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    Review of:
    Bob Perelman, The Future of Memory. New York: Roof Books, 1998.

  1. There is a play on words somewhere in the title of Bob Perelman's recent book of new poems, but what exactly is the substance and import of this wordplay? The Future of Memory: in this title, Perelman is suggesting that it is time to question the comfortable status "memory" has achieved as a source of poetic emotion. If memory is to have a future, he seems to be saying, then its uses and meanings must be rethought; and for this unregenerate Language poet that primarily means dissociating memory from the forms of lyric subjectivity that the term currently evokes. For memory to retain any living value, it must be prepared to extend itself beyond the individual world of confession and reminiscence and become the site where possible collective futures are negotiated. The Future of Memory therefore approaches memory not as the inviolable substance of individual identity, but rather as a function of ideologically charged social regulations. It is the place where concrete political practices express themselves as collective emotional dispositions; as such, it constitutes a network of shifting and contradictory values, which Perelman hopes to animate with a view to a more various and capacious form of sociality.
  2. Perelman's emphasis on memory sheds a great deal of light on the Language poets' critiques of "persona-centered, 'expressive'" poetry (Silliman et al. 261). In "Aesthetic Tendency And The Politics of Poetry," the important contribution to Social Text which Perelman co-authored, for example, confessional poetry is aligned with a lyric disposition in which "experience is digested for its moral content and then dramatized and framed" (264). In this poetic tradition, "authorial 'voice' lapses into melodrama in a social allegory where the author is precluded from effective action by his or her very emotions" (265). However, it is important to note that the Language poets who authored this article distinguish themselves from the confessional tradition not through a wholesale rejection of the categories of self, memory, and experience, but rather through a poetically embodied critique of the specific forms of self, memory, and experience that confessionalism privileges. This is never a merely negative critique; on the contrary, it is one that attempts to broaden and reconstitute our understanding of subjective processes and their relation to the "beyond" of the subject. For instance, when the authors of "Aesthetic Tendency and the Politics of Poetry" compare their compositional practices to Coleridge's "refusal to identify the I with the horizon of the 'I,' and thus with easily perceived moral categories" (266), when they recommend an "openness of the self" to "processes where the self is not the final term" (266), they are clearly proposing alternate models of subjectivity--models in which the "I" is in an animating and animated relation to the "not-I" (269). Perelman's interrogation of the future of memory can therefore be understood as part of this larger ambition to multiply and complicate the forms of selfhood that poetry has at its disposal.
  3. It is strangely appropriate, therefore, that The Future of Memory begins with a poem entitled "Confession." Perelman admits in an interview that this is a provocative gesture, since confessional poetry has been the object of "great scorn" for the Language writers since the 1970s (Nichols 532). But again, this opening move is less surprising if we understand The Future of Memory's deep concern with problems of consciousness and subjectivity, and its consequent exploration of the forms of "poetic intentionality that oppose [themselves]... to the elision of consciousness that occurs in habitual constructions of belief" (Silliman et al. 266). This oppositional intentionality is expressed quite casually in the opening poem of The Future of Memory, in which Perelman assumes the confessional mode only to state: "aliens have inhabited my aesthetics for / decades" (9). In this succinct poetic statement, Perelman grounds himself mimetically in the camp images of postmodern public culture, while at the same time harnessing the utopian energy of this culture's most characteristic fantasy: an "alien" form of life beyond the known horizons of current social formations. As he notes, this image confers a "transcendental gloss on the avant-garde by saying that it's otherworldly, heavenly, in this case, alien" (Nichols 532). In other words, for Perelman the avant-garde is defined by its attempts to point beyond the horizons of the historical period to which it belongs; the essence of the avant-garde's relation to historically futural modes of being therefore resides in its being captured or abducted by alien possibilities which express themselves unconsciously at the level of form. According to this model, poets do not heroically project themselves beyond historical determinacy, but are instead "inculcate[d]... with otherworldly forms" (Perelman, Future 11) whose import is necessarily opaque and un-masterable.
  4. Clearly, Perelman's dramatically fictional solution to the problem of avant-garde temporality is a joke that we cannot help but take seriously. Contained within it is a problem that has obsessed postmodernity: from what position might one inaugurate a contestatory relation to the meaning-systems of the present? Nevertheless, Perelman's fantasy of an absolute Other lending the "naïve poet" its otherworldly agency calls attention to itself as a deus ex machina that saves the poet from phenomenological complexities that cannot be ignored for long (Future 11). Naturally, he acknowledges that there is "no Other of the Other": "There's no place from which to live a different life. So critical distance in that sense doesn't seem possible. But what about provisional contingent critical distance within that world?... It doesn't have to be outside that there's a place for a fulcrum, it can be inside" (Nichols 536). Much of The Future of Memory can be understood as an attempt to anatomize the negotiatory practices capable of generating this "internal distance." And to follow the "argument" of The Future of Memory we must be willing to imagine this space that is beyond the opposition of immanence and alterity. For Perelman, it is important that this space has an essentially futural character--in its first determination, it should be seen as a space in which the poet is actively lending himself to a possible future, whose contexts of understanding are necessarily unintelligible from his temporally anterior standpoint. The poet is to be imagined here as constantly operating on the margins of intelligibility, all the while trusting that his moments of incoherence are the formal harbingers of an emergent social configuration that will belatedly lend a coherence and practical intelligibility to his literary experiments.
  5. There is thus a theory of historical time at work in The Future of Memory which is self-consciously in dialogue with Raymond Williams's concept of emergent social formations. Perelman's concept of avant-garde artistic practice hinges on the idea that the poet can make him/herself available to inarticulable "structures of feeling" which anticipate futural social practices. A historically anticipatory structure of feeling is defined by Williams as a "formation which, because it is at the very edge of semantic availability, has many of the characteristics of a pre-formation, until specific articulations--new semantic figures--are discovered in material practice" (Williams 134). This sense of poetry as the embodiment of historically proleptic half-meanings which an emergent historical community may "take up" with a view to practical action is essential to Perelman's poetic method.[1]
  6. A long poem entitled "The Womb of Avant-Garde Reason," which serves as a centerpiece to The Future of Memory, gives life to this idea:

