Wednesday, June 22, 2011


I lost my backspace key, which makes writing bizarrely difficult... so I thought I might try to plug away here for a while, caught in the space-time question of how to form an argument.

The argument I am working on takes place in an essay on the Guantanamo poets. I had wanted to write about how the reviews of the poems cast aesthetic judgments about the poems in lieu of engaging with the more pressing questions raised by and in the poems. The reviews confine consideration of the detainees within the sovereign and moralizing narratives which figure and polarize the human and inhuman. Such questions, I thought, had to do with the identity of the poets, with how considering enemy combatants as poets presses us to think about the elusive definitions of the enemy combatant and the implications of this status. The poetic speakers in these poems present the problem of the subject of universal history, re-relating guilt and innocence in order to represent the responsibility of the enemy combatant in a new way, and thus to understand the significance of enemy combatant outside of the theory of sovereignty.

  1. poetry after 9/11 details a new barbarism through language of human rights (prison / resistance/ liberation literaturethe world)
  2. poets are innocent but poems are bad: disabling politics of poems (the reviews reinscribe the moralizing enlightenment narratives of human/inhuman)
  3. subject must bear guilt to be political--status of the inhuman subject of universal history (how the inhuman challenges the narrative of morality that is central to understanding human rights)
  4. the consequences of reading enemy combatant as poet allow more sustained position between (in the murk of) barbarism and culture through the refiguring of the inhuman (the challenges of identification, conditions of anonymity) than does theorization of enemy combatant according to logic of sovereignty
  5. the poems demonstrate the return of suffering to its resistant core, refusing the language of human rights that they seem to adopt (and refusing moral position [to say we are good]) and revisit ideas (somewhat idealistic?) about the shared guilt of culture (as an alternative to the enlightenment and moral narratives of evil/good, barbarism/culture, guilt/innocence)

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