[-empyre-] Starting the Fourth Week: Chris Funkhauser, Sally Silvers and Bruce Andrews

Bruce Andrews andrews at fordham.edu
Wed Nov 30 10:26:26 AEDT 2016

I had said:

"We did want to focus attention on language itself as the medium, but I'm
not ready to embrace some of your characterization:  words & letters are
not non-referential, but we liked to organize them in other ways beside
what they were pointing to (which was too often, for us, the author's
personalizing experience or expressiveness or traditional lyric
expectations). We tended to want the readers' experience at the center —
which cuts against some of this binary of yours about the sensual,
movement-based vs. logical aspects of language"

Murat, on to this part of your response.

M:  Bruce, when you say "We tended to want the readers' experience at the
center," are you saying anything different than saying "I want the text at
the center," the reader reading the text?

B:  I put it in terms of the reader's (or readers') experience. Because
'the text at the center' can imply something different from 'the reader
reading the text'. For instance, it's gotten somewhat fashionable for
writers to proclaim their lack of interest in the reader's experience or
even the existence of readers — at times, the apparent intention is to
create texts that are 'impressive', for anyone hearing it or seeing it (or
hearing about it or buying/collecting it) to elevate the status of the
author. This can go way beyond the older, more familiar notion of the
authors being celebrated for their distinctive expressiveness or knowledge
or personal stories & the reader 'tagging along' or bowing down or pulled
into an identification with another specific person.

M: The question interests me because in my essay The Peripheral Space of
Photography, I assert that what is important in a photograph is not the
photographer's focus (framing), but what escapes that framing. The real
dialogue occurs between the watcher of the photograph and what is in front
of the lens (human or a landscape, etc.). If, as I think you are to saying,
it is the reader (and not purely the text), then even the "reveries" the
reader builds around the text reading it become part of it. Is that not so?

B: Sure, even the reveries (or the wild associations or confusions or
mishearings) that get 'built' around the text reading it becomes part of it
— but I'd say the 'it' is the reader experience; not sure if those
constructions can be said to be an actual part of the text.

Let me know if your essay on photography is something others could link to.
Some of our different aesthetic preoccupations might come into play here:
the 'framing' that most interests me is that of the viewer/beholder rather
than the photographer's focus; and also, while it sounds intriguing to
speak of what escapes the photographer's framing, that is exactly what the
(relatively autonomous) potentials of language make available to a reader
pretty much all the time. To hone in on how the watcher dialogues with what
is 'in front of the lens', still emphasizes the representational/realist
aspects of the art. This brought to mind a fascinating article in the new
issue of Louis Armand's Prague-based journal, VLAK

(a huge issue #5) on the way film animation confounds the
camera/indexical/realist tendencies of film theory, by emphasizing the
individual celluloid frame. Adrian Martin's "Game with DVD" is the piece.
He suggests that "contemporary cinema in the digital age tends ever more
towards the surface manipulation of a graphic image on a computer screen"
—citing Thomas Elsaesser & Daniel Frampton, the latter grounding his
"account of cinema on the basis of the constitutive *artifice* of the
medium — the idea that everything can be created and manipulated within an
image-bank, rather than (or subsequent to having been) 'captured' by the
camera". Another example, I'd say, of how the digital domain allows us to
be less reliant on some pretty restrictive (arguably old-fashioned or
conservative) assumptions about the trajectory of writing (ones that would
focus on its obedience to an author's representational/thematic choices or
'camera-like' framings).

M: "Logical" was an unfortunate choice of words, on my part. I am more
interested in the distinction between predicated idea (therefore fixed) and
thought as process (therefore movement). One can have thought and/in
movement (that's what Eda is). In that way, thought is sensual.

B: Again, not sure about this. Poets' thoughts are usually claimed to be
'in motion' in a text, foregrounding the (sensual?) process by which they
get articulated or 'projected' [as in 'Projective Verse'], rather than
things that are 'fixed' (what you're calling a "predicated idea").
Otherwise, they get criticized for being dogmatic, overly intellectual,
etc. But I'm still wanting the exchange to tilt away from the author's
thoughts, whether predicated or in process — to open up a wider arena for
the reader & for the disruptions or near-infinite horizons that language
implicates. [I'm fully engrossed these days in discussions of the Sublime —
trying to reconfigure Kant et al. so that this topic can have something to
offer an understanding of the poetry I want to read, & write. That's too
big a thing to delve into here].

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