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1 MODERN IST TOTALITIES AND THE AESTHETICS OF SOCIAL POSSIBILITY By PATRICK MCHENRY A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2012
2 2012 Patrick McHenry
3 To CVH
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS It seems important, during these stretches of decline in higher education that I thank the faculty who took more time out of their lives than ever required in order to help educate me in the widest sense possible Much is owed to Ernest Smith and all of the wonderf ul events that resulted from his invit ation to attend a seminar on the American l ong poem. Those books continue to be the most frequently referenced in my library. I also want to thank my committee members for their time, guidance, and expertise: Susan Hegeman, Sheryl Kroen, and Phil Wegner. Susan and Ph il deserve several additional th anks. For many others and myself they unremittingly model how to negotiate intellectual, departmental, and political life by standing up for everything that matters. And these comments also aptly deserve to be credited to J ohn Leavey. From the moment I tol a word that sure ly made my entire committee cringe upon first hearing he has, with utmost patience, provided me with endless encouragement and the space necessary to unbox the term for its political consequences. As a grad uate student I spent equal time (if not more) between academics and being involved in Graduate Assistants United and United Faculty of Florida. To this end I must thank Susan and John again within this context. The many hours of conver sation with Joh n about contracts and grievances often in tandem while discussing my academic work, ha ve always resulted in These are actions that a thank you cannot properly measure. I also want to thank everyone who I have had the opportunity to work with in GAU: Candi Churchill, Jordan Dominy, Kevin Funk, Brant Horacek, Brian Mann, Regina Martin, Mike Mayne, Matt Mingus, et al.
5 I also want to thank all the friends I met through the many groups within English that kept me plodding along: the dissertation writing group, the Marxist Reading Group, and the short lived, but yet somehow always existing N on Reading G roup. To everyone who put up with my being absolutely ill prepared to participate in any way but argue: th ank you and apologies. I must also extend sincere thanks to my family. Without the love and support of my father, Bruce ; my brother, Brad ; and my sister in law Sara, I would likely not have gone back to graduate school after my mother, Terri, passed away halfway through. For that, I love you and thank you And, Christina, the person who gave me the most every day: thank you. You have been my best friend throughout the writing of this dissertation which admittedly should also carry your name as co author and I can excited shoes on about our future.
6 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: DISORIENTING AESTHETICS ................................ ................... 9 2 EZRA POUND AND THE CASE FOR TOTALITY ................................ .................. 24 Nominalism to Vorticism ................................ ................................ ......................... 28 Form as Forming ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 41 Pound and Modernism ................................ ................................ ............................ 56 3 WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS AND THE MODULATION OF PLACE ................... 62 Toward Process via Locality ................................ ................................ ................... 70 Unreliability and Culture ................................ ................................ .......................... 81 A Contrapuntal Dance ................................ ................................ ............................. 91 4 LOUIS ZUKOFSKY, USE VALUE, AND POETIC PRODUCTION .......................... 98 Use value and the 1930s ................................ ................................ ...................... 112 Love, Labor, and Productive Science ................................ ................................ ... 126 12 and the Imagination of Modernism ................................ ............................. 136 5 BEFORE POSTMODERNISM CAME AFTER CHARLES OLSON ....................... 145 Prologues of the Post Modern ................................ ................................ .............. 155 Toward a Projective Language ................................ ................................ ............. 164 ................................ ................................ ..................... 177 6 CODA: AFTER BLACK MOUNTAIN ................................ ................................ ..... 197 LI ST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 212 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 219
7 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy MODERNIST TOTALITIES AND THE AESTHETICS OF SOCIAL POSSIBILITY By Patrick McHenry August 2012 Chair: John P. Leavey, Jr. Major: English examine s American epic poetry from the 1920s to the 1960s as a series of experiments that interpret and express the historical shifts occurring in social life: cultural, technological, intellectual, and economic. I focus specifically on American epic poetry because in both the poetry and the aesthetic theor ability to question existing social forms and imagine new social configurations. Interestingly, aesthetics and politics lock in an almost perfect antagonism where social futures, and their arguments pro or con, reactionary or progressive, become imagined within the aesthetic theories and poetic objects themselves. The figures I use to trace perience of the ideology of America and uneven development in New Semitism through his Marxism of the 1930s through the 1950s, and finally Charles inge between modernism and postmodernism as exempl ified by his stress on community, both at Black Mountain College and as a citizen of Gloucester By focusing on these figures, I argue, we see the full arch of modernism in a two fold
8 manner. First, we see how various social and cultural events functioned as so many detonators for aesthetic production. Aesthetic production overlaps with world production: common among all the epic practitioners is the now seemingly strange ideology that aesthetic forms are di rectly linked to possible forms of life. Second, and as where disagreements about political, social, and cultural futures take place. Or rather, modernist aesthetics becomes a pivot where dissensus finds continued articulation. I argue that this dissensus is not a mere disagreement about formal poetic principles, or about incorporating certain positive or negative ideologies into the content of an artwork, but about ar imagination.
9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION : DISORIENTING AESTH ETICS Soul & Form she has emphasis on form, none of them conclusive. First, Soul & Form features the ability of literary forms to cure or take care of a languished or an alienated soul. Second, the albeit not as directly or seamlessly as my own sentence implies. With both of these reasons we may anticipate how Lukcs will proceed to develop a materialist theory of aesthetics and a method for analyzing literary forms in his later career, most notably the novel. The third reason, and probably the most likely for Butler, is that the politics o f form shoots through nearly all the discourses of literary theory and criticism throughout the twentieth century (and now well into the twenty first century). These arguments for or against literary formalism establish a problematic distance or distractio n between how historical figures interrogated or theorized aesthetic forms and how scholars advance criticisms that defuse these theories to the point where the prior theories tend to appear inexplicable to present academic conversation. This is a problem of critical history, not authorial intentionality. At least this is how I read Butler when she says, and complicated than either the advocates or the detractors of formalis m could or can 1 1 Judith Butler, Introduction, p. 5 in Gy rgy Lukcs, Soul and Form (New York: Columbia UP, 2010), 1 15.
10 Much of what continues throughout the course of this dissertation will no doubt appear to supplement the inherent optimism implied by her method for reexamining texts the terms of the debate as they have circulated throu gh literary and theoretical circles for the last forty years. And I am doubtless not alone in finding pleasure in being 2 The pleasure inferred here may be the power of offering alternative critical models through the process of co ntinual discursive excavation, recouping theories that were inevitably displaced by the literary debates of the past half century, and repositioning texts and their well established lineages (philosophical, literary, poetic, etc.) back into a complex histo rical matrix. In addition to this pleasure, however, remains the task of articulating the historical process of disorientation itself: why and how did we become so disoriented especially regarding theories of aesthetic forms? Responding both to the desire for avoiding the disorientations of our present moment and interrogating the historical forces that caused such disorientations create a dotted line that the following chapters negotiate. I think this is a political task that requires a certain kind of dis orientation in order to reorient both the objects and methods of critical debate. It seems to me that aesthetic theory and the ars in general returned to a decidedly unhappy and conservative position at the close of the last century. The consequence for vo luntarily folding critical thinking about art back into the regime of art appreciation is estimably severe. 2 Ibid 6 7.
11 We know that nothing divides literary disciplines (or departments) quicker than debates regarding the politics of literary form except perhaps the d ebates about about aesthetics. For example, when Marjorie Levinson surveys contemporary academic publications including books, journal articles, and dissertations she po sitions the debates between essentially two ideological camps: reading its original focus on form (traced by these critics to sources foundational for materialist critique e.g., Hegel, Marx, Freud, Adorno, Althusser, Jameson) and (b) those who campaign to bring back a sharp demarcation between history and art, discourse and literature, with form (regarded as the condition of aesthetic experience as traced to Kant i.e., disinteres ted, autotelic, playful, pleasurable, consensus generating, and therefore both individually liberating and conducive to affective social cohesion) the prerogative of art. 3 If upon reading this passage we are tempted to think reductively in terms of anti ca pitalists (a) and capitalists (b), those initial inklings will prove invaluable. Meaning, the power of critiquing systemic inequalities and injustices within social, cultural, and political formations. By way of shorthand we may say artworks and aesthetic theories constitute dissensus or an idea that consists in the notion of a political life being perennially deferred in terms of always being yet to be Here artworks may be said to always dream the day when they are no longer necessary ; the ambition of art is self termination. This means that even when artworks and aesthetic theories are at their steepest degrees of playfulness we find in them perhaps the most endurin g moments of dissensus as they stand over and against alienated configurations of work 3 PMLA 122.2 (March 2007): 558 569, p. 559.
12 Reactionary ideologies seem to suggest that perhaps we are already there and thus art reenters the classism implied in the l'art pour l'art tradition where play no longer mediates a dialectic with work but instead reinforces an autotelic leisure sovereign sandbox. The avoidance of vividly unnecessary inequalities permeates cs of its own that reinscribes these injustices either by ignoring them, leaving them intact and functional, or by invoking a philosophy of reading as grounds for intellectual validation (via beauty, taste, or any number of affiliate categories). All three avenues produce their description, the ideological battle line marks a disagreement regarding the autonomy of art. If art is an autonomous category, then it maintains a Kantian ethic or a deontological duty that becomes trespassed against when it mingles with the lesser degrees of intellect: politics, history, culture, or, more bluntly, everyday life. In this sense the autonomy of art not only severs links between art a nd history, discourse, and politics, but it importantly eclipses all possibility of focusing on the social production of an aesthetic theory or artwork besides its narrow possibility as the exteriorization of an aesthetic theory as claimed in The Critique of Judgment because there Kant memorably coupled aesthetics with the problem of teleology; aesthetics becomes a game of ends since we may only confer judgment upon the aesth etic object according to its reactionary formalisms will tend to discretize aesthetic objects and even aesthetic experiences tion of being in that they are
13 Absolute like nature in their wholeness and completeness as they endlessly strive toward a transcendent universal. Such are the categorical imperatives of reactionary formalism in order to lift aesthetics above everydayness i n the name of the Good. This tends to result in a sufficient problem because, as Fredric Jameson says 4 This is also largel y a narrative problem, which is to say a political problem. If we view modernism as a historical period where the process of modernization was rapidly occurring, then modernism as an aesthetic category produced in reaction to these historical shifts must i nevitably be linked to historical, political, cultural, and other such social forces. Following Perry Anderson, it may be more accurate to say that modernist aesthetic theories and the artworks themselves are lodged between three uneasy coordinates that ma rk this historical industrial, in which the ruling order remained to a significant extent agrarian or aristocratic; a technology of dramatic inventions, whose impact was still fresh or incipient; and an open political horizon, in which revolutionary upheavals of one kind or another against the prevailing order were 5 The ideologies of the aesthetic produced within this constellation of forces will inevitably appear, much like ho w Lukcs appears to Butler, altogether extraordinary when set against the populisms of contemporary criticism. Theories of aesthetics produced within the historical moment of incessant modernization depart sharply from prior systems of philosophical aesth etics due to the 4 Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present (London: Verso, 2002), p. 176. 5 Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity (London: Verso, 1999), p. 81.
14 fact that various modernisms rivaled those inherited systems and the faulty rationalizations they produced (i.e., humanism). As Jameson says, modernism struggles system as such this self cancelling and undermining aesthetics, which now at a second power struggles with itself and limits of its own concepts can be expected to be coterminous 6 Here Jameson importantly returns to Adorn Aesthetic Theory in order to exemplify a speculative aesthetic theory theory that demands a constellatory rotation of its attendant concepts at all times. For example, rethinking the relationship of subject particular necessitates a casca ding drift to occur where the relationships of coherence meaning, universal particular, etc., enigmaticalness and incomprehensibility It seems that Adorno projected the goal y et to 7 For Adorno, this perpetual reshuffling of philosophical concepts, an act which is itself properly aesthetic (a gesture to candidly place theory alongside aesthetics), also maintains the potential to rid aesthetic discussions of two dominant conceptual ordinates: representation and spectatorship. These two concepts dovetail and become magnified proportionally throughout the tw entieth century as they transform into the logics of a tasteful monotony of consumerist 6 Fredric Jameson, The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on the Postmodern, 1983 1998 (London: Verso, 1998), p. 102. 7 Theodor W. Adorno Aesthetic T heory trans. Robert Hullot Kentor (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1998), p. 355.
15 systematized p hilosophies of aesthetics does so in order to generate political strategies for encountering the complications of its present and thus gambles wildly for a different revolutions that mark modernism as a historical period are over, that they hav e finally failed, or belong to a wholly different historical moment, we need only skim through aesthetics (as opposed to, say, theoretical or speculative aesthetics) are back an d somehow maintain more cultural capital than ever expected. Like many other deep historical antagonisms the Cold War, communism, utopianism, etc. modernism was a speed bump that has now passed underneath the great white Cadillac of capitalism as it solidi fied into a world system. What I will argue here is that in retracing the aesthetic theories of American modernism we not only locate strategies to challenge the continuing processes of modernization (on into postmodernization and globalization), we also form a critical history of aesthetic forms. This suggests an avenue for the course of the debates on aesthetics to continue following and perhaps now with more intensity: aesthetic objects and innovations, along with their associated discourses and theorie s, open up to history with the same potential as the history of manufacturing because they are, at bottom, part of cultural production insofar as they exteriorize the invisible forces of sociality; this exteriorization, sometimes referred to as reification needs to be properly dialectical also
16 since thingification carries its own liberating potentiality (i.e., we want to see justice). 8 Capital In the chapter on A critical history of technology would show how lit tle any of the inventions of the eighteenth century are the work of a single individual. As yet such a book does not exist. Darwin has directed attention to the history of natural technology, i.e., the formation of the organs of plants and animals, which s erve as the instruments of production for sustaining their life. Does not the history of the productive organs of man in society, of organs that are the material basis of every particular organization of society, deserve equal attention? And would not such a history be easier to compile, since, as Vico says, human history differs from natural history in that we have made the former, but not the latter? 9 It may be too early to speculate, but one eventual consequence of this method will be that aesthetic inno vations must also be considered as technological innovations. I will say more about this in the conclusion, but for now: modernism seems to be marked by precisely this awareness that art is technics and that aesthetic theories are also technical theories r egarding cultural production. What sharply differentiates Marx from modernism, and postmodernism even further, is that production had not yet become totally motivated by profit and compound growth rates however immanent this horizon appeared. Technics stil l maintained its utopian aspirations for improving the historical and political aspects of life; Marx never disliked technology, he simply disliked the 8 For the dialectical potential of reification see Susan Hegeman, The Cultural Return (Berkeley: U of California P, 2012), pp. 24 subject and object it problematizes in Reification, or the Anxiety of Late Capitalism (London: Verso, 2002), p. 89. 9 Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1 trans. Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin Classi cs, 1990), p. 493.
17 proficiency of human exploitation it made more expedient. Much like the difference between the ideologie s of aesthetics, what makes the world more inhabitable for the we that constitute it is a matter of will and power Unsurprisingly, then, as the initial moments of a postmodern economic system begin to come into focus after WWII, we encounter a figure like Henri Lefebvre crystalizing modernism into its essential category of the possible man, of a qualitative modification in life and culture. We already have the means to demonstrate that this fundamental modification is possible 10 Modernism, as a narrative category of the process of modernization, tells the tale of a negative motivation (will) being installed at the root of all production under finance and corporate capitalism (Adorno an technological innovation of the early twentieth century from Fordism to public relations to cinema we find aesthetic theories and artistic practices that attempt to yield this monotonous process of economic determinism and redirect the will of technics by aesthetical means. Each and every technological innovation opened a new opportunity to conceptualize new modes of cultural production. In this regard, I think we still have much to learn from one of moderni Fountain production of objects; machines may be used to manufacture objects accor ding to a different will and this is an intervention in the history and theory of technics through the lens of aesthetics. A urinal has no malevolent will of its own, nor do other technics like Law. A critical history of aesthetics, 10 Henri Lefebvre, The Critique of Everyday Life: Volume 1 (London: Verso, 1991), p. 249.
18 which is the history of the inherent ambidextrous potential of technics, seems more important now than ever as we produce technologies that are quite successful at un employing workers. In these times it seems wholly predictable that the narrative of modernism still weighs upon t he outcomes of our historical future. Put differently, 11 Put simply, modernism elevated the importance of artistic practice over a nd above thinkers of this phase found the only community available to them: a community of the 12 Impressively, however, these practices do not merely consider isolated technologies for their counter potential, but modernism marks something even more peculiar: the entire totality of social and cultural production is reimagined within the radical singu larity of the art object. In what follows, then, is the examination of the aesthetic theories, artistic practices, and the community of thought developed by a series of American modernist poets who attempt to rethink the totality of cultural production and political life through their aesthetic theories and artistic practices: Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, and Charles Olson. Each of their epic poems attempts to grasp either the entire of arch of history (Pound) or else attempt s to com prehend how historical processes function within scaled metonymies via the household, the neighborhood, and the city (Williams, Zukofsky, and Olson). In all 11 Susan Hegeman, The Cultural Return (Berkeley: U of California P, 2012), p. 39. 12 Raymond Williams, Politics of Modernism ( London: Verso, 1989 ), p. 45
19 instances, the importance is the supposition that poetic production equates with cultural, social, and historical production. The grouping of these artists together has nothing particularly novel about it. However, due to the reactionary debates outlined above much of the scholarship about us neglect the possibility of a critical history of aesthetic forms. 13 My analysis will have little to do with measuring the lineage of poetic techniques because I am responding to a largely he problem is then not to argue some seminal and liberating enablement of the first Cantos as a predecessor of everything from Eliot to Olson to Zukofsky, taking in The Bridge and McAdams in passing, but rather, first to understand how it was the formal id ea of the Cantos that played this fundamental role as detonator, rather than anything in the lines Cantos challenges aesthetic theory not only to think in terms of including history, which is established definition of the epic, but also to attempt to project another historical configuration in its totality through this formal idea. Perhaps this starting point is already dea of form which it is not 14 The following chapters attempt to summon names for this enigmatic difficulty. 13 See Hugh Kenner, The Pound Era (Berkeley: U of California P, 1973); Marjorie Perloff, The Dance of the Intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition ( Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985 ); Bob Perelmen, The Trouble with Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky (Berkeley: U of California P, 1994); Mark Scroggins, Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1998). 14 Fredric Jameson, The Modernist Papers (London: Verso, 2007), p. 18.
20 The periodizing of the C First World War through th vortex as a reaction to the core cultural logics of liberal democracies and strengthening capitalisms. Vorticism becomes a relay for totality and his aesthetic theory performs an important function Pound underscores the importance of art in terms of social organization by turning to artistic pra ctices with none of his ideologies as a necessary ingredient. That Pound turns his aesthetic in the service of fascism does not equate totality with tot alitarianism. In the following C hapters I C hapter 3 international cosmopolitanism. I turn to the New Jersey suburbs to trace how William Carlos Williams develops his response to class and cultural elitism in his work of the 1930s and 1940s. terms stressing the ability of any geographic locale to be the starting point of a new cultural understan ding that must likewise have an equaling new artistic form. The aesthetic for Williams, however, becomes largely a negative operation: Paterson traces a series of blockages and limits that prevent the new culture from taking place. Paterson becomes an arch eological inquiry into the present in order to place all the wrong turns
21 a diagnostic totality of the contradictions of modernity that resulted in Paterson, New Je rsey, experiencing the problems of uneven development and going through the first phases of post industrial decline. Chapter 4 locates Louis Zukofsky in urban 1930s New York as dialectical counter wave modernist, the in Marxism permit him to rethink art production at the level of commodity production. Here Zukofsky charts the symptoms of an irrational capital ism within his artistic output. Throughout this process he also destabilizes prior aesthetic forms. The fugue, sestina, and canzone all pass through the process of modernization in order to carry new social contents of poverty, racism, and the commodity fe tish. By offering a re reading of his A value becomes overlaid onto aesthetic theory and enables art to critically assess a capitalist mode of production, but also re positions art as a negative dialectic to the seemingly fixed gr ooves moving into the 1950s. Chapter 5 positions Charles Olson as a figure who takes the totalizing potential into postmodernism. Olson, a hinge figure between two distinct historical moments, esthetics. In the historical moment of post 1945 U.S. politics, we find Olson arguing against the one dimensional political agendas of the Truman administration, the incorporation of reactionary ideologies into higher education with the New Criticism and a literary publications, and also the erosion of collective thinking especially as it manifests in a dull individualism. His epic Maximus is an intellectual and cultural response to the
22 inevitable closures of U.S. post War hegemo ny: he attempts to invert the totality of the capitalist world state by rehabilitating a human consciousness capable of this maximal task. To do so requires once and for all rethinking aesthetics in terms of and technics which is a roundabout way o detour so many global wrong turns by adopting new practices and methods for producing an inverted semblance of that world. What ensues, then, is a narrative of contradictions and zigzags. This narrative may that attracts the ideological conditions of its historical situation. It is also a concept and social category in desperate need of rehabilitation and reconstruct ion. Meaning, that I am proposing now to reconsider the concept as a vital possibility for critical debate is a symptom pointing to the issues raised throughout the remainder of these pages occurring for us at different degrees. As Adorno skillfully argued a dialectical narrative of contradictions one that exceeds and negates its own concepts and precepts is perhaps a necessary ingredient to move theory and practice back into negation ( dissensus ). As I have been hinting in the course of this introduction, we require methods for reappraising artistic practices in ways that seem completely foreign and unenthusiastic observation in Marxism and Form to us as signs in an all but forgotten code, as symptoms of diseases no longer even recognized as 15 For us, lieve our 15 Fredric Jameson, Marxism and Form (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1971), p. 416.
23 bodies from the constitutive body politic to a debased individualism to be healthy and inoculated from history. That is, for those of us who participate in the discourses of academia itself an incalculable body and impressive technic the problema tic separation of parts from wholes, subjects and objects, and art from history seem s to be endlessly verified in the ideologies of aesthetics and the return to anachronistic humanisms that justify them in the name of the Good.
24 C HAPTER 2 EZRA POUND AND TH E CASE FOR TOTALITY Guide t o Kulchur a text forecasting the degree to which his insanity would reach, clarifies a stance upon which his entire career rests: distinct decadence when interest passes from significance meaning the total significance of a work 1 The itemizing of artworks into an total significance of artworks to degree zero. But the statement project s and performs much deeper operations. First, it functions as a reverberating mandate that undergirds not only his entire artistic production, but also his concurrent aesthetic theory. Timing the pulses of this reverberation opens the possibility of period through the development of his aesthetic theory: Imagism, Vorticism, and proto fascism theory, then, simultaneously produces and requests the pote critics of his work. By the single utterance Pound himself reopens and begets critical reevaluation of his own project: amidst the literature produced on few if any abide by this central mandate. conditioned by the events of his present, opens up a different field entirely where we may reinterpret the total significa nce of his modernism. Raymond Williams articulates the method as inversion in saying, 1 Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur (New York: New Directions, 1970), p. 89.
25 When I hear people talk about literature, describing what so and so did with that form how did he handle the short novel? I often think we should reverse the question and ask, how did the short novel handle him. Because anyone who has carefully observed his own practice of writing eventually finds that there is a point where, although he is holding the pen or tapping the typewriter, what is being written, while not sepa rate from him, is not only him either, and of course this other force is literary form. 2 Williams asks that we approach historical figures and objects differently. Literary forms become the visible manifestations of deep historical and cultural alignments. These historical alignments comprise our interactions with what could be referred to as our world. For example, Pound as a radical reactionary functions as a hinge against the emerging project of liberalism with its celebration of regulation and industria lization. simultaneously a negation of the philosophical outlook his present inherits. Thus we can trace a statement from 1938 back to the onset of vers libre in 1908 as a coherent argument against nominalism. In this C alignments, which his theoretical and critical writings exemplify, to the development of an aesthetic theory that spans decades the 1910 s, 1920s, and 1930s. To mark this the 1910s establish a platform against nominalism through the trope of the vortex and n artistic practitioner in his own right. In the 1920s, alongside various other historical avant gardes, Pound begins to exercise a method of reading cultural objects using the theories of totality and the vortex. Here his aesthetic theory relies on repurp osing artworks so as to illustrate their inner potentiality of restructuring the given world. Further, style becomes entwined with 2 Raymond Williams, Resources of Hope (London: Verso, 1989), p. 85.
26 modes of living that prohibit the separation of aesthetics and politics. Finally, toward the end of the 1920s and into the 19 30s two crucial things happen for Pound: he attempts to solidify his aesthetic theory through the analogy to machine art by recategorizing aesthetics as but he also more emphatically begins his aggressive support of fascism. I read this moment as a third period is the moment of an opening that his modernism fails to realize. By engaging in this periodizing logic, modernism as an event with ambidextrous repercussions. In terms of periodizing canon, against the theorizations that his high modernism argues for, reduces the impact of his aesthetic theory to a set of techniques that other artists then carry into late modernism. To exemplify this type of transposition we can turn to Marjorie Perlo Dance of the Intellect as an Gaudier Brzeska (1916) to Guide to Kulchur (1938) and beyond, Po 3 From the title of the text forward we engage Pound as the originator of an intellectual dance that is absolutely cut off from his inhere nt political polemics and avoids the historical conditioning that informs 3 Marjorie Perloff, Dance of the Intellect ( Cambridge: Cam bridge UP, 1985), p. 22.
27 encyclopedia, the sti 4 placement in the history of modernism, and even that history itself, changes in kind when his own aesthetic formalism is detached from any tendency toward reactionary If my own project prohibits one avenue of reading it also supports another. What I nuances of Pound when he says, ty 5 Parataxis, collage, and fragmentation become symptoms and indexes of history itself. Pound delimits with absolute prohibition the idea of thinking of aesthetics as a reduction in any capacity. Technique, style, and art itself enter sthetic theory is a history of forms, but these forms are also the formation of political worlds not yet idea of art being a productive activity where political imaginati ons find experimental representations becomes paramount. Aesthetics cannot be technique unless it is a technique of encountering the existent and toppling it with severity. This, as we will see the pure ideation of a genealogy of technique that sets up the century to come, but is a 4 Ibid, p. 23. 5 Pound, Kulchur 90.
28 process by which Pound initiates a connection between artworks and the possible encounter of a modified world. Nominalism to Vorticism By 192 7 Pound periodized himself. Looking back over the decades prior, and 6 This moment of a decisive b reak for Pound may exist for a series of simultaneous reasons: the October Revolution throws into relief the problems facing progressive utopias; the project of liberalism in London nears its goal of cultural stultification as it gains momentum since the s caling back of the House of Lords by Parliament in 1911; Wyndham Lewis, a hyperbolic Tory and aggressive counter to the liberal celebration of industrial culture, moves into an official position serving as the painter for both the Canadian and British gove rnments showing that, antithetical to the modern surge of romanticizing potential to turn the current state around; and also T. E. Hulme, the originator of so much of documented and therefore not in need of re capitulation here. 7 But what does merit some attention is the way in which we see Pound echoing Hulme for the rest of his 6 Ezra Pound, Polite Essays (Norfolk: New Directions, 1940), p. 4. 7 PMLA 85.2 (March 1970), 196 204; Sam Further Speculations (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1955) vii xxxi; and Karen The Collected Writings of T. E. Hulme (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994) ix xxxvi.
29 theorizations of the image to the compounding of the image into the vortex, both are namely, nominalism. 8 As if in conversation with the problematic ruins of the ancien rgime Hulme rejected the distance created by the process of signification: if art was to deal with a concept, it was to attempt to deal with the concept directly. Concepts like truth, beauty, and style need to be particul ar matters of fact rather than theoretical constants or universal redundancies. The vortex stands as a metaphor for nominalism: since the Copernican revolution when the self became the center of the universe another counterrevolution radically reactionary became necessary to rescale the placements and hierarchies that hung on like remainders after so many centuries of metaphysical thought. These remainders, heaped into a pile of concepts, are for the London artists of the time, the current condition of neo romanticism and neo sentimentalism. Thus we will notice in Pound how abstraction drifts into two distinct varieties: in a negative sense, it is a condition of absol produces (complexity) whil e philosophy reduces (simplicity). Philosophy, and particularly metaphysics, categorizes and isolates concepts as always already known 8 s indescribable, that is, not reducible to counters; and particularity it is impossible to include it all under one large counter such as The Collected Writings of T. E. H ulme (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994), p. 9.
