Form, Uncertainty, and the Reduction of the Arbitrary in Postmodern Poetry
Keywords:Aesthetic objects, poetic form, postmodern poetry, systems theory.
AbstractThis article examines how uncertainty and the reduction of arbitrariness simultaneously create the tension necessary for the formal existence of the modern and postmodern poem in English. Building on sociologist Niklas Luhmann’s extensive investigations of art as one of many modern autopoietic social systems, the author examines how the system of poetry seeks to reduce the arbitrariness of utterances while simultaneously maintaining the semantic and syntactical uncertainty necessary for a poem’s formal existence as an aesthetic (quasi)object. The author examines poetry’s necessary resistance to code-formulations, concluding that the “noise” in poetic utterance is necessary to maintain the system of poetry given the social pressures of rampant legalism, fundamentalism, and hyper-commodification in which experience itself is being reduced to manipulable quanta.
Adorno, T. (1974) Minima moralia: reflections of a damaged life. London: New Left Books.
Ashbery, .J (1984) Selected poems. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Empson, W. (1966) Seven types of ambiguity. New York, NY: New Directions.
Esposito, E. (1999) “Two-sided forms in language.” Problems of form. Trans.
Hayles, N. (1999) How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Kuhn, T. (1962) The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Luhmann, N. (1990) Essays on self-reference. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Luhmann, N. (2000a) Art as a social system. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Luhmann, N. (2000b) Theories of distinction: redescribing the descriptions of modernity. Ed. William Rasch. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
McCarthy, T. (1978) The critical theory of Jürgen Habermas. London: Hutchinson & Company.
Michael Irmscher and Leah Edwards. Ed. Dirk Baecker. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Mullen, H. (2002) Sleeping with the dictionary. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Rasch, W. (2000) Niklas Luhmann’s modernity: the paradoxes of differentiation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Schmidt, B. and Jahraus, O. (1999) “Systems theory and literary studies in the 1990s.” The Germanic review. 74, 242-254.
Wilson, T. (2002) Strangers to ourselves: discovering the adaptive unconscious. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).