Monday, December 14, 2009
Verbal fetishism and its discontents
I hope Kent Johnson, Tom Clark, and Paris Hilton will continue to comment - and correct my typos and other lapses - here. Till then, how 'bout some more from Daniel Tiffany's Infidel Poetics?
"A pragmatic consideration of obscurity - including its allure as a literary commodity - would seem to ignore, however, the natural phenomenon anchoring the trope of verbal obscurity: the material dark (a physical condition or substance, appearing to possess properties of an incorporeal entity). Yet Marx's theory of commodity fetishism presumes and indeed articulates a theory of substance - a phantasmagorical substance capable of blinding us to the palpable and useful qualities of things. More fundamentally, the curious ontology of the fetish, which expresses the social and economic implications of obscurity, accords as well with the incorporeal properties of metaphysical substance - that is to say, with the insensible and inscrutable substance of Being in the broadest sense.
"The innate obscurity of metaphysical substance (which the philosopher makes manifest, paradoxically, by seeking to define it) therefore possesses the curious immunity - and the telling secrecy - of vernacular speech. Yet theorizing the transitivity, or sociability, of obscurity, which presumes an array of pragmatic 'obscurity effects' generated by the hermetic phenomenon, risks ignoring, in a more rigorous sense, the absolute conditions of lyric obscurity: the first, a matrix of counterfeit relations contingent on various obscurity effects (at once social, economic, and aesthetic) generated by the poetic enigma; the second, a constellation, or mass, of expressive relations between entities which are essentially solipsistic."
"Obscurity is a way of making things disappear with words. At the same time, disappearance becomes a legible, material event through the verbal craft of obscurity. Indeed, crafting obscurity in a poem perfects the palpable art of disappearance."
Enough to make you go lie down?
Well, Charles Simic sez:
"As a rule, I read and write poetry in bed; philosophy and serious essays sitting down at my desk; newspapers and magazines while I eat breakfast or lunch, and novels while lying on the couch. It’s toughest to find a good place to read history, since what one is reading usually is a story of injustices and atrocities and wherever one does that, be it in the garden on a fine summer day or riding a bus in a city, one feels embarrassed to be so lucky. Perhaps the waiting room in a city morgue is the only suitable place to read about Stalin and Pol Pot?"
Pictured: Commodity fetishism