Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Martha Nussbaum: Poetic Justice

I have journals due in one of my current MA classes, but the instructor is only going to glance at them. I have done all of this work for very little return. I know, a journal is often written only for oneself, but I also wrote it as a conversation with the instructor which now will not happen. So as to make this a more fruitful endeavor, I am going to post some of the journals here. Enjoy and feel free to respond so as to make these truly a conversation.

I am reading an excerpt from a book for one of my classes by Martha Nussbaum. The book is Poetic Justice and the chapter is on the literary imagination. I am reading about the mistrust of literature as subversive by people who are only interested in economics and science and my mind started to wander. (This is actually why it takes me so long to read a book anymore, because for every 250 words I read I write 500). Is there really any way for human beings to get away from purpose? Do we automatically ascribe purpose to every single thing we do, even writing literature? Is there really such a thing as purposeless human activity and what is it in our drive to make meaning that even after the fact, even when we might have thought we had done something purposeless, that we have to assign a purpose to it. I like to think that some writing is just an end in itself, but other times, if I am challenged and on the defensive about “what use is poetry” which I think was originally proposed by Amiri Baraka but I know from my friend in Minneapolis, performance poetry J. Otis Powell! as he used to stand up in front of a 3-piece jazz combo and declaim and question it, I can always assign a purpose to poetry, even avant-garde Dadaistic poetry.

And since we are talking about purpose, I can bring this all the way back around to my BIG paper for this class. The point of my thesis is that Dadaistic avant-garde poetry can liberate the imagination and get us out the quagmire of thought that we find ourselves in and that in this day and age, relevant to Derrida’s law of genre, poetry is in the unique position not to have to be linear anymore the way it was in Aristotle’s day, when it was the only literary game in town. Now poetry can be pure flights of fancy, which is not to say that it is purposeless. Quite the contrary, is the argument that I would make.

And I notice that I start all of my sentences, my paragraphs, or at least most of them, with conjunctions, which is actually how I write when I am free associating, like I do in journals. And I start thinking again about my paper and what purpose I want it to serve, if I want it to be an exploration of something I haven’t explored enough of, like Helene Cixous, if I want it to be about someone that I have studied before and develop expertise on, like Shelley Jackson, or if I want it to be “in service to” my thesis. And so I have written or argued myself right back where I started.

But, I could add, at least having put it down on paper, it is in my mind now and I can start trying to narrow it down somewhat. Thus, I have accomplished something “of purpose” with these ramblings.

Better luck next time.

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