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Social Collage and the Four Discourses in (Some of) the Kootenay School of Writing: Part I (Critical Essay)

English Studies in Canada 2010, June-Sept, 36, 2-3

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Note: This essay is from a larger work on the poetics and poetry of the Kootenay School of Writing, the body of work primarily being that published in the 1980s, the approach being a Lacanian one. I divide the poetry into three camps or tendencies: the Red Tory neopastoralism of Lisa Robertson, Christine Stewart, Peter Culley, and Catriona Strang, the concerns of procedural constraints and Blanchotesque absence in Susan Clark, Kathryn MacLeod, Dan Farrell, and Melissa Wolsak, and, here, the social collage/disjunctive form to be found in the work of Colin Smith/Dorothy Lusk (discussed in this, the first half of the essay) and Deanna Ferguson/Jeff Derksen/Gerald Creede (discussed in the second half). Thanks to Donato Mancini, whose research in 2008 greatly helped to kick-start this writing. SINCE THIS ESSAY IS TORN from a larger work, it may be useful to sketch out quickly why I have turned to Lacanian psychoanalysis as a way of reading the work of the Kootenay School of Writing and, in that regard, perhaps address the question of historical or ahistorical readings. I think first of all that my turn to psychoanalysis is in response to a double lack: on the one hand, in the readings of contemporary poetry there is very little to be found that engages with Lacan to any great extent; on the other hand, the great resurgence of Lacanian theory and criticism since the 1990s (owing on the one hand to Slavoj Zizek's output and on the other to the "clinical turn" that saw a new translation of Ecrits as well as many of the Seminars) has tended to look at popular culture (especially film) or politics but not poetry. This double absence is curious, not least because of the importance especially of Lacanian and Lacanian-feminist readings to such important avant-garde forbears as Gertrude Stein (Marianne DeKoven's groundbreaking A Different Language especially, but see also, for example, Cynthia Merrill's use of Lacan's mirror stage to read The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas); nonetheless, the strength of both these discourses--Lacanian theory on the one hand, and KSW and other L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E-based schools on the other--suggested that an intervention into both could be a useful new critical practice.

Social Collage and the Four Discourses in (Some of) the Kootenay School of Writing: Part I (Critical Essay)
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  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: 01 June 2010
  • Publisher: Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English
  • Print Length: 46 Pages
  • Language: English
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