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2. Literature

. . . is less vital to me, probably because it's a vocational pursuit.

What follows are ramblings from various free (and generally stressful) moments of the past years. Note that in the summer of 2002 I discovered that this page was in fact one of the earliest blogs on the Web. I just didn't know that people were calling this sort of thing a "blog." So now I'm putting dates on each new entry.

16 August 2009: For the first time in six years (I'm still burned by the PhD experience) something related to literary theory catches my interest again: "These forms of entertainment corroborate our feelings of distrust and allow us to think about how we might fit into a world that wouldn't even be aware of us getting crushed under its collective weight." - Walter Mosley, in of all places Newsweek, 10/17 August 2009, p. 29. A brilliantly concise insight capturing the relationship between reader and fiction!

19 December 2003: How do I define poetry? Poetry is rhythmic language. Its rhythm can be sensed on many planes – not merely acoustically, and not merely from syllable to syllable, but also from strophe to strophe or from page to page, and often also visually, semantically, and conceptually. Its rhythm can be laid down, for example, in the rapid linking of chains of associative metaphors, in patterns of white space on the printed page, in tight sequences of similar vowels, in the stepwise expansion of a literary conceit, in the measured progression of a logical argument, or in the perfect timing of a sudden change of narrative voice.

16 November 2003: What do I believe in any more? I believe in the insufficiency of language to express truth. This pessimism stems from an optimism greater than language. Poetry pushes in the right direction away from language. This thought comes as I begin reading a book, perhaps only the second in the last two years: Edwin T. Buehrer, The Art of Being. I expect that I will read about me in there.

September 2002: Finally launched a Lyrikabend Web-site where you can read my dissertation on the Lyrikabend (see May 2002 entry) and follow links to other texts about the Lyrikabend.

July 2002: While rambling around Cork and Kerry, Ireland, this month, I made the first new discovery in many years of a poet whose work I like. I found a collection of poems by Eamon Grennan in Mercier's in Cork city. This discovery has something to do with the fact that now that I'm freed of academic obligations regarding literature, I might actually regain some personal interest in it.

May 2002: I've just finished my Ph.D.! I wrote my dissertation on a particular poetry reading held in East Berlin on December 11, 1962. [Zu deutsch: Stephan Hermlins Lyrikabend in der Ost-Berliner Akademie der Künste.] I had grand plans to use that evening to analyze everything from the development of East German poetry to Western youth culture around 1960 to the generational conflict that links up to the Western "68" phenomenon and East German art forms of the time. And I wanted to write it in hypertext. But in fact I discovered that scholarship to date on the topic was an incredible mess of political biases, myth-making, and plagiarism. So I ended up dissecting that instead.

Anyway, what I am most personally interested in is poetry of the 60's. I like American poetry of the 60's, I want to stay within a generation of my own life, and my brain prefers overanalyzing little bits of text to underanalyzing long stringy narratives. Which is why, of course, I am a proponent of the academic use and study of hypertext. I have, for example, (finally) converted a complex hypertext I wrote on Paul Celan's early poetry to Web format. Check it out. I also find other people's texts (ahem!) on the Web stimulating. Some of the problems I like to think about are very readably touched on in Seamus Heaney's Nobel Prize speech.

Y2K: I see the Y2K paranoia as a symptom or consequence of the capitalist consumer mentality. There is obviously no – or only a very meager – rational basis for the apocalyptic and even the mundane fears shared by so many people. (I say that with the confidence of one who has spent a lifetime thoroughly immersed in the functions and foibles of hardware and software on large and small scales, and I will let this text stand after January 1, 2000). The good capitalist consumer, however, has a highly atrophied sense of the future. Dulled by the seductive mantra of "buy now," he has absolutely no sense of the large-scale and especially long-term operations necessary to hold our ever-expanding economy together. He thinks new products and technologies arise instantly and suddenly, with only months of development and no years of foresight that led thence. (Witness the idiotic fluctuations of the stock market in reaction to extremely short-term news.) He fails to see, for example, that if systems were going to crash due to the data structure of a particular date, that such crashes would have begun felling economic and social operations years ago!

For my cultural studies perspective on Irish traditional music, see the bottom of my music page.

Hypertext: yes, little bits of text, and yes, it can also be long and stringy. What makes hyperart different than, say, Tristam Shandy or those "Choose Your Own Adventure" novels of the 80's, is the lack of physical order (e.g., book pages), the increased frequency of refractive and diversionary signs, readable intertextuality that can be packaged into the work, etc. I disagree with the hysterics who think hypertext escapes the hermeneutic and positivist project, and on the contrary affirm that hypertext pursues a positivist truth even more exactingly and ambitiously than plain text. Cf. my thoughts in my hypertext on Paul Celan. And check out the very thought-provoking essay Living Inside the (Operating) System (by John Unsworth). Technology is in our hands, but the circumstances of the body make us take the path of least resistance, which puts us often in the hands of technology.

"The body," as some of you well know, has become a trendy concept, and I suggest that e-mail and the Web's apparent bodilessness have a direct causal relationship to academia's obsession. The post-structuralist sign was also a headless angel, though, and as a further qualifying statement let me add that current sexuality discourse is also at play here; when even sexuality transcends the circumstances of the body, the intellect needs to find the body (as in that of a detective story) even more urgently. Like I said, the epistemology of the academy hasn't advanced much beyond positivism yet! Not that mine has either, speaking as physicist, technonerd, and conservatively trad musician.

Here's a relevant quote of a quote of a quote from a reprint (!) of an interview of Georg Maurer by Dieter Schlenstedt, originally published in Weimarer Beiträge 1968, Heft 5: Maurer says:
"1962 zitierte Karl Mickel anläßlich der Besprechung des 1950/51 entstandenen Dreistrophenkalenders Marx: "Die Arbeit ist zunächst ein Prozeß zwischen Mensch und Natur, worin der Mensch seinen Stoffwechsel mit der Natur vermittelt, regelt und kontrolliert. Er tritt dem Naturstoff selbst als eine Naturmacht gegenüber. Die seiner Leiblichkeit angehörenden Naturkräfte, Arme, Beine, Kopf und Hand, setzt er in Bewegung, um sich den Naturstoff in einer für sein eigenes Leben brauchbaren Form anzueignen. Indem er durch diese Bewegung auf die Natur außer ihm einwirkt und sie verändert, verändert er seine eigene Natur.""

Profession: Wir treiben Handwerk! Another trend of late is consciousness among grad students (and our faculty) of our future trade and to what extent our training in the academy is goal-oriented. Again, it is precisely in an age when poststructuralism has come of age, gone mainstream, and become passé, that Derrida's concept of the "bricoleur," adapted from Levi-Strauss, trickles down to the real existing conditions of daily life. Even the literary scholar is left rudderless; the science of literature, "Literaturwissenschaft," becomes a secular practice, a toolbox of arbitrary discourses, without the epistemological certainty and optimism of the natural sciences. Imagine if every chemist in the world had their private version of the periodic table of elements or even none at all.

Here's a little link collection: cultural background material to the 50's and 60's of US/Western European culture. LSD & Hippies. Review of On the Road. Sylvia Plath. The Houseboat Summit: February, 1967, Sausalito, Calif.

Here's my "academic publications" list. Ignore it if you hate reading other people's resumes:

Und zuletzt: Texte und Textkonstellationen meiner schriftlichen Arbeiten: