37 Matching Annotations
  1. Nov 2016
    1. When Stein answers the question “how does one write?” by example, her work serves both as a singularity (that is, an instance whose authority is drawn from Stein’s exceptionality) and as an instance of a broader concept (the question or injunction bears upon a general dilemma, of which Stein is an instance among many—exemplary precisely in not being singular)

      We can look to Clement Greenberg, who writes in parallel about art to clue us in to a tactic of Stein's project:

      The limitations that constitute the medium of painting—the flat surface, the shape of the support, the properties of the pigment—were treated by the old masters as negative factors that could be acknowledged only by implicitly or indirectly. Under Modernism these same limitations came to be regarded as positive factors, and were acknowledged openly.

      Much as modernist painting draws attention to its insistent curiosity with a certain formal property (like color, or the flatness of canvas) to which it is bound, and that fact taken as its subject matter. In Stein's, that formal property is the functioning of grammar. Stein's writing privileges, in some sense, form over content - syntax itself is taken to be the subject matter over which Stein madly pores and iterates through; the contents of the sentences themselves suspiciously arbitrary or given to chance. The more senseless, absurd, or infantile, the greater the tension against the rationalizing power of syntax and the more heightened the poetic affect yielded.

      In creating her work, Lezra claims, Stein is both offering herself as one-of-a-kind writer whilst also acknowledging that she is offering one of potentially many solutions to the task of meaning-making through writing.

    2. much more cautiously asking how, after all, one can write

      The sense of desperate pleading in this particular sentiment comes across more deeply than in Lezra's title, which is made all the more prescriptive and potentially pedantic by the flourish with which he opens the piece.

    3. foreclosing

      After Judith Butler

    4. The excitement of and capitalization upon names and naming is for Stein no longer a matter of grammar, sentences, paragraphs, or prose, but of poetry.

      Introduction of poetry to argument about sentences, paragraphs, and grammar comes out of left field here!

    5. “Diagraming sentences” turns out not to be a case of what “I” do, but itself the subject and object of a “doing” of which “I” am the incidental product.

      See my above comment: nice summary of the aporetic nature of grammar.

    6. This “edge” of grammar, this “forgetting” of grammar, and this “difference” of “repeat and duplicate” form the beginning of a thought about the ways in which grammar may not quite “meet” or “arrive at” itself, and about the “why” of “making,” about the “thinking” that attends this nonidentity to itself of grammar. What does grammar—the reserve of a writing understood to “make” things like “emotion,” “paragraphs,” and incidentally “me”—itself hold in “reserve”?

      Fascinating and rich. The simplest implication here is that HTW poses the problem of where "the subject" is located: in the I that speaks grammar, or in the grammar that makes it possible to construct a speaking I?

    7. paradoxical nature of this “reserve” of exemplary value in Stein?

      This, too, is really opaque (speaking of opacity). I take it that Lezra's point is that a) economics and psychoanalysis co-evolve in Stein's era around analogous structures; b) that Stein tries to ground her move from singularity to example in a similar structure.

    8. The concurrent aesthetico-political debate over the legacies of early modernism cannot be separated from these broader crises in the conceptualization of the value-form

      Cool move. Stein's (and many others') engagement of the value of words, the way signifiers are exchanged for signifieds, is implicated with economic decoupling of value from the "mystical constant" of gold etc. in the interwar period.

    9. four aspects of the imbrication

      Tough sledding here. Roughly:

      1. HOW TO WRITE implicated in "self-legitimation" to broader audience
      2. passage from sentences to paragraphs tied to passage from singularity to exemplarity, to Stein being an example of a way to [write, speak, be, be read] rather than sui generis.
      3. HOW TO WRITE part of temporality in which earlier works are retroactively made precursors to later works (ex: making of MAKING OF AMERICANS)
      4. Stein's reading of Stein helps the "perfective" become "the infinitive"
    10. paragraphs and sentences—roughly aligned, as she describes it, with the affective difference between the emotional and the nonemotional, between the natural and the nonnatural.

      Useful analysis of the initially confusing distinction Stein makes: grammar aligned with "affective and organic states."

