A Fantastic Poetics: Beyond Philosophy or Poetry?


Rosemary Jackson in Fantasy – A Literature of Subversion discusses the opposing aspects of two trends: the one pushing toward the unnameable ‘nameless thing’ of horror fiction; the other of the anti-realist ‘thingless names’ of the signifying process itself cut off in the prison house of language:

“The fantastic, then, pushes towards an area of non-signification. It does this either by attempting to articulate ‘the unnameable’, the ‘nameless things’ of horror fiction, attempting to visualize the unseen, or by establishing a disjunction of word and meaning through a play upon ‘thingless names’. In both cases, the gap between signifier and signified dramatizes the impossibility of arriving at definitive meaning, or absolute ‘reality’. As Todorov points out, the fantastic cannot be placed alongside allegory nor poetry, for it resists both the conceptualizations of the first and the metaphorical structures of the second. It tends towards the non-conceptual, or pre-conceptual.”

We’ve seen in our contemporary setting two new trends against anti-realist forms: the neo-rationalists seek to re-engineer reason and intelligence through conceptuality as a shared project on a vast collective scale toward revisioning meaning and reality by way of the ‘nameless things’; while the speculative realists of an OOO bent seek to reinvigorate poetry, metaphor, and non-conceptual forms toward the unnameable that cannot be seen or directly accessed, but only indirectly lured out of its dark invisible recesses through an incessant interrogation.

In many ways these are the extreme or opposing camps in an end game that will either fail to deliver us from the anti-realist prison, or finally open up a new universe of meaning thereby breaking the vessels of two-thousand years of metaphysical bricklaying and jerrymandering bullshit. Will it happen? That’s anyone’s guess… but in many ways our survival as a species depends on it; for at the moment the world is a prisoner of its own fetid dreams and linguistic madness. Every culture and society on the planet is cut off in their own linguistic traps, bound by outmoded forms of thought, communication, politics, and social resilience. Each socio-cultural system cut off in their own private shared hells have in our own age produced utter non-sense, a new Tower of Babel broken and twisting the world into a chaosmos of war, planetary degradation, and ultimately apocalyptic nightmare.

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