Two great reviews of Notes on Conceptualisms, by Karla Kelsey in Octopus; and Thom Donovan at Bombsite.

Am rereading Notes on Conceptualisms and am interested in some recent discussion and thoughts – of Sina Queyras for example, or in the comment section of this post by Nada Gordon – about Place/Fitterman’s statement that Conceptual writing is allegorical writing.

This is what Thom Donovan has to say on the role of allegory for Conceptual writing:

The term allegory they derive from a discourse after Goethe, and radicalized in the 20th century by Walter Benjamin. A work of art is allegorical if it resists hermeneutic closure and remains open to multiple levels of interpretation. As Benjamin writes in his book The Origin of German Tragic Drama: “Allegories, are, in the realm of thoughts, what ruins are in the realm of things.” For Benjamin, this fleeing/fleeting quality of cultural products (virtual ruins) relates to their place within a capitalist economy. After Benjamin, Fitterman/Place view conceptualist works as allegorical insofar as they exceed their symbolic meaning, thus elude the equation of significance with commodification.

I had the feeling that in Notes on Conceptualisms the term was used perhaps partly, or maybe precisely, because it would seem out of place and make people wonder (‘thinkership’ instead of readership).

I like how the appropriating and reframing are reminiscent of Situationism, détournement.  What I love about (the idea of) Day is that it is the purest example of conceptual writing, a snapshot of a moment.

My question is what is it allegorical of ? I think that (at least Kenneth Goldsmith’s Day) is an allegory of the real (of language). A schism, a fissure from language altered only to the extent that it was ‘poured’ into the mold of a book. Perhaps Conceptual writing in general is allegorical of processes that are immanent to language (as in Christian Bök’s Eunoia).

The reason I think that Conceptual writing has some/many people confused (me at least) and riled up, is that – in its radical rejection of personal expression – it is so completely other to what everyone else is doing (not that there is no personal expression in Conceptual writing, any writing will have personal expression, like for example the many mistakes KG says are in Day that are impossible to edit out because it is so unreadable). However transient or long-lasting it will be, Conceptual writing is, I think, a true event in contemporary poetry because it has arisen out of what was there, but forced a rupture in our understanding of poetry.

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