A State Destroys a Noun: Charles Olson and Objectism

  • Carla Billitteri
Part of the Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics book series (MPCC)


In an unpublished prose typescript from 1963 (figure 2), drawing on a footnote in Eric A. Havelock’s Preface to Plato, Charles Olson made the following cryptic observation regarding the ill effects of abstract reasoning on language:

A “State” destroys a noun, and you can do it in three ways: you can suffix it to death (-ness), you can strain it as a word to cover more than it means, or to ask more of it, and it breaks down because it does have an order of its own, or you can invade the meaning, and life within and of a noun, the life of a noun, simply by smothering it with a neuter singular, which in fact is only a third of the third person singular, and a pronoun if it is excused at all and as such only standing in for der heilige ghost, and not a person has yet been seen who has seen a neuter singular walking p (Critical Lesson One, as of the Destruction of the Noun by exactly Three Means Sometime Between 700 BC and altogether Successfully by 400 BC, and Thus Persisting Successfully into the Present, evidence drawn in above directly from Eric Havelock’s footnote Number 23, page 178 of Preface to Plato, and Anticipating of His Further Work on This Point …) (Storrs, “A ‘State’ Destroys a Noun”)


Proper Noun Good Writing Alphabetic Writing Human Universe Cultural Resistance 
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© Carla Billitteri 2009

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  • Carla Billitteri

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