Friday, July 18, 2003

I like Kasey's idea of "unassimilability," which is indeed different than the somewhat simplistic version of his position that I gave yesterday.

The example from Robert Sidney was a striking one, one that helps explain the interest that Susan Howe and writers who have followed her have had in original historical documents, and in reproducing not just the content but the look and form of historical documents on the page, showing how strange the historical can be to us and how much work we have to do simply to read anything.

Or the work of somebody like Steve McCaffery, whose more visual works often hang just on the edge of legibility, but just enough into it that we do try to read them, no matter how hard it is.

Maybe the distinction I was trying to make is that of a kind of willed unassimilability--in the work of contemporary writers well aware of such levels of mediation and consciously playing with them. Susan Howe's work on Dickinson raises this as a historical question, though--is the "real" Dickinson one to be found in her manuscripts, with their alternate readings, dashes of varying lengths, and unconventional lineation?

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