30 beforehand. Pound would likewise argue vehemently against modern semiology: the ideology of language as a method of conne cting and experiencing particular matters of fact is subsumed by abstract categories (i.e., signifieds). The vortex, however, aims toward a massive simultaneity of particulars by reintroducing the trope of movement : how to again start forming relationships and reconnecting particulars to various new potentials; how to again think of art in terms of producing the world This has local effects in terms of language within poetry but it also carries farther reaching effects when applied to a concept like heard the previous year in Berlin. Vital art becomes tied with classical art and continues up through the Renaissance in the reduplicat ion of life forms: mimesis Geometric art is aligned with archaic, Byzantine, and Egyptian art that serves a different set of mental needs that do not reach satisfaction in the replication of life (vitality) as it strives for new relationships to be formed : abstraction Or, as Hulme says in terms with more currency: realism using these words in their widest sense and entirely excluding the mere 9 Geometr ic art, then, is a symbolic expression stemming from nominalism; severed from any materialist determinism, geometric art is an attitude that 9 Ibid, 273.
31 runs counter and parallel to vitalism. Geometric art stems from a lineage of gradual breakdown in unified beliefs, fundamental insecurity with the present world. o include an alignment with past geometric arts in order to repeat or modernize previous artistic strategies that enable the artist to exert new ideational and relational constructs in the distorted and untotalizable world. This type of repetition is emble matized in 10 Nominalism is not merely an existing outlook on the world, but a problem to work through. Hulme projects an unhappy situation due to nominalism that his early interest in Bergsonism demonstrates: eventually a dead end, the early attempt sought to unfix moored particularities and sets out to do is precisely to identify the coordinates that are no lo nger acting as connectors: language is disconnected from action due to its sedimentation as reality; style is disconnected from specific modes of living as a byproduct of industrial capitalism through the increase of consumer and business societies; and th ought is disconnected from its capacity to ideate relationships because of a reliance on metaphysical concepts. Hulme, however, demonstrates a dialectical potential of nominalism: If we take this to be in fact the new sensibility, and regard it as the cul mination of the process of breaking up and transformation in art, that has 10 Pound, Kulchur 112.
32 been proceeding since the impressionists, it seems to me that the history of the last twenty years becomes more intelligible. It suddenly enables one to look at the matter in a new light. 11 What Hulme points us to is a paradoxical dilemma for the modern artist. Previous vitalistic arts eliminated the gap entirely between art and life. Art could do no other than be life For example, we need only think of the classical story of a conte st between Zeuxis and Parrhasius to narrate such a stance. In this scenario there is no room for new life forms to be ideated in art other than the ones that already exist in life. And here and logic: against the intransitive verb, abstraction in terms of philosophical generalization and dislocation from a totalized system, Aristotelian syllogisms, and academicism, which he defines as ides f ixes as to how one shall make 12 But a geometric art, on the other hand, forges a gap between existing life forms and potential their reevaluation and repurposing as a result of a los s of fixity and conceptual concreteness. In short, one way to counteract nominalism will be through deploying nominalism itself as a strategy. Since the world is incapable of being totalized in age of this predicament and it will do so through parataxis, fragmentation, ideograms, etc. but the goal must be to overcome the reality of the existing. In order to be a modernist as Hulme presents it the artist must simultaneously be cognizant of nominal ism as a 11 Hulme 279. 12 Ezra Pound, Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony (Chicago: P. Covici, 1927), p. 25.
33 historical situation and deploy nominalism as a strategy to ideate oneself out of the harness of the existing. ng. He posits Lewis and Pound as essentially performing a double negation of their contemporary options and thus opens a middling trajectory via Vorticism: Vorticism as I have presented it has oscillated between attacking the Futurist mimesis of life and autonomy of art which would seem to be the only alterative to mimesis. It attacks both because it wants an autonomous formal art that would nonetheless involve a loop back, a return to life. 13 According to D asenbrock, the attack on life proposed by the Vorticists accuses not life itself but the values honored in modern life. But I disagree with what Dasenbrock targets as the result of this operation. For him the dialectical move occurs on behalf of the reader 14 This stance permits the spectator to re stance 15 affective spectator and away from the essential constructivist nature of Vor ticism. The for the spectator. Rather, it is the preoccupation of the artist as creator to negate the 13 Reed Way Dasenbrock, The Literary Vorticism of Ezra Pound & Wyndham Lewis: Toward s the Condition of Painting (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP), 1985. p. 73. 14 Ibid, 74. 15 Ibid, 74.
34 problems of modern life and to establish new methods of thinking that anticipates ahead of the spectator and non 16 aesthetic formalism in terms of his theory of form within a historical field with a formalist method of reading artworks because it is here, I believe, that so many readings affective, and thoroughly subjective, responses fro m the spectating reader. If there is constructed and produced. Because the dialectic resides here, as a differential process of construction, simultaneously disciplining and liberating forces without finality. Gaudier Brzeska (1916), we need to bear in mind the framework of a dialectical nominalism and also the alignment with geometrical art that purports a notion of abst raction based on the opening of a gap conditions. Gaudier like Vorticism itself, is conditioned by World War I: Henri Gaudier Brzeska dies in the trenches, while Lew is serves in the artillery and Hulme joins the relationship with Lewis coupled with the War, is that Pound becomes aggressively polemical against everything under the umbrella of that which prohibits the new art from its realization. But we must simultaneously link this call for a new art as a metonymic as negation of the existing, must extrapolate o ut into an anticipated whole that the artwork can only 16 Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (New York: New Directions, 1934), p. 73.
35 anticipate. Ever a coincident movement, art subtracts in order to exceed the present. As if this was somehow negligent in the original text of 1916, Pound supplements the text in 1934 a continued pract ice throughout his career 17 The metaphor of the sculptor is adept for more reason than one: it presents an image of hacking off unnece ssary pieces of stone which in turn necessitate the beginning of a new civilization, but it also reintegrates art into a complex system wherein it cannot be identified as a localizable part art, stone, and civilization must interlock. Art must exist as, an d within, the vortex. In need of extrapolation, then, are the principles of construction developed in Gaudier For as nave as Pound may seem, he begins in his Vorticism to attempt to provide a theory of forms that would enable the constitution of a negate d present. It is an Imagism radicalized; we are not only dealing with poetry, but we are dealing with a beyond of poetry. 18 Pound searches for a way to reintegrate art as a part of a much larger complex. We thus encounter three strategies in Gaudier : 1) in accordance with historically congealed vitalist forms; 2) this mobilization occurs by placing forms back into spatial relationships and leads to new linguistic structu res and differentiated concepts; 3) as a summation of the previous two, Pound stresses a notion of aesthetic forms that gamble on the impact of overturning the idea of form as a noun into a verb. In 17 Ezra Pound. Gaudier Brzeska: A Memoir (New York: New Directions, 1970), p. 140. 18 We sh visual and sensual perceptions and lost its power of abstraction t hat Pound and Hulme had originally relationships to come into being via a superpositioning of forms.
36 short, what Gaudier sets up for Pound, and which we will follow throughout his career in the 1920s and the turn toward the 1930s, especially through his advocating Ernest turning form into forming This last point will be unpacked more thoroughly in the next section of this essay. The argument should be made, however, that Gaudier is a text where Pound performs a two fold operation: he galvanizes historical documents to remember his deceased friend, but he also uses this incident t o stage a polemic against the reigning theories of art (which are always metonymic and symptomatic for the conventions of the present civilization). Everything that maintains contact with and supports the existing art, even tangentially, must be disparaged This leads Pound to formulate perhaps the exact create, whether it be a discovery of unknown rivers, a solution of engineering, a 19 Pound follows the class of American entrepreneurs and engineers yet signals a strict demarcation: entrepreneurship should have nothing to do with the amassing of capi tal, imperialism, nor the expansion of a business society. 20 Entrepreneurs and artist engineers are a special class of citizen who 19 Pound, Gaudier 122. 20 roduction and a thinking. On the one side are the archaic, preindustrial minded businessmen and their minions, the attorneys, clerks, clerics, sportsmen and military. On the other are the engineers, scientists, technicians, and industrial workers, a confederation whose way of thinking accords with evolutionary change and has Shifting Gears: Technology, Literature, Culture in Modernist America ( Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1987 ), p. 133.
37 promote the incessant change of a civilization by restructuring social arrangements and extending the capacities of the sovere ign individual. This individual is not cut off or secluded from culture, nor from other individuals; rather the entrepreneurial individual is an active forming agent directly involved in, and responsible for, the conditions of the present world. Technocrat ic and bureaucratic modes of governing thus stifle the production of new forms of living through regulation: import and export tariffs, censorship, passports, copyright laws, etc. Government, to conclude, should serve the artist engineer and exists solely res publica 21 present, by denigrating the role of the artist through rising consumerism that necessitates an abject dislocation f rom active cultural formation due to hyperbolic compartmentalization and particularization, submits to the reign of nominalism and cannot permit anything akin to his always totalizing and always oscillating vortex that denies a part to whole logic. When Po that processes forms i.e., planes in relation we need to apply this method of creation hatchings to exemplify form as creation equates mathematics and art. In a seemingly odd moment, Pound describes the different cases of mathematics. All of the cases cited produce an identical situation on both sides of the equal sign until one reaches a spatialized 21 Over a decade later, Pound will use the Harding memorial stamp (issued 1923) as an image of the death (less than a month), was purchased in mass quantities as America generally equated Harding to Lincoln at the time. This, for Pound, marks a baleful waste of efficiency and validates his opinions corruption soon after.
38 mathematics via Cart esian analytical geometry: ( x a ) + ( y b ) = r Through the actually to create 22 Rather than particularize the circle by reducing it to generalized laws and examining only its ru les for existing, Pound here attempts to emphasize its reintegration into a larger complex system, a vortex. Mathematics is dull ditchwater until one reaches analytics. But in analytics we come upon a new way of dealing with form. It is in this way that a rt handles life. The difference between art and analytical geometry is the difference of subject matter only. Art is more interesting in proportion as life and the human consciousness more complex and more interesting than forms and numbers. 23 Analytical ge ometry establishes a complex equation whose rules govern facts; this equation of a circle governs over all circles at all moments, but it also graphs creates a circle within space that is automatically located in a larger field of complex relationships. Th erefore, a form is created that is flexible, mutable, and recurring without producing a self same replication since one cannot exhaust the constructive possibilities of a spatial relational circle. More succinctly, Pound sees in analytical geometry, distin ct from Euclidean geometry, the ability to rethink the forming of a circle by placing it back as an essential variable; rather than have a single rule that governs limits (Pound uses the Pythagorean theorem as example) we have, instead, an equation that en ables the construction of all circles upon which we may build And, following Pound, penultimate to this act, we must underscore the analogy he strives to make in terms of art and life : art handles life by placing its forms back in extension, back into a field of complex relationships that may always be added to and subtracted from. 22 Ibid, 91. 23 Ibid, 91.
39 By way of a convoluted analogy, Pound defines the vortex via mathematics. The vortex is an odd equation t hat has nothing to do with equivocation or equality of the 24 of the entrepreneurs of prior civilizations, is to cause new forms to come into existence; these forms abide by an extensive metonymy that projects a modified world. This is why, if we permi t Hulme to continue to reverberate, a vitalist art must be negated: inherent to mimesis is a project of stasis and duplication of life forms while in abstract art we enter a space of perpetual intensification that is properly relational between the part an or cluster; it is what I can, and must perforce, call a VORTEX, from which, and through 25 The image, then, is totality. T he vortex, as metaphor and conceptual emblem, negates the logic of particularization that Pound sees fostering ever quicker in his historical moment. The swappable terms image vortex deny the opportunity to sever any single node as an isolatable part from the totality. And, as Frank Lentricchia asserts, we need think the vortex in its essential elements in superposition, not a representation of particularity but a pha lanx of particularity the military etymology is important: a cultural weapon, something like a 26 Far from 24 Ibid, 92. 25 Ibid, 92. 26 Frank Lentricchia, Modernist Quarte t ( Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994 ), p. 196
40 being an isolatable artistic technique zing vortex becomes a cultural strategy Again, if we return to the postscript that Pound adds decades later, the gravity of the break made possible by Vorticism becomes more evident. After noting that the 27 meant a complete revaluation of form as a means of expressing nearly everything else, or shall we say of form as a means of expressing the fundamentals of everything, or shall we say of form as expressing the specif ic weights and values of total 28 As if to summarize all the points of the text written decades prior that had perhaps not made a sufficient impression, Pound here emphasizes the constructive element intrinsic to re vitalizing an entirely dif ferent sense of art and life: both terms, seen as a dialogical process with one another, constitute forms. He closes by way of finalization: the revolution was a three dimensional assertion of a complete revaluation of life in general, of human life in particular, of man against necessity, by which I include social and physical necessity and there is, of course, in the long run no social necessity. What we call social n ecessity is nothing but the temporary inconvenience caused us by the heaped up imbecilities of other men, by the habits of dull and lazy agglomerate of our fellows, which sodden mass it is up to the artist to alter, to carve into a fitting shape, as he hac ks off unwanted corners of marble. 29 Artists as entrepreneurs, as the elite class of persons who negate the reification of concepts and the privileging of objects as particularities or fixed singulars, perform their role of social change in forecasting ways out of the present as distortion and placing 27 Pound, Gaudier 141. 28 Ibid, 144. 29 Ibid, 144.
41 this present within a much more encompassing constellation of fluctuations. However from sociality and his intrinsic sexi sm through a proposed clan of artist men leaders, these problems are not necessarily wed to his proposition. Or rather, if he thinks they are, his contemporaries pro ve him wrong. As the following C hapters will show, this proposition of setting historic par ticulars into a n elastic simultaneous present can be turned on its head until placed right side up. But here we want to establish the basis upon which Pound produces a theory of aesthetic forms. And to be sure, this aesthetic theory is based on the idea o f a present progressive a forming that dismantles the concepts of classic aesthetics itself; at the sentence level Pound will slide from art to economics to government in a single breath. merge from, but instead rotate with increasing speed within: if the modern world is compartmentalized and conceptualized through increasing nominalization, then artists must not only account for this problem of separation, but must set this isolated proble m within a more encompassing paradigm: the vortex supposes to do exactly this by setting nominalism into motion. If we turn nominalism around enough as a child turns a kaleidoscope, even upside down, perhaps we will come to see it is an interconnected part within the totality as vortex that permits new relationships to be formed. The break of 1917 thus marks Form as Forming Seemingly unexpected, Ezra Pound translates Remy de Gourmon The Natural Philosophy of Love in 1922. The translation of a Symbolist poet at this time for Pound seems quite odd: normally during this most famous year we focus on the first of the
42 The Waste Land Ulysses all of which seem to mark a three at this time, especially after Gaudier iation of Symbolism for thinking in terms of everlasting constants instead of variables, appears contradictory. Indeed, Pound was still traversing interesting niches of the European avant gardes: his already being used by Dudley Murphy in cinematographic experiments that led to Ballet Mchanique in 1924; Man Ray also engaged in, and modified, the experiments to become photograms, or Dadaphone No. 7 from London in support of the stranded Dadaists in Zurich. Within this context it should then not be uscular splendour; man, 30 Experimentation, then, becomes the preeminent necessity that Pound places at the forefront of his modernism. Indeed, experimentation stems from an innate biological need for correction and growth. Perhaps this permits a better understanding around this time when he engages with Francis Picabia. 31 30 Ezra Pound The Natural Philosophy of Love Pavannes and Divagations (New York: New Directions, 1958), p. 205. 31 See Guide to Kulchur Pound says, ; and again, s Picabia
43 Gourmont, like Picabia, produces a specific style 32 according to Po resounds from artistic experimentation. This notion of experimentation denies any at the species changes as suddenly as a man makes a song or poem, or as suddenly as he starts 33 As in the previous reading of Gaudier translating, f orces a caveat to be maintained: what we are also reading is a situational dissimilar from our contemporary notion of fashions changing due to consumer production or even a me thod of literary ornamentation. There is nothing stylized in clear idea, no law, no society having a decent order, no amenity, no clean relation with things, idea, or peop 34 vortex as totality, terms create tides of homologies or chains of supplements. In short, 32 as I am a Beautiful Monster: Poetry, Prose, and Provocation (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), p. 420. 33 34 Ezra Pound, Machine Art & Other Writings: The Lost Thought of the Italian Years (Durham: Duke UP, 1996), p. 121.
44 generation or the n to understand why a tolerance for slipshod expression in whatever department of writing gradually leads to chaos, munitions profiteers, the maintenance of wholly unnecessary misery, omnip 35 Here connections at all moments not so much to comprehend, but at least to acknowledge the complex system of b eliefs defining the world. Style, as Pound says elsewhere, must explanation of Shakespeare will shed greater light on the reader and initiate him to a higher degree of percept 36 Rather, style is world. parallel wi th Vorticism. What Fenellosa underlines for Pound is the relational attributes found within the idea of the ideogram. The essay argues for the ideogram on three fronts: 1) ideographic writing places words in relation to one another since the graphic word a s image occupies both the position of a noun and a verb in distinctive mood and thereby prohibits the idea of a noun or verb in isolation; 2) the ideogram exemplifies the ability of language to be other than arbitrary and symbolic, traits that lead to phil osophy 35 Ibid, 122. 36 Pound, Polite Essays 18.
45 and academicism; 37 3) the ideogram forces us to see that alphabetic language relies on false relationships through empty copulas found in intransitive verb structures relying on orm and demonstrates the ability of language to create rather than be acted upon: verbs and nouns converge in their indication of action rather than simply classify cases or types. anguage is 38 What the Fenellosa essay demonstrates, moreover, is the ability to rest an entire worldview on the perception of language. He notes the mistakes of Western metaphysics in saying, Let us consider a row of cherry trees. From each of these in turn we which we may express to gather by the name cherry or cherry ness. Next we place in a second table several such characteristic concepts: cherry, rose, sunset, iron rust, flamingo. From these we abstract some further evident that this process of abstraction may be carried on indefinitely and with all sorts of material. We may go on forever building pyramids of 39 There looms an intrinsic weakness to this type of thinking for Fenellosa: the logic of classification disallows any new relation ships to be formed and forefends any 37 Jacques Derrida articulates the impact of the essay and elaborates on the significance of this point: dislocating, through access to another system linking speech and writing, the foun ding categories of language and the grammar of the e pistm This is the meaning of the work of Fenellosa whose influence upon Ezra Pound and his poetics is well known: this irreducibly graphic poetics was, with that of Mallar m the first break in t he most entrenched Western tradition. The fascination that the Chinese Of Grammatology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1974), p. 92. 38 Ernest Fenellosa and Ezra Pound, The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry: A Critical Edition (New York: Fordham UP, 2008), p. 55 39 Ibid, 56.
46 potentiality for growth the pyramid grows in size but prohibits any alteration to its primary shape. This lack indexes precisely the goal of poetry. Subsequently poetry that relies on proper grammatical structures is in deed not poetry: no intransitive copulas g style. It is not a technique but a method for interacting in the world. This style rests the world at the level of the sentence. The crafting of sentences becomes the blurring of the line between action and expression. Just as lightning is a sentence, Fe nellosa describes lightning as natural process can be less than this. All natural processes are, in their units, as much 40 The poet maps the interaction of units as they function like connectors. In the attempts to articulate how these transfers of power from the sentence level down to the economic function in an expansive socio hist orical context. We will revisit this notion of style again at the start of the 1930s when Pound begins his own review with The Exile while in Rapallo. Before reaching these texts I sive texts on George Antheil: Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony 1930). 41 from an interpretation of musical expression we gain an angle of entry into restructuring 40 Ibid, 47. 41 Published in The New Review 1932, Pound composes the essay as uncondensed and unabridged.
47 the conditions of factory work; from this transition we anticipate the possibility of active sense of forming These moments come not before or after one another as they are all manifests itself not only in his artistic output, which the Cantos symbolize, but also in his modernism at large. garde circles in the early 1920s in Paris Company the Thtre des Champs lyses on October 4, 1923. This, however, is completely beside the point for Pound who, along with many Cubists, Surrealists, and members of Dada, participated in the concert riot. Antheil, who had already written about his theory of time space for The Little Review Transatlantic Review 42 for Pound organize existing modern noise and 42 The qualms between Antheil and Pound seem to be symptoma tic of a clashing of egos. In his now that the poet has fallen into disgrace. But, I emphasize, I would write these pages exactly this way if Ezr a had become an international hero instead. For from the first day I met him Ezra was never to have he merely wanted to use me as a whip with whi ch to lash out at all those who disagreed with him, particularly the Anglo Saxons; I would be all the more effective in this regard because I was an Bad Boy of Music (Garden City: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1945) p. 119.
48 off ers a way to get music out of the concert hall and into the factory. Pound has little in method of reading that, as we will see, he carries over to other non artistic figur es like go between for the production of new forms of life. Antheil as charlatan, who would brandish a revolver from a custom made jacket pouch before sitting to play, h as zero seizing the potentialities their expressions make possible. This distinction between artistic intention and invention attempts to posit the artwork in terms artist as subjective interpreter. In its place, Pound offers the artist as an engineer of Ballet Mechanique we emerge into a wide r circle of reference. I mean that this work definitely takes music out of the concert hall, meaning thereby that it deals with a phase of life not hitherto tackled by musicians and freighted before the act with reference to already existing musical refere 43 Pound locates in Antheil a way to carry out a specific task: the ability to reintegrate art at the level of inquiring into, and the production of, new life forms. Out of the concert hall, out of the museum, art will rejoin with its essential capacit y as work. Ballet Mcanique attempts to include all the noises, notes, and sounds of contemporary sociality: propellers, bells, sirens, xylophones, player pianos, etc. The simulta neity of all these sounds, their very overlapping and conversational aspects, demonstrates that a 43 Ezra P ound, Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony (Chicago: P. Covici, 1927), pp. 145 6.
49 musical organization like the fugue appears to be reappearing and undergoing the process of modernization. Music exits the concert hall the graveyard of music for Pound because of its false interaction with sociality and re enters the complex arena of the socio stretches art forms to include the problems of the present. If we could perform t he Cantos they would likely resemble Ballet Mcanique Relocating music from the concert hall to the factory produces two ramifications. First, Antheil composes with the sounds of machines not to copy them but in order to illustrate their organizational ca shows, can be controlled. 44 demonstrate for Pound the potential for a music that would last the length of a workday. Second, the topic and plac its capitalist logic of segmentation and subsegmentation the factory symbolizes the malevolent force of particularization and rejection of totality; the factory is nominalization. This permits Pound to ideate discordant paradoxes. For example, Henry Ford as capitalist dynamo is therefore rejected while Ford as unconscious theorist of tempo and sonority through the production of a distinct type of line gains value not in terms of form itself, bu t as the producer of possible forms. Pound requires an inherently inseparable separation: we may bifurcate Ford as capitalist and Ford as engineer (i.e., 44 frantically, I had no idea (as did Honegger and Mossolov, for example) of copying a machine directly down into music, so to speak. My idea, rather, was to warn the age in which I was living of the Bad Boy 140). This distinction assists i romanticizing and spiritualizing of machines they find in Futurism.
50 of this fact Perhaps now we can modify the narrative present thus far: the symptoms of industrialist than anti nominalist. What Pound projects into the figure of Antheil is the musician as engineer. This reading assis ts in locating the moment of discord between the two: Antheil saw himself playing the part of cultural warning sign while Pound repositions him as cultural engineer. A Poundian artist must always perform the negating operation, but then also supplement thi s act with a movement beyond the limits negated. And, as stated before, encountering cultural objects. Beginning a few years after his Antheil text, Pound attempts to formulate a succinct theory of forms that reads as a summative envelope of projection that the new art will become machine based gains nuance, and Pound comes out of the experimen significant turn for Pound similar to that in Gaudier ideate a cohesive aesthetic stance and he will do so by attempting to reverse the logic of industry. This destroys the idea of art as imitation, all the psychologisms inherent in the idea of beauty, an 45 Moreover, the machine, with its incredible array of parts that all work in harmony to perform a precise function, becomes yet another avenue for Pound to attempt to relay his complex totality image vortex. There is a cons 45 Pound, Machine Art 9.
51 of all history, and the orchestration of somehow enabling everything to speak at once. A Pound demonstrates this interest in machines as a metaphorical apparatus in his early associations with Hulme and the Vorticists. In Gaudier Pound noted that expressions of efficiency and then inse 46 These comments derive from two machinery in the spirit, and with the methods of existing art, but of the creation of a new art having an organization, and governed by principles, which are at present exemplified unintentionally, as it 47 The machine, then, functions by way of another elaborate analogy for the contemporary outlook that modern art exercises toward machines opposes a instantiation and institutionalization as a strand of reified modernism the slow turn toward late modernism with Al but we must 48 The second influence, as Cecelia Tichi highlights, comes from 46 Pound, Gaudier 26. 47 Hulme, T. E. Hulme 282. 48 Machine Art (MoMA March 6 to April 30, 1934), Alf red J. Barr, Jr. and Philip Johnson (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1934. Reprint by MoMA, 1994).
52 xim: literary critic, linguist, inventor of the 49 Pound The Science of Poetry and the Philosophy of Language (1910), publishes for the first time ideas about abstract mathematics that he later substantiates in Gaudier 50 The importance, how machine in order to restructure society. Leibnizian monads for 51 To attempt to differentiate between the existing and the threshold of what is possible, Pound deploys the machine in a strict metaphorical and analogical sense only. Celebrating and romanticizing the machine to adopt them as isolated forms falls prey lan of speed and the spiritual dynamism of motion. Machines, and specifically m otors, permit a tangible demonstration of the vortex totality. The analogy cascades relationships: machines are ensembles of particularities that perform precise functions. These particularities, while still maintaining their sovereignty a bolt continues t o bolt participates in a larger ensemble. This larger construction, the machine, establishes a harmony of precision and function as more advanced tasks are carried out. All of which, 49 Tichi, Shifting Gears 93 95. 50 Ezra Pound, Selected Prose: 1909 1965 (London: Faber & Faber, 1973), p. 331. 51 Pound, Machine Art 77.
53 it bears emphasizing, underscore themes of convenience and the prowess of the engineering mind. Machines, as a corollary to art, deny any associations with the cult of beauty. In Antheil the painting of a painting. The lesson of machines is precisi 52 Beauty, a substitution symptom for the inability of art to be thought in terms of functioning components. Outside consumerism, thinking about machines in their abstract capacity to potentiate form in motion we are brought almost suddenly to our second set of perceptions. I mean from considering a space art which never ceases to be a space art, we find 53 Once we set form in motion as forming we confront a spatial arrangement of forms. This spatial arrangement is not a result of machine expression ; machines do not express t ime and recurrence as poetry is said to express emotion. Expression for Pound must be thought of as a definite entity in itself. Poundian machines express a strain of forces: machines, like music, force us to rethink our lived relationships to time and rec urrence. Ballet Mcanique is not the expression of chaos or any eschatology. This would exemplify thinking of expression in terms of substitution by expressing something else Instead An theil offers a chance to comprehend the dynamic intersection of forces of 52 Pound, Antheil 52 53 Pound, Machine 71.
