Literary Criticism

Tall Ships

You enter a long, dark corridor. Indistinct luminous shapes seem to move in place on the walls. Then a human figure rises, walks towards you, stands and gazes at you, becomes almost intimate with you before turning back whence it came…

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George Quasha and Charles Stein

You enter a long, dark corridor. Indistinct luminous shapes seem to move in place on the walls. Then a human figure rises, walks towards you, stands and gazes at you, becomes almost intimate with you before turning back whence it came. In this award-winning interactive installation created by video projection, world-renowned artist Gary Hill presents an underworld-like journey from which each visitor returns to daylight somehow transformed. The second book in an ongoing series of the Quasha & Stein dialogue on Gary Hill leads you on an initiatory journey that parallels the experience of the installation itself. The book is beautifully illustrated in duotone to give a living sense of the actual installation as it appeared in the Whitney Museum (New York) and many other museums throughout the US and Europe.


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Thomas the Obscure

Before Sartre, before Beckett, before Robbe-Grillet, Maurice Blanchot created the “new novel, ” the ultimate post-modern fiction…
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Maurice Blanchot and Robert Lamberton (Translator)

Before Sartre, before Beckett, before Robbe-Grillet, Maurice Blanchot created the “new novel, ” the ultimate post-modern fiction. Written between 1932 and 1940, Blanchot’s first novel, here brilliantly translated by Robert Lamberton, contains all the remarkable aspects of his famous and perplexing invention, “the ontological narrative”—a tale whose subject is the nature of being itself. This paradoxical work discovers being in the absence of being, mystery in the absence of mystery, both to be searched for limitlessly. As Blanchot launches this endless search in his own masterful way, he transforms the possibilities of the novel. First issued in English in 1973 in a limited edition, this re-issue includes an illuminating essay on translation by Lamberton.


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Unavowable Community, The

The Unavowable Community is an inquiry into the nature and possibility of community, asking whether there can be a community of individuals that is truly “communal”…

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Maurice Blanchot

The Unavowable Community is an inquiry into the nature and possibility of community, asking whether there can be a community of individuals that is truly “communal.” The problem, for Blanchot, is that the very terms of an ideal community make an “avowal” of membership in it a violation of the terms themselves. This meditation ranges from the problematic effects of a defect in language to actual historical experiments in community. The latter involves the life and work of George Bataille whose concerns (e.g. “the negative community”) occupy the foreground of Blanchot’s discussion. Taking as his point of departure an essay by French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, Blanchot appears once again as one of the most attentive readers of what is truly challenging in French thought. His deep interest in the fiction of Marguerite Duras extends this inquiry to include “The Community of Lovers,” emerging from certain themes in Duras’ recit, The Malady of Death. As Blanchot’s first direct treatment of a subject that has long figured in or behind his work, this small but highly concentrated book stands as an important addition to his own contribution to literary, philosophical, social, and political thought, figuring as it does at the center of the emerging concern for a redefinition of politics and community. Readers of Blanchot know not to expect answers to the great questions that move his thought – rather, to live with the questions at the new level to which they have been raised in his discourse.


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Untam’d Wing

Jeffrey C. Robinson

The jazz term “riff” is short for “riffle”—“make rough.” In Untam’d Wing: Riffs on Romantic Poetry, scholar/poet Jeffrey Robinson sets out much like a jazz musician to renew a great body of work (say, Miles Davis on George Gershwin)—“to recast,” as he says in the Prefatory Note, “what have become monuments, with all the inertness of passive appreciation that monumentality encourages, into living forms”…

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Jeffrey C. Robinson

The jazz term “riff” is short for “riffle”—“make rough.” In Untam’d Wing: Riffs on Romantic Poetry, scholar/poet Jeffrey Robinson sets out much like a jazz musician to renew a great body of work (say, Miles Davis on George Gershwin)—“to recast,” as he says in the Prefatory Note, “what have become monuments, with all the inertness of passive appreciation that monumentality encourages, into living forms.” If he “roughs up” some of our long-time favorites, it’s not to revise, and certainly not to improve, but on the contrary to reveal a timeless dimension that is of the very nature of the Romantic: “I would define a ‘romantic’ poem, of whatever vintage, as one that invites its own renewal in every present.” With all the boldness and subtle care of the poets he celebrates, Robinson stakes his “life-long involvement as reader, teacher, and scholar/critic of Romantic poetry” on an equally committed “absorption and belief in the discoveries of modern and contemporary experimental poetry.” Like a true marriage it lays bare both parties.

