Introduction to Trajectories of Self-Determination
Experimental cinema has long embraced American vernacular music as a generative model, whether it supplied a formal template, an affective inspiration, or a point of cultural reference. From the collective polyphony of Charles Mingus’ kinetic ensembles to the gale and squall of Joe McPhee’s storming cornet, the improvisational energies of jazz – as well as blues and other popular-modernist musics – have continued to inspire American avant-garde filmmakers. Collectively, the films in this program explore the myriad ways in which experimental cinema has drawn from African-American improvised music and embraced its spontaneous, collaborative, polyrhythmic, and lyrical energies.
Screening Premiere: October 16, 2022 @ 2:10pm, Roxie Theater, San Francisco
Streaming Online: October 16-22, 2022
1970/73, 8 minutes, b&w, sound, 16mm
“Henderson movies are the first movies in the world to bring the authentic ‘talkin’ blues’ tradition into film. The Last Supper and Dufus are illustrated funky blues. His films are the best that I’ve seen anywhere in a long time.” – Robert Nelson
Featuring music by Mike Henderson
1970, 3 minutes, color, sound, 16mm
“A hilarious and somewhat erotic illustration of staying power, starring Gypsy Rose (a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon), ‘That poor mutt with the peanut butter in her teeth.’” – Filmmakers Newsletter
Featuring “What Cha-Call ‘Em Blues” by Fletcher Henderson. Acid Bird sculpture by Richard W. See.
1987, 7 minutes, b&w, sound, 16mm
“A very playful, spontaneous film made with and for people for whom I have high regard.” – Toney W. Merritt
Featuring Glenn Spearman on tenor saxophone.
2017, 8 minutes, color, sound, digital video
“A live recording of an Alice Coltrane piano performance accompanied by a visual track that documents a pilgrimage across the USA taken by Cauleen Smith, tracing historic sites of creativity and generosity that were an inspiration to her: Alice Coltrane’s Sai Anantam Ashram; the Watts Towers; and the Watervliet Shaker Historic District.” – IFFR
Featuring “One for the Father” by Alice Coltrane.
1992, 10 minutes, b&w, sound, 16mm
Featuring Leo Smith on trumpet.
[Note: Unavailable to stream]
1957, 4 mins, color, sound, 16mm
“If, (as many suppose), the unseen world is the real world and the world of our senses but the transient symbols of the eternal unseen, and limiting ourselves to the aesthetic experience’s well-known predilection for the eyes and ears, we could logically propose that any one projection of a film is variant from any other. This is particularly true of Mirror Animations.” – Harry Smith
Featuring “Misterioso” by Thelonious Monk.
2009, 3 mins, color, silent, 16mm
An improvised silent film, completed in camera, using images from a child’s night light to approximate the gestural articulations of Cecil Taylor’s piano playing.
1998, 13 mins, color, sound, 16mm
The clown is set into motion by two unidentified persons lurking behind it, in the shadows. Oblivious, the clown embarks on its metaphoric life journey. The clown is only successful when a series of calamities bring about its demise, and ultimately, his death.
Featuring “The Clown” by Charles Mingus, with narration by Jean Shepherd. (Courtesy of Warner Special Products.)
2014, 8 mins, color, sound, digital video
Filmed on location in Salvador, Brazil (the last city in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw slavery) and Harlem, NY ( an international stronghold of the African Diaspora), Many Thousands Gone draws parallels between a summer afternoon on the streets of the two cities. A silent version of the film was given to jazz multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee to use an interpretive score. The final film is the combination of the images and McPhee’s real-time “sight reading” of the score.
Featuring Joe McPhee on trumpet.
1975, 8 mins, color, sound, 16mm transferred to digital video
“Set to Nina Simone’s stirring ballad of the same name, Julie Dash’s dance film features Linda Martina Young as strong ‘Aunt Sarah,’ tragic mulatto ‘Saffronia,’ sensuous ‘Sweet Thing’ and militant ‘Peaches.’ Kinetic camerawork and editing, richly colored lighting, and meticulous costume, makeup and hair design work together with Young’s sensitive performance to turn longstanding Black female stereotypes to oblique, critical angles.” – Jacqueline Stewart
Featuring “Four Women” by Nina Simone.
