Friday, January 14, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Appropriations: 1915-present (syllabus)

Here is a paragraph from the course description of the class I am teaching at School of Visual Arts this spring, regarding "appropriation" techniques in 20th and 21st century writing, as well as a sequence of texts that will be covered in the course.

The term “appropriation” is a loaded one, in visual art, cultural studies, and anthropology, and I will go over the various valences of this term in class as much as I can. In terms of this course, by appropriation I mean any technique by which particular texts are incorporated into a new text, thus becoming the property of a separate work. Collage is appropriative; so, arguably, are certain quotational and citational practices. Appropriational writing also concerns the use of texts without attribution, and so brings up questions of property, plagiarism, and identity (who is the ‘speaker’, ‘author’, or writer?; to what extent is this entity a construction of a distribution network or institutional complex?). Appropriation also involves what we may call “recontextualization”; the taking of something from one context and removing it to another, of which there are countless examples in this course. With the removal of a text to a different context, the meaning of that text changes—it is thus transformed both in 'form' and 'content'.

I. Documentary Poetries

1-13. Introductions;

1-20. Walter Benjamin’s “The Author as Producer” (;

1-27. William Carlos Williams’s Patterson excerpts with Langston Hughes’s Montage of a Dream Deferred;

2-3. Muriel Rukeyser’s "The Book of the Dead" with Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony excerpts, supplemented by Michael Davidson’s Ghostlier Demarcations excerpt;

2-10. Louis Zukofsky’s “A-8” with Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems excerpts, supplemented by “Z-cite” guide to Louis Zukofsky’s “A-8” (

Contemporary examples of “documentary poetries”: Chain journal vol. 2: Documentary; M. NourbeSe Phillip's Zong!; C.S. Giscombe’s Giscombe Road; Juliana Spahr’s Fuck You, Aloha, I Love You; Evelyn Reilly’s Styrofoam; Alan Gilbert’s Another Future; Mark Nowak’s Revenants and Coal Mountain Elementary; Vanessa Place’s Statement of Facts; David Buuck’s Buried Treasure Island; Craig Santos Perez's From Unincorporated Territory.

II. “Shock Effects,” Collage Aesthetics, and Socio-historical Re/mediation
2-17. Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Technical Reproduction” ( with Dada gallery (;

2-24. John Ashbery’s The Tennis Court Oath excerpt with Bruce Andrews’s I Don’t Have Any Paper So Shut Up (or, Social Romanticism) excerpt, supplemented by Andrews on collage and noise in Paradise and Method and links to Andrews performing his work at PennSound (

3-3. Susan Howe’s "A Bibliography of the King's Book;
or, Eikon Basilike" and Rachel Tzvia Back’s Led by Language excerpt;

Additional texts: Flarf feature at Jacket (; Craig Dworkin’s Reading the Illegible (chapter on Howe, “Waging Political Babble”)

III. The Politics of Re/Appropriation

3-10. Guy Debord’s “Methods of Détournement” ( and art after Situationism;

3-17. BREAK

3-24. Hannah Weiner’s “Radcliffe and Guatemala Women,” Judith Goldman’s Deathstar/Rico-chet, and Martha Rosler’s “reading” performance video for Paper Tiger Television, Martha Rosler Reads Vogue (;

4-7. President of the United Heart’s The Big Melt with Rachel Zolf’s Neighbour Procedure;

Additional texts: Eliot Weinberger’s What Happened Here?; Jules Boykoff’s and Kaia Sand’s Landscapes of Dissent; Kim Rosenfield’s Re: Evolution; Yedda Morrison’s Darkness; Mónica de la Torre’s Public Domain; M. Mara Anne’s Containment Scenario; Laura Elrick’s Stalk; Dada “in context”: (éhar.pdf)

IV. What is an Author? The politics of identity and distributed authorship

4-14. Michel Foucault’s “What is an Author?” ( and “Roland Barthes’s “Death of the Author” (;

