“Simply the Form”

Christopher Bush

in Ideographic Modernism

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780195393828
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199866601 | DOI:
“Simply the Form”

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The second chapter turns from writing-as-image to writing-as-inscription, focusing on Victor Segalen’s Stèles (1912), a prose poem collection that formally emulates the Chinese stone monuments from which it takes its name. Segalen’s self-conscious and indeed programmatic negation of China into “China” provides both an example and an allegory of Western modernism’s overdetermined relationship to China as both a worldly, historical object of interest and a somehow nonexistent and effectively timeless source of forms. Segalen’s figurations of Chinese writing as inscriptional and essentially nonreferential suggest important general lessons about modernist uses of China as a source of formal innovation, specifically the ways in which these uses corresponded to a more general redefinition of the modernist relationship between “literature” and the death of intention.

Keywords: Victor Segalen; inscription; phonography; translation; vampire; Book of Rites; Stèles; Friedrich Kittler; Roland Barthes

Chapter.  13343 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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