• Lauren Terry

This critical-creative manifesto outlines and ostends the parameters of the plastic literary text in light of the contemporary neuro turn. It argues that literary composition is, and has always been, plastic — the brain’s synaptic firings and neuronal pathways distinguishable in poetic and prosaic technique, represented in the whiteness of the page via experimental methods such as fragmentation, repetition, and spatial notation. This manifesto asserts that it is plastic form that affords the literary text the critical potential to articulate the material world in all its pluralities — synthesising, modulating, repairing, and executing the connections between people, language, and things.

Keywords: neuroscience; plasticity; manifesto

 

BEFORE PLASTICITY — the semblance of absurd rigidity — BEFORE PLASTICITY — knowledge and no knowledge on the method of its acquisition or adaptation or application — BEFORE PLASTICITY — form and the absence of veridical form — BEFORE PLASTICITY — the ludicrous belief that you, dear reader, are useless and absolutely unresponsive matter — BEFORE PLASTICITY — communicative language — BEFORE PLASTICITY — categorical negation, that is, oblivion —

BECAUSE BEFORE PLASTICITY THERE WAS ALWAYS PLASTICITY!

We, after all, have always been plastic. Our language, after all, has always been plastic, though we could not yet know it — though we are just beginning to know it.

Plasticity is etymologically derived from the Greek word plassein (to mould); ‘it means at once the capacity to receive form […] and the capacity to give form’ (Malabou 2008). Those neuronal pathways which comprise our brains, our texts, are simultaneously ‘formable’ and ‘formative’ — modifiable, malleable, metamorphosing things which are partially genetically coded, that is, genreically coded, that is, grammatically coded, and partially derived from our personal encounters with the material world, with other people, language, texts, and nonhuman objects (Malabou 2008).

YOU ARE NOT A MATTER OF BEING THE RIGHT CELLS AT THE RIGHT TIME. THE TEXT IS NOT A MATTER OF BEING THE RIGHT WORDS AT THE RIGHT TIME.

BEFORE PLASTICITY — the abstraction of genre, the hypothesis of definition and definitions for the sake of meaning anything at all — BEFORE PLASTICITY — was the poem poetic, was the novel novel, was the short story sufficiently short or the play particularly playful?

BEFORE PLASTICITY — text was simply text, that is, it should appear to you, dear reader, in perennial and omniscient forms — BEFORE PLASTICITY — categorical negation, that is, delirium —

BECAUSE BEFORE PLASTICITY THERE WERE ALWAYS SLIPPAGES BETWEEN THINGS, BETWEEN WORDS, BETWEEN FORMS!

and yet — BEFORE PLASTICITY — slippages between forms were grotesque and surreptitious things — BEFORE PLASTICITY — all hybridity was profanity, that is, mutation, that is, distasteful, that is, punishable by law of genre — BEFORE PLASTICITY — dictionaries, that is, the farcical conviction that a word is as good as a word is word which should mean analogously every other sentence — BEFORE PLASTICITY — the knowledge that our language has never been abiding nor authentic!

(Our language, after all, has always been plastic, though we are just beginning to know that etymology is revision and remembrance and returning and revolution is translation, is portmanteau, is the breeding of words, is the conceiving of words, is neologism. Here, a habit in which Sigmund Freud’s examination of the etymology of the Germanic word, heimlich, signifies the plasticity of all language, in which the word heimlich ‘merges with its formal antonym, unheimlich, so that which is heimlich becomes unheimlich’, in which the word, heimlich, becomes the other as you, dear reader, are looking (Freud 1919). There can be no return to the original form —

and it be known that our plastic language is volatile matter, that plastic language excites, modulates, repairs, and kills off those neuronal connections between word, meaning, and object as it is used in a sentence or a stanza —

and portmanteau, that is, neologism, means that a word may retain a semblance of its grammatically coded material as it is physically modified — as two or more words are assimilated, affixed to one and other in such a way that their psychological meaning is permanently mutated. Synaptogenesis, followed by synaptoterminus. These are rebel words, unimaginable words, delirious words, unpalatable words, excessive words, uncategorizable words, plastic words, which do not simply mean for the sake of communication, but for naming things our old language never new to name neuroplasticity, that is, the plasticity of the cerebrum, that is, the plasticity of our language, that is, the plasticity of the nonhuman object.)

