To Sit is a Verb: Incoherence and Contemporary Conceptual Writing
This thesis reconceives the productive possibilities of incoherence in four works of contemporary conceptual writing. Despite a pervasive ‘recognition’ of incoherence in literary criticism, we find little formal theorisation of its structure. Against existing evaluative and mystifying impressions of incoherence in literary analysis, I propose a revised concept of incoherence. This is equivalent to the existence of a contradiction (A and not-A) in a work that problematises the work’s identity. I test this concept in four recent works of conceptual writing: Expeditions of a Chimæra by Oana Avasilichioaei and Erín Moure (with interruptions by Elisa Sampedrín); An Arranged Affair by Sally Alatalo; The Happy End / All Welcome by Mónica de la Torre; and Hu Fang’s Garden of Mirrored Flowers, translated by Melissa Lim. Each of these works extends the illogical permissibility of early conceptual thought, re-shaped by contemporary concerns. As a result, these works explore alternative representational possibilities inaccessible to the coherent arrangement. The work of these texts is self-reflexive—in respect to their own identity within a context. Consequently, we observe the ways in which incoherent texts map misalignments and contradictions in the literary system itself; drawing attention to associative constellations misconceived as causal and the uncertain divide of representation and real.