“‘Is an Archive Enough?’: Megatextual Debris in the Work of Rachel Blau DuPlessis” in Genre

My essay, “‘Is an Archive Enough?’: Megatextual Debris in the Work of Rachel Blau DuPlessis,” has been published in Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture 54, no. 1 (April 2021): 139–65. This issue is the first of two special issues on “Big, Ambitious Novels by Twenty-First-Century Women,” edited by Courtney Jacobs and James Zeigler. The second issue will be released in July 2021. I also have an interview with DuPlessis forthcoming in boundary 2. I’ve included an abstract of my essay below, along with a table of contents.

I am particularly proud of this essay, as I wrote it predominantly during the summer of 2020–the height of lockdown–and during which we had no childcare and I couldn’t access the library nor my campus office, including its books. Lots of people to thank, consequently, but particularly Racheal Fest, Courtney Jacobs and James Zeigler for their hard work putting this together during an incredibly difficult year, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, and Dawn Baker, Hartwick’s interlibrary loan librarian. (There are more acknowledgments on the first page of my essay.) This essay is also the second published chapter from my work in progress, Too Big to Read: The Megatext in the Twenty-First-Century. For other related work on megatexts and hyperarchivalism, see:

“Toward a Theory of the Megatext: Speculative Criticism and Richard Grossman’s ‘Breeze Avenue Working Paper.’”

“Reading Now and Again: Hyperarchivalism and Democracy in Ranjan Ghosh and J. Hillis Miller’s Thinking Literature.”

“Coda: Writing Briefly about Really Big Things.”

“The Time of Megatexts: Dark Accumulation and Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar.”

“The Megatext and Neoliberalism.”


Abstract

In the twenty-first century, digital technologies have made it possible for writers and artists to create massively unreadable works through computational and collaborative composition, what the author has elsewhere called megatexts. The ubiquity of texts appearing across media that are quite literally too big to read—from experimental novels to television, film, and video games—signals that the megatext is an emergent form native to the era of neoliberalism. But what happens to other long forms, such as the twentieth-century long poem, when written in an era of megatextuality? Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s work, including Drafts (1987–2013) and Traces, with Days (2017–), readily suggests itself as a case study for thinking through a megatextual impulse in the twenty-first-century long poem. Though her work is plainly indebted to its modernist precursors (H.D., Pound, Williams, etc.) while disavowing at every level of its composition a patriarchal will toward totality, DuPlessis’s various experiments in the long poem are also thoroughly contemporary and respond to the economic, military, political, and environmental transformations of the neoliberal era by drawing upon and producing fragmentary, megatextual debris. This essay positions DuPlessis’s work amidst a larger twenty-first-century media ecology, which includes both the megatext and the big, ambitious novel, and argues that rather than simply (and futilely) resist the neoliberal cultural logic of accumulation without end, DuPlessis hypertrophically uses the megatext’s phallogocentric form against itself in order to interrogate more broadly what it means—socially, culturally, economically—to write a long poem in the age of hyperarchival accumulation.


“Big, Ambitious Novels by Twenty-First-Century Women, Part 1,” Genre 54, no. 1 (April 2021).

James Zeigler, “Introduction: Big Novel Ambition without Apology.”

Maaheen Ahmed and Shiamin Kwa, “‘Kill the Monster!”: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters and the Big, Ambitious (Graphic) Novel.”

Patricia Stuelke, “Writing Refugee Crisis in the Age of Amazon: Lost Children Archive‘s Reenactment Play.”

Katarzyna Bartoszyńska, “Two Paths for the Big Book: Olga Tokarczuk’s Shifting Voice.”

Marjorie Worthington, “‘We’ll Make Magic’: Zen Writers and Autofictional Readers in A Tale for the Time Being.”

Siân White, “A ‘Hair-Trigger Society’ and the Woman Who Felt Something in Anna Burn’s Milkman.”

Bradley J. Fest, “‘Is an Archive Enough?’: Megatextual Debris in the Work of Rachel Blau DuPlessis.”

Links in the Time of Coronavirus, Vol. 7: September 16–October 15, 2020

Coronavirus

Georgina Hayes, “Face Masks Could Be Giving People Covid-19 Immunity, Researchers Suggest.”

Devon Price, “Do You Have ‘Zoom Fatigue’ or Is It Existentially Crushing to Pretend Life Is Normal as the World Burns?”

Eva Hagberg, “The Pandemic Has Remade Friendship.”

And “Cruise Ships Dismantled for Scrap after Pandemic Sinks Industry.”

Continue reading

Links in the Time of Coronavirus, Vol. 6: August 16–September 15, 2020

Black Lives Matter

Inae Oh, “Wisconsin Police Shot Jacob Blake in ‘Broad Daylight.'”

Peter Beaumont, “Kenosha: Teen Charged with Murder after Two Black Lives Matter Protesters Killed.”

