my writing experiments with utopian consciousness.
essentially, to me, utopian consciousness is consciousness that’s located in the heart, rather than just the head. heart-centred consciousness permeates the whole being – body mind soul & earth – and isn’t stuck inside the little disembodied box on top of our shoulders. it’s a deep inner awareness of our interconnection with all things, that’s rooted in the eternal moment of now, open to infinite possibilities, and knows itself and all others as the divine beings that we are.
specifically, in my writing i endeavour to embody three elements of utopian consciousness identified by utopian philosopher Ernst Bloch: the illumination of the ‘darkness of the immediately experienced moment’ (xxxi); the interrelationship between subject and object ‘in their continuous dialectical interplay, inseparable, impossible to isolate’ (109); the awareness of ‘the human being in [our] deepest inwardness, as Christ’ (95).
key to utopian consciousness, for me, is that it is co-creative: we are co-creative beings.
in the twentieth-century, Roland Barthes announced the ‘Death of the Author’ and for a while the Reader rose up supreme to take its place. but quietly a subtle shift was taking place so that in 2001 Juliana Spahr could write about ‘reader-centred texts’: texts that invite the reader to participate in their co-construction just as the author also has. the text becomes a shared space of interaction and multiple possibilities between the writer and the reader, as well as being its own entity within what has now become a three way relationship, rather than what was previously understood as a one-way, top down dissemination of absolute truth and meaning by the author.
but long before Barthes, avant-garde writers were already experimenting with new ways to embody human consciousness in literature. Dorothy Richardson, Gertrude Stein & Virginia Woolf were women at the forefront of the endeavour to express the stream of consciousness in syntax, narrative and structure. throughout the twentieth century, many writers experimented with similar concepts: as the utopian totalitarianism of modernism gave way to the fragmentary paranoia and pessimism of post-modernism. though interestingly, as Sianne Ngai demonstrates, it was again the women and minority writers who were breaking away from these dominant modes of expression in their own experimental writing, creating a writing of multiplicity, inclusivity and expansion instead of exclusion, constraint and restriction.
experimental writers whose work i admire include: Gertrude Stein, Virgina Woolf, Ann Quin, Angela Carter, J.G. Ballard, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Robert Glück, Juliana Spahr, CA Conrad, Claudia Rankine, M. Nourbese Philip, Bhanu Kapil, Jennifer Cooke
see also: Ernst Bloch (1988), The Utopian Function of Art and Literature, trans. Jack Zipes and Frank Mecklenberg. MIT Press.
Juliana Spahr (2001), Everybody’s Autonomy: Connective Reading and Collective Identity. University of Alabama Press.
Sianne Ngai (2001), Bad Timing (A Sequel). Paranoia, Feminism, and Poetry, in differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies Volume 12, Number 2, Summer 2001