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Pineda, Speaking about Genre (abstract)

  • Victoria Pineda. "Speaking about Genre: The Case of Concrete Poetry." New Literary History 26 (1995): 379ñ93.
PINEDA IS CONCERNED with three related topics: the problems of defining concrete poetry as a genre (because of its variety of intervening systems [381]); alternative methods of production and transmission (385); and the role of the "receptor"óa new way to define the reader/viewer (388). Pineda frames her discussion of how critics, poets, and "metatexts" read or refuse to read concrete poetry within the literary genre, within the context of Lessing's distinctions between painting and poetry (382). These "receptors" of concrete poetry take it "more or less . . . as poetry and nothing else" (385), despite Pineda's claim that concrete poetry seeks to "free itself from all subjectivity, shifting the 'lyrical' focus and placing it in the aesthetic side of the process" (385, emphasis added).
    This assumption (that concrete poetry is purely poetry) determines expectations regarding production, transmission, and reception. Crucially, Pineda argues that first, readers "must adapt their expectations until they find a 'new type of meaning," and, second, "expectations about the function of interpretation itself must also be modified" (387). Pineda acknowledges that the most widely accepted proposal on how to read concrete poetry is that interpretation must be exchanged for perception.
    As Pineda seeks to question a purely poetic or literary reading of concrete poetry, the proposition to simply perceive a poem that "communicates itself," that "is in the surface" (388), suggests that as "receptors," our understanding of the word "poem" needs to change, and that our move away from seeing concrete poetry within the literary genre necessitates a move toward a visual-aesthetic genre. (Julia Bleakney.)

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Michael Hancher

Department of English, University of Minnesota

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Created 24 December 1997