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

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


In this regard we will find the most useful concept is that of the illocutionary "order-word," as theorized by Deleuze and Félix Guattari in their "Postulates of Linguistics" (A Thousand Plateaus 75-110). Therese Grisham's brilliant reading of this concept characterizes Deleuzian linguistics as an "indiscipline," providing ways "to deterritorialize state functions," and not linguistic models or methodologies which invariably subjectify "the specific reality of language" we seek in Weiner's work (44, 37). As Grisham explains,

Language is neither communicated nor informational. On the one hand, communication presupposes subjectivities prior to it, when it is language redefined in terms of sociopolitical fields that subjectifies; on the other, language transmits messages containing orders ... and while information is necessary for the transmission of an order, it is only the minimum necessary for it ... as a performative statement [the order-word] accomplishes the act by speaking ... the event of speech [is] decisive. ... the order word has two modes - limitative and expansive. As the "expressed" of the statement, the order-word either orders death (capture in forms), or flight. In other words, it does not just reterritorialize, but can also give a message to flee. (45-6)

One reason the conceptual tool of the order-word does not become a model for reading Weiner's clairvoyance is that such a reading demands we read how, visually, she places her orders (no matter their provenance). Clairvoyance is this double-movement of limitative and expansive statement, and our reading concerns the evolutionary "flight" of the writing, not the development of a "clair-style" in which the literary event is "captured in forms" and reified. Grisham notes that "the order-word as pass-word pushes language to its limits while bodies are in metamorphosis"(47). "Pass-words" appear to Deleuze and Guattari "beneath" order-words, representing (so to speak) orders to flee that imply bodily metamorphosis, what I would call Weiner's lyric embodiment or impersonation (ibid.). This occurs for Weiner as words on her forehead, seen from within. The words seen are printed words, but the body imprints them as body through sight (in the special sense of "body" found in Meleau-Ponty's work discussed below; "the working, actual body - not the body as a chunk of space or a bundle of functions but that body which is an intertwining of vision and movement") ("Eye and Mind" 162). Hence, a sort of metamorphosis takes place, and a kind of formal passage captures this as the aesthetic object, the tri-vocal, choral lyric "score" or verse narrative that would become the Clairvoyant Journal. As Deleuze and Guattari write,

What is called style can be the most natural thing in the world; it is nothing other than the procedure of a continuous variation. Of the dualisms established by linguistics, there are few with a more shaky foundation than the separation between linguistics and stylistics: Because a style is not an individual psychological creation but an assemblage of enunciation, it unavoidably produces a language within a language. (A Thousand Plateaus 97)


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