Prolegomenon to a Lack of a Method aka Three Topics in Search of an Explanation
On the surface, the poetry of Robinson Jeffers, the fiction of Jack Kerouac, and textual theory have little to do with each other, and because of this the work gathered here might seem somewhat trifurcated. But part of what has drawn me to Jeffers and Kerouac is that their writings derive from and are driven by a strong sense of voice, as if they were speaking from or through the page. Writing, however, is a visual system—black letters arrayed on a white surface, and it has been, of late anyway, rather suspect critically and certainly unfashionable academically to be drawn to writers who write as Jeffers and Kerouac did, precisely because their efforts to “speak” from the page seem to ignore the inherent indeterminacy of writing and to involve some naïve belief in the reality of the self and the even more naïve belief in the possibility of presence in writing.
Some combination of inclinations and accidents led me into the realm of editorial and textual theory, and this in turn led me to consider that different writers might have fundamentally different understandings of writing as a medium, how writing and speaking relate to (and differ from) each other, and how these in turn relate to language as a whole and the hows and whys of literature. The pieces gathered here, some published essays, some conference talks, some pieces that might be termed works in progress, derive from an attempt to understand how speech and speaking can exist, variously, in tension with writing in literature and how the dynamics of textuality enable and complicate this tension. Perhaps from this perspective, these three occasions—Jeffers, Kerouac, and textuality—may be seen as three related strands of investigation.