BEFORE PLASTICITY — there could be no human subject or nonhuman object — BEFORE PLASTICITY — the pure potentiality of things in the presence of the pluripotent subject — BEFORE PLASTICITY — there could be no acquisition of knowledge or adaption or application of language to things, the thing that is language — BEFORE PLASTICITY — no remembering, no repairing, no revolutionising the relations between language and the functions and forms of other things — BEFORE PLASTICITY — no slippages between human subject and nonhuman object, for all slippages revel in plastic materialities, that is, physical and psychological modifications to the original that is not the original that is original is not original.

(All matter is plastic, though we do not yet know it. All matter is plastic, though we are just beginning to know it.)

PLASTICITY IS NOT
THE ABSENCE OF FORM,
BUT THE POSSIBILITY
OF ITS TRANSFORMATION!

BEFORE PLASTICITY — you, as you know it, could not exist — BEFORE PLASTICITY — the text, as we know it, could not exist — BEFORE PLASTICITY — no lyric, no essay, no elegy, no ballad, no sonnet, no fable, no epic, no limerick, no biography, no autobiography, no review, no fantasy, no legend, no sequel, no musical, no tragicomedy, no gothic romance, no prose poem, no play poem, no film poem, no visual poem, no hypertext, no thesis, no creative criticism, and absolutely no manifesto!

(And let it be known that the ‘manifesto moment positions itself between what has been done and what will be done, between the accomplished and the potential, in a radical and energizing division,’ that the manifesto has always been plastic —

that the manifesto oscillates between the formed and all that has yet to be formed, operating between past, present, and possibility is continually modified throughout the history of modernism in response to encounters with these things we name other people language, and nonhuman objects —

that the manifesto stutters, screams obscenities —

that the manifesto revels in excess, a plastic performance —

that the manifesto is a ‘going past what is thought of as proper, sane, and literary’, for it operates beyond and between genres, beyond and between the logic grammar and all that is ungrammatical, absurd, or irrational —

that the manifesto ‘form creates its meaning’ (Caws 2001).

Plasticity is not the absence of form, but the acknowledgment that form could not be form is not form in the absence of movement, that is, deviation, that is, adjustment, that is, revision. Plasticity is not the absence of form, but is between form and formlessness, that is, the acknowledgement that there can be no possible return to the original that is not original but nonetheless originary.

PLASTICITY  =  MODULATION  =  PLASTICITY  =  MODIFICATION

All form is the interrogation of bodies, the transience of bodies. All form is the modification of bodies, to better recollect the material condition of plastic bodies as they are encountered in the material world — between stability and instability, between coherence and incoherence, between form and formlessness is not the absence of form but the possibility of its transformation.

We revel in the plasticity of defamiliarised, abject, thingly form — in the compulsion to smell, touch, see, taste, hear the material world and all its absurdity anew.

We riot in the formation and stimulation and annihilation and formation of synaptic junctions between word, meaning, and object over, and over, and over again — there can be no possible return to the original.

The plastic text, after all, is a maddening, overwhelming, noisy thing, which does and does not resemble. It is not concerned with naming, but the process of naming — the tensions between matters and form and language and objects and the slippages and the possibilities of matters and form and language and objects and glossolalia — is not a simple oscillation of phonetic matter, but of synapses:

We become neurotransmitters —

detonate, excite, synthesise connections between sound — word — thing — memory — and sometimes, we do not make it, sometimes, the junction is too vast, sometimes, meaning is pluralised —

and we are caught the process of naming, that is, the process of un-naming.