    Quotation from 'The Womb of Avant-Garde 
Reason' by Bob Perelman

    Here, Perelman is imagining the time lag that must take place between the composition of a poem and the various interpretive communities who will encounter the work in the future. He has faith that the process of temporalization that the text must undergo will allow future communities to realize the concrete practices that the amorphous half-meanings of his poem could be said to anticipate. He symbolizes this in the image of time sprouting legs and hands: changed historical circumstances will allow future readers to recuperate and lend propositional content to structures of feeling present in the poem only at the level of form. This will make possible a transliteration of poetic values into the everyday realm of "annoyances" and practical particulars. A "lien" is "a claim on the property of another as security against the payment of a just debt."[2] Perelman is saying that he has "given over" part of his being to the future, has surrendered his poetic property with the understanding that the future will "make good" the meanings that he has temporarily suspended, and that he cannot untangle by himself. But what form will this futural payback take? In what direction will the hermeneutic elaboration of Perelman's text proceed? By the time one can ask these questions, the issue is already out of the poet's hands: "others" are responsible for recasting the terms of Perelman's text with a view to the future--one which, he hopes, will make possible "less destructive circumstances" and the "capacious translation between groups" (Nichols 538).

  7. The "memory" Perelman evokes in The Future of Memory is therefore a combined function of both the poet and his temporally posterior interpretive communities. He is profoundly sensitive to what this essay will define in terms of a "cultural semantics." The poet must be committed to "mutually contemplating the rhetorical force of--not words, but of historical sentences, phrases, genres" (Nichols 538). Existing beneath these macrohistorical semantemes, whose power to "interpellate and to stir up emotion" (538) Perelman alerts us to, there are the local articulative possibilities that he leads us to picture in terms of the shifting drives of Kristeva's semiotic. Kristeva, we should recall, refers to anamnesis as the process whereby the semiotic is introduced into the symbolic in order to pluralize its significations (Revolution 112). For Perelman, the function of memory is similar. Its value resides not in its ability to provide the poet with Poundian historical exempla, which could serve as concrete existential alternatives to those provided by contemporary systems of value. Rather, memory refers to the process whereby poetic intentionality is capable of "carrying one back" to the level of a primordial sense of possible relations, similar to the condition of primary functional and social competence which characterizes infantile life. Here, then, we see the futural value of memory in The Future of Memory: memory is the function which enables the poet to inhabit a shifting and pre-articulate "social sense," whose ability to lend itself to newly emergent social configurations aligns it with Williams's structures of feeling.
  8. Essential to the method and meaning of The Future of Memory, therefore, is the complex Kristevan thesis that our "intuitive" sense of possible social relations is rooted in the primordial regulation of our senses: a process that takes place when our affective and even our physical comportment toward others is first established in concert with symbolic (and therefore social) values which continue to hold sway throughout our adult lives. However, for Perelman, poetry is best suited to contest and complexify our social sense not when it strives to mimic the kinematics of the mother's voice through a Kristevan "musicalization" of language. Rather, Perelman seeks to induct the reader into this primordial world of sense in a way that is necessarily and in the first instance disposed toward a constructive relation to a possible future. In other words, he establishes a relation to the world of "sense" not by amplifying the sound texture of his poems in order to evoke a Kristevan chora, but rather by precipitating a hermeneutic crisis that will force the reader to marshal all the values of emergent and half-cognized sense with a view to its various possible futural consummations.
  9. "The future of memory" therefore designates a process that includes both the text as a document of sensed possibilities for affective recombination and the futural communities of readers whose concrete practices can lend these half-meanings a social intelligibility. The locus of memory's futurality is therefore the mediating position of the reader--a reader who is continually "carried back" to the historically incipient senses of the text, while at the same time incorporating its primordial "feel" for new and capacious intersubjectivity into its concrete political strategies.
  10. For Perelman, this mediative role of the reader is essential, because he strives to write a poetry that is socially prophetic yet escapes the phenomenological paradoxes of poetic "genius," in which the writer is somehow capable of delivering a "message" which is "'far ahead' of its time" (Trouble 7). To be sure, poems such as "To the Future" partake of a general problematic of genius, in which the author lends his/her voice to futural possibilities that are unavailable to conscious articulation. In this poem, Perelman figures himself as writing "fake dreams" and "skittish prophecy" on the empty pages of books that have been "cleaned" in a kind of ideological laundromat (Future 40). Again, the ideological "distance" that the laundromat creates is of the same order as the alien visitation of "Confession." Perelman emphasizes the absurdity upon which his own models of "genius" are founded, and yet allows their urgency to be registered beneath their kitschy exterior. In fact, his 1994 critical study, The Trouble with Genius, can be understood as an attempt to think through the paradoxes and necessities which such unstable moments of his own poetry express. In that text, he says of modernism: "While these works may have been written to express the originary, paradisal space where genius creates value, they do not travel directly to the mind of the ideal reader, the critic who accepts the transcendent claims of these works and the subsequent labor involved" (10). It is precisely by stressing the un-ideal character of the readerly function, therefore, that Perelman hopes to move beyond this modernist version of genius and the false models of pre-ideological "paradisal space" which his own laundromats of negativity parody.
  11. To this end, Perelman focuses on what might be described as the "time lag" that exists between a text's "signification" and the various interpretive "enunciations" the reader effects with respect to the values latent in the text. In this model, readership becomes the site of various mediations which serve to frustrate the seamless transmission of textual meaning to an ideal reader. As we have seen, the most important of these mediations has a historical provenance. The reader, for Perelman, is always historically futural--both in the sense that readership must inevitably come after authorship, and in the larger sense that this belatedness allows the reader to serve as a representative of all futural historical communities. This belatedness is essential, since he is writing for an audience that shares a set of social codes which is historically in advance of his own text. The fact that his text will only "realize" its meaning in the material practices to which these social codes correspond means that Perelman's technical experiments can only emerge as socially "pre-formative" if a futural interpretive community belatedly accords them this status.
  12. This is a significant departure from the modernist model of genius, because it means that it is ultimately up to "others" to determine the prophetic value of Perelman's text, or to put the point more strongly, prophetic value is precisely what is missing from his text, and must be supplied by the interested and transformative readings that futural audiences will provide. It is therefore only by amplifying this "missing-ness" or incompletion in his text, while at the same time "calling out" to his audience's sense of possible, but as yet undetermined, social practices, that Perelman can hope to be accorded a paradoxically belated proleptic significance. In this way, he abjures the totalizing centrality of properly avant-garde temporality, and institutes what he describes as a "post-avant-garde" poetic practice, which consists in an "acknowledgement that the social is all margins these days. Poetry--innovative poetry--explores this condition" (Nichols 542).
  13. The Future of Memory employs this post-avant-garde poetic practice by calling out to be completed by the reader in various ways. One of Perelman's most provocative gestures is his insertion of a darkened page into the middle of the volume--into the middle of another poem, in fact, which the piece of paper "interrupts." This darkened page is entitled "A Piece of Paper," and clearly evokes his desire to allow various external contexts of understanding to "intrude" upon his text and combine themselves with its meanings. The piece of paper is represented as "signifying others who speak and live or not they weren't given air time and paper to ride this recursive point of entry" (71). The text's blind spot is thus the existence of others as such, which Perelman can only virtually "presentify" in the image of a piece of paper coming from "without" the text and carrying alterity with it. When he invites the reader to "blink your blindness inside legibility" (71), he is hoping to extend our notion of textuality to include the unforeseeable acts of interpretation which his poem will elicit.
  14. Another long poem, entitled "Symmetry of Past and Future," expresses even more vividly the "post-avant-garde" dialectic that Perelman hopes to establish between text and reader:

    Quotation from 'Symmetry of Past and 
Future' by Bob Perelman

    The first thing to note here is that the facticity of the historical past is aligned with the facticity of Perelman's own "plies of writing." The pun on "executed" is important, since it suggests that the status of this textual and historical pastness as "already executed" serves to "execute," or put to death, the agency of desire--a function allied with the movement of history and interpretation, as opposed to the fixity of official history and the written word. But in at least one case out of twenty, this execution has been granted a "reprieve"--something has been left "unwritten" in history (and in Perelman's text) which calls out to the desire of the contemporary reader. This reader is oriented toward the "vanishing point" of the future; s/he thus occupies the site where the "blindnesses" of official history--its "missing" elements--can be "written into" an emergent meaning-system and rendered legible.

  15. It is important, however, that the political desire of the contemporary reader is not free of a certain kind of facticity. Every attempt to move creatively into a possible future is performed against the backdrop of "involuntary memories" and psychological "reflexes" which limit the kinds of social relatedness that the contemporary reader can imagine and work towards. This explains why Perelman aligns this kind of historical "work" with the interpretive work that readers perform on texts. For him, the primordial world of "sensation" constitutes a kind of libidinal "text" whose emotional grammar is determined by the patterns of human relationality that hold sway during socialization. The attempt to expand this emotional grammar to include a more capacious form of collective relationality thus entails a return to this most primordial "text," in the interest of elaborating and extending the "meanings" to which it is sensitive. And just as Perelman offers his own text as a document of inarticulate structures of feeling whose formal patterns (or "shapes") he hopes will be rendered meaningful through the material practices which they anticipate, so does the world of "sense" constitute a half-written text which can be revisited with a view to renegotiating what makes "sense" in a given social formation.
  16. In Perelman, then, we find a profoundly complex exploration of the historical determination of our deepest psychical structures and, more importantly, a reformulation of what it means to be avant-garde when this historicizing imagination is applied to the condition of the poet him/herself. Of course, this perspective is not new to Perelman or unique to him. Since at least the late 1970s, Language poetry has attempted to reconstitute the poetic avant-garde while remaining responsible to the theoretical complications of structuralist analysis and ideology critique. In fact, it is in his interventions from the early and middle 1980s that we find the meditations on sense and ideology most central to the strategies of The Future of Memory. In his contribution to the important Writing/Talks collection, appropriately entitled "Sense," Perelman refers to an "invisible reified atemporal empire, this sense of decorum that's backed by political power, that tries to define all language" (66). He is exploring here how the world of "sense" is determined and delimited by this ideological "empire," but also how it can be imagined as a pre-semantic reserve which is capable of decomposing and temporalizing the illusive "atemporality" of reified social conditions. And as in "Symmetry of Past and Future," the agency that is accorded "sense" is aligned with the interpretive mediations of textual meaning that historically situated readers embody.
  17. A poem entitled "The Classics," which was first published in Perelman's 1981 collection, Primer, is included in his essay on "Sense," and stands as a tripartite allegory of the origin of infantile consciousness, the transmission of textual meaning, and the dynamics of ideological interpellation and negotiation. As such, it usefully illustrates the basic conceptual relations between memory, textuality, and collective history that he animates in The Future of Memory:

    In the beginning, the hand
    Writes on water. A river
    Swallows its author,
    Alive but mostly
    Lost to consciousness.

    Where's the milk. The infant
    Gradually becomes interested
    In these resistances. ("Sense" 66)

    As a narrative of infantile consciousness, these first two stanzas suggest that at the beginning of life, "thought" is almost purely unconscious--it is figured as an instinctual, automatic hand, whose intentional marks are not registered by the fluid, unengravable medium of consciousness. As a narrative of the transmission of textual meaning, this would correspond to the modernist ideal that Perelman outlines in The Trouble with Genius: a pure and unmediated transcription in the reader's mind of the author's valuative systems.
  18. Perelman explicitly draws this connection in his self-interpretation in "Sense": "That's Piaget's theory that intelligence--it's preprogrammed obviously, but--it gets triggered by the fact that you can't find the breast very easily. So the sense behind here is of reader and writer being the infant, and the milk being meaning. The resistances are the words" (67). In other words, the author is the writing hand, the reader is the fluid medium of consciousness, and words are the "resistances" which interpose themselves between a pure authorial intention and an ideal reader. That is to say, words are the site of an irreducible mediation; they could be said to "get in the way" of an ideal transmission of authorial meaning to readerly consciousness. Instead of conveying a transparent meaning, words provoke an active process of "feeling out" meanings--an interpretive process which requires many half-conscious creative gestures, all oriented around enunciating the hidden or "ideal" meaning of the text in highly indeterminate ways. Similarly, "instinct" is the automatic hand that should lead the infant directly to the breast without any need for the mediations of half-consciously coordinated actions. But since the physical world presents "resistances" to the ideal, unconscious working of instinct, the infant must begin actively to "interpret" the world, in order to begin consciously coordinating its actions.
  19. "Instinct" and "pure authorial meaning" are aligned here, then, because they are "preprogrammed" and should "ideally" produce subjects who are pure automatons: unconscious reflections of somatic drives or unalterable meaning-systems. The Future of Memory's concern with practices capable of generating critical "distance" from contemporary meaning-systems is thus clearly anticipated here. As we have seen in "Symmetry of Past and Future," Perelman is concerned with a similarly "ideal" model of ideological preprogramming, in which ideology inscribes itself primordially as a kind of social "instinct," determining human subjectivity even at the most basic level of "sense" or "sensation." The consequences of this for Perelman's own poetry are profound: he suggests that we should understand the transmission and assumption of authorial meaning as a moment within a larger process of ideological transmission--a process in which the subject assumes and "enunciates" the ideal "content" of ideology with an agency which could be described as having a hermeneutic provenance.[3]
  20. In this sense of his own text's implication in dynamics of ideological transmission, Perelman reflects Language writing's awareness that the very legibility of a text depends upon the social meaning-system in which it exists.[4] As Ron Silliman writes in "The Political Economy of Poetry," "What can be communicated through any literary production depends on which codes are shared with its audience" (Silliman, Sentence 25). To make this point even more strongly, Silliman quotes Volosinov: "Any utterance is only a moment in the continuous process of verbal communication. But that continuous verbal communication is, in turn, only a moment in the continuous, all-inclusive, generative process of a given social collective" (22). This means that meaning as such is always implicated with the "generative process" of ideology; and this is a problem for writers who hope to assume an oppositional stance toward current social formations.
  21. Perelman's "solution" to this problem centers around a constitutive misprision which he sees as part and parcel of the reader's relationship to ideology's "message":

