Barrett Watten

Double Change and the Fondation des États-Unis are delighted to invite you to a conference and reading with Barrett WATTEN on Wednesday, March 15. At 6:30pm, the event will begin with a conference in English “Poetics as Value Thinking: Transvaluations of Language Writing” (moderated by Hélène AJI), followed by a bilingual reading at 7:30pm with Barrett WATTEN and Véronique PITTOLO. This event is organized by Hélène Aji and Abigail Lang with the support of Paris-Diderot University (LARCA), Paris-Nanterre University (CREA) and the Ecole Normale Supérieure.

Double Change was founded in 2000 in order to juxtapose, unite and reunite the poetries of France and the United States in a new bi-national, multi-faceted forum. Established as a not-for-profit organization in Paris and with editorial boards in both France and the U.S., Double Change looks to represent a diverse, eclectic spectrum of poetic activity in both countries. The organization has two principal aims: to discover new poets and rediscover poets in expanded bi-national contexts; and to represent in our forums poets and other artists who are in dialogue with their texts. For these goals we have two essential venues: a reading series in Paris, and a web site featuring a poetry magazine and a film archive.

Guests’ Biographies

Barrett Watten is a professor of English at Wayne State University. He is the author of Total Syntax, The Constructivist Moment: From Material Text to Cultural Poetics and, most recently, Questions of Poetics. Language Writing and Consequences (Iowa, 2016). He coedited Diasporic Avant-Gardes: Experimental Poetics and Cultural Displacement with Carrie Noland, and A Guide to Poetics Journal: Writing in the Expanded Field, 1982–1998 and Poetics Journal Digital Archive with Lyn Hejinian. A founding member of the Language school movement of poetry, his creative works include Frame: 1971–1990, Progress/Under Erasure, Bad History, and, in progress, Zone. He lives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Véronique Pittolo favors a hybrid form between poetry and prose, lines with a narrative possibility, statements which enable her to combine critical thinking and poetic enchantment. She taps our common cultural background, rekindling the reader’s memories, reactivating dormant fictions, unfolding myths to refold them differently: Helen of Troy, Shreck, little red riding hood, Gary Cooper… She considers her own texts as a living matter to be reactivated, on the occasion of poetry readings for instance. She is the author of some fifteen books, most published with Editions de l’Attente or Al Dante, and several multimedia projects. In 2012, the critical poems collected in Toute Résurrection commence par les pieds questioned the place of women in Western art from the Renaissance to the twentieth-century. In 2014, Une jeune fille dans tout le royaume offered three tales that castigated the clichés conveyed by a polished Catholic bourgeois education. Monomère & Maxiplace is forthcoming from éditions de l’Attente.

About “Poetics as Value Thinking: Transvaluations of Language Writing” 

“In several recent essays, I have taken up the figure of the poet/critic as a producer of value in a way that combines aesthetics and political economy. In this lecture, I will restate my conclusions so far—in relation to the concept of “value” in Marx, after George Henderson’s revisionist Value in Marx—and explore, through the concept of transvaluation, how “value” can be expanded to the production of “values” in poetry and art. I will continue the genealogy of the poet/critic from its modernist forebears through the moment of Language writing up to the present. Supported by my reading of value theory, I want to make three points about the dual figure of the poet/critic. The first is that the dyad comprehends the social relations of poetic production in both theorizing and intervening in them. Poet and critic are twin aspects of poetic labor, brought into relation to create both the centripetal poem and centrifugal text. The second is that the labor of the poet/critic takes up the literariness of the work that came before and reproduces it in present terms; there is a necessary and indissoluble relation between the writing of the present and the past, which cannot be undone by mere negation. The third is that the poet/critic dyad recognizes the expansion, not contraction, of terms for value in a manner that parallels the difficult work of establishing value in political economy. Indeed, for precisely the reason that the question of value in political and economic terms is expanding, in ways that could never have been foreseen, the poet/critic theorizes writing as production in open terms—as a mode of knowing and acting toward an undisclosed future. We do not know yet what aspects of the lifeworld we may call into question and substantiate are relevant or correct; we can only know by testing. The poet/critic is agonistic in this sense: as a dual figure for value and labor, it keeps all stops open as a mode of interpreting the world that can change it. In the company of associated producers, the poet/critic looks ahead.”

– Barrett Watten

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