How broad or specific must a critical vantage be in order to address avant-garde or innovative work? The answer by both of these monographs is very. Herein, any obvious similarity of approach ends.

In Questions of Poetics, Barrett Watten theorizes how a poetics must form itself to address not only “the making of the work in its condition of possibility” but also in its continuing agency (2). Thus, for instance, although Marcel Duchamp’s work is ensconced in museums it continues to exert criticality. And while Language writing got its impetus from a particular set of historical events, its agency continues into the twenty-first century and is evolving. Avant-garde works intervene in neoliberal society—a society all too ready to apportion its “radical particularity” in what Watten calls “the literary entropy of ‘period style’” (84)—through acts of negation and of changed material and formal dispensations.

Although Watten takes account of...

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