And let it be known that the plastic anatomy of the human cerebrum is the plastic anatomy of this thing we name and un-name a literary text and —

(Though the basic structure of the human cerebrum is genetically coded — though the basic structure of the literary text is grammatically and genreically coded — the human cerebrum undergoes developmental plasticity over time, growth, maturation, encounters with other people, language, and nonhuman objects modify and kill neuronal connections, the literary text undergoes developmental plasticity over time, interpretation, revising, encounters with other people, language, and nonhuman objects modify and kill neuronal connections.

Then, synaptic modulation in human cerebrum and the literary text, which must repair, relapse, return, renew, remember, relinquish itself with every iteration — synaptogenesis, followed by synaptoterminus — there can be no return to the original form.)

axons transmit information from neurones and dendrites receive information from neurones and you, reader, are axon and dendrite simultaneously — and the authorial ‘I’ is both axon and dendrite simultaneously — language is both axon and dendrite simultaneously — and these things happen, these things are partially contingent on who or what is encountering and —

THE PLASTICITY OF THINGS = THE PLASTICITY OF US = THE PLASTICITY OF HUMAN MATTER = THE PLASTICITY OF NONHUMAN MATTER = THE PLASTICITY OF THE LITERARY TEXT =

the plasticity of pen caps — of bottle caps — of pipe caps — of balloon clips — and hair pins — and paperclips — and hindlimbs — and hosiery — and handguns — and shrunken heads — and soft root vegetables — and soft grey matter — and soft white matter — and mothers — and metaphors — and six loose teeth from a comb — and

let it be known that plasticity is the radical recognition of the porosity of matter, that is, the formative continuums between things, that is, the possibility of slippages between things that are physical and psychological —

because all matter is plastic, all meaning is plastic — and

there can be no return to the original form, for in communicating the plasticity of things, language and grammar border on a collapse we call creation, for in communicating the plasticity of human subjects and nonhuman objects, the classifications border on a collapse we call creation — and all plasticity is collapsation — and creation — and collapsation — and creation — and contradiction — and collapsation — and connection — and — and — and

let it be known that all bodies (human bodies, nonhuman bodies, literary bodies) are assemblages of parts: part-grammar, part-genetics, part-genre, part-synapse, part-silence, part-reader, part-remembrance, part-revelation, part-punctuation, part-quotation, part-thing, part-other, part-noun, part-nothing.

AGAINST
stability is
the semblance of instability —

AGAINST
rigidity —  

FOR
referentiality —

                                    FOR
                                    polyphony —

 

AGAINST
elasticity —

FOR
there can be no possible return
to the original form —

AGAINST
this thing we name coherency
in communication
is the semblance of incoherence —

FOR
the completeness
of form —                   

FOR
the possibility
of form’s disintegration —                         

AGAINST
inertia —

FOR
transformation,
that is,
adaptation,
that is,
modification,
that is,
revolution —

FOR
repair —

FOR
development —

FOR
the ready-made —

FOR
solidity —

 

AGAINST
solidity —

 

FOR
instability
is the semblance
of stability —

FOR
the acquisition
of this found material
we name language —

 

                        FOR
                        spontaneity — 

FOR
in this thing we name incoherency
in communication is
the semblance
of coherence —

                        FOR
                        material is
                        material is
                        material is —

 

AGAINST
contradiction —

 

FOR
contradiction —

because all plasticity is intervention, is mediation, is subversion, is the relational poetics of things — we cannot name one thing without naming another, and another, and another!

We revel in plasticity as the reactive poetics of things, a plasticity which repairs, redacts, repeats on the synapses between things and nouns, between real and remembered things, between found and formed nouns —

because the plastic brain hoards, catalogues ordinary matter, because the plastic text assembles, modifies ordinary matter, there can be no transformation with form!

Form, after all, is not absent but permanently altered, and these literary things, dear reader, you encounter are deviation of deviations are not deviations but deviations nonetheless.

(The text is a plastic thing, though we are just beginning to know it.)

All texts have a functioning memory of their own, they refers back to themselves, they return to other texts, they repair, develop, modulate, they repeat absent scenes from the material world of other people, language, nonhuman objects.

