can only lead to the silence of writing

Other writers have thought that they could exorcize this sacred writing only by dislocating it. They have therefore undermined literary language, they have ceaselessly exploded the ever-renewed husk of cliches, of habits, of the formal past of the writer; in a chaos of forms and a wilderness of words they hoped they would achieve an object wholly delivered of History, and find again the freshness of a pristine state of language. But such upheavals end up by leaving their own tracks and creating their own laws. The threat of becoming a Fine Art is a fate which hangs over any language not based exclusively on the speech of society. In a perpetual flight forward from a disorderly syntax, the disintegration of language can only lead to the silence of writing. …for some writers, language, the first and last way out of literary myth, finally restores what it had hoped to avoid, that there is no writing which can be lastingly revolutionary, and than any silence of form can escape imposture only by complete abandonment of communication.

Barthes, Roland. Writing Degree Zero. Trans., Annette Laers and Colin Smith. New York: Hill and Wang, 1967. 74-5.

a thousand years

Brothers, nobody should say or think: “What is the sense of bothering with copying by haand when the art of printing has brought to light so many important books; a huge library can be acquired inexpensively.” …

All of you know the difference between a manuscript and a printed book. The word written on parchment will last a thousand years. The printed word is on paper. How long will it last? The most you can expect a book of paper to survive is two hundred years. Yet, there are many who think they can entrust their works to paper. Only time will tell.

Yes, many books are now available in print, but no matter how many books will be printed, there will always be some left unprinted and worth copying. No one will ever be able to locate and buy all printed books. Even if all works ever written would appear in print, the devoted scribe should not relax in his zeal. On the contrary, he will guarantee the permanence to useful printed books by copying them. His labor will render mediocre books better, worthless ones more valuable, and perishable ones more lasting. …

…he must not cease copying just because the art of printing has been invented.

Johannes Trithemius, In Praise of Scribes (De Laude Scriptorum). Ed., Klaus Arnold. Trans., Roland Behrendt. Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1974. 63.

calls the reader the operator

Mallarm√© calls the reader the ‘operator.’ Reading, like poetry, is an ‘operation.’ The term retains for him, throughout, its dual connotation of work and of something almost surgical, derived ironically from its functional nature: operation as amputation, rather like the Hegelian ‘Aufhebung.’ Reading is an operation, a labour of self-suppression which is substantiated in a self-confrontation and simultaneously abolished and asserted. …Mallarm√© emphasises the danger and daring of reading—daring apparently to claim authorial rights over the book….

Blanchot, Maurice. “The Book to Come.” A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections About the Book & Writing. Jerome Rothenberg and Steven Clay, eds. New York: Granary Books, 2000. 156.

however useful

However useful the findings of the scholar may be, they would never reach posterity without the skill of the scribe. However good our actions, however profitable our teaching, they would all soon be forgotten if the zeal of the scribe did not transform our efforts into letters. It is the scribes who lend power to words and give lasting value to passing things and vitality to the flow of time. … Without scribes the written word would not long survive unscathed but would be exposed to the destruction by chance and weakened by age.

Johannes Trithemius, In Praise of Scribes (De Laude Scriptorum). Ed., Klaus Arnold. Trans., Roland Behrendt. Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1974. 35.

writing is covering

Reading is uttering aloud printed or written matter…writing is forming or inscribing words, letters, symbols, etc. on a surface, as by cutting, carving, or especially marking with a pen or pencil…writing is covering something with writing.

Vito Acconci in 0 to 9, Issue 4. in Allen, Gwen. Artists’ Magazines, An Alternative Space for Art. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2011. 77.

is circuitous

Thus, in being, everything is circuitous, roundabout, recurrent, so much talk; a chaplet of sojournings, a refrain with endless verses.

But what a spiral man’s being represents! And what a number of invertible dynamisms there are in this spiral! One no longer knows right away whether one is running toward the center or escaping.

Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994. 214.

think for themselves

Sometimes, on the contrary, instead of becoming welded together, words loosen their intimate ties. Prefixes and suffixes—especially prefixes—become unwelded: they want to think for themselves.

Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994. 213.

to see imaginary forms and figures

Therefore, and in a certain measure, philosophers are painters; poets are painters and philosophers; painters are philosophers and poets. He who is not a poet and a painter is no philosopher. We say rightly that to understand is to see imaginary forms and figures; and understanding is fancy, at least it is not deprived of fancy. He is no painter who is not in some degree a poet and thinker, and there can be no poet without a certain measure of thought and representation.

Giordano Bruno

Frith, Isabel, Life of Giordano Bruno the Nolan, ed. Prof Mauriz Carriere. Boston: Ticknor, 1887), 16.

Higgins, Dick. Horizons, The Poetics and Theory of the Intermedia. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984. 31. with the footnote, “What Ms. Frith has done is to assemble a montage here of the passages from [Giordano Bruno, Jordani Bruni Nolani Opere Latine Conscripta, 3 vols. in 8 pts. 1891: Bad Cannstatt b. Stuttgart, Friedrich Frommann Verlag, 1962) vol. 1, pt. 3, 87-318, esp. 197-99.


Language itself is not perfectly expressed in things themselves. This proposition has a double meaning, in its metaphorical and literal senses: the languages of things are imperfect, and they are dumb. Things are denied the pure formal principle or language—namely, sound. They can communicate to one another only through a more or less material community. This community is immediate and infinite, like every linguistic communication; it is magical (for there is also a magic of matter). The incomparable feature of human language is that its magical community with things is immaterial and purely mental, and the symbol of this is sound. The Bible expresses this symbolic fact when it says that God breathes his breath into man: this is at once life and mind and language.—

Benjamin, Walter. Selected Writings, Volume 1, 1913-1926. ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1996. 67.

is to understand

What is important for me is to understand. For me, writing is a matter of seeking this understanding, part of the process of understanding….Certain things get formulated. If I had a good enough memory to really retain everything that I think, I doubt very much that I would have written anything—I know my own laziness. That is important to me is the thought process itself. As long as I have succeeded in thinking something through, I am personally quite satisfied. If I then succeed in expressing my thought process adequately in writing, that satisfies me also.

Arendt, Hannah. Essays in Understanding, 1930-1954, Formation, Exile, and Totalitarianism. New York: Schocken Books, 1994.