poethics in Marczewska, Adema, McDonald & Trettien 2018

ion as a Methodology for Feminist Onto-Epistemology: On
Encountering Chantal Chawaf and Posthuman Interpellation,” Parallax 20:3: 231-244.

Diffractive Publishing



Poethics of

of Coventry
University’s Centre for Postdigital
Cultures and due to the combined
efforts of authors, editors, designers
and printers.

Table of Contents

Post Office Press
Page 4

The Horizon of The Publishable in/as
Open Access: From Poethics to Praxis
Kaja Marczewska
Page 6

Design by: Mihai Toma, Nick White
and Sean Worley
Printed by: Rope Press,

The Poethics of Openness
Janneke Adema
Page 16

Diffractive Publishing
Frances McDonald & Whitney Trettien
Page 26


Kaja Marczewska tracks in her contribution OA’s development
from a radical and political project driven by experimental
impetus, i

, she
argues that OA in its dominant top-down implementation is
determining the horizon of the publishable. Yet a horizon also
suggests conditions of possibility for experimentation and
innovation, which Marczewska locates in a potential OA ethos
of poethics and praxis, in a fusion of attitude and form.

This pamphlet explores ways in which to engage scholars to
further elaborate the poethics of their scholarship. Following
Joan Retallack, who has written extensively about the
responsibility that comes with formulating and performing a
poetics, which she has captured in her concept of poethics
(with an added h), this pamphlet examines what connects
the 'doing' of scholarship with the ethical components of
research. Here, in order to remain ethical we are not able to
determine in advance what being ethical would look like, yet, at
the same time, ethical decisions need to be made and are being
made as part of our publishing practices: where we publish
and with whom, in an open way or not, in what form and shape
and in which formats. Should we then consider the poethics
of scholarship as a poetics of/as change, or as Retallack calls
it, a poetics of the swerve (clinamen), which continuously
unsettles our familiar notions?
This pamphlet considers how, along with discussions about
the contents of our scholarship, and

openness and experimentation in scholarly publishing, outlining
how open access in specific has enabled a reimagining of its
forms and practices. Whilst Adema emphasises that this
relationship is far from guaranteed, through the concept
of scholarly poethics she speculates on how we can forge a
connection between the doing of scholarship and its political,
ethical and aesthetical elements.
In the final contribution to this pamphlet Whitney Trettien and
Frances McDonald ask a pertinent question: ‘how ca

h, how we read and write together, McDonald and
Trettien explore the potential of thresholds as a model for
digital publishing more attuned to the ethics of entanglement.

Post Office Press


The Horizon of
The Publishable
in/as Open
Access: From
Poethics to

maintain by contributing to it for the sake of career progression
and a regular salary. This transgression is unlikely to be noticed
by my publisher (who probably does not care anyway).1 It is a
small and safe act of resistance, but it gestures towards the
centrality of thinking about the poethics—the ethics and the
aesthetics—of any act of making work public that is so crucial
to all discussions of open access (OA) publishing.


I am writing this piece having just uploaded a PDF of my recent
book to aaaarg; a book publishe

ms to have given way to a peculiar
openness that favours metrics and monitoring. Where OA was
originally imagined to shift the perception of the established
horizon, it has now become that very horizon.
Here I want to posit that we should understand poethics as a
commitment to the kind of publishing that recognises the agency
of the forms in which we distribute and circulate published
material and acknowledges that these are always, inevitably
ideological. In her notion of poethics, Joan Retallack (2003)
gestures towards a writing that in form and content questions
what language does and how it works—to ‘the what’ and ‘the
how’ of writing. Similarly, the project of imagining OA as a
poethics is an attempt at thinking about publishing that forces a
reconsideration of both. However, I suggest, that with an often
thoughtless and technodeterministic push towards ‘access’ and
‘openness’, ‘the what’ gets obscured at the cost of ‘

two models of OA can be identified today: OA as a
pseudoserene horizon and OA as a cultural coastline. One is predictable, static, and
limiting, i.e. designed to satisfy the managerial class of the contemporary university;
the other works towards a poethics of OA, with all its unpredictability, complexity,
and openness. OA publishing which operates within the confines of the pseudoserene
horizon is representative of what happens when we become complacent in the way we
think about the work of publishing.

a space where
publishing is always in process and makes possible a rethinking of the experience of
publishing. Seen as such, ROA is an exposition of the forms of publishing that we
increasingly take for granted, and in doing so mirrors the ethos of poethics. The role
of ROA, then, is to highlight the importance of searching for new models of OA, if
OA is to enact its function as a swerve in attitudes towards knowledge production
and consumption.
But anything new is ugly, Retallack suggests, via Picasso:

ivered openly to the public is the familiar and the
beautiful. The new, radical, and ugly remains out of sight; not
recognised as a formal REF-able publication, the new lies beyond
the horizon of the OA publication as we know it. In order to enact
a poethics of openness and access, OA requires a more complex
understanding of the notion of openness itself. To be truly ‘open’,
OA publishing need not make as its sole objective a commitment
to openness as a mode of making publications open for the

(Retallack 2003, 3) rather than rampant
technodeterminism, need not be a project which we have to
conform to under the guidelines of the current REF, but can
rather be a practice we choose to engage and engage with,
under conditions that make the poethics of OA possible. What a
re-thinking of OA as a poethics offers, is a way of acknowledging
the need for publishing that models how we want to participate
in academia. Exploring OA as a horizon of academic publishing
is one possible way of addressing this challenge. Although by
nature limiting, the horizon is also, Malik suggests, ‘a condition
of possibility’ (721). The task of OA as poethics is predicated on
the potential of moving away from the horizon as a boundary or a
limit and towards the horizon as a possibility of experimentation
and innovation. I want to conclude with another proposition,
which gestures towards such rethinking of

proliferation of new publication forms, from blogposts to
podcasts and Twitter feeds.
Fuelled on by the open access movement, scholars, libraries and universities are
increasingly making use of open source platforms and software such as OJS to

