for information on the pdf, from Green Integer / Sun & Moon, go here.
this page refers to an edition that is no longer in print, from Northwestern.

Content’s Dream: Essays, 1975-1984

A celebrated introduction to contemporary American poetics by one of its leading practitioners.



at Google Books: preveiw


"Maintaining Space (on Clark Coolidge)
"The Academy in Peril: William Carlos Williams Meets the MLA" (1983)
"The Stadium of Explanation" on Baudrillard's The Mirror of Production: go to last page (99)
in Code of Signals pdf.
"Three or Four Things I Know about Him" -- see Eclipse for A Hundred Posters #26 (1978)
"The Second War and Postmodern Memory" -- Postmodern Culture

First published in 1986, and now a classic for all who care about the poetry and poetics of the late twentieth-century, Content’s Dream is a witty, consummately intelligent, and ever stylish collection of essays by one of the country’s most innovative and influential poets, whose work has come to be associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, the magazine he coedited at the time these essays were being written.

Addressing a wide range of arts and ideas, Bernstein moves rapidly from philosophical reflections on Ludwig Wittgenstein and Stanley Cavell, to the film antics of Mad Max and the cinema of Stan Brakhage, from the paintings of Arakawa to the poetics of William Carlos Williams and Robert Creeley, from modernist poetry of Gertrude Stein, Laura Riding, and Louis Zukofsky to the contemporary poetry of Jackson Mac Low, Lyn Hejinian, and Ron Silliman. Bernstein’s essays are poetic enactments rather than abstract theories, embodying in the way they are written the aesthetic values they passionately and eloquently express.

While providing an essential introduction to the innovative poetry and poetics of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, Bernstein’s investigations center on the relation of art to politics and specifically the politics of poetic form. He also explores the conditions, experiences, and alienation of everyday life and the ethical traps of characterization and representation. Bernstein imagines a “thinking” poetry of both process and critique that acknowledges – and responds to – the intractability and complexity of contemporary cultural and social problems.

At once irreverent and politically engaged, complex and comic, as indebted to Groucho Marx as it is to Karl, Content’s Dream is essay writing at its most exuberant and profound.

“Certain works are recognized as defining an epoch. . . .Postmodernism is now a distinctly articulated cultural formation.Within it, Content’s Dream has been without question one of its defining critical and aesthetic documents.” —Jerome McGann, University of Virginia

“A terrific manifestation of an exemplary contemporary intellectual forging what we might consider a conscience for his time.” —Charles Altieri, University of California, Berkeley

“[Content’s Dream] is the most exciting and challenging book of essays I have read in quite some time. The range of reference, style, and thought makes for stimulating reading, the kind that inevitably leads to other reading (as well as re-reading).” —Hank Lazer, Missouri Review

avant-garde and modernism

Marjorie Perloff and Rainer Rumold, Series Editors

Charles Bernstein is Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania.. He is the author ofRepublics of Reality: 1975-1995 (Sun & Moon, 2000), My Way: Speeches and Poems (Chicago, 1999) and A Poetics (Harvard, 1992) and editor of 99 Poets/1999: An International Poetics Symposium (Duke, 1999) and Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word (Oxford, 1998).

Literary Criticism / Art Criticism

March. 2001

Paperback reprint

Trim size/# of pages

ISBN 0-8101-1845-9 paper / $24.95



One/The Secret of Syntax

Three or Four Things I Know about Him


Stray Straws and Straw Men

A Particular Thing


The Dollar Value of Poetry

Thought’s Measure

Two/Film of Perception

Frames and Reference

Words and Pictures

Three/Reading, Person, Philosophy

The Objects of Meaning:Reading Cavell Reading Wittgenstein

Meaning the Meaning:Arakawa’s Critique of Space

The Stadium of Explanation

On Theatricality


Writing and Method



The Academy in Peril:William Carlos Williams Meets the MLA

Jackson at Home

Maintaining Space:Clark Coolidge’s Early Works

Making Words Visible/Hannah Weiner

The Alphabet of Stride

Counting and Uncounting

Writing against the Body

Robin Blaser Introduction

Hejinian’s Notes

I Think I Understand Alan Davies

With Words:An Assembling of Visual Works from New York

Hearing ‘Here’:Robert Creeley’s Poetics of Duration

Narrating Narration:The Shapes of Ron Silliman’s Work

Undone Business

The Telling

The Conspiracy of “Us”


Blood on the Cutting Room Floor

Living Tissue/Dead Ideas


An Interview with Tom Beckett

Socialist Realism or Real Socialism?