An elaboration of the Oulipian practice of writing under constraint, this lecture illuminates select philosophical arguments in a manner that exposes François Le Lionnais's conception of universal potentiality. To illustrate the advised position to adopt with respect to composition, the initial discussion of Nelson Goodman's paradox of induction (the “grue” paradox) demonstrates, on the one hand, the utility of the future-in-the-past of moment t, and, on the other hand, how this paradox exercises an abolition of time: all composition is now. The ensuing discussion of condensation aligns composition with atemporal conception, where the composition reveals itself to the mind as a full object, all of it graspable through inner vision, even anticipating its end prior to beginning. Granted, then, that, as a hypothesis for precision, composition requires an internal and external memory, it is an exception to the Dummettian rule of the publicity of meaning. In the final discussion, the activity of constraint is considered simultaneous to that of composition and condensation. Comparing Le Lionnais's inventions to those of his friend and fellow Oulipian, Marcel Duchamp, the lecture concludes by evoking horizons for potentiality that outstrip ordinary ideas of literature.
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Jacques Roubaud; Compose, Condense, Constrain. Poetics Today 1 December 2009; 30 (4): 635–652. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2009-007
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