Charles Bernstein
English / Comparative Literature 795
Unsettling the Word: Attack of the Difficult Poems (The Aversive Poetics of Estrangement, Disturbance, Expropriation, Abnormality, and the Pataquerical)
Mondays 6-8:50 in KWH
Spring 2011




Because of the Penn calendar, and MLK day on what would have been the first day of class, we don't get started till Jan. 24. But wait ... here is the real start of the seminar!:
North of Invention: A Canadian Poetry Festival
Jan. 20 & 21
with Fred Wah, Nicole Brossard, Christian Bök, Stephen Collis, M. NourbeSe Philip, Jeff Derksen, Lisa Robertson, Jordan Scott, Adeena Karasick, &&
(following days in NY)

Post responses each week to the class listserve
info on list and course requirements here

Required Books
at Penn Book Center:
>Alfred Jarry, Ubu Roi, (Dover Thrift Editions [$3.50] )
>Johanna Drucker, Speclab
Jerome McGann, The Point Is To Change It: Poetry and Criticism in the Continuing Present
>Marjorie Perloff, Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in a New Century
>Leslie Scalapino, How Phenomena Appear to Unfold (2011 edn)
>Hannah Weiner, Open House
>Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

via web used book market:
>McGann, Textual Conditions

Highly Recommended:
Drucker, Combo Meals: Chance Historiesi (order on-line)
Jarry, Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician
(at Penn Book Center or on-line)


from the sustaining air

fresh air

There is the clarity of a shore
And shadow,   mostly,    brilliance

                the billows of August

When, wandering, I look from my page

I say nothing

   when asked

I am, finally, an incompetent, after all


–Larry Eigner, Feb. 1953 (Collected I, p. 87)


Sarah Akebauer's alternative syllabus
through the looking glass

 Class List
info/sub page
list archive
posts to

The first thing to do it to subscribe to the list. With your email and password, you will have access to the list web archive. Each seminar participant should send out a response to the week's reading. These responses are due by Sunday morning. Posts are meant to serve as informal, journal-like, commentary on what interests/engages/concerns/elates/disturbs you in the reading and as a way to continue the discussions form the seminar sessions. (You can alternately think of it simply as a way to share your notes with the rest of us: gloss, critique, etc. In the context of this seminar, glosses and summaries are very useful.)Posts are meant to serve as informal, journal-like, commentary on what interests/engages/concerns/elates/disturbs you in the reading and as a way to continue the discussions form the seminar sessions. (You can alternately think of it simply as a way to share your notes with the rest of us: gloss, critique, etc. In the context of this seminar, glosses and summaries are very useful.)

Each participant should sign up to be a "respondent" for three seminar sessions. Respondents will pose a set of questions for the seminar to answer (post by Friday at lastest). Send your selection of your three choices to me as soon as possible. Respondents are meant to initiate discussion of the work in the seminar (by commentary, intervention, or simply raising questions for the group). The respondents will start start each seminar session. Generally, your listserv response for a week in which you are a respondent would reflect that response, at least in part. There need be no uniformity in the style or form of the listserv posts or responses.

1. Jan. 24: Introduction

Reading: Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Philosophy in the Looking Glass

Pataquerical Investigations & the Paraqueerical Imperative:
Midrashic Antinomianism & the Promiselessness of Bent Studies

