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POETICS  February 2003

POETICS February 2003

Subject:

INTERVIEW WITH AUGUST HIGHLAND BY ANDREW SHELLEY

From:

lewis lacook <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

UB Poetics discussion group <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 10 Feb 2003 05:44:30 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (375 lines)

INTERVIEW WITH AUGUST HIGHLAND BY ANDREW SHELLEY

(Andrew Shelley is an oxford- and cambridge-educated
poet, writer,
essayist and literary critic. He is the author of two
poetry collections,
"The Requiem Tree" and "Peaceworks".)



Andrew Shelley:

I like the kind of tricks your work is always playing
with the literary
establishment and with our expectations derived from
it and elsewhere,
but do you intend your work be taken as anything other
than that?

August Highland:

No. Absolutely not. I never play tricks in the sense
of hoaxes or
games. The tactics i am using are motivated by a very
serious commitment to
the western literary tradition. My work questions the
literary status
quo and the expectations of readers because this is
what a writer is
obligated to do, otherwise he is in the wrong
profession.


AS:
You have said elsewhere that the implementation of
technology aided you
in the attainment of your literary voice. How?

AH:
This is a very easy question to answer. The answer is
very closely tied
to what i stated in response to your first question.
Another inherent
responsibility that a writer must accept is allowing
himself to be a
vehicle or a voice of the generation in which he is
producing his literary
work. Otherwise he is creating in a vacuum and his
work has no validity
for society and makes no contribution to the
historical timeline of
civilization. We are living in what i call a
"technoculture" or
"hyper-literary age" or a "digital media generation".


AS:
Do you disown all the writing you produced prior to
your
technology-aided work? Was it more traditional? Would
you be willing to let us see
some of that work?

AH:
I do not disown any writing that i produced prior to
my creating
"hyper-literary fiction" and to my founding the
"worldwide literati
mobilization network". My earlier work was more
traditional in the sense that i
did not utilize digital tools in the production of my
text. I would not
show anyone this work because it has no pertinence to
anything other
than being an important stage in my development as a
writer.


AS:
The "worldwide literati mobilization network" is a
simulated literary
movement and all the members of the wlmn are your
multiple personas. Do
you still then want us to see and read your work as
"yours" and as
issuing from a "voice". Don't those terms issue from
the whole mythology of
the "autocratic" author and his presiding
consciousness you wish to
reject?

AH:
I do not want the reader to read the work by the
members of the wlmn as
issuing from me. I reject the whole autocratic
mythology. I reject the
centralized role of the author. I reject these belief
systems or
mythologies. The members of the wlmn are not me. Not
mine. Each member of the
wlmn however IS an autocratic writer. I have rejected
the myth. They
haven't.


AS:
How is a reader to locate himself/herself in your
work? What points of
reference can you provide?

AH:
Just as with the wlmn i have de-centralized the
author/authority/authoritarian position of the
man/woman behind the writing, the wlmn writers
extract from their work as many points of reference
that they can
without allowing the work to disintegrate. They
provide just enough points
of reference for the reader to be able to provide
his/her own reference
points. The writing is consolidated enough for the
reader to follow but
it is also tenuous enough to allow the reader to
infuse the work with
his/her own metaphors. The effect of hyper-literary
fiction allows the
reader to be immersed in the text and at the same time
to invest the
text with his/her own reality.


AS:
What led you to reject the notion of the author as a
unified presiding
consciousness? Can't we be diverse but unified? One in
many and many in
one?

AH:
My fundamental belief about the human psyche is that
the individual is
a very small part of a vastly greater whole. The
worldwide literati
mobilization network is a reflection of this. I
believe in the jungian and
the archetypal psychology notions that there is a
collective
unconscious comprised of a multitude of archetypes or
discrete transpersonal
selves that form the foundation of human
consciousness. I also believe in the jungian concept
of "complexes"
which are a group of selves that are correlated with
the archetypes. The
distinction between the two is that the archetypal
selves are
transpersonal or common to all human beings and the
complexes are a group of
selves unique to each individual. The archetypes are
innate. The complexes
circumstantial. That is to say that the complexes are
formed within our
psyche in response to each of our unique set of life
experiences.
This is what led me to renounce the notion of the
author as a unified
autocratic consciousness.
The second part of your question was: "Can't we be
diverse but
unified?". Yes we certainly are diverse AND unified.
One in many AND many in
one. That is exactly the principle concept behind the
worldwide literati
mobilization network. The members of the wlmn are the
"many". But the
members of the wlmn, the "many" are not me. I am not
the "one". I am
just as much a part of the "one" as each of the
members are. The "one" is
the collective unconscious interacting with the
personal unconscious,
or the archetypes interacting with complexes. The only
role i play in
all of this is that i am the person in which all of
these psychic forces
are dramatically being played out. I am more like the
announcer at a
soccer match. That's really my role as the author. The
players on the
field are the archetypes and complexes.


