7 * Poeticsby J. Robinson

The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory


Recent Experimental Progress in the HT-7 Tokamak

Wan Baonian, HT-7 team

Poetic Experience

A. Philip McMahon, Thomas Gilby

6 * Poetics

K. Sutherland

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Hayden Carruth


7Poeticsoetics josh robinson

This chapter reviews a selection of the books on poetics published in 2012.

Taking as its point of departure the variety these books display in their aim, approach, scope and even object of study, it considers the possibility of identifying commonalities between them. The chapter begins with discussion of two books published in the Verbal Arts series (FordhamUP), Kiene Brillenburg

Wurth’s Between Page and Screen: Remaking Literature Through Cinema and Cyberspace and Jacob Edmond’s A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural

Encounter, Comparative Literature. It then makes some tentative conceptual distinctions, before attempting to orient against these distinctions a wide range of books, including several that are not obviously related to the study of poetry. It then turns to the fourth edition of the Princeton Enyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, identifying some differences in its conception of the field of poetics with respect to previous editions of the Encyclopedia. It concludes with discussion of

Alexandra Socarides’ Dickinson Unbound: Paper, Process, Poetics, Peter McDonald’s

Sound Intentions: The Workings of Rhyme in Nineteenth-Century Poetry, and Reuven

Tsur’s Playing by Ear and the Tip of the Tongue: Precategorial Information in Poetry, on the basis of which it makes some tentative suggestions as to the relationship between poetics and its object of study.

Confronted with the lists I had begun to construct of material published in 2012 pertinent to the topic of poetics, I was struck by the sheer range and variety or work on poetics and/or with the word ‘poetics’ in the title,1 and found myself confronted with the question of whether I was able to give a convincing and succinct account of what poetics is, and the extent to which this account might conform, or otherwise, to the breadth of work published under that name. The difficulty of giving such an account is in many ways encapsulated by the self-description of the FordhamUP series ‘Verbal Arts: Studies in Poetics’ edited by Lazar Fleishman and

Haun Saussy, a series which according to its online publicity materials

The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, 22  The English Association (2014)

All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com doi:10.1093/ywcct/mbu007 at U niversity of Pittsburgh on January 16, 2015 http://yw cct.oxfordjournals.org/

D ow nloaded from ‘focuses on the study of the stylistic properties of literary works and on analyses of poetry and prose in theoretical, historical, and comparative perspectives’, ‘deals with assays of those factors in works of verbal art that demarcate poetry from prose’, ‘investigates relationships between literature, on the one hand, and music, visual arts, and philosophy, on the other’, and ‘scrutinizes the wider effects of poetic practice: its relations to literary theory, to the interaction between the arts and society, and to the institutions of literary communication’.2 From the variety of topics actually and potentially included within the remit of the series it is already clear that the term poetics—and the question of whether poetics is best understood as field or object of study, approach, methodology, orientation, practice, (sub-) discipline, interest, set of concerns or some combination of these and of other things is one which I consider it important to raise but also one which will unavoidably remain unanswered—firstly refers to a not only remarkably broad but also heterogeneous body of work, and secondly, that this heterogeneity means that it is not necessarily possible to offer a single definition or concept of poetics under which these works can adequately or even successfully be subsumed.

The two books published in the Fordham series in 2012 serve as a convenient synecdoche for this heterogeneity. Kiene Brillenburg Wurth’s collection Between Page and Screen: Remaking Literature Through Cinema and Cyberspace ‘aims to reconsider literature—as an ‘‘experimental’’ practice—already as a rematerialization of and challenge to the alleged constraints of the paper page’ (p. 2) and in doing so ‘to bring together debates in e-literature and intermediation (the complex interaction between code, speech and writing), on the one hand, and adaptation (relationships between literature and cinema, cinema and literature), on the other’ (p. 3).

This collection is itself motivated by a diverse and eclectic range of concerns, from Samuel Weber’s account of Walter Benjamin’s introduction of a concern with medium to an exploration of a constellation of terms ‘which are almost all taken from the writings that he is interpreting’ (p. 31)—primarily Schlegel, Novalis and Ho¨lderlin—via Katherine

Hayles’s articulation of the challenges made of criticism by digital textuality, most pressingly ‘to re-envision and rearticulate legacy concepts in terms appropriate to the dynamics of networked and programmable media’ (p. 125)—challenges met, for example, in Federica Frabetti’s examination of software as a form of writing, to Gary Hall’s investigation of the effects of open access and archiving on academic research and output, in which he argues that any theory or philosophy of new media must ‘remain open to the temporal and affective poeticity and performativity of the archive’s 132 | Poetics at U niversity of Pittsburgh on January 16, 2015 http://yw cct.oxfordjournals.org/

D ow nloaded from functioning: the ways in which the ethics of open-access archiving cannot be decided in advance but have to be created and invented by its users in a relation of singularity to finite, ‘‘concrete’’ conjunctions of the here and now’ (p. 266).

A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter,

Comparative Literature, Jacob Edmond’s sensitive and far-reaching examination of what he terms, after Blanchot, the ‘common strangeness’ of six poets from Russia, China and the United States in recent decades argues that, contra any imagined confirmation of the irrelevance of poetry, these poets ‘have responded to the world historical changes in which their countries played such key roles in ways that attest to the art form’s resilience and even renaissance’ (pp. 2–3). But whereas for Blanchot the common strangeness of our response to the other is ‘a way to resolve the dialectic relation between self and other, home and not-home, sameness and difference’,