Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I am beginning to realize that taking the self out of our essays is a form of repression. Taking the self out feels like obeying a gag order--pretending an objectivity where there is nothing objective about the experience of confronting and engaging with and swooning over literature."--

The above quotation is, supposedly, from Kate Zambreno.  I am a fan of Kate Z, and very much think of us as electronic friends.  I don't like the above statement(s) though; well, ok, revision, I don't like conflating selfhood to an I or the directly experiential: I believe selfness can manifest itself in a fascination with cubes and rhomboids, or the color blue.  Rallying against the "objective" strikes me as problematic: if the world is reduced to the subjective, then how is it supposed to be legible; legtibility, I'd argue, depends on some relatively stable foundations (the key here is relatively stable, not to push the notion that foundations don't crack, morph, etc); if everyone is their own universe, then how can communication occur, how can connection occur?  Furthermore, it seems to me that the use of language is in some ways very at odds with selfhood: no one person owns language, has their own (unless they start from scratch and make a new one) so to write is already to enter a space that is massively beyond the self.  Well, this assumes one buys the position that language precedes self, that language is bigger than self, that one does not own language--even that which is supposedly their own. 

I will be the first to state that what I just wrote is by no means complete: I havn't really addressed the term "repression," and I am not at-all anti I.  Probably my key qualm is the use of the declarative mode; I am so sick of declaration serving as substitute for argument; please, please, give me generous, expansive qualifications not, oh no, I don't mean this nor that, a tactic which emphasizes language as personal possession of an I.  I love writing which highlights all the problems with its statements, which constantly decapitates its authority, constantly posits that one may be wrong, or incomplete, that tries to let in as many positions as possible, so that one gets, for a brief time, a kind of whole (a whole whose halflife, admitedly, will likely be brief).



  1. I should have known you'd be a fan of Gwen Brooks. Found your blog thru the comment you left on mine & am happy to replace the missing 8th member. I agree with both Zambreno & you here. The trick is not to be so extreme that only one mode--the objective or subjective--is acceptable. The gift is to be able to distinguish when each is appropriate, to be aware of when one's subjectivity is speaking, but also when one is inhabiting the public space of speech and thought. Language precedes the self--couldn't agree more.

  2. Hello Celia--it's awesome to see you here in this backwater I assume few visit; yep-yep, your note makes lovely sense, I believe. And oooohhhhhh yes, G Brooks is a heroine of mine; her poetry does so much, is so of a piece and also pied, diverse; and Maud Martha is superb too! As is Notes From Part Two! I love how Brooks can be clear, sharp, social, and also gorgeously oblique: "you need the untranslatable ice to watch" preceding the line "thousands, killed in action"--how sublime!