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Thursday, December 06, 2012

A discursive category (Chasar)

I have a private theory—a feeling, rather—that the term “poetry” has become, in the age of capitalism, a discursive category into which all things that in one way or another resist or escape complete regulation, rationalization, instrumentalizaton, description, or measure by the logic of the commodity are projected: emotion, magic, uselessness, intimacy, hopes, dreams, love, utopian urges of all sort, beauties, elegances, difficulties, nonsense, mysteries, etc. Thus, the category of poetry is not a continuum from bad to good or amateur to pro like baseball is (where players move from little league to college to the majors) but profoundly heteroglossic—something of a Lower East Side, perhaps, where the value of sentimental worthlessness (cast as “it’s only poetry”) and the value of what you call “the glamour and power of the exception, the unique instance” (cast as “it’s sheer poetry”) both reside. “Poetry” has, as you indicate in your example of Michael Jordan, become a sort of floating signifier in the process—a term to describe those aspects of experience that we don’t have much language for and that capitalist ideology doesn’t want us to have a language for, because it would then call those things into being and make them real and more powerful.

Mike Chasar

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