Pushing the boundaries of critical reading and the role of objects in literature
How does literary objecthood contend with the challenge of writing objects that emerge at an extreme limit of material presence? Jacob McGuinn delves into the ways literature writes this indeterminate presence in the context of pre- and post-’68 Paris, a vital moment in the history of criticism. The works of poet Paul Celan, philosopher Theodor Adorno, and writer Maurice Blanchot highlight how the complexities of reading such a dematerialized object are part of the indeterminacy of material itself. Indeterminate objects—glass, snow, walls, screens—are subjects Celan describes as existing in “meridian” space, while for Adorno and Blanchot, criticism not only responds to this indeterminacy but also takes it as its condition. Reading at the Limits of Poetic Form: Dematerialization in Adorno, Blanchot, and Celan shows how these readings simultaneously limit the object of criticism and outline alternative ways of thinking that lie between the models of critical formalism and historicism, ultimately revealing the possible materiality of literature in unrealized history, incomplete politics, and nondetermining thinking.
Acknowledgements Abbreviations Introduction––Poetry, criticism, and indeterminacy 1. Reading Indeterminacy: From poetic materiality to materialist aesthetics 2. After Communication: Neutrality, fragmentation, and literary politics in the 1960s 3. Disastrous Materiality: Neutrality and the “impossible real” in Blanchot’s fragmentary writing 4. Progressive Impossibility: Reading the art object in Adorno 5. Something in Poetry: Reading poetry’s material-immaterial 6. The Figure of Snow: Elegiac reading Conclusion––Legibility at the limits of materiality Bibliography
JACOB MCGUINN is an assistant professor in English at Northeastern University London.
“Jacob McGuinn is a scholar fully immersed in his field and speaking from it with great poise and authority. His conception of poetry as ‘immaterial materiality’ is subtle, rigorous, and rooted in a breadth and depth of command of the fields of modern European philosophy, poetics, and criticism.” —Josh Cohen, Goldsmiths, University of London
“A valuable contribution to the understanding of poetry, in particular, to the evolving notion of critical reading and interpretation of poetry with regard to the idea of the indeterminate in poetic language and form.” —Krzysztof Ziarek, University at Buffalo, State University of New York
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