Thursday, November 20, 2008


People ask me why I'm so busy reading Dada nonsense when it's so far in the past. Or my interest in the Gothic and grotesque. The same question I suppose could be put to Joris and Rothenberg for their Romanticism project. Or Hoover and Chernoff for their recent Hölderlin translation. Or my new project of translating Swedish Romantic poet Stagnelius.

Here's what Hal Foster says in "What's Neo about the Neo-Avant-Garde?" (Also later in the book "Return of the Real")

"The move within these two returns are different: Althusser defines a lost break within Marx, whereas Lacan articulates a latent connection between Freud and Fredinand de Saussure, the contemporaneous founder of structural linguistics, a connection implicit in Frued... but impossible for him to think as such given the epistomelogical limits of his own historical position. But the method of these returns is similar: to focus on "the constructive omission" fundamental to each discourse. Similar too are the motives: not only to restore the radical integrity of the discourse but to challenge its status in the present, the received ideas that deform its structure and restrict its efficacy. This is not to claim the final truth of such readings... On the contrary it is to clarify the the contingent strategy of the readings, which is to reconnect with a lost practice in order to disconnect from a present way of working felt to be outmoded, misguided, or otherwise oppressive. The first move (re) is a temporal one, made in order, in a second, spatial move (dis) to open a new site for work."

He then talks about post war art's interest in the readymade and Russian Constructivism. We can also see it in Rothenberg's various challenges to the perceived idea of American Modernism, or the re-discovery of say Mina Loy. Or the language poets re-inserting "So much depends" into the rest of Spring and All and calling more attention to Stein. Or in Bly & Co's 1960s work recovering various avant-garde and surrealist-influenced poets in translation. In other words, "returning" to various authors and text can be very interesting and useful. It can of course also be the opposite.


Blogger Max said...

Couldn't it also be the case that people who dig into the past are romanticizing it to some extent, and that this perhaps becomes part of the allure?

2:11 PM  
Blogger mark wallace said...

Who on Earth asked you why you were reading Dada when it was so far in the past? I mean, that seems ridiculous on several counts, not the least of which is that given the whole history of literature, Dada's not really so far back.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Matt Walker said...

That is weird--if those people think Dada is too far in the past, I wonder what happens when they encounter someone reading Beowulf, or Gilgamesh for that matter. Their heads must explode...

7:44 AM  

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