Poetry & Barthes

Anglophone Responses 1970–2000

Calum Gardner

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ISBN: 9781786949394

Publication: October 11, 2018

Series: Poetry &... 7

What kinds of pleasure do we take from writing and reading? What authority has the writer over a text? What are the limits of language’s ability to communicate ideas and emotions? Moreover, what are the political limitations of these questions? The work of the French cultural critic and theorist Roland Barthes (1915–80) poses these questions, and has become influential in doing so, but the precise nature of that influence is often taken for granted. This is nowhere more true than in poetry, where Barthes’ concerns about pleasure and origin are assumed to be relevant, but this has seldom been closely examined. This innovative study traces the engagement with Barthes by poets writing in English, beginning in the early 1970s with one of Barthes’ earliest Anglophone poet readers, Scottish poet-theorist Veronica Forrest-Thomson (1947–75). It goes on to examine the American poets who published in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and other small but influential journals of the period, and other writers who engaged with Barthes later, considering his writings’ relevance to love and grief and their treatment in poetry. Finally, it surveys those writers who rejected Barthes’ theory, and explores why this was. The first study to bring Barthes and poetry into such close contact, this important book illuminates both subjects with a deep contemplation of Barthes’ work and a range of experimental poetries.

Calum Gardner is a poet, critic, and editor of Zarf poetry magazine based in Glasgow.

Introduction: A Great Indelicacy
  • ‘Insular and Pragmatical Minds’: Barthes’ First Readers in English
  • Barthes and the Poets
1. Barthes and Forrest-Thomson
  • ‘S/Z’
  • ‘Drinks with a Mythologue’
  • ‘L’effet du réel’
  • Poems with Footnotes
  • ‘After Intelligibility’
  • Poetic Artifice
  • Conclusion
2. Barthes in America
  • Robert Duncan’s ‘Kopóltuš’
  • Ron Silliman’s Nine Poets
  • Bernadette Mayer’s Experiments
  • Lyn Hejinian’s Erotics of Materials
  • Conclusion
3. Barthes in Journals
  • Approaching Poetry Journal Culture
  • Poetics and Art Journalism: New York and Paris
  • Barthes in the ‘Language-Centred’ Poetics Journals
  • Wch Way
  • Michael Palmer’s Barthes
  • L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E’s Barthes
  • ‘Code Words’
  • Open Letter
  • Barthes in Poetics Journal
  • UK Poetics
  • Barthes and Oulipo
  • Conclusion
4. Barthes and Love
  • Reading A Lover’s Discourse
  • ‘Lonely Girl Phenomenology’
  • Anne Carson: Nuance and Eros
  • Deborah Levy: The Suburbs of Hell
  • Kristjana Gunnars: Roland Barthes in Winnipeg
  • Gunnars’ Transition: Longing to Zero
  • Conclusion
5. Rejections of Barthes
  • Rejection and/as Influence
  • The Signifier as Fetish
  • Barthes and Race
  • John Yau and ‘The Death of the Author’
  • Queer Barthes
  • New Narrative Writing and Queer Subjecthood
  • Acker, Barthes, Bataille
  • Conclusion
Conclusion: Nothing Better Than A Theory

“Calum Gardner's subtle and shifting account of how the work of Roland Barthes has been read and re-used by English-speaking poets since the 1970s is a tour de force that will long resonate with poetry specialists and literary theorists alike.”
Dr Andy Stafford, Leeds University


“Roland Barthes had little interest in poetry, but, surprisingly, his occasional remarks on the subject and thoughts about literature in general played a provocative role, Calum Gardner shows, for poets in the UK and especially the US and contributed especially to arguments about L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writing. Gardner’s lucid and wide-ranging discussion shrewdly illuminates the odd fortunes of literary ideas.”
Professor Jonathan Culler, Cornell University

Format: Ebook

232 Pages

Copyright: © 2018

ISBN: 9781786949394

Publication: October 11, 2018

Series: Poetry &... 7

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