Poetry & Barthes

BookPoetry & Barthes

Poetry & Barthes

Anglophone Responses 1970–2000

Poetry &..., 7

2018

October 11th, 2018

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“Roland Barthes had little interest in poetry, but, surprisingly, his occasional remarks on the subject and thoughts about literature in general played a provocative role, Calum Gardner shows, for poets in the UK and especially the US and contributed especially to arguments about L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writing. Gardner’s lucid and wide-ranging discussion shrewdly illuminates the odd fortunes of literary ideas.”
Professor Jonathan Culler, Cornell University

“Calum Gardner's subtle and shifting account of how the work of Roland Barthes has been read and re-used by English-speaking poets since the 1970s is a tour de force that will long resonate with poetry specialists and literary theorists alike.”
Dr Andy Stafford, Leeds University

What kinds of pleasure do we take from writing and reading? What authority has the writer over a text? What are the limits of language’s ability to communicate ideas and emotions? Moreover, what are the political limitations of these questions? The work of the French cultural critic and theorist Roland Barthes (1915–80) poses these questions, and has become influential in doing so, but the precise nature of that influence is often taken for granted. This is nowhere more true than in poetry, where Barthes’ concerns about pleasure and origin are assumed to be relevant, but this has seldom been closely examined. This innovative study traces the engagement with Barthes by poets writing in English, beginning in the early 1970s with one of Barthes’ earliest Anglophone poet readers, Scottish poet-theorist Veronica Forrest-Thomson (1947–75). It goes on to examine the American poets who published in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and other small but influential journals of the period, and other writers who engaged with Barthes later, considering his writings’ relevance to love and grief and their treatment in poetry. Finally, it surveys those writers who rejected Barthes’ theory, and explores why this was. The first study to bring Barthes and poetry into such close contact, this important book illuminates both subjects with a deep contemplation of Barthes’ work and a range of experimental poetries.

Calum Gardner is Teaching Fellow in Drama and Poetry at the University of Leeds.

About The Author

Calum Gardner is a poet, critic, and editor of Zarf poetry magazine based in Glasgow.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover1
Contents5
Acknowledgements7
Abbreviations9
Introduction: A Great Indelicacy11
Aims and Objectives12
‘Insular and Pragmatical Minds’: Barthes’s First Readers in English14
Barthes and the Poets19
Chapter One: Barthes and Forrest-Thomson23
‘S/Z’27
‘Drinks with a Mythologue’30
‘L’effet du réel’34
Poems with Footnotes36
‘After Intelligibility’44
Poetic Artifice50
Conclusion58
Chapter Two: Barthes in America60
Robert Duncan’s ‘Kopóltuš’60
Ron Silliman’s Nine Poets62
Bernadette Mayer’s Experiments85
Lyn Hejinian’s Erotics of Materials90
Conclusion101
Chapter Three: Barthes in Journals102
Approaching Poetry Journal Culture102
Poetics and Art Journalism: New York and Paris103
Barthes in the ‘Language-Centred’ Poetics Journals109
Wch Way111
Michael Palmer’s Barthes113
L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E’s Barthes116
‘Code Words’119
Open Letter125
Barthes in Poetics Journal126
UK Poetics134
Barthes and Oulipo136
Conclusion139
Chapter Four: Barthes and Love140
Reading A Lover’s Discourse140
‘Lonely Girl Phenomenology’142
Anne Carson: Nuance and Eros145
Deborah Levy: The Suburbs of Hell150
Kristjana Gunnars: Roland Barthes in Winnipeg157
Gunnars’s Transition: Longing to Zero165
Conclusion167
Chapter Five: Rejections of Barthes169
Rejection and/as Influence169
The Signifier as Fetish171
Barthes and Race176
John Yau and ‘The Death of the Author’178
Queer Barthes181
New Narrative Writing and Queer Subjecthood183
Acker, Barthes, Bataille193
Conclusion200
Conclusion: Nothing Better than a Theory203
Bibliography208
Index227