Monday, December 6, 2010

Out of Black Mountain

Filed under: General — m759 @ 9:14 PM

Robin Hartshorne, AMS Notices , April 2000, p. 464

"Whenever one approaches a subject from two different directions, there is bound to be an interesting theorem expressing their relation." 

From "When Novelists Become Cubists," by Andre Furlani—

With a nod to film-maker Stan Brakhage, Davenport calls his compositional principle "architectonic form." (2) In the essay "Narrative Tone and Form," he identifies in twentieth century literature "a movement from assuming the world to be transparent, and available to lucid thoughts and language, to assuming (having to assume, the artists involved would say) that the world is opaque" (Geography  311). Architectonic form derives from modernist experiments in disrupted perspective (as, for example, in collage and vorticism). "The architectonics of a narrative," Davenport says, "are emphasized and given a role to play in dramatic effect when novelists become Cubists; that is, when they see the possibilities of making a hieroglyph, a coherent symbol, an ideogram of the total work. A symbol comes into being when an artist sees that it is the only way to get all the meaning in. Genius always proceeds by faith" (312). The unparaphrasable architectonic text "differs from other narrative in that the meaning shapes into a web, or globe, rather than along a line" (318). The essence of such art "is that it conceals what it most wishes to show; first, because it charges word, image and sense to the fullest, fusing matter and manner; secondly, to allow meaning to be searched out" (57-58).

In architectonic form, meaning may be generated more in the interstices between images, citation, and passages of dialogue than in the content of these elements. "It is the conjunction, not the elements, that creates a new light," Davenport says in an essay on poet Ronald Johnson (194). This is the Poundian aesthetic Charles Olson attempted to translate into practical pedagogical terms as rector of Black Mountain College, a school organized, as Olson explained in a 1952 letter, on the "principle that the real existence of knowledge lies between things & is not confined to labeled areas" (quoted in Duberman 341).


(2) Brakhage has written admiringly of Davenport. In "Ice is for Coffee and for Wine" he speaks of the joy to have "at last met such a man as Pound describes Remy de Goncourt to have been…i.e. one whose intelligence was a way of feeling" (7).


Brakhage, Stan. "Ice is for Coffee and for Wine." Margins  30 (Aug.-Sept. 1974): 6-7.

Davenport, Guy. The Geography of the Imagination . San Francisco, North Point Press, 1981. Reprint: New York, Pantheon, 1992.

Duberman, Martin. Black Mountain . New York, Dutton, 1972

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