    Success is an ideal method.
    For itself the sun
    Is a prodigy of splendor.
    It did not evolve. Naturally,
    A person had to intervene.

    Children in stage C succeed.
    Emotion is rampant. We blush
    At cases 1 and 2. ("Sense" 67)

    In his prose commentary, Perelman alerts us to Quintillian's tautological definition of clarity as "what the words mean" ("Sense" 67). But for Perelman the idea that words could "successfully" convey a transparent and universal meaning represents an impossible "ideal."[5] "Pure meaning," perfect clarity, can only be conceived as an extra-human abstraction: a sun existing only "for itself," removed from the processual "evolution" of syntax. In order for meaning to actualize itself, it must temporalize itself, subject itself to the interpretive interventions which language incites; it must constantly be reborn in a human world.
  22. As a description of ideology's perpetual re-birthing of itself in individual subjects, these passages are profoundly suggestive. Perelman suggests in these rather casually executed, but philosophically resonant, parataxes that if "ideology has the function of 'constituting' concrete individuals as subjects" (Althusser, Lenin 171), then concrete individuals simultaneously occupy a location where the subject(-matter), the discursive elaboration and performative accentuation of ideology, is negotiated. In Perelman's developmental narrative in "The Classics," therefore, as well as in his historical narratives in The Future of Memory, ideology is there from the beginning, as a kind of immanent textuality: an instinctual matrix which positions the subject in socially determined discursive fields. However, for Perelman the "content" or "meaning" of this ideological (sub)text is indistinguishable from the various interpretive enunciations it receives when its meaning is "realized" in the social being of individual subjects.[6] This is important, since it means that ideology may be subjectively enunciated in ways that Bhabha describes as "catachrestic"--i.e., intentional or unintentional "misprisions" of ideology are always in danger of producing the embarrassing "bad subjects" referred to above as "cases 1 and 2."[7]
  23. Perelman hopes to introduce precisely such a transgressive enunciatory practice into the reader's relation to his own text, but insofar as authorship and textual meaning are associated with the instinctual inscription by which ideology "textualizes" itself, he is faced with the difficulty of not being able to instantiate this transgressive practice "from the side of poetry." Instead, a peculiar kind of memorial agency on the part of the reader is invoked:

    Hidden quantities
    In what he already knows
    Eventually liberate a child
    From the immediate present. ("Sense" 68)

    Again, the child here stands in, first, for the developmental subject as s/he becomes liberated from the automaticity of instinctual responses by actively assuming the functional patterns which were originally "lived" at a purely somatic level; second, s/he stands in for the subject of ideology, insofar as this subject, in its enunciative practices, gives shape to an imperative which in another essay Perelman jokingly expresses in profoundly voluntaristic terms: "I don't want to be an automaton" ("First Person" 161); finally, s/he stands in for the readerly function, which can never be the automatic transcription of textual fact into objective meaning, but must rather express the irreducible mediation of interpretive enunciation.
  24. This means, of course, that the "immediate present" of a unitary and inescapable textual meaning is as much a fiction as the unilateral "voicing" of ideology and the conative determinism of "instinct."[8] In each of the above cases, the mediacy of enunciation has always already corrupted the putative immediacy whereby the conative life of the subject, its ideological positionality and interpretive agency, could all be understood as direct and inevitable reflections of various somatic regulations, subject-positions, and semantic facta. The question that remains, then, is what these "hidden quantities" are, which allow for what Lacan describes as the "little freedom" of the subject in his/her comportment toward these various aspects of the Symbolic Order: i.e., the functional distribution of instinctual responses, the ideological totality of "effective discourse," and the matrices of textual meaning.[9]
  25. For the Perelman of The Future of Memory as much as for the Perelman of Primer, the answer resides in the "semiotic"--a primordial system of psychical "marks" which both forms the instinctual fundament of the symbolic, and exists as a labile force of "unsignifying" beneath its socially organized systems of value.[10] In other words, what the subject "already knows" should be understood in terms of its participation in an ideological meaning-system, which can be imagined as a constellation of semantemes: discursive units that provide the most basic coordinates of what can "make sense" in a given culture. For Perelman, then, the "hidden quantities" in this semantic structure would be the even more primordial system of phonemes, which constitutes a semiotic reserve prior to, and yet organized by the horizon of possible meanings embodied in the semantemes. According to this analogy, the fact that individuals "automatically" sort the phonemic values they hear according to the lexical and semantic values with which their language-competence has made them familiar is the psycholinguistic parallel to a process of ideological automaticity.
  26. In a 1980 essay entitled "The First Person," Perelman quotes Jonathan Culler to help illustrate this point:

    A speaker is not consciously aware of the phonological system of his language, but this unconscious knowledge must be postulated if we are to account for the fact that he takes two acoustically different sequences as instances of the same word and distinguishes between sequences which are acoustically very similar but represent different words. (150)[11]

