09 August 2010


So, I scanned Craig Dworkin's beautiful new broadside "MANDATA LOQUERIS" as a follow-up to Friday's blog post, but the scanning bed isn't quite long enough to capture the full image...

As such, I thought to include the complete text to accompany the stunning visual presentation. Produced by one of my favorite printers in the game, Patrick Masterson, for his The Rest Press and designed by Robert Finkel, this short text perfectly captures the kind of excitement and wonder (and straight up detective work!) that characterizes Dworkin's critical prose.

Here's the text in its entirety:

"Henry James first met Oscar Wilde in 1877. As the latter's flamboyance and notoriety grew, so did the incidence of the letter sequence w-i-l-d in James' fiction (appearing not only as the word "wild" but also in the simultaneously more exact and veiled "wilderness," "bewildered," et cetera). James almost never used such words before his introduction to Wilde, an encounter which seems to have sparked their appearance in his fiction, and their occurrence increases as James becomes increasingly anxious about the younger writer. The frequency of these words spikes dramatically in 1895, the year of publication for both the testimony of Wilde's trail and James' novella In the Cage. In the aftermath of the scandal, as publicity subsided, James' use of such words declines, tapering quickly after Wilde's death in 1900.

Between 1877 and 1900 the letters w-i-l-d haunt James' writing, just as the provocative character of Wilde himself haunted James, whose correspondence suggests that he was by turns jealous of, and offended by Wilde—as well as terrified by the kind of exposure revelations like those at the Queensbury trial might bring to men, like himself, who were uneasily closeted. As James wrote about the trial in a letter to Edmund Gosse [8 April, 1895]: "it is the squalid gratuitousness of it all--of the mere exposure—that blurs the spectacle." The seemingly gratuitous alphabetic signature in James' fiction both exposes and blurs as well, paradoxically disguising their proper referent with "a really unique kind of 'briliant' conspicuity" (as James goes on to describe Wilde in his letter to Gosse.) Encrypted, James' morose lettristic delectation suggests a preoccupation that dare not—and yet at the same time cannot help but—speak its name."

Click on the image to take a closer look at both the graph and Masterson's exacting printing practice...

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