Parataxis

The reason to read Autoportrait is to savor the shocking precision—a guillotine’s—of its rapid cuts between unlike ideas, and to savor the actual information offered about the textures and peculiarities of a specific consciousness.

The Prince of Parataxis – by Wayne Koesenbaum

Parataxis” : the juxtaposition of two or more sentences without a conjunction.

“I came. I saw. I conquered.” is a common example of a paratactic statement. A list of events, where the missing “then” is supplied by the reader/listener.   By removing the conjunction, the swiftness, ease and shock of the sequence comes alive.

Cinema editing is naturally paratactic. Continuity (or discontinuity) is worked out spatially with lines of action, graphic matches/contrasts. For example, a cut from night to day is paratactic code for: “the next day.” But there is another kind of literary/cinematic parataxis. The listing of items–objects, thoughts or events–without regard to narrative conjunction. The art of Whitman, Joyce,  Stein, Beckett; of Perec, Barthes, Ruiz, Ashbery, Brainard. More recently in the work of David Markson, Édouard Levé, Diane Williams, Laird Hunt and Danielle Dutton.

In the past months, I have been writing about plot and database narrative for an upcoming paper; wondering if it is possible to have a narrative without temporal conjunction: this happened, then this happend.

I have been inspired by Danielle Dutton’s SPRAWL.  Not exactly stream of consciousness, the work is more of an interface to the material and thought stuff in the life of suburban woman. There is no development, no hierarchy. The  words themselves sprawl across justified, non-breaking pages. If there is an implied conjunction, it is the word “and. ” Everything is equal to everything else.  Pleasure, wonder, ache, sadness comes through exploring the text, seeing its patterns, dipping into its flow, recognizing the strange incongruities of material life, and the deep longing for the immaterial.

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