54 mathematical strains which the musical act demonstrates capable of organizing. The harmonization of chaotic and simultaneous noises is a clear demonstration that factories maintain t his identical potential modification. The goal, or aesthetic end, in Pound moves always quickly beyond a traditional notion of expression: he begets a including any immediate affective relationship formed by the artwork. id problems of personality and feeling is also a consider it as having a plastic: concerned with its form in motion. This form you may consider in relation to its apt 54 metaphor is the repeating decimal: great art continues articulating its problems throughout history so long as the in ner tensions remain intact. Aligning art with machines a spatial arrangement of strains indifferent to subjective interpellations necessitates a type of inquiry that follows new lines of questioning: what does the artwork produce what remains unresolved w ithin it, and what field of objects does it interconnectedness, refuses the idea of isolation: art participates, and moreover, forms culture through machine investigations. Pound establishes a sinuous line: beginning 54 Ibid, 70.
55 with the renunciation of traditional aesthetics, he repositions the impact of machine plastics to overhaul present civiliz ation: It is possible that machinery will lead men to cooperate more sanely, and break up a too virulent concept of private property, in so far as that concept imbecile enough to produce our current bureaucracy, copyright villainy, customs cretinism and paraphernalia, will merely fall into the pit of Byzantinism. 55 pure supposition he is gambli ng on the side of machines. haphazardly in the wrong here, but his point relies upon following how objects emit forces for new and as yet unrealized relationships. Machines, then, li act like so many starting points successive castigations of all things existing require that we see it as a double movement: his negation of the present is also a positive stance t owards the possibility of absolute modification. Abiding by the role of the artist engineer as the experimenter of the modern Pound attempts at every turn to demonstrate how art, if it is to be of any use must open a moment for amendments to existing soci ety it must produce a new potential Each artwork as a machine carries the characteristics of a Lebnizian monad by becoming a pure expression of a possible world. The Exile Running four issues between 1927 and 1928, accompanying his theorizations of machines of the same period, these docu ments from Rapallo enable Pound to take full editorial control and lay 55 Ibid, 77.
56 bare his project. Moreover, Pound amplifies his notions of expression and style by way Apart from the social aspect he was of interest, technically, to serious writers. He never wrote a sentence that has any interest in itself, but he evolved almost a new medium, a sort of expression half way between writing and action. This was a definite creation, as the Napoleonic code was eliminate it as fast as possible. 56 ceeds the limits of maintain the capacity for absolute change. Lenin, an engineer operating with sentences, vented a new medium, 57 The equivocation of the expression of forms and the actualization of forms as modes of political life define Pound and M odernism career emphasizes this requirement: Gaudier hacks off marble to construct a new civilization, Gourmont exteriorizes forms to alter the species, Antheil handles noise in order to restructure factory work, and Lenin, the most unlikely example for Pound, ideates a new mode of expression that rids us of bureaucratic inconveniences. All of to and style to world. 56 Bureaucracy The Exile 4 (Autumn 1928), pp. 6 7. 57 Ibid, 116.
57 support of Benito Mussolini, is the belief that artist engineers must engage political life. that noun and verb converge, forever requires style as action. Style, then, like form requires the potential hazard by confusing the idea of politics itself. The process of world building leads to his own undoing. And this, we should note, becomes a synecdoche for modernisms. Jacques Rancire assists in demarcating the consequences of such a move and with politics What art, as both noun and verb, encounters is the police Rancire says of the police: The police is thus first an order of bodies that defines the allocation of ways of doing, ways of being, and ways of saying, and sees that those bodies are assigned by name to a particular place and task; it is an order of the visible and the sayable that sees that a particular activity is visible and another is no t, that this speech is understood as discourse and the other as noise. 58 The police become associated with law through the embodiment of the existing Capitalism begins to exert pressure and co nsign art the nonplussed position as an expression of consumable personality; no more can the work be a definite entity of creation: it must express something other it must become a substitutable expression a fetish of consumerism. The artist, then, must become a non participant of consumer 58 Jacques Rancire, Disagreement (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1999), p. 29.
58 culture and embody an expression against police logic. This monadic anti culture stance is dialectic in itself because one must not about face culture absolutely; this turn must initiate the avenue to build a new cultur extremely determined activity antagonistic to policing: whatever breaks with the tangible configuration whereby parties and parts or lack of them are defined by a presumption that, by definition, has 59 Pound, as artist and theorist of the arts, aims toward a total reintegration of parts and wholes. By these definitions, however, Rancire prohibits the coercion of politics by police: the two must forever be antagonistic and never overlap. Policed politics forgoes the political and political police speaks impossibility. another traceable line exists that would confound it at each and every step: his developing anti Semitism starting in Blast Jefferson and/or Mussolini a flat icism of style. Oh, 60 Style occupies precisely this double position of politics and police; it is as if Pound conflates politics/police to become an inseparable set of tensions in superposition. But simply b aground due to this convergence does not forecast the same fate for other modernisms. nin exemplifies the type of 59 Ibid, 29 30. 60 Ezra Pound, Jefferson and/or Mussolini (New York: Liveright, 1935), p. 17.
59 separation involved via inversion. Pound, absolute despiser of Bolshevism and all police and thereby locates a political mo de of expression All Pound admits with some lucidity a problem in a 1962 interview with Donald Hall in the Paris Review Pound is asked if his own style precise expression enabling the constitution of a better world 61 Pound notes a certain level of ambidextrousness to his modernism. And we know well the trajectory his modernism followed. But this does not prohibit, and it did not prohibit, a continuation that did not veer, that did not confuse the political with the police. 62 modernism implies abo ut modernisms as we have inherited them. As Pound says, the distinguishing moment is the ability to not sign on the dotted line for the opposition to and to maintain the political tic theory as a direct confrontation to a closed world. Vorticism, from the historical avant garde to the economic fall out that reconfigures 61 Paris Review 28 (1962), p. 41. 62 Ibid, 48.
60 period, I would argue, must not be periodized by Pound himself. The Exile marks a moment of handing off the baton: Pound relays to a second generation of modernists who continue his modernism by simultaneously rectifying and yet still retaining what is cor rect at its core. If a table of contents may be read symbolically, the third issue of The Exile contains an insightful desperation becomes clear. Quite simply: I want a ne w civilization. We have the basis for a new poetry, and for a new music. The government of our country is hopelessly low brow, there are certain crass stupidities in administration that it is up to the literate members of the public to eradicate. Vo i l tou t. 63 trying to force his Cantos or we may let them stand as a hazard sign and look to the artists he recruits to be the next P oundians. Perhaps then we can begin to understand the paradoxical move Pound makes in The Exile : a Lithuanian Jew, Louis Zukofsky, becomes appointed as head of the first th e apparatus to encounter a thoroughly Marxist concept of forms. But Pound went mad; this should never be argued against. The reason for his recklessness is curious still. He traversed many false and incorrect paths from usury, to monetary reforms, to fascism but his attempt to establish the vortex as a method for reconstructing and rearranging gains traction. The epic, and indeed the task of poetry after Pound, aims toward representing the complex series of relationships and processes of exchange th at constitute modernity. As we will see, none of the politics, or 63 The Exile 3 (Spring 1928), p. 108.
61 method. Many would be able to see in a young Pound that his project was set to derail. And many did. Per haps this is why the idea of totality is maintained within the epics that come after, but the political trajectories and the contents of the projects traverse along altogether different tracks whose destinations include suburban New Jersey, urban New York, and Black Mountain, North Carolina. A contradiction doubles back on itself repeatedly as Pound will become to others what Lenin was to Pound. In 1946, while interviewing Pound during his trial for Twice a Year an exasperated and frustrated Charles Olson Double of our day. He is the demonstration of our duality. In language and form he is as forward, as much the revolutionist as Lenin. But in social, economic and political action he is as 64 We should merely emphasize the doubling for now. 64 Charles Olson, Charles Olson & Ezra Pound: An Encounter at St. Elizabeths ed. Catherine Se elye (New York: Grossman, 1975), p. 53.
62 CHAPTER 3 WILLIAM CARLOS WILLI AMS AND THE MODULATION OF PLACE see two elements in the scholars hip on Williams come together into a diagnostic totality. The idea of reading his modernism in the form of a diagnostic, as Brian Bremen has argued in William Carlos Williams and the Diagnostics of Culture opens the possibility of situating Williams in a thoroughly social, if not cultural, trajectory. The idea of reading modernism in terms of a diagnostic seems quite productive. Here we could combine contradictions t 1 Modernism becomes a historical period defined by its continued, and often extreme, experience of and response to the processes of modernity itself. These experiences and responses become the raw material for the intellectual and artistic experiments carried out by modernist p ractitioners. These experiments, for us, still carry significant echoes in that they delineate a heterogeneous set of strategies to confront and question various stages of socio political development. Within this context I think we can better understand th early conceptual framework of reading Paterson as a form of cognitive mapping: Paterson implies a personal, 1 See Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997), p. 323; Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism: or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capita lism (Durham: Duke UP, 1991) and Late Marxism: Adorno or the Persistence of the Dialectic October 100 ( Spring 2002 ): 154 174 this same diagnostic mode.
63 thi s goal is never reached in Paterson it is, in fact, barely articulated positively the act of diagnosis contained in this work provides us with a cognitive mapping of the textual space that constitutes our local position in the modern city. 2 Paterson becomes the focal point by opening up a reading of modernism in terms of totality. 3 I think that a careful reading of both Bremen and Jameson demonstrates the interdependence of both terms diagnostic and totality which I would argue become a modernism. This conceptual framework assists in contextualizing the importance Williams placed on fluctuating categories, modulating the local and uni versal, and and the New York intellectuals as represented by Partisan Review What this exercise will show is the redundancy of my own terms as diagnosing will already be included with a process oriented symbolic textual production: histo rical, cultural, and social culture, divorce, and the ideological impasse of autonomous categories) but are also simultaneously re imagined as concrete processes. For example, Paterson, New 2 Brian Bremen, William Carlos Williams and the Diagnostics of Culture ( Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993 ), p. 164. 3 The Modernist Papers (London: Verso, 2007), pp. 3 44.
64 Jersey, is the textual geographic site where social relations are reexamined and reconfigured. That Williams constellates his poetics from The Embodiment of Knowledge to he radiant gist that / resists the Paterson 4 underscores the idea that his heterogeneous and shifting category speaks directly to his diagnosis of a logic of separation paired with a disavowal of autonomy. Here the very frequent t heme of anti intellectualism for Williams becomes itself a symptom of an anti totalizing tendency. Intellectualism is code for the reification of the Absolute: is nothing whatever outside of philosophy. Science has and life belong to entirely different categories than the ones in which they are being searched for. The absolute belongs to the whole group of categories as a whole, and life to the intrinsic group common to the plants and animals where science is not extant. 5 A much tabooed belief for us, perhaps as distant as the possibility for new social relations in themselves, Williams believes that Language is the medium where categories will once again enter a complex process whose effects will be seen, first, and second, through the imaginative reco nfiguration and reordering of the existing social whole; an ideology, surely, but a largely productive one in this case. practice necessarily move beyond mere formalistic and sty listic experiments and enter a 4 William Carlos W illiams, Paterson (New York: New Directions, 1992), p. 109. 5 William Carlos Williams The Embodiment of Knowledge. ( New York: New Directions, 1974 ), p. 123.
65 process of socio political interrogation and expression. This does not mean that the image, but as Williams tells us, his poetic project itself has always put symbolic textual pr oduction at an even pace with imagined social constructions. The act of constructing takes predominance over the finished poem: be able to reconci le my patent failures with whatever I have done that seems worthwhile. The poem to me (until I go broke) is an attempt, an experiment, a failing experiment, toward assertion with broken means but an assertion, always, of a new and total culture, the lifting of an environment to expression. Thus it is social, the poem is a social instrument accepted or not accepted seems to be of no material importance. 6 mediates the dilemm as of totality by first ideating how a new and total culture is imagined and then determining how it could possibly be expressed. It is in this sense that we may say that artworks operate as failed placeholders for totalities. A diagnostic totality, then, tends toward a horizon of possibility as the outcome of the diagnosis of blocks and limits to knowledge (reification as what suppresses the ability to grasp totalities ) as well as the enumeration of positive new features (the 7 As quoted by Bremen above, we could say even perhaps to the same degree tha t he failed to articulate the new American idiom 6 William Carlos Williams, The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams (New York: New Directio ns, 1984), p. 286. 7 Fredric Jameson, History and Class Consciousness Rethinking Marxism 1.1 (Spring 1988): 49 72, p. 66.
66 because both tasks involve outlining the ideological blockages that will be overcome in the historical future. Timothy Bewes summarizes totality in terms of social change by of the extremity the totality of the situation is a condition for changing that situation; totalization is a quality of any situation which 8 The diagnosing of existing social relations and their sup posed historical facticity often takes the form of a negation, which in turn opens new and often unforeseen avenues that anticipate future horizons of possibility where reified objects, relations, and concepts are again reconstituted in the differentiated and heterogeneous social totality. If we take Paterson as an abbreviated example, it is no accident that there is a slippage of names between the central poetic figure and the geographic locale of Paterson. To borrow an analogy from Neil Smith, in Paterson Williams provides a new structural puzzle by giving us the four corners of a noun compass of a noun by being a person, place, thing, and idea (and sometimes a dog) in which any attempt to render one corner simultaneously means puttin g the whole puzzle to work. 9 aesthetic project, dissolves into a series of processes. At the level of a lexical category alone we see a miniature symbolic reenactment of a complex his torical process: history, consciousness, and material constructions develop and interpenetrate in a complex metabolic process. 8 Timothy Bewes, Reification, or the Anxiety of Late Capitalism (London: Verso, 2002), p. 254. 9 See Neil Smith, Uneven Development: Nature, Capital and the Production of Space ( Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), p 52.
67 And it seems important that this interplay of social relations exists in the specific locale of the American small town of New J ersey in the 1940s. As Susan Hegeman has argued, American modernism might function like so many satellite or periphery modernisms in contradistinction to the European cosmopolitan modernisms usually connoted under the banner of an international modernism. This experience, rather than reflecting a seamless parade of jazz, cars, and steel, is, rather, marked by a perception of uneven development, and even places that it touched less comp letely. Thus, as Frederic Jameson has realities from radically different moments of history handicrafts alongside the great cartels, peasant fields with the Krupp factories or Ford plant in the 10 To be a nativist American modernist means that you must necessarily consider the relationship of periphery to core as the byproduct of uneven development: for example, there are multiple cultural traffic jams domestically (the simultaneity of New York City (the emerging ideology of the Third World). This necessary and dialectical relationship then assists in explaining the importance of place and geo graphy for Williams as a hierarchical model. Uneven development provides a frame to examine in historical terms those events crucial to the experience of modernity alienation, fragmentation, disillusionment, etc. but also returns us back to totality. Experiencing the technological, intellectual, and economic shifts for example, a Fordist to post Fordist labor reconfiguration produces 10 Susan Hegeman, Patterns for America: Modernism and the Concept of Culture (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1999), p. 20.
68 contradictory ideologies to be rejected or co expect to have all stages of development at once; that a civilization cannot simultaneously produce great folk poetry at one cultural level and Paradise Lost at becomes a problematic ideology (not to mention the problems inherent to levels of culture). 11 This is not to say surely it is an index of exactly this but his reaction becomes contextuali culture poignantly mark the process of imperialism shifting from a Euro British context to the emerging global context of American mass production (his disdain for Hollywood film is perhaps the finest example). That Eliot and Pound abandoned the American Midwest for being culturally under developed acts as another verification stamp of an unevenly Franco Moretti would say, we are approaching two contending ideologies of modernism: polyphony of 12 But we also immediately find a common relay point between Eliot and Williams 11 T. S. Eliot, Notes Towa rds the Definition of Culture (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1949), p. 24. 12 See Franco Moretti, Modern Epic: The World System from Goethe to Garca Mrquez (London: Verso, But polyphonic futility which Eliot, in the conversation with Woolf, seemed basically to like has now become anarchy: a danger, to be kept under control. And this is precisely the purpose served by myth: to tame polyphony To give it a form and a m eaning. One. As I said earlier, The Waste Land is not a shorter Ulysses it is a monologic Ulysses (227).
69 ntext is with an account of modernism that takes seriously the centrality of the ideology of Americanism to 13 centralizing the ideology of Americanism. For example, in 1936 Williams participated in American tradition is marked by European separation some four hundred years ago: om that point it became a separate thing, or attempted to become so. It failed in large 14 The new ideology, for the remainder of the essay, remains undefined. It becomes the A Haywood and continues its way through to the conquering of Marxism and fascism: Marxism to the American spirit is only another phase of force opposed to liberalism. It takes a tough theory to survive America; and America thinks it has that theory. Therefore it will smile and suffer, quite secure in its convictions that through all the rottenness, all the political corruption, all the cheap self interest of its avowedly ruling mo neyed class that it can and will take care of itself when the crisis arrives. 15 This description seems shockingly contemporary to me because I think here Williams defines the seeds of American neo liberalism or at least anticipating the conservative and attempts to question a problematic 13 Hegeman, Patterns 21. 14 The Partisan Review and Anvil 3.3 (April 1936): 13 4, p. 13. 15 Ibid 14.
70 a diagnostic totality in response to the uneven economic changes experienced during totality which, again, is al ways a relay for a social totality remains unfinished and incomplete. This occurs, I think, not only because the task of totalizing itself prescribes incompleteness as a primary ingredient, but also due to the fact that the ideology that at this historical moment diverges from what Williams poetically different American ideology than the one we inherited. Ours bears a much larger resemblance to a deeper pr ocess of reification that becomes consolidated in Henry Toward Process via Locality important changes. First, he sets the course f or his own distinctly American modernism in response to the failing European modernisms of Pound and Eliot. Here I mean failure in that the latter modernisms do not provide a workable frame for which to think through the crises Williams experiences. Second Williams participates in a second wave of modernism that operates in a space between the Popular Front of the same decade and the radical conservatism of figures like Pound and Eliot. Thirdly, Williams begins to think through the politics of place with m ore acumen than previous decades. This thinking is first approached through the conceptualization of totality as a way of refuting generic autonomous categories. Then, however, Williams begins to experiment with this concept by producing texts that attempt to constitute the idea of process itself.
71 he sees Williams writing a manifesto that distinguishes his modernism from the neoscholasticism of Pound and Eliot. 16 Mariani p final issue of The Little Review counterattack on abstraction, the disassociation of knowledge from place, and, as a combination of the prior two, he outlines his trajectory in terms of being rooted in 17 Wrongness here is in reference to corrective motifs of cultural (or Kulchural) restoration being per formed by Pound and Eliot. For these two modernity fractures culture into monotony, standardization, and uniformity and this, in turn, requires a corrective intervention on behalf of the threatened cultured class. But wrongness also means that Williams is wrong for staying in America where only a vulgarized version of European culture exists: I wish to say this quite coldly. Eliot and Pound both had a mass of adjustments built up which had no touch with America. Neither one of them, I think, believes that he is paying or knows the cost. Pound, with his Eliot has philosophically, I think, renounced America much more fully. He has completely gone over to a past. He believes he has stepped up into culture. But I insist he has stepped down from power. I believe he is not only poetically but philosophically mistaken. 18 a concept, like the views of the Popular Front of the 1930s, Williams sees as essentially refusing definition serves to contradict Eurocentric cosmopolitanisms. The bifurcation becomes evident enough: for Pound and 16 Paul Mariani, William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked (New York: McGraw Hill, 1981), p. 271. 17 The Little Review 12.2 (May 1929): 95 98, p. 98. 18 Ibid, 97 8.
72 Eliot America is modern in a pejorative sense while Europe still provides hope for an anti modern counter (be it in London, Rapallo, Paris, etc., anywhere but Detriot or the Midwest in general). oincides with other important events that reconfigure the scope of his modernism: the influenza epidemic of 1929, which becomes the subject matter of his first prose publication of the 1930s, the Wall Street crash of the same y ear, and a new category. As he says in Novelette provisations are etc. etc. 19 It is also important that this inquiry into category is offset by two success ive crises. Therefore, when Williams confronts Eliot as public enemy number one for the next two decades, we should keep experiences of the crises of capitalism itself. The 1930s mark for Williams a continued effort towards rethinking the problems inherent to categorization. The problem of categorical divisions, and the belief in parceling knowledge into autonomous parts, elevates in importance by several degrees after 19 19 Imaginations (New York: New Directions, 1970), p. 285.
73 20 Problems of core and periphery, high and low, vulgarity and erudition become so many symptoms of deep historically structured in equalities that are experienced with more intensity. We should also include within this list the problems that carry over from before the 1930s: the separation of science and philosophy, rationality and irrationality, homogeneity and heterogeneity, atomiza tion and fragmentation, and so on. For instance, in 1932 Williams again restarts the publication of his periodical, Contact with the editorial assistance of Robert McAlmon and Nathaniel West. Comparing this second run with the initial publication (1920 19 23, co edited with McAlmon), we see informative differences: Contact of the 1920s, with several comic asides, poetic and narrative experiments, and the required review of a cultural event or book, tells of the struggling attempt of America to define its ow n native avant garde. As the magazine resurfaces in the 1930s, this American avant garde has working class and Jewish contours. Many of the contributors Williams publishes are his fellow Objectivists: Carl Rakosi, Charles Reznikoff, and Zukofsky. A trio of radical New York booksellers Martin Kamin along with David and Sally Moss interested in working with book offer the opportunity for a periodical was extended to Williams and W est. Disbanded after three issues all published within 1932 Williams refuses to continue the magazine over disagreements with the financiers over the tone of the magazine: 20 David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital: and the Crises of Capitalism (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010). Harvey ises are, as it were, the irrational rationalizers of an always
74 Williams is not willing to promote the Communist Party nor be as radical in print as is requested. 21 Williams is, however, quite politically active in Contact To close the final issue, the two editors Williams and West both defend what they perceive as distinctively American concepts: vulgarity and violence. In response to a recent artic le in The Criterion where Contact form of a social realism by arguing that due to recent crises violence has become ingrained in American daily life and should therefore not be censored in l iterature: In America violence is idiomatic. Read our newspapers. To make the front page a murderer has to use his imagination, he also has to use a particularly hideous instrument. Take this morning's paper: FATHER CUTS SON'S THROAT IN BASEBALL ARGUMENT. 22 Miss Lonelyhearts published the following year, traces violence as it circulates through society with the regularity of the daily newspaper; violence, theft, rape, and misery are the necessary byproducts of industrial capitalism. Quite peculiar a nd appearing in new forms, these labor forms produce an interesting type of commodity: the tabloid. Contact regarding the general character of poetry, which has become widely prevalent today and may shortly become more so through academic fostering: it is, that poetry increases in virtue 23 The loaded terms Wil liams uses 21 Mariani, 319 335. 22 Contact 1.3 (October 1932): 132 133, p. 132. 23 Contact 1.3 (Octob er 1932): 131 132, p. 131.
75 brings to a head all the problems of the prior decade that are now, during the Depression, compounded exponentially. modern and anti American. For Williams, El iot represents a problematic ideology that runs throughout American history. In the American Grain attempted to map out this problematic genealogy, especially in terms of a fear of contact: The poor are ostracized. Cults are built to abolish them, as if th ey were cockroaches, and not human beings who may not want what we have in such abundance. THAT would be an offense an American could not stomach. So down with them. Let everybody be rich and so EQUAL. What a farce! But what a tragedy! It rests upon false values and fear to discover them. Do not serve another for you might have to TOUCH him and he might be a JEW or a NIGGER. 24 Virtue becomes another code word for categorical division, a term denoting a denial of contact and a fear of contamination. Vulgarity of course, becomes code for classism and racism. To counter this divisional thinking, which essentially excludes Williams from high cultural institutions and university syllabi notes to Floss about plums would be quite vulgar indeed not swallow the half alive poetry which knows 25 An emerging concept for Williams in the 1930s, and one that becomes more developed through his relationship with Kenneth Burke, totality becomes a method of incorporating problematic soci al relations into poetry and examining their the very material strata of history itself opens the opportunity towards reconstruction 24 William Carlos Williams, In the American Grain (Norfolk: New Directions, 1925), pp. 176 7. 25 Ibid, 131.
76 part and parcel of the same proces idea that consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their conscious 26 That Williams reads American communism as an essentially heretic kind of thinking in terms of the Party especially the idea that literature should be proletarian grotesque or agitprop should not subtract from the implicit idea that his modernism co nfronts how a specific geographical location provides an opportunity for examining both culture and history as concrete processes. It also means that we should refuse to be nostalgic or sentimental towards the idea of the Totality is not an abstr act category for Williams. It is, rather, a spatial concept that clusters with other keywords in his repertoire: contact, place, and culture being other processes within his constellation. For example, place cannot be understood without totality and vice v ersa. A totality, while scalable, must be placed. In fact, any system effectuating social structures can be a totality so long as it is placed For example, a totality is much more readily understood in its reified form as America, New Jersey, or Paterson. example of totality through the post office: Any single worker, handling the letter in its various stages of transit, interprets the address as instructions for a different kind of ope ration. Its in the mailbox at the corner to delivery at the door. 26 Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (London: Praeger Publishers, 1971), p. 20 1.
77 This kind of meaning I should call a semantic meaning. And extending from that I should state, as the semantic ideal, the aim to evolve a vocabulary that gives the name and address of every event in the unive rse 27 The post office creates the opportunity to exemplify a totality in terms of a complex set of social relations and acts that constitute a whole. That Burke chooses one of the few socialized programs in the United States to exemplify a totality is perh aps more telling; the point at which we have addressed every event in the universe is utopia. The imminent contradiction, however, is the symbolic act of transferring the idea of totality and its consequent ideal of reintegrating reified social facts as re lationships and complex processes into an artistic form. This is the problem faced by Burke and Williams in the 1930s and beyond. In the posthumously published 1932 manuscript, The Embodiment of Knowledge Williams attempts to make the very form and conten t of the text itself a process. The text solicited and finally rejected by Burke for its incomprehensibility attempts to allegorize the process of writing with knowledge. For example, the text constantly begins again with multiple first chapters, redoubles on its of knowledge as it exists in the world and to relieve both of what see ms to me a burden 28 Perhaps the incomprehensibility attempt to rethink the relationship between humanity and an abstracte d body of knowledge. 27 Kenneth Bu rke, The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action (Berkeley: U of California P, 1974), p. 141. 28 Williams, Embodiment 60.
