Grigory Romanov, the party boss of Leningrad and a member of the Politburo.
One of the finalists: Relocations: 3 Contemporary Russian Women Poets by Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova, and Maria Stepanova, translated from the Russian by Catherine Ciepiela, Anna Khasin, and Sibelan Forrester (Russia; Zephyr Press).
Three Percent has just announced the poetry finalists for 2014 Best Translated Book Awards. Check out the great lineup here.
A worked discussed in my essay, Dmitri Prigov’s Videnie Kasparu Davidu Fridrikhu russkogo Tibeta (Caspar David Friedrich’s Vision of Russia’s Tibet). Reproduced with the permission of the Estate of Dmitri Prigov and Costanza Baldini.
I first attended the annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association a decade ago. It was a small affair gathering together a few hundred people on the somewhat desolate outskirts of Ann Arbor. In stark contrast, the ACLA’s latest annual meeting, held last month in downtown Manhattan, attracted over 3,000 delegates. In Ann Arbor, I remember hearing Haun Saussy launch a draft of the ACLA’s last once-a-decade Report on the State of the Discipline. Thanks partly to the intellectual excitement surrounding that event, I caught the ACLA bug and have attended most of the association’s annual conferences over the past ten years. I was not, however, able to travel to New York for the latest meeting and launch of the 2014–2015 report. I am therefore especially grateful to Jessica Berman and César Domínguez for giving me a virtual presence through an invitation to contribute to a still growing draft of the report, which is now online. My essay, “Archive of the Now,” takes its title from the wonderful multimedia website for innovative poetry run by Andrea Brady at Queen Mary, University of London. It begins with the curious story of how Brady’s website became collateral damage in a hacktivist action intended to target Internet research at Queen Mary funded by the UK Ministry of Defense.
I am very grateful to Giusi Tamburello for giving A Common Strangeness its first review in Italian, in the journal InVerbis. Tamburello describes A Common Strangeness as “un volume molto ricco e stimolante.” You can read her full review here.