    The subject thus "already knows" how to make sense out of the pre-semantic semiotic elements which s/he encounters, but this knowledge is not conscious. In fact, in his juxtaposition of the above quote with another by Culler, which refers to the "variety of interpersonal systems" and "systems of convention" that define subjective functional operations (Perelman, "First Person" 151), Perelman means to stress that the "automaticity" that characterizes the individual's relationship to the microcosm of individual speech-acts has its origin in the regulatory systems of a social macrocosm. However, Perelman's notion is that if it were somehow possible to dwell at the level of the phoneme, and "consciously" to assume the seemingly instinctual movement from pre-semantic values to socially recognized meaning, one might be capable of multiplying the possible meanings of any individual speech-act in ways that are potentially contestatory. He provides the following gloss on the "hidden quantities" passage above: "My sense of connection here is: liberation from the present.... Somehow, the initial sense of the combinatorial power of language destroys this hierarchical frozen empire" ("Sense" 68).
  27. If the transition from a phonemic sequence to a semantic ensemble to a socially guaranteed meaning is understood to occur immediately--i.e., according to the mythical temporality of Perelman's "immediate present"--then the desemanticizing process whereby constituted meanings are allowed to dissolve into their phonemic "raw materials" offers the possibility of protracting the time lag which continually "liberates" the subject from what would otherwise be the mechanistic nightmare of semiotic unicity. In Perelman's work up to and including The Future of Memory, the sense that it is possible to inhabit a semiotic space which is in principle separable from the social totality that organizes it into systems of meaning leads to an idealist agency that post-structuralism's semiotic model of resistance has made familiar. He explains, in reference to one of his earlier talks, "I talked about Robert Smithson's sense that if you stare at any word long enough, it fragments. You can see anything in it. It's the axis of selection. We all have this file cabinet with a million cards. We can say anything" ("Sense" 75).
  28. The phoneme thus comes to represent a space of radical non-identity, in which the semantic inheritances of a given social organization may be "broken down" and re-articulated. Perelman calls attention to the fact that it is only at a level beneath the signifier that this kind of absolute differentiation holds sway. In contradistinction to Saussurean linguistics, which stresses the fact that a signifier has meaning only in relation to another signifier, he references Jakobson's idea that signifiers, while contrastive and significantly related, are already constituted as discrete ideational quanta: "Only the phoneme is a purely differential and contentless sign. Its sole... semiotic content is its dissimilarity from all other phonemes" ("Sense" 73).[12] This is an important distinction, since for Perelman, the word is already heavily weighted with the values of socially organized meaning, whereas the phoneme is closer to what he describes in his essay as the physical world of "sense" ("Sense" 75). In other words, the perceptual ontology of language, the sonic texture of words, intimately tied to the physical coordination of the vocal apparatus, represents a pre-lexical universe of possible meaning, whose "contentlessness" ensures its status as a "beyond" of the constituted meanings that he hopes to challenge.
  29. Of course, the alterity of the sensate, or the "semiotic," with respect to the world of socially organized meaning, or the "symbolic," is anything but pure, and should perhaps be designated as an "intimate alterity," or extimité, to adopt Jacques-Alain Miller's term.[13] Kristeva's work provides the most systematic articulation of this dialectic, and its importance has been registered by theorists of the Language movement since its inception. Famously, Kristeva's chora is a modality of the semiotic which denotes the vocal and kinetic rhythms that primordially articulate instinctual functions "with a view" to their social organization. Kristeva writes:

    We emphasize the regulated aspect of the chora: its vocal and gestural organization is subject to what we shall call an objective ordering [ordonnancement], which is dictated by natural or socio-historical constraints such as the biological difference between the sexes or family structure. We may therefore posit that social organization, always already symbolic, imprints its constraint in a mediated form which organizes the chora not according to a law (a term we reserve for the symbolic) but through an ordering. (26-27)

    In other words, at the developmental phase when an infant's instinctual responses are first becoming coordinated through its pre-linguistic interaction with the mother and the family structure, socially regulated symbolic positions are already ordering the infant's pre-symbolic affective and motor dispositionality. This is important, since it means that the labile, pre-figurative world of the semiotic, which Perelman seeks to draw upon as an absolutely differential reserve of pre-symbolic and purely possible meanings, has already received the impress of symbolic agency, and the socially organized law which is its predicate. Even the semiotic beyond of the symbolic--the fractal world of phonemic distribution, sensorimotor articulation, sound as opposed to meaning--is subject to symbolic regulation, if not symbolic legislation.
  30. In many ways, however, the undecidability of the semiotic, its combined determinacy and indeterminacy, its status as a primordial corollary of the symbolic which is nevertheless irreducible to the symbolic, is precisely what guarantees its value for a contestatory poetics such as Perelman's. The semiotic emerges as a "moment" of the symbolic, which is somehow in excess of the symbolic--a moment which is therefore immanent in what we "already know," but which represents the possibility of decomposing and reconfiguring "the known."
  31. In The Future of Memory and his recent critical work, Perelman is attempting to imagine ways that poetry could mobilize the semiotic with a view to such epistemological shifts. It is well known that for Kristeva, poetry is valuable because in it "the semiotic--the precondition of the symbolic--is revealed as that which also destroys the symbolic" (Revolution 50). In its amplification of the pre-figural rhythms and kinematics of language, poetry offers a glimpse of the dissolution of a symbolic whose unicity has become, in Kristeva's terminology, "theologized." This simultaneously sets in motion a process of resignification, in which the semiotic chora is raised to "the status of a signifier" (57), thereby rendering plural and multivalent the meanings that are allowed to accrue to any given constellation of linguistic performances.
  32. It is important to stress this resignificatory moment in Kristeva, since it constitutes the difference between Kristeva's dialectic of signifiance and what she calls the dérive: the "'drifting-into-non-sense'... that characterizes neurotic discourse" (51). Likewise, in critical statements that anticipate The Future of Memory's strategies, Perelman is very careful to distinguish himself from what one might describe as purely "semiotizing" appropriations of Kristevan thought--ones that concentrate on pure "deterritorialization" and "decoding," without the complementary re-assertion of emergent identities in what Kristeva calls the "second-degree thetic" (Revolution 50). In reference to the early formulations of poets such as Ron Silliman and Steve McCaffery, George Hartley can point quite casually to the "Reference-Equals-Reification argument" in which thetic signification as such is irremediably aligned with the values of existing ideological meaning-systems (Hartley 34). But far more complicated lines of enquiry into textual politics have been opened up from within the camp of Language poetry itself. Along with Perelman, Barrett Watten is at the forefront of this enquiry, interrogating how it might be possible to refer the moment of resignification beyond the immanence of Kristeva's textual dialectic, and toward a more "total syntax" which would include a holistic social "situation" as the site of such a reterritorializing agency.[14]
  33. In an essay entitled "Building a More Powerful Vocabulary: Bruce Andrews and the World (Trade Center)," Perelman engages precisely this debate by focusing on his fellow Language poet's demand for "'a structuralist anti-system poetics'... that would disrupt transparent reference" (119). Perelman writes:

