Epilogue "Present. A Poetics" (Excerpt I)

1) The poietic moment of creating concepts

Creating concepts is a poietic circle of its own, which Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari have already established for philosophy. According to them, "you will know nothing through concepts unless you have first created them–that is, constructed them in an institution specific to them: a field, a plane, and a ground that must not be confused with them." [Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, 7.] Thus, that aspect of poetics that we found in Agamben and have addressed as the opening of a field of truth through poetics is also methodologically secured: "terminology is the poetic moment of thought." [Giorgio Agamben, What is an Apparatus?, trans David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009, 1.] Poetics creates something, thus bringing something from non-being into being. While in a poetics of concepts, following Deleuze/Guattari, "every creation [is] a construction on a plane that gives it an autonomous existence," [Deleuze/Guattari, What is Philosophy, 7.] a poetics of fiction in its time-form differs from that of the concept. The philosophical inventions of concepts are "real without being current," whereas literary fiction has a current time-form. And the philosophical term "has no reference," [Deleuze/Guattari, What is Philosophy, 22] whereas the poetics of fiction is characterized by a shift of reference.

What would a poietic concept be, conceived in analogy to this? A poietic concept is also characterized by the fact that "it makes us aware of new variations and unknown resonances, it carries out unforeseen cuttings-out, it brings forth an Event that surveys (survole) us." [Deleuze/Guattari, What is Philosophy, 28] Let's take the example of the concept 'present-tense novel' and look at the shift of reference induced by this. It makes a difference whether we mean simply that we have a novel in the present-tense before us, or whether we are reading a present-tense novel as para-digm, which would be the catalyst for a slowly implemented shift in the dominant from narration to fiction as the medium of the novel. In the first case, the text is only seen as an example of an aesthetic of estrangement, and the present tense as a foundational tense, which guides reading and constitutes fiction, does not figure at all. Dealing with the text remains at the level of an aesthetic experience, and does not cause any present to appear. Poetics, by contrast, opens access to the formation of time in the process of reading.


2) The poietic moment of reading

The literary present tense can newly be read as fiction solely under the auspices of a poietic de-construction of a literary historical terrain. Only the discovery of a new way of reading–reading understood here as the central technique of literary studies–can dispense with the claim, using all of the strategies of evidence available (from literary studies), that the phenomenon is simply pre-given in the material. It is typical for any reading bent on understanding to transform the operation of reading into the phenomenon itself. The concept of a 'hermeneutic circle' explains how the requirements of reading interact with a pre-given text, how much the anticipation of the entire text determines how we classify the parts read, up to that turning point when the reader's assumptions run up against him as a structure of the text itself. This circularity can become a valuable poietic method if we give up the illusion of the factual therein, thus recognizing the reference-shifting moment of fiction. This is to say, if we replace the belated endeavor to objectify our own interpretations with a targeted, scholarly attempt, pre-conceived as experimental.

This is also the point where a further connotation of 'experiment' comes into play. The extraction of a law from empiricism, borrowed from the natural sciences (with the ideal of clinical reduction, verifiable conditions, reproducibility, the connection of "local limitation and openness to the future, limit of knowledge with a high capacity for connectivity"[Andreas Gailus, "Ein Theater des Infinitesimalen. Musil und die Grenzen der Genauigkeit," Dilettantismus als Beruf, Safia Azzouni and Uwe Wirth, eds., Berlin 2010, 65-82, here 72]), is supplemented by a poetic experiment, which traditionally gets located in experimental writing. Experimental processes of poetics are brought to bear in reading because a poietic moment unifies literary practice with the very thing that creates knowledge: targeting something as unknown.


Excerpt from: Armen Avanessian and Anke Hennig: Present. A Poetics, Berlin 2012. PDF