    11. self-commodification

      Useful biographical context: HOW TO WRITE appears amid shift towards Stein's celebrity and outreach to lay readers. Hesitancy between "unruled reception" (lovely phrase) and construction of onramps to broaden access.

    12. The apposition permits a desperately interrogative tone to emerge—“How to read? How to write?”—quite at odds with the forthright sense of Stein’s title and of my own today, if rather more faithful to most readers’ experience of Stein’s work of the period.

      Somewhat Steinian exploitation of ambiguity in syntax here. How to read how to write can be read two ways, depending on syntax.

    1. And it being a thing to see no master-piece can see what it can see if it does then it is timely and as it is timely it is not a master-piece.

      Does a masterpiece need to be at a disjuncture with the time it is situated within to be 'good'?

    2. The pleasures that are soothing all have to do with identity and the pleasures that are exciting all have to do with identity and moreover there is all the pride and vanity which play about master-pieces as well as about every one and these too all have to do with identity

      maybe something like "jouissance" -- there is a neccesary correlation between the feeling that sets us seeking pleasure and the innate instability of knowing who oneself truly is.

    3. it may be unwelcome but it is never dull

      the outrage and disavowal that accompanies transgressive art can be understood as the pain of repressing what was a genuine aesthetic experience (perhaps ahead of its time)

    4. but because a certain number have found out what a master-piece is not. Even the very master-pieces have always been very bothered about beginning and ending because essentially that is what a master-piece is not. And yet after all like the subject of human nature master-pieces have to use beginning and ending to become existing. Well anyway anybody who is trying to do anything today is desperately not having a beginning and an ending but nevertheless in some way one does have to stop. I stop.

      The repetition has a manic quality to it, as if repeating an inscrutable thing many many times will make it lucid.

    5. It is very curious but the detective story which is you might say the only really modern novel form that has come into existence gets rid of human nature by having the man dead to begin with the hero is dead to begin with and so you have so to speak got rid of the event before the book begins.

      In the narrative arc of detective fiction, the motor of the story is the Whodunit, the Master Signifier that gives motion to all that unfolds. But if we know that the thing we're looking for is an empty set--someone who has ceased to be in the world-- we can proceed with that consistency at the very least. There's no delusion about seeking the very thing which cannot be known.

    6. That is every one's trouble and particularly the trouble just now when every one who writes or paints has gotten to be abnormally conscious of the things he uses that is the events the people the objects and the landscapes and fundamentally the minute one is conscious deeply conscious of these things as a subject the interest in them does not exist.

      Everyone's too semiotically self-reflexive these days, Stein sez.

    7. identity would take the place of entity

      The fear is that identity, your subjective estrangement from language, will overshadow the artistic thing-as-such.

    8. the letter writes what the other person is to hear and so entity does not exist there are two present instead of one and so once again creation breaks down.

      a 1:1 correlation of what is meant to what is understood cannot be wholly achieved through representation.

    9. After all any woman in any village or men either if you like or even children know as much of human psychology as any writer that ever lived. After all there are things you do know each one in his or her way knows all of them and it is not this knowledge that makes master-pieces. Not at all not at all at all

      Stein seems to be exulting in the ability of modernist work to agitate familiar lines of understanding. Psychology, and an author's ability to create landscapes anchored in a rational understanding of the human mind, lose the irrational potency that makes them transcendental or sublime as works of art: the ability to activate that space beyond language or comfortable sense perception and invoke affect in an unusual way.

    10. Identity is recognition, you know who you are because you and others remember anything about yourself but essentially you are not that when you are doing anything. I am I because my little dog knows me but, creatively speaking the little dog knowing that you are you and your recognising that he knows, that is what destroys creation. That is what makes school.

      There is practical advice here - create for oneself and not for the conception of themselves that they see as lauded for their work. Perhaps it is warning against cockiness or an injunction to a certain form of meaning-making. If it is voyeuristic pleasure that motivates your art practice (not in any contemporary sense tho), or if it is for the critical appraisal that one applies themselves: it becomes possible that your art has lots its authenticity (that 'genius character' due to which 'important' work is archived in posterity).'School' is vague here so there may be two readings: she may mean small organizations of like artists organized into intellectual and productive working groups. More insidiously, one might read 'school' as the larger notion: the place of education. The institution is the final organized form of aesthetic principles, an entire combine of culture production

      -Pedagogy cementing aesthetic norms, instilling continuity.