    Andrews recognizes the problem that his call for such subversion raises. By its processes of interchangeability multinational capital has already produced a radical dislocation of particulars. Marx's "All that is solid melts into air" can in fact be read as saying that capitalism is constantly blowing up its own World Trade Centers in order to build newer ones. If this is true, then "to call for a heightening of these deterritorializing tendencies may risk a more homogenizing meaninglessness... an 'easy rider' on the flood tide of Capital." (119)

    Perelman is quoting from Andrews's essay, "Constitution / Writing, Language, Politics, the Body," which builds upon an earlier submission to the seminal "Politics of Poetry" number of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, in which Andrews called for a poetics of "subversion": "an anti-systemic detonation of settled relations, an anarchic liberation of energy flows. Such flows, like libidinal discharges, are thought to exist underneath & independent from the system of language. That system, an armoring, entraps them in codes & grammar."[15] Perelman objects to the Kristevo-Deleuzian rhetoric of libidinal flow and "deterritorialization," because he holds out hope for a semiotic process that could "join the center and make it more various" ("Building" 128), rather than foreclosing all "investment in present-tense collectivities" (126) in a desemanticizing process dangerously similar to the "flood tide of Capital" which it hopes to contest.
  34. Again, one must note that both Kristeva and Deleuze are more complex than this anarchizing application of them might suggest; every Deleuzian decoding process has "conjunctive synthesis" as its dialectical complement,[16] just as every Kristevan encounter with the semiotic drives is completed in its secondary thetic phase. But what Perelman demands we consider much more closely is how a textual practice might intervene in this dialectic in such a way that both its decoding and, most crucially, its recoding moments might embody a process of signifiance which does not merely pluralize meanings according to the expansionist and dispersive logic of capitalist production, but instead might offer a locale in which meanings may be contested in ways that are both determinate and politically transitive. In The Future of Memory, this requires that we go beyond the Kristevan dictum "musicalization pluralizes meanings" (Revolution 65) and instead begin to explore the historical relation of reader to text, the kinds of interpretive agency this relationship makes available, and the possibility that a text's political semantics may ultimately be evolved in an extra-textual process very different from the historical avant-garde's ambition to "sublate society into art" (Perelman, Trouble 4).
  35. In fact, The Future of Memory's emphasis on political transformations that must occur beyond the text allows Perelman to resolve contradictions that remain aporetic and disabling in his prose work:

    If language is made up of units, broken apart as all things are by capitalism, and if nothing new is created beyond the horizon of the phrase or the sentence, then these new, charged units would still depend on capital for energy to band together in momentary transgression.... To avoid this conclusion I think it is necessary to posit... a writer for whom the aesthetic sphere forms an autonomous space. Within this space, however, the notion of political art would be a metaphor if not an oxymoron. ("Building" 130)

    Here, Perelman is registering the fear that the "resignificatory" moment that poetic texts make available must derive its coherence and epistemological valence from the larger social meaning-system in which these texts are situated. And unless one is to fall prey to what Peter Middleton calls the "linguistic idealism" inherent in the belief that avant-garde texts punctually and empirically reconstitute this system (Middleton 246), one must confront the proposition that even the most radical recombinative strategies necessarily leave the historical ground of their intelligibility uncontested.
  36. In the above essay, reprinted in the 1996 The Marginalization of Poetry, Perelman's impossible solution to this problem is to suggest that art could constitute an autonomous meaning-system, capable of challenging the current one without borrowing any of its terms. But such a phantasmal art-practice would necessarily be removed from the contemporary horizon of possible significations in a way that would render it perfectly unintelligible, and thus politically unviable. Notice, however, that in the above passage he allows room for an epistemological contingency that is not generated from an impossibly isolated creative locale, but partakes of a historical process of transformation which is beyond the horizon of merely textual agency. To rephrase Perelman, "if something new is created beyond the horizon" of the text--in other words, if an extra-textual process of social transformation makes available a new organization of socially coded meanings--then the "broken units" of his poetry could be resignified according to the values of a newly emergent meaning-system, and come to express the structures of feeling that predate this system's concrete practices.[17]
  37. This sense that a historically futural readership may be able to "charge" Perelman's text in unforeseeable ways, and that the poet should therefore create enclaves of non-meaning in order to call out to these supplementary futural meanings, is what makes The Future of Memory such a brilliant and strange document of "post-avant-garde" poetic practice. The "memory" of The Future of Memory evokes the text's ambition to carry the reader back to the pre-semantic level of Kristeva's semiotic--the shifting territory where social meanings are pluralized and rendered fluid. Kristeva recognizes that meaningful social practice is impossible at this level, and therefore posits the "second-degree thetic," which represents--at the level of the text and of the social dialectic which it "joins"[18]--"a completion [finition], a structuration, a kind of totalization of semiotic motility" (51). But The Future of Memory exceeds these formulations by insisting that the practical completion and structuration of the text's semiotic processes cannot be performed by the text itself. Perelman, one might say, gestures beyond certain kinds of "linguistic idealism" by separating the practices of the text from the practices of society. And yet the responsibility of the text to a larger social dialectic is maintained in Perelman's sense that poetry should dispose itself toward a collective future, and surrender its meanings over to futural communities whose concrete practices will constitute an extra-textual "thetic" phase in the significatory process.
  38. This is why The Future of Memory so often offers itself as a kind of unconscious love letter to the future. The final passage from "Symmetry of Past and Future" is an eloquent example of the text's solicitation of its unknown readers:

    Quotation from 'Symmetry of Past and 
Future' by Bob Perelman [19]

    Perelman is giving his love to the material circumstances of his futural readers, lobbing his poem into this unknowable future, in the hope that this world of particulars will confer a social legibility on his text's illegibilities. It is important that "Symmetry of Past and Future" ends on a note of radical asymmetry, its incomplete final sentence and concluding comma imploring the reader to complete the poem with meanings unavailable to Perelman in his historically prior and epistemologically determinate condition. And as in the first passage we examined from this poem, this determinacy is figured as a form of embodiment here. He seems to be lamenting the fact that a "sense" of possible forms of affective relationality is always rooted in the psycho-somatic constitution of specific historical individuals. If "sense" were somehow capable of emancipating itself from the body, and thus from the various symbolic regulations that express themselves at the somatic level, then one's sense of possible "social intersection[s]" and "interaction[s]" (Nichols 536) could develop itself in complete freedom from the restrictive symbolic positions which the current social formation has to offer.

