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The Closures of the Open Text: Lyn Hejinian’s “Paradise Found”
Contemporary Literature (2009)
  • Jacob Edmond, University of Otago
Abstract

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I want to open up for discussion a topic that has to date remained largely closed, due, ironically enough, to an emphasis on openness. As Meir Sternberg observes, from modernism’s “turn, in practice and theory, toward the open ending,” to poststructuralism’s “preaching [of] endless indeterminacy,” the literary-critical climate of recent decades has overwhelmingly favored openness over closure, obscuring “the family likeness underlying the extreme models” such that even “the poetics of anti-closure at its most radical” involves “multiple closure” (519–20, 568–69). Reflecting this tendency, the claim to openness pervades both the self-presentation and critical reception of Language writing, concealing the closures of its open text. This, at least, I will argue, is the case for Lyn Hejinian, one of the most prominent writers to have emerged from this highly influential late-twentieth-century U.S. literary avant-garde, and the one perhaps most closely associated with its rhetoric of openness. While, as Alan Golding notes, Language writers have used openness to signify an emphasis on linguistic opacity, autonomy, and polysemy and the rejection of organicist notions of naturalness, presence, and immediacy (“Openness” 80–88), Hejinian’s writing exhibits a striking preoccupation with total linguistic transparency, correspondence between language and world, epistemological closure, and perfect understanding, all of which she associates with the term paradise. Her essay “The Rejection of Closure” (1984), her long poem The Guard (1984), and her later essay “La Faustienne” (1998) all grow, directly or indirectly, out of this preoccupation.

Keywords
  • poetry,
  • Lyn Hejinian,
  • poetic closure,
  • open text,
  • poetics,
  • paradise in literature
Publication Date
Summer 2009
Citation Information
Jacob Edmond. "The Closures of the Open Text: Lyn Hejinian’s “Paradise Found”" Contemporary Literature Vol. 50 Iss. 2 (2009)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jacob_edmond/1/