Sunday, November 1, 2009

Aimless Reading: Literary Magazines, Part 1.1 (AERIAL 8)

Aerial 8: Barrett Watten
Smith, Rod, Editor


I think I probably also bought this for a class with Charles Bernstein. I don't recall Watten visiting the class when I was in school, and I don't recall ever covering his work directly, so I assume this must have been on one of the extensive reading lists that often accompanied the syllabus. While there may have been 15-20 assigned books per semester in Charles courses, there were also always about 100 other books listed under 'suggested' reading. In my zeal to get up to speed when I first arrived in the poetics program, I usually bought and tried (and failed) to read each one. I have a vague recollection of having thumbed through this issue, but I don't remember much about it.

One summer Charles hired me to organize his letters into alphabetical file boxes. I remember the most entertaining part of the job was reading through his letters from Watten (I only got to read Watten's end of the correspondence, alas), which seemed to arrive about once a year, and which were quite long. My memory of particulars is vague, but I recall that they appeared to form part of a more extensive argument the two had been having over what language writing was, what it meant, and which writer best represented what had come to be grouped under that term.

from "Reinventing Community.." interview with Barrett Watten:

If there is any single way of summing up the principle of this metalingual subplot, it would be that particularity and deferral of ultimate ends (what led to the title of the magazine, This, what is responsible for the grammatological equivalence of the equal signs in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E) are identical with the methods and meaning of the work--a utopia where there are no heroes but those who meet there obstacles and rewards here and now, no deferrals to a resolution in future time. A steady-state poetics combined with a radically intellectual referentiality led to the production of works that would totalize agency at the same moment that they stopped history in its tracks.

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