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


John Latta said...

What we used to do with such earnestly execrable gobbledegook "in the workshop," why, we'd simply write CROCK alongside it, giggle a little amongst ourselves, and carry on.

Kent Johnson said...

I've got to say, too, agreeing with Latta. This sounds like Heidegger locked in his little Bavarian hut, riding out some bad acid.

Jordan said...

The excerpt after the asterisks is a gloss on the one before the jump, no?

Don Share said...

Well, it appears to be, Jordan - but actually, it just comes later on in the book.

TC said...

Hi Donnie (you're so cute!).

I don't know so much about this Marx person is he the one with the funny mustache or the one with the frizzy hair?

Fetishism, duh wuzzat? I think maybe it's what my kitties do when they get a hairball.

Or maybe a kind of cheese??

But hey, who's this hot new guy?

"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."

I'm the same way!!! Get the message?

Love to all,


Henry Gould said...

I've got the book on my desk, Don, but haven't had time to look at it yet (haven't been at my desk). Reading these excerpts, though, I start arguing with the argument, or as much of it (if any) as I can gather.

Why is lyric obscurity an effect of solipsism? My sense of obscurity in poetry is that it is an effect of contrast. The poem contains BOTH the light and the dark. Obscurity is often the effect of the flash of a physical image, which, combined with the sound, the melopoeia, creates the strong semblance of a physical reality - a sort of cinematic effect. The image grabs hold of the reader, like a summons - & leads to the reaction : why? What is the meaning, the purpose, the motive for this strong effect? The darkness of the motive itself is the poem's obscurity.

A poem without an intellectual motive is an exercise in obfuscation. It's a kind of imitation of real poetry, in which the motive impels the strange veil of the words.

Don Share said...

Well, it's hard to boil this down, but he doesn't use obscurity as a term refering to verbal effects, merely; rather, obscurity is literal material darkness. He'd agree that the poem contains both light and dark - what Milton call'd darkness visible. The book does explore the meaning, purpose, motive for that strong effect; and T. combines the intellectual with the material, pace Leibniz - which latter may be the real rub & nexus for those who want to argufy with "infidel poetics."

You're right to want to joust with what's going on in this book; that's what - for me - is so exciting about it. Instead of some amalgamations of blather to which I can easily assent... or some which I can simply dismiss... I have to figure out what bugs me here. It's a pleasure to do so, which is why I'm so grateful for this book. Anyway, even if I disbelieve in monads, I no more have to suspend my disbelief here than I do with an actual poem.