Response to “The New Sentence” by Ron Silliman

Warning: This is an experiment.

Today I had to write a response to two essays from Ron Silliman’s “The New Sentance,” a rather complex work detailing his philosophy on where the development of literature is going, where is needs to go, the limits of prose and poetry, and the prose poem. I had to read the entire second essay and write this response it just one hour. I should have spent more time on it I know. This is the sad truth, and I own it.

But since I had to write quickly, I decided to undertake a little experiment. When I write on through the WordPress interface, I am generally not worried about sounding academic, or even about how my posts will shape out. I just write them-and that is what the one hour time limit on this assignment was forcing me to do-just write it.

So I thought, what if I write the response in WordPress? Maybe my response will be refreshingly unacademic, maybe I won’t be intimidated by Microsoft Word and all of it’s highschoolessay academicmarvelofrapturousthought connotations? What if…I just wrote it?

And so I did. And I finished in one hour (50 minutes, to be exact).

After I printed and turned it in, I realized that this draft was still on my Blog. I thought to myself, why not post it? It is an interesting topic to explore, how the physical process and interface of writing effects what is written. So here it is. In all of it’s hasty, un-copy-edited, and experimental glory:

Ron Silliman’s essays on LANGUAGE and Towards Prose included in his book, “The New Sentance,” are not so much on the literary theory as they are on the Theory of the foundation of literature, or what he defines as the most basic unit of literature: the sentence.

He asserts that Prose fiction as a form, and as we know it today, is driven by the epic narratives of Poetry. And considering the scope of “literature,” I tend to agree. In Silliman’s philosophy, the sentence is the most bast unit of literature, as opposed to words which, are of no use outside of sentences except to writers. And except of course when one word also forms a sentence. It seems odd to suggest that words have no meaning. But really this is a valid point. For, what meaning do words have unless offset by other words and contextualized?

On page 72, Silliman suggests that the discourse of literature lies somewhere in between the discourse of the everyday and the discourse of science. This simple, statement can be seen as a sort of summing of all that Silliman is trying to prove: That the sentence, and indeed literature, is nothing that is exclusively defined in its own right-and deserves a new interpretation, in effect, The New Sentence.

Silliman instead evokes something he refers to as Prosody, defined by the treatment of the paragraph as a unit of measure, the construction of sentences out of sentences rather than words. And a movement of the poetic form moved into the inferiors of Prose (89)

Silliman’s idea of a “New Sentence” seems much more a long the lines of thought than of writing. It is concise, powerful, and can be very perplexing but really makes perfect sense (because why else would you be thinking it?) And why, then, does Silliman believe that this “New Sentence” lies in the form of Prose Poetry? It is because Prose Poetry is that in between place, the place between the creative moment and the transcription where thought lives, the place between the everyday and the scientific, the place where, according to Silliman’s previous assumption, literature and the new sentence lives. A New Sentence  looks like prose, but with interior poetic structure.

And so, Silliman has to ask, then, what is Prose?

Prose, he seems to suggest, is  a sort of writing that has a definite aim. Again an again, he evokes dipolar stucture, between the science of writing and the intution and emotion of meaning, between phoneme and grapheme, between speech and writing and language. His idea of prose poem (very different of what is often considered “poetic prose”) is suggested of a means of transcending genre to create an authentic literature, providing some remedy to the assumption that “writing is therefore no more a disguise for language than is speech” (106). The New Sentence, in Silliman’s point of view, will tear open the way we think about and categorize literature.


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One Response to “Response to “The New Sentence” by Ron Silliman”

  1. Shirley Lei Says:

    I wish I could say that I’ve read this post, but, alas, I have not. I will, at some point.

    I wanted to write to say “Yay! I found Arielle’s blog!) I did not know this was yours because no where does it mention your name, but then I saw that photo of you in the Geyser Hotel and your mentions of Berkeley cemented it. Am adding you to my blog-roll.

    I have 4 blogs of my own and am working to maintain all of them. I use blogger though… I like wordpress’s simplicity, but, alas, it has taken me so long to learn how to edit my blogger blogs that I refuse to start from scratch. Ah well.

    Write please! I am so bored over here. And, btw, I did not know that Bella was originally from the Bay! OMG. How did I ever miss that? I must pester her for her company when she returns from Germany. No way am I letting go of anyone who is remotely near me. Nuh-uh. Nope. No way Jose.

    Take care.

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