The seminar readings necessarily limit examples of works of textual distortion/disturbance --- the pataque(e)rical imperative -- an ever proliferating list. Against my usual practice, I am trying to keep the constellation of readings simpler, with more time on the visiting poets/scholars and on some key work. This means dropping an array of works that I intend to present in my initial remarks, from a work in progress on the history and practice of the pataqueerical: from Heraklitos to the Sophists, Lucretious and the clinemon, Rousseau, Luria and Abulafia, Christopher Smart and Blake, Lautreamont, Sade, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Poe and Dickinson, Swinburne, Nietzche's "Gay Science" to Kierkegaard's trembling irony and Kafka's Kafka, from Stein, Loy, Gillespie, Zukofsky, to a full range of dialect poetry (from McKay and MacDiarmid to Kwesi Johnon and Louise Bennett), to ideolect (Klebnikov’s zaum, Schwitters, Ball), Shklovsky’s ostranie, Duchamp’s bachelor machines, Picabia's diagrams, Joyce’s Wake, de Cherico's Hebdomeros, Artaud, Dada, sound poetry, visual poetry, Beckett, Brecht, Genet''s & Ludlam's & Foreman's theaters, films of Lye, Anger, Brakhage, Jacobs, George & Mike Kuchar, Sonnnberg, Gehr, Hills, Child, Debord’s detournement, onward to Mac Low and Eigner and Kuensler, Steve McCaffery, Christian Bok, Robert Grenier, Juliana Spahr, Harryette Mullen, NourbeSe Philip, Jordan Scott and Nicole Brossard (see those last three at our North of Invention festival), Erin Moure, and Caroline Bergvall, Craig Dworkin, and Kenneth Goldsmith (touched on in Perloff’s new book).

These approaches and poets are charted in my other recent classes and the best introduction to this class would be to review the syllabus for my recent seminars: The Major and the Minor, The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound, and as well as the sequence of my historical 20th century poetry classes: American modernist, American postwar, Non-U.S., and contemporary.

Another crucial extensions would be the poetics of translation, with special reference to Benjamin’s constellations and transcreations, to use Haroldo de Campus’s word. And the media history and language reproduction history (McLuhan and Havelock and Kittler), which will be address in part via Drucker and McGann, but a fuller syllabus is here.

Specifically, the material in my most recent graduate seminar, Poetry and Ideology, especially on class codes (Basil Bernstein, Bourdieu), ideology formation (Adorno, Foucault, Althusser, Mouffe, Jameson), framing (Berger, Goffman, Lakoff), critique of science (Freud, Habermas, Feyerabend, Kuhn), the work of Deleuze & Guatari, provides a crucial foundation for the investigations proposed here Indeed, this seminar begins exactly where "Poetry and Ideology" ended, with the contemporary poetic practices charted in "Mental Fright."

This seminar is as much about the pataque(e)rics of everyday life as about textual deformation. This explains the prominence of Wittgenstein and the readings could have as easily focussed on the poetics of the quotidian (Lefebvre, de Certeaux, Goffman, Cavell, Austin, Raymond and W. C. Williams, Stein, Creeley et al.) as on abonormal poetry. Or then again the performance of the ordinary is always marked by alienation and disturbance. It all ties together.

The extraordinary is never more than an extension of the ordinary.

I welcome the additional of specific reports on poets and poetic practice that participants want to present to the seminar, including providing additional reading, so for responses, please consider this (either in terms of a poet listed in the syllabus, in this note, from the North of Invention festival or KWH visitor, or otherwise/otherhow.

Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions, which will be out in May, engages some of these motifs.

2. Jan. 31: Pataphysics

“After drinking, we take a walk through foggy streets, with Mendacious in the lead.” [Jarry]

LitEncy on Alfred Jarry (1873-1907)
Alfred Jarry, Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician
on the 100th anniversary of its publication
a few copies at Penn Book Center or or you can order from there or on-line
OR: use this pdf for key passages, which will be the focus of our discussion & suffices
or this pdf of full book.
Also take a look at Jarry's Ubu Roi, $3.50 ( (Dover Thrift Editions [$3.50]: I've ordered enough copies for whole seminar at Penn Book Center); I am interested in considering the relation of Pataphysics to theater and especially poet's theater.
Steve McCaffery, "The 'Pataphyics of Auchwitz": pdf
Further reading:
Ubu Roi in French (recommended if you read French!)
Jarry, "How to Construct a Time Machine" tr. Shattuck
Film of Pere Ubu by Jean-Christophe Avery (1965)
Christian Bök, EPILOGUE from Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science)
Bök and Darren Werschler, Millenial Pataphysics: The Postmodern Apocalypse of Science (by Bok and Darren Wershler-Henry)
Asger Jorn's "Pataphsyics: A Religion in the Making" at UBU
Evergreen Review Pataphysics issue, which has except from above and Pere Ubu
Gilles Deleuze, “An Unrecognized Precursor to Heidegger: Alfred Jarry” in Essays Critical and Clinical, pp 91-98; beg. of this here.
Shattuck summary of Jarry