1966, 3 mins, color, sound, 16mm
Caspar, California, old fence with red roses.
Featuring “All My Life” by Teddy Wilson with Ella Fitzgerald.
[Note: Unavailable to stream]
Essay by Juan Carlos Kase
Though cinema and jazz both emerged in the late 19th century as quintessentially modern cultural innovations, their historical trajectories diverged into discrete social and aesthetic registers. Cinema, having grown from a collection of novel technologies conceived by inventors, tycoons, and carnival barkers, rapidly coalesced into an industry—a hugely profitable, vertically integrated monolith mass producing romantic fantasy. Jazz evolved from regional folk art to massively popular entertainment, and, by the age of Bebop, into an avant-garde movement of extraordinary virtuosity and spontaneity. There is, of course, a racial polarity undergirding this historical divergence: Hollywood filmmaking being dominated by White voices and jazz history built by Black ones. The divergence also owes something to the incompatibility of an industrial means of production and an improvised art form. 1 The history of experimental film, however, poses a compelling exception. Unlike the Hollywood craftspeople and industry documentarians who have used African American vernacular music primarily as a decorative supplement, avant-garde filmmakers have often embraced jazz and drawn formal and political inspiration from the ways in which it models alternative, spontaneous conceptions of art, culture, and, more broadly, civilization.
The avant-garde films in this program showcase the diverse ways in which moving image artists have learned from jazz and responded to related Black music, using it as a formal template, an affective model, or a collaborative resource. The program also maps a loose circuit of influence connecting neglected filmmakers of the past to contemporary artists by way of a shared commitment to Black art, jazz, improvisation, and vernacular modernism. The program proposes an alternative trajectory for understanding experimental cinema that, rather than reifying European literary models, positions African American music as a fundamental influence and inspiration. Screened together, these films outline an under-recognized tendency of American cinema to marry the modernist synesthetic dream of “visual music” to the domestic innovations of jazz and the radical possibilities of improvisation that it proclaims.
Trajectories of Self-Determination: Experimental Cinema’s Embrace of Jazz proceeds through a winding path of musical, aesthetic, and cultural associations, with some titles explicitly integrating jazz performance and others alluding to its energies and values more obliquely. Mike Henderson’s Dufus (aka Art) (1970/73), for example, does not directly incorporate jazz but does channel its expressive values. An accomplished painter, blues guitar player, and filmmaker, Henderson’s artisanal film practice is utterly singular. His works in diverse media represent a fertile hybrid of the counterculture’s anarchic energy and a testimonial approach towards Black experience in postwar America. In tone, much of Henderson’s work braces its critical edge with distinctive elements of conceptual play, improvisational looseness, and aesthetic grit. Robert Nelson, a close friend and collaborator, described Henderson’s work as a filmic transformation of the “talkin’ blues,” a folk form mingling first-person narrative and sly observational critique. Henderson’s Dufus is a meta-essay film about the purpose, meaning, and value of art itself (the film’s initial title was, in fact, Art). Henderson, a lively performer, is both the film’s protagonist and narrator; we see him onscreen enacting the roles of Scum-bad, Dork, Mofoc, Splurnk, and Me, characters who each propose a different way of approaching life and art.
Simultaneously, Henderson’s voiceover narration casually describes what his characters are thinking with a spontaneous poetry akin to Jack Kerouac’s in Pull My Daisy (Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie, 1959). In Dufus Henderson reconfigures the avant-garde’s commitment to first-person perception and positions it, through his performance of various African American archetypes, in the particularities of Black experience, blues music, and painting. In this daydream riff of a film, Henderson explores the ways in which people find purpose in life: is it work, pleasure, sex, money, power, art? Ultimately his answer is an unpretentious variant of the familiar Bebop-cum-Beat notion that art is its own reward if realized in terms of one’s own life experience and values. As Charlie Parker once famously proclaimed, “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”2 Henderson’s funky, picaresque, searching films flout the classical values of authorial control, rhetorical seriousness, and formal stringency that undergird most published accounts of (a largely White) American experimental cinema. When Mike Henderson’s films become better known, which they inevitably will, the domestic canon of the avant-garde—which largely remains a fickle, self-serious construct spun by a small handful of critics—will buckle from the impact of their radical wit and irreverence.
