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Journal Article


Bedient, Calvin


Critical Inquiry, Volume 16, Issue 4, p.807-829 (1990)


The End of Beauty; Kristeva

Full Text:

I take it that when Julia Kristeva speaks of art as a "semiotic chora," as "the flow of jouissance into language," she means that art utters what cannot be uttered: instinct.1 I take it that she means that poetry, in particular, subverts culture (when we thought it was culture), because it permits instinct to infiltrate the symbolic medium of language itself. 

Judge, if you will, for yourself. First, Kristeva's notion of the chora:

We borrow the term chora from Plato's Timaeus to denote an essentially mobile and extremely provisional articulation constituted by [bioenergetic] movements and their ephemeral stases. We differentiate this uncertain and indeterminate articulation from a disposition that already depends on representation, lends itself to phenomen-ological, spatial intuition, and gives rise to a geometry. . . . The chora, as rupture and articulations (rhythm), precedes evidence, verisimilitude, spatiality, and temporality. [RPL, pp. 25-26]

In other words, the chora, as the matrix of the drives, is precultural, subsymbolic. Is it then this, this life, that breaks into the civilized space of representation in poetry, crashing and destroying its party (when culture is partying) or making a shambles of its solemnity (when culture is being religious)?

To Kristeva, the person writing poetry is "on trial" or, more strictly, not a "subject" so much as a bundle of nerve impulses hostile to the "edifice" of identity, indeed to all cultural molds. This is the revolution in poetic language. And whatever our own terminology, don't all of us assume that "in the practice of the text" a "subject" is "in process / on trial [sujet en proces]" and that "deep structure or at least transformational rules are [thus] disturbed and, with them, the possibility of semantic and/or grammatical categorial interpretation" (RPL, p. 37)? Doesn't everyone know about and respect connotation, ambiguity, charged language?

How radical, then, is the theory of Revolution in Poetic Language (1974)? Isn't the heart of Kristeva's theory in the right place? So it might seem. But such a blind, revolutionary heart! All anger at "stases" that are inevitably reactive and phony, that are mere pauses for air, clutches at straws, or lies, and condemned to demolition because not the utter peace of death. Question Culture—this, in effect, is what the "semiotic choran cries, "because it behaves like an arrival, an end, unpacks its bags, plans to stay. Nothing must stay until there is nothing." The understanding of life couched in Kristeva's writings, and particularly in Revolution in Poetic Language—and no understanding of life is more modern, more radical in relation to the age-old hubris of spirituality—is thus essentially the view familiar from Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle and, further back, the substance of some of Nietzsche's reflections, such as: " 'To be released from life is once again to become true ... to perfect oneself"; or "'Inorganic matter is the maternal breast. . . . Whoever understands this would consider the return to insensate dust as a celebration'"; or " 'The inorganic world . . . represents the greatest synthesis of forces. ... In the inorganic, error and the limitations of perspective do not exist.' "2

In this "perspective," to be free means "not to be a function."3 Now, the chora—even if it is an indeterminate Brownian motion of impulses—is a function, a factory of drive. Biology is error, and the aspect of drive that is "too much," its drive, confesses as much. It rages to undo itself. But the culturally and personally positioned "subject" is an even greater error, because it is more obviously a function. Revolutionary freedom in poetry, then, must be won at the subject's expense, at the expense of position or perspective, or, in Kristeva's term, of the thetic, the laid down. Insofar as poetry is propositional, it is error. Insofar as it is "instinct," it is error, too. But relatively free? A runner's anticipatory lean into the tape at the finish line—that much closer to death?

We had thought that poetry was a grace beyond biology, except for the biomovements of dancers, athletes, or those we love most. We had thought it a contradictory "organic" perfection in the relatively staying realm of the symbolical. But, no, according to Kristeva's theory, poetry is essentially antiformal—in fact, so profoundly antiaesthetic that the proper words for describing it are not beauty>, inspiration, form, instinctive rightness, inevitability, or delicacy (to leave aside unaesthetic terms such as perception and truth, which the theory also renders inappropriate). Instead, it attracts terms drawn from politics and war: corruption, infiltration, disruption, shatterings, negation, supplantation, and murder. Poetry is the chora's guerrilla war against culture.

According to Kristeva, poetry reverses the ritualistic theological sacrifice of the soma, a sacrifice subsequently exacted, like a sales tax, through the "thetic" element of discourse, its determinate articulations. For Kristeva, the "theologization of the thetic" is what culture is (RPL, p. 78)—and as such it has no fundamental right to be, since what is fundamental is the chora and not God. I refer here as throughout to the revolutionary Kristeva of the late sixties and early seventies, the Kristeva whose "we," as she says in "My Memory's Hyperbole," was a putatively communist Parisian party for "permanent revolution."4 Revolution in Poetic Language is a monumental, late end product of this phase of Kristeva's thinking; indeed, there are signs that she had already surpassed it by the time the book was published.

Simply put, Revolution in Poetic Language posits that poetry sacrifices theology, or the thetic, to traces of nonsymbolized drive. Poetry, that is, exploits and augments the "semiotic chora" with which language is already charged, the prelinguistic elements at its origins (rhythm, breath impulsion, intonation). In Kristeva's use, semiotic (le semiotique, not the la semiotique of French semiotics) means index or imprint, after the Greek word OT||X6lOV; the semiotic chora is the spider of instinct at the bottom of poetry's cup. Yes, "profoundly a-theological," "art—this semiotization of the symbolic— . . . represents the flow of jouissance into language" (RPL, pp. 61, 79); and jouissance is the bliss of the nerve ends as they undergo their destructive splitting, firing up beyond the level of the pleasure principle.5

This puissance is primarily anal, since the destructive anal drives are (so Freud inferred) the strongest. But what is surprising—and political—in Revolution in Poetic Language is the virtual benching of the so-called affirmative drives. It is as if Kristeva attends only to the aggression implicit in the word drive itself. A year later, in "From One Identity to an Other," one of the essays subsequently collected in Desire in Language, Kristeva even says that poetry "utters incest" (a magnificently thrown gauntlet that is at least seemingly sweeter than the claim that it utters death. But in the last analysis desire parallels drive; desire, too, is "too much.").6 In "From One Identity to an Other," Kristeva emphasizes erotic oralityt leaving behind, so to speak, the anality she makes so much of in Revolution in Poetic Language. And even in the latter, she asks:

Doesn't poetry lead to the establishment of an object as a substitute for the symbolic order under attack, an object that is never clearly posited but always "in perspective." The object may be either the body proper or the apparatuses erotized during vocal utterance (the glottis, the lungs), objects that are either linked to the addressee of desire or to the very material of language as the predominant object of pleasure. . . . isn't art the fetish par excellence, one that badly camouflages its archaeology? At its base, isn't there a belief, ultimately maintained, that the mother is phallic, that the ego— never precisely identified—will never separate from her, and that no symbol [linguistic sign] is strong enough to sever this dependence? In this symbiosis with the supposedly phallic mother, what can the subject do but occupy her place, thus navigating the path from fetishism to autoeroticism? [RPL, pp. 64-65]

Evidently, this is to refer poetry, not to the chora, or the bioenergetic "mother," but to a mental construction, "the phallic mother."7 If "at its base" art hungers for that belated (as against archaic) fiction rather than for the autoeroticized elsewhere of the inorganic, then isn't art antinature and profoundly fictional? But this contradiction is no great moment in Revolution in Poetic Language because the idea that poetry is fetishistic is deeply obscured by the author's running emphasis not on eros but on thanatos, or not on orality but on anality. Poetry comes off not as fetishistic but as rejective—that is, as a rage for more than both the imaginary and the symbolic can offer. Poetry craves not identity with a maternal power but a negative freedom from all identity: dissolution, death. It takes words—the coins in the "isolated pocket of narcissism" (RPL, p. 70), the subject's "symbolic" spending power—and flings them beyond the lost space of mother-protected autoeroticism into the blind nonspace of organic origins. Thus would the chora "practice" a retreat to the inorganic bosom, make a down payment on peace. "Art," writes Kristeva, "accepts the thetic break [from nonsymbolized drive] to the extent that it resists becoming either delirium or a fusion with nature. Nevertheless, through this break, art takes from ritual space what theology conceals: trans-symbolic jouissance, the irruption of the motil-ity threatening the unity of the social realm and the subject" (RPL, p. 80). "Trans-symbolic jouissance"—or subsymbolic jouissance—is drive where it slouches from the chora to culture to be symbolized, drive opposed to a cultural disposition and destiny.

Again: in poetry "the repeated death drive (negativity, destruction) withdraws from the unconscious and takes up a position as already positiv-ized and erotized in a language that, through drive investment, is organized into prosody or rhythmic timbres" (RPL, p. 163). But this positivity and erotism nonetheless betray "an explicit confrontation between jouissance and the thetic," poetry bringing "into play . . . the vehemence of drives through the positing of language" (RPL, pp. 81, 83). What the text manifests "through language" is "the jouissance of destruction (or, if you will, of the 'death drive'), which . . . passes through an unburying of repressed, sublimated anality" (RPL, p. 150). Poetry becomes "a permanent struggle to show the facilitation of drives within the linguistic order itself" (RPL, p. 81). Culture beware!

Whatever the checks and balances acknowledged by her formulations, the pull of "theologized" culture (symbolization, fetishization) against the push of jouissance, Kristeva's rhetorical sympathies lie with anal cruelty, with "revolution," not with fetishism. One could deduce that she naturally stresses the part of her theory that is new, "revolutionary." But the zeal of her analysis of rejection has, as intimated, a political level. A politics of permanent revolution posits society itself as an analogue of poetic "practice," or a continual rage for "new symboli-zations," a restlessness with the element of thetic finality. This, indeed, describes the current temperament of the humanities. But it is not good psychoanalysis to take politics as fundamental; what is fundamental is the death drive, and Kristeva gives her theoretical and rhetorical energies to it with a thoroughness that suggests, precisely, a hunger for jouissance.

In any case, for both politics and poetry the implications of a "rejectivity" that has no agenda except "rejectivity" are breathtakingly radical. Change as the blind result of the chora's restiveness—and Kristeva's theory posits and allows no other mechanism of change—results, at best, in transformations that are accidental in their plans and details. "New symbolizations" exist on the blind side of "the jouissance of destruction," itself blind, just as the mounds thrown up by a mole are the pure products of its rejection of the dirt in its path.

Kristeva effectively dismisses both intelligence (in any of its forms) and a formal sense as points to consider in analyzing the "textual practice" of poetry. "Intuition" is not a part of her technical vocabulary. And "ideas" she seems to regard as hopelessly contaminated by theology and what it constitutes, the murder of the soma. She's so hostile to the element of cognition in poetry that she speaks not of poems, in which ideas could nestle like eggs in a carton in a market, but only of "textual practice," a dynamic operation that subjects everything to "the vehemence of drives." But is there never anything to fear in a poet's power of mind? No truth to absorb? Nor any value (for instance, an experience of sharing) in the absorption? Withholding recognition as she does from everything except the pulverizingly reductive concepts of rejection and stasis, and in any case implicitly identifying the thetic with theology (in still another wholesale reduction), Kristeva naturally does not suppose that poetry has anything much to say. In effect, as "thesis," it all says the same thing: "viva narcissism!" Effectively, she wipes the suggestions of perceptivity off, like mist on a windshield, but only to drive straight on into the night.

She's no less ruthless toward form, not to mention genre and even the raw subject matter. Hence she insists that "we can read a Mallarme or a Joyce only by starting from the signifier and moving toward the instinctual, material, and social process the text covers" (RPL, p. 101). In other words, we cannot read them, we can only excavate them. But how can we get back to the "instinctual, material" process of poetic practice? How can we examine various authors' nerve ends in their moment-by-moment vehemence? In any case, why do so? In their ceaseless "scissions," are they not all alike? Are there qualitative differences in a Joyce's, as against a Mallarme's, destructive drives? Is not the goal of Kristevan analysis a triumphant and leveling demonstration of the persistence of jouissance, an encounter with the zero point of the death drive?

In "poetic practice," "instinct" becomes manifest as aesthetics, but only as it pulls the latter down from its high horse, away from considerations of form and genre, and rolls about with it indistinguishably— amorously or murderously?—in the mud. Kristeva's theory is, in fact, as profoundly antiaesthetic (that is, antiformal) as it is antitheological and (but for her this is much the same thing) antithetic. The aesthetic is suffered only to the extent that it appears unpremeditated and "infiltrated" by drive that culture had as yet failed to capture.

Her approach displaces the idea of the poem as the outgrowth of a locally evolutionary "inspiration" (a protocoherent, indeterminate articulation) with a biomechanical blind process of negation. From point to point of the text, rejection (expressed through breath impulsions, rhythm, intonation, syntactic rupture) automatically and indiscriminately negates thesis. But (and this is Kristeva's most contradictory notion) rejection also rejects itself. The death drive fears the death drive! Rejection, finding itself in the middle of nowhere as a result of its own stubborn resistance to stases, panics and flings itself into yet another stasis (a thetic stronghold); but no sooner has this happened than, true to its "nature," it rushes out again. This is the hidden logic of poetic practice, a logic simultaneously of negation and renewal. Kristeva formulates it as follows: "rejection1—stasis1—rejection2—stasis2— (etc.)— Thesis—rejectionn—stasisn" (RPL, p. 172).

Negation and recovery: it's as if each conception (each word? each phoneme? Kristeva's term "mark" remains obscure) were a ballasted round-bottomed toy that rocks back into position after the drives give it a whop. Again, "rejection generates the signifier and the desire adjoining it as a defense against the death that rejection brings about by carrying its logic of scission 'to the end'" (RPL, p. 172). "Repeated rejection is separation, doubling, scission, and shattering" and "at the same time and afterward accumulation, stoppage, mark, and stasis. In its trajectory, rejection must become positive: rejection engrammatizes" (RPL, p. 171).

If one accepts Kristeva's conception of the ferocious strength and constancy of the death drive, then the emphasis she places on rejection as the truth of textual practice is reasonable. But this is a case of a theory in excess of the "textual" evidence. To begin with, a contrary paradigm of positive choice-positive choice, etc., would appear to suffice. And certainly it would better account—indeed, it alone would account—for the fact that a poem is more than a random "accumulation" of stases, is, in fact, more cohesive than prose, as a "heterogeneous" molecule is more dynamically cohesive than a penciled line.

That rhythm by definition rejects the "noninstinctuality" of a thesis does not mean, of course, that a thesis (a "stasis") cannot be lifted and altered by rhythm without losing its distinctiveness; perhaps access, not rejection, is feeling's aim. In poems, it's not only "subjects" but theses that put themselves "in process/on trial." Poetry makes theses (but this is not a happy word for the play of ideas in a poem) negotiate with feeling. Isn't rhythm, in any case, positive for itself, attentive to itself? Like a school of flying fish, doesn't it arch over and over the negative troughs of the "breaks," the silence? (I think of T. S. Eliot's reminder "that the music of verse is not a line-by-line matter, but a question of the whole poem.")8 Isn't rhythm that which is happy to be rhythm rather than an accidentally perceptible part of the nerve ends' rage?

We know from the testimony of poets that poems can seem to germinate long before they become "determinate articulations." They are not the consequence of instantaneous rejectivity. From the first bit of rhythm or whiplash of words, they are instinct not with rawness but with a new, irreducible conception- or form-in-the-making. It would seem to be the whole mind of the poet that heads toward some image-perspective, some structural respite, during the course of "textual practice." A final consideration: how does "practice" (as blindly thrashing rejection) know when the end has come?

Kristeva's theory doesn't so much fail to address the dynamics that make a poem something more than an "accumulation" as, rejectively, dismiss as superficial and arbitrary anything but the genuine search-and-destroy mission of the drives. The blinders on the theory are meant to fix its vision on what alone is incontestable. But is "rejectivity" really incontestable? Is it not, in any case, the poorest object of contemplation that the field of poetry affords—the same little zero/one, negation / renewal, limned over and over?

Kristeva associates poetry with knowledge of a single kind: knowledge of its own anarchic practice, that is, its biomaterial rejection of symbolization. Indeed, for her, poetry is rejectivity; hence what preceded the late nineteenth-century "avant-garde text" and its quieter offspring, the "modern" or "twentieth-century" text is, so she implies, more likely than not to be rhetoric. And she finds only one sort of text, the "modern text," which alone has psychoanalysis (standing) behind it, secure in such knowledge: "in the forefront of both its linguistic functioning and the representation that invests it, the modern text exhibits that which has always been the disguised mainspring of 'art'" (RPL, p. 211)—by which she appears to mean heterogeneity or (and) negation. Anti-"art," the modern text is art only to the degree that it knows and shows itself angry at God as meaning, meaning as God.9 Knowledge of textual practice as "that most intense struggle toward death, which runs alongside and is inseparable from the differentiated binding of its charge in a symbolic texture"; knowledge of the subversion of "the symbolic function" by an "anal drive that agitates the subject's body"; knowledge of "matter in the process of splitting" (RPL, pp. 180, 149, 180)—such is the burden of the modern or "twentieth-century text."

In short, the only knowledge Kristeva associates with poetry coincides with her theory; it's her theory mirrored back. Which is to say that for her the only trustworthy knowledge is psychoanalytical: knowledge that escapes "religion and its dependencies," knowledge of the brute chora's power and petulant persistence. "The modern text . . . introduces the kind of knowledge concerning the body, language, and society that sciences today might have provided" (RPL, p. 211). To get to the conceptual heart of the "modern text" (a term reductively singular), Kristeva has but to walk on the sinking steps of her typewriter. Poetry is here a captured specimen that confirms a theory by reechoing it. In other words, poetry confirms the truth of psychoanalysis by becoming psychoanalytical. Where poetry coincides with psychoanalysis as "science" and "theory," just there it is truly—it is pure—poetry.10

In the teeth of Kristeva's theory, perhaps some of yesterday's ideas about poetry should be brought out from the mothballs. For instance, the idea that poetry is highly artificial, or at the least the product of a formal instinct acting on the sounding qualities of words under the example and restraints of a tradition (or a number of traditions).11 Second (and last, for I must be brief), the idea that the knowledge communicated by a good poem is always specific to itself. Without disappearing into a black hole of the body, this very delicate knowledge is nevertheless as much a matter of tone, rhythm, image, and nuance as it is of statement. Poetry shows the entire bundle of the individual how to feel and think—for a moment. Nor is theology usually its "position," if theology isn't too simply and hostilely equated with the repressive power of words.

I want to hold up against the Kristevan model of the "modern text" a few American poems that may seem to approximate it. But though all are in a sense psychoanalytical, including Emily Dickinson's pre-Freud-ian "The Malay—took the Pearl—," the knowledge they share isn't "knowledge about. . . practice," that is, about rejection ("the text is a practice of rejection") (RPL, p. 187). Instead, it's a knowledge of both the resources and the hollowness of desire, of both its gambits and its straits. In them, desire (which parallels the drives in its aspect of the "too much," the unsatisfiable) may palter, not least by counterfeiting itself in poetry; but always already it tastes the emptiness with which it will go to the grave defeated. (Born of loss, desire is nothing so much as the desire never to have to suffer loss again.)

In any case, of more moment than this elegiac divergence from Kristeva's theory (which the theory might perhaps trace to theology) is the demonstrable dramatic-formal intelligence that energizes and permeates these poems through and through. And I think it no more appropriate to attribute this intelligence to rejectivity than to speak of the solar system as mostly holes (the latter is true, but to us what matters are the implications of the system, not the holes).