AS:
I want to discuss the issue of the relation between
randomly generated
text and how you modify it? To what extent and how
exactly, according
to what criteria, do you modify randomly generated
text?

AH:
There exists a misconception of hyper-literary fiction
as being
randomly generated or "programmatic" text. It is not.
The contribution of the
software and programming scripts that i utilize in the
production of my
work is actually very minimal. At one time, a couple
of decades ago or
even longer than that, the issue of programmatic
versus
non-programmatic literary work was a valid subject of
discourse and debate. When
writers began to use programming aids at the advent of
the technological age
they were adopting an aesthetic position that was a
radical departure
from the literary forms that were practiced at that
time. Today this is
no longer a viable issue. Technological tools form an
everyday part of
our lives now. They have become "self-extensions". The
demarcation
between people and technology is no longer an
earthquake fault in the
landscape of our culture. It is now just a line in the
sand. The digital
tools i use to assist me in the production of my work
are no different
than the mallet and chisel of a sculptor carving
marble.


AS:
How seriously are we to take your work? Isn't it more
interesting for
the theoretical implications it raises than anything
else? Aren't you
going to interest academics to the exclusion of other
forms of readers?
Isn't this more exclusionary than the "autocratic
author" ideology?

AH:
My audiences are both academia and readers.
Hyper-literary fiction has
dual-significance. An editor-in-chief of an academic
journal or a
professor of modern literature or new media will read
my work for the
conceptual significance and readers will read
hyper-literary fiction for the
same reason they would want to read any other new
literary work that is
adding to the spectrum of literary forms and
delivering content that
engages them. I am a reader and I like to read work
that tells me i am an
"important" reader and an "intelligent" reader and a
"creative" reader
and a "self-sufficient" reader. I don't want to hear
what is in the
author's mind because i really don't care what they
think and i really
don't care what they have to say. I want the author to
be interested in
what is in MY mind. This is what i want an author to
do for me. I want
him/her to collaborate with me and to invite me to
contribute to his/her
work. I created hyper-literary fiction to meet my own
needs as a
reader. Since the work by the members of the worldwide
literati mobilization
network are not me, i cannot be accused of making
arrogant assertions
by disclosing this.
The second part of your question was: Isn't this more
exclusionary than
the "autocratic author" ideology?
I earnestly dismiss this as being part of the
motivation behind my
work. As i was just saying my work "invites" the
reader to project into my
work his/her mental landscape or psychological terrain
or creative
imagery and associations. My work (and also my work as
an editor of a
literary journal) is founded upon the tenet of
inclusion.


AS:
Do you think traditional writing can effect the kind
of destabilization
and derangement you speak of in one of your
introductions? If so, why
not try to do it that way? Has it ever been done
before? Does that
matter? Do you want us to look for precedents to your
work - Burroughs comes
to mind - and how far do you wish to be seen as
continuing that trend?

AH:
Yes, traditional writing absolutely can achieve the
same kind of effect
as hyper-literary fiction. In fact nearly all of the
writers (over 400
in the winter 2003 issue) in the literary journal of
which i am the
editor and which is called the "muse apprentice guild"
are using
traditional means to achieve the same end that i am
concerned with achieving.
In response to the second part of your question, i do
write poetry from
a traditional approach almost daily.
As for the last part of your question concerning
precedents. I do not
wish to be seen as continuing the trend of writers
like William S.
Burroughs. This is because he is classified as an
iconoclast and a
subversive writer and an eccentric and heroine junkie,
etc. We live in a
different world now. There is no place in the literary
profession for junkies
and eccentric narcissists and cult figures and
careerists and people
with psychological disorders who are not attending to
their condition by
taking the appropriate medication or for any other
type of romanticized
self-destructive individuals. The world we live in
today is a
pro-humanity pro-earth world. So no, i don't want to
be associated with anyone
who is considered an extremist or a subversive. The
only modern writer i
can think of whom i consider to have contributed to my
development as a
writer would be Samuel Beckett, but only the early
novels by him and
not his dramatic work. I am not making a value
statement about his plays.
I simply have always read novels.


AS:
What do you think of work that is similar to yours but
produced
entirely by human agency, by writers disabling the
"transparent sense-making"
part of writing?

AH:
I read it with a passion. I publish it with a passion.




=====


http://www.lewislacook.com/
NEW! Zoosemiotics http://www.lewislacook.com/zoosemiotics
ARCADIA: long poem serialized in the muse apprentice guild: http://www.muse-apprentice-guild.com/
http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/385/lewis_lacook.html


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