Friday, March 20, 2009

Poetics of Relation (notes)

Now, more than ever, the graduates of our schools and colleges will live in worlds different from those in which they were born and went to school. A discipline called English must help them prepare for unknown conditions. The best preparation we can give our students will be the highest level of competence as readers and writers, producers and consumers of the various texts they will encounter. (154)

Scholes, Robert. The Rise and Fall of English: Reconstructing English as a Discipline. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1998.

The disease of modern culture is specialization. (19)

Berry, Wendell. The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. NY: Avon Books, 1977.

We must … reject the concept of specialization. We need the contrary, a diversified economy, for only such an economy will allow for populations to participate fully in our society. Specialization inevitably leads to chronic unemployment and to lower wages. (179)

Goldsmith, James. “The Winners and the Losers.” The Case Against the Global Economy. eds. J. Mander and E. Goldsmith. San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1996.

… for some years now the activity of the artist in our society has been trending more toward the function of the ecologist: one who deals with environmental relationships. Ecology is defined as the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment. Thus the act of creation for the new artist is not so much the invention of new objects as the revelation of previously unrecognized relationships between existing phenomena, both physical and metaphysical. So we find that ecology is art in the most fundamental and pragmatic sense, expanding our apprehension of reality. (346)

Youngblood, Eugene. Expanded Cinema. NY: Dutton, 1970.

The great ecological issues of our time have to do in one way or another with our failure to see things in their entirety. That failure occurs when minds are taught to think in boxes and not taught how to transcend those boxes or to question overly much how they fit with other boxes. We educate lots of in-the-box thinkers who perform within their various specialties rather like a dog kept in the yard by an electronic barrier. And there is a connection between knowledge organized in boxes, minds that stay in those boxes, and degraded ecologies and global imbalances. (94-95)

Orr, David. Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect. Washington D.C.: Island, 1994.

“Glossary: for readers from elsewhere, who don’t deal very well with unknown words or who want to understand everything. But, perhaps to establish for ourselves, ourselves as well, the long list of words within us whose sense escapes or, taking this farther, to fix the syntax of this language we are babbling. The readers of here are future.”
—Édouard Glissant, Malemort, 231
(Quoted in Glissant, xxi)


Thinking thought usually amounts to withdrawing into a dimensionless place in which the idea of thought alone persists. But thought in reality spaces itself out into the world. It informs the imaginary of the peoples, their varied poetics, which it then transforms, meaning, in them its risk becomes realized.

Culture is the precaution of those who claim to think thought but who steer clear of its chaotic journey. Evolving cultures infer Relation, the overstepping that grounds their unity-diversity.

Thought draws the imaginary of the past: a knowledge becoming. One cannot stop it to assess it nor isolate it to transmit it. It is sharing one can never not retain, nor ever, in standing still, boast about. (Glissant, 1) {MB—“For Glissant the imaginary is all the ways a culture has of perceiving and conceiving of the world. Hence every human culture will have its own particular imaginary” Wing, Betsy. “Glossary.” quoted in Glissant, xxii)

Not just a specific knowledge, appetite, suffering, and delight of one particular people, not only that, but knowledge of the Whole, greater from having been at the abyss and freeing knowledge of Relation within the Whole.

Just as the first uprooting was not marked by any defiance, in the same way the prescience and actual experience of Relation have nothing to do with vanity. Peoples who have been to the abyss do not brag of being chosen. They do not believe they are giving birth to any modern force. They live Relation and clear the way for it, to the extent that the oblivion of the abyss comes to them and that, consequently, their memory intensifies.

For though this experience made you, original victim floating toward the sea’s abysses, an exception, it became something shared and made us, the descendants, one people among others. Peoples do not live on exception. Relation is not made up of things that are foreign but of shared knowledge. This experience of the abyss can now be said to be the best element of exchange. (Glissant, 8)

Glissant, Édouard. Poetics of Relation. trans. Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1997.

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