My object is not at all to separate myself from Kristeva's admirers and (so to say) students, of which I am happy to count myself one, particularly of that psychoanalytical masterpiece, Powers of Horror. It is only to contest the notion that twentieth-century poems contain something like the raw clay of anal instinct.12 It's not perfectly clear to me that Kristeva means to say it does (though what else is meant by speaking of a practice that "raises the [semiotic] chora to the status of a signifier" [RPL, p. 57]?). Nor, on the other hand, is it clear how, if indeed we're driven beings, "drive" can be kept out of anything we say, think, feel, or do. But surely the theory of the revolutionary poetic splatter of drive is held at the expense of the poet's passionate powers of synthesis.

1. "The Malaytook the Pearl—"

Perhaps her most interesting poem of narcissistic crisis, Dickinson's largely neglected "The Malay—took the Pearl—" (c. 1862) subtly allegorizes a painful sociosexual predicament, that of a patriarchal daughter's autoerotic desire for the feminine. It tells of the anguish of a woman who's so abashed by the presumption of her desire for another woman, and in the event so passive, that she loses her to an active male rival.

Dickinson brings to the subject a tact of piquant semisecrecy, a code of brilliantly suggestive tropes. The beloved's sex is figured as a pearl, the rival lover as (to simplify) a tropical pearl-diver, and the speaker herself as an arrogant earl:

The Malay—took the Pearl—
Not—I—the Earl— 

I—feared the Sea—too much
Unsanctified—to touch—

Praying that I might be
Worthy—the Destiny—

The Swarthy fellow swam—
And bore my Jewel—Home—

Home to the Hut I What lot
Had I—the Jewel—got—
Borne on a Dusky Breast—

I had not deemed a Vest Of

The Negro never knew

I—wooed it—too—

To gain, or be undone—

Alike to Him—One—13

Wanting to love and possessing no other model of desire than the masculine one, the speaker takes on a male identity: she displays, in an approximation to Freud's words, "the humility and the sublime over-estimation of the sexual object so characteristic of the male lover, the renunciation of all narcissistic satisfaction, and the preference for being lover rather than beloved."14 Yet she so overidealizes as deeply other the woman she loves, so fears this otherness, considers herself so unworthy of it, that she behaves exactly like a man whose sex is crushed by excessive incest dread. Her one hope of gaining the pearl lay in the more or less passive mode of prayer.

If Freud's characterization of the masculine approach to the love-object overstates the humility and renunciation ordinarily involved, its slack is more than taken up by the Malay, who matter-of-factly (and how this irritates the speaker) takes what he wants. He too sets store by the pearl—enough to risk diving for it. All the same, he seizes it and wears it as an ornament for his "Dusky Breast." With his instinct to penetrate, he forces entry first into the unknown of the water, then of the oyster, as if intent on appropriating for himself the mystery of the womb that conceived him, the secret of his begetting. How casually, how enviably he revives a very old relationship—intrauterine, even prehistoric—to the maternal. When it comes to wooing a woman, clearly he's the "better man."

Does the speaker not only resent and envy him but wish to be the object of his brute, dusky, and triumphant eros? Perhaps with an identi-ficatory passion she desires him almost as much as she does the Pearl. After all, he's the "man" she would be, confident, punctual, successful. Oversensual, no doubt—but excitingly so? Need she have envisioned so intently, brought so darkly near, his dusky breast, against which the pearl must gleam seductively? Or need she have gravitated to the word "Hut," which sounds so cozily intimate—indeed not only warm and tropical, but like "hot" (its grammatical coupling and alliteration with "Home" and like capital securing it for happiness)? What joy were she rescued from oceanic oblivion and taken to and treasured by a torrid breast, in an ecstasy of contrast, fair to swarthy, borne to bearer, in sympathy with the archaic division of desire into active and passive poles.

The speaker herself is suspended between these troublesome zones of desire, in a sour limbo. Alone in a northern latitude, self-consciously and properly clothed, remote from the scene of love and its adventure —from transfer, beauty, intimacy, consummation—what can she hold on to, hold up as hers, ornament herself with, except a paper earldom of rival fetishes: tropes, poetic form?

Here, then, a daughter of the Puritans stifles within a patriarchal vest (investiture). She knows but the one model of desire, the father's (or, by derivation, the brother's. To turn for a moment to biography, Dickinson not only addressed her sister-in-law, Susan, who lived next door, as " 'Only Woman in the World'" but figured her as tropical and abysmal, awesomely remote: "'What depths of Domingo in that torrid Spirit!'" she said. And again: "'Susan knows she is a Siren—and that at a word from her, Emily would forfeit Righteousness.'"15 Her rival, of course, was her beloved brother Austin.). The male takes his being from acting on his desires. And if the female is not permitted to act on hers, what is she? Is she anything? Especially if she is not desired?

In herself, unless her femininity has been shaded like a flame by the milk-glass shade of maternity, she menaces the paper town of patriarchal economy precisely insofar as her desire disturbs her and others (say through agoraphobia, or writing of an aggressively strange genius). Even so, her desire is referred to a secret abyss, whether of fantasy or language. The speaker acknowledges the vertiginous appeal of feminine sexuality only in another woman, in alienated form (she's external to her own femininity). Somehow she knows that female sexuality is a cache of hidden riches, one very hard to reach but, if attained, profoundly satisfying. Would not her early love for her mother tell her so? And would not her own autoeroticism, however submerged, confirm it? How, then, recover it in a world of patriarchal hierarchy, property, and vests? In a frozen Northern climate? How pursue it actively except as men do, by diving straight into sanctities, as if what the depths contain is theirs to ransack, fetishize, take home, and flaunt?

Subscribing to the fetishistic economy of masculine desire, the speaker reduces her beloved to a part-object—a hard drop of feminine vastness, a pearl in a bivalve nest in an ocean. And even to her the pearl is shown to best advantage when worn as an ornament on a masculine breast or otherwise held in a man's possession and esteem. Salvaged from the blank, murky reaches of "female" mucosity, it displays a luster that, though dry, remembers a primal mother's milk. Only then does its beguiling concentricity emerge in all its singleness of form, in that phallic economy in which form speaks without saying too much. Only then is it stripped of fearful intimacy with an unnameable, archaic matrix.16

In another neglected poem, "A still—Volcano—Life—," Dickinson identifies sadistically with the vaginal-anal body, imagining herself a sublime force capable of annihilating the symbolic order by angry upheavals, "hissing Corals."17 Here, by contrast, she's so insecure in her maternal identification that she finds in the paternal order her one link with what she's mislaid, the female body (as both autoerotic and, in part, the mother's refraction). Yet even though she adopts the masculine logic in which the visual predominates, "the one of form, of the individual, of the (male) sexual organ," to quote from Luce Irigaray, perhaps she finds the patriarchal "one" nonetheless foreign to female eroticism (as Irigaray contends that women do).18 Does this explain the spread of dismay and disdain in the final word, the "One" that sums up the Malay's insensitivities?