Additional Jarry resources c/o D.S.
1. King Turd including King Turd Enslaved &Turd Cuckolded, trans. G. Legman (the great Amercian erotic folklorist &dirty joke collector Gershon Legman) and Beverley Keith (his wife), 1953. Newly scanned PDF with OCR. The Dover edition apes this edition, with some notable emendations!
2. Popular Lectures and Addresses, Vol. I, Constitution of Matter, 2nd (enlarged) edition, London, 1891, by Sir William Thompson (Lord Kelvin). Google PDF with OCR. One of the many books Jarry writes through in the construction of Exploits &Opinions. Chapters 37 &38 repeat several passages frm this beautiful work nearly word for word.
3. The Patapysician's Library: An Exlporation of Alfred Jarry's livres pairs, 2000, Ben Fisher. PDF with OCR. An exhaustive survey of the 27 books (as in the 27 canoncial works acknowledged by the Catholic Church) that structure a great deal of
Exploits &Opinions (with its 27 devoted chapters), wch are also confiscated &outlined by the bailiff in the opening chapters.
4. my Dear coUntess ,
2007. HTML. A word-by-word video-hypertext translation of book 8, chapter 7 of Expoits &Opinions. A controlled lexicon of contemporary literary works is filtered back into Faustroll's posthumous telepathic letter to Lord Kelvin from the Ethernity.

introduced by Katie Price
Resondent: Sarah, Astrid; Danny on deformance

At KWH: Charles Alexander lunch session also on Tues., Feb 1 at noon
At KWH: Nathaniel Mackey on Tues, Feb 1 at 6

note: Mackey's disccussion of the "phantom limb"(in The Politics of Poetic Form) and "palimpsestic stagger" (referring to Cecil Taylor)
At KWH: CECILIA VICUÑA a screening of Kon Kon on Thursday, February 3, at 6:00 PM

3. Feb. 7 Michael Davidson lecture and seminar visit.
6pm lecture at Kelly Writers House Art Cafe: "Pregnant Men: Modernism, Disability, and Biofuturity in Djuna Barnes"
Davidson will meet with us after the lecture & a reception in the seminar room to discuss these four essays (psswd required):
from Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics (2003):

1. "Compulsory Homosociality: Charles Olson, Jack Spicer, and the Gender of Poetics": pdf
& from Concerto for Left Hand: Disability and the Defamiliar Body (2008):

note: photo is of Paul Wittgensein, Ludwig's brother.
2. "Strange Blood: Hemophobia and the Unexplored Boundaries of Queer Nation" (rff file)
3. "Missing Larry: The Poetics of Disability in Larry Eigner" (rff file)
4. "Universal Design: The Work of Disability in an Age of Globalization"(rff file)
Optional Background reading:
On Larry Eigner (EPC page)
Grenier Eigner intro (see also Ben Frieldlander's intro at Gale)
"Eigner's Fierce Calculus" and discussion, Jacket 2
Eigner on PennSound (listen to short poem and comment, sections 1 and 2)
from Another Time in Fragments
Eigner in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E #1 at Eclipse
On Disability: The Disabilities Studies Reader, ed. Leonard Davis
See also Susan Schultz's discussion of first-person Alzheimer narartives.
respondents: Astrid, Sam, Trisha, Arvind

4/5 Feb. 14 and 21: Philosophical Investigations: Conditions Ordinary and Extraordinary: Wittgenstein and the Pataque(e)rical

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (1945), 4th edn, at Penn Book Center
see esp. §§1-46, §§89-134, §§203-360; part 2: iv (p. 178), vii (p. 184), x-xi (pp. 190-229)
use of "queer": esp. 38, 93, 94, 196, 242
Online PI here (3d edn)
Marjorie Perloff
Introductory Chapter to Wittgenstein's Ladder (1996):
Wittgenstein's Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary published by the University of Chicago Press (1996)
Rosmarie Waldrop: Reproduction of Profile (1987) & Danny Snelson's sound montage [to come].
David Antin, "Wittgenstein among the Poets" on Perloff's LW &&
Respondents Feb 12: Astrid, Maria & Feb. 21: Nese, Sarah, Arvind
further thinking: on the parapraxis of everyday life: Freud's Psychopathology of Everyday Life
also the work of J.L. Austin


6. Feb. 28: Al Filreis seminar visit: Teaching Modernist & Contemporary Poetry

•listen to the "Alternative Poetries and Alternative Pedagogies" discussion at KWH led by Joan Retallack
•watch Creartive Campus KWH TV spot
PoemTalk: selected programs: 36 Capstone/HD; 34 Olson; 33 Flarf ; 32 Howe/Dickinson; 31 Grenier; 28 Spicer; 26 Lindsay; 21 Bernstein; 15 Hejinian
•PennSound: selected page: Rothenberg, Waldman, Ashbery, Armantrout, Stevens, Bergvall, Myles, Pound, Williams, Creeley, Ted Berrigan.
Filreis, English 88 syllabus
Bernstein, English 62 syllabus (note Poem Profiler and Wreading Exp. List)
Peter Middleton & Nickey Marsh, from Teaching Modernist Poetry (2010): intro, Filreis (116ff), Olsen (140ff), Sheppard (p. 158ff), Bernstein (170ff), Middleton (179ff).
Further resources: Brian Kim Stefans, Introduction to Electronic Literature
respondents: Caroline, Amy, Andrea, Sarah

March 7 Spring Break No Class

7. March 14 Johanna Drucker seminar visit
co-sponsored by EDIT
NOTE: we will begin at 6:30pm! with public lecture in Arts Cafe:
A Conversation about Aesthetics and Materiality"
and after adjourn to the seminar room to meet with Drucker.

(at Penn Book Center)
from Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity
Johanna Drucker's Artists Book site
Drucker and Jerome McGann, Images as the Text: Pictographs and Pictographic Logic Respondent: Nese
Drucker interview by Matthew Kirschenbaum, PMC 7.3, 1997 (via Project Muse: this isa hypertext, image rich version, but doesn't seem to be working); or text only version for nonsubscribers
Drucker, "Digital Ontologies: The Ideality of Form in/and Code Storage--or--Can Graphesis Challenge Mathesis?," Leonardo 34:2, 2001 (via Project Muse)

My Drucker intro to Figuring the Word
Drucker's books in Annenberg Rare Book & Ms Library
A Century of Artists' Books
Drucker at PennSound (note SVA lecture, related to Sweat Dreams)
My review of The Visible Word, in Modernism/modernity, 2:3, 1995
___, "Response as Such" (on Drucker) in My Way; Speeches and Poems
Combo Meals: Chance Historiesi (order on-line)
respondents: Caroline, Danny, Arvind, Andrea


8. March 21 Hannah Weiner

Hannah Weiner, Open House (at Penn Book Center)
EPC Page:
my intro (late) and early
Weiner at PennSound:
March MP3 (26:48)  Note: text begins here in PEPC edition: follow along!
LINEbreak interview & transcript
Niblock film
Radio Reading Project
About HW:
via EPC:
Patrick Durgin, Psychosocial Disability and Post-Ableist Poetics: The "Case" of Hannah Weiner's Clairvoyant Journals from Contemporary Women's Writing (PDF)
Caroline Bergvall, BODY & SIGN: Some thoughts around the work of Aaron Williamson, Hannah Weiner, and Henri Michaux from Jacket #22
Maria Damon, Hannah Weiner Beside Herself
Judith Goldman, Hannah=hannaH: Politics, Ethics, and Clairvoyance in the Work of Hannah Weiner from differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 12.2, 2001
Joyelle McSweeney, Disabled Texts and the Threat of Hannah Weiner in boundary 2 (2009) (access via library e-reources)
Juliana Spahr on Weiner: pdf of draft.
respondents: Trisha, Sam, Maria, Nese
Further Readings:

Starting with the practices of "Mental Fright," we might consider the set of reading there, along with Eigner, Weiner, and Scalapino here, as part of a fuller consideration of the issue of textual disturbance. Special focus on Mac Low useful:
Jackson Mac Low:
my intro
3d Biblical Poem (1955) and brief account here
Selection from Representative Works 
Mac Low audio at PennSound:
"Black Tarantula Gatha"(scroll down)
recommended: Radio Reading Project
**perhaps one of the participants might want to make a report on Mac Low for our specific context here**
also, as noted, Jordan Scott will be part of the North of Invention festival; his use of stuttering is work singling out:
Jordan Scott from Blurt
about the book (includes and excerpt).

Moreover, these two poets are also quite relevant:
At KWH: Vanessa Place Thurs., March 24 at 6
At KWH: Derek Bealieu Thurs., March 31 at 6

9. 10. March 28 & April 4 Jerome McGann & Patacriticism
co-sponsored by EDIT
McGann lecture April 4 6pm in Arts Cafe: "Philology in a New Key: Poe, Decentered Culture, and Critical Method"
followed by seminar visit

March 28:
Textual Conditions: buy via web used book market
"Radiant Textuality"
"Texts in N-Dimensions and Interpretation in a New Key" (pdf of essay)
"Marking Texts in Many Dimensions"

Rossetti archive
Bernstein, "McGann Agonist"
respondents: Andrea: reflection on Drucker & after; Amy, Nese, Sam, Caroline (on Rosetti archive)
April 4:
The Point Is To Change It: Poetry and Criticism in the Continuing Present
(at Penn Book Center)
Patacriticism: the web site
The Drucker/McGann "Ivanhoe Game"
Deformance essay: New Literary History (augmented); public version
PennSound deformance page
Further Reading:
Romantic Ideology
Black Riders: The Visible Language of Modernism
N.B McGann reads Poe at PennSound
respondenst: Danny, Valeria, Andrea

11. April 11 Leslie Scalapino's Essays

How Phenomena Appear to Unfold (expanded edition of her essays due out in Feb.)
(and using this book to continue the discussion of pataque(e)rical essays)
further research:
EPC page (note linked essays about Scalapino and new Scalapino web site)
PennSound page (LINEbreak program, video, readings)
respondents: Trisha, Valeria
NOTE: we will end the Scalapono portion of the seminar at 8pm and we conclude with a
presentaton by Robin Seguy on digital mark-up of literary works.

At KWH: Kit Robinson Thurs., April 14 at 6

12. April 18: Seminar Participants Present Plans for Final Projects, Ongoing Research, etc. (Note we need to do this a bit early because final class will be Perloff lecture and discussion.)

13. April 25 Marjorie Perloff (final class)
Tues., April 26 at 3: meeting with Perloff at KWH

we will meet at 6:30pm in Arts Cafe (so class will end at 9:20pm). After the lecture, we will go up to the seminar room without Perloff to discuss her work. She will meet with our group on Tues. April 26 at 3 in the Arts Cafe (rsvp to me).
Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in a New Century new from University of Chicago Press (from Penn Book Center)
630pm: Perloff Fellows lecture in KWH Arts Cafe: you must rsvp <>
Tuesday, April 26, 10:00 am: Perloff discussion, hosted by Al Filreis.
Tuesday, April 26: 3-4pm in the Arts Cafe: Perloff meets with our seminar: let me know if you can attend.
Advanced Study:
Perloff at PennSound Close Listening Interview
Perloff EPC page

selected Perloff essays/interviews relevant to our discussion: