As reading against forges anachronistic or improper [[connections]], as it develops rampant and wonderful misreadings, it rewrites literary history.
That is, moments of collective resistance in the 90's, most famously in the Zapatista revolution and the WTO mobilization sought large and overarching goals through multiple voices concerned with multiple projects and employing multiple tactics.
I strive to read against Spahr, which is her own term for a reader-centric reading strategy outlined in “[[A, B, C]]: Reading [[Against]] Emily Dickinson and Gertrude Stein.”
Spahr uses this disruption of the [[authority]] of the writing [[subject]] to envision a new way of approaching literary texts, and, in light of this, the strategy of reading [[Against]] is decidedly insurgent.
Reading [[Against]] “is not a genealogy, but a rethinking of reading and the connection between texts” (283), and one that understands that poetry – that all literature – is common.
I [[begin]] my section of plateaus on feminist poetics with [[Response]] (1996), the first collection of poetry by the now central experimental poet, Juliana Spahr.
For Spahr, the [[nineties]] in poetry saw this practical [[experimentation]] as intrinsically tied to the potentials of poetry for similar experimentation in language, generalized under Spahr’s wide-reaching notion of turning from standard English.
They were, as she describes them, “successful thought [[experiments]] in what a universalism with room for particularity might look like on a very practical level” (173-4).
These two [[preoccupations]], and their tenuous relationship with how [[we]] make meaning using language in poetry, would become the major thematics of Spahr’s later work, in which collections like thisconnectionofeveryonewithlungs and Fuck You – Aloha – I Love You have become mainstays in contemporary anthologies and course syllabi.
Spahr sees this turning from standard English as necessarily antiimperialist and, in some ways, anticapitalist, and argues that this vein of poetry was fuelled by the nineties’ “perfect storm” of political resistance and [[experimentation]].
Reading Response as Temporary Autonomous Zone
It takes as a starting point an understanding that all writing is egoic, but it also refuses the [[authority]] of a controlling writing subject.
Response tests the waters of poetry’s potentials for [[resistance]], for [[experimentation]].\n
I begin with Spahr because I see in her work both [[a refusal to entirely deny her subjectivity, and a reliance on that subjective point-of-view to witness]].
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While this summary of reading [[Against]] may, at first, sound reactionary or revolutionary, and thus in opposition to postanarchism generally, its conceptions of the multiple and its privileging of rhizomatic connection actually make is a mode of alternative and experimentation par excellence.
Reading against explicitly [[opposes]] the modes of [[tradition]]al [[criticism]].
While rarely explicitly anarchist, Spahrs work in Response (and certainly after) can be characterized with the same insurgent attitude that her concept of reading [[Against]] suggests.
In this essay, Spahr considers the [[connections]] between Stein and Dickinson, asserting that “[b]oth writers create a reader-centered poetics. One which, without denying that the author is an authority, denies that the author is the authority and establishes a similar [[authority]] for the reader” (281).
As Spahr contends, “[[Against]] is the bastard cousin of [[Bloomian]] ‘influence’ in that it denies or skews issues of originality and pursues misreading” (281).
In [[Response]], these thematics are nascent, tentative.
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In her article, “The [[90’s]],” a survey of experimental poetry from the [[nineties]] published in boundary 2 in the fall of 2009, she outlines a poetic climate fraught with debate between “writing that turns from standard English and one that upholds standard English” (173).