Still, the poem underwrites "masculine" fetishization precisely in being a poem, a work. Secretive as it is, harboring enshelled puzzles and flashing connotations like the signalling foam of far-off breakers, it yet contradicts the obscuring sea, the absence of the pearl, in possessing narrative compactness and visual brilliance. Here Dickinson's style is so disrupted as to bring to mind Kristeva's theory of poetry as the chora's unsettling of the signifying order—instinct's ruffling, indeed rifling, of meaning. All the same, I think there's no bull in the shop of Dickinson's poem, but only the china, which is absolutely correctly, if irregularly, placed. To put it differently, the splintering of the narrative—rough and broken even for Dickinson—has acute meaning within the poem itself.

The poet's reason for placing obstacles in the way of what Roland Barthes calls unrolling the text ("the ordinary way of reading, the legal one, in which I cruise along . . . going forward at the same speed"),19 is not just to hide her libidinal predicament from the vulgar (those "Unqualified, to scan," as she puts it in another poem),20 and to some extent from herself. The reason is to make of the writing, syllable by syllable and even dash by dash, the close-worked dramaturgy of her theme. For example, in the context of her chagrined admissions, her begrudging yet obtrusive dashes seem an appropriately reluctant mark, snapping linearity over and over in an agitated unwillingness to proceed. Still more daring are the syntactic obfuscations that momentarily superimpose the speaker on the Malay, in a coition of identities, upsetting the "masculine" consecutiveness of the narrative project.

For example, "Praying that I might be / Worthy—the Destiny—" is succeeded, at first deceptively, by "The Swarthy fellow," quite as if the Malay really cared about the Earl (whereas, unforgivingly, the poet ends by showing him to be completely oblivious to her anguish). It's left to us to connect the flapping, disused dangling modifier of "Praying that I ..." to the "I" of the preceding stanza, mentally rearranging the syntax in the process: "Fearing the sea and feeling unsanctified to take the Pearl, I could only pray that someday I'd be worthy to do so." But meanwhile, for a cheating instant, the speaker has boasted the Malay's sympathy. Like slats in a Venetian blind, the lines are momentarily pushed together in disorder, and what peeps through is not hooded anality but a covetous and opportunistic desire. A hallucinatory closeness between the Earl and the Malay crops up again in "And bore my Jewel—Home," where, from the momentum of the proprietary "my," "Home" could well be thought to be the speaker's own. This illusory social sweetness (and should not a "Negro" serve an "Earl"?) is of course dashed at once by "Home to the Hut!"

Finally, an unreal intimacy also nestles for an instant in

What lot 

Had I—the Jewel—got— 

Borne on a Dusky Breast— 

I had not deemed a Vest 

Of Amber—fit—

Thanks to the choppy, elided syntax, the first three lines must be understood to say, "What luck had I got both the jewel and the Malay" ("The Jewel. . . / Borne on a Dusky Breast—"). But, being nothing but a wish, this reading is dispelled at once by the "correct" one, namely the speaker's elitist and racist scorn that the pearl should be borne there, on that barbarous skin of night, when in her opinion even her own tailored vest (with its semiprecious preserving amber hue) doesn't deserve so fair a gem. What is the naked vellum of the Malay's chest but a want of poetic material, a sign of his ineptitude for tropes? She, at least, comes fitted with the cut-to-measure, undecomposable substance of writing. (But of course even this is no sanctified showcase for the sea's round, fingerable jewel.)

In all these instances the poem displays a canny form, a formal instinct for the screws of vivid meaning. At every point it reveals the speaker's knowledge (conscious or not) of the stress and hiding places of her desires. Even the phonemes register her predicament. Not only does her little tale agree with the psychoanalytic view that narrative is an admission of lack—desire's dehiscence, postoriginary; the narcissistic wound of castration is mimed at the outset by the abbreviation of "Pearl" to "Earl" (where what is sacrificed is the piercing P) and at the end of "-done" to "One." Again, creeping discouragement shows as the phonic group ear (in "Pearl," "Earl," and "feared") shades down through variants to unaccented er (in "Amber" and "ever"); and again as oo (in "knew," "wooed," and "too") drops down to uh (in "un-," "-done," and "One"), bringing about small grunts as from a series of soft blows to the solar plexus. In each case, the final phonemic group needs less effort to utter, is more consistent with passivity of aim. What else could have been predicted from the timid way the t crossed over from "too much" to touch the sound repeated from "much" in "touch" ("too much / Unsanctified—to touch—"), as if in an experimental rehearsal, a breathtaking imaginary transgression? Contrary to Kriste-va's poetic theater of blind cruelty, such writing implies a sophisticated audience, even Osip Mandelstam's ideal reader in posterity. Indeed, the poem displays so electric a competence, it pings so, I fancy the author felt jubilant as well as jolted in writing it, as if finding in her own psychic disturbance the irritant for an unexpected pearl.

2. "The Attic Which Is Desire"

From the reader's point of view—disturbingly, a perspective of almost no concern in Revolution in Poetic Language—a poem is much more like a Whiteheadean "pattern" or "event" than a churning process with a STOP GO STOP GO rhythm. Except in the most painstaking analysis (which isn't really reading), no one reads "mark" by "mark," and it's hard to believe that any poet composes that way either. For instance, several potential "marks" (phonemes, morphemes, syllables, rhythmical shifts) are already preinscribed in the phrase "The Malay." The phrase doesn't stutter its way onto the page or into the ear; it comes whole. It's virtually suspended until it is meaningful. A phrase, a line, a poem, is a quasi-organic system, in which each part is, as Alfred North Whitehead might put it, a function of unification, and the whole, like cognition, is an eventful togetherness of disparate things.21 Mutual relatedness, a prehensive unity, not continual shatterings, makes up our aesthetic experience. Like a dance, a poem is a series of relationships and of relative positions, and in order to experience it we must give up the notion of simple location.

