Saturday, May 26, 2007

Poetics and Scholarship . . .

“Art students used to be told that the fundamental requirement for drawing or painting was to accurately render figures. But this confused one modality of representation with the entire process of visual aesthesis. It might have been better to say you can’t draw if you can’t see but it would be even better to say you can’t draw if you can’t perceive. Correlatively, we might say, you can’t write if you can’t think. Scholarship requires poetics.”

“Paratactic writing, thinking by association, is no less cogent or persuasive than hypotactic exposition, with its demands that one thought be subordinated to the next. Poetics reminds us that the alternate logics of poetry are not suited just for emotion or irrational expression; poetics lies at the foundation of all writing.”

“The importance of poetics for scholarship is not to decree that anything goes but rather to insist that exposition is an insufficient guarantor of reason. Poetics makes scholarly writing harder, not easier: it complicates scholarship with an insistence that the way we write is never neutral, never self-evident.”

“Clarity in writing is a rhetorical effect not a natural fact. One man’s eloquence can be another’s poison; one woman’s stuttering may be the closest approximation of truth that we will ever know.”

(Charles Bernstein, “Poetics.” Introduction to Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures)

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