And because the plastic text is a relational, reparative, reactive, referential thing, you must be responsible for its meanings — there must be synaptic junctions between its words, there must be neuronal pathways between its phrases!

WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH OUR BRAIN? WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH OUR TEXT?

  1. Bring portmanteau, that is neologism, that is ‘kissambushed’ or ‘phalluspistol’ or breeding words.
  2. Bring fragmentation. A semblance simultaneity, of splicing of slicing of synthesising form. Fragmentation is not the absence of form but the modification of form, the mutilation of form, the making of other forms. An asymmetrical arrangement of lines, which come to rest at odd, uncomfortable angles on the page.
  3. The dash is a synapse — it alerts the reader to the connections between things.
  4. Spatial notations have the power to kill or revive the relation of the word to the thing and the word to other words, other things. There are fissures in the text which sever word from phrase; the structure of the thing warrants another form of reading — another form of reader — for the phrase is a fractured thing which must be repaired, word by word. The fissures, however, resist this restorative process, for the form, though comparable to poetic verse, challenges reader assumption.
  5. All texts are intertextual, that is, referential, that is formed in relation to other texts, that in response, forms other texts. To write is to sift, sunder, steal, splice materials. To write is to plunder, promise, prune, pluralise, play with plasticity.
  6. Hybridity has always been, since its inception, plastic. Hybridity transforms the genetic materials that is genre. Hybridity necessarily involves all forms of plasticity: developmental plasticity, synaptic modulation, reparative plasticity, synaptogenesis, synaptoterminus.
  7. To return to, regurgitate, relapse material in repetitions is a plastic thing. To repeat is to repair is to repeat is to respond is to repeat is to redact is to repeat is to revolutionise the original. To repeat is to reform slippery habits which reappear, reconditioning themselves in the context of other fragments. To return is to relapse, but never reappear in the same condition twice.
  8. Bring proper grammar and subversions of grammar and postponements of grammar suspend plastic referentially and proper grammar relies on the relations between punctuation and language and things.
  9. Bring contradiction is tension is opposition is madness is divergence is a reparative plasticity. 
  10. Typographical distortions revel in the disruptive potential of a plastic language that rejects proper order — stuttering excess, screaming excess. The typographically disturbed text borders on a thinglyness that the reader cannot name, for it does not look as a text should look — it does not read, contentedly, as a text should read. Its plasticity overwhelms, in active opposition of those aged techniques and traditions that would restrict it. In plasticity, we demand reformation!
  11. In the construction of metaphor or simile, the object is like subject, is, is like, is some other object or subject. In the construction of metaphor or simile, such matter is like, is, is like human or nonhuman matter, and the theoretical boundaries between matter cannot hold. In the construction of metaphor or simile, matter is relational. 

Because plasticity is doing things, working, performing, and misbehaving, repealing, remembering, and not knowing, communicating, and loving, and touching, repeating, abjecting, loathing, and knowing that cessation is expiration, and dreading things, and sensing things, relating and rejecting things, accepting, and repeating, growing, parting, stuttering things, speaking, and coming and becoming and coming to acknowledge that because plasticity is composing, and reading, editing, and meaning things, punctuating, unpunctuating, and theorising plasticity is a violent process of ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing, ing  —

and things, things — the absence and presence of things incite the human cerebrum — the literary text — to glossolalia.

There could be no object without the plastic material that is language; there could be no thing without the plastic material of language, its failings. There is nothing, after all, like a thing to repel meaning, to regurgitate memory, to relate matter to something — anything — everything — nothing at all.

WE NAME THE MADNESS OF THE BRAIN PLASTICITY!

WE NAME THE MADNESS OF THE TEXT PLASTICITY!

They do doing do reiterations, returns, repairs, and the pure potentiality of language — of the literary text — is plastic in the purest sense, for language must adapt, as it once did, in modernism, and the literary text must be transformed, as it once was, in modernism, for this modern world of things — and there is nothing more plastic than interruption, that is, interference, that is, inference, that is introspection, that is, indeterminacy.

