Powers of Possibility: Experimental American Writing since the 1960s

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en Limba Engleză Paperback – 04 Dec 2014
In The Meaning of Contemporary Realism (1957) Georg Lukács discussed how the power struggle of the Cold War made it all the more pressing for literary writers to present 'concrete potentialities' of individual character in novel ways. Powers of Possibility explores how American experimental writers since the 1960s have set about presenting exactly that while engaging with specific issues of social power. The book's five chapters cover a range of writers, literary genres, and political issues, including: Allen Ginsberg's anti-Vietnam War poems; LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka and Black Power theatre; William S. Burroughs's novels and the Space Programmes; Kathy Acker's fiction and Biopolitics; and Lyn Hejinian, Language poetry, and the Cold War. Each chapter examines how relations of character and social power were widely discussed in terms of potentiality: Black Power groups, for example, debated the 'revolutionary potential' of African Americans, while advances in the space programmes led to speculation about the evolution of 'human potential' in space colonies. In considering how the literary writers engage with such debates, Alex Houen also shows how each writer's approach entails combining different meanings of 'potential':'possible as opposed to actual'; 'a quantity of force'; a 'capacity' or 'faculty'; and 'potency'. Such an approach can be characterised as a literary 'potentialism' that turns literary possibilities (including experiments with style and form) into an affective aesthetic force with which to combat or reorient the effects of social power on people. Potentialism is not a literary movement, Houen emphasises, so much as a novel concept of literary practice-a concept that stands as a refreshing alternative to notions of 'postmodernism' and the 'postmodern avant-garde'.
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ISBN-13: 9780198719922
ISBN-10: 0198719922
Pagini: 294
Dimensiuni: 140 x 216 x 17 mm
Greutate: 0.37 kg
Editura: Oxford University Press
Colecția OUP Oxford
Locul publicării: Oxford, United Kingdom


Review from previous edition In this comprehensive work, Houen provides a rich discussion of how each writer engages with multiple possible meanings of "human potential" and "agency" ... Recommended.
Powers of Possibility is a fine, subtle, and ambitious analysis of literary activism ... Of particular prescience and import is the book's engagement with and contribution to the affective turn in social and literary theory. A finely nuanced but nonetheless strong argument is built for the way these writers each attempt to turn textual possibilities into an affective force toward social action ... It is also a timely intervention reminding us of the enduringpower and relevance of literary and poetic provocations and their centrality to social imaginings of alternative possible worlds.
There's more intellectual force evident on every page of this book than in an entire years worth of poetry reviews in major media.
Powers of Possibility is an absorbing reading of the relationship between social activism and literary art ... Houen enables varied and subtle analyses of how the performance of feeling may provoke the reader to recognize not only that alternative possibilities exist, but that such recognitions are also forms of meaningful action. Against panoramas of violence or social unrest ranging from the conflicts of war to calls for a larger sexual revolution, Houenprovides startling insights into the role of unexpected possibilities ... an immensely valuable book that will be of interest to anyone concerned with the energy and originality of those US experimental writers who reclaim the connections between innovative art and social dilemma.

Notă biografică

Alex Houen is a University Lecturer in Modern Literature, and Fellow of Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. He is the author of various articles on literature and political violence, modernism, postmodernism, sacrifice, and theories of affect. He is co-editor of the online poetry journal Blackbox Manifold