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The Testimony of Structure: Codecs and Contemporary Poetry

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number4
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2016
Number of pages10
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Many contemporary theorists have observed the increasing directness of the
relationship of language to economics through technology. Coming from the
Marxist tradition of the Italian autonomist movement, both Franco Berardi’s The
Uprising: Poetry and Finance (from 2012), and Paolo Virno’s The Grammatisation of
the Multitude (from 2003) contend that the special circumstances of post-Fordist
industry – an industry based on cognitive and linguistic labour – places a great
deal of focus on the cultural production of language. Thus, Virno describes culture
itself as the new “industry of the means of production” (Virno 61). Under the regime of
semiocapitalism this suggests, language artefacts acquire ontological status on a par with more explicitly technological devices.

This paper pursues Giorgio Agamben's notion 'testimony' in the context of this technologisation of language, in particular Agamben's (1999) affirmation that the testimony can be the site where the unspeakable is present as a 'darkness'. Using this notion, I asks how contemporary literature might withdraw its innovations from the role they play in “industry of the means of production” by a form intimate sharing that withdraws itself into error. It is in this paper that for the first time I propose the term "Glitch Poetic" to term a deployment of linguistic error that both signifies an intertwinement -- and endebtedness -- of language with the digital sphere, while constituting a refusal or resistance of the dissolution of literature into information flows. Using Ben Lerner's poetry book Mean Free Path as an example, I suggest the glitch poetic is a particular performance of the voice of a new kind of language, grounding and recontextualising itself in a shifting linguistic environment.


This paper was developed through talks given at conferences at Oxford, Cambridge and York Universities. It was delivered as a presentation at the new media festival Transmediale in 2016.