‘The World of Made Is Not the World of Born’: America and the Edge of the Continent


The risk of America’, Tadeusz Slawek writes in the final plenary lecture, ‘is […] America itself—its endless, limitless ambitions […] to know absolutely everything’. These words resonate in important ways with the diagnosis of the contemporary world offered in The Transparency Society by Byung-Chul Han—a German-Korean theorist whose work has only recently begun to appear in English translation. Byung-Chul Han attacks transparency as a contemporary false ideal. The illusion that we can obtain information about everyone and everything—that thanks to technological innovations like the Internet, the world has become transparent—runs counter to the actual impoverishment of our ability to make sense of this wealth of data. We accumulate information, but this does not necessarily mean that our knowledge of the world increases. Through a deft and illuminating reading of poetry by Robinson Jeffers and e. e. cummings, matched by astute references to Norman O. Brown, Jean Luc Nancy, and George Bataille, and others, Sławek traces the poets’ brave struggle against the culture and rhetoric of ‘excess’. Jeffers and cummings, but also D. H. Lawrence, were quick to denounce that America was turning into a ‘world in which everything is “far too”, i.e., a world subjected to human ambition and desire, a world of hasty activism’ where only Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘one hundred percent Americans’ would be welcome. To the nightmarish dream of a panoptical, completely transparent America, Slawek opposes a poetic and cultural tradition that stands firmly opposed to ‘the hubristic desires of the American state to know absolutely everything regardless of civil rights and political and economic costs’.

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Published : 2015-05-01

SławekT. (2015). ‘The World of Made Is Not the World of Born’: America and the Edge of the Continent. Review of International American Studies, 8(1). Retrieved from https://journals.us.edu.pl/index.php/RIAS/article/view/3392

Tadeusz Sławek  tadeusz.slawek@us.edu.pl
University of Silesia in Katowice, Katowice, Poland  Poland

Tadeusz Sławek, M.A. in Polish, M.A. in English (Jagiellonian University in Kraków), Ph.D. (University of Silesia in Katowice), D.Litt (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan). He runs the Department of Comparative Literatures at the Faculty of Philology of the University of Silesia in Katowice. A pioneer of poststructural studies in Central Eastern Europe, Tadeusz Sławek is also a poet, essayist, translator, and a performer. In Silesia since 1971, he has served as visiting professor at Norwich (UK), Naples (Italy) and Stanford (USA). His academic output includes nine authored books: Wnętrze: z problemów doświadczenia przestrzeni w poezji (1984) [The Interior: On Experiencing Space in Poetry], The Outlined Shadow: Phenomenology, Grammatology, Blake (1985), Między literami: szkice o poezji konkretnej (1989) [Between Letters: Sketches on Concrete Poetry], The Dark Glory: Robinson Jeffers and his Philosophy of Earth, Time & Things (1990), Maszyna do pisania. O dekonstruktywistycznej teorii Jacquesa Derridy (1992, with Tadeusz Rachwał) [The Type/Writer. On Jacques Derrida’s Deconstructivist Theory], Sfera szarości: studia nad literaturą i myślą osiemnastego wieku (1993, with Tadeusz Rachwał) [The Grey Zone: Studies in 18th Century Literature and Thought], Literary Voice. The Calling of Jonah (1995, with Donald Wesling) U-bywać: człowiek, świat, przyjaźń w twórczości Williama Blake’a (2001) [Dr. Be-little. William Blake and the Ideas of Man, World and Friendship], Antygona w świecie korporacji: rozważania o uniwersytecie i czasach obecnych (2002) [Antigone in the Corporate World. Reflections on the University and the Present Time], Żaglowiec, czyli przeciw swojskości (2006) [A Tall Ship, or, Against the Home(l)y], Ujmować. Henry David Thoreau i wspólnota świata [Grasping. Henry David Thoreau and the Community of the World] and NICowanie świata. Zdania z Szekspira (2012) [Différances, or the World Inside-Out]. The list of his other academic publications comprises fourteen edited collective volumes as well as countless essays and journal articles. In his work, Sławek characteristically combines the tools of literary and cultural studies, critical theory and philosophy to employ them against themselves, thus opening up space for an immediate intellectual experience of the text/ures of the world. His fascinations gave rise to numerous translations of poetry by such poets as Wendell Berry, William Blake, Allen Ginsberg, Seamus Heaney, Robinson Jeffers, Thomas Merton, Jerome Rothenberg, John Lennon, Jim Morrison and Pete Sinfield. Tadeusz Sławek is the author of three volumes of original poems and poetic prose, a book of stories for children and five musical albums. Tadeusz Sławek is a Member of the Committee for Literary Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Member of the Executive Board of the Committee for ‘Poland in United Europe’, Member of the Executive Board of the Higher Education Council and a Member of the Polish Writers’ Association.

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