March 11, 2004

The Coding and Execution of the Author

by Nick Montfort · , 1:57 am

I’d promised to post this article back when Grand Text Auto ran the recent news about Gnoetry. This essay was published in the most recent Cybertext Yearbook; in it I discuss the Gnoetry-generated book Static Void, the composition of 2002: A Palindrome Story, and various taxonomies and literary procedures – all in an attempt to develop a more useful perspective on how humans and computers work together to create literary texts.

I’m going to be speaking about this issue in a panel discussion, “Public Override Void: On Poetry Engines,” on April 29, here in Phildadelphia at the Slought Foundation. The panel discussion will be accompanied by a demo and exhibit of Jim Carpenter’s poetry-generation work.

3 Responses to “The Coding and Execution of the Author”


  1. greglas Says:

    Thanks, Nick! This looks wonderful — I can’t wait to read it.

  2. Eric E. Says:

    Gnoetic Manifesto

    Language is a prosthesis of an ancient neuro-chemical regime; but now the chemical author is dead. Gnoetry places language at a remove from its typical sources: pre-conscious governance, psycho-historical flux, conscious-mind narration.

    The human mind automatically imposes a semi-discrete, hierarchical order: since we have to regard everything we think as an aspect of our ability to self-reflect, the only way towards linguistic novelty is to remove self-reflection from the process.

    By using extant texts as a language corpus and prosodic forms as a poetic process, Gnoetry acknowledges that language and its generic morphology is our human inheritance. By contextualizing language within the machine and removing it a few historical and psychological dimensions away from the “human atmosphere” (Jarry), Gnoems create a linguistic representation that exists near the zero degree of validity.

    Language speaks itself.

    The machine replaces the artist’s day-dream; no day-dream-product is symbolically invalid and no Gnoetic-language product is poetically invalid.

    It unwraps words from their usual human contexts until words no longer have direct instrumental relationships to the world—in fact, the very question of instrumentality is rendered moot. The significance of meaning is altered.

    Gnoetry, using the words of Mark Edmunson, “provides alternatives to habitual ways of thinking. It enlarges the stock of available reality, as Blackmur put it, by offering a verbal alternative to fixed assumptions about what…realities are” (Literature Against Philosophy).

    Gnoetry is asymptomatic poetry.

    Language is moved away from the tyrannical subject of human cognizance, away from the analog and into the digital; Gnoetic language is almost completely free of reliance upon traces of tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures or postures.

    It is a novelty-creation device that compresses time: the language corpus behind each Gnoetic product bypasses biologically and culturally induced, pre-planned, over-determined linguistic behaviors. Releasing language from its usual human-inherited enthusiasms, any short-hand iconographic understanding is eliminated.

    Gnoetry is poetry without 99% of human history which in turn makes poetry more historically important than it may have been. Gnoetic thought is without the lie of sub-consciousness: no human speaker is being strip-teased out from under a linguistic bikini while the meaning governors play “ba da da dum-tsh…”

    Poetic language is finally given its own epistemic dignity. The human is no longer accountable for meaning or thinking about meaning since Gnoetry renders language into pure technique. “Diction itself is its own image.” Gnoetry renders language into ‘meaningless’ diction: it is the ultimate beautiful automation of poetry. The reader is “forced to note the formal pattern and conventional disposition of phrases are more important than ‘ideas’ or ‘themes’ or ‘message,’ more important even than ‘reality'” and thus, through Gnoetry, the reader is “re-initiated into the rites of mediation” via language speaking as much as possible on its own terms. (quotes from Veronica Forrest-Thomson Poetic Artifice )

    Syntax is creation anticipated” (Christopher Dewdney The Secular Grail).

    Gnoetry is weird grammatical and syntactical proposition par excellence; grammar and syntax, borne from our ancestors’ being in the world in time, is now a measure of meaning made in the pieces of seconds before conscious-mind order.

    A central activity of poetic language is formal. … While failing in the attempt to match the world, we discover structure, distinction, the integrity and separateness of things” (see Lyn Hejinian “The Rejection of Closure”).

    Gnoetic language escapes the tyranny of indeterminacy: the combination of the uncertain (any language token created by the Gnoetic process becomes an infinite signifier) with the intimate (a trace of the human via any given language corpus) is automated by Gnoetry (see Joan Retallack “Non-Euclidean Narrative Combustion”).

    Oulipeans would say that Gnoetry plagiarizes by anticipation and creates an infinite potential literature, raising the “efficacy and viability of artificial…literary structures” (see Françios Le Lionnais, the First and Second Lipo Manifestos).

    Plagiarism is necessary,” Isadore Ducasse wrote in 1870, “[because] it stays close to the wording of an author, it uses his expressions, erasing a false idea and replacing it with a correct one” (Poesies).

    Gnoetry fulfills the first two levels of the Ateiler de Littérature Assistée par la Mathématique et les Ordinateurs’ approach to language: “combinatorial” and “applicational”; the human fulfills the third “implicational” level by providing, if she chooses, principles such as narrative logic to create complete and complex works (see Oulipo Compendium: “ALAMO”) and by editing the work into human psycho-historical time in collaboration with human phylogeny and deep-grammatical inheritance.

    Gnoetry is The Declaration of Dependence!

  3. WRT: Writer Response Theory » Blog Archive » Gnoetry: interview with Eric Elshtain Says:

    [...] ext; the latter should be considered definitive.”] Montfort, Nick and various (2004) ‘Coding and Execution of the Author’ [...]

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