Introduction #2 Country Girl #3 Pictures and Early Words #4 Big Words 5

Avant-Garde Journalism: Hannah Weiner's Early and Clairvoyant Journals


Mac Low recognizes what Luria sees in "S" - that there is a literal sense "beyond belief" where the "case" and the "artist" forge contexts in which new forms become inevitable. Through Luria, S himself is a kind of avant-garde journalist; Luria's case study endures largely because it falls, formally, somewhere between the prescriptions of that genre and those of memoir and even eulogy. It is a synaesthetic work.

Most recently, poet-critic Judith Goldman has elaborated the ethical link between the "case" and the "artist." In an exemplary reading of Weiner's so-called "clair-style," Goldman analyzes the metalinguistic political interventions the formal attributes of Weiner's clairvoyant writings made. Goldman's analysis of the tri-vocality of the Clairvoyant Journal is especially brilliant for its discussion of the overdetermination of the expression of one's motives in or as language, recalling post-structuralist paradigms via Lacan, Lyotard, Barthes, and other theorists; "In staging the author's compelling and reader's compulsion through a trope that solicits credibility yet remains beyond belief, i.e., clairvoyance, Weiner aims not at representational accuracy, but at ethical adequacy; not the authority of experience, but the experience of alterity as an alternate and indefinite authority" (153). Indefinite as it may be, such authority is either ability in potentia or a choral address which diversifies the ontological basis of any ethical adequacy, where the body becomes the staging of forces only tangentially literary, religious, or corporeal. The interlocutions make this evident, if not definite; "this year you don't believe in reincarnation foolish in fact / when you don't believe in it it seems otherwise dont interrupt dont scold" ("Dec 27 Sat p2," Clairvoyant Journal). Writing the body for Weiner is performing it to and with itself. Poet-critic Maria Damon's recent article on Weiner's work uses theories of trauma to argue along the sort of lines debates over writing the body have tended to follow. That is, the performance is invariably psychopathologized. Neither critic, therefore, escapes the confines of the tropical; neither points to clairvoyance as an ability underpinning Weiner's "acheivement." Goldman is too much a formalist, Damon too much a phenomenologist, for Weiner's peculiar syncretism.

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When I see words I am also able to know, by reading or handling a book, as example, if an author is a friend, what her illness is, what books she prefers, whether she knows what to do for herself, whether to read her at all. ... clairvoyantly I am the other to myself ... In my nonclairvoyant work there is no person. (Weiner, "Other Person" 98)


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