A fine example of a poem that is transparently a prehensive unity, or else nothing, is William Carlos Williams's "The Attic Which Is Desire" (1930). This poem (as neglected as "The Malay—took the Pearl—") reads like a spindly mobile in which the balance of the whole depends on the exact sparse distribution of the parts. Knock out any part and the whole thing collapses:

The Attic Which Is Desire

the unused tent


bare beams

beyond which

directly wait

the night

and day—


from the street


* *  *

* S *

* O *

* D *

* A *

* * *

ringed with

running lights

the darkened



down the center



Here desire, as a skimp-along but endlessly restituted economy founded on lack, is represented by—descried in—an unused attic whose window, ignoring the potentially wide promise of waiting day and night, lies open like a woman to the phallic magic of a strategically located sign (of "the sign"): to what doesn't innocently wait but pounces. For Williams as for Jacques Lacan, desire takes "bare" form and goes begging like an empty commercial attic once the loss of infinite symbiosis depletes the child's autoeroticism and makes of him or her a "residue," in Lacan's parlance, of "the field of the Other."23 Thereafter, desire seeks the sign of what it lacks, constituting itself as a ready-made theater/audience for enchantment and exploitation.

What nostalgia bubbles in the street-market sign. This last not only condenses the mother's body as the source of nourishment; through its lights in perpetual chase of one another it evokes the original eternal quality of the mother-child circuit and the giddy effervescence of earliest tactile and oral pleasures (their tingling, familiar durations). For that matter, the sign also fishes around in memories of childhood days, when to gulp pop was an unquestioned palatable pleasure.

The window is both appetent mouth to the female "soda" and a specular hunger for the phallic economy of the sign. This pluralism, this split between body and language, barbarous and refined stages of psychic life, is reflected in the sign itself, which is part graphics and part language. It contains a subliminal allusion to "DA," one of the first of babbled syllables, and confuses the oral drive, distracting it from the good breast by a phallic symbol. In Lacanian speculation, the breast, as a part-object perceived as such only when the mother stands back from the mother-child dyad and grows whole, is thought to school subsequent signifying divisions, like those magnified in S/O/D/A.24 On the other hand, the vertical sign—stirringly, daringly illustrated as such— elbows aside the relatively amorphous phrases preceding it and flaunts its scopic attractions, taking dominion with its direct appeal to the spatial intuition that underlies writing itself, the space originally opened by the mother's withdrawal as primal matrix—a phallic takeover. Yet the specular is schooled at the mother's body, and the linguistic tower formed by S and 0 and D and A fails to obliterate the flashing traces of a visual magic. In short, the sign is full of both daddy and mommy, determinate and indeterminate articulations, hence its ravishing power over the gaping window, the eye of desire.

Such complexities owe little to old symbolizations freshly corrupted by biomaterial rejection and so made "new." Rather, they're the semiarticulated elements of an image, elements held in a live compression, and it's the part of a creative reading to ferret them out. In taking up Lacan's notion of signs as symbolization (that is, as repression), Revolution in Poetic Language completely squelches the old meaning of "symbol" so boringly familiar to students of literature. But especially in the analysis of poetry, the old meaning (pointing as it does to a certain indeterminate wildness) is just as necessary as the new, tainted though it is by its air of suggesting a transcendental, numinous harmony of object and meaning. Even if the poem intersects with Kristeva's view of the modern text as a science or theory of the subject's divided unity (RPL, p. 188), it illustrates that the imagination is a special way of seeing, a body of and for a unique seeing wholly contingent and contextual, and nothing so singular, self-consistent, abstract, abstractable, or replicative as a theory.

Unlike either theory or science, a poem registers and assesses value. Williams locates in desire both a plus (an opportunity for ecstatically perfect fittings) and a minus (a site of deferrals of living, unproductive nostalgia, and "impulse buying")—and this without forcing an ideological ("theological") settlement of the alternatives. As against the Kristevan formula of a body completely at odds with a mind that's swallowed the placebo of bourgeois-religious ideology, the poem itself is of two minds (as many poems are). Although agreeing with the Kristevan knowledge that the body is slain so that signs may live, it nonetheless celebrates the equal and opposite truth that the sign gives life.

Lacking notable phonological, rhythmic, and intonational violence, perhaps its main correlation to "revolution in poetic language" is its initial "empty" syntactic drift and, as well, its castrative linear snips (for example, "tent /of/ bare beams"!). But instead of an instinctual struggle against the hegemony of the sentence (that is, of meaning), we find, I think, a wholly empathic simulation of desire at loose ends, the lack of an energizing focus. When, as happens shortly, the attic finds its raison d'etre (the destiny and sublimity of the sign as fetish), the poem finds its sentence. Beginning with the kick start of the dash and charting its way from the rough coordinates of adverbs and prepositions ("Here /from the street / by"), desire courses to a period, moving eagerly toward its climax.

In her (untranslated) pages on Mallarme, Kristeva treats poetry as vocalic "pulsions," the breathing, aggressive body in conflict with sociolinguistic encrustations.25 But, especially for a modern audience, a poem is, of course, a piece of writing, its voicing at most a sort of mild hallucination. Williams's poem mutes even this simulacrum through its fusty, expositional (yet piquant) title, its scissoring line breaks, its all but graphic sign (which incites the reader to set in motion, through a wished-for flashing circulation, the stilled, rayed asterisks on the page), the cat's cradle zigzags of the periodic sentence, the development toward phrasal cohesion in the closing distichs, and the structural anorectic look of the whole. In contrast to Dickinson's subtle poetics of theatrical aggression, Williams here empties out voice, inverting it into writing and making the latter the anatomy (in both senses) of desire. Rather than put the "subject" on trial, he sidesteps it (quashing the "I" and other pronouns) and concentrates on desire as a passive space open to printless invasions from outside. (In Kristeva's own phrase, quoted earlier, the result "cannot be located in any ego"—yet not because the unthinking chora is in charge.)

There's nothing here, then, of a direct and angry art of the body— at least nothing that has any show-and-tell importance. Again, Kristeva argues that "the text is a practice of rejection, since practice's key moment is heterogeneous contradiction and signifying thesis is its necessary precondition" (RPL, p. 187). But if "anal" negation is the truth of "process-practice," in Williams's poem it remains so buried that there seems to be no point in worming down to it. For instance, far from reflecting nonsymbolized corporeal excitation, the alliteration in "bare beams" is appropriately blunt and denuding, just as it's sympathetically continuous in "ringed" and "running"—the second word even incorporating the first on the run: "r(unn)ing."