Like Henderson, Doug Wendt is a Bay Area filmmaker of catholic musical tastes. After finishing an MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1972, two years after Henderson, Wendt began making experimental films and working as a music consultant for radio and film productions. Wendt’s own films demonstrate a strong commitment to popular music, not only as a topic of cultural interest but as a source of formal inspiration. His Dub Film (1980) enacts a rare attempt to translate the cyclic, choppy, reverberated abstraction of Augustus Pablo’s dub music into filmic terms. In Up and Atom (1970), a mischievous and strikingly brief work, Wendt channels an absurdist, conceptual humor familiar from the creative circle of Henderson, Nelson, William T. Wiley, and Bruce Nauman. Like many of their films, Up and Atom is largely determined by its profilmic performer: a Wirehaired Pointing Griffin named Gypsy Rose (after the famous vaudevillian who married Otto Preminger). The incorporation of Fletcher Henderson’s 1925 “What Cha-Call ‘Em Blues” is almost flippant, with the song abruptly truncated by the conclusion of the film’s central gag, not even giving us the chance to hear the song’s final chorus. In a surprising instance of experimental film’s crossover appeal, Up and Atom played on Saturday Night Live. It’s a lark, a quip, a pithy conceptual morsel that prophesies the comedic animal gags that now flood YouTube and TikTok.
A subversive sense of play also fueled San Francisco’s No Nothing film circle in the 1980s and early 90s, a hothouse of tonal experimentation realized by a diverse array of experimental conceptualists including Michael Rudnick, Rock Ross, Marian Wallace, Dean Snider, Lynn Kirby, and Toney Merritt. Drawn equally to narrative, documentary, and experimental forms, Merritt has produced an uncommonly heterogeneous filmography of biting, abstract, ludic, fantastic, and forthrightly political work in which humor is foundational. In Not a Music Video (1987), whose title sends up the then fledgling genre being popularized on MTV, Merritt presents a charmingly intimate portrait of tenor saxophonist Glenn Spearman, a powerful player in the Northern California avant-garde jazz community. With the informal energy of a home movie, this film humbly presents a genial study of a musician at work and play. It begins and ends with shots of the filmmaker’s smiling collaborators holding clapboards for the camera and laughingly scatting jazz phrases. Between these sync-sound bookends of loose interaction is the centerpiece of the work, a commanding solo performance by Spearman, filmed by an expressive camera that responds understandingly to the dynamic shifts in the tenor saxophonist’s lines. The playing incarnates a virtuosic display of post-Coltrane lyricism that leaps from written melodies to a controlled guttural roar evoking the fiery howl of Frank Wright, the saxophonist’s mentor and link to the first generation of free jazz players. Along with Michael Snow and Phill Niblock, Merritt was one of only a handful of avant-garde filmmakers who turned their cameras towards the core performers of what Archie Shepp called “Fire Music.”
An awareness of jazz history is the truss that bolsters many of the films in this program. Cauleen Smith’s Pilgrim (2019) explicitly reflects on this foundation in its reverential treatment of Alice Coltrane. Unseen, the pianist, organist, harpist, and spiritual guru is the film’s structuring absence, with her identity refracted through images of her dust-covered organ and the fields around the Sai Anantam Ashram of Southern California that she founded after her husband John Coltrane’s death. It is the soundtrack, a complete, unedited 1978 solo recording of her “One for the Father,” that ultimately structures Pilgrim (the film lasts the exact length of the performance). Smith’s film moves fluidly and purposefully through its associative imagery of Coltrane’s instrument and Ashram, matching the balladic tempo of her performance. In her edits, Smith travels between the pastoral Ashram and other symbolic locales in a self-spun utopian cosmology, including the Watts Towers of Los Angeles and the Watervliet Shaker Historic District of Upstate New York. Like Smith’s Sojourner (2018), this work conceives a jazz-infused psycho-geography in which Alice Coltrane’s music and spiritual practices chart a whole constellation of neglected, paradisial zones of aesthetic and social possibility in Black America.
