‘Assume No Readership’ – Kenneth Goldsmith (2014)

Whether or not you agree with Kenneth Goldsmith, you gotta admit that he occasionally says some pretty interesting things.

Web link: http://channel.louisiana.dk/video/kenneth-goldsmith-assume-no-readership

In this 2014 video, ‘Assume No Readership’ by Louisiana Channel, Goldsmith begins by reading a newspaper article about the Nobel Prize, declaring the article to be a short new poem. He uses this reading as a springboard for discussing his own creative work. In Goldsmith’s words:

My ideas come become because I respond to technology. I think that where technology leads, art follows – not the other way around. And we’re living in a time of such incredible technological changes that just listening to technology gives me amazing ideas. […] The ways in which I write are digital ways, even if they appear on an analogue page.

Goldsmith believes in the versatility – and, indeed, limitlessness – of poetry as a genre. Using digital means, he says of his own ‘poetry’ that ‘in a sense, I haven’t really written it. I’ve just sort of moved it onto a pedestal for everybody to examine. […] Any angle you hit on that thing is going to be right.’ This obnoxiously-über-postmodernist approach to authorship is made possible by new tools for the manifestation of creative intention.

‘What can literature possibly be in the digital age?’ Goldsmith asks. ‘I think one of the great tragedies of poets is that they assume they’re being read. And they’re not being read.’

Dedicate 16.5 minutes to watching this video, get fired up, and then use what you’ve learned to upset your friends at your next Zoom cocktail party.

Sunday Book-Thought 145

It has been apparent for some time that literary theory is in something of a cul-de-sac. Derrida has written little of substance for years; de Man produced his most stunning effects by dying and leaving an unsavoury past to be unearthed; Marxism is licking its wounds after the collapse of the post-capitalist bureaucracies. The pathbreaking epoch of Greimas and the early Kristeva, the Althusserians and avant-garde film theorists, radical Barthes and reader-response theory, now lies a couple of decades behind us. Few truly innovative theoretical moves have been made since; the new historicism, for all its occasional brilliance, is theoretically speaking a set of footnotes to Foucault. It is as though the theory is all in place, and all that remains to be done is run yet more texts through it.
Terry Eagleton, Figures of Dissent: Reviewing Fish, Speivak, Žižek and Others (London: Verso, 2005), p. 135.