The Poethics of Openness


take the process of publishing itself back into their own hands, setting up their
own formal publication outlets, from journals to presses and repositories. The open
access movement has played an important role in making a case agai

nness itself does not guarantee experimentation, but
openness has and can be instrumentalised in such a way as
to enable experimenting to take place. It is here that I would
like to introduce a new concept to think and speculate with,
the concept of poethics. I use poethics in Derridean terms, as
a ‘nonself-identical’ concept (Derrida 1973), one that is both
constituted by and alters and adapts itself in intra-action
with the concepts I am connecting it to here: openness and
experimentation. I will posit that as a term poethics can

The Poethics of Openness


function in a connecting role as a bridging concept, outlining
the speculative relationship between the two. I borrowed the
concept of poethics (with an added h) from the poet, essayist,
and scholar Joan Retallack, where it has been further taken
on by the artist and critical racial and postcolonial studies
scholar Denise Ferreira da Silva; but in my exploration of
the term, I will also draw on the specific forms of feminist
poetics developed by literary theorist Terry Threadgold. I
will weave these concepts together and adapt them to start
speculating what a specific scholarly poethics might be. I
will argue in what follows that a scholarly poethics connects
the doing of scholarship, with both its political, ethical and
aesthetical elements. In this respect, I want to explore how
in our engagement as scholars with openness, a specific
scholarly poethics can arise, one that enables and creates
conditions for the continual reimagining and reperforming of
the forms and relations of knowledge production.
A Poethics of Scholarship
Poetics is commonly perceived as the theory of readymade textual and literary forms—it presumes structure and
fixed literary objects. Threadgold juxtaposes this theory of
poetics with the more dynamic concept of poiesis, the act of

allack taking such a wager as a writer or
an artist, is necessary to connect our aesthetic registers to
the ‘character of our time’, acknowledging the complexities
and changing qualities of life and the world. Retallack initially
coined the term poethics to characterise John Cage’s
aesthetic framework, seeing it as focused on ‘making art
that models how we want to live’ (Retallack 2004, 44). The
principle of poethics then implies a practice in which ethics
and aesthetics can come together to reflect upon and
perform life’s changing experiences, whilst insisting upon our
responsibility (in interaction with the world) to guide this
change the best way we can, and to keep it in motion.
Denise Ferreira da Silva takes the concept of poethics
further to consider a new kind of speculative thinking—a
black feminist poethics—which rejects the linear and rational,
one-dimensional thought that characterises Western

The Poethics of Openness


European philosophy and theory in favour of a fractal or fourdimensional thinking, which better captures the complexity
of our world. Complicating linear conceptions of history and
memory as being reductive, Ferreira da Silva emphas

d institutions, we just have to risk it.

These three different but complementary perspectives
from the point of view of literary scholarship and practice,
albeit themselves specific and contextual, map well onto
what I would perceive a ‘scholarly poethics’ to be: a form
of doing scholarship that pays specific attention to the
relation between context and content, ethics and aesthetics;
between the methods and theories informing our scholarship
and the media formats and graphic spaces we communicate

actions with the world and today’s society we
can better reflect and perform its complexities. A scholarly
poethics, conceptualised as such, would include forms of
openness that do not simply repeat either established forms


Janneke Adema

The Poethics of Openness



This doesn’t mean that as part of
discussions on openness and open access,
openness has not often been perceived as
an intrinsic good, something we want to
achieve exactly because it is perceived as
an a priori good in

gital Cultures (CDC).
Adema, Janneke, and Graham Stone. 2017. “Changing Publishing Ecologies: A Landscape
Study of New University Presses and Academic-Led Publishing”. London: Jisc. http://
Bradley, Rizvana. 2016. “Poethics of the Open Boat (In Response to Denise Ferreira Da
Silva)”. ACCeSsions, no. 2.
Darnton, Robert. 1982. “What Is the History of Books?” Daedalus 111 (3): 65–83.
Derrida, Jacques. 1973. Speech and Phenomena, and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of
Signs. Northwestern University Press.
Ferreira da Silva, Denise. 2014. “Toward a Black Feminist Poethics”. The Black Scholar 44
(2): 81–97. https://doi.org/10.1080/00064246.2014.11413690.
———. 2016. ‘Fractal Thinking’. ACCeSsions, no. 2.
Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. 2011. Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future
of the Academ

lifornia Press.
Threadgold, Terry. 1997. Feminist Poetics Poiesis, Performance, Histories. London; New
York: Routledge.
Tkacz, Nathaniel. 2014. Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness. Chicago; London:
University of Chicago Press.

Janneke Adema

The Poethics of Openness


entangled with it—a verb rooted in the Old Norse word for
seaweed, thongull, that undulating biomass that ensnares
and is ensnared by oars and fishing nets; by hydrophones and
deep-sea internet cables; by coral and other forms of

e, MA:
Harvard University Press.
van der Tuin, Iris. 2014. “Diffraction as a Methodology for Feminist Onto-Epistemology: On
Encountering Chantal Chawaf and Posthuman Interpellation,” Parallax 20:3: 231-244.

Diffractive Publishing



Poethics of


Display 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 ALL characters around the word.