Document Type



Descriptions of conceptual writing often refer to its celebration of the boring and quotidian. Why, then, does so much conceptual literature mediate the grim spectacles of war and other violence? Examining conceptual war poetry by Heimrad Bäcker, Fiona Banner, Robert Fitterman, Kenneth Goldsmith, Janet Holmes, and others, this article claims their violent themes contribute to two conceptualist aims—the search for alternatives to individual expression and the investigation of technology’s role in literary production. Conceptual war poetry stresses mechanistic impersonality over lived experience; it illuminates how technologies of systematic violence intersect with those of writing and historical memory. Conceptualists staunchly oppose more conventional methods, increasing antagonism among poets and suggesting an analogy between their thematic interest in violence and their war on other styles. Despite stated intentions, conceptual treatments of war and other violence return readers to the scene of the individual and solicit surprisingly conventional modes of interpretation.