Monday, September 21, 2009

Hipsters Are Against Nature!

I was just over at Kent's new site and I read this post about Jed's book.

I just taught two classes in a row on The Sound and the Fury so I'm a little tired out too tired out to write anything really of consequence other than to note the use of "hipster" in contemporary discussions of poetry. Just off the top of my head I remember Steve Burt on this blog dividing poetry into the real human poets and the hipsters. I've seen this term used a lot of other places but I'm too shot to remember. Well, in this post if by Robert Baird it comes up again, and here I think Baird really puts his finger on the issue: the "hipster" that people ridicule (defensively usually) is a new, more derogatory term for "aestheticism."

You may recall Burt talking about the clothing etc of the hipster (I think I'm not mixing these up, correct me if I"m wrong). You may more importantly recall Mark Halliday's review of Josh Clover which I discussed briefly some months ago on this blog. What really freaked Halliday out was not the Language Poets' politics etc, but Clover's "Lettrist jacket". This piece of esoteric fashion freaked Halliday out because it was a rejection of "the human." Which in Halliday's essay meant grieving for one's dead father (The Law?) or going fishing or some other such "real" activity.

To me this is especially interesting as it pertains to translations/foreigners/immigrants etc. Unproblematic notions of "Human" has since Day 1 been used to create outsiders, the non-human. Another form of this is the denigration of the "cosmopolitan", a common caricature that has also been associated with Jews and Homosexuals.

(Another version of this charge has been used by Ron Silliman: only rich, privileged kids read things in translation. Even though most people in the world have bilingual experiences foisted on them by US imperialism etc; only Americans have the "privilege" of monolingualism.)

But to me it's most interesting in the way it's been used to define the translation, a kind of inhuman aesthetiticism. Something that comes around in the Dada embrace of the "aesthetics of homelessness," as one recent critic coined the term. For example, the use of untranslated African chants - or more importantly the embrace of foreign languages as a kind of MO of the entire aesthetic.

I suddenly realize that instead of calling my book *Pilot ("Johann The Carousel Horse")* I should have called it *Hipster.*

I'm really tired but tomorrow or Wednesday I'm going to try to write something about Sandra Simond's book *Warsaw Bikini* and Kate Durbin's *Ravenous Audience* and how they pertain to the Hipster's Dilemma/Delight.

9 Comments:

Blogger ab said...

I gave up being human so long ago that finally I only just communicate via links:

http://www.latfh.com/

2:41 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

That's cute!

Johannes

2:59 PM  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

The other wierd thing that I picked up on in that post is the attempt to equated "productive artist genius type" with "fighter against capitalism":

"If I were more hip than I am, I might say that the divi­sion of labor between the artist and arti­san is unthink­able out­side cap­i­tal­ism, which deploys the same split to divide a pop­u­la­tion of col­lars into white and blue."

The idea of Artist-as-genius is not only a product of Romanticism, but also early-modern capitalism, hand in hand with copyright law. If I'm not mistaken, the whole Fluxus ethos, langpo's penchant for collaboration, and various "shared identity" projects have of the latter half of last century were all deliberate attempts to undermine such ideas.

7:11 PM  
Blogger The Primes said...

"Hip begins,then, in private language, shaped to the circumstances in a new land"-- From John Leland's Hip: The History.

One of many books I haven't finished reading, but it traces "hip" to relations between white slave owners and African slaves.

"Hip may derive from 'hepi' or 'hipi' (to open ones eyes)... It's a term of enlightenment, cultivated by slaves..."

It's a fun book to glance at, especially its glossary of hipsters.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

Francois is a hipster. You should ask him.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Ross said:

>The idea of Artist-as-genius is not only a product of Romanticism, but also early-modern capitalism, hand in hand with copyright law. If I'm not mistaken, the whole Fluxus ethos, langpo's penchant for collaboration, and various "shared identity" projects have of the latter half of last century were all deliberate attempts to undermine such ideas.

Yes, Watten makes this claim, too. But hard to see how two or five legal Author names on a text instead of one is really much of an "undermining" of anything. After all, Wordsworth and Coleridge were doing that, and they were Romantics!

Kent

7:43 AM  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

Kent -
I do see what you mean, though what I was talking about was intention - whether there is any sucess is another story (at least when it comes to langpo). In the case of aleotory writers such as Cage or Mac Low there is, I think, something to be said, as in the shared identity works of neoism, and other groups.

And, I think, the relationship between 'genius', copyright law/ownership of the work and capitalism is still a vey valid point.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Ross,

Don't think I would argue with anything in your last comment above, though would say that Mac Low and Cage are interesting cases in regards to the matter of authorship-- I mean they present an interesting set of paradoxes.

Neoism is very interesting. I talked a bit about the phenomenon in a piece once, in context of a larger discussion of Authorship questions and conundrums. I don't think many poets in the U.S. have ever heard of the Neoists.

Kent

5:37 PM  
Blogger françois said...

Amish is a hipster. You should ask him. He also thinks you are one.

8:33 AM  

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