“The Warp and Woof of Every Moment”

Our debt to tradition through reading and conversation is so massive, our protest or private addition so rare and insignificant, — and this commonly on the ground of other reading or hearing, — that, in a large sense, one would say there is no pure originality. All minds quote. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, qtd. in Catherine Zobal Dent, “Introductions and Acknowledgements,” Special Cluster on Quotation and Originality, Modern Language Studies

The beginning of my long poem The Philosophy of Decomposition/Re-composition as Explanation (Delete Press, 2011) has been reprinted in the new issue of Modern Language Studies as part of a special cluster on “Quotation and Originality” edited by Catherine Zobal Dent.  This excerpt was published alongside my essay “Notes Toward an Interventionalist Conceptualism,” a piece in which I critique what Kenneth Goldsmith and Craig Dworkin might call “non-interventionalist” conceptualism.  What I’m calling “interventionalist conceptualism” refuses to subordinate thinking over reading, concept over craft.  Here are a few excerpts:

If non-interventionalist conceptualism operates under the sign of Robert Rauschenberg’s “This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so” (e.g., the newspaper is a book if a say so, this collection of legal documents is poetry if I say so, etc.), then interventionalist conceptualism operates under the sign of Jasper Johns’ “Take an object, do something to it. Do something else to it.”  In the simplest sense, The Philosophy of Decomposition is a long series of doings, of minute actions performed on two pre-existing texts.  It is an extended exploration of the else.

If the non-interventionalist is the sushi chef that requires only one cut to prepare the meal, then the interventionalist conceptualist is the sous-chef that turns the main course, by sleight of hand, into a gigantic, edible garnish.

I was also happy to have recently heard that the first five pages of The Philosophy of Decomposition will be included in The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, ed. Davis Schneiderman (Lake Forest College Press, 2013).

~ by Michael Leong on April 7, 2012.

One Response to ““The Warp and Woof of Every Moment””

  1. […] conceptual writer, and I’ve been writing about conceptualism quite a bit these days.  In my recent article in Modern Language Studies, I explore the limitations of an “impure” conceptualism and […]

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