There must be synapses between the phrases, there must be neural pathways between these paragraphs.

WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH OUR BRAIN? WHAT SHOULD WE DO WITH OUR TEXT?

  1. Bring anthropomorphism, that is, the consideration of matter as remembrance, as relative, as resemblance, as matter is not human or nonhuman but common matter.
  2. To defamiliarise matter, to make matter abject, to make matter thingly, to make matter uncanny, to deconstruct matter is to divulge the plasticity of language, that is, the plasticity of reading, that is, the plasticity of the human subject, that is the plasticity of the brain, that is the plasticity of the nonhuman object, that is the plasticity of all matter in the modern world. When it comes to the meaning of matter, there may be only the semblance of stasis.
  3. An omittance of punctuation is plastic. The acceptance of punctuation is plastic. The subversion of punctuation is plastic … and here an aversion, a powerful suspension of the contradiction to come.
  4. Bring polyphony is that which disquiets, that is, delights, for in music the term ‘polyphonic’ is simply defined as ‘involving the playing of more than one note simultaneously; composed or arranged for several voices or parts’ or ‘consisting of several melodies combined’ or ‘involving the production of many sounds or voices; many-voiced’ (OED 2019). Polyphony is simply defined as that which defies singularity, that is, stability.
  5. Bring rhyme, half-rhyme, assonance, alliteration, phonetic repetitions may induce plastic revelations, words resemble other words in form or colour or sound and when words are caught in the process of resembling the reader is compelled to resemble, and there can be no return to the original form.
  6. Bring parenthesis.

(So much of plasticity happens in parenthesis, when matter is ousted as fallacy as if the text could doubt, as if the text could oppose, as if the text could interrupt, contextualise itself —

and you are just beginning to know that this thing you have been reading has always been plastic —

it modifies itself, brain-like, as it encounters these vital matters we name other people, language, nonhuman objects, and you are just beginning to know that the thing you have been reading has always been plastic —

it forms, excites, strengthens, modulates, repairs, and kills those neural pathways between word and meaning as you are reading —

there are habits, obsessions, between the parts.)

YOU ARE YOUR SYNAPSES! THE TEXT IS ITS SYNAPSES!

The plastic literary text offers the potential of dissolution, that is, the potential of destruction, that is, the potential of deformation, that is, the potential detection of this other form of composition, that is, creation, that is, contradiction, that is plasticity —

and let it be known that the plastic literary text is that which destabilises, disrupts, destroys your habitual capacity to define human and nonhuman matter, inclusive of those linguistic matters we name grammar, punctuation, syntax, form, the word —

and let it be known that the plastic literary text revels in abject plurality — reveals the possibility of this thing we call language, that is, the possibility becoming other, becoming uncanny, that is, becoming thingly, that is, the probability of bordering on excess — madness — plurality — fragmentation — repair — adaptation — apprehension — nausea — enchantment — abjection — vitality — fluidity — lucidity — transformation — distortion — revolution — plasticity — plasticity — plasticity —

TO WRITE IS TO NEGOTIATE PLASTICITY!

TO READ IS TO NEGOTIATE PLASTICITY!

Because to know plasticity, dear reader, is to know that all conclusions are little deaths or arbitrary consolidations of that which continues to adapt — to acquire — to abort — to accost — to agitate — to allude — to abject — to actuate possibility in all material things.

AFTER PLASTICITY, there can be no return to the original form.

 

Works cited: 

 

Caws, M 2001 ‘The poetics of the manifesto: Nowness and newness’, Manifesto: A Century of Isms, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, xix—xxxii

Freud, S 2003 [1919] The Uncanny, London: Penguin Books

Malabou, C 2008 What Should We Do with Our Brain? New York, NY: Fordham University Press

Oxford English Dictionary 2019 ‘Polyphonic’, at:
https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/147301?redirectedFrom=polyphonic& (accessed 26 August 2019)