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Title: Biopoetics of Control and Resistance in William Burroughs’ The "Nova" Trilogy
Authors: Christiansen, Steen Ledet
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Steen Ledet Christiansen, "Biopoetics of Control and Resistance in William Burroughs’ The "Nova" Trilogy", in: "Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere", XIX (2014), EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, Trieste, 2014, pp. 165-184
Series/Report no.: Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere
XIX (2014)
William Burroughs’ oft-quoted idea that language is a virus is often reflected in the many different versions of the posthuman found today. While this idea of language as virus has been behind many information theoretical readings of Burroughs’ works, it is clear that Burroughs’ poetics is as much a poetics of embodiment, or what I will call a biopoetics.
In order to develop this notion of biopoetics, I will draw both on Eugene Thacker's argument about biomedia as the conflation of information and body (Thacker 2004), or what we can call bioinformatics. However, this leaves unanswered the question of bioenergetics, or the question of the felt intensities of Burroughs' writing. To develop this affective dimension of biopoetics, I draw on Tony Sampson's concept of virality (2012), the way energetics and not only information is shared and transferred between bodies by way of media.
By focusing on biopoetics, we can see how written language emerges as a nonhuman force of control in Burroughs' work; his emphasis on language as alien and nonhuman reveals how the human being emerges as a process of biopoetics. Burroughs’ central insight is that the entanglement of word and body not only is what Sampson calls affective contagion, although certainly Burroughs emphasizes the negative affects as part of this bodily control. Burroughs underlines that this affective contagion is also one of affective control; the word spreads through affective contagion and exerts control in this manner. Control and affect are inextricably linked for Burroughs and linked precisely through biopoetics, language being primary in this case.
Type: Article
ISSN: 1123-2684
eISSN: 2283-6438
DOI: 10.13137/2283-6438/10630
Appears in Collections:2014 / 19 Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere

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