With fresh insight and contemporary relevance, Radium of the Word argues that a study of the form of language yields meanings otherwise inaccessible through ordinary reading strategies. Attending to the forms of words rather than to their denotations, Craig Dworkin traces hidden networks across the surface of texts, examining how typography, and even individual letters and marks of punctuation, can reveal patterns that are significant without being symbolic—fully meaningful without communicating any preordained message.
Radium of the Word takes its title from Mina Loy’s poem for Gertrude Stein, which hails her as the Madame “Curie / of the laboratory / of vocabulary.” In this spirit, Dworkin considers prose as a dynamic literary form, characterized by experimentation. Dworkin draws on examples from writers as diverse as Lyn Hejinian, William Faulkner, and Joseph Roth. He takes up the status of the proper name in Modernism, with examples from Stein, Loy, and Guillaume Apollinaire, and he offers in-depth analyses of individual authors from the counter-canon of the avant-garde, including P. Inman, Russell Atkins, N. H. Pritchard, and Andy Warhol. The result is an inspiring intervention in contemporary poetics.