September 22, 2004

Still way behind and not doing enough reading which is making me itchy and angry. But today I stayed home with awful headache in the morning and got some reading done.

Christopher Nealon's "Camp Messianism, or, the Hopes of Poetry in Late-Late Capitalism" which discusses "post-language" poetry. (Part of me wants to go does that term really have to happen? Couldn't it be something else, please, please? It isn't Chris's term originally. I think the first time I saw it used was in a Mark Wallace article years ago.) It is an interesting article to read in context of Sianne Ngai's "Poetics of Disgust" from a few years back. Where Ngai sees disgust, I think Nealon sees a version of acceptance. Or to be more fair, I think that what Nealon sees is something more complicated and I see it as acceptance. Or to me the hopes of poetry in late-late capitalism are really, really small among the poets he discusses. But I think he is right. That the poets that fall into post-language are working against totalities of all sorts, even totalities of poetry as politics. The poets in the article are all really great: Lisa Robertson, Kevin Davies, Rod Smith, and Joshua Clover.

The article ends like this:

"This seems to me the provoking thing about post-Language poetry’s polemical affection, or its camp messianism: it is a new and interesting way of writing from within the presumption of totality. This is a large part of why I like these poems so much. And if we were to pick up on these cues and risk writing to our peers about what we admire or revile (without neutralizing our opinions in advance by assuring our colleagues that yes, we too wish for the overthrow of hegemonic systems), I don’t think we’d be giving ourselves over to a depoliticized humanism, or to mere impressionistic whimsy, so much as fostering a refreshed, and refreshing, negativity."

American Literature, Volume 76, Number 3, September 2004

Aamir Mufti's "Towards a Lyric History of India."
The article is a discussion of Urdu lyric poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984).

It ends like this:

Hence the series of questions that Adorno directs at contemporary culture: Is it possible to write poetry after Auschwitz? Is philosophy possible once the chance to realize it in a transformation of human existence has been missed? Is it possible, or even desirable, to defend the subject in an age when it is besieged on all sides by the forces of mass culture and mass destruction? Postcolonial culture is itself constituted by an aftermath and marked by the ‘‘late’’ acquisition of the cultural artifacts of the European nineteenth century: national sovereignty, the popular will, the demand for democracy. In postcolonial South Asia, this moment is also that which follows the partitioning of northern Indian society. Frantz Fanon argued a long time ago that in order to be transplanted to the colonial setting, ‘‘Marxist analysis should always be slightly stretched.’’ The ‘‘lateness’’ of postcolonial culture itself requires a stretching of the concept of late modernity, its uncoupling from the narrative of economic overdevelopment and overconsumption and its opening up instead to a comprehension of the aftermath of decolonization. Faiz is certainly not an ‘‘Adornian’’ poet in the sense in which Celan, Beckett, or even Mann might be spoken of as Adornian writers. But it has been my purpose here to rethink and expand what it means to write in and of the vistas of ‘‘lateness’’ that Said and others have identi.ed in the constellations of Adorno’s thought. Faiz is the poet of a late postcolonial modernity, a poet who directs the energies of negative thinking at the congealed cultural and social forms that constitute the postcolonial present. For Adorno, the concept of lyric poetry has a referent that is ‘‘completely modern,’’ and ‘‘the manifestations in earlier periods of the speci.cally lyric spirit familiar to us are only isolated flashes.’’ Faiz, however, turns to the traditional Urdu lyric itself and extracts from it a vocabulary for the elaboration of the relation of self to world, individual to totality. He elaborates an experience of modern Indian selfhood that seeks to escape the cultural logic of the nation-state system inaugurated at partition, that paradoxical moment of realization through reinscription, of success through failure. He does this,furthermore, by immersion in the Indo-Islamic poetic tradition, with its deep relationship to Sufi. thought and practice, and its long involvement in the crisis of culture and identity on the subcontinent. This is the larger meaning of Faiz as an Urdu poet with an immense audience across the political and cultural boundaries implemented by partition. His is not an appropriationof the fragment from the position of totality, but neither is it an attempt to reconceive the fragment itself as a totality. His is the oeuvre of an aftermath once the chance to achieve India, to ‘‘change the world,’’ as it were, has been missed. He confronts the fragment itself with its fragmentary nature, making perceptible to it its own objective situation as an element in a contradictory whole. To put it differently and more explicitly in historical terms, we might say that Faiz is another name for the perception, shadowy and subterranean for the most part, but abruptly and momentarily bursting through the surface of language and experience from time to time, that the disavowal of Indianness is an irreducible feature of Indianness itself. The powerful tradition of lyric poetry in Urdu, long accused of its indifference to properly Indian realities, is revived and given a new lease on life in Faiz and his contemporaries not because they infuse old words with new meanings, as the intentionalist cliché in Faiz criticism would have it, but because in their practice it becomes a site for the elaboration of a selfhood at odds with the geometry of selves put into place by partition. In his lyric poetry, Faiz pushes the terms of identity and selfhood to their limits, to the point where they turn upon themselves and reveal the partial nature of postcolonial ‘‘national’’ experience.

Also recently, Aamir Mufit, "Critical Secularism: A Reintroduction for Perilous Times"

Both Mufti articles are from boundary 2, 31:2 2004.

Blog Archive