Things That Make My Head Hurt

I left academia a long time ago, and with it I left behind the arcane art of literary criticism and some of the high-end jargon used to dissect, disemble and otherwise deconstruct what a writer wrote.

Then last night, during a bout of insomnia, I came across the submission guidelines from Unsaid Magazine (a WordPress Blog based mag):

When the act of narration becomes as integral to the total story as the actions narrated, as motivated by restless urges, as fraught with perils, pains and ecstasies; then the story suddenly bristles, an automaton turned inside out. All the inner devices of poetics are exposed, brought into plain view. The author is revealed to be a writing machine. His desires now figure as mere drives, his unfathomable creative force as hydraulic differential flow. With this inversion the artist passes beyond himself, outside his ego. Likewise, the work of art, originally and reassuringly emblematized by the scenes of peace and plenty contained within the gilt frame of the shield of Achilles, inverts itself. Its cogs, planes, levers, screws and pulleys, its ropes and bellows now exposed and live (as wires are said to be live); the work of art then becomes Deleuze’s war machine, Vaucanson’s famous defecating duck gone on a killing spree. The horror . . . and the hilarity.

I’ve read this paragraph a few times now, and to be plain spoken about it, I have no clue what they’re really gettin’ at here. The story becomes “an automaton turned inside out” and “all the inner devices of poetics are exposed, brought into plain view.” Hmmm. Interesting? Perhaps. But it makes my head hurt.

There is something about the relationship between the narrator and the story that they’re indicating, okay I’m with them that far…but this idea of poetic devices being exposed is where they’re losing me. The idea of a story as a war machine with its ropes and bellows exposed, yeah, I’m not smart enough to have a clue on that either.

Personally though, I’d liken this to the He Man Woman Haters Club on The Little Rascals. You were either in the club, or you weren’t, and if you weren’t in the club…well, Darla, it’s best to move along.


10 Responses

  1. I think they’re pulling our leg, after Achilles’ shield shows up, but I’m not opposed to the notion that HOW a story is told–what goes where, in what order, what is shared, what is withheld–the STRUCTURE of the story, is every bit as important as the WHAT HAPPENS of the story.

    • When you say that I immediately think of movies like Pulp Fiction and Crash where there are disparate stories of many different character groups which all pull tighter and tighter together as the story progresses…

      But it also makes me think of terribly esoteric books that you have read (you are extremely patient with those authors…) and I have NOT like Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Was there a structure to that book? Was there a story?? I never read it because I was afraid my eyeballs would fall out.

      And yeah, I think they’re pulling our (duck) legs…

  2. Oh god. Please don’t mention literary criticism.

    I cringe when I think of my undergrad classes.

    The paragraph above reminds me of how I wrote my papers. It’s shameful! It’s chock full of sentences that just prattle on and on, using exclusionary vocabulary.

    At least it doesn’t contain Latin or French like some of the older literary critiques did . . .

    Thanks for the memories! /cry 🙂

  3. Hey Carol!

    Just wanted to stop by and let you know that, of course, I nominated you for a Versatle Blogger Award.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts these past few weeks. Thanks for sharing them. 🙂

    • Mike, it’s so nice of you to do that, thank you! I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed my blog. When someone nominates me, to me it is more an indication of that person’s enjoyment of my blog than anything else. I appreciate it coming from you Mike because I really like your comments and how you participate in my blog.

      I posted “Blog Rolls, Blog Awards, Blog-headedness, and other Curmudgeonly Offers” in January 2012 when 3 other bloggers nominated me for either the Versatile or Liebster blogger awards. It’s my reply to the awards thingie. 🙂

  4. I liked the “defecating duck” part…

  5. These are submission guidelines? No wonder you’re confused. I wonder how many submissions they will get?
    Parts of the professional journals I read are phrased a bit like this, and generally I get the feeling it’s to ensure that you realise the superiority of the person writing it. Although, perhaps in this case, they just got caried away – or had too much coffee! 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment Katkasia. I have no idea how many submissions Unsaid gets, but I know that editors of other small literary journals get their work published there, so I tend to think it’s more about the clique of those writers who are similar to the writing style of the submission guidelines.

      And yes, they really are quoted directly from their site.

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