78 The key point for Williams, then, is that knowledge is not an abstract concept. A knowledge. A philosophical inquiry into knowledge as an autonomous category is a useless task. In its place, Williams offers his knowledge. In this way the failure of the text performs the failure of the category of knowledge. Williams knows of no knowledge except for the process by which he acquired his own; and this kno wledge is informed by place The text is then a demonstration of this process: from the education of the American male, the pedagogy of Hippocrates, lessons in the interpretation of French painting, to theses on Shakespeare. The concept of knowledge become s a process by everyone about their specific and situated knowledge would the concept of an only be a mere part, an embodied aspect of the totality of knowledge. Crucially, however, we it from another singularity when combined into a collective. In such a configuration these singularities form a composition and not an opposition We have a theory that not only considers unevenness, but also thrives on it. Here we see Williams initiating a type of thinking that he will pursue through the following decades. Knowledge becomes an ensemble of interrelated parts a whole without unity that is itself a process initiated by a place. Williams is already working in terms of a local (or particular) a nd universal dialectic: knowledge as a universal exists only through the complex processes and relationships that produce so many
79 differentiated and multifarious individual knowledges. And since a person constitutes this very knowledge process, the metonym ic relationship forefends any moment of stasis; the whole category shifts along with the parts. Williams may be known for his positivity in thinking metaphysics in terms o f becoming Knowledge in its autonomous form, as a category that problematizes and answers unto itself, does not exist. Like any other concept it marks the constant exceeding and surpassing of limits it is production and differentiation at all moments Sta rt from any person, in any place, and you gain an aspect of the process of knowledge through the metabolic relationship between individual and place. Thus, place, in reciprocal fashion, is not abstract: the concept of place acts as proxy for the succession of historical processes effectuated in particular places. The seemingly abstract idea of knowledge as an unknowable complex whole becomes its inverse: concrete in its very spatial configuration, knowledge comes back down to earth and mediates relationshi ps. If we substitute the concepts of place or culture within this paradigm we see again the same interpenetration of local and universal: culture only exists as an ensemble of local cultures that are themselves constituted by a specific geographical and hi storical process. Refuse any parts, even the most vulgar or violent ones, and the conception of the whole is false. Knowledge, like culture, must take into account the social forces that produce anomalous outliers. Therefore, totalizing concepts like knowl edge, place, and culture require a type of thought based on process and modulation. There is no reified thing called knowledge, place, or culture; but there are mediating processes that, as a whole, constitute the
80 category of complex relationships implied under each term. The problem Williams forces us to confront is that there are no conceptual equivalents to the processes up the discourses of art and aesthetics to ideate poetic and narrative analogues whose inherent contradictions often leave us frustrated and awaiting evasion: artistic objects are both historical and concrete, sensuous and particular. Perhaps now we can un Beginning : Nothing less is intended than a revolution in thought with writing as the fulcrum, by means of which and the accidental place, any place, therefore America one like another, theref ore where we happen to 29 We cannot unequally weight either process or locality as culture the point should be maintained. The result of this reading becomes strategic: ject of totalizing concepts through dialectical processes. For example, dialectical nature for Williams becomes tied to the cultural act of constructing a metabolic and heterogeneous whole. The burning need of a culture is not a choice to be made or not ma de, voluntarily, any more than it can be satisfied by loans. It has to be where it act. If it stands still, it is dead. It is the realization of the qualities of a place in r elation to the life which occupies it; embracing everything involved, climate, geographic position, relative size, history, other cultures as well as the character of its sands, flowers, minerals and the condition of knowledge within its borders. It is the act of lifting these things into an afterward. That is the record only. The act is the thing. 30 29 Ibid, 98. 30 Williams, Selected Essays 157.
81 Unreliability and Culture By the 1940s Williams pursues the idea of totality in an imp ortant two fold arrangement. He simultaneously maintains his arguments with Eliot regarding artistic practices and theories of culture while at the same time enacting these theories within his artistic practice. When Eliot publishes part of his Notes Towar ds the Definition of Culture in Partisan Review middling space between the radical Right of Eliot and the emerging New Left of the New York School. Both the Right and Left argue for problematic id eas of cultural autonomy and hierarchy through the guises of elite culture, the admonishment of kitsch, and a Paterson published shortly after, needs to be s been argued several times before, by Bremen included. But I also want to read Paterson as a counter to the New York School, especially Clement Greenberg, by being thoroughly engaged in disengagement through a totalizing process. In combating both, Williams cancels out the contradictions of social and artistic wholes: they cannot be at once hierarchical and equal; they cannot mend schizoid divisions with further logics of separation. In the winter of 1944, Partisan Review The purists, seemingly artistic and cultural aficionados, separate objects from unwanted contexts in order to consume them: Lovely! All the essential parts, like an oyster without a shell fr esh and sweet tasting, to be swallowed, chewed and swallowed.
82 Purism is a belief in essential things: the pure portion of an oyster exists without the unpalatable shell. Its symbol, moreover, is taste The second half of the poem provides us with a counte r image: Or better, a brain without a skull. I remember once a guy in our anatomy class dropped one from the third floor window on an organ grinder in Pine Street. 31 The brain, the figure of pure intellectuality, becomes a weapon; dropped from on high it hits a lower street musician. The two levels, high and low, remain separate except for the perforation of the brain. But the brain is dead and was perhaps never pure. Now we on Pine Street using the impure brain as a water balloon. Here issues of taste become jokes. Thus the abstraction of purity of exquisite taste becomes leveled in one vulgar and placed act. By coincidence, then, in the next issue of Partisan Review Eliot pu blishes part of Notes Towards the Definition of Culture The breadth of aristocratic villainy and theoretical piracy enacted by Eliot in this text is extensive enough: the justification of imperialism, the contractual linking of culture with religion, the natural separation of human beings into classes, the reinforcement of nationalism, and the ideology of family as a source of inheriting power. To avoid a cascading argument that confronts all these overlapping theses, I want to focus particularly on the pr ocess of reification within the thing much like the essential and tasty portion of an 31 Partisan Review 11.1 (Winter 1944): 42.
83 orthodox pedagogical precept that prescribes and enfor ces societal strictures. As Eliot tells us, culture gains its identity through the reproduction and traditional repetition of things: Taking now the point of view of identification, the reader must remind himself, as the author has constantly to do, of how much is here embraced by the term culture It includes all the characteristic activities and interests of a people: Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes, the twelfth of August, a cup final, the dog races, the pin table, the dart board, Wensleydale cheese, boi led cabbage cut into sections, beetroot in vinegar, nineteenth century Gothic churches and the music of Elgar. 32 responding to Eliot in the next issue of Partisan Review surmises the problem in saying, existing social relations and a mummification of history in order to merge the past with the present. It goes almost without saying that institutions cannot be moved from one 33 The idea of autonomy in Eliot is clear enough: culture products are discrete reified things that do not tend toward one another never the craftsman, always the obj ect. Devoid of contact, Eliot proposes a process of relation: levels, classes, and culture products relate to one another in a thinking as autonomous zones only become who le under abstract concepts such as nationalism. scale: culture 32 Eliot, Notes 30. 33 Partisan Review 11.3 (Summer 1944): 307 310, p. 308.
84 uniqueness), parallel a social structure based on autonomous zones whose only unification comes by force: But if I can defend with any success the thesis, that it is to the advantage of England that the Welsh should continue to be Welsh, the Scots Scots and the Irish Irish, then the reader should be d isposed to agree that there may be some advantage to other peoples in the English continu ing to be English. It is probably, I think, that complete uniformity of culture throughout these islands would bring about a lower grade of culture altogether. 34 A social whole for Eliot equates to a repetitive identity that allows several parallel and disturbance speaks to a fear of homogenization and standardization (the mob, the ma ss, the proletariat, etc.). Culture in this scenario becomes a threshold, a limit, and a block against an integrative process. Thus we can see the importance of the hi category of totality does not reduce its various elements into an undifferentiated 35 The process of reification beginning with a beetroot in vin egar proceeds in a direct line to ideas of inequality and nationalism. Willfully negligent to the structured inequalities between geographies, Eliot proposes equalization ex post facto Williams immediately wrote a response to Partisan Review regarding El concept of culture that was refused publication by the editors. He also wrote to Horace Gregory with the hopes of persuading him to write on behalf of Williams to the editors. At stake for Williams was the presence of a faulty logic between particula r and 34 Ibid, 57. 35 Georg Lukcs History and Class Consciousness ( Cambridge: MIT Press, 1971 ), p. 12.
85 36 Moreover, the descriptions that Williams deploys to counter Eliot become the movements of his epic Paterson general can be tested for its one unique quality, its universality. The flow must originate from the local to the general as a river to the sea and then back to the local from the sea 37 if not the general insistence up on the spatial landscape itself in modern epics while seemingly clich, attempts to reintegrate 38 In a second letter to Gregory a few days later, Williams broadens his arguments to include Pound. It is here that Williams articulates the failed modernisms of both figures. By 1944, between fascism and Catholicism, usury and radical conservatism, Williams interjects by foregrounding the problem of aesthetic form. These disputes for or against a certain type of aesthetic form are always political arguments about past, present, and future forms of sociality. Thus, when Williams argues for the continuance of Pound and I have maintained from the first that Eliot and Pound by virtue of their hypersensitivity (which is their greatness) were too quick to find a culture (the English continental) r eady made for their assertions. So that both Pound and Eliot have slipped back, intellectually, from their early promise. Which is to say that the form and the gist, the very meat, of a new cultural understanding are interlinked inseparably. 36 Williams, Select ed Letters 224. 37 Ibid, 225. 38 William Carlos Williams, (New York: New Directions, 1976) p. 29.
86 That is why the question of FORM is so important and merits such devotion and the keenest of wits, because it is the very matter itself of a culture. We cannot go back because then the form becomes empty, we must move into the field of action and go into combat t here on the new ground. 39 If Pound pursued the notion of process through the ideogram by making language a relay for connecting new and previously unrelated phenomenon a lightening bolt is a sentence that connects the atmosphere to the earth then he fails t o allow this idea of process to enter his theorizations of Kulchur. On one hand the epic was no doubt cultural forms did not follow perhaps a possible explanation for the self admitted failure of the Cantos to cohere. The form of the Cantos cannot salve the problems of a regressive conception of culture; Pound had the right keywords and form, but his ideologies mismatched the full gamut. Williams notes a fundamental ide ological impasse that the two figures neglect: thinking through the problems of aesthetic form as a verb a politico cultural forming necessarily prohibits the reification of the object of study. The artwork, whose semblance underscores the very process of social change itself through the dovetailing of incompleteness and contingency, provides an avenue to question the very non thing implied by the conceptual process denoted under the term nineteenth century fashion emphasizes the very problem of regression Williams brings to our attention. Moving against the process of reification, especially in terms of culture, becomes seems important that another 39 Williams, Selected Letters 226 7.
87 Culture and Society Notes Tha t Raymond Williams comes from a working class Welsh background makes his arguments all the more vested. He says, In any form of society towards which we are likely to move, it now seems clear that there must be, not a simple equality (in the sense of ident ity) of culture; but rather a very complex system of specialized developments the whole of which will form the whole culture, but which will not be available, or conscious, as a whole, to any individual or group within it. 40 And here we find a return back t o the essential paradox of a sublimated totality. The contending ideologies of wholes constantly point back to the pivot of representation: as process cannot be represented since only its semblance may be approached. The reified culture commodity or kitsch), on the other hand, becomes a tangible objectification of values, traditions, and the very idea of a process terminating, however momentarily, into a thing. We have here not mere aesthet ic quarrels, but deep ideologies that mark the boundaries of specific discourses (via art, aesthetics, modernism, etc.). We find that artworks are perhaps indeed quite poor representations for non reified thinking as they present themselves as solidified a nd objectified things. But perhaps, then again, the problem may be in how they are approached (so, too, for kitsch ). as a centripetal ideological kernel that pulls a mass of ideologies together, the length and stride of how these terms are discussed becomes quite symbolic. For example, Marc Manganaro performs such a task in Culture, 1922 By starting from the artistic 40 Raymond Williams, Culture and Society, 1780 1950 ( New York: Columbia UP 1983 ), p. 238
88 object, say The Waste Land we may proceed out into an ensemble of theories and is how I read Manganaro when he says, A major argument of this volume is that the integrative wholeness that came to characterize, indeed q ualify something as, a work of art in modernist criticism does not merely resemble the holism of the culture concept but in fact is a version of it. Eliot was probably the chief architect of that modern criticism, and so it is especially significant that h is conception of holism extended to characterize and complexly animate not only a specific work of art like a poem but collocations of works, grouped as those by a given author, by a given nation, or by the entire Western tradition, the latter of which bec omes, in Arnoldian terms at least, a definition of culture itself. 41 Hovering over this description is the eventual codification of this holism into the purest idea of a reified modernism: namely, the canon. What becomes alarming is that we see this problem of holism, which is very often contradictory and false when it tarries with structural inequalities (high/low, taste, beauty, etc.), change only in degree for much of the criticism coming out of the 1940s. If we now turn to the responses that Partisan Re view published in the issue of modernism than the one being theorized here through the figure of Williams. This is appearance in the respon ses to Eliot mark s a vanishing point that, while continuing in artistic circles, did not become publicly adopted as official discourse (as the New Criticism or Abstract Expressionism did). For instance, Clement hlights the problems of fixity and stasis form, Culture, qua form and qua entelechy is immutable. Both primitive and advanced 41 Marc Manganaro Culture, 1922 (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2002), p. 29.
89 Cultures obey the same basic laws as reg ards their development and operation; they 42 But when it comes down to examining things however, we find the same problems rearticulated in new contexts. When culture becomes a special reserve, set away from the demands of contemporary society, it performs the anachronistic role of chastity; it is rare and intended only for a few. Rather than have culture as the ambiguous zone of mediation, where collisions of incomprehensibility and the effects of uneven development become manifest (like the Depression era musical, The New Yorker vaudeville, the nickelodeon, the proletaria n grotesque, etc.), culture becomes a barrier whose fault lines and perforations must become impenetrable: on this side art and culture, on that side distinction where the ideology o f a distinctly pure culture and a compromised commodity become overlaid back onto the history of modernism; as if Dada cared to parcel out its disparagement of either art or culture exclusively in its attempts to make artistic inquiry available for everyon moreover, the underlying threat of mass commodification of culture becomes immanent. Fordism is shifting to post Fordism. Now, however, that Western industrial capitalism is in the proce ss of establishing a global economy with coordinated methods of production on all continents, the possibility o f a global Culture appears. The colonial Cultures, most of them decrepit in any case, are being done to death by mass produced, ready made commodities exported from New York and 42 Partisan Review 11.3 (Summer 1944): 305 307, p. 305.
90 common religious faith to unify. There will be just greater and lesser degrees of backwardness; and the unifying agents will be movies, comic books, Tin Pan Alley, the Luce publications (with editions in all languages), Coca Cola, rayon stockings, class interests, and a common boss. 43 This argument, which seemingly takes aim at Eliot if not also positing an underlying scheme of global totalitari anism or Stalinism turns out to be a different version of it. course of doin g business, and creating a taste for its commodities. Even the humblest material artifact, which is the product and the symbol of a particular civilization, is an emissary of the culture out of which it comes: I mention that influential and inflammable art 44 The consequences of this thinking may perhaps now be sufficiently measured. Culture becomes virtually separated from economics and materiality itself. Like pure aesthetics or similar discourses on art from the ideologies of l'art pour l'art to in this scenario culture attempts a dislocation from the historical its attendant concepts in a vaporized free float; it becomes something similar to the particular, if only seen as a reified thing, likewise corresponds to a reified universal. So many layers of camouflage later, we enter the absolute space of pure a rt, which is, of course, a non 43 Greenberg, 306 7. 44 Eliot, Notes 94.
91 poses the significant problem for exchange value always perpetuates the dialectical problem of differentiation and universal equivocation through the money form it is, rather, the instantiation of an idea of culture that may be reliably calibrated as a natural thing and historical constant that can only be valued, weighed, and judged by its end products. To resolve this issue, perhaps culture should be examined by its uneven arguments invert even Pound: the historical economic process precedes the artistic st comment to Gregory in culture rather the forms anyhow, we should discuss the correctness or falsity of what 45 A Contrapuntal Dance With a final turn, then, I want to demonstrate how the arguments up to this point function as a prologue for Paterson The structure of the poem hinges at the intersection of the particular and universal. To this end, I would argue that the preface to Pate rson projects the totalizing framework taken up throughout the poem. With regard to the category of totality, we may now say that the five books constituting the poem are a variation on the themes presented within the preface: a blurring of boundaries betw een local and personal histories; an inquiry into the boundaries of sociality as figured by a public park; the reification and institutionalization of knowledge through the symbol of a library; the production of nature as a historical process; and a final narrative dispersal of 45 Williams, Selected Letters 227.
92 personal (particular) history. In this way the text performs the shuttling and contrapuntal effects that the literary theory above argues. For instance, if we begin with the first line of the poem quest. But how will you find beauty when it is locked in the mind past all 46 the confrontation with an Eliotic mindset is already at work. Not only is the Grail quest of The Waste Land parodied, but so too is the problem of a fixed and reified concept : ritual beauty. It has been suggested that Williams here reinforces his romantic tendencies which seem to be always verified by his liking of Keats and that the pursuit of beauty is indeed a literal pursuit towards the semblance of beauty. 47 Williams, who avidly and repeatedly renounced beauty as a prescriptive force, seems to be more interested in the problem of fixed and reified concepts. As Williams tells us in The Embodiment of Knowledge the select the good, the true and the beautiful do not exist. The beautiful has been 48 Myth and ritual are quickly dispensed with from the start and, in their place, Williams inserts an unstable process. 46 Williams, Paterson 3. 47 Carla Billitteri The Journal of Modern L iterature 30 2 (Winter 2007): 42 63 A Recognizable Image: William Carlos Williams on Art and Artists (New York : New Directions, 1978). Dijkstra, whom Billitteri bases much of her criticism upon, goes effective structures of interpersonal relationships, or qualitativel y better social values, upon which a more pulls to in a context of the transition or process of modernization from one historical moment to the next. When a dog shakes a wet body not all the water is expelled. 48 Williams, Embodiment 38.
93 Thus we should note the ability of the prefac e to establish a table of contents whose themes will be pursued, revised, and sometimes abandoned throughout the remainder of the text. For example, we may connect the opening lines of the preface to The beautiful thing, which figures the problem of reification through a derogatory, violent, and sexist idiom, collides with it has a smell of its own / of stagnation and death / / Beautiful Thing! / 49 The contrapuntal relationship between a reminding him of a rape victim he treated. The problem of beauty, then, is reinserted back into a complex totality, albeit as a disruption and seemingly unconnected shock: alongside an institu tion denoting culture are severe and somehow linked issues of domination and violence. While Williams is not explicitly feminist in his text indeed, he often resembles the opposite through a structural subordination as the figures of women are located with in the figures of men but here we should note that he also chronicles a moment that high cultural theorists would overlook. By coordinating a relationship between a working class black woman and a symbol of high culture we may broaden out into vaster fissures of modernity as problems of race, gender, and class become linked to those very entities that are supposedly external to its boundaries. The nonlocatability of the intersection of these problems is a not a fault. He re, instead, we see Williams deploying poetry as a field of action where we begin to sketch a 49 Williams, Paterson 101.
94 complicated series of linkages that are often ignored. Once these two supposedly separate poles have a spark connecting them, a correspondingly instant recalibrat ion at work all throughout Paterson The theme of divorce that runs throughout the entire poem focuses our attention to an overall failure to make connections. Making these connections, whic h is often prohibited by a worn relationships do not add up correctly or provide a lo gical 50 The inquiry into historical facts measurements, volumes, dates, narratives, and so on positions historical and cultural information as hunks of 51 52 begins with the figure of a lame dog. Against poet dog is afoot. A different type of sense altogether, represented by a sniffing nose, have run out / after the rabbits / Only the lame stands on / three legs. Scratch front 53 The archeological task becomes an investigation into things but what the poem performs is a 50 Ibid, 77. 51 Ibid, 19. 52 Ibid, 61. 53 Ibid, 3.
95 convoluted unwinding that reposi tions these things into concrete processes. The result is that quite disparate and discrete material becomes again involved in relationships. The contrapuntal notion of process becomes evinced several times over in the text. Accordingly, the preface establ ishes this process: Yet there is no return: rolling up out of chaos, the man, an identity otherwise an interpenetration, both ways. Rolling up! obverse, reverse; the drunk the sober; the illustrious the gross; one. 54 The complex identity is a circuitous process of mediation and a multiplication of codes. moment to any historical analysis. 55 Essentially dialectical and reflexive, any attempt to follow the identity of Paterson from moments of being a citizen, poet, dog, mountain, dream, city, or an idea ends with frustrated results. The totality denoted unde does not add up and remains essentially opposed to cognition; the totality is itself perpetually rolling up its results. The metaphors Williams uses to attempt to represent this type of process always revolve around the centralized im age of a cluster: a foggy 56 54 Ibid, 4. 55 56 Williams, Paterson 5.
96 The defiance of terminating the poem itself becomes symbolic. Rather than limit the poem to four conclusive books with two remainders hanging on incomplete, the fact that the poem perpetually begins again, rebounds, and elongates the process bares importance. If we were to take the finale of the fourth book, however wonderful it is 57 to be a terminal point, then we likewise fail to note that ends in themselves are shunned by the following book. Meaning, the close of the fifth book introduces a theme that then repeats in the manuscripts of the unfinished sixth book. Counterpoint becomes the musical analogy that gains representation through dancing. We know nothing and can know nothing but the dance, to dance to a measure contrapuntally, Satyrically, the t ragic foot. 58 The reiteration of the thesis from The Embodiment of Knowledge seems to be poetically articulated here: the dialectical process. The temptation exists, as my own language no may be better, but the essential shape seems to be more musical at best: a clustering of counterpoints that proceed forward and back, up and down the scale. The shape of the poem, its idea, and form are unstable and undeterminable. But it seems, at least in my reading, that Williams anticipates this type of frustration from the start. Indeed, we should note the totalizing structure that, as I have argued, gains form in the preface and then undergoes successive permutations, is, in 57 Ibid, 202. 58 Ibid, 236.
97 fact, present in the epig raph. Beginning with a colon so as to initiate an odd list, the hard put to it; an identification and a plan for action to supplant a plan for action; a taking up of slack; a dispersal and a metamorphosis 59 That the poem begins with discrete units and Disc rete Series may also speak to his own poetic theory: An imaginable new social order would require a skeleton of severe discipline for its realization and maintenance. Thus by a sharp restriction to essentials, the seriousness of a new order is brought to realization. Poetry might turn this condition to its own ends. Only by being an object sharply defined and without redundancy will its form project whatever meaning is required of it. It could well be, at the same time, first and last a poem facing as it m ust the dialectic necessities of its day. 60 Paterson, then, provides the thought process required to perform such an experimental and archeological inquiry into the dialectical necessities of the present. Within artworks, a peculiar political presence exists sometimes as a metaphor and at other times only hinted at through an imagined reconfiguration namely, the always present and constructive idea of political agency that results from history itself. 59 Ibid, 2. 60 Poetry 44.4 (July 1934): 220 225, pp. 223 4.
98 CHAPTER 4 LOUIS ZUKOFSKY, USE VAL UE, AND POETIC PRODU CTION In order to speak about Louis Zukofsky, an act that runs up against politics at each and every turn, I want to begin with a seemingly random and temporally improper ois Mitterrand was elected President of France, Henri Lefebvre wrote the third and final volume of his Critique of Everyday Life Much in the spirit of Adorno before him, the final volume echoes the pessimist view that the chance to realize philosophy had new changes are in store, on the way, is incontestable. Whether, as is universally portunity seem to find common symptoms regarding a culture of acceptance. As if pleading directly with e presented with any to trivial acts: buying and selling, consumption, various activities. It implies a in a word, a (the) totality. In this way, people (who? each and every one of us) condemn themselves to not 1 For readers who identify with certain political attractions on the Left, they may find thetic 1 Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 3 (London, Verso, 2008), p. 1.
99 that in the first volume of his Critique Lefebvre quoted from a collection of poe ms previously published in New Masses (which were translated into French in 1930) in order to make an argument to French audiences that American literature was more psychological, o utside of everyday life American writers were accomplishing something we had not even been able to begin: the trial of so 2 Of interest for my purposes here is that just as Lefebvre pub lished these latter remarks in 1947 consensus upon American literature was in the process of shifting into a mode of apolitical acceptance. The anti capitalist momentum and the radicals behind it could not help but reel in response to the horrors of the Hi tler Stalin Pact and the news of the gulag itself; in effect, their moment to realize philosophy had been missed. According to this narrative, there was nothing left for the radicals to do (perhaps besides turn to psychoanalysis) except join the consensus of an oppressive, racist, sexist, and exploitative dominant culture going into the 1950s or retreat away from public life altogether. Or, of course, we have the option to see how political consciousness changed according to certain moments either personal or public (both, as Lefebvre reminds us, are categories of social space) how they critique or capitulate to certain ideologies, and how their artistic experiments continued into the radical movements of the 1960s. 3 Perhaps thinking through contradictory as pects again might be beneficial for our contemporary moment. 2 Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 1 (London, Verso, 2008), p 235. 3 New Collected Poems where he
100 As we will see in this C hapter, Zukofsky was indeed a radical of the 1930s who experienced all the contradictions of the decade. This point seems to pass without any contestation within Zukofsky scholarship. Like many other urban, regional, and later). He launched the Objectivists, wrote for the New Masses worked for the Works Progress Administration, was a member of the League of American Writers, and, while not an official member, involved himself in various activities within the Communist Party. Many of these activities and identities make their way into his epic poem Like many other modernist pract itioners he was not interested in agitprop or proletarian realism. Or, at least, he experimented with them and moved beyond their closed limits and sets formalism as a m aterial agent within the social. Formalism does not stand over against 4 Whatever formalism we may want to attribute to the Objectivists, it bears little resemblance wit h the errors of the formalisms produced within the literary culture of the academy for the past sixty years. The particular problem being hinted at is that Zukofsky becomes a figure that ological a moniker whose definition seems too inexact to be useful and he is also not a formalist (nor does he become 1960s coincided with the miraculous em ergence of an entire lost generation Charles Reznikoff, Lorine Niedecker, Louis Zukofsky, Carl Rakosi and, in England, Basil Bunting who for varying reasons had been invisible since the 1930s, and who suddenly appeared among us, now transformed into Venera ble xiv xv ). 4 Michael Davidson, Ghostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material World (Berkeley: U of California P, 1997), p. 239.
101 one). He is, like so many other artists of the 1930s Richard Wright, John Dos P assos, Muriel Rukeyser, not to mention all the Objectivists a polyblend of both; politics and aesthetics lock in an almost perfect antagonism without solution. In fact, if we follow we see an interesting clash in terms of cosmopolitan modernism) gains new referents through new turbulent historical and political realities. 8, a poem whose form constructs term) conterminously into the poem that result in a simultaneous dialogue between eight counterpointing figures and themes. But, as he tells Pound in a letter of the same year, 8 & the rest etc. etc., & having to go off immediately to the W.P.A. job till 6, & then [Communist] party shits [ sic 5 At a moment like this I think we must confront a certain amount of incomprehensibility: while parceling out his workday between various the dialectics of labor itself that places its ma in theme through a series of Spinozan 6 We, in turn, have a dilemma to sort out that carries its own political heft in order to understand how a manifold series of dialectical counterpoints becomes a political representation of the complex social category of labor. It then turns out that the fugue may be a useful form to represent the 5 Upper Limit Music: The Writing Louis Zukofsky ed. Mark Scroggins (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1997), p. 83. 6 Louis Zukofsky, (New York: New Directions, 1978; reprint 2011), p. 43.
102 complex series of relationships and exchanges that produce the amalgamated totality called capitalism. The same coul d accordingly be said about the epic. Zukofsky, who read Marx and read him well, thinks through the problems of artistic phantasmagoric commodity forms, are the materializa tion of social relations in a visible form. Repeatedly Zukofsky will emphasize the importance of the aspect of constructing The scientist compelled to make order of a hunch, the architect building the house in which to live, the dancer tell historian shaping a sum of events to the second law of thermodynamics, an economist subsuming under a fiction of value a countless differentiation of labor processes, a weaver making the garment that will drape to a body, the painter, the musician, all who achieve constructions apart from themselves, move in effect toward poetry. 7 but we need to be mindful acute interest in use value. Zukofsky has an eye toward the individual and social qualities congealed in the object the dynamic factors that make the labor put into it socially necessary and constant throughout time. As he object away or put it in your pocket, but there is a use of words where one word in 8 We have here objects defying th e commodity form under capitalism, refusing poetry as fetish or instrumental language. One avenue for understanding 7 Louis Zukofsky, Prepositions +: The Collected Critical Essays (Middletown : Wesleyan UP, 2000), p. 8. 8 Ibid, 235.
103 value. These two terms, which coincide and diverge li ke unruly parallel lines sometimes splintering into alienation along the way provide two anchor points to not reference points for how his modernism continues in the decades after. Being one link of many, the politics of use over exchange assists in articulating how his anti capitalist politics finds a parallel in his artistic output. theories of lab or and value as they manifest in his poetry. Barry Ahern, Mark Scroggins, Burton Hatlen, Eric Homberger, Bruce Comens, and Norman O. Brown have all written understanding 12 in 1950 51) because he retreats to the apolitical space of the domestic: Where the primary scene of the 10 and attention to the domestic. The dominant locus of the harmony that Zukofsky delineates here is the family: the world at large b ecomes not the world of the newspapers and the class struggle but the world as seen by 9 A sleight of hand here: it is as if politics were snatched like a tablecloth out from underneath the poetic ob ject to leave it pristine and undisturbed. These divisions public/private, domestic/political belie the fact that the distinctions themselves are a result of the logic of modernity, particularly as it relates to industrialization, urbanization, and the geo graphies of capitalism. Zukofsky studied this historical shift in his research 9 Mark Scroggins, Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge (Tu scaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1998), pp. 207 8.
104 for the Index of American Design where he documents the importance of texts like Encyclopedia of Domestic Economy (1845) because they privately to be found working on something at home, and for their homes, si de by side with their 10 wrote Pound a letter tracing the current political debates of the National Credit for 9 (i if that is possible 11 perhaps even an invalid question. But it does not, the personal 12 These ideologies, I would argue, that separate the domestic from politics and that appro ximate a distance between public 10 Louis Zukofsky, A Useful Art: Essays and Radio Scripts on American Design (Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 2000), p p. 101 6. 11 Barry Ahern, ed., Pound/Zukofsky: Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and Louis Zukofsky (New York: New Directions, 1981), pp. 203 4. 12 Art and/as Labor: Some Dialectical Patterns in 1 through A 10 Contemporary Literature 25.2 (Summer 1984): p p. 205 234 230.
105 onsciousness; the rare moments when we overturn these readings and note that the social marks the limits and horizons of the personal Poetry, as Zukofsky tells us, is precisely the space where all the ramifications of sociality find expression: Poetry doe s not arise and exist in a vacuum. It is one of the arts sometimes individual, sometimes collective in origin and reflects economic and social status of peoples; their language habits arising out of everyday matter of fact; the constructions which the inte lligence and the emotions make over and apart from the everyday after it has been understood and generally experienced. 13 ideological temperament from the 1930s onward; as Ador no argued, the artistic object is a magic eight ball or a question mark that solicits enigmatic questions of us and our responses show history attempting to speak. 14 object argues exactly this: poetry is the visible manife station of the hidden forces of sociality itself. Rachel Blau DuPlessis has articulated a similar concern in terms of a problematic Indeed, some people have fallen upon this word as onto a is much formal excellence to be found in Zukofsky, as DuPlessis reminds us, formalism 15 There must be, and there are, types of politics that fall outside of organized politics. That a figure like 13 Louis Zukofsky, A Test of Poetry (Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 2000), p. 99. 14 Theodor W. Adorno Aesthetic Theory (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1998), p. 124. 15 A Test of Poetry Ja cket 30 (July 2006): n. pag. Web. 30 July 2011.
106 Zukofsky became disillusioned like many other figures in many other social contexts with organized politics coming out of the 1940s does not equate to a last call for all political interests. I hope that other figures, say a Roland Barthes, who found the very experience of organized politics a problematic one due to its methods for winnowing categories and conce pts, and albeit a figure who interrogated the politics of domesticity tagged as un political or a political figures. As Barthes might say, it may be a more han the topos of organized politics. What I find problematic about these readings aside from being reductive down to the last zero are the ways in seems to tote its synonym struggle is over; domestic harmony already a contestable phrase resembles something like Nietzschean Joy where the eternal return of the same forefends any need for adjustments or struggles. It is It is therefore necessary to rehabilitate politics as it runs through the entire epic itself, including those seemingly apolitical moments li 12. To do this requires the rehabilitation of a politics that includes all the inequalities yet to find a proper form of visibility, presence, or articulation in our historical past, present, and, perhaps most importantly, future. It will also move beyond the limits of a politics that is only identifiable
108 the form 18 In this way, we cannot separate how Zukofsky thinks of poems as objects differently from forms as objects. Now, I think, we interests in labor as it relates to poetic objects. Lefebvre says, the relation between man and object is not the s ame as a relation of possession. It is incomparably broader. What is important is not that I have possession (be it capitalist or egalitarian) of an object, but that I can enjoy it in the human, total meaning of the word; that I can have the most complex, which can be a thing or a living being or a human being or a social reality. Moreover it is by means of this object, within, in and through it, that I enter into a complex network of human r elationships. 19 Dialectically, we may be tracing the contours of a strangely positive definition of un alienated experience. What we find in Zukofsky is a paralleling desire for the experience of objects, even Lang uage, not yet compromised by the problems of the fetish. This is an important lesson from Marx that finds many soundboards (Benjamin, Lukcs, Adorno, Lefebvre, Debord, et. al.): once the object crosses over into exchange, its unitary existence as use value is automatically eliminated; it becomes enchanted As David Harvey reminds the use 20 of the commodity is no longer suited to meet the demands of human needs. In sum, the commodity fetish and exchange value are false equalities by either doubling the object 18 Zukofsky, A Test of Poetry 52. 19 Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol. 1 156. 20 David Harvey, (London: Verso, 2011), 23.
109 by fetishizing it to be something and more or by placing it under the regime of quantit y Marx, echoing the transformative powers of werewolves and Frankenstein The form of wood, for instance, is altered if a table is made out of it. Neve rtheless the table continues to be wood, an ordinary sensuous thing. But as soon as it emerges as a commodity, it changes into a thing which transcends sensuousness. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will. 21 This passage, which Zukofsky will reference late into his life in order to describe his artic ulates a properly aesthetic problem in a roundabout way What the commodity demarcates is a continual displacement; the fetishist will never be able to fully experience, nor possess, the commodity due to its contradictory status. This necessary offsetting of equalities articulates the very politics economy; as soon as the doubling occurs, exploitation is already at work. Perhaps we including Zukofsky, experience losing. In what remains I want t o show how Zukofsky attempts to outline a method for rethinking and rehabilitating a politics whose arch shuttles between both poles equality and inequality in order to show how limits can dialectically turn into openings. We may then approach politics whe never an inequality is present (or anticipated); if there is politics, equality must by necessity be offset. Jacques Derrida provides a summative 21 Marx, Capital 163 4.
110 to the equality of the o ne to the other: the origin of politics, the question of 22 So even if the home becomes a symbol for thinking through the utopia of the present and I would argue that even this is a misreading as it relates to Zukofsky it must inevitably speak to a dissymmetry somewhere else. And this politics is not a reactionary or nostalgic return to a prior time: Zukofsky, with not only Marx but his entire historical cast, locates a method for redeploying forms for political purposes, and these forms must alwa ys go through the process of modernization itself. Zukofsky, as we will see below, is very much aware of the politics involved in repetition. 8 and 9. But I als o want to read these in conjunction with his WPA work for the Index of American Design When we overlap the two activities we may begin to understand how use value undergirds his formal experiments, but also how the resuscitation even the reproduction of o ld forms objects which men made and used, people live again. The touch of the carving to the 23 9 there may be a very complex political speak of their reification as things separated from all traces of their creation. Each Marxist has a particular fetish in Capital and Zukofsky follows the idea that labor is a positive and fluid force running th rough time whose use 24 9 regenerates Guido 22 Jacques Derrida, Rogues: Two Essays on Reason (Stanford: Stanford UP, 2005), p. xii 23 Zukofsky, A Useful Art 149. 24 Marx, Capital 342.
111 barrier separating subject and object 9 where Zukofsky continues the canzone but now with Spinoza whose natura naturans in order to write about a politics of love. The result is a convincing overlap where labor and love economic equality. These themes will not retreat or disappear, but Zukofsky will think through use value (whose phantasmal figure 25 12 narrates his newly hinged identity with the birth of his son and the passing of his father. Domestic and familial labor, which includes his wife Celia and letters from a young friend serving in Korea, open to new spaces where the politics of use value needs to be, and can be, rethought. But the contexts changed completely. If we must by necessity mark a distinction between t he poetic moments of pre and post 1950 as Zukofsky scholars are want to do, which I think are better articulated as historical moments, I would argue that the shift we see in Zukofsky does not mark a turn away from politics, but rather marks an experience 12 cascades 1930s and the continuance of war in Korea. If Zukofsky desires a type of private harmony, we must relate this to incommensurability with present social realities. As / Files and head / Of twenty years 25 Zukofsky, 261.
112 notes 26 The chance to realize philosophy seems to have been missed, and he will negotiate this dilemma. 8 attempts to articulate the political realities of the 9 shows an al together different possible reality where use value 12 asks how one is to continue on the course of a politics of use value when its horizon of actuality in a Cold War context is placed even furt her away into the historical future. We could think of a narrative corollary for this poetic movement whose trajectory demonstrates an important social fact, a fact that Zukofsky will even argue in favor of: individual and domestic identities are shaped by social factors. His poetry, then, marks various moments and strategies for understanding how this occurs, it is an attempt to discover what ingredients and seemingly invisible social factors determine the present and also what epistemological errors keep it properly maintained. Use value and the 1930s Cantos Importantly, Zukofsky argues that its form is a musical one because it handles polyphony of voices, images, and relationships. He says, The music of the Cantos is of three kinds, (a) the music of the words themselves, their sound effects, (b) the music caused by the juxtaposition of the word and word, line and line, strophe and changing strophe, entire canto against entire canto, and the time pauses between each of these, (c) the suggested music of all the Cantos at once: that is, as there is the entire developing and concluding music of the sonnet, not only the pairing or quadruplicating of its rhythms, there is the entire music of a single poem of length such as the Cantos 26 Ibid, 244.
113 process of writing, unavoidable in a poem of length, the music is always an immediacy of the entire structure. 27 The complicated totality called the Cantos regardless of issues of completion or coherence 28 : how one person, signed Pound, reacted to and received the incongruities, contradictions, and ideologies of historical life, errors and all. I would suggest that this idea or ideological category imbued with the ability to address, or speak about, everything at once despite its arbitrary division into sections (i.e., cantos, books, or a divisio n into twenty four geographic potential, has shown that the modern epic carries with it this new ideology: contemporaneity of the non contemporaneous moves into the foreg and 29 I would add that this ideology of Alongside also accompanies a notion of totality: the self terminating wish that must continue wishing to graph the entire mode of production. As early as 1931, in the Objectivist issue of Poetry 30 We may only suppose, and I think we should, that Zukofsky shows a similar interest Graph: Of Cu lture 31 27 Zukofsky, Prepositions + 78. 28 Ezra Pound, "A Retrospect Literary Essays of Ezra Pound ( New York: New Directions, 1935 ) p. 4 29 Franco Moretti, Modern Epic: The World System from Goethe to Garca Mrquez (London: Verso, 1996), p. 52. 30 Zukofsky, Prepositions + 13. 31 Zukofsky, 257.
114 entire career: the appreciation of thinkers who create totalizing systems initially based on variations of small components or premises that then expand. The list includ es Ethics Capital Tractatus and even epistemology that positions the superiority of th e in Zukofsky speak). We should include Zukofsky as the last person in this list because importantly in quotation marks becomes a series of variations starting fro m one Or, in true form, would be better understood as a pangram with all twenty six letters of the alphabet interrelating and being voiced at once. The fugue becomes the primary form for this representative strategy in Zukofsky: by the law of counterpoint, each voice or theme co ntinues its simultaneous dialogue until all become undifferentiated, heard but no longer recognizable or isolatable on their own history as fugue or history as vortex. Importantly, after twenty three sections, ends with part score music, thought drama, story, composition runs for approximately seventy performed minutes, or some 244 pages, where four themes (T)hought, (D) rama, (S)tory, and (P)oem occur simultaneously in successive variations with the (M)usical accompaniment of Handel. 32 32 (Celia was also Loui together on homophonic translations of Catallus When selling his papers to the University of Texas, one Bottom: On Shakespeare Pericle s, Prince of Tyre to music. I will be as guilty as the rest in including
115 as with the other figures is both for representative strategy (a type of form ) and for the content of political theory. That Zukofsky empathizes and identifies with Marxism is clear enough, but he also appreciates how Marx crafts a representation of capitalism. For many Marxists this is stated above, Zukofsky aims to rehabilitate the idea of the artist as a craftsman so as to include anyone who creates an object apart from oneself be it a thing, relationship, or idea day exchange relation need not be directly / Identical with the market. 33 inseparable form of Capital the unfolding and refoldi ng of the dialectic resulting in Labor and Capital seesawing in perpetual class struggle and the critique of political economy. Since Zukofsky tilts toward the side of Labor, his figure for the artist is a valid artist the sadness of the horse 34 Modern Times is appropriate for the generat ion that was likely taken home from the hospital after birth in a horse and buggy only to be driven to the funeral home in an automobile; the horse becomes that abstract quantitative measure of horsepower. Zukofsky notes these new quantifications resulting a rare event much akin to Gertrude and Alice to which there is little scholarship done when much is deserved. 33 Zukofsky, 54. 34 Zukof sky, Prepositions + 63.
116 be reckoned / 1/20 of a horsepower / Think then, 10 turbines are 900,000 35 How to restore the quality of the horse that is, how to reorient value based on use rather than exchange becomes the dilemma that Zukofsky admires in 7 of sitting on a stoop in 36 What we see in thi s 6 Can / the design / Of the fugue / 37 8 where the first fugue takes place is the strange identity of language with labor. Otherwise said, poetic endeavors run parallel t o other categories of labor as they produce objects here playing on the arbitrariness of whose process of exchange retains no relation to quantity or the money words, 38 We should think of this experiment as an unfulfilled thesis statement since Zukofsky is not yet sure how to overlap the poetic process and the labor process. For the rest of the decade, however, he will work o n the problem. Language is no mere raw material; it already has a history and a series of labor processes imbued into it. Under the pressures of the various collapses of the 35 Zukofsky, 60. 36 Ibid, 39. 37 Ibid, 38. 38 Ibid, 42.
117 1930s, rethinking the social value of language as object has political consequence Poetry and the poetic labor process become ethical insofar as they outline the contours of the ought or the should become a radical rebuttal and counter to the world of industrial turned fina nce capitalism as it is ; he constitutes the very politics of dissensus in his writing by showing the potentiality of thinking two worlds at once through the antagonism that exists between the present stage of capitalism and the as if configuration of socia lism (quite M C structure). Here we may have a more graspable way to comprehend the following resents another configuration entirely where commodities speak of their use values. These two movements also become textually and theoretically dense: both contain hidden laws governing their forms. In other words, there is an immense amount of labor put i nto these poems, some of which will only be known by Zukofsky telling us. Modern poetry, for Zukofsky, should including definitions, laws of nature and theoretic constructions are poetic, like th 39 For example, both poems have mathematical laws that govern syllable and letter distribution according to a complex calculus or ratios garnered from modern physics. As Zukofsky tells us o 9, the first i.e., the ratio of accelerations and decelerations of a particle moving in a circular path with uniform angular 39 Zukofsky, Prepositions + 7.
118 40 The distribution of r and n modulates in each line as Ahearn argues, and degree rotation 41 Ahearn and Scroggins, whose labors deserve full credit, have pa instakingly tracked these patterns and iterations in the poems in order to develop a complex scaffold that rivals the hidden Ulysses But there is too little emphasis given to the hiddenness of all the complexity. Scroggins argues tha t the hidden labor put into the poems is a result 42 While the explanation via neurosis may be true, I would contend that the very notion of hid denness stems directly from his interests in use value. The form accompanies the overall argument: labor, including artistic and intellectual labor, is concealed within the object, which does not infer anything undiscoverable about it except its quantifica tion. Perhaps we have a poetic analogue of labor: it is a capitalist dream to think that the time congealed labor within any commodity is justly measurable, calculable, or visible Even more, poetry is not like a science, poetry is a science. The fugue of 8 is better described as a cacophony than a harmony. Or, if harmonious, it has more of the ominous quality of the baroque turned vampire soundtrack Toccata and Fugue than The poem works through eight themes in constant counterpo int: labor (Marx and Spinoza), music (Bach), economics (Marx and Engels), science (Einstein, Poincar, and Veblen), nominalism 40 Quoted in Mark Scroggins, The Poem of a Life (Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2007), p. 187. 41 Barry Ahearn, An Introduction (Berkeley: U of California P, 1983), pp. 239 40. 42 Scroggins, The Poem of a Life 182, 184.
119 (Duns Scotus), personal history, art, and American history (the Adamses: Henry, Brooks, and Charles Francis, Jr.). 43 The poem, as Scroggins demonstrates, is a series artistic or otherwise by the Gilded Age money grabs of Vanderbilt and G eyed critics of the 44 We have here an attempt by Zukofsky to articulate all at once the economic and hist orical forces that constitute Paterson to document the Language of suburban New Jersey, Zukofsky illustrates successive uld come back Henry Adams 45 The fugue becomes the form to narrate or better, to represent present. We should note that Zukofsky amasses a checklist of poetic analogues for historical materialism totality/fugue, labor/love, history/epic, laborer/artist, use value/Art, and work/poetry. Marx is indeed an artist, but his artwork is not Capital ; the the artwork is devoid of quant ity and whatever quantity we find in it is arbitrary A poem, 43 Ahearn, 77. 44 Scroggins, The Poem of a Life 178. 45 Zukofsky, 51.
120 We should again emphasize the inevitable hidden quality of all these events. We focusing on his masterful poetic handling and another lens that attempt s to see the constantly changing relationships of sociality. Like any good reader of Marx, Zukofsky hone operator connecting callers during an emergency; inevitably strange conversations are patched complex historic, political, and economic events that constitute life under capitalism. When Marx appears alongside the Adamses he is a laboring horse attempting to keep possible / to work / / One cannot always be writing ( Das Kapital ). 46 Here we have Marx writing a letter to his daughter regarding his own socially necessary labor. And this over, Marx here is an artist because he does two important acts: the exertion of labor to create an object and 47 tic poet He has an economic basis. He has been doing a job. It will perhaps as soon not as be his salvation. He does not pretend it to be more than a job. 46 Zukofsky, 57. 47 Zukofsky, Prepositions + 12.
121 Guillaume de Poitiers had several jobs. He was a poet. He went to war. Obviously he divided his energy, perhaps, perhaps not, to the hindrance of his poetry. At any rate poetry defined as a job, a piece of work. 48 Poetry is a method for criticizing and destabilizing the supposed rootedness of present civil society and the narratives of nationali counterpoints and dialectical maneuvers emerges the strenuous and totalized image of America in the 1930s. process as a recipro cal activity where subject and object become an identity: the laborer and the object created exist in a dialectical relationship that becomes destroyed when use value (quality) switches into exchange value (quantity). Form however, becomes the keyword in Capital that hits multiple registers for Zukofsky. As Fredric Jameson says of Capital destined to rescue money from its own thingification or reification; and in perfect consistency wi th the opposition that has already been described, where the use value is material and physical, carnal and qualitative, while exchange value is very precisely mental if not spiritual: that is to say, pure form rather than content. 49 Zukofsky, who is alread y in the process of resuscitating artistic anachronisms fugue, sestina, canzone relevance. The suppositi on that artistic form is the visible thing only turns on its head. Form becomes a complicated term as it exists in fog of contexts and sits alongside 48 Ibi d, 206 7. 49 Fredric Jameson, Representing Capital: A Reading of Volume One (London: Verso, 2011), p. 35.
122 things and how we mis 50 instructs us to focus not on the raw materials or commodity. When the mi ner digs it up, it has a use value because so much labor power and more imaginative hand ling of fact in the first chapter of Marx than has been guessed at in your economic heaven but you can still read Charlie and find out for yourself why labor is the basic commodity (if that word is to have any consequential meaning at all) and how the pr oducts of labor are just the manifestations, and money yr. 51 The parallel to be drawn is in terms of parent: he is begrudgingly asking to move art away 52 The fugue, therefore, might be exhausted in terms of exchange value or tabooed by cultural codes, but its use value maintains a living po tential if it finds a corresponding social need. Far struggles and his switch from the sacred to the profane permits Zukofsky the breadth and space of textual simultaneity to engage history. A complex string works on several horizontal and vertical connective chains in Zukofsky (i.e., it is musical ). Artistic forms, which seem entirely tabooed for modern 50 Zukofsky, Prepositions + 207. 51 Zukofsky, Pound/Zukofsky 171. 52 Marx, Capital 127.
123 poetry, are again redeployed because they seem to speak again to a socia l need. But they are not merely repeated, they are modernized with the help of complex calculus and physics (not to mention the fugue now being textual ). This is poetic labor in the Marxian sense: a productive activity responding to determinate social need But it is use value which establishes the theoretical base for this movement; if we pay attention to Marx, use value is not only a productive activity but it also creates a counter, albeit hidden, genealogy of history by way of a constant method of exte nding prior use values. If the exchange value of a house reaches zero, does the use value parallel in proportion? No, use value has its own grooves and channels that have nothing to do with the market. Regardless of exchange, use value is a historical cons tant. As Marx says, The old form of the use value disappears, but it is taken up again in a new form of use value. Hence the worker preserves the values of the already consumed means of production or transfers them to the product as portions of its v alue, not by virtue of his additional labor as such, but by virtue of the particular useful character of that labor, by virtue of its specific productive form. Therefore, in so far as labor is productive activity directed toward a particular purpose, in so far as it is spinning, weaving or forging, etc., it raises the means of production from the dead merely by entering into contact with them, infuses them with life so that they become factors of the labor process, and combines with them to form new product s. 53 Conjuring for Marx, but perhaps art history for Zukofsky. A double movement is important here: if one is a capitalist, then this is a potentially subversive form of consciousness for a worker to embody; if one is an anti capitalist, then we have a hig hly productive counter to the world of quantity by seeing use value as a historical connective tissue forming a collective that defies temporal limits. Exchange value can 53 Marx, Capital 308.
124 be destroyed (a home), but not use value (the labor that went into and took place wit hin the home). 8 the antagonism comes into full relief. There are two historical trajectories at work: capitalism and anti capitalism. These are the far poles of the combatting fugues that existed conterminously with one another in the 1930s: a world of two worlds, a dissensus. For example, there is a modulation or a back and forth occurring incessantly in the poem. Just as Marx and Engels fight for the legal Curiously enough most of the demands / which I drew up for Geneva / Were also put Chapters of Erie The Adamses function for Zukofsky as perhaps one of the final records of attempted regulation and just business practices being sought after in the U.S. (particularly railroads and banks) before monopolization became a goal. Charles Francis and absolute coercion and unlawfulness marked by the new captains of industry: Ten stri ken railway director In their hands files of papers and their pockets Crammed assets and securities One, Captain, in a hackney coach with him six millions in g reenbacks. 54 For Zukofsky, the mere quoting of these figures is an attempt to pull their use value back from the dead. One of the main themes throughout the poem is the importance of 54 Zukofsky, 76.
125 textual production as a use Testimony being not too far dis exceptionalisms; and again we see the necessity of analyzing the theories and strategies of citation and quotation a task which must be put off for a later date). We see Marx writ ing, but also the Adams brothers doing the same; Zukofsky includes read this manuscript tell me / Whether it is worth printing / Or whether it is quite mad. / Probably bugs will never forgive you. / You 55 We have not merely capitalism and anti capitalism, but two entirely competing forms of production, two forms for producing the world locked in struggle: on this side, destruction and exploitation; on that side, productive activity according to social need. A further detour is needed. All the while writing these densely theoretical poems ection on the Index of American Design The Index charts the history of modernization by focusing on the shift from handicrafts to industrialization in terms of ironwork, chalk ware, tin ware, and kitchenware. In a radio script written but never recorded Z ukofsky writes specifically figurehead of which the idea has been oversimplified only to appear as of today, we wonder how this thing s, forgetting that we a New Deal employee working as a public servant who graphed the history of the U S 55 Ibid, 79.
126 in terms of its objects. Most of these objects, like the figur ehead, remain anonymous (Henry Clay names a ship). The importance of the Index Zukofsky says, is that it has a potential chance to bring these objects back into full consciousness, As pictures, yes, and as facts. They still exist, because they existed. An d because rendering the truths they were to the people who made and used figureheads that preceded it, but a reason for creating sculpture in our time. and color of the drawing help to circulate its image among people. They must admire, and demand an effort from contemporary art that will yield a comparable pleasure to the living. 56 It seems that the reactionary congressional committees of 1939 had just cause for being suspicious of the radical work being done by the WPA and subsequently lobbying to depoliticize it with the Hatch Act. Zukofsky is not interested in resuscitating forms or thinkers in order to dazzle by means of technical bravado or at least it is not that alone. Instead he works within the qualitative politics of social need. A canzone, like an anonymous figurehead, is capable of art iculating what is socially necessary. Both objects, figurehead and canzone, have the potential for us to, as Lefebvre said earlier, Love, Labor, and Productive Science 9 is a formally aggressive po em that took nineteen years to complete. In 1931 1950. The poem should be considered within three aspects: 1) as an argument against he inferiority of America and the English language in terms of art; 2) as a poetic imagining of equality produced through an equity of 56 Zukofsky, Index 150.
127 exchange; and 3) as a modernized version of the politics of Amor where love intersects with use value. The poem is constr ucted in two halves, the first completed in 1940 and the second in 1950. In the first half Marx functions as theoretical anchor for Zukofsky in use value may interest men but it does not belong to us as objects. What does belong 57 natura naturans becomes the theoretical frame to argue for a collective love produced by the interplay and socializat ion of Desire. Ghostlier Demarcations that the poem 58 There is also, however, a third dynamic operating by way of the use value of the canzone, and project was to poeticize the inseparability of subject and object. But, and Davidson deals with phantasmal appearances. As Giorgio Agamben says of Caval such, in a pneumatic circle in which the limits separating internal and external, corporeal 59 57 Marx, Capital 176. 58 Davidson, Ghostlier Demarcations 132. 59 Giorgio Agamben Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1993), p. 108.
128 form and form of use mirror, the union ( copulatio ) of the individual with the unique and separate intellect is 60 9, then, has an important four th aspect that will only be productive and unitary counter science; that is, a science countering the determinations of the market. research scarcity of rhyming words in English (compared with Italian) it would seem impo ssible 61 If we follow this argument, however, we are limiting the poem to poetics only. The poem, a dense construction in its own right, layers a multifarious kind of theoretical thinki ng; moreover, the treatment of the poem under the regime of poetics alone refuses to acknowledge Zukofsky as a theorist or, even more dangerously, a political theorist. When Zukofsky published 9 by himself in 1940, he included his notes o Capital Electrons and Waves: An Introduction to Atomic Physics 9, and a prose restatement, line by line, of the poem. A rare even t for Zukofsky to 60 Ibid, 106. 61 Scroggins, The Poem of a Life 184.
129 tell of everything that went into the poem and to transliterate the poetry; forty one pages of collated research for two and a half typescript pages. lov 62 This would depend on how Zukofsky types of claims: labor and love are grounded in the same dialectical movement or, the same mo Agamben 63 that heals the logic of separation inherent to exchange and the commodity fetish. Zukofsky constructs an interesting line of flight that traverses a Renaissance poet, a seventeenth century philosopher, a nineteenth century economist, a twentieth century physicist, and a twentieth century poet, all of whom delegitimize various forms of separation. To use a much abused word today, the poem is interdisciplinary notions of production and unification or even production as unification Zukofsky is attempting to heal a massive ideological rift resulting from the Enlightenment turned industrialization of knowledge and human experience tout court as some thing isolatable, calculable, and visible Before working through the poem I think an explanation of method is in order. As I 62 Ibid 185. 63 Agamben, Stanzas 130.
130 value and the labor process. But this method, which seemingly follows phantasms and false a ppearances for their manifestations as untruth is also a counter science. As Harvey says, While the different elements of value congealed in the commodity are invisible to the naked eye, Marx is going to make the claim, which you may not like, that this m ode of analysis actually produces a far better science of political economy precisely because it gets beyond the fetishism of the market. The bourgeoisie had produced good enough science from the system works from the standpoint of the labor process, and to the degree that they do, they plainly want to disguise it. They cannot possibly concede that labor is the form giving, fluid, creative fire in the transformation of nature that lies at the heart of any mode of production, including capitalism. 64 Something eerily subversive lurks here. It is as if Zukofsky will construct a chain of thinkers whose link thick or thin will be a variation on this method. Looming behind the existing configuration of society is a potentially more beneficial science whose excavation maintains the production of a totally different social configuration, one that factors human and social need as a priority. The three prominent figures in the poem all represent a histori Florence with its administrative and geographical shift into the municipalities of the comuni as it demarcates tilt through industrialization. Zukofsky links all three by a variation on a simple idea: the head / / 64 Harvey, A Companion 132 3.
131 receiving its final turn of the screw. 65 8 maps numerous historical wrong turns resulting in a simultaneous fugal cacophony of all the forces participating in industrial 9 performs a complex counterpoint as if Marx was already before Spinoza: there exists a counter pro ductive power, be it labor or love. 9 is then not two halves, but two variations of forms 9 was published as a completed section there was nothing sepa rating the two sections; one poem with two distinct variants. The two variations, Marx and Spinoza, are almost identical and it would not be inappropriate to say that Zukofsky forces them into an out exchange value while is shown switching forms. Here we should compare the opening lines of the first and second variations: An impulse to action sings of a sembla nce, Of things related as equated values, The measure all use is time congealed labor In which abstraction things keep no resemblance To goods created; integrated all hues An eye to actio n sees love bear the semblance Of things, related is equated, values The measure all use who conceive love, labor Men see, abstraction they feel, the resemblance (Part, self created, integrated) all hues ghbor. 66 65 Zukofsky, 61. 66 Ibid, 106, 108.
132 9 is to think of labor and love as something opposed or that opting for one means the cancellation of the other they are indeed different, but without negation. To parcel the poem apart consigns us to a vulgar antagonis m albeit a structural reading of binary oppositions where the identity of labor and love cannot be adequately addressed. We can begin to untangle the many conversations Zukofsky has set g fully conscious of their a suitable figure for mentors / Use hardly enters into 67 Taken out from the totality of experience, exchange value swaps forms of appearance as the object passes into the commodity fetish. Zukofsky builds an anta gonism point by point through a series of sequential reversals. The correlating lines in the second variation uses the complexity of nature its totality Like the night isolated by stars (poled mentors) / Blossom eyelet enters pealing with such changes / As sweet alyssum, that not 68 For Zukofsky labor, whose natura naturans he production of flowers. The antagonism between labor and love is not only false, but it collapses entirely within 67 Ibid, 106. 68 Ibid, 108.
133 consciousness; love is a constitutive process that exercises a collective power through a mutual determination a socialization with dialectical nature. Both aspects share a commonality: the production of univocal experience fueled by desires that are always already social. The market, as it works against nature, is a negative notion of Power. Countering this power is the totality of a dialectical nature. A keyword that Zukofsky imports from power, which Zukofsky again describes in floral tropes, mainta ins the doubling and mirror like / Substance subjected to no 69 This power, which is the powe r of dialectical nature itself, doubles not to create one true form and one false form; the double movement is the very constitution of things in themselves by and with nature. Power here is a mutual mprecision / Of indignation cannot make the rose high / Or close sigh, therein blessedness effected / Thru power has 70 We are wrong, I think, to assume that Zukofsky displaces the entire a rch of politics here for the pastoral scene of flora and fauna as a sort of nostalgic retreat. Rather, we have a Spinozian symbol: a collective movement of objects exercising and executing actions according to an altogether different worldview besides the really knows us who does not love us, / Time does not move us, we are and love, 69 Ibid, 109. 70 Ibid, 109.
134 searing / Remembrance veering from guises which cloak us, / So defined as eternal n Desires, tends toward another in a fetish we may indeed have a world driven by human desires and social needs neither of which are indissociable from the other. From the vie wpoint of labor and love, the world operates according to desire and need, not surplus. politics. The notion of desire is not a simple one. Love, like other Desires ( cupiditas ), as cupiditas as a 71 negatively ? There is no such possibility. It is a power, its tension is e xplicit, its being 72 This is a science, Negri tells us, but it is a radically politicized science. In Spinoza science is recognized as constructiveness, freedom, and innovation. It is in no way teleologically or theologically condit ioned. The scientific model that capitalism produces for its own development is implicated in the critique carried out by negative thought. In contrast to all this stands constitutive thought. And that is the necessity and the possibility of science being used as a machine of liberation. This is the fundamental point. The intersection between negative thought and constitutive thought determines a harmonic force at the point of resonance between the critiqued totality and the project of liberation. The vastness of the project of liberation integrates the radicality of the negative project of the critique. Thus, science is brought back to the ethico political dim ension, it is filled with hope. The constitutive project must therefore pose science as a nonfinalized essence, as an accumulation of liberatory acts. It must pose science not as nature but as second nature, not as knowledge but as 71 Antonio Negri, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1991), p. 159. 72 Ibid, 155 6.
135 appropriation, not as individual appropriation but as collective appropriation, not as Power ( potestas ) but as power ( potentia ). 73 defying the trajectories that came to a climax in the past century, a science that does not bar the path toward liberation: determinate negation follo wed by production as abusive and irrational period of sheer domination, art takes an important position in a historical lineage of liberation, consciousness, and resistance t o this domination. And it is art that Zukofsky has in mind. Labor and love become aspects into the constitutive and constructive arena of intellectual and artistic production. We could turn cupiditas in terms of art: What else c ould it be but a constitutive process, a pure positivity? Its only negativity is positive: art as negation of / Hate is obscure, errs, is pain, furor, torn a / Lust to adorn avers ion, hope love eying / Its 74 This joining, of object to cause, of subject to object, seems quite possible within art: modern semiology cannot help but displace the paradox unified and productive sc ience Zukofsky outlines seems out of pace with his present, walking the edges of science and fiction. It is not merely an innocuous love that Zukofsky is after; it is the full blown restoration of the imaginative powers of poetic and intellectual labor to change society. If Marx was an artist, it seems Spinoza may have been one better. Here again I want to 73 Ibid, 214 5. 74 Zukofsky, 110.
136 productive powers of the imagination reach their highest pitch: The i magination is the heart of the constitutive ontology because it is at the center and is the emblem of its continuity, of the absolute univocality of the order of being. Actually, if it is true that Spinoza still sees the world of industry, at the daw n of capitalism, as relatively insignificant with respect to the world of natural production, this attitude is misleading. Because the concept of production in Spinoza is not only the foundation of the dynamic of being but also, more importantly, the key t o its complexity, to its articulation, to its expansivity. Second nature is born of the collective imagination of humanity, because science is precisely this: the productive result of the appropriative spirit of nature that the human community possesses an d develops. The process of civilization is an accumulation of productive capacity. 75 Natura value, paradoxically displaces emphasis away from nature entirely: the world is product ion. If production is a process of complex unity, then Zukofsky offers a three fold as production resulting from collective cons titution. 12 and the Imagination of Modernism 12, continues the representative strategies of the fugue while also extending the theory of labor and art as productive powers within the Zukofsky household. I think we need to 11 (a short chorale), because this is where scholars have formed a consensus regarding his poetic shift from modernism to postmo dernism, or rather, his retreat from politics in favor of 12 is astonishingly free of 75 Negri, The Savage Anomaly 225.
137 conflict, in ways that no these readings stems from a stre poet to accept the contingent, contextual status of the self and thus to initiate a movement beyond a modernist poetics of nostalgia for a lost absolute into a postmodernist poetics of finitude and 76 I am not interested here in thinking about style before history so my narrative will be altogether a different one. If there is a domestic idyll and, indeed, there is not but if there is one it seems Zukofsky places it in a fugal a ccompaniment with history piling up its errors as the project of modernity moves further off target. (A) for Aristotle, (C) for Celia, and (H) for Hohenheim Paracelsus. Zukofsk y also applies traits to each figure: blest, ardent, Celia needs no attribute, and happy. The mistake, I would argue, is to read these four traits as something existing in isolation. As in the prior sections, each of these four figures and traits is posed as a complex series of antagonisms. If we fail to see the antagonisms recurring throughout the poem, then perhaps there is a sort of idyll. But we would have to negate the contents of the poem itself along with linkages Zukofsky builds through them. Howeve r, the baby need not be tossed out with the bathwater. For instance, Zukofsky has contemporary politics running would be immigrants due to a lingering anti Semitism, an d letters from a young friend serving in Korea. Countering this escalating sense of negative Power (destruction, exploitation, racism, etc.) Zukofsky again resurges use value and labor as constructive 76 Upper Limit Music: The Writing of Louis Zukofs ky ed. Mark Scroggins (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1997), p. 216.
138 and constitutive force s Its symbol, which dodges aroun d throughout the entire poem, is Out of deep need 77 Zukofsky quickly clips through several myths of creation. After this quick dismissal he begins to articulate a different type of creation, artistic creation, with the insertion of a Valentine his son, Paul, made for Celia. One of the first major antagonisms we encounter in the poem has Zukofsky as its fulcrum: the passing of his father, Pinchos (Paul in English), and his son, Paul, who has a prodigious interest in playing the violin. Zukofsky spends significant time creating a biographical representation of his father, whose life, for Paul, will be strange and out of time. Moreover, everything about Pinchos is subsumed by quantity as he bore the brunt of industrialization as an immigrant Lithuanian Jew who labored in garment shops: Six years night watchman Where by day he pressed pants Every crease a blade The irons weighed At least twenty pounds But moved both of them Six days a week From six in the morning To nine, sometimes eleven at night. Everything regarding Pinchos is quantified: his pension, his age, the contents of his / For over six times ten years / Until three days before he died / A longer journey than 77 Zukofsky, 126.
139 78 As a counterpoint there is Paul, a child existing outside the world of quantity. The year spruce at least / For a fiddle for Paul: / Save / The heart of the wood so to speak / And who belongs to it. / Paul 79 12 function much lik e the horses before it. Tied into one object is a specific history and compounding use 80 And when Paul takes up the fiddle, as if he fiddle. / Then it is Stainer / Jacob Stainer / 16 hundreds / In the Austrian Tyrol / continue, much like the Henry Clay f igurehead, showing how each successive craftsman formed a history including the Stradivarius brothers and Joseph Slavik. The genealogy, now vividly present, parallels other transfers of labor across time. Use value functions much like a necromancer or a ve the blest / And blest lips move in the grave / The live lips that speak it / Move with those 81 reanimate dead labor. And it appears we have not left politics or labor behind, but rather sentimentalized them. Zukofsky opens a moment to see labor and productive activity outside of factories 78 Ibid, 152 5. 79 Ibid, 150. 80 Ibid, 157. 81 Ibid, 160.
140 and mills; the politics of use value occur at the level of everyday experience. The da ily im mediately switches into a discourse about labor: The horse sees he is repeating All known cultures And suspects repeating Others unknown to him, The shape of his ground seems to have been A constant for all dead horses His neigh cultural constant Als o his sniff 82 Without knowing it, the hidden qualities of prior labors from the labors of Pinchos, to encounter with language and art as a child. As I have been argui breaks, rejections, or movements away from politics or his interest in poeticizing the importance of use value as a social organizing principle. Here we have the collective family the emphasis will tu rn from Paul to Celia as a political unit functioning in direct contradistinction to the regime of quantity (i.e., industrialization under capitalisms latest phase) that Pinchos experienced; we see the attempted reversal from quantity to quality in action. This political family, the very politicization of a collective capable of experiencing the world in absolute dissensus with the present social circumstance, is 82 Ibid, 175.
141 is possi ble What fuels this possibility? Spinoza turns to Zukofsky for a verification stamp. The productive and constitutive power of the imagination again finds its way back The imaginations of the mind in themselves Involve no error, B ut I deny that a man affirms nothing In so far as he perceives SPINOZA. 83 work. The productive capacity of a world exists, but Zukofsky spends the next sections of his poem maneuvering through several misappropriations by tracing a line of negative r epetition by means of historical failures. For example, Zukofsky includes perhaps the only ship equaling the misfortunes of the voyage in 1939: the voyage in 1947 An emigration ship transporting mostly survivors of German concentratio n camps, the ship sailed from Paris to Palestine by British mandate only to be commandeered by the British Navy, its passengers beaten, and sent back. At the time, and directly a result of British anti Semitism, the passengers would be interned in Cypress (a British colony). As Zukofsky illustrates, Tortured in the ship Exodus Scuttle their prison ship With a justice that does not exist In the world but sterilizes, Nothing human in common After being lashed in common. 84 83 Ibid, 189. 84 Ibid, 197 8.
142 As if to comple m ent Adorno, there would be no poetry after WWII that did not start from its historical rupture. But Zukofsky, through a slight semantic chain, dialectically flips Lasheyes says Paul / Meaning eyelashe 85 everyday act of verification; if equality cannot be verified, we have an offsetting of equality a nd therefore a politics. The conclusion of the poem rotates a final time around each of the points of the fugue. Celia receives the most attention. But when we find Celia, again we revolves around the theme of objects created for one another. For example, Zukofsky describes at length the decorations of their house but with special emphasis on objects Of our Brooklyn brownstone / furniture he praised in the Index Again and again Zukofsky creates images of the mutual creation of artwork now working three ways with Paul within the family. The division of labor within the home, with each person working alongside one another, industrial historic al study: this is not a nostalgia for that moment, it is its repetition and modernization. There is a collective of three artists a pianist, a poet, and a violinist all producing objects according to the politics of use The task includes an immense amount of artistic failures that Zukofsky lists at 85 Ibid, 201.
143 length. But all of these creations hinge labor and love as the activity of transferring the creation of objects from exchange, where they lie dead, back into living use: Living, you love So I love With the dead In me Thru wet and dry For the living Rounding out the analogy of a familial use Nichomachean Ethics The Making of Americans and various other artists working within the tropes of genealogy, man who got around / After sacred Troy fell / question seems to be: How does one begin or start again now, in 1950, toward that / Telemachos rose from his bed / And 86 The simple method of producing a world on the basis of mutual constitution via production only seems difficult because it remains hidden. Importantly, the only other moment of simplicity we see in Zukofsky o Labor. / / boiled down simply, / From his body to other 87 As long as there are remain political. 88 Zukofsky becomes more hermetic, and this is uncontested, but this will not prohibit him from incorporating pol itical assassinations or 86 Ibid, 261. 87 Ibid, 207. 88 Ibid, 392.
144 the struggle for civil rights into his poetry. Indeed, it as if Zukofsky cannot help but continue his politics: Touching community Let this Be the conclusion. But he cannot conclude: Further if politics be an art, Most know nothin g of peace Supposing goods they contend for Mean more than love They regarded in making Works To occupy people And keep them Poor; analogy of creation against commodification closes the entire 89 And I think we should make the following claim: as if to the perpetual failures of the ojects; it verifies the possible by producing its potential out of everyday matters of fact. 89 Ibid, 537.
145 CHAPTER 5 BEFORE POSTMODERNISM CAME AFTER CHARLES O LSON Charles Olson is prototypically a late modernist. Mu ch of what unfolds within this C hapter will be an elabo ration upon this statement as well as the many paradoxes it 1 To argue that Olson was a late m odernist, however, would be a redundant if not a dead ending activity; it takes us only to the statement of a historical fact. What becomes more modernism and pos tmodernism i.e., late modernism we see an altogether different horizon for the postmodern resembling little to the one we currently still live within; that aesthetic ca tegory. The effect, as Jameson said in another place, is that if we admit (as we must) that there is no pure postmodernism as such, then the residual traces of modernism must be seen in another light, less as anachronisms than as necessary failures that i nscribe the particular postmodern project back into its context, while at the same time reopening the question of the modern itself for reexamination. 2 Jameson seems to imply an important gesture here: the possibility of folding the work of history back in to the narrative of the postmodern even if that narrative itself tends to tell the story of how history work became outmoded. And as we will see Olson is every bit a 1 Fred ric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present (London: Verso, 2002), p. 165. 2 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke UP, 1991), p. xvi
146 ground drop out beneath him due to the failure of these projects. What I want to explore here, then, is how Olson sits at the fulcrum of this historical and political process; how both modernism and postmodernism are recast through his unique and largely unfortu nate experience of pre and post WWII Americanism. The Cultural Turn he does so in part through the figure of Olson. Jameson had theorized postmodernism as a moment when economics and culture overlap 3 albeit diametrically opposed, ideology after Olson dies in 1970. The one word chapter titles of The Origins of Postmodernity plot the narrative points of modernism shifting into postmodernism: Prodromes, Crystallization, Capture, and After effe cts. Like many other figures exemplified by Anderson and Jameson going through a paralleling process (i.e., modernism turned as Olson becomes an avant garde poet whose notion of experimentation lose s its political base; tired are the antagonisms scouted out under the banners of left and right, base and superstructure, materialism and idealism. that becomes typified in Will boundary 2 The journal largely rewrote the history of Olson and Black Mountain College by favoring narratives of aesthetic pleasure and by stressing artistic styles changing over social change. But boundary 2 3 Fredric Jameson, The Cultural Turn: Sele cted Writings on the Postmodern, 1983 1998 (London: Verso, 1998), 73.
147 4 The result: unbidden future beyond ca pitalism The Kingfishers 5 re we see continuity from modernism to postmodernism. Anderson pays special attention It was here, then, t hat the elements for an affirmative conception of the postmodern were first assembled. In Olson, an aesthetic theory was linked to a prophetic history, with an agenda allying poetic innovation with political revolution in the classic tradition of the avant gardes of pre war Europe. The continuity with the original Stimmung of modernism, in an electric sense of the present as fraught with a momentous future, is striking. But no commensurate doctrine crystalized. 6 prospected a different course of history in advance 7 How the doctrine failed to arraying experience, or the misadventures, of postmodernism as it twists through a neoliberal landscape that is best 4 Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity (London: Verso, 1998), p. 16. 5 Ibid, 18. 6 Ibid, 12. 7 Ibid 45.
148 he explains, was not so much lack of vigilance towards the market, as too much trust in democrat in 1944, he was appointed third in command of the Democratic National 8 To understand the dynamics of this shift we may have to Here, by way of th inking initially about planning, we have a moment to reconsider including the entire social and cultural planning implied by the New Deal in its first and second versions (f rom the U.S. to the world) but also how this concept of planning fails due to an encroaching American hegemony that, via a shortcut, we might call corporate Denning and Gio vanni Arrighi argue hegemony social planning becomes an economic anachronism during the American Century as Fordism passes completely over into post Fordism; Fordist inventory gives in a time before The Cultural Front litical and artistic career in the 1930s and Harvard in the American Civilization Ph.D. program and worked for the ACLU, the Office 8 See Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times (London: Verso, 1994), pp. 69 76, 286 305.
149 of War Information, the DNC, and campaigned good deal of office space in Times Square. To complement t failed to crystalize, we could say that before the crash, and the postmodernism of the American Century that emerged from the generational frames first and second wave modernisms or even first and second generation Americans along with the narratives of modernism and postmodernism, Fordism and post Fordism. 9 But the aim here is not simply to prove that Olson was part of the larger cultural extinguished postmodernism (which is, by another roundabout, a narrative of modernism). prior modernism and outline the contours of this shift within his political career, intellectual output, and artistic production. This is, I hope, not so paradoxical in the end: Olson project well into a postmodern historical situation 9 Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century (London: Verso, 1997), p. 27.
150 continuing modernism within the context of 1950s America with the Cold War and New is the 10 theorizer of an a vant garde poetics that moves us beyond Pound, Williams, and Zukofsky as narratives of historical breaks would have it, but by his closeness and two initial publications ow modernism continuing agains t its own reification. As Michael Szalay argues in New Deal Modernism 11 Szalay importantly links the economic condition o f underconsumption found in the 1930s and 1940s to a breadth of artistic practices he locates within the social movements either directly or indirectly involved in New Deal diverse production one and the same process, a temporally defined activity detached as much 12 Many of m y 10 Charles Olson Collected Prose (Berkeley: U of California P, 1997), p. 246. 11 Michael Szalay, New Deal Modernism: American Literature and the Invention of the Welfare State (Durham: Duke UP, 2000), p. 258. 12 Ibid, 6.
151 autonomous, antimarket forces of an oppositional modernism and the complicity, corp oration 13 free 14 However, rather than turn imm which takes in order to emphasize performativity i n the theories and practices behind modernizing the concept of the Greek polis Szalay, by using Olson to briefly conclude a convincing longer argument, positions Olson at one pole: the continuation of modernism. This argument is in itself a certain refus al of a postmodern tendency. Rather than see the possibility of a continuation in for events rather than new worlds, for the telltale instant after which it is no longer th e 15 Maximus ) 16 rece 17 Perhaps Olson deserves to be reconsidered within 13 Ibid, 265. 14 Ibid, 258. 15 Jame son, Postmodernism ix 16 Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems (Berkeley: U of California P, 1983), p. 377. 17 Charles Olson and Robert Creeley, Charles Olson & Robert Creeley: The Complete Correspondence, Volume 7 ed. George F. Butterick (S anta Rosa: Black S parrow, 1987), p. 234.
152 this fully paradoxical framework: how to continue modernism when a new socio economic system denies this very possibility? My teetering above switching from modernism to postmo is modernism reflects this complication. For what I want to insist upon is that Olson becomes a symptomatic expression of an uneasy historical progression that effectively straddles modernism and postmod 18 words, addresses a different set of coordinates than prior modernists but maintains its political project. This, of cou a quite foreign and strange understanding of the postmodern before pastiche, aesthetic beauty, and genealogies of literary styles came to occupy so many postmodern connotations. In Olson, the postmode requires engaging Olson as the object for his own literary method. When Olson completed h is Herman Melville text, Call Me Ishmael (1947) which was, importantly, rejected for publication the previous year by Harcourt Brace under recommendation from F. O. Matthiessen and Lewis Mumford method: I am willing prophecies, lessons he himself would not have spelled out. A hundred years gives us an advantage. Melville was as much larger than himself as a chance. 18 Olson, Maximus 404.
153 Our advantage is not yet one hundred years, but assuredly our world appears just as or, even more odd, perhaps its extension. Accordingly, I want to find in Olson events and historical process es that were impossible for him to spell out no matter how sensitive he was to the historical pulse of his present (and as we shall see his awareness was honed). Starting from his work in the Popular Front and proceeding on through his tenure as rector of Black Mountain College, we find all the symptoms of a modernism continuing to assault the growing hegemonic leadership of the U.S. as the world enters a new cycle of accumulation: late capitalism, post Fordism, or the solidification of the postmodern. It i s no mistake, then, that by the third volume of Maximus the totality of the capitalist economic system becomes cosmological: the new mode of production is global and the U.S. made an abrupt U turn plan turns into contingency. Or, finally, this is what we view, was retribution for un except as the production of an eerily post Fordist line that foreshadows an oncoming style and grammar then, occupy the double space of modernism and postmodernism simultaneously: It means exactly what it says, is a matter of, at all points (even, I should say, of our management of daily reality as of the daily work) get on with it, keep moving, keep in, speed, the nerves, their speed, their perceptions, theirs, the acts, the split second acts, the whole business, keep it moving as fast as you can, citizen. And if you also set up as a poet, USE USE USE the
154 process at all points, in any given poem always, always one perception must must must MOVE, INSTANTER, ON ANOTHER 19 stake as markers of a postmodernism? The symptoms, or answers, that account for this shift come wide in Olson a wideness undoubtedly attributed to the spatial dimensions of a C and so we must be selective: the function of letter writing and the general form of the epistle in his poetry and elsewhere; his insistence on the d history; and the end of all idealisms held within the archetype of the West as imagined turns toward space, imperial expansion, labor, education, cybernetics, myths grammar, etc. but all continue to echo a kinship to the possibilities bound up in Moreover, at all moments, and at all levels, we find a commitment to the function of critique afford to let out of our hand this weapon of CRITIQUE except at the peril of losing the 20 And here we have one of many sinuous said to first arrive in the U.S. by Anderson and many others; but it is also where Olso n stages a return to Pound in order to revive or, rather, continue the eldest of modern strategies: critique via totality. 19 20 Olson, Charles Olson & Robert Creeley Vol 7 75.
155 Prologues of the Post Modern By examining Call Me Ishmael we find several points of interest: Olson elaborates upon his experimental dissertation, both in form and content, which borrows montage Film Form in order to intervene in Melville scholarship by insisting that there were two versions of Moby Dick one with Ahab and one without. As James Zeigler has ar gued, however, the text also interestingly functions as an analogy to U.S. foreign policy in a post WWII context. Ishmael performs two important tasks: it critiques U.S. imperialism by charting the expansion of the whaling industry and it also suggests an alternative possibility for post WWII America. According to Zeigler, by the end of Ishmael Moby Dicks argument: The end of the West, as Olson imagines it, involves the dissolution of the nation state as the predominant political unit in the world system. As the WWII, Olson implies, to facilitate a transition to a new universalism. 21 Zeigler moves the conver sation of Ishmael in a productive direction: before American Studies programs dotted across American universities promoting pro Cold War 1930s a different circle at Harvard. Mattheissen, in 1947, was barred reentry into the U.S. after participating in the Salzburg Semi nar in Austria; no supporters of Henry Wallace were 21 Call Me Ishmael and the Cold War Arizona Quarterly 63.2 (Summer 2007): pp. 51 80, 71.
156 allowed back into the States. 22 the closure of political futures for fellow travelers, queer intellectuals, and the Left in general. Perhaps we should c ontinue with the project Zeigler outlines in order to chart other instances of Olson imagining different courses for the U.S. to traverse and, while on the way, stress the political implications of these creative acts. Keeping with Ishmael for the moment I changes in U.S. hegemony that largely result from a radical shift in its mode of accumulation. Following Zeigler, there were three primary options present in the Cold War that wer e debated in 1947: imperialism, anti to Asia where the U.S. would essentially have access to enforce its political, cultural, and economic strength on under developed nations essentially the definition of a hegemonic occasion for the development of new knowledge rather than for the super exploitation of a diminishing 23 past and therefore marks a definite failure. Meaning, if we reconsider the text as an inaugural year a project including archaeology, anthropology, economics, geography, etc. we find another reading of Ishmael vestige of modernism struggling with the modes of production and accumulation that 22 Reinhold Wagnleitner, Coca Colonization and the Cold War (Chapel Hil l: U of North Carolina P, 1994), p. 165. 23 Zeigler, 72.
157 mark the horizon of the postmodern. The year proved quintessential for its turn toward a new radically conservative U.S. domestic and foreign policy: the Truman Doctrine goes into effect; Truman issued Executive Order 9835 that permitted loyalty boards to question federal emp loyees; Truman signed the National Security Act that created Department of Defense, National Security Council, and what will eventually become the Hartley Act, an act that effective ly scaled back the power of labor by curtailing rights established in 24 While the publication date of Call Me Ishmael is 1947, it should be remembe red death in April of 1945. Coincidentally, Olson finishes Ishmael a few months later on August 6 th univer (collectivism is possible under Mao, not Truman), 25 marks the betrayal of U.S. foreign policy and the failure of the of New Deal not only domestically, but especially in its glob al aspirations. Giovanni Arrighi assists in describing the repercussions of this shift. which included the USSR among the poor nations of the world to be incorporated into the evolving Pax Americana for the benefit and security o f all containment of Soviet power into the main organizing principle of US institutionalization of the idea of world government as the primary instrumen t through which the US New Deal would be extended to the world 24 Charles Olson, Call Me Ishmael (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997), p. 117. 25 My reading an George Butterick American Poetry 6.2 (Winter 1989), pp. 28 59.
158 as a whole, was displaced by the reformist realism of his successors, who institutionalized US control over world money and over global military power as the primary instruments of US hegemony. 26 We should remember that Olson, a devout Wallace supporter, would have probably collectivism sought for and inspired by the second series of economic programs under the New D eal, means rethinking of the original aims of the New Deal and the rhetoric of the United Nations before Truman. For example, in 1943 Wallace spoke about extending the successes of the New Deal and its hallmark the Tennessee Valley Authority for all. Acco rding to Wallace, wn problem, here in the United 27 Wallace imagines a point of negotiation between nation states that would require a surrender of absolute economic necessarily swing both ways. In this context, the Ishmael text becomes an awkward pivot, one that simultaneously route to Asia, but it also mourns the passing of the id eals of global welfare and positions Olson indeed points to the problems of a growing American imperialism say, of the haute fina nce of the prior century but he 26 Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century 69 27 Henry Wallace, The Century of the Common Man (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1943), pp. 62 63.
