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Friday, November 8, 2013

More Bad Writing

Avant-Garde in Crisis.

The essay starts out like this:
Of those aligned at least with one visible column of the U.S. American avant-garde, more than a few writers have been so obedient to formal mandate and the certainties of development as to discount the likelihood that those imperatives, as with every hazard of orthodoxy, are narrowly if any longer defiant of our state of affairs.
Here I can't really figure out who's doing what to whom. Apparently there are several visible columns of the avant-garde, and some writers aligned with at last one of them. Some of these writers are obedient to something called "formal mandate" (what is that?) and equally vague "certainties of development." But these beliefs are apparently are no longer "defiant of our state of affairs." The essay concludes with some feel-good language:
My desire is for careful energizing words to structure the astonishment that is our accountability to language, foresight, and gesture. Metaphoric language in the mediated world can so beckon into action—into experience and knowledge—as to prompt the unforeseen. Constitutive of social space and cultural selfhood, the syllabic realism of metaphor obliges an urgent kind of carefulness that emboldens the critical imagination to alter our picture of the present and the shape of things to come.
Who could be against all these wonderful things, accountability, astonishment, foresight, gesture, carefulness, the social, cultural selfhood, action, metaphor, critical imagination, the shape of things to come? Surely the avant-garde itself is for all of this, as is the anti-avant-garde, and everyone in between.

Whatever the avant-garde stands for, though, I think it could be a good barrier against this kind of sloppy writing and thinking. Syllabic realism? Really?

There are more objectionable sentences here that I am not quoting.

3 comments:

j. said...

hey, have you heard the news? other modes of critical practice and meaning-making thrive in excess of any centralizing desire.

it would be interesting to see the work of this sort of writer as it developed over time. say, before 'mastery' of this kind of performance was acquired. what makes a person start to want/need to say that a neo-baroque enacts a pageantry of excess?! or even earlier in the writing process for this particular piece. like, was there an effort to make it MORE like this? or is it just that things were hopeless from draft 1?

Vance Maverick said...

Is the problem here that the avant-garde has been sold too hard? (By practitioners, and for influence on the likes of Tejada, more importantly by critics?) The rhetoric here is all of the form "vanguard art can't do what they said", with "they" unspecified. This piece seems written from within a bubble where nobody but the author has ever doubted that Hugo Ball could stop the world war, etc. Making it new doesn't mean the powerful take notice -- which is not to say making it new is unimportant.

Jonathan said...

I like the neobaroque too. The point was to use the neobaroque against something else, here called the avant-garde, as though that would do anything in and of itself. The stylistic decay is a symptom of the sloppy thinking here. Suppose even if we decide that Marjorie oversold neo-conceptual poetry, but then that only matters if we believe Marjorie is the only voice that matters in the first place.