  39. The impossibility of this kind of freedom is indicated by the poet's sense of his own body as an obstacle. His body represents the fact that "sense" is always an embodied possibility attempting to project itself toward the eternally futural "day" when sense will be able to legislate to itself the terms of its own most primordial constitution--in other words, the utopian day when our affective comportment toward each other will be able to create itself ever anew, without the "obsessive" historical work of symbolic revision and negotiation.
  40. Until that day--"a day that will / never die"--Perelman's future is "the future of memory."
  41. English Department
    University of California, Berkeley

    Talk Back




    1. In his "Language Poetry and Linguistic Activism," Peter Middleton draws the connection to Williams by defining Language poetry as an emergent cultural formation, which "cannot fully comprehend itself within the available terms of the pre-existent social order, nor can it be fully comprehended from within that knowledge produced by the dominant order" (Middleton 244).

    2. Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition.

    3. The notions of "enunciation" and "time lag" are both derived from Homi Bhabha. In The Location of Culture, Bhabha references Stuart Hall's use of the "linguistic sign as a metaphor for a more differential and contingent political logic of ideology: 'The ideological sign is always multi-accentual, and Janus-faced--that is, it can be discursively rearticulated to construct new meanings, connect with different social practices, and position social subjects differently'" (Bhabha 176). Enunciation therefore refers to the process whereby "customary, traditional practices" are resignified in order to express "displacements and realignments that are the effects of cultural antagonisms and articulations--subverting the rationale of the hegemonic moment and relocating alternative, hybrid sites of cultural negotiation" (178). "Time lag" thus refers to the discursive space which opens up between Bhabha's "hegemonic moment" of the ideological sign and the dialogic, contestatory processes of its "articulation" as discourse, narrative and cultural practice.

    4. For example, the terminology of "social meaning-systems" and much of the terminology of this essay is derived from Bruce Andrews's formulations, esp. the important "Total Equals What: Poetics and Praxis."

    5. Perelman writes: "when everybody understands what it's saying, the words seem perfectly transparent and it all seems ideal" ("Sense" 67).

    6. The conceptual framework for this account of ideology obviously owes much to Althusser's well-known account of knowledge-production, but the emphasis on negotiation or re-inscription is decidedly post-Althusserian, and is represented most recognizably in recent works such as Tom Cohen's Ideology and Inscription. In Althusser's account of the three Generalities, contemporary knowledge-production "always works on existing concepts, 'Vorstellungen,' that is, a preliminary Generality I of an ideological nature" (184). However, for Althusser, there is always the possibility that knowledge qua "science" might come to "break with ideology" (191). For Cohen, and the intellectual milieu which guarantees his book's legibility, this is no longer an option, and epistemological breaks of even the most radical order must be seen as revisionary re-inscriptions of the terms of extant ideology. For Cohen, then, "inscription" refers both to the way in which present knowledge production (Generality II) is determined (inscribed) by previous abstract generalities, and to the way it redefines (inscribes) the terms of this extant "raw material" with a view to the production of new concrete generalities (183). "On the one hand, inscription in this premimetic sense seems encountered as a kind of facticity, as the crypt of some reigning or deterritorialized law, once posited and installed. On the other hand, it is precisely in the non-site of inscription that the possibility of historical intervention and the virtual arise" (Cohen 17). But since the ideological process of "being inscribed" (4) is effective at the deepest levels of our being--in the ways we "narrate" our very "perception and experience" (17), it is difficult to know how and when it is possible for genuine "reinscription" to occur--i.e., the process whereby the "instituted trace-chain is disrupted, suspended" so that "alternatives to programmed historicist models can appear accessed" (17). For Cohen, however, the domain of "the aesthetic" represents a central site of "conceptual remapping," which "is linked to a programming of the senses by mnemo-inscriptive grids" (11). This emphasis on the pre-figural world of "the senses" and the way in which this world is ideologically "programmed," resonates very clearly in Perelman's work, and helps contextualize his own sense of the poem as a site of "conceptual remapping."

    7. Again, the notion of "time-lag" is crucial to this understanding of catachresis: "I have attempted to provide the discursive temporality, or time-lag, which is crucial to the process by which this turning around--of tropes, ideologies, concept metaphors--comes to be textualized and specified in postcolonial agency: the moment when the 'bar' of the occidental stereotomy is turned into the coextensive, contingent boundaries of relocation and reinscription: the catachrestic gesture" (Bhabha 184).

    8. On ideological "voicing," see Bhabha's "Signs Taken for Wonders" in The Location of Culture, especially "the voice of command" (116).

    9. In "The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in the Freudian Unconscious," Lacan refers to the unconscious as a chain of signifiers which "insists on interfering in the breaks offered it by the effective discourse and the cogitation that it informs" (Lacan 297). However, "effective discourse" refers for Lacan not just to analytic discourse, but more profoundly, to the historically determinate "symbolic form" which it reproduces, and which guarantees its intelligibility (296). I mean to evoke this latter meaning here, whereby effective discourse is understood as an intersubjective knowledge-formation, derived from the historical punctuality of the Symbolic, and representing its various imaginary sedimentations.

    10. Kristeva gives this particular valence to the term "un-signifying" in her Revolution in Poetic Language (65). The English term "instinctual," which I use above, is Strachey's translation of Freud's trieblich. However, the naturalistic connotations of the English term risk foreclosing the sense of the drives' availability to social regulation. Unfortunately, English has no corresponding word for the German evocation of "drive-ly" forces. See J. Laplanche and J.-B. Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis.

