A ≠ A: The Potential for a ’Pataphysical Poetic in Dan Farrell’s The Inkblot Record


This paper argues that Dan Farrell’s The Inkblot Record (Coach House, 2000) exemplifies the political possibilities of a pataphysical poetic. To compose The Inkblot Record, Farrell collated and alphabetized one-sentence responses to Rorschach’s famous inkblot test from six source texts. To understand the implications of such a conceptual project, I turn to Alfred Jarry’s 'pataphysics, outlined in his 1911 novel, Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician. In the novel, Jarry appropriates Lucretius’ notion of the clinamen—an unpredictable swerve of an atom—for literature, arguing that the clinamen’s existence means that even our most fundamental beliefs, that A=A, may not be true. Farrell’s clinimatic gesture of placing the language of psychology into the discourse of poetry enacts the paradox outlined by Jarry. The politics of Farrell’s poetic are small but palpable. He does not claim a “revolution of the word” or of the world, but rather performs an irreversible clinimatic swerve within them.

This article “A ≠ A: The Potential for a ’Pataphysical Poetic in Dan Farrell’s The Inkblot Record” originally appeared in 21st-Century Poetics. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 210-211 (Autumn/Winter 2011): 27-41.

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