Cover

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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xiv

This book takes its point of departure from a passage in Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis, where many years ago I first ran across the notion of parataxis. It occurs, among other places, in his chapter on The Song of Roland, a poem that refuses to follow the traditional logic of sequential narrative: “Instead of a process...

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Prologue: The Invention of Poetry

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pp. 1-8

Let me begin by exploring some reasons for thinking of the early German romantics— specifically Friedrich Schlegel (1772–1829) and the Athenaeum group (1798–1801)—as the first avant-garde of literary modernism, where poetry is an instance of art as such, a form in itself and not (simply) an instrument of...

Part I

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1. An Archeology of Fragments

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pp. 11-33

It is always prudent to begin with a distinction.
On the one hand, there are ruins, citations, aphorisms, epigrams, paradoxes, remarks (Bemerkungen), notes, lists, sketches, marginalia, parentheticals, conversations, dangling participles...

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2. The Impossible Experience of Words: The Later Fiction of Maurice Blanchot and Samuel Beckett

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pp. 34-46

My purpose in this chapter is to pursue in some philological detail the symmetries between Samuel Beckett’s fiction, particularly one of his later fragmentary writings, and Maurice Blanchot’s theory (and practice) of writing as a kind of limit-experience, where writing (among other interminable events: waiting...

Part II

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3. Dialectrics: Turbulence and Contradiction in J. H. Prynne’s Kazoo Dreamboats

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pp. 49-65

Perhaps the first thing one might say about J. H. Prynne’s recent Kazoo Dreamboats; or, On What There Is, is that its absence of line breaks marks a departure from the predominantly versified forms gathered together in his Poems. Here is Kazoo’s opening sentence:
Along the corridor of near frequency I saw willing and discrete...

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4. Metastatic Lyricism: John Wilkinson’s Poetry and Poetics

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pp. 66-82

During the past half century I’ve returned a number of times to that region of literary modernism occupied originally by the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé, with his idea of a poem purified of everything but the physical (musical, but mainly visual) material of its language. In an essay from 1895, “Crise de vers...

Part III

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5. Apology for Stuffed Owls: On the Virtues of Bad Poetry

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pp. 85-96

“Hilarity” is usually found in prose, sir.2 Falstaff. Touchstone. Baudelaire (“On the Essence of Laughter,” 1964: 160–71) rightly confines laughter to caricatures on the English stage—Pierrot, for example—and to the stories of E. T. A. Hoffmann. However, we do have an amusing “Sonnet Found in a Deserted...

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6. Paratactics (“Pataquerics”) of the Ordinary: The Course of the Comic in Charles Bernstein’s Poetry

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pp. 97-114

In an early essay, “Semblance” (1980), addressing the then-current topic of “the death of the referent,” Charles Bernstein took up the question of sentences and what one might do with them:
“Words elect us. The lamp sits atop the table in the study. The tower is burnt orange.” By rotating sentences...

Part IV

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7. On the Words of the Wake (And What to Do with Them)

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pp. 117-132

I once imagined Joyce’s Finnegans Wake as a realization (of sorts) of Flaubert’s “book about nothing, a book dependent on nothing external, which would be held together by the strength of its style, . . . a book which would have almost no subject, or at least the subject would be almost invisible” (Flaubert 1953...

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8. What’s in a Mirror? James Joyce’s Phenomenology of Misperception

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pp. 133-150

Let me begin with Hugh Kenner’s remark (1956: 123) that the basic unit of Joyce’s fiction is the encounter, as in the Dubliners story of that name. The most famous of these events is perhaps Stephen’s “vision” of the birdlike girl on Sandymount strand, who is not likely to be the creature he thinks he sees...

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Epilogue: On Incompletion (Stopping Briefly with Gertrude Stein)

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pp. 151-156

Maurice Blanchot’s The Infinite Conversation begins, appropriately, with a dilatory conversation between two (interminably) old friends—dilatory because one of them had “nothing to say,” while the other, dooming from the start the classical model, “had forgotten how to question” (1993a: xix). To make matters...

Notes

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pp. 157-174

Works Cited

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pp. 175-190

Index

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pp. 191-197