“Untam’d Wing is a heady conglomeration of poetic intensities and re-visionings, of the Romantic mother lode. Only a poet deeply embedded in and enthralled by this realm could take wild liberties and shape them into a contemporary volume of such curious and inventive range. Jeffrey Robinson is a scholar and has lived inside the Romantic body for decades, and precisely because of this his imagination is highly attuned to further Romantic nuance…. He sheds bright light on meaning and message. He is the scientist/artist finally breaking free of shackles.”
—Anne Waldman, from the foreword


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Useful Knowledge

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Gertrude Stein

Useful Knowledge is pleasant and therefore it is very much to be enjoyed,” writes Gertrude Stein in her “Advertisement for this Book”—an apt characterization of the experience of reading it sixty years after its disappearance from print. Despite her long expatriation, she “always remained” in her words, “firmly born in Allegheny Pennsylvania.” Indeed, physical detachment from her homeland seems only to have deepened her love for the country, a passion very nearly erotic, that blossomed in this private remembrance that is both tender and humorous. War, Woodrow Wilson, Chicago, Sherwood Anderson – such is the range of her intimate concerns. As for the significant questions to which her writings respond: “Wherein Iowa differs from Kansas and Indiana” and “Wherein the South differs from the North,” useful knowledge indeed, when the thought is opened along with the word in these extraordinary prose inventions. Keith Waldrop’s introduction furnishes new insight into the process and development of Stein’s infamous style as always more intricately evolving than is recognized. And Edward Burns provides “useful knowledge about Useful Knowledge,” the kind of information about Stein’s text that we rarely find when we most want it.


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Viewer

Haunting and strangely provocative new installations by artist Gary Hill, celebrated worldwide in major museums and galleries, are introduced through a highly readable essay by two of the artist’s long-time poet/artist collaborators…

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George Quasha and Charles Stein

Haunting and strangely provocative new installations by artist Gary Hill, celebrated worldwide in major museums and galleries, are introduced through a highly readable essay by two of the artist’s long-time poet/artist collaborators. In a sort of “lineup,” seventeen day-workers, full-size, stare at you from the wall, eerily present by the magic of video-projection (Viewer). A solitary Native American stares you in the eyes, while he stares at himself from an adjacent wall—then the projections switch position: the watcher becomes the watched and the watched becomes the watcher (Standing Apart). This third in an ongoing series of the Quasha & Stein dialogue on Gary Hill is beautifully illustrated in full color to give a living sense of the actual installations.


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Wordsworth Day by Day

Jeffrey C. Robinson

What if the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth were alive today? Jeffrey Robinson performs an act of textual magic that gives us a sense of what that might be like…
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Jeffrey C. Robinson

What if the great Romantic poet William Wordsworth were alive today? Jeffrey Robinson performs an act of textual magic that gives us a sense of what that might be like. Between August 2002 and August 2003 he kept a diary while reading Wordsworth and found that work of 200 years ago shows up powerfully as a fact of daily life. Experiments with spontaneous literary criticism tease out a lifetime of familiarity with the poet, his surroundings, and Romantic culture. “History” now opens to chance juxtapositions with events in the world and Robinson’s own mind and quotidian experience, including his own Wordsworth-related poems in “open forms,” along with running poetic commentaries. To renew familiar work by discovering direct ways into its “animating principles,” Wordsworth is read through the ears and eyes of twentieth-century experimental poetry and poetics. This shows Wordsworth’s own experimentalism and principle of “the life of things” to be still vital to poetic life now. Robinson’s critical response belongs to the tradition of H.D., Charles Olson, Ronald Johnson,and Susan Howe.

Praise for Wordsworth Day by Day

“Boldly flaunting the crossing of genres, Jeffrey Robinson’s Wordsworth Day by Day is literary criticism’s fully present response to that medieval classic and devotional text, the Book of Hours. With stunning scholarship and passion Robinson creates a post-modern breviary on Wordsworth’s poetics that is rigorously meditative and inquiring in its illuminating stroll. A visionary diary, a day by day collaboration with Wordsworthian vitality and the slow grace of that poetic freedom.”—Maureen Owen, author of American Rush.

“Jeffrey Robinson’s extraordinary book goes way past criticism ‘as we know it,’ to offer a reading-through (sometimes, in Cage’s phrase, a writing-through) of Wordsworth & other arch Romantics. In the manner of a spiritual diary he sets out to talk – on a day to day basis & in the presence of [Wordsworth’s] poems – of what he sees in them & often, beautifully, to transform or, as he says, deform them. More than that, as in his other recent work combining Romanticism & the experimental modernism to which it leads, Robinson brings Wordsworth into the present, makes of him not only his William Wordsworth but ours as well.”—Jerome Rothenberg, author of Khurbn and A Paradise of Poets


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Z-D Generation, The

This book is one of the few clear and still possible manifestos of our time…

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This book is one of the few clear and still possible manifestos of our time, composed by Ed Sanders (born August 17, 1939), American poet, singer, social activist, environmentalist, author and publisher.