American Paraliterature and Other Theories to Hijack Communication

American Paraliterature and Other Theories to Hijack Communication

By Blake Stricklin

Anthem symploke Studies in Theory

A critical account of the 1975 Schizo-Culture conference, which Michel Foucault called “the last countercultural event of the 1960s,” and its direct and indirect connection to American experimental literature. 

PDF, 250 Pages


March 2021

£25.00, $40.00

EPUB, 250 Pages


March 2021

£25.00, $40.00

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About This Book

American Paraliterature examines the generative encounters of post-1968 French theory with the postwar American avant-garde. The book begins with an account of the 1975 Schizo-Culture conference that was organized by Semiotext(e) editor Sylvère Lotringer at Columbia University. The conference was an attempt to directly connect the American avant-garde with French theory. At the event, John Cage shared the stage with Deleuze and Foucault introduced William S. Burroughs. This schizo-connection presents a way to read the experimental methods of the American avant-garde (Burroughs, Cage, and Kathy Acker), and how their writing creates a counterprogram to the power that Foucault and Deleuze started to articulate in the 1970s. 

While the year of the Schizo-Culture event also saw the publication of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, his lecture at the conference anticipated his interest in a new form of governance: biopolitics. In the lecture, Foucault argued against the “repressive hypothesis,” which he saw as an invalid theory since there was such an obvious incitement to speak about sex. One discusses sexuality so that governments can “manage” and “administer” populations. Delezue later noted on this “incitement to discourse” in his comments to Antonio Negri. Deleuze saw Foucault (along with Burroughs) as one of the earliest theorists on the control society. This new society, he argues, requires a different set of weapons than those directed against disciplinary institutions. Strikes in factories are no longer effective in an era where the production of information replaces the industrial economy. As Deleuze explained to Negri, weapons against the control society will need to “hijack” speech and “create vacuoles of non-communication.” 

The two American artists-writers at Schizo-Culture developed weapons of non-communication in their art. John Cage emptied the words in Thoreau when he applied his chance operations to literature. William Burroughs attempted to cut-up “the Word.” Yet by the mid-1980s, Kathy Acker would write how “ten years ago it seemed possible to destroy language with language.” For Acker, “nonsense” does not break the institutional semiotic code of control per se. For Acker, it requires a writer to “speak precisely” in a language these codes forbid. This book considers another theory to hijack communication. Acker’s “plagiarism” appropriates canonical literature and then grafts semi-autobiographical and pornographic writing onto them. Samuel R. Delany similarly writes about how his experience in Times Square pornographic theaters creates a different discourse network, one that relies on “contact” instead of “networking.” The book concludes by moving outside the academic setting of the Schizo-Culture conference to find alternatives to capitalism's monolingual control of communication and information.


“‘There’s a familiar story about the arrival of poststructuralist theory in U.S. universities with Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Lacan presenting papers at a conference at Johns Hopkins in 1966. Another event almost a decade later, the Schizo-Culture Conference at Columbia in 1975, attended by Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, John Cage, and William Burroughs, and its aftershocks, felt by the likes of Kathy Acker, Samuel R. Delany, and others, along with the former is the subject of this invaluable book. Stricklin traces the ways Schizo-Culture blew the doors off humanism, transforming contemporary literature and culture through an “American rhizome” far weirder and more punk than the influences of the so-called structuralist controversy.” —Dr. Aaron Jaffe, Frances Cushing Ervin Professor, Florida State University, US

“Blake Stricklin provides a powerful, revisionist account of the crucial war waged by experimental literature against the corporate capture and commodification of language in the last half century. Stricklin situates this practice between Deleuze's initial articulation of a "control society" and our own moment of the reduction of all communication to data, grist for the algorithmic mill. From the vantage of the reduction of language to data, he returns to the experimental practices of paraliterature, reading them not as merely as ludic or transgressive, but instead as a front of struggle against the emergence of a control society. In doing so, Stricklin gives us a reappreciation of the synthesis that Deleuze and others formed between poststructuralism and Marxism; he also gives us a new way of reading experimental writing practices that are too easily dismissed. A necessary read.” —Christopher Breu, College of Arts and Science, Professor, Illinois State University, US 

“Set on the stage of the 1975 Schizo-Culture conference and featuring a cast of radical luminaries including Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Burroughs, Cage and Acker, this historical account and insightful analysis captures key points of intersection in the seismic shift from counter cultural critique to new powers of control and new forms of resistance.” —Oliver Harris, Professor of American Literature, Keele University, UK

“Exploring the iconic Schizo-Culture Conference at Columbia in 1975 and what it calls its “the American rhizome” – Burroughs, Cage, Acker – Stricklin’s book not only manifests the function of this event in a U.S. context, it also encourages us to continue considering crucial connections concerning control and communication historically and for the future.” — Frida Beckman, Professor, Comparative Literature, Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University, Sweden 

American Paraliterature condenses and distills the most challenging but effective forms of contemporary theory and practice—from Foucault and Deleuze to Acker and Delany—into a potent cultural-political program of resistance to network neoliberalism, and like all good manifestos or calls to action, it presents that program as a book compact enough to fit into your back pocket and carry with you to the classrooms, demonstrations, occupations, and other sites where its potential can—and indeed must—be realized.” — Timothy S. Murphy, Oklahoma State University, US

Author Information

Blake Stricklin is a lecturer at the University of Houston-Victoria, Texas.


Anthem symploke Studies in Theory

Table of Contents

Introduction – November 1975: A Schizo Report; Chapter I – “I Have Nothing to Say”; Chapter II – “Storming the Reality Studio” ; Chapter III – “Culture Stinks” ; Conclusion – “1984: A Postscript on the Paracommons”


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