Form, Uncertainty, and the Reduction of the Arbitrary in Postmodern Poetry




Aesthetic objects, poetic form, postmodern poetry, systems theory.


This 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.

Author Biography

Eric S. Rawson, University of Southern California

I am an Associate Professor (Teaching) of Writing at the University of Southern California.  I hold a Ph.D. in Literature and Writing from the University of Southern California and an M.F.A. in Fiction from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.


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