Week 8 (first week of Unit B)

Overview

When poets and artists today take up questions of value (the good and the bad), they often focus their attention on art itself. Many significant cultural movements in the 20th century, especially those labelled experimental or avant-garde, can be seen as raising questions about what was thought to be good (“classic,” established, fine art, literature) and critiquing, parodying, or exceeding its limits in some way. In this unit, we'll look at some challenges form outside the realm of literature (the painter, Duchamp; the composer, Cage), consider literary theoretical questions about value and culture, and then move readings from 21st century writers associated with Flarf and Conceptual Writing. In these works, writers not only raise questions about literariness and originality but attempt to absorb the information overload of net culture, chatter-bots, and artificial intelligence by inventing procedures, adopting constraints, and even employing computer programs in ways that transform writing and reading. In the course of this unit, we will also write some deliberately bad poetry in order to explore this limit.

John Cage. Selections from Silence.

Duchamp, Marcel. Selections from Revolution of the Word.

Smith, Barbara Hernstein. “Value/Evaluation” from Critical Terms for Literary Stud

Greenblatt, Stephen. “Culture” from Critical Terms for Literary Study.

Goldsmith, Kenneth. Selections from Uncreative Writing.

Goldsmith. Seven American Deaths and Disasters

Selections from Against Expression, An Anthology of Conceptual Writing. External Link

Electronic Literature Collection External Link

My Domain

Blogs, or full-on participation in My Domain.

Good, Bad, Limits and Contexts: 20th culture and its challenges

John Cage, 4'33“ performed by William Marx - External Link

Homework

Read selections from: Cage, John. Silence: Lectures and Writings by John Cage. Middletown, Hanover, NH: University Press of New England/Wesleyan UP, 1961. cage-silence-selections-print.pdf and two poems from the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry cage-poems_from_norton_anthology.pdf

Julian Dodd's lecture on Cage Ted Talk (15 min).