I’ve been revisiting Jerome McGann’s The Point is to Change It: Poetry and Criticism in the Continuing Present (2007) and came across this quotation (amongst many others ) from Charles Bernstein:
Poetry has an important, if often vacated, role in supplementing minimal reading values and in this sense can be understood as among the most useful tools for making alphabet technology available. Literature is the best word we now have for a writing that critiques itself not only at the level of represented ideas but prosodically, acoustically, syntactically, visibly: which is to say gives these dimensions equal methodological weight as it gives to more traditional notions of semantic content. (Bernstein, Content’s Dream: Essays 1975-1984, 370-71, qtd in McGann 104)
I’ve requested Content’s Dream from the library to fully explore Bernstein’s ideas on alphabet technology, but in the meantime I’m enjoying this definition for the way it foregrounds literature as a method and process. Poetry scholars know that to elide the textural qualities of poetic language in favor of the so-called “purely” semantic is to miss much of the effect/ pleasure/ point of a poem. But the same is true, Bernstein I think suggests, of any literary text.