Independent Study

Here is a rough outline of the independent study I will be undertaking this semester. Although it is subject to change, I hope to stick mostly to this initial proposal.

To Proceed Contrariwise: Prose Poems and Writing Against Language

“One admires the visible fruits of its art, but one is forever reflecting upon those operations that resulted in nothing visible and whose entire sphere of activity has been in an absence both impenetrable and pure. There the poet has truly grasped the absolute and has hoped to express it in a few words, through a marvel of combinations spirited away from chance.”
—Maurice Blanchot

Objectives: The independent study will take an approach toward what influence is, particularly how it has transferred from the mode of anxiety into ecstasy. Harold Bloom published The Anxiety of Influence in 1967. Forty years later, Harpers Magazine published an article entitled “The Ecstasy of Influence,” where the critic and writer Jonathan Lethem exercises an ecstasy of influence, a mode which brings together both acknowledgment and appropriation, and highlights how this is where writers now exist. I will read through the selected texts below with the single intention of coming to (with/through) a new moment of text (moment being the product that results from reading—notes, essays, poems, etc).

Activities: The course will unfold through small critical responses (4-6 pages) to readings, which will take the form of poetic essays responding to each text, as well as proof of new poems that act in response to that which has been intensely read.
Despite a select few, most of the texts below will be read loosely, or upon chosen excerpts. The works that are being addressed in each text (or referenced) will also be looked at in order to consider the ecstasy of influence as a given sustainability for cross-genre writing. Yet a distinction must be drawn here: the purpose is not to solely call upon ecstasy, but also to see ecstasy as a breath, and in doing so, note how one turns from that breath, as in the form of Celan’s Atemwende—“turning of our breath.”

Much focus will be given to the evolution of the prose poem and how it caters best to the investigatory mode of this study. Mallarme will serve as a key text, with a link to Rosemarie Waldrop’s involvement with prose poems. Aside from the texts, many select films and art will be viewed, and with overwrites in mind for them. The films will be determined as having been referenced by the writer’s being read. The art will be a chosen piece that is looked at for one hour each week at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In summary, this study will put together works from writers who openly acknowledge the boundaries and forms of deconstruction inherent in language. In addition to the essays created for this study, many poems will be written and in the end a chapbook compiled. The goal of the chapbook is also to record the poems by voice and issue them as an accompanying disc to the final chapbook. The student will complete five small essays, one poem a week, and a final chapbook including the work made throughout the semester.

Marcel Benabou: Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books
Viktor Shklovsky: Literature and Cinematography
T.J. Clark: The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing
Maurice Blanchot: The Infinite Conversation
Jacques Derrida: Of Grammatology and The Paper Machine
Walter Benjamin: Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
W.B. Yeats: The Autobiography of W.B. Yeats
Michael Palmer: Active Boundaries: Selected Essays and Talks
Carole Maso: Ava
Lyn Hejinian: The Language of Inquiry
Reginald Shepherd: Lyric Postmodernisms
Rosemarie Waldrop: Curves to the Apple
Stephen Mallarme: Collected Poems
Friedericke Mayrocker: brutt, or Sighing Gardens

John Berger: Ways of Seeing

Recommendations from professor and those who wish.


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