4-21. Kathy Acker’s Great Expectations excerpt with Dodie Bellamy’s Cunt-Ups;

4-28. Robert Fitterman’s Rob the Plagiarist excerpt with Tyrone Williams's c.c. excerpt;

5-5. Stephen Collis’s The Commons and “Of Blackberries and the Poetic Commons” ( with Tan Lin’s Heath and EDIT event;

Additional texts: Lyn Hejinian’s A Border Comedy; Charles Bernstein’s All the Whiskey in Heaven; Laura Moriarty’s A Tonalist; Ben Friedlander’s Simulcast; Brandon Brown’s The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus; The Grand Piano (Barrett Watten, et al).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Others Letters :: Pat Clifford and Aryanil Mukherjee

Pat Clifford and Aryanil Mukherjee discuss the translation of "objectivist" into Bengali at Others Letters:

How would you explain the word "objectivist"? It is object-oriented or goal-oriented or both? Pound wrote in 1913, "the natural object is always the adequate symbol". Now, that's how all of modernistic poetry was written - making metaphors of natural objects. What is Pound trying to say here, you think?

"bastu" is object. "laxya" is goal or object, for example when you say, "the objective of this experiment is...", the Bengali translation would be "ei pareexaar laxya halo....". So I used the word "laxyabastu" which literally means "target" but captures the twin-fold meaning of "object". What do you think of it ?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Introduction to Mac Wellman (@ SEGUE)

Mac Wellman is a play write, poet, and fiction writer, yet transcends all of these traditional literary categories. His books are many and include the most recent The Difficulty of Crossing a Field. Wellman is a loved figure in the NYC performance community, and especially loved by his MFA students at Brooklyn College where he is a professor.

I have always had an aversion to theater. And maybe my own aversion to theater is similar to the one Mac Wellman has described for himself, though he is considered to be one of the foremost American play writes writing and producing plays today. For what Wellman sites as the dominant theater of our day entertains a situation of what he calls the “already known.” When we go to a play—and this is perhaps what is disappointing about theater—whatever twists and turns the plot takes there remains the problem of plot itself, known more or less in advance of the journey, known in advance of actually attending the theater as an act of mind—a transient and momentary thing. What is disappointing to Mac Wellman about theater as it has typically been conceived through Aristotlean drama, is that while it may stage sentiment it does not allow for acts of mindfulness, awareness, thought, attention, meditation, inner vision. What is the solution to this sorry state of theater, reduced to a few key players, if not a kind of decadent moralism Wellman attributes to the British group around Caryl Churchill and Sarah Kane?

As Karinne Keithley Syers shows us in a recent article about Wellman’s work published in the latest issue of Postmodern Culture devoted to “poets theater,” “This Theater is a Strange Hole: Mac Wellman's Poetics of Apparence,” one possible solution is to make holes in the structure of plays; to thus make holey (h-o-l-e-y), but also in some sense holy, which is to say devoted. Taking up a mathematics of holes, Syers shows us to what extent Wellman’s work is structured through a set of precise absences which create intense feelings for the missing and intentionally left-out. The play, as it were, becomes a thing in a thing it is not. Through the absences and structural displacements of Wellman’s work—both at the level of the line, and at the macro level of the larger play, story, or poem—he gives us space to fill-in and fill-out—to become the hole as it were, to produce a wholeness without totality (that always leaves room to grow, wiggle room, cognitive space). And, following the phenomenology of Gertrude Stein whose work is partially a study of audience—the way audiences think, listen, observe, attend—Wellman realizes that the missing component of any dramatic situation—what he calls both acts of “apperception” and “apparence”—is in fact us. Someone who may theophanically fulfill the writer’s intention without exhausting it. Such curiosity about the life of the mind—wanting to demarcate or show how the mind works heuristically, through a dramatic-poetic process—is a wonderful thing to participate in and witness, and something that I wish more theater were capable of.