Quoting the Culture

The New British Sentence and the Politics of Parataxis in the Avant-garde 1914–2001

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 University of Plymouth A.Munton@exeter.ac.uk
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The new British sentence because I am arguing against the provocative opening of Ron Silliman’s 1979 essay ‘The New Sentence’, where he writes: ‘I am going to make an argument, that there is such a thing as a new sentence and that it occurs thus far more or less exclusively in the prose of the Bay Area’.1 San Francisco is the site, and the activity justified is the American prose poem since the 1970s. For Silliman, neither the French prose poem, nor the Surrealist variant of it, are true new sentences. The American new sentence has no horizons beyond itself, and cannot in consequence be explicated according to any ‘“higher order” of meaning’ (92) such as narrative and character. It has, he says, evolved ‘in something less than a decade, throughout an entire poetic community’ (93). I do not disbelieve in the New American Sentence. Indeed, I believe in it passionately, not least because it offers a model through which something related but distinct can be discovered in British writing.

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