Adam Serwer, “The New Reconstruction.”

Jasmyn Wimbish and Jack Maloney, “NBA Protest, Live Updates: Schedule Announced for Resumption of Playoffs on Saturday, Sunday.”

Shams Charania, “Sources: LeBron James Sought Out Barack Obama for Advice to Players.”

Melissa Gira Grant, “Far-Right Militias Are Learning Impunity From the Cops.”

Hallie Golden, Mike Baker, and Adam Goldman, “Suspect in Fatal Portland Shooting Is Killed by Officers During Arrest.”

Continue reading

Links in the Time of Coronavirus, Vol. 5: July 16–August 15, 2020

Black Lives Matter

Ishmael Reed, “America’s Criminal Justice System and Me.”

Anthony Bogues, “Black Lives Matter and the Moment of the Now.”

Colin Dayan, “Police Power and Can’t Breathe.”

Dwight Garner, “Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste Is an ‘Instant American Classic’ about Our Abiding Sin.”

Jane Hu, “The Second Act of Social-Media Activism.”

Jonathan Levinson and Conrad Wilson, “Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles to Grab Protesters off Portland Streets.”

Shane Harris, “DHS Compiled ‘Intelligence Reports’ on Journalists Who Published Leaked Documents.”

Ken Klippenstein, “The Border Patrol Was Responsible for an Arrest in Portland.”

Katie Shepherd and Mark Berman, “‘It Was Like Being Preyed upon’: Portland Protesters Say Federal Officers in Unmarked Vans Are Detaining Them.”

Charlie Warzel, “50 Nights of Unrest in Portland.”

Conrad Wilson, Dirk Vanderhart, and Suzanne Nuyen, “Oregon Sues Federal Agencies for Grabbing up Protesters off the Streets.”

Gillian Flaccus, “Judge Blocks US Agents from Arresting Observers in Portland.”

Richard Read, “Out of Portland Tear Gas, an Apparition Emerges, Capturing the Imagination of Protesters.”

Continue reading

“Dead Horse Bay” and “Archives of Winter” in a Special Issue of Dispatches from the Poetry Wars

Graphic from Dispatches

I am totally humbled by the inclusion of my poems, “Dead Horse Bay” and “Archives of Winter,” in a special issue of Dispatches from the Poetry Wars: “Poetics for the More-than-Human World: An Anthology of Poetry and Commentary,” edited by Mary Newell, Bernard Quetchenbach, and Sarah Nolan. Other contributors include Rae Armantrout, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Jane Hirshfield, Cynthia Hogue, Angela Hume, Michael McClure, John Shoptaw, Stephanie Strickland, Harriet Tarlo, Edwin Torres, and many, many others.

The issue also includes a section of commentary, reviews, and criticism, including a review of Kristin George Bagdanov’s Fossils in the Making (2019), and essays by Lynn Keller, Hogue, Cole Swensen, and (again) many others.


Here is the press release from Dispatches:

Announcement: Release of Online Anthology

POETICS FOR THE MORE-THAN-HUMAN WORLD!

We are delighted to announce the special Ecopoetry issue of Dispatches from the Poetry Wars journal, titled “Poetics for the More-than-Human World: An Anthology of Poetry and Commentary,” co-edited by Mary Newell, Sarah Nolan, and Bernard Quetchenbach. The issue offers a core sample of diverse approaches to ecologically oriented poetics, representing 150 contemporary authors from a wide range of bioregions and nations. In addition to poetry, the issue features critical commentary, interviews, a preview selection of Cognitive Ecopoetics,by Sharon Lattig, and reviews of current anthologies.

In this time of planetary challenge from changes to climate and water level, atmospheric pollution, viral scourges, and threats of mass species extinction, our interconnectedness across boundaries of nationality, ethnicity, and other sociocultural labels has been underscored by our common plight. How can we bear witness to this situation, how might we harness our fear, anger, hope, wonder, in ways that will encourage a renewed commitment to live sustainably in our shared home? May this anthology offer fresh impressions of the life of this chaotic but still resplendent planet we share. May you find pleasures, surprises, insights, and inspiration, and may some of the poems resound in you and provide sustenance and energy on your own path toward living conscientiously. Visit dispatchespoetrywars.com.


UPDATE MAY 26, 2020

poeticsmorehumanworld

Spuyten Duyvil has just announced that it will be printing the anthology. Order it here.

Words for the New Year 2019

I will again be reading some poems on New Year’s Eve this year with a bunch of other great poets from all around the Catskills. In Oneonta, New York on the Main Stage of the Foothills Performing Arts Center at 5 pm on December 31, 2019,  Eva Davidson, Kirby Olson, Bertha RogersJulia Suarez Hayes, Jo Mish, and myself will be reading as part of Oneonta’s First Night New Year’s Eve Celebration.

For more information contact david@davidhayes.com or Julia Suarez Hayes at suarezj@hartwickcollege.edu.