A Queer Response to Caroline Bergvall’s Hyphenated Practice: Toward an Interdependent Model of Reading

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


When literary critics approach highly experimental works, we are
confronted with a problem: it is not always clear to us what the
work means. Readers of such work may find themselves bereft. We
don’t know what to do when we open a book and find texts like the
one reproduced on the front cover of Reading Experimental Writing,
from Caroline Bergvall’s Drift. Have a look. What do you see? I see
very narrow lines in the shape of a stanza, and at fi rst don’t realise
I am looking at a drawing. Is this a drawing of unreadable lines of
text? There are lots and lots of lines in this section that is called
‘LINES’ but doesn’t name itself as such until the penultimate page
of the book.3 The question arises, what is a reader to do without
language? Is there an alternative to feeling bereft of meaning? We
are used to working hard, yes, but we expect that at some point
the meaning of the work will become clear. If it does not, we imagine
that the problem is outside of us. Despite decades-long debates
about the death of the author, we feel her absence: the author has not
offered us a clear path. But what has she offered? In this chapter, I argue that Caroline Bergvall’s ‘hyphenated practice’, experienced in the first pages of Drift as the juxtaposition of writing with drawing, calls for and models a new understanding of
the relation between writer and reader, one that models what we
can do when we fi d ourselves in the dark, when meaning is unclear,
when we don’t know how to find our way
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReading Experimental Writing
EditorsGeorgina Colby
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781474440417, 9781474440400
ISBN (Print)9781474440394, 9781474440387
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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