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Asemic

The Art of Writing

2019
Author:

Peter Schwenger

Asemic

The first critical study of writing without language

In recent years, asemic writing—writing without language—has exploded in popularity, with anthologies, a large-scale art exhibition, and flourishing interest on sites like tumblr, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. Asemic is the first critical study of this fascinating field, proposing new ways of rethinking the nature of writing and exploring how asemic writing has evolved and gained importance today.

How does the noncommunicative communicate? This is the seemingly innocent question Peter Schwenger unpacks. At once storehouse and treatise, Asemic has the clarity of a dictionary entry, its sagacity delivered with deceptive ease, revealing a domain vaster than anyone would have thought: a Copernican marvel.

Jed Rasula, author of History of a Shiver: The Sublime Impudence of Modernism

In recent years, asemic writing—writing without language—has exploded in popularity, with anthologies, a large-scale art exhibition, and flourishing interest on sites like tumblr, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. Yet this burgeoning, fascinating field has never received a dedicated critical study. Asemic fills that gap, proposing new ways of rethinking the nature of writing.

Pioneered in the work of creators such as Henri Michaux, Roland Barthes, and Cy Twombly, asemic writing consolidated as a movement in the 1990s. Author Peter Schwenger first covers these “asemic ancestors” before moving to current practitioners such as Michael Jacobson, Rosaire Appel, and Christopher Skinner, exploring how asemic writing has evolved and gained importance in the contemporary era.

Asemic includes intriguing revelations about the relation of asemic writing to Chinese characters, the possibility of asemic writing in nature, and explanations of how we can read without language. Written in a lively style, this book will engage scholars of contemporary art and literary theory, as well as anyone interested in what writing was and what it is now in the process of becoming.
Asemic

Peter Schwenger is resident fellow at the University of Western Ontario’s Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism. He is the author of several books, including The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects and At the Borders of Sleep: On Liminal Literature (both from Minnesota).

Asemic

How does the noncommunicative communicate? This is the seemingly innocent question Peter Schwenger unpacks. At once storehouse and treatise, Asemic has the clarity of a dictionary entry, its sagacity delivered with deceptive ease, revealing a domain vaster than anyone would have thought: a Copernican marvel.

Jed Rasula, author of History of a Shiver: The Sublime Impudence of Modernism

Asemic is a long-overdue study of poetries that occupy liminal spaces between art, like Twombly's paintings, and recognizable words, like Michaux's poetry. Peter Schwenger offers an extended theory and an introductory survey of contemporary asemic writing by Michael Jacobson, Rosaire Appel, Christopher Skinner, and others. From this book one can learn to read and, by extension, teach a-semiological texts.

Craig Saper, co-editor of Readies for Bob Brown's Machine

This is the first full-length exploration of the history and meaning of asemic writing. Important figures such as Michaux, Twombly, Barthes, Jim Leftwich, and Rosaire Appel are included, as well as examples from Chinese culture. Well-chosen illustrations accompany Peter Schwenger's insightful text. This book is a solid first map of a territory previously unknown to academic study.

Tim Gaze, publisher of Asemic magazine

Asemic

Contents

1. What Asemic Writing is, and Why

2. Three Asemic Ancestors

3. Traces

4. Three for Today

5. Reading Asemic

Online Resources for Asemic Writing

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index