Thursday, July 29, 2010

Paper topic(s)

For my final project, I’m torn between two possible topics (or possibly two sides of a combinable topic).

1. I want to experiment with the presentation of text. I want to conduct a series of poetic experiments that explore the idea of what a page is and can do. I want to, for example, see what happens if I write a poem that’s meant to appear on transparencies, so that both sides of several pages are visible at the same time—how would this both enrich and complicate/problematize the idea of the page and the poem. What if I write each word or line of a poem on index cards, which the reader is then required to put in order for herself? What would adding illustrations do to a poem? It’s similar, in a way, to Micah’s project, except that I’m less interested in the concept of the book than I am in the construction of the page.

In terms of the final paper, after conducting and documenting the experiments, I will write a critical preface to the work itself, both discussing the ideas I used in the making of the creative project and tracing the philosophical concepts involved, using several essays from A Book of the Book, particularly Michael Davidson’s “The Material Page,” the Sieburth essay on Mallarme (and possibly some outside reading of Mallarme as well).

2. I’m also interested in the intersection of authorship and chance. I want to write or otherwise generate a series of poems through methods of chance (dice, counting, cutting, the I Ching, etc) while documenting my experience of being, more or less, out of control of my own poems. I will most likely do some form of editing on them afterward to see what I can make of the raw material of the chance-made poem, also documenting the changes and how the two texts intersect and diverge.
The critical preface, in this case, would include the essays of Burroughs and Mac Low and others we read for class, and also possibly the work of Tristan Tzara. I want to think about, in this case, how we define the question of authorship (Howe’s essay on Dickenson might help here too).

The first one seems like more fun, but the second more practical. Can the two be combined?


  1. I think both projects sound interesting. If you are looking to combine the two projects one thing I noticed is that you are much more "bound" in your ideas of playing with the page and so you can, in some (limited) ways, complete the project before you begin. Where the experiments for the second would require you to do them before you could know what the project was. What if you brought chance to the determination of the page.

    For example, you could randomly contact or approach X number of people having randomly come up with X+Y number of questions. You could then randomly select a question and get their response. Their various responses, and the order they were provided would determine the various pages of your project. Then the text could use its own system to determine the text.

    I'm not sure if that sounds appealing, but it is one quick idea I had for how you play with both chance, authorship, and the page simultaneously. You might find (for example) that you end up with a book that exists in physical space on "pages" as well as in digital space, spoken (temporal space) as well as written on a bathroom stall. Your chronicling of the project and your critical essay would be as much the binding of the project as anything else.

  2. I agree with Ben that moving the idea of authorship beyond yourself in the role of author is one way to bring in those chance elements as you bring in what are essentially chance authors and moments of authorial decisionmaking. Of course, the dice and things can still take part in the work of that. I think its exciting that, since you will (or will you??) have the final say on form (which we hear also means content), you can use what you come up with in any page system that you find fitting based on what you get. Positioning your commentary in relation to the work I can see taking a variety of forms..either "parallel" with/on the pages themselves, or in a separate format entirely. I'm ready to read/perceive this project!

  3. I'd also consider something like oragami where there are folds, and that unfolding would be a process of reading. Paper airplanes would work like this as well. There's also dartboard writing, where you put up topics on a dart board and throw darts to come up with ideas (like in those cliched newspaper/journalist movies/spoofs). Stein would be a great to examine for this (as well as Mac Low). It seems like a real interesting topic and it could come up with so many possibilities. A Book of the Book is almost entirely about this process.


  4. I like both ideas, but in either case it is important in the short time period to determine and start in on the experiments. This can often take longer than it seems! Still, there are lots of experiments in what we've read. There are the lists by Bernstein and Meyer, all the procedures by Mac Low, etc. etc. For the first, I like the idea of focusing on the page a la Mallarme. The Blanchot essay - I think - provides a lot of insight into Mallarme, but you need to grant that Blanchot is himself a difficult, literary writer... At the same time, as you acknowledge, this may require more contemplation, more reflection, etc. The second idea is generative in itself - you start the process and off you go. I can't say which is better, since both give you starting points - choose what feels right to you. In either case, create the poems, and write a short statement on process and reflecting on the critical/theoretical framework.