Roundly contradicting the Kristevan model is Williams's own conception of a poem as an active "technical" clarification and refinement of a moment of life—that is, as a formal near-transparency, a Euclidean hold on experience, such as that which the soda sign has on the dull geometry of the window, which it centers and fills without any remainder, projecting on it an inescapable form-content. It considers poems to be nothing so much as formal redirections of consciousness. A poem, including this poem about desire, counters desire by putting distance between desire and signs. That distance is form itself (paradoxically, a form built out of signs, but arranged so as to interrogate them and, no less, to make them interrogative). The sort of knowledge Williams himself claimed for poetry is "human" and "essential" and "related to the individual in a new way"; it is much more than a certain knowledge of a textual practice.26 And to him, a proposition is nothing so much as an invitation to the imagination, like a gift to be opened by the hands of the senses. "The Attic Which Is Desire," for instance, begins with a deep, unfinished proposition that, thanks to "Which," already pours itself into relative space. Kristeva's distinction between the sign as thesis and the body as rejection, in a strict dichotomy, bars a third term, the (verbal, visual, and auditory) imagination as a nonhos-tile join between the "psychical" and the "somatic"—one that makes signs larger, not smaller; richer, not poorer.

3. "Orpheus and Eurydice" and "Self-Portrait as the Gesture between Them"

These poems (each too long to quote in its entirety) and the volume they represent, Jorie Graham's The End of Beauty (1987), openly resist the symbolic order but without any sacrifice of contemplation. On the contrary, here contemplation appears even more tyrannical than in John Ashbery's work, an activity that won't quit. At the level of thesis, we find a struggle to be "not one of the instances," but, say, "the air the birds call in, / . . . / the one air holding the screeching separate-ness."27 Consider Graham's Eurydice (who might have taken off from Lacan's comment that "we have, in Eurydice twice lost, the most potent image we can find of the relations between Orpheus the analyst and the unconscious"):28 how this heroine despises Orpheus's masculine gaze, "that perfect shot, . . . that place where I'm erased."29 Still, she herself has already drunk "the poison the beginning"—endured the "thetic break." Besides, only by virtue of that fatal moment—the birth of symbolization—does she feel "the dry soft grass beneath her feet" ("OE," p. 19). She, too, has been organized by it, lifted out of what Kris-teva calls "an opaque and unconscious organicity" (RPL, p. 102). She, too, has a potshot gaze, a point of view, a present, a future, a need to balance hedonism with a conceptual horizon, and, of course, "desire, the ultimate sign of subjectivity" (as Kristeva puts it in her recent book In the Beginning Was Love).30 In consequence, she accepts the all-too-finite yet elusive realm of potentially "true" identities ("doorway open nothing on either side / . . . / through which morning creeps and the first true notes"), if with a certain pre-entombment of tone traceable to the knowledge that she and Orpheus are really still "deep in the earth" ("OE," p. 19)—that is, in the unconscious in which each lives, a negative that transcends and empties each of meaning.

Here, then, is an approximation to the "modern text" as knowledge of culture's dubious bargain. With a mirthless sharpness of dialectic akin to Kristeva's, Graham writes out her desire to "flick the switch, let the new version / in,"31 fight off "rigid inscription,"32 "the one deep-driven nail of point of view."33 She's fascinated by "the torn (what it lets shine/through),"34 and, like her own Penelope, she rejoices in "the unraveling, every night, / the hills and cypresses turning back / into thread, then patience again, then . . . / is it emptiness?"35 Like Irigaray, Graham attends to what she calls "the spirit of/ matter, there, where the words end";36 she seeks among other things the "kingdom without extension, / secret sexual place of / placelessness."37

Nor does her practice fail to advertise her self-division and discontent. In Jean-Francois Lyotard's sense, it's a "gaming" in which the rules spring up as the game proceeds.38 Graham's chief innovation is an elaborate system of deferrals of closure (even if the closure to come may still sound defiant of its function or, on the other hand, all the more powerful for the delays). This recalcitrance shows up in, for instance, the rejection of the idea that there's a (right) word for everything—occasionally Graham balks and simply underlines a blank. It appears, too, as "careless" grammatical rushes that drop punctuation and unsettle syntax, as if dismissing the lures of rhythm (Graham is all avoidance speed). Then, too, as her sentences trail on and on attenuat-ingly, they sniff out extenuating circumstances, catch at straws, resort to variation as a form of postponement. They also chop numerals between lines, outwardly conducting their own rational program with irrelevant patriarchal pomp but secretly taking up the cause of putting off the death that is order and completion.

Graham prolongs the analysis of her surrogates as if analysis itself were a stay of execution, a chance to saw the bar out of the window (never mind the real chances of escape). She's luxuriously as well as severely analytical. In "Self-Portrait as the Gesture between Them," for instance, we find a spiraling activity of description-cum-ratiocination, as we learn that Eve plucked the apple because she was sick of being "ridden and ridden by that slowest of glances the passage of time / staring and staring until the entrails show" ("S-P," p. 3), because she wanted

                         the feeling of being capable,


of being not quite right for the place, not quite the thing that's needed,


the feeling of being a digression not the link in the argument,

a new direction, an offshoot, the limb going on elsewhere,


and liking that error, a feeling of being capable because an error,


of being wrong perhaps altogether wrong a piece from another set


stripped of position stripped of true function


and loving that error, loving that filial form, that break from perfection


where the complex mechanism fails, where the stranger appears in the clearing,


out of nowhere and uncalled for, out of nowhere to share the day.


The conspiratorially prolonged, almost manic explanation circles and circles Eve's error, both to clarify and to bolster it. The numbers themselves, pseudosectional, are "not quite right for the place," even as they mime a "complex mechanism." To be free through digression, outside theology—this is the Eve-principle, post-structural.

Yet not only is this "practice" the strict concomitant of a thematics of tearing, baulking, and error-making; not only is it a cultural manipulation of signs, rather than nature's "no" to culture within culture's domain; it's conceptualized as precisely an opposition to nature's blank determinism, a "break" from its program. Like her Eve, Graham fights being a passive vehicle of a material order with regard to which she was not consulted (and which has no regard to her). Art is what creates a different reality, one marked by the mind, monogrammed by individual perception and arrangement. In Graham's poetry, then, "revolution" is not all on the maddened body's side; here the ego revolts, too, and revolts precisely against the death drive's slow-motion sparkler, which is so pretty (it includes the stars) and so deadly. Graham's poetry attempts to free up what likes to stand on its own and look around, to experiment, to think an almost random thought or two, to wax redundant, not to be pushed along like a cog in a machine for making either meaning or death. Kristeva calls this restiveness of impulse cruel and destructive, but in Graham it seems richer, more ambiguous. Futile as it may be in the long run, it awakens a cheerful complicity within us, like a toddler who breaks away from her mother's, or her father's, clutches and runs a few feet in a delirious flutter before falling to the grass.

Eurydice and Eve are the somewhat contradictory heroines of every poem. They constitute poetry as a double, mutually antagonistic revolution. (And they say it was Eve who let in death.)


