45 Theses, Or Disputation on the Common Genealogy of Lyric and Liberalism, Pt. III: 31-45

Wendy Lotterman

45 Theses, Or Disputation on the Common Genealogy of Lyric and Liberalism

Pt. III: 31-45

31. The history of American literature, at least in the version standardized by the twentieth-century academy, is full of yearning for the union of individual experience with an Emersonian All or a Whitmanian En-Masse. But this vision of unity is a legacy of the 1840s and ’50s, and it looks, in retrospect, like a noble but untenable denial of impending fragmentation[.]31

32. [U]nderstanding the history of American poetry in this way means that accounts of American lyric as an ethno-nationalist, triumphally modernist project that began with the Puritans and culminated in the achievement of T. S. Eliot, or as Emerson’s twin Transcendental brainchildren Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, or as a transatlantic anglocentric rainbow bridge stretch- ing from Shelley to Stevens, or as the self-involvement of Romantic and modern poets that gave way to a post-lyric avant-garde, or as a return to lyric in reaction to that avant-garde, can all be understood as the fictions of racial continuity they always were.32

33. Objectism is the lyrical interference of the individual as ego, of the “subject” and his soul, that peculiar presumption by which western man has interposed himself between what he is as a creature of nature (with certain instructions to carry out) and those other creatures of nature which we may, with no derogation, call objects.33

34. [C]ausing interference, not knowing where the “I” is going, creating the probable out of the impossible and reinforcing resistance with information jolts to the system from stagnation [...] we need to explore the hidden possible, out of dark edges or lost words that take place in the path of personal narrative.34

35. What form of individuality, what kinds of freedom, are available to the kind of person who cannot believe that any strategy recognized before today as strategic and directed toward an end that we understand as political, does not spiral back toward subjugation?35

36. Legal personhood is always there and yet, like the particular category “legal slave,” it is the outline of a subject that cannot be stabilized, that does not cohere, that is made up of heterogeneous fragments of juridical thought, case law, legislation, stories, and the particularity of scenes in which the slave must be named, its body identified and made to inhabit the law.36

37. wanted to destroy the lyric voice. As a Black, female, colonised subject, what was the source of my authority, and was such authority necessary – indispensable perhaps? – to speech, public speech? To poetry?37

38. The black body is turned into object-not-person the moment it enters the social sphere, the moment the preperson has an encounter with the “public.”38

39. We know ourselves as part and as crowd.39

40. You are/ everywhere and you are nowhere in the day./ The outside comes in—/ Then you, hey you—/ [...] Who do you think you are, saying I to me?/ You nothing./ You nobody./ You./ A body in the world drowns in it—/ Hey you—40

41. I find value in lyrics that retreat from individualism and idiosyncracy by pointing to heady and unexpected yet intimate pluralisms [...] Lyrics that reveal how our private intimacies have public obligations and ramifications, how intimacy has a social bond with shared meaning.41

42. I definitely wanted to think about Sapphire singing the blues and Sapphire as Sappho, singing the blues. [...] I have a certain attachment to the lyric subject, but the lyric subject in this poem is multiple, not singular. It is many voices and contradictory voices. It is a heteroglossia or maybe a cacophony of voices.42

43. [W]e get stuck with the old codes even as we try to negate them. [...] Inside what is rich about the wonder of having survived it all, of being a people or group still on its feet are also the values that make us suspicious.43

44. Who knew what we would or could create? Other than life.44

45. The measure of our songs is our desires:/ We tinkle where old poets used to storm./ We lack their substance tho’ we keep their form:/ We strum our banjo-strings and call them lyres.45

31. Paul Breslin

32. Virginia Jackson

33. Charles Olson

34. kari edwards

35. Simone White

36. Angela Naimou

37. M. NourbeSe Philip

38. Dawn Lundy Martin

39. Édouard Glissant

40. Claudia Rankine

41. Juliana Spahr

42. Harryette Mullen

43. Erica Hunt

44. M. NourbeSe Philip

45. Paul Laurence Dunbar

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