Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Lineation: Ron Silliman's Tjanting cont...

The line only exists in relation to the before and after (Silliman, Tjanting 93)


Again with these quotes. Noticed in my previous post I never got round to dealing with the above in any detail, in fact in not detail at all. Let's take them seriously and somewhat systematically, even though they are not systematic statements of an argument. Still, we are just finding our feet here, or our nounphase's to be more accurate.

The line only exists in relation to the before and after.

The number three is essential to language. The phrase, line or sentence, depending and which of these units you are dealing with at any one time, and you can be dealing with all three in the poem which makes it so rich, all depend on context for meaning to be broached. This is something we all learned from deSaussure even if his theory of the sign turns out to be a lovely fiction but not much more.

The phrase does not mean in an autonomous fashion because its referential field is contingent not necessary. We need to know what came before the phrase, the preconditions of its being uttered, presented, performed. This is the history of the phrase, and intentionality of a limited sort is to be pursued there. We also need to pay attention to what follows on from the phrase, what it makes happen. This might be called the ethical dimension in a way, the phrase's eventhood. Phrase one is the author function and phrase three the reader function.

Lineation is not quite the same as phrase and sentence in this regard. Phrases are separated by space and semiotic marking, as too are sentences, but it is the semiotic excessiveness of lineation that allows for Agamben's definition of the base condition of the poetic. So is Silliman wrong here to say the line when one could say all utterances? Or is he trying to differentiation, for avant-garde and therefore provocative reasons, a clear differentiation between procession and succession in prose and in poetry. Is the sheer scale of the space between lines the problem?

We do not noticeably pause between each word when written our in alphabetical serial strings. Just as the brain invents gaps between words heard by the ear, it erases gaps seen by the eye in writing. So the space between lines is simply big enough to cause the semiotic glitch. Also, the poem plays on this, introducing semiotic marks to cause disruption and thus make the phrase/line more and more isolated from its semantic context. Finally the phrase and the sentence work well in conjunction, phrases are always smaller than sentences and sentences are always not only made up of but totally filled with phrases. In contrast phrases and sentences do not fit into the line so there is no self-sufficiency of meaning in the line you have to know what
came before and what
comes next to get back to
semantics.
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