159 also turns our attention to a rippling effect and the consequences of specific economic and political changes: the slow erosion of material rights, the reconfiguration of labor under vertically integrated corporations, and a broad attack on collectivism as such. offered exclusively to investors but also to individual consumers for the course of their entire life We should, therefore, repeate of a guiding collectivist impulse. For instance, while working alongside Sidney Hillman, Political Action Committee, Olson wrote a polemic against emerging political tactics used in the 1944 presidential campaign: namely, to attack or defame a group and hide behind libel law that only protected an individual. Our law has consequently been slow to apprec iate the role of groups in twentieth century society. It took the Wagner act to write into the law the right of workers to organize. The isolated person is as helpless in the face of systematic defamation of his kind as in the face of concerted economic po wer. The groups that are today of political consequence are religious, racial, ideological, occupational. They are vague and untidy, with overlapping contours. But their need for protection in the face of modern political warfare is just as urgent as that of wage earners caught in economic exploitation. 28 Call Me Ishmael a narrative spelling out the consequences of democratic inaction or impotence against totalitarianism, the failure of human agency to disrupt the role of myth, and the individuation of labor due to economic factors outlines a tragic 28 Survey Graphic 33.8 (August 1944): pp. 356 68, 356.
160 archetype of American democracy set adrift in the Pacific. For Olson, the narrative forms a temporal bridge spanning from caravel to aircraft carrier. 29 The temporal simultaneity is part of the jarring encounter o f Call Me Ishmael Olson moves without pause between nineteenth century industrialization and his industry Cutting out the glory: a book Moby Dick turns out to be its glory. We still are soft about our industries, wonder 30 compact style to reconstruct how whaling became an industry wholly d ominated by the U.S.: the number of whaling vessels owned by the U.S. in relation to the world, domestic employment and investment figures, the shift of capital from textile and d how the industry falls aside with the introduction of kerosene, petroleum, and paraffin to U.S. markets. While living in Washington, DC, Olson went through all of the Library of k burst of 31 Interestingly, his research circles around the importance of labor. ork. There are histories of whaling if you are interested. BUT no study weighs the industry in the scale of the total society. What you get is this: many of the earliest industrial fortunes were 29 Olson, Call Me Ishmael 114. 30 Ibid, 20 1. 31 See A Guide to the Maximus Poems of Charles Olson (Berkeley: U of California P, 1978), p. xvii
161 32 Olson simulta neously documents the sense; the moment when economic individuation peaks, when an ego driven people reach a geographic and communicative maximal: the world is known and counted, absolutely. To close the section, Olson focuses primarily on labor, its restructuring, and the after effects. The methods and tactics described for restructuring labor in the nineteenth ography as a union organizer for the U.S. Post Office during WWI. Moreover, the descriptions also bring us back to similar narratives pointed out by the Popular Front and addressed in the New industries, as a collective, communal affair. As late as 1850 there were still skippers to remember the days when they knew the fathers of every man in their crew. But it was already a again speaks of two temporaliti es at once: THE TRICK then as now: combine inefficient workers and such costs by maintaining lowest wages and miserabl e working conditions vide TYPEE, early chps., and Omoo same. and races. Of the 18,000 men (Melville above) one half ranked as green hands and more than two thirds deserted every voyag e. 33 32 Ibid, 20. 33 Ibid, 23.
162 The totality of the whaling industry serves merely as a preface so that we will be able to rican democracy in tragic form borrowed from King Lear Always an impressive literary device when used by Olson, we witness a procession of prologues: the sweatshop as whaling vessel is the historical presupposition to the dissolution of organized labor, t he completion of imperial trade routes East, and the incorporation of a new contingent body astic in the following century. Ahab is no longer Truman alone, but the Market in absolute form. Moby Dick 34 But Olson turns our heads rather early on in the right directi on: the absolute faith that the crew represents (the Idea, or an irrational paternalism that mistakes security for utter contingency) switches focus in the next century as the Market stands as an ideological blockade that seems to prevent democracy from ta king place. The whaling crew becomes consumers and consumerism itself shifts from being the practices of a collective group who seek regulation and protection for socially necessary goods and services, to a hegemonic process that calculates opportunity and establishes new social necessities for the falsely individuated group What becomes important, and what lets our argument proceed immediately into Call Me Ishmael with a I said 3000 years went overboard in the Pacific. I was going back to 34 Ibid, 71.
163 Homer. The evolution in the use of Ulysses as hero parallels what has happened in 35 Olson uses three fast signposts hinting at global expansion: ( 1) f city states and the polis of a body politic restricted to the Mediterranean, ( the Paradiso ( returned to East. The Pacific is the end of the UNKNOWN 36 ging global boarders and dwindling social protections, will be completely retooled and readdressed by discarding modern polis and the body politic within the paradoxical several decades Olson will turn on the following: The question, now, is: what is our polis (even allowing that no such thing can be considered as possible to exist when such homogeneity as any Greek city was ha s been displaced by such heterogeneity as modern cities and nations are)? It is a point worth making, simply that it will expose the thinking of all community, cooperative, colony people, as well as the false premises by which the present political social System imposes itself on all of us. I ask what polis we have other than the very whole world? 37 The answer to this question, as we will see below, involves finding a strategy capable of tion by projecting a human capable of rethinking the relationship between oneself and a global (economic) 35 Ibid, 117. 36 Ibid, 119. 37 Methodology is the Form, typescript with handwritten annotations, 1952, Box 32, Folder 1625, Charles Olson Research Collection, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries. 1 7, p. 4.
164 no better or superior bumper sticker way of thinking abou t our present, the apex of neoliberalism, than all life managing their 401(k) based retirements to the wholesale loss of material rights in favor based upon the faulty promises of chance camouflaged as choice and freedom from the persecutions of group think in whatever fully customizable flavor. Individualism has never been so collective in this negative sense, never so herdish and so utterly phazard method of social organization. 38 Toward a Projective Language When, in 1945, Olson decides to resign from his position as the director Foreign Nationalities Division of the DNC he wrote a letter to Ruth Benedict, a former OWI eling you will know what I mean when I regret we are not city states here in this wide land. Differentiation, yes. But also the chance for a person like own creative wo 39 larger political shift, artistic and intellectual figures lost their ground as new executives 38 Co llected Prose 186. 39 Quoted in Clark, Charles Olson 94.
165 from busi ness and Madison Avenue began to dictate publication policy through the censoring of content. The merchandise men that fatigued Olson clue us into the rapid corporatization underway in the mid to late 1940s. As Arrighi says, corporate capitalism positione capacity of the world 40 This shift, which will lead to the Truman Doctrine 1940s espe economically, militarily, etc. What remains interesting, moreover, is that Olson did not pursue the same paths of social liberalism as Cowley, MacLeish, and Schlesinger. Wh coming into focus especially the corporatization of labor and the Market as the paradoxical irrationally rational economic mean we may begin to speculate why the in to contingency. If corporate capitalism, post Fordism, and finance capitalism (not to mention, as David Harvey would insist, neoliberalism with the Bretton Woods agreements 41 ) become slowly moo red in varying degrees at this historical juncture, then it seems without surprise that Olson locates corresponding shifts at the level of language: its quantification, communicative marketability, and descriptive formalism. Or rather, language not only bo ttoms out a definite political potential, but it also moves into 40 Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century 304. 41 See David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007). He says, retton Woods agreements, and various institutions, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF, and the Bank of International
166 intersections of language and post Fordism, by 1942, for example, the Bell Corporation claimed information 42 he points to biochemis human sanction goes, most resembles that side of collectivism which we loosely call 43 We encounte symptomatic of a new urgency by way of contingency, but he will simultaneously attempt to slow the entire process down and refigure a body politic grounded on the emancipatory potentiality of language to effect and create facts (i.e., effectuate world change). Almost immediately it appears that Olson forecasted the consequences of the long term effects of the Truman Doctrine and the general attack on collectivism (which, undoubtedly, owes cons Olson dodges the normative antagonism between capitalism and communism because both projects failed to produce social and cultural equity. Instead Olson pinpoints a central problem intrinsi c to the corporatization of labor: the precept that with individuation (or dedifferentiation) as the end result there must necessarily be a 42 Christian Marazzi, Capital and Affec ts: The Politics of the Language Economy trans. Giuseppina Mecchia (Los Angeles: Semiotext[e], 2011), p. 87. 43 Olson, Charles Olson & Robert Creeley Vol 7 234.
167 the political projects implied by his modernism at one end of the room and contrast them percentage of the community, and the insistence for more space for the managerial classes to capitalize on market contingency absolutely devoid of any sense of an altruistic being with e Market. In this world of Market transcendentalism if capitalism is ever said to fail it is because the Market never had the opportunity to reach cultural logic with eclect ic new modes of production and methods of accumulating capital, produces both an Olson and a Rand. This ideological and hegemonic battle line regarding contingency, as Marazzi explains, is the point where universal rights say, collective bargaining and oth er protections and securities must give way: When production can no longer be planned since the market is no longer able to expand infinitely, as happened in Fordism, due to the compression of purchasing power; when, in other words, contingency reigns, the unforeseeable becomes the rule and everything rests on immediate adaptability. The spaces for juridical protections and universal rights, independent from specific juridical persons, close up. 44 Olson, then, co nfronts a rattling contradiction that only increases to amplify throughout the rest of the century: a democracy without rights, a democracy of corporate citizens lacking agency. It is the problem Olson confronted with libel law on a larger scale as individ ualism elbows out collectivism. That is, if corporations are legally headless entities, they are also likewise equally humanless. The difference Olson experiences 44 Marazzi, Capital and Affects 45.
168 within the two historical eras he straddles, and of which the latter still remains intact for a nation of first sight. tells the story Association of Letter Carriers. I am less interested in the story that Olson recapitulates erial gains (a thirty term goals in net, namely, the erosion of a sense of community by reducing work to the lev el of Burleson, who took the craft and country quality out of the service. The loss was the loss common to most labor since. This better be understood as not nostalgia. I was a let ter carrier myself later and do not hark back. We have got so used to change that we are unwilling to believe that suddenly some change may be so total as to destroy. The path does die, and there are times when, to find his way back, man has to pick up, fi ercely and without any easy emotion, traces of the way. What happened to work during the first world war is a trace. 45 cause, indeed, another such total 45 Collected Prose 229.
169 Trade (GATT) of that same year would be one such symptom of modernism being er becomes a synecdoche for this untidy movement. A consequence of efficiency and the speed up of work in general the timing of postal routes, the increase of mail distributed per hour, etc. is the disappearance of the underlying sense of use value at the core of a service, to the people he served as well as to himself was the illusion that how he did it was of 46 ationship between work the economic system, but also into social, political, and famili To this end, when Karl Olson experiences a massive shift in work, a shift whose memory will likely be lost for the next generation of workers, the younger Olson is right to note the incompatibility between individuation and the ma ny different levels of contribute to the common good become firmly attached to waged work, where they can be hijacked to rather different ends: to produce neither individual ri ches nor social 47 Quantity and its corresponding regime of efficiency reduce work to measurable instances of labor time that cannot 46 Ibid, 229. 47 Kathi Weeks, The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries ( Durham: Duke UP, 2010 ), p. 8.
170 te; service work becomes servant work. It seems worth noting that Olson sees his father being demonstrative of a prior service than in heavy industry. He was at the left with, when production, and that rot of modern work, efficiency, rule. Give workers 48 turning point in a drama 49 Wollen is referring to May 1968, but I think we would be wiser to push the dates back as Jameson asks in order to position Olson as a product of late modernism because, like Nabokov, Beckett, and the misfortune to span two eras and the luck to find a time 50 Olson is unseasonable because he retains the utopian side of collectivism that, within postmodernity, becomes inverted. The 48 Ibid, 230. 49 Peter Wollen, Raiding the Icebox (London: Verso, 1993), p. 124. 50 Jameson, Postmodernism 305.
171 prior socialisms: free market capitalism has not failed because it has never truly existed. What the problem of Karl Olson points us to is a false sense of measure (and here, importantly, we find several overlaps with Zukofsky without the two ever meeting). Efficiency has always been another way of speaking about human action as a formalized adventure: without human act ion on the stage, economists of the postmodern administer world affairs with strictly descriptive and analytical means. It is a strange and calculated view of the world where quantity always dominates quality; or, even when it is a matter of quality, it ca n only be gauged by some technical measure or technology. Within this schema language can describe and analyze, but not create We can predict the process of annulment that will take place within the politics of language: if you excise the possibility of l anguage to have agency in the world of human action, then the ability of critique becomes reduced to description and analysis of the world of from another planet: a n on representational use of language where a word indexes local phenomena. importantly another text written through the course of letter writing because Olson con fronts a telltale symptom of postmodernity within art. When note the influx of Eliotism and New Criticism within intellectual and publishing circles
172 bull/shit. That is: the intelligence th at had touted Auden as being a technical wonder, etc. Lacking all grip on the worn and useless character of his essence: thought. 51 Here we g and why he attempts to redress concepts like of so many formalisms and to reconsider the whole endeavor i.e., life as the creation and projection projective theory occupies: f acing Olson from there the politics of language is mere commentary or, more acutely, passivity We could involve ourselves in this problem altogether differently by framing the argument as another instance of being set against mimesis This thread, which we will address in the following section with operating as a mediating term, enables Olson to pull together an impressive array of d, it was for this reason: he which we can catch glimpses of within the discourses it either produces or transforms philosophy, labor, language, art, law, and subsequent i nstitutions (notably, the taste on up to the Department of Education). In this paratactic way, contingent labor and 51 Charles Olson and Robert Creeley, Charles Olson & Robert Creeley: The Complete Correspondence, Volume 1 ed. George F. Butterick (S anta Rosa: Black Sparrow, 1987), pp. 78 9.
173 literary formalism intersect because both ricochet in dif ferent ways from linked systemic faults. Recoupling form and content, which we will soon have to begin calling dialectics eparture that ceases our descent further into these fault lines, even if we cannot accurately know the depths. It is a gamble that hopes to realign the function the very use of language in society, government, and subsequent institutions according to a dif ferent axis. As Olson will in instead of away, which meets head on what goes on each split second, a way which does not in order to define prevent, deter, distract, and so cease th 52 For Olson language becomes projective, that is, reconnected with theatrical performance: projective language is produced at the intersection of projective geometry and the projective art of drama. It is a theoretical blueprint for language to once again gain the ability to produce collective spaces outside of quantified labor, the market, or the regime of exchange value. For example, we should consider the exception to the problem of form and content in terms of performative speech acts. A postmodern performative speech act would be the Chair of the Federal Reserve ( la Alan Greenspan and Rand) announcing the reduction of interest rates: a strictly analytic type of economic formalism trespasses over 52 Collected Prose 158.
174 Objecting is therefore a powerf 53 But while the success or that they both rest on a linguistic community sharing certain beliefs, the key might be in the productive capacit y of linguistic communities to effect world change; with the change in interest rates financial and governmental institutions experience immediate adjustments, but so, too, for pedestrian life. To invert a society built upon descriptive and analytic ideol ogies the Market or profits requires capitalizing on the performative aspect of language to effect change. fails If it did not fail then this C hapter would be altogether di fferent, brighter. But this failure marks an attempt to switch ideological frames. As Marazzi points out, If we consider language to be not only an instrument used in institutional reality to describe facts, but also to create them then in a world in whi ch institutions like money, property, marriage, technologies, work itself, are all linguistic institutions, what molds our consciousness, language, becomes at the same time an instrument of production of those same facts. Facts are created by speaking them 54 in 1951: It is my impression that intellectual life in the West has been and s till to a great degree stays essentially descriptive and analytical And that this characteristic of knowledge is also a characteristic of art, though it is not so easily seen, simply because the act of art, any time, any where, has to be, at base, active in the sense that it is expressive. But there is, at the other end of it, room to measure how projective it is, how wholly active, how 53 Andrew Ross, The Failure of Modern ism: Symptoms of American Poetry (New York: Columbia UP, 1986), p. 112. 54 Christian Marazzi, Capital and Language: From the New Economy to the War Economy (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2008 ), p. 33.
175 clearly it performs the task which distinguishes it absolutely from the intellectual. 55 The strangeness and peculiar natur or, his method for political change are often seen as the advent of a distinctive postmodern style. But, again, that foreignness in Olson comes to be the very production of modernism itself, a very unseasonable form of thinking within a postmodern way of living. To understand this transition we should consider what Olson wrote in May 1948, Black Mountain College where Olson will begin teaching in Oc tober later that year, the buried seed in all formulations of collective action stemming from Marx. This seed, is the secret of the power and 56 ontologies of humanism, the problem of the ego, or the transcendent soul) and instead assigns language the task of creating new discourses and new communities; language projects the world in an as if configuration. the assumed, for its time, a premise which it is my impression has now to be questioned: 55 Olson, Olson & Creely, Vol. 7 237. 56 Boundary 2 2.1 (Fall 1973): pp. 1 6, p. 3.
176 tha 57 Olson, however, is not the critic of style in the traditional, and verse which might be cal led the Eliotic (and now dominates standards of writing in America, Britain and enough fo challenges the sentence rati radio transcripts during his lecture outside explication, and in this act, which irritates his admirers, I see the very virtue of 58 excavates a wild and threatening method for political action. For Olson, however, Pound symbolizes a political stance for language to occupy. To be clear is, clearly, the point of communication. The danger, it seems to me, is that prose now has got itself into the old dilemma of language, that the school of Grammar and the school of the Vernacular have now split off from one another, and we have might put him, and so much of fiction on the other, a mimesis of all that is of him, the pedagogue, whose students will not succumb to his state logical explication is refused, the one prose not bled out on the horns of separation f 59 57 Ibid, 5. 58 Ibid, 6. 59 Ibid, 6.
177 Eliot becomes fully symptomatic of the regime of quantity and other associated harmful projection would appear to Elio t, much like experimental After all, Eliot could it least write a well constructed sentence. But Pound, like the Chair of the Federal Reser ve, marks a distinct possibility for inscribes new relationships through his paratactic leaping. The examples are too numerous in Pound, but here is one such pestering samp and Mussolini another. I am not putting in all 60 To understand the possibility of projective language (including prose, poetry, music, dance, painting, and the entire totalizing curriculum at which Melville records is not merely a literary ev 61 Better still, we should turn to the mode of address in Maximus In the final part of this C hapter I want to examine how Olson twins the search for collectivity with artistic practice in Maximus In several interesting moves Olson forms a 60 Ezra Pound, Jefferson and/or Mussolini (New York: Liveright, 1935), p. 19. 61 Don Byrd, Maximus (Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1980), p. 9.
178 constellation of terms 62 in order to establish a set of contiguous terms that all share the common possibility of inverting a world going lacks logical cohesion, takes us from ideas of process to totality, methodology, and a dialectical g reading them alongside essays and seminars drafted while at Black Mountain. Mountain; between attempt s to secure funds for a school always in the red and locating faculty willing to teach for little or no salary. What I will emphasize is that Black late modernism. Not only that it becomes underfunded, dilapidated, and eventually abandoned, but rather that it spans an interesting brick of time 1933 to 1956 and forms an alternative stance to the world coming out from underneath the ruins of WWII, the labor camps, and a bu rgeoning postmodern cultural system. My narrative will be a h states that totality is the only method left within the arts (as technics ) capable of inverting the self reflexive i.e., singular world economic system. requires inverting everything down to the root by rehabilitating the function of the political human in society. This means we need to reconsider Olson as a negative dialectician. He is in need of a negative totality because the metonymy between the 62 Charles Olson, OLSON: The Journal of the Charles Olson Archives 1.10 (Fall 1978): pp 95 101 p. 99.
179 human and society lacks a strategy to rethink this possibility; poetry is one option among many that can restore proper measure to the world. The objective human becomes the projection of a totality turned right side up If I return again, and now at some length, to the letters exchanged between Olson it is political implications investigated by the two poets through this exchange. Before I noted geography, population, and technological measure (the machine age). The negative s ide to this process marks the possibility of the Market to encroach on all aspects of life time vouchsafes this fact within capitalism as Marx argued so long ago). Olson, on the other hand, sees q uantity in terms of an endless accumulation of perpetual adjustments, change, or flux much in process s as a sort of continuous index to this idea of process. What does not change / is the will to change 63 lapse, or the pivot that folds over into yet more change. It is also a wonderfully balanced paradox. 63 Charles Olson, The Collected Poems of Charles Olson ed. George F. B utterick (Berkeley: U of California P, 1997), p. 86.
180 point of exchange between we get a first glimpse of how we might reconsider Olson a s a dialectical thinker. It is as imported from Eisenstein in Call Me Ishmael becomes a new totalizing stance toward the world that inaugurates social action and new kineti c processes at every moment. one of the few liberating acts science has left to offer is the ability to understand that it is what happens BETWEEN 64 But this method of nonstop juxtaposition is not simply an artistic technique but a complete disposition toward the world. Describing Black Mountain College to Wilbur H. Ferry in 1951, who also previously directed the CI O P.A.C., Olson points out that the between things what happens between men what happens between guest faculty, students, regular faculty and what 65 To gain insight into quantity as a concept, we may need only watch Battleship Potemkin to see how the sparking of two images proceeds to a new quantity a third image. world by ele cting to place the Market at helm the regimes of quantity, efficiency, profitability, machinery, etc. but this comes at a high cost in terms of thinking through complex relationships, systemic problems, and, more importantly, is ill equipped to 64 Olson, Collected Prose 169. 65 OLSON: The Journal of the Charles Olson Archives 1.2 (Fall 1974): pp 8 15, p. 11.
181 confront th e dynamics it produces. The world becomes a static place that can pretend evolutionary, environmental, and social mutations are complete; progress is now simply an economic affair or the ideology of this is it The byproduct of this thinking for Olson is a global economic system that by definition works against all progressive ideas of words, cuts relationships down in terms of time is a spatial object and location that serves a different set of coordinating rel ationships. object is undoing of modernity's dream of a universal subject. possibility to always focus our attention back to the dynamic human no un as a new center, a new beginning. Collectivity has no future without this step; the human must be recast in another and newer humanism a postmodern humanism that ordinates the human as a social and spatial object. In this move we should think of Olson a longside someone like Kasimir Malevich: to begin again, to construct another world, involves re learning the functions and grammars of art from the use of color to the function of a geometric shapes. This world where collectivity may exist results when the human is the full measure of value and brings us to a different front door where Maximus answers: the human expressing the fullest maximal levels of place and history. Maximus an epic created among many other things, is a series of letters that reconstr ucts the world on a different axis: an ensemble of exchanges devoid of the
182 problems inherent to exchange value and the idolization of surplus. The first poem letter arrived in 1950 as a letter sent to a poet and local historian living in Gloucester, Vincen t Ferrini, with a title that serves as a permanent table of contents to the rest of the series, to undisclosed recipients, marks the communicative model of a twentieth ce ntury Paul necessary counter In the American Grain Gloucester or the U.S.; we now must expand geography in order to address the world importance is the enigmatic and contiguous way of connecting these relationships. From th that which insists, that which will last, / that! o my people, where shall you find it, how, where, where shall you listen / when all is become billboards, when, all, even sil ence, is spray 66 The first letter, which simultaneously razes the existing world of 67 also offers a solution to solve the problem of se lf estrangement the form that which you make, what holds, which is the law of object, strut after strut, what you are, what you must be, what the force can throw up, can, right now hereinafter erect, 66 Olson, Maximus 6. 67 Ibid 8.
183 the ma st, the mast, the tender mast! 68 Form is no longer exclusively attached to artistic style or technique and instead refers to the entire disposition and stance of oneself toward the world. Also, form becomes a methodology in the dual sense of arrangement a nd pedagogy. How does one redirect Gloucester away from those who advertise you out? By experiencing it differently; by measuring it not by known quantity but by how many steps it takes for you to traverse it; to rearrange it in this very process due to t he objects and locations that move according to the human as coordinate. This is how we should 69 If we find striking parallels between Olson and someone like Guy Debord whose psych ogeography no doubt points to the same symptoms, I think the connection may series of links that eventually bring us back to Fenellosa. Much like the political gestures Poun d attributed to the ideogram, Olson explodes grammar and syntax in order to reposition the human act. Language here attempts to get out of the problems of spectatorship and representation by inserting the human as syntactical unit back into the dynamic exchanges of nature (i.e., if lightning is a sentence that connects sky and earth, then so object alway 68 Ibid, 8. 69 I bid, 622.
184 syntactical unit is itself both method of inscription and measure. Plus this plus this: that forever t he geography which leans in on me I compel backwards I compel Gloucester to yield, to change Polis is this 70 and the polis are the results of a complex sentence 71 To create is none other than social change occ urring in tandem on and off the page where language reaches a second power. what I think needs to be considered is a new dialectical way of reading Maximus in relationship to these letters. In some sense we want to read the letters to better understand the artwork, but this also works in the other direction as Olson dismisses the distinction between genres (poetic, prose, epistolary, etc.). Only after the above tangent 70 Ibid, 185. 71 Ibid, 185.
185 would w consequences of what he tells Creeley: this is where I am arguing that there are, perhaps, two necessary changes: (1), that, you and I restore society in the act of communicati ng to each other moment think is peculiar to thee et me that the function of critique is more than the mere one of clarities (as, say, Flaubert, &, Mme Sand), it is even showing its elf in the very form of our address to each other, and what work goes along with it. 72 The postal system, which as we saw earlier had become reduced to another instance of as series of contiguous spatial relationships. These relationships, formed by the casting off of a projective act, become a metaphoric assemblage of the polis And this new polis which struggles to begin anew through the social acts that exist between ob jects, marks differently at each place and level of social articulation. This ability to read multiple layers of development, or even how development occurs differently wi thin different geographic locales, is no doubt attributed to recent disciplinary advances in archaeology and anthropology that Olson followed closely. The task ahead maintains this objective: like Maximus, we all must begin to comprehend how a change on th e other side of the globe a violation of human rights for example forms a complicated grammar that has implications for all pronouns, subjects, and predicates. We know how to count but just not how to be accountable. 72 Olson, Olson/Creeley Vol. 7 79.
186 For example, when Olson writes to Creel ey from the Yucatan in 1952, which importantly becomes published as Mayan Letters he embodies the position of a non expert cultural anthropologist needed to overturn a society of engineers. Olson attempts to find an answer to what happened to Mayan societ 73 Due to uneven transition. Olson says it better regarding an instance when a storekeeper asks him if it is la Guerra 74 A twentieth century polis must be created on an entirely different ground where simple human activities writing, movement, travel, etc. are not considered as gradations of business partnerships. Olson fears what Jameson and Anderson argue has come true: culture and economics will overlap completely. The growth of Americanism post Fordist production backed b y finance capitalism to become a worldwide hegemonic force creates a moment of pause for Olson. Industrialization and modernization become eclipsed so that only the hollow ehind it. Instead of lasting a few moments of blinding possibility, the eclipse became permanent. The solution to the dystopia produced under WWII cannot be complete cultural and 73 Charles Olson, Mayan Letters ed. Robert Creeley (London: Jonathan Cape, 1968), p. 42. 74 Ibid, 19.