1.    Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, trans. Margaret Waller (New York, 1984), p. 79; hereafter abbreviated RPL.

2.   Friedrich Nietzsche, quoted in Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939, trans. Allan Stoekl with Carl R. Lovitt and Donald M. Leslie, Jr., ed. Stoekl (Minneapolis, 1985), p. 199.

3.   Bataille, Visions of Excess, p. 199.

4.   See Kristeva, "My Memory's Hyperbole," trans. Athena Viscusi, in The Female Autograph: Theory and Practice of Autobiography from the Tenth to the Twentieth Century, ed. Domna C. Stanton (1984; Chicago, 1987), pp. 219-35.

5.   Kristeva's understanding of jouissance derives (I take it) from Jacques Lacan, who describes puissance as the "too much" of the drives. For a clear statement of the matter, see Jacqueline Rose, "Introduction—II," in Lacan and the ecole freudienne, Feminine Sexuality, trans. Rose, ed. Juliet Mitchell and Rose (New York, 1985), p. 34.

6.   Kristeva, "From One Identity to an Other," Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, trans. Thomas Gora, Alice Jardine, and Leon S. Roudiez, ed. Roudiez (New York, 1980), p. 137.

7.   Kristeva does not try to detach her own use of the term chora from Plato's characterization of it as a nurse of material objects, as maternal.

8. T. S. Eliot, On Poetry and Poets (New York, 1957), p. 30.

9. Philippe Sollers discusses Lautreamont in these terms in Writing and the Experience of Limits, trans. Philip Barnard with David Hayman, ed. Hayman (New York, 1983), p. 152.

10.   The other competitor for the title of real poetry is the "avant-garde text," but of this last Kristeva says it does "not proceed toward the knowledge of practice, a knowledge made possible through a recasting of the Freudian discovery" (RPL, p. 188). The activist in her also leads her to comment on "the nineteenth-century avant-garde's ideological limitations (which are ultimately its lack of socio-historical 'content')" (RPL, p. 187)—though, in all consistency, her own radical theory cannot accommodate "socio-historical 'content'" except as the superficies of stases. She adds that "Lautreamont's Poems and Mallarme's 'Livre' were the first writings to reveal what Bataille would later point out: 'The meaning of poetry . . . ends in its opposite, in a feeling of hatred for poetry'" (RPL, p. 83).

11.   Edwin Denby discusses the "formal instinct" manifest in dancing and likens it to the same instinct in certain mating birds. See Denby, Dancers, Buildings, and People in the Streets (New York, 1965), pp. 132-33.

12.  Lacan remarked that "the anal level is the locus of metaphor—one object for another, give the faeces in place of the phallus. This shows you why the anal drive is the domain of oblativity, of the gift. Where one is caught short, where one cannot, as a result of the lack, give what is to be given, one can always give something else." On the other hand, still addressing psychoanalysts, he asked: "have you ever, for a single moment, the feeling that you are handling the clay of instinct?" (Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts ofPsycho-Analysis, trans. Alan Sheridan, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller [New York, 1978], pp. 104, 126). Not that there isn't in the writing of poetry something comparable to what Lacan calls "the rain of the brush" in painting, which is governed not by "choice, but something else" (ibid., p. 114).

13.   Emily Dickinson, "The Malay—took the Pearl—," The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, ed. Thomas H.Johnson (Boston and Toronto, 1960), p. 217.

14.   Sigmund Freud, "The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman," Collected Papers, trans. Joan Riviere, 5 vols. (New York, 1959), 2:211.

15.    Quoted in Richard B. Sewall, The Life of Emily Dickinson, 2 vols. (New York, 1974), 1:202,297,202.

16.   "The analyst," notes Michele Montrelay,

often finds a 'fear of femininity' in connection with feminine anxiety, especially in the adolescent. . . . this fear is not a result of phantasies of violation and breaking in (effraction) alone. ... At bottom, it is fear of the feminine body as a non-repressed and unrepresentable object. In other words, femininity, 'according to Jones,' i.e. femininity experienced as real and immediate, is the blind spot of the symbolic processes analysed by Freud. Two incompatible, heterogeneous territories co-exist inside the feminine unconscious: that of representation and that which remains 'the dark continent.'

Montrelay, "Inquiry Into Femininity," m/fl (1978): 92.

17.   Dickinson, "A still—Volcano—Life—," Complete Poems, p. 295.

18.   Luce Irigaray, "This Sex Which Is Not One," This Sex Which Is Not One, trans. Catherine Porter with Carolyn Burke (Ithaca, N.Y., 1985), p. 26.

19.   Roland Barthes, Writer Sollers, trans. Philip Thody (Minneapolis, 1987), p. 90.

20.   Dickinson, "A happy lip—breaks sudden—," Complete Poems, p. 167.

21. See Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (New York, 1925), pp. 69-73.

22.   William Carlos Williams, "The Attic Which Is Desire," Selected Poems, ed. Charles Tomlinson (New York, 1985), p. 73.

23.   Lacan and the ecolefreudienne, "The Phallic Phase and the Subjective Import of the Castration Complex," Feminine Sexuality, p. 119.

24.   Ibid.

25. See Kristeva, La Revolution du langage po'etique: Vavant-garde a la fin du XIXe siecle: Lautreamont et Mallarme (Paris, 1974), for instance, p. 225.

826       Calvin Bedient       Poetry as Shattered Signification

26.   Williams, The Embodiment of Knowledge, ed. Ron Loewinsohn (New York, 1974), pp. 63, 75.

27.   Jorie Graham, "Self-Portrait as Apollo and Daphne," The End of Beauty (New York, 1987), p. 34.

28.   Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, p. 25.

29.   Graham, "Orpheus and Eurydice," The End of Beauty, p. 17; hereafter abbreviated "OE."

30.   Kristeva, In the Beginning Was Love: Psychoanalysis and Faith, trans. Arthur Gold-hammer (New York, 1987), p. 62.

31.   Graham, "The Veil," The End of Beauty, p. 46.

32.   Graham, "Self-Portrait as the Gesture between Them," The End of Beauty, p. 6; hereafter abbreviated "S-P."

33.   Graham, "Imperialism," The End of Beauty, p. 96.

34.   Graham, "The Veil," p. 46.

35.   Graham, "Ravel and Unravel," The End of Beauty, p. 68.

36.   Graham, "Pieta," The End of Beauty, p. 72.

37.   Graham, "Ravel and Unravel," p. 69.

38.   See Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean-Loup Thebaud,/ws* Gaming, trans. Wlad Godzich (Minneapolis, 1985).