Monday, September 19, 2005

Mulling over Jane Dark's statement on emerging poetics, a term I was ready to quibble with (isn't an emerging poetics actually empty of any content except insofar as it is determined to oppose the dominant and residual?) until I saw Kasey's thoughts on the subject, which historicize it appropriately. We can only mean the emergent poetics of this historical moment: the attempt to write the present which has never yet been described, as I think Robert Gluck puts it in the fiction forum in the new Fence. (I am tempted to label the emergent, dominant, and residual stew of poetics that is represented there the New Boobyism. But I won't.) This discussion is useful from my monomaniacal perspective because it gives me yet another vector along which to think pastoral: is this inherently nostalgic mode a model for a resistant residual (the "folk" forms Kasey finds Cary Nelson pointing to)? What happens then when the self-consciously emergent make use of the form, adapting nature as a platform for poetic and political values that critique the dominant? I guess this depends on another question: what determines the emergent's content? The dominant and the residual look like determinate negations of each other, as early twentieth century modernism was a self-conscious negation of Victorian poetic values that nonetheless persisted and eventually became self-consciously anti-modernist (persisting as such to this hour). But the emergent has to make it new, even when "making it new" is the espoused value of the dominant. Is the emergent then truly empty after all, horizon of a yet-to-be determined event? Perhaps by definition when you can fully describe the emergent it's no longer emerging. Pastoral as genre is flexible enough to survive its appropriation by all three categories. A residual pastoral is unavoidably reactionary; a dominant pastoral apologizes for the present order (Arcadia of the suburbs). An emergent pastoral might be an ecopoetics, seeking to decenter the human in order to save it. Or it might be a radically untimely promesse de bonheur, a sort of decadence. It might simply be "nature poetry," but adopting experimental formal devices in order to bring nature to presence after its double concealment by technology and the pathetic fallacy. Clearly I have some ontological decisions to make. Am I describing a genre or a historical mode? Am I describing at all, or seeking from modernist fragments to prescribe a poetics? And will anybody buy it? Accursed, inevitable double-meaning of "buy."

Current thoughts on the academic job market: I would prefer not to.


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