Conclusion: A Singularity

By Bolton, Micheal Sean | Postmodern Studies, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Conclusion: A Singularity


Bolton, Micheal Sean, Postmodern Studies


Working for the hole

I'll get the mule to foal

I'm the uninvited mole

The errant lawless soul

I pop out here

and I pop out there

I have no human goal

I'm a singularity

I have no human MEEE

No man can pay my fee

No man can set me free

I'm a lock without a key

A singularity.

-William S. Burroughs'

The POEM THAT SERVES AS THIS CONCLUSION'S EPIGRAPH perfectly expresses the revolutionary nature of William Burroughs' narrative experiments. These narratives are not in service to any agenda, be it political, moral, or even epistemological. They do not take a stand, but are errant, both in the sense of being always on the move and of being deviant. They do not simply oppose law, but are entirely beyond law and its strictures. They cannot be coopted or commodified because they cannot be located either materially or ideologically. They cannot be liberated because they are never contained. Most importantly they are singular. Though dissention is certainly an important feature of singularity as applied to Burroughs' writings, the true singularity, and the true revolution, of these works lies in that fact that they are always renewing themselves and so are always unique. Each reading yields a narrative that exists only at that moment and never again.

Herein lies Burroughs' narrative revolution: the relentless demand of his novels to be read differently. Rather than becoming immersed within the worlds and events of the narratives or manipulating the material forms of the texts from without, his novels require that readers extend their attentions into the narratives, at once recreating and being recreated by them. Readers must, like Burroughs' characters and narrators, become multiple and hybrid subjectivities capable of transcending the binary of inside and outside the book. Truly, they must achieve a change of consciousness.

In order to effect this "alteration in the reader's consciousness", 2 Burroughs meticulously employs a narrative method founded in the mosaic of juxtaposition. His program requires three vital and integral pieces for its success. He first seeks to alter readers' relationships to the language of the text. Through the theme and the application of the word virus, he exposes the destructive potential of language and challenges readers' expectations and assumptions about how to engage with and how to make meaning with his texts. Burroughs' experimental prose makes visible the ways in which language can be applied toward the oppression of individuals, the promotion of fundamentalist thought, and the abjection of difference. His countermeasure to the destructive potentials of language amounts to turning the word virus against itself by inverting and reapplying it as source of liberation. For Burroughs, language carries the potential for both oppression and liberation. To manifest the liberative potential of language, his readers must learn how to resist conventional linear and causal readings and, instead, to generate meaning in the novels through the associations and juxtapositions of the viral repetitions of the experimental prose. Through engagement with the intratext comprised by Burroughs' novels, readers become collaborators in the negotiation of narrative meaning from the fractured language of these works.

Burroughs also works to liberate readers from textual interpretations constrained by historicallyand culturally-driven ideologies. By dislocating his narratives both temporally and geographically, he nullifies readings attached to the histories and institutions of particular cultures. In doing so, Burroughs again subverts mechanisms employed to marginalize and oppress certain individuals and groups. But rather than simply disrupting the continuities offered by material contexts, he synthesizes various histories and cultures to create contexts of fluidity and multiplicity. These transmuting contexts require readers to participate in the co-creation of the worlds of the novels, often incorporating their own cultural experiences. …

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