    11. Cited from Jonathan Culler, Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature.

    12. Cited from Roman Jakobson, Six Lectures on Sound and Meaning.

    13. See Jacques-Alain Miller, "Extimité."

    14. See Barrett Watten, "Total Syntax: The Work in the World." Watten's interventions on this topic are many and various; especially important seems his recent attention to "emergent social meaning," in which a formal dialectic of romantic particularity and contextual disjunction dynamizes and defamiliarizes a public sphere which is thereby called upon to revise and reformulate itself. See Brito's "An Interview with Barrett Watten," in which the private oppositionality of a graffito image is seen as "emerging from a blanketed and negated background into 'saying something' it can scarcely recognize" (21). For Watten, this emblematizes poetic practices in which "private language qualifies the public and creates a new ground on which instrumental meanings can be modified and redefined" (21). Also relevant are his recent articles, "The Secret History of the Equal Sign: L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Between Discourse and Text" and "The Constructivist Moment: From El Lissitzky to Detroit Techno."

    15. Bruce Andrews, "Writing Social Work & Political Practice," L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 9/10 (Oct. 1979), unpaginated. The quoted passage appears on page 17 of the reprinted essay in Bruce Andrews, Paradise & Method: Poetics and Practice.

    16. See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. In this system, conjunctive synthesis corresponds to a function called the "celibate machine" which denotes the dialectical eventuation of "a new humanity or a glorious organism" (17).

    17. This sense of intuited half-meanings which precede concrete practices is expressed in the great paradox of Marx's introduction to the Grundrisse--i.e., that the simplest categories of politico-economic thought are only conceptually available once they have been complexified as the expression of manifold and juridically mediated concrete relations. For example, possession, in its abstract simplicity, is only available to thought once the complex system of property relations has been constituted as a concrete category in which "possession" denotes a host of possible relations between families, clan groups, masters and servants, etc. And yet, Marx speculates about conditions under which an abstraction may lead an "antediluvian existence" before it has become the expression of fully developed concrete relations (Marx 101). In such a case, "the simple categories are the expressions of relations within which the less developed concrete may have already realized itself before having posited the more many-sided connection or relation which is mentally expressed in the more concrete category" (102). This means that one might posit a moment of emergent simplicity in which liminally concrete relations could find expression only in pre-categorical figurative modes, or what Raymond Williams describes as "structures of feeling" (Williams, esp. 128-135). I would suggest that Perelman's method takes shape as a self-conscious deployment of precisely such pre-conceptual forms of historical abstraction: forms that "call out" to the futural system of instituted, concrete relations which alone will render their import intelligible.

    18. See Revolution in Poetic Language: "And thus, its complexity unfolded by its practices, the signifying process joins social revolution" (61).

    19. I retain Perelman's misspelling of "obsessiveness" in this passage, since this particular "illegibility" radiates poetic value, even in the absence of a readable authorial sanction. Perelman deletes the word in the revised version of the poem which appears in Ten to One: Selected Poems (216).

    Works Cited

    Althusser, Louis. For Marx. Trans. Ben Brewster. New York: Verso, 1969.

    ---. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Trans. Ben Brewster. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971.

    Andrews, Bruce. "Constitution / Writing, Language, Politics, the Body." L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 4 (1981). Ed. Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein. Combined issue with Open Letter 5.1 (Winter 1982): 154-165.

    ---. Paradise & Method: Poetics and Praxis. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1996.

    ---. "Total Equals What: Poetics & Praxis." Poetics Journal 6 (1986): 48-61.

    ---. "Writing Social Work & Political Practice." L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 9/10 (Oct. 1979), unpaginated.

    Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.

    Brito, Manuel. "An Interview with Barrett Watten." Aerial 8. Washington, DC: Edge Books, 1995: 15-31.

    Cohen, Tom. Ideology and Inscription: "Cultural Studies" After Benjamin, de Man, and Bakhtin. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.

    Culler, Jonathan. Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1975.

    Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983.

    Jakobson, Roman. Six Lectures on Sound and Meaning. Trans. John Mepham. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1978.

    Hartley, George. Textual Politics and the Language Poets. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989.

    Kristeva, Julia. Revolution in Poetic Language. Trans. Margaret Waller. New York: Columbia UP, 1984.

    Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1977.

    Laplanche, J. and J.-B. Pontalis. The Language of Psychoanalysis. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1973.

    Marx, Karl. Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. Trans. Martin Nicolaus. New York: Penguin Books, 1973.

    Middleton, Peter. "Language Poetry and Linguistic Activism." Social Text 8.3-9.1 (1990): 242-53.

    Miller, Jacques-Alain. "Extimité." Lacanian Theory of Discourse: Subject, Structure, and Society. Ed. Mark Bracher, Marshall Alcorn, Jr., Ronald J. Cortell and Francoise Massardier-Kenney. New York: New York UP, 1994. 74-87.

    Nichols, Peter. "A Conversation with Bob Perelman." Textual Practice 12.3 (Winter 1998): 525-43.

    Perelman, Bob. "Building a More Powerful Vocabulary: Bruce Andrews and the World (Trade Center)." Arizona Quarterly 50.4 (Winter 1994): 117-31. Rpt. in The Marginalization of Poetry: Language Writing and Literary History. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1996. 96-108.

    ---. "The First Person." Talks: Hills 6/7. Ed. Bob Perelman. San Francisco: Hills, 1980.

    ---. The Future of Memory. New York: Roof Books, 1998.

    ---. The Marginalization of Poetry: Language Writing and Literary History. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1996.

    ---. Primer. Berkeley: This, 1981.

    ---. "Sense." Writing/Talks. Ed. Bob Perelman. Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1985. 63-86.

    ---. Ten to One: Selected Poems. Hanover, CT: Wesleyan UP/UP of New England, 1999.

    ---. The Trouble with Genius: Reading Pound, Joyce, Stein, and Zukofsky. Berkeley: U of California P, 1994.

    Silliman, Ron. The New Sentence. New York: Roof Books, 1985.

    Silliman, Ron, Carla Harryman, Lyn Hejinian, Steve Benson, Bob Perelman, Barrett Watten. "Aesthetic Tendency And The Politics Of Poetry: A Manifesto." Social Text 19/20 (Fall 1988): 261-75.

    Watten, Barrett. "The Constructivist Moment: From El Lissitzky to Detroit Techno." Qui Parle 11.1 (Winter 1997): 57-100.

    ---. "The Secret History of the Equal Sign: L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Between Discourse and Text." Poetics Today (Winter 1999): 581-627.

    ---. "Total Syntax: The Work in the World." Total Syntax. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1985. 65-114. Rpt. in Artifice and Indeterminacy: An Anthology of New Poetics. Ed. Christopher Beach. Tuscaloosa: The U of Alabama P, 1998. 49-69.

    Williams, Raymond. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977.

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