Open Conference Systems, NorLit 2011

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Ida Börjel and the Politics of Form
Johan Alfredsson

Last modified: 2011-07-05


It is my general aim in this paper to study the political implications of linguistic and literary conventions, through theorists like Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Jacques Rancière, and Marjorie Perloff. My touchstone will be the poetry of Swedish contemporary poet Ida Börjel.

What interests me in Börjel’s writing is her tendencies to use “found objects”, and to question the representational function of language, as its primary function. These tendencies correspond well to e.g. Rancière’s thoughts on literature and its relation to life, as well as to Lecercle’s discussions on the barriers between what is inside language’s conventions, and what is left outside (“the remainder”). In my paper, I dwell on certain political dimensions of theories like theirs, from a perspective which might, at least to a certain extent, be described as culture-semiotic: What ideologies come with a certain semiotic understanding, with certain linguistic conventions? And what ideologies surface when these conventions, this understanding, is questioned in one way or the other?

Concepts like parataxis and language materialism will be crucial to my discussion, since these concepts (or at least certain facets of them) stress functions of language and literature which are not representational. Lecercle’s theories on “the remainder” of language prove very effective when applied not specifically as linguistic tools primarily, but as tools for literary analysis. Especially when one approaches a literature which tries to scrutinize, and even transgress, its own boundaries and conventions – as does Börjel’s. This concept also proves a useful complement in relation to Rancière’s more qualitative concept of the “political”, and its relationship to literature specifically. Rancière speaks mainly of the novel, and Lecercle mainly of language (in more general terms).

Within the habitat of Marjorie Perloff’s theories of experimental poetry, these two theoretical perspectives can find an environment where literary form and politics have a lot to say to each other. And the outcome of such a discussion would have relevance when it comes to the relationship between such politically radiant pairs as nature and culture, or ecology and economy.

Full Text: Paper NorLit 2011