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

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


Taking Weiner's work literarily, one must take these words literally. Two claims are made here. First, Weiner claims that clairvoyance enables a diagnostic ability, echoed in the observation that "clairvoyantly I am other to myself." This claim also appears in Weiner's major statement of poetics, "Mostly About the Sentence," with the glass half full this time: "In reference to healing, i.e. the diagnosis of illness which is or was one of my psychic powers, naming the individual is obviously essential" (68). The second claim is critical or evaluative (having to do with a prognosis / prophesy): "I am also able to know ... whether to read her at all." Clearly this extraordinary ability is not on par with Cartesian occularcentrism, whose reason comes by way of "spontaneous assent" to trascendence through the mind-body split suggesting that to see (words) is to know. To take these claims "literally" one needen't adopt an Adamic view of language with respect to the "person" - Weiner admits that she "sometimes destroyed the real name ... giving into writing's political pressure to de-personalize or perhaps just admitting to myself people don't like healing diagnosis, especially free from a psychic" ("Mostly..." 68). But perhaps we presume too much regarding the nature of clairvoyance for Weiner, and thereby miss the predicate: "When I see words I am also able to know ..." These claims appear to concern an ability to, literally, see transparence, which would repopulate the specular "vis-à-vis" of occularcentrism with the specific reality of language (a reality including language's notorious opacity). So that, the mechanism of belief is trumped by the literal in the fact that, counter-intuitively, clairvoyance introduces the person into the event of literary production (including but not limited to the "reception" of works). The ultimate claim is one for literariness: "In my nonclairvoyant work there is no person." The issue of "the person" is clearly essential to Weiner's evolution of clairvoyance as a textual condition before it attains the retrospective, determined nature of "clair-style."

The question of linguistic opacity as critical indeterminacy was, however incohately, at stake in the "Symposium on the Person" published in the ninth issue of Poetics Journal in 1991, to which Weiner contributed "Other Person." Co-editor Lyn Hejinian's contribution to the event from which several of the articles published in "The Person" edition of Poetics Journal were taken distinguishes between the self as self-same entity and "the person" - "The Person ... is a mobile (and mobilized) reference point, or, to put it another way, subjectivity is not an entity but a dynamic. There is no self undefiled by experience, no self unmediated in the perceptual situation; instead there is a world and the person is in it" (Language of Inquiry 203). The terms of this symposium, then, are to be seen as positing personhood not as a mediated "subject," but as a pre-linguistic figure of immanence whose very determination is the indeterminacy of "the world." In other words, intention is indeterminacy insofar as mediation is, not just worldly, but in the world. Nothing less than the event of the world can be called a textual condition in this case. This is not to point to a transcendence of the category of "subjectivity," but rather a problematizing of it that Hejinian identifies with gender and post-colonial theories' motivations with respect to putting "pressure" on that category; "everyone's actual experience is of being a person" ("A Talk to the MA Poetics Class ..."). In Weiner's case the literary claim dovetails with a claim for the confluence, or "simultaneity," of voice and visuality.


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