      -Instruction and studio apprenticeship as vocational training.

      -State-sanctioned exhibitions as apparatus with the power to valorize, archive, and amplify cultural products.

    11. I talk a lot I like to talk and I talk even more than that I may say I talk most of the time and I listen a fair amount too and as I have said the essence of being a genius is to be able to talk and listen to listen while talking and talk while listening but and this is very important very important indeed talking has nothing to do with creation

      Stein is writing about her fondness for speech, but yielding that "talking has nothing to do with creation" of "masterpieces". Perhaps the joke is on us - Stein opens the piece noting of her decision to "write and read it" v. "talk [this lecture]"; but regardless of the cover given it is undeniable that her writing sounds an awful lot like the speech she has deemed ineffectual in artistic creation.

  2. Oct 2016
    1. makesitgodead

      What makes it go dead? Recognition? As "beauty"?

    2. became

      everyone became consciously aware WWI as singular event for distributing the agreement in "composition," of recognizing the work of the "outlaw."

    3. andromanticism

      One of the most puzzling moments: romanticism is linked with 1914 and with a widespread linkage of sameness and difference. Is the idea that romanticism, as the first "modernism" in language, normalizes the idea of a break, of discontinuity in search of continuity?

    4. usingeverything.

      Three principles of "composition": continuous present, beginning again and again, using everything. Unpack this for students.

    5. writingasitismade

      Introduction of Stein's "continuous present," the idea of creating a rich, contingent space for the writer in the act of writing and the reader in the act of reading, a temporality that abolishes the neat past/present/future triad of traditional narrative.

    6. goingtobethereandwearehere

      Another motif that recurs throughout: composition creates a distance in space and time. We are here and its is "going to be there," appearing to us from a distance.

    7. eginningagainandagain

      First occurrence of this motif: central principle of composition is repetition, is "beginning again," a phrase which Stein evidently loves for its poetic qualities as much as its investment in creating loops of time.

    8. athingacceptedbecomesaclassic

      Side note: Stein's argument here is extremely close to that of Eliot's in his 1919 "Tradition and the Individual Talent," though Eliot is advocating for the "classic" rather than the newness of the new.

    9. isanoutlawuntilheisaclassic

      Temporality of "composition": the experimental artist disrupts and then is integrated into history as a "classic." Stein jokes (seriously) that "there is almost not an interval" between these two moments, that we forget that (for example) Picasso was an "outlaw" once he has become "classic" and "beautiful." It's certainly the case that a tour through MoMA is rich in examples!

    10. time-sense.

      New term. The discussion of war leads to the discussion of "composition" with "time-sense," temporality, the idea of the new art as making a break in time.

    11. thewar

      Beginning of a set of riffs on WWI narrowly and war more broadly: war as that which makes a break, produces difference. To this extent, modernism is deeply implicated with WWI and (perhaps) with war in general.

    12. makesacomposition,itconfuses,itshows,itis,itlooks,itlikesitasitis,andthismakeswhatisseenasitisseen

      Stein emphasizes that "ways of looking" change, and the list of verbs emphasize the power of the "composition" to derange looking and make us see "the same thing" anew in ways that "make a difference."

    13. BythisImeansosimplythatanybodyknowsitthatcompositionisthedifferencewhichmakeseachandallofthemthendifferentfromothergenerationsandthisiswhatmakeseverythingdifferentotherwisetheyareallalikeandeverybodyknowsitbecauseeverybodysaysit

      This word "composition" will be THE keyword in the piece. Note how much S freights "composition" with here: a) it inserts a wedge between generations (i.e., each generation has its own "composition" that is authentically "new"); b) it's something that only those who "know it" perceive, thus internally splitting a generation between those who are down with its "composition" and those who lag.



    1. This word "composition" will be THE keyword in the piece. Note how much S freights "composition" with here: a) it inserts a wedge between generations (i.e., each generation has its own "composition" that is authentically "new"); b) it's something that only those who "know it" perceive, thus internally splitting a generation between those who are down with its "composition" and those who lag.