187 economic homogeneity spread thin over a heterogeneous world. This is not a fe ar of uniformity of the masses but their complete evaporation as anything beyond discrete economic units. The paradox of the polis becomes a fulcrum to show precisely this off balance. By 1956 Olson refers to the polis etymologically to force his point: as opposed to civis polis 75 To Olson the concept of polis removes contingent individuals fro m their citizens, not their dwellings, not their houses, not their being as material, but being as 76 Polis exceeds the metonymy of parts to wholes: the city and public body are more than their parts and the relationships of the parts. More to the point, Olson finds within the idea of polis a dialectical counterpart to surplus value. But this longer exists and is no longer Polis like totality, is a method. In 1951 this idea came by way of Olson and and Cid Corman the latter w Origin much interest comes to circulate on how to confront the paradox, how to rethink the twentieth century polis Pound, blasts through the erro rs of so many modernist turned postmodernist projects that take wrong turns in the second half of the century. Elath cites the New Criticism, 75 Boundary 2 2.1 (Fall 1973): pp. 7 12 p. 11. 76 Ibid, 11.
188 all of Partisan Review a su itable envelope for late modernism. No doubt of interest to Olson, Elath locates problematic methods in all the figures. For example, when inadequate method. L picks i t like a bird at a dungfeast not realizing it is a method and not a position ie, not something that he can be for or against but something that works 77 The method that Elath purports to work, however, is the method of totality. But the me thod of totality is never exemplified in a definitive or positive sense. Cantos Howev fascism, fascism arose out of 20 th 78 Totality becomes a sort of ridd le left over from assorted modernisms: if we could figure out what totality is, and also how to execute it as a method, then the paradox collapses. Until then, however, speaking about totality and executing it as method means speaking in negative terms, polis the twilight years of late modernism is utterly bewitched: the method of totality too k too many wrong turns and, subsequently, the wrong spell has been cast. The first half of the twentieth century, which includes the 77 Intro 1.3 4 (1951): pp. 112 36, p. 117. 78 Ibid, 113.
189 entire process of modernization and the aesthetic category of modernism produced as a result, become so many variations on and symptoms of the need for totality. Modernism failed, absolutely. Rather than creating a world 79 not Godzilla or the 50 foot woman, but something homegrown, bigger, without maturation, and p the collective as the only ne cessa ry outcome of totality are beholden to do this difficult thing, to know all back to polis because, if we recall, it is a filled up thing exceeding a dwelling, geography, or containment; t otality and polis intersect at the point where we must measure anew, where humans are reconsidered as more than the sum total of their parts and of their relationships polis is the dialectical third of this exchange. it sharply when he explained his choice of suicide over exile to his afflicted friends: he th, where concepts like justice, democracy, and truth departed, affirms a long Westward movement away from totality and toward the ideology of totalitarianism. Rather than abandon the projects of the polis and totality, however, Olson aims to rescue them. The failure of modernism an event that subsequently marks the end of the myth of the political projects that address the need for a social totality. Instead, it means placin g 79 Olson, Methodology is the Form 5.
190 them back in the wind tunnel in order to diagnose what impairs their lines of flight from succeeding. For Olson breaking the spell of totalitarianism requires inverting totality once again: And what makes me think that totality is invertible is that tota lity has so turned Socratic man inside out that it kills members of itself daily in a colony fact that the post modern economic system is already growing like a body out of the cancer of all we have known. I refer to the slave labor camps. 80 Turning to Adorno at this moment seems appropriate. If we think of the problem in terms of theory and practice, then t he practice of totality got into the second bullet, and the theory t 81 In short, we adopted the wrong trajectory and believed it to be final. But totality maintains that other possibility, the full reclamation of the human being as a new center of value that expresses the opportunity of once again living a political life. The fundamental loss for Olson, much like Adorno and Horkheimer, is the dialectical reversal of labor caused by the camps: The System is our polis, and the price of the membership is not our lives or our liberty (those t he concentration camp showed had been taken from us) but something much more necessary and more terrible in its loss, our labor and without choice of losing it, merely seized from us. So, all choice, too, goes down. All free labor goes down (it has b ecome one of the absolute iron edges, the daily hot fire all workers a writer, for example, to speak for myself to have to ask himself if any word he makes can get free, 80 Ibid, 5. 81 Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Towards a New Manifest o (London: Verso, 2011), p. 19.
191 even tho it is free labor from The System only cont ributes to the continuing success of that System. 82 The dialectical opposite of labor is barbarism and the opposite of work is not leisure, but consumption. Here we see how Olson aims to undo the relationships of labor and work from barbarism and consumptio n through a familiar narrative of late modernism: absolute autonomy from the System. In surprising ways Olson becomes a thinker much like other notable late moderns, especially Adorno. What we begin to notice is that as tic theory we simultaneously escalate the degree of paradoxes and contradictions until totality becomes an aporia Aesthetic Theory explicates some years later the situation that Olson encounters for the first time y, it delivers itself over to the machinations of the status quo; if art remains strictly for itself, it nonetheless submits to integration as one harmless domain among others. The social totality appears in this aporia, swallowing 83 Under this rubric, so to speak, I would argue we have Westernisms, especially spectatorship and representation. But to do this requires rethinking Maximus as the figuration of a new philosophical and political maxim in the of a new general truth and social principle because it is the figure that confronts the ng a Republic / in gloom on Watchhouse / Point / an actual 84 82 Olson, Methodology is the Form 6. 83 Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997), p. 237. 84 Olson, Maximus 584.
192 At the level of totality, then, Olson navigates a method appropriate for a type of resistance that when complete when Absolute eliminates itself and the existing System. Revolutio ns, in so far as they are merely the ousting of one political regime by the authority of the successor, must perpetually fail so long as the ideologies i.e., the hegemonic forces behind the myth of the West, totalitarianism, and capitalism are not comprehe nsively addressed. This inability to address all negative ideology marks the failure of the moderns. Interestingly, for Olson, the counter totality is not a counter o emphasize why, I take it, we have not yet done any of us the job: to invert totality to oppose it by discovering the totality of any every 85 For Olson, we have not lived so long as in our death the System remains. The old humanisms, the worn out ideals of a universal subject, must be finally abandoned: I deliberately state that, despite the increase of the quantity of knowledge, population, an State, it is impossible to know all things by knowing yrself. And not because of the old dodge that the commons of a man never change. Not that, but something else: that the imperative of a socie ty is never allowably more important than a man who does know himself (as Socrates surely did, or Christ) is permanently, and even presently, in the face of the slave labor camp, true. 86 also open to know the polis or the social totality can no longer hold. The terms have fallen completely out of congruence. To know thyself in a society where labor camps are present, means to know the inverse of the social totality. As O lson says it in Maximus : 85 Olson, Methodology is the Form 7. 86 Ibid, 7.
193 87 It is an issue of realignment not reform: the metonymy can no longer hold between individual and totality if one of the terms or, worse, both the terms is persistently false. Totality, then, foregrounds the political strategies behind prior modernisms by continuing the argument that art is properly a science like any other; art properly returns to Concurrent with his essays on totality, Ols on continues his non stop exchange of letters. In the summer of 1952 Olson writes to Corman and again casts a large theoretical net in order to winnow out political approaches. For example, Pierre Boulez, the musician whose serial compositions and theoriza tions about twelve tone scales so affected John Cage while at Black Mountain, prompts Olson to refocus artistic techniques in terms of technic adj. (meaning #3 reads: Stock Exchange Designating or pert. to, a market in which prices are mainly 88 Against the regime of art implied by the dovetails of spectatorship and representation, Olson aims to recuperate than modernism itself pushed beyond its own breaking point. And this break say, the failure of art to be recouped in terms of 87 Olson, Maximus 599. 88 Charles Olson and Cid Corman Charles & Cid Corman: Complete Correspondence 1950 1964 Volume 1 ed. George Evans (Orono: Na tional Poetry Foundation, 1987), p. 272.
194 all encompassing enough. Again, according to Olson, the possibility remains because the negative image of this possible world still thrives. As Olson says about industries in Call Me Ishmael the importance is the force they are a clue to, the drive and will of the people turned toward a negative power. We estran function 89 History, too, is now and carries the full weight of totality and method. But, moreover, Olson turns to Hegel directly for an exemplification of a dialectical totality. In a passage that solidifies many of the fragile links above, Olson positions the entire Fenellosa line of artists as writers of dialectical sentences: One can see the whole He gelian proposition as noun and verb, the noun being the understanding, that which is finite, and the verb being that which is the dialectical, and the third or speculative, the mere recognition that you sentence. To take thought is a sentence. A sentence is a complete thought. Only as Fennollosa, and thus Keats point out a sentence is in fact a transfer of force, from object to object by verb; thus the actionable, or, the very act of the sentence, is the dynamic which matters. And for that dynamic to come into play one has to go back to the original noun verb infinitive. 90 I would insist that here we must again r eturn to the discrepancy between theory and practice. For example, when Pound invigorated so many artists through his use of the 89 Charles Olson, The Special View of History ed. Ann Charters (Berkeley: Oyez, 1970), p. 17 90 Ibid, 44 5.
195 ideogram borrowed from Fenellosa, he grasped the right theory but involved himself in malpractice. The totality he dreamed was like a dinner party whose historical deadline was 1917 and whose only guests would have been Dante and Cavalcanti. For Olson, power of production being ambidextrously liberating or domineering, the t heory of totality and its attendant mandate for social change is a matter of use or will : Thus the use of positive and negative is not as of reason so much as it is of will: one can choose to use the implicit powers either negatively or positively, and the difference between the positive and negative use is the whole difference. One is power. The other is achievement. One is the self as ego and sublime. The other is the self as center and circumference. And the only way the Will can be seen to be posi tive, and thus creative is when it does not fall back to Understanding, but keeps the verbal force of the Dialectical (change) and thus sits above or outside or under, asymmetrical to both the Power and the Good. 91 trope for the narrative of modernism? Without question the various liberating political projects of modernism failed, but not for lack of trying. There was another will, the bewitching spell that holds the eclipse still in place, present. We can call it th e West, Ahab, capitalism, patriarchy, paternalism, or any number of subsequent ideologies and political realities it produces, but without a proper name we may only approach the issue by totalizing the symptoms it produces. Whatever questions you may ask o f the enigmatic socio economic system of late capitalism, the answer is always the same: totality is not Perhaps it is not through Pound that we see the clearest example of this updating of modernism, but through Gertrude Stein. By the final pages of Maxi mus the discussion turns to migration, an idea which opens us to history as much as any other. Migration is 91 Ibid, 45 6.
196 that the Mind or Will always successfully opposes & invades the Previous, This is the rose is the rose is the rose of the World 92 92 Olson, Maximus 565.
197 CHAPTER 6 CODA : AFTER BLACK MOUNTA IN By focusing on methods of crafting and making a world its concepts, apparatuses, and ideologies we return to the problem of To say are the reifications of politics and the forces of sociality seen th rough the category of culture. Reification, as the process that terminates process in terms of the objectification or thingification of social relations, must remain dialectical. One of the sitions aesthetics within the tensions of reification. For example, to claim that a finished aesthetic object is better understood for its incomprehensibility or enigmaticalness points to such a contradiction: the aesthetic object, itself a reified thing b rought into being, struggles against the forces of capitalist reification (the subject struggles to adhere within the object). This is surely the aporia that Olson reached in Chapter 5 : how does an artist produce objects within the situation of the market. Indeed, we should pull the poetic theories of Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 5 into this context: the common theme is the contradictory status of an aesthetic forming and the belief in process running throughout the artworks how to prevent this thing from becoming a mere thing. seemingly antithetical concept of aesthetic judgment, thus eliminating the ideology of a Kantian transcendental Good. Taste and beauty can only have effect, can only become cultural practices, through agreement and mediation regarding the function of these produces a reified and administered subjec t is removed from certainty to the same
198 1 From this premise, which seems to undergird the entire on art demonstrate, reification is by no means simply soluble; nor is there any verifiable example in history of a non reified society, or one in which subjectivity is unmediated by the object. If reification is the most extreme because the most abstract model of nces, this abstraction is also the very reason why it 2 Perhaps we should reconsider modernist poetics as the remobilization of political strategies to comprehend an d this comprehension includes a potential termination discretizing subject and object, universal and particular. We should continually return to namics of mediation that artworks draw our attention to, not just the fracture in metaphysics in terms of subject and object, but the kind of theoretical negotiations that are themselves a form of thought that struggles cation: If it is essential to artworks that they be things, it is no less essential that they negate their own status as things, and thus art turns against art. The totally objectivated artwork would congeal into a mere thing, whereas if it altogether evad ed objectivation it would regress to an impotently powerless subjective impulse and flounder in the empirical world. 3 That is, what we notice about the authors under review is a propensity to use cultural objects and practices as dialectical strategies to reverse several malevolent 1 Timothy Bewes, Reification, or the Anxiety of Late Capitalism ( London: Verso, 2002 ) p. 110. 2 Ibid, 110. 3 Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory trans. Robert Hullot Kentor (Minneapolis: U of Minnesot a P, 1998), p. 175
199 processes. By way of closing, I want to focus specifically on Olson in order to come to a very terse conclusion about our entire cast of characters: these artists were already engaged in critical cultural studies. For instance, O lson reads history as cultural production its objects, artifacts, fictions, interpolations, organizations, etc. as the genetic code of past decisions embalmed in things that varied both in terms of durability and temporality and as exteriorized human memor ies. Olson was, as George Butterick luxuriated in data, broke it down like a micro organism does a plastic, and, most of all, the key who believed it was possible to kno w everything, or at least everything that 4 Fused within things archives, narratives, topographies, etc. is the chance to decode the totality of a system or distill the invisible idea of a cultural polis in order to comprehend, like Ols destruction sets in, and what impedes action on behalf of a people who let it happen. understand that in order to pass through the problem of the aesthetic one is already situated in questions of culture. Any presentation of the surfaces and masses of poetic forms will always already be working at the level of cultural production. Perhaps n ot so much an ideology but a matter of fact: repositioning poetry within the category of culture empowers poetic forms to reconstitute the totality of which they are part and parcel. To be more specific, I am arguing that Olson was already considering the consequences of a political task that Bernard 4 George Butterick American Poetry 6.2 (Winter 1989), pp. 28 59, p. 31.
200 the future must understand technological development as an essentially cultural question, and must understand that the cu ltural question from out of the question of 5 Olson, like the other poets studied here, seems to have written the above passage in reverse: starting from the basis of we have opportunity to reconstitute the totality of industrial development that will inevitably produce another culture according to a different axis; a shift from the reception and inheritance of culture to its production. For Stiegler, an industrial poli tics of the future can only result from a radical dialectic that invention of a new order, and the constitution of a new model of industrial development as well as of cultural practices (and practices irreducible to mere usages ), at the very moment that culture, or rather the control of culture, has become the heart of 6 gains an important power: the chance to conceive and to create through this imag ining new models of cultural production that reconstitute political life that remains incalculable to the current cultural logics of late capitalism. culture industries are not inevitably harmful, or worse and it is for this same reason that, finally, they must also in principle be capable of the best 7 Here we have a discussion where the perspective shifts away from the vantage of 5 Bernard Stiegler, The Decadence of Industrial Democracies: Disbelief and Discredit, Volume 1 (Cambridge: Polity, 2011), p. 18. 6 Ibid, 15. 7 Ibid, 18.
201 consumption; reorients artistic practices in terms of production actual, possible, or otherwise. type of cultural production that ties into the core antagonisms of capitalism. Reification, in so far as it is a malevolent concept, marks a process of removing all traces of production in the thing produced. And here, returning to Bewes, we gain opportunity to polis against the problems of Gloucester increasing its ra te of reification exponentially: The process of reification in capitalist society is one of embedding men and women in the particular, of hiding from them their implication in and be neath a false generality (such as their membership of families, states or nations) an ideological process which must take different forms at different times. In each case, reification is opposed in principle to the failure to think the totality. 8 To borrow bee no longer forms an identity with the hive. The dialectical constitution of subjectivity and objectivity at the core of work and social production tout court become untethered: recognize that a man is at once subject and object, is at once and always going in two 9 Maximus we see the consequences of Gloucester being reified via this separation. To momentarily bracket the legal and political dilemmas of citizenship as itself a reified concept, in Gloucester the citizens of the polis resemble alienated workers: the citizens who constitute and produce th e 8 Bewes, Reification 12 9 Charles Olson, The Special View of History ed. Ann Charters (Berkeley: Oyez, 1970), p. 32.
202 invisible idea of the polis no longer find themselves by, in, and through it. The polis is As we saw in the Chapter 5 the metonymy between individual and city had completely falle n out of congruence; the individual can no longer establish identity with the larger collective or the institutions that comprise the objective form of the polis That Olson holds locality to be a gateway to a universal is all the more telling: at a global level something unhinged and this lack of congruence, or lack of identity between subject and object, comes to mark a fundamental disjuncture of the experience of of pr oduction itself the human world, which, as Vico put it, people have themselves produced we find universal alienation of the most literal kind, in which the object, the not I, comes before its subjects as what is radically other and the property and dominio n 10 This is a logic impacting all cultural landscapes with varying degrees of severity: racism, nationalism, sexism, etc. To repeat an earlier passage now in a new context, Olson seems to have created his own adventure through a series of eclectic thinkers to is the function 11 The loss of this notion of history and the separation of subject and object are for Olson found to be central to the faults of humanisms that esta blish a distance or space between the concepts of the individual and society. The question remains: how to restore a dialectical identity, one that does not seek an 10 Fredric Jameson, The Hegel Variations: On the Phenomenology of Spirit (Londo n: Verso, 2010), p. 112. 11 Olson, The Special View of History 17.
203 equalization and thus a neutralization of subject and object, but one where the terms fold back into each other in a self constitutive struggle. When Olson links art back to technics, I want to suggest that he speaks to two symptoms at the core of our political economy. The logic of Americanism the that Ahab expresses as historical fact is making it difficult, limiting production in the face of its own technological forward motion comes more and more to resemble and collaborate (essentially) w ith another system, basing itself on an 12 Rather than an opposition in typical Cold War fashion, we have capitalism and communism creating an ideological composition ore to resemble each other than any 13 This anxiety concerning the mutual perpetuation of administrative models nullifies the possibility of the citizen to find him or herself produced within the polis as his or h er role drifts from a participant to spectator or, worse, a pure consumer of inherited cultures. Second, if we follow the narrative of Chapter 5 we should recall that Olson frames his initial inquiry as it pertains to a general loss since WWI in terms of our labor As Stiegler describes it, this problem exceeds universal pauperization, because it concerns loss of knowledge the worker tending to become unskilled pure labor force and lacking any motive 14 He re the 12 Charles Olson and Cid Corman Charles Olson & Cid Corman: Complete Correspondence 1950 1964 Volume 1 ed. George Evans (Orono: Na tional Poetry Foundation, 1987), p. 270. 13 Ibid, 270. 14 St iegler The Decadence of Industrial Democracies 62.
204 consequences are steep: both savoir fair e and savoir viv r e become compromised; the cessation of technics in this way, as that which endlessly constitutes culture through practices marks a certain failure when these practices became autonomously con trolled by the culture industries. Olson, again, seems to pinpoint and speak to this problem of labor practices acutely in terms of a loss of history: I see history as the one way to restore the familiar to us to stop treating us cheap. Man is forever estr anged to the degree that his stance toward reality disengages him from the familiar. And it has been the immense task of the last century and a half to get man back to what he knows. I repeat the phrase: to what he knows For it turns out to coincide exact ly with that other phase: to what he does What you do is precisely defined by what you know. Which is not reversible, and therein lies the reason why context is life) here is a perfect thing or (if it is a created thing which every act is, by its very source as rising from one of us) here is form. 15 Every act, which is the result of a determined or ad hoc practice, results in a created thing, which is to say that every act even a proposal or a projective thought results in new forms that must always already be cultural. These two narratives of reifying all labor to merely subsisting waged labor which Olson rightly points out is a problem of credit and the overarching experience o f citizens to feel powerless as a community of citizens to intervene in the matters of the polis form two interrelated aspects for describing the contradictions of modernity. Melville predicted the myth of America that was to replicate in the twentieth cen tury as the citizens of the U.S., and Gloucester more specifically, mistake paternalism for security and repeat the powerlessness that the idea of the crew resembled: inaction. It pro spective 15 Olson, The Special View of History 29.
205 historical potential: there is a tendency in us to alter the future via technics (which, is for Olson, aesthetics). Expression still mai ntains the ability to prospect about in order to bring new forms into being. One cannot participate in expression by proxy. And [expression] is the only answer to the spectatorism which both capitalism and communism breed breed it as surely as absentee ow nership (whether of a leisure class or of a dictatorship, in the as a leadership these two identities limit production, or regulate it, in that monstrous phrase which turns all thin destruction. 16 As we saw earlier, Olson turns to technics in the immediate paragraphs following this passage in order to position methods of expression as the actionable criterion for social change. maintains the possib ility to turn a damaging cultural logic around by producing a radical singularity where subject and object rejoin dialectically through the production of artworks; and artworks underscore a method of counter production To Maximus as so many conceptual or prospective Letters to the Editor (in terms of a general or universal addressee); or, better, Maximus as Letter or Maximus as counter proposal. As Peter Anastas explains 17 upon returning to Gloucester and experiencing the effects of a newly restructured local government, itself being a shift that points toward the neoliberalism to 16 Olson, Olson & Corman 271. 17 Charles Olson, Maximus to Gloucester: The Letters and Poems of Charles Olson to the Editor of the Gloucester Times, 1962 1969 introduction, pp. 15 73.
206 come, O lson deployed the same practices in local struggles that we find in his poetic letters to the local newspaper about every intrusion upon the polis Scream Gloucester Tim es on December 3, 1965, Olson questions what motives are now taking root in the city that would allow the demolition of a historic home in order to make way for a YMCA swimming pool: how many ways can value be allowed to be careless with, and Hagstrom d estroy? how many more before this obvious dullness shall cease? oh city of mediocrity and cheap ambition destroying its own shoulders its own back greedy present persons stood upon, stop this renewing without reviewing loss loss loss no gains oh not moan stop stop stop this 18 the problems of Gloucester that deserve more emph asis how could expression, itself a process of reification, help this polis ? was facing the challenges brought about by a slumping fishing economy that necessitated the city to seek new measures and solutions for the problems resulting from post nded restructuring local government. As a result, in 1952 Gloucester saw its first city manager; an event that disbanded the mayoral council form of 18 Ibid 88.
207 government it had maintained since a city charter was successfully petitioned for in 1873. The cultural log Gloucester. It is this timeframe that marks the production of Maximus ; Olson visited the fishing town since he was a child, but he had never resided there for any considerable amount of time until hi s return, in 1957, the year after Black Mountain College closed. As citizen, he was displeased with what he witnessed: the privatization of waterfront and public property, the razing of historical landmarks, and the filling in of ponds with concrete. When we think of Gloucester and the politics of Maximus it should be within this context of a local polis going through new problems ushered in by bewilderingly contrary economic solutions. The invisible idea of the polis of Gloucester was moving toward, in Ols But what we should continually underscore is the metonymy always at work: the critique exceeds Gloucester because the new cultural logic of Americanism and post industrial capitalism unevenly affects all localities. Olson c hose Gloucester much like Williams chose Paterson neither of them natives to either place because of scale. Olson saw the vantage point of studying the idea of the polis through the third eldest establishment of the New World (i.e., being part of the origi nal Massachusetts Bay a growing hegemonic Americanism. This ideology of comprehending the universal through the accuracy of the particular is doubtless one of Whitehead the idea of polis grew into its current unfortunate form how it was made what
208 What becom completely overlap with Maximus in the sense that they seem missing from the longer work. If we follow the semantic chain of projective, prospective, etc., it will likely take us to the fun damental act central to Maximus : a proposal for new social practices. For example, in 1965 Olson is again writing letters to the Gloucester Times and this time begins by What bastard man today does not know, or his fellows who sell him abuse in and for him, is the created conditions of his own nature. One of these certainly is topography, that is that the shape of things o n earth 19 And then Olson moves to the ecological impacts as a point of demonstration, he and his badgered and mostly stupid leadership, are removing from him, and from his earth and t he ways of his life. And I care at least as much for him as I do for fish, and bird s, and shellfish, and kelp. The hedge row, they call it east of Buffalo, what is the unturned edge between adjoining oping Mill Pond will be left, because these places between places breed future. 20 Film Form seems to exceed a mere formal aesthetic theory. Here juxtaposition and the places where species and objects intermingle become the productive spaces of dialectical sentences or at least potentially so in that they provide a complex metabolic relationship. If the local government chooses to fill in Mill Pond with concrete and privatize wetlands, then we have an ecological interruption because the lands will no longer be public which is to say, the scope of future creation 19 Olson, Maximus to Gloucester 93. 20 Ibid, 94.
209 stolen and cheated of creation as part actually of 21 Olson, however, offers a solution to upend this cultural logic: I propose Gloucester restore her original selectmen as her Governing Body solely to redeclare the ownership of all her publi c conditions including the no longer any appeal to eminent domain, or larger unit of topography and -in other words to re estab lish the principle of commoners for ownership of the commons. This alone will cut through all the preservations, historical commissions, as well, thank God, all any future except that of the hybridized man himself, aware e of being, including his own. He be commoner, we be, Gloucester be common(s). 22 In 1873, the year Gloucester obtained its city charter, its governing body took the form of a commonwealth. From this date forward, Olson will track the slow process towards co rporatism. Here we approach the politics of the contradictory polis Contradictory in that the Greek city states that formed a federation in the Mediterranean cannot, and should not, be reconstituted (especially on the grounds of citizenship, literacy, th e nation state, etc.). But the idea of the polis as Stiegler assists in explaining, precisely because it is I ] t is not only God who, though not existing, consists It is also art, justice, ideas in general. Ideas in general and not only the idea of justice, whatever these ideas may be, do not exist: they are 23 And here we return to the fundamental necessity of : through aesthetic practices, which ar e technics passing through the category of culture 21 Ibid, 95. 22 Ibid, 96 97. 23 Stiegler, The Decadence of Industrial Democracies 90.
210 (there is no other way), we have the dialectical potential to bring into existence which is to say reify in a positive way altogether necessary ideas. Said otherwise, Olson wants to pass the idea of the po lis through the process of modernization in order to reflexively help terminate the haphazard byproducts of modernization itself. The polis then, is for Olson a socially necessary idea. To say that polis aligns with totality simultaneously implies that we should consider it as sign and symptom of historical problems. Polis speaks to a genuine historical need: to reconstitute the negotiation between subject and object, to effectively recouple the dialectic between parts and wholes, between person and place throughout all stages of production in its to seek out what Pound detonated with his initial formal idea the answer may begin to narrate how capitalism increases the separation of subjects and objects in exponential ways throughout the twentieth century. Pound, however, theorized an aesthetic form to confront this event. The intermingling of radical parts back into dialectical wholes underscores this symptomatic art, Wi rehabilitation of totalized particulars (i.e., polis All of these are in their own stride ways to reincorporate the calculated and discretized particular back into a dialectical totality. To this end, a whole new project one unable to be completed here would need to reprioritize the very process of reification implied within the two major aesthetic theories discussed here: objectivism and objectism. These aesthetic theories aim to compose and produce obj ects (to bring forms into being) that defy and overturn the harmful cultural practices that define
211 importance of expression. Little is gained by thinking about aesthetic expr ession outside the imagined boundaries of social and cultural circumstance. Each of the aesthetic totalities studied here, through the very practices that become reified in their objective artworks, exemplify the radical singularity that the artwork itself seeks to make commonplace. They are performative in this way: like technical manuals of machines that do not yet exist. Through the very act of proposing including the politics involved in such conceptualizations we repeatedly find cultural practices that deny the logics behind separation, discretization, and categorization. By and through these acts, the aesthetic foregrounds the possibility to think through types of cultural production where theory and practice continually mediate the process of objectif ication.
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219 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Patrick McHenry earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Central Florida in 2002, a Masters of Arts in English at the University of Florida in 2005, and a Doctor of Philosophy in English from the University of Florida in 2012. He has acc epted a position as a Marion L. Brittan Postdoctoral Fellow in the Georgia Institute of