Like Pilgrim, Robert Fenz’s Duet for Trumpet and Camera (1992) functions as a work of jazz portraiture. This is one of Fenz’s earliest films—a bold, impressionistic character study by a young, yet fully formed artist who would later work as cinematographer of choice for Chantal Akerman. Trumpet and flugelhorn player Wadada Leo Smith, an early member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and now an elder statesman of the international avant-garde, appears onscreen as the work’s protagonist. In addition, Smith performs a stark, atmospheric solo improvisation on the soundtrack that offers a sympathetic, austere musical parallel to Fenz’s monochromatic imagery. Compositionally, the filmmaker foregrounds Smith’s presence, visage, and performative gestures in unpredictable and uncommon ways. In hand-matted close-ups, Fenz’s camera captures the wrinkled, iridescent skin of Smith’s lean fingers on the metallic keys of his trumpet within an almost pitch-black environment. Elsewhere his camera gazes directly into the bell of Smith’s instrument, making it appear visually distorted and washed out with silvery light. At times Fenz’s decisive, abstract compositions suggest precedents, including the stylized cinematography of Gjon Mili’s foundational jazz film Jammin’ the Blues (1944) and Roy DeCarava’s atmospheric photographs of musicians. In the end, the film’s credits could not be more succinct: “Trumpet, Leo Smith; Camera, Robert Fenz.” In this brief textual rejoinder, Fenz reminds us that the 16mm film camera is a nimble instrument—a tool for capturing light and creating gestures that, in the most sympathetic hands, can approach the lyrical articulations of a performing instrumentalist like his teacher and mentor, Leo Smith. In its title and execution, Duet for Trumpet and Camera suggests that experimental film, like jazz, can be a collaborative improvisation.
As an amateur historian and collector who committed his life to engaging both folk culture and vanguard art at their richest extremes, Harry Smith was a man of boundless interests. From salvaging forgotten records to documenting Native American string figures, Smith channeled an obsession with cultural patterns that married an anthropologist’s affection for taxonomy to a mystic’s desire to uncover hidden, universal systems of understanding. Several witnesses remember him furiously drawing and painting hunched over a table at The Five Spot, attempting to transpose the wide intervallic leaps and unconventional syncopations of Thelonious Monk’s music into visual representations. In paintings such as Manteca (1948) and First Note, Fourth Chorus, Boplicity (1950), we see evidence of Smith’s efforts to graphically transcribe the melodic and harmonic patterns of Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. But Smith thought that a static painting would be an inadequate illustration of Monk’s aesthetic processes and that the medium of film would be better suited to capturing the music’s shifts, quirks, breaks, and elaborations as they developed over time.3 Film #11 (1956) is the result of that experiment: an animated adaptation of the transcription methods Smith employed in his earlier jazz paintings. It can also be understood as a work of visual music realized as a meticulous, hermetic, outlandishly unconventional graphic score for Monk’s “Misterioso.” In jazz, Smith heard a trajectory of the miraculous, a cultural patterning so complex and interwoven as to provoke endless contemplation and refiguration.
An expensive medium when compared to paint or charcoal, film has not typically been a vehicle for purely improvised experimentation. But the avant-garde provides a strong tradition of in-camera filmmaking, an instantaneous, improvisational, in-the-moment interaction between moving image artists and their environments. Christopher Harris’s 28.IV.81 (Bedouin Spark) (2009) is just such a film, one that draws directly from the musical vocabulary of jazz itself in its handheld glissandi and staccato in-camera edits. Harris has said that he wanted to approximate the gestural articulations of Cecil Taylor’s piano playing in this film. He does so by using a child’s delicately flickering night light as an unlikely surrogate for Taylor’s often muscular, propulsive piano playing. The film realizes visual music’s originating dream to transfigure the spirit and methods of music into the formal and material registers of graphic art, to create a music for the eyes. In this regard, Harris’s efforts directly mirror Smith’s earlier synesthetic method while also pointing towards the future of cinema in more oblique ways. Arthur Jafa has argued that African American filmmaking has long lagged behind Black music, in part, because it lacks a cinematographic gesture as distinctive as the sonic signature of James Brown’s grunt.4 Here Harris has taken up that quandary and proposed a gestural cinema—a musical filmmaking without music—that forges a mimetic relationship not with Brown’s funk exclamations but with Taylor’s free jazz articulations.
In the 1960s heyday of underground cinema, Shirley Clarke was one of the artists most adamantly committed to the union of film and jazz. With Clown (1998), Donna Cameron, a former student of Clarke’s, constructs a film so heavily layered and worked over that it mimics the tight ganglia of interweaving lines in Charles Mingus’s collectively improvised music. In Cameron’s film, Jean Shephard’s spoken voice joins with Mingus’s band to catalyze a narrative and tonal path through sound and image. In her combination of these discrete registers, Cameron shifts the conventional hierarchy of film and music’s relation: rather than having the music punctuate the narrative’s emotional cues, she manipulates every frame with hand-painted, hand-scratched, rapidly moving drawings, texts, and found imagery to magnify and respond to both the collective polyphony of Mingus’s dynamic ensemble and the dramatic arc of Shepherd’s narration. Cameron’s Clown constructs a texture so dense that its visual and sonic content cannot be perceived all at once. Unlike Smith’s Film #11, which uses found imagery and mandalic patterns to highlight the sparse and surprising inflections of Monk’s music, here Cameron applies an all-over method to the field of the frame that recalls Abstract Expressionism in its unbroken energy and totalizing compositions, before building to a crescendo of interlocking, explosive plasticity akin to that of a jazz instrumentalist approaching the climax of her solo.
Of course, the filmmakers in this project draw inspiration from other forms of Black art beyond jazz. Ephraim Asili borrows the title for his film Many Thousands Gone (2015) from a James Baldwin essay, the opening line of which speaks volumes: “It is only in his music, which Americans are able to admire because a protective sentimentality limits their understanding of it, that the Negro in America has been able to tell his story.”5 Asili’s film not only echoes Baldwin’s title but also, in its content, alludes to the author’s knotty interrogations of the relationship between race and art. 6 In 2014, Asili traveled with his 16mm Bolex camera to two disparate poles of Black history: Salvador, Brazil, the last Western city to outlaw the slave trade, and Harlem, New York, an international capital of the African diaspora. In cutting between these places and filming the cresting waves of the Atlantic with moody, impressionistic cinematography, he evokes the catastrophic loss of life in the Middle Passage. His atmospheric imagery of city life and slow-motion footage of dancing Black performers attest to the beauty of diasporic resilience. But the film is finally a work of mourning, with a soundtrack that reinforces its sublime blend of anguish and elegance. After editing, Asili gave the film to multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, who in turn improvised a score. McPhee rarely plays pitched tones here, instead whispering a gale and squall evoking both the gasps of drowning African captives and the Atlantic Ocean’s elemental ferocity. By utilizing the ocean’s visual timbres and textures alongside a delicate, pinched soundscape, Many Thousands Gone finds a uniquely evocative way of alluding to a historical trauma that overwhelms and exceeds any possible frame.
For multidisciplinary artists and filmmakers, experimental cinema has often provided a uniquely generative space for exploring the shared expressive and conceptual possibilities of different art forms. Though she is primarily known as a narrative filmmaker, Julie Dash’s early experimental work, Four Women (1975), stages a lively interplay of aesthetic registers by dramatizing Nina Simone’s lyric character study in symbolic, expressive, and somatic terms. Equal parts theatrical tableau, dance performance, feminist manifesto, and music video, the film juxtaposes Simone’s commanding voice and dancer Linda Young’s decisive movements. To the accompaniment of African drums, Dash’s images fade in and out of the opening, ochre mise-en scène: the dancer’s body becomes graphically abstracted as sculptural musculature, while her face remains hidden and ensconced in tight layers of clinging fabric. When Simone’s voice and syncopated piano enter, Dash’s lighting, cinematography, and composition jump into a more concrete, referential register, while Young’s dancing embodies the characters of Aunt Sarah, Saffronia, Sweet Thing, and Peaches, the titular four women of Simone’s song. Dash’s cinematography does its own dance; her camera responds sympathetically to Young’s choreography and to the song’s narrative in equal parts. The vocals, dance, and cinematography are, by turn, vigorous and fragile, matched by editing and camera movement that shift from legato to staccato. As collaborators, Dash and Young enact a strikingly dramatic multimedia transformation of Nina Simone’s arresting first-person story of rape, racial violence, and female agency progressing from victimhood to radicalization.
From the gravitas and anguish of Simone’s voice, we now ease into Bruce Baillie’s All My Life (1966) on the buoyant finesse of a young Ella Fitzgerald’s soaring mezzo-soprano backed by Teddy Wilson’s effortlessly swinging band. All My Life contains the universe in a shot and a song. It is a fragment of space, a sliver of a tune, and a gentle caress of one man’s camera across a fence of wild roses in Casper, California on a summer day. There is a touch of Zen in both Baillie’s relaxed lateral camera movement and the pre-bop lilt of Wilson’s lightsome fingers across the keys of the piano. All My Life seems an exquisite filmic realization of what jazz historian Phil Schaap memorably termed “the magical rhythm float.” Here Fitzgerald’s voice joins in synchronicity with Baillie’s slowly turning camera to constitute a perfect spontaneous realization of an Apollonian ideal, a “text of bliss.”7 I once asked Baillie what this film was about. He described its inspiration in the simplest of terms as “the light, the locus, and the music.”8
Baillie’s modernist vision was always tinged with a hint of nostalgia, a yearning for a different kind of life away from the coercions of civilization. Like many jazz musicians and experimental filmmakers, Baillie was a special kind of American oxymoron as both a rugged individualist and a committed member of an idealistic community. The traditions of experimental film and jazz, even in their most challenging and dissonant forms, tend towards the emancipatory and utopian. In the film-music hybrids on this program, there are flashes of freedom and radical zones of liberty. Perhaps such a world is only possible in the register of aesthetic experience, but for those who watch and listen closely, there is a virtually infinite sphere of revelatory possibility in both artistic practices. As we continue to reimagine the horizon of cinema’s future from the perspective of the present, we too need to return, with equal vigor, curiosity, and liberatory interest, to its past to elevate neglected artists and explore forgotten pathways of influence. With such goals in mind, we can register anew the ways in which the avant-garde has defied canonical imperatives and classical values by virtue of its commitment to the utopian ideals of spontaneity, play, and self-determination that it shares with jazz and other forms of Black music.
Edited by Max Goldberg
Juan Carlos Kase is Associate Professor of Film Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His writing can be found in Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, Millennium Film Journal, The Moving Image, and OCTOBER, together with numerous anthologies related to the avant-garde and intermedial topics. His ongoing research concerns the overlapping aesthetic, historical, and political registers of non-industrial cinema, art history, performance, and music within American culture. Before pursuing academic work in Film Studies, he worked as a producer and archival researcher of historical jazz reissues for The Verve Music Group, RCA/Bluebird, and Revenant.
- I say “widespread,” because it is undeniable that a small handful of narrative filmmakers have incorporated jazz into meaningful collaborations, such as Miles Davis’s soundtrack for Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (1958), Duke Ellington’s score for Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959), or the Charles Mingus and Shafi Hadi recordings that John Cassavetes incorporated into Shadows (1959). Ultimately, each example represents a markedly different collaboration and attests, in its uniqueness, to the rarity of authentic improvised music in the narrative cinema.
- Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff, Hear Me Talkin’ to Ya: The Story of Jazz as Told by the People Who Made It (New York: Dover Publications, 1955), 405.
- Andrew Perchuk and Rani Singh, eds., Harry Smith: The Avant-Garde in the American Vernacular (Los Angeles: The Getty Research Institute, 2010), 36.
- “The Ecstatic Message: Talking Music and Moving Image Art with Artists Ja’Tovia Gary and Arthur Jafa,” Smithsonian American Art Museum (October 12, 2019), https://www.si.edu/object/ecstatic-message-talking-music-and-moving-image-art-artists-jaapostovia-gary-and-arthur-jafa%3Ayt_C89eNqpK-_k.
- James Baldwin, “Many Thousands Gone,” in Collected Essays, ed. Toni Morrison (New York City: Library of America, 1998), 19.
- It is a little-known fact that Baldwin, early in his career, expressed his own “desire to own a sixteen-millimeter camera and make experimental movies.” James Baldwin, “Autobiographical Notes,” in Collected Essays, ed. Toni Morrison (New York City, Library of America, 1998), 9.
- I borrow this evocative descriptor from Roland Barthes in which he describes the “text of bliss” as something so overwhelmingly revelatory that it induces a crisis of language because “pleasure can be expressed in words, bliss cannot.” Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text (New York: Hill and Wang, 1975), 21.
- Interview with the author, April 6, 2004, Camano Island, Washington.