retallack in Marczewska, Adema, McDonald & Trettien 2018

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

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 about the different
methodologies, theories and politics t

rstand 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

ge a process of publishing that pushes beyond the horizon set
by OA itself. It invites reading and writing of texts that might be typically thought of
as unreadable, unwriteable, and unpublishable.
The concept of the ‘horizon’ also interest Joan Retallack, who in Poethical Wager
(2003) explores the horizon as a way of thinking about the contemporary. Retallack
identifies two types of horizons: the pseudoserene horizon of time and the dynamic
coastline of historical poesis (14). Reading Retallack in the context of OA, I would
like to suggest that similarly 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 clas

o 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: ‘This is always a by-product
of a truly experimental aesthetics, to move into unaestheticized territory. Definitions
of the beautiful are tied to previous forms’ (Retallack 2003, 28). OA, as it has evolved
in recent years, has not allowed the messiness of the ugly. It has not been messy enough
because it has been co-opted, too quickly and unquestionably, by the agendas of
the contemporary university. OA has become too

e objective a commitment
to openness as a mode of making publications open for the
public, i.e. circulated without a paywall, but instead should also
be driven by an openness to ambiguity, experimentation, and ‘a
delight in complex possibility’ (Retallack 2003, 221) that the
dominant models of OA are unable to accommodate.
To accuse OA of fixing in place the horizon of academic
publishing is to suggest that ‘a certain poetics of responsibility’
(Retallack 2003, 3) seems to have been lost in the bigger
project of OA, responsibility to the community of writers and
readers, and responsibility to the project of publishing. OA as
a ‘poethical attitude’ (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

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 theor



Janneke Adema

(Threadgold 1997, 85). Yet Threadgold emphasises that both
terms complement and denote each other, they are two sides
of the same coin; poetics forms the necessary static counterpoint to the dynamism of poiesis.
Joan Retallack moves beyond any opposition of poetics and
poiesis in her work, bringing them together in her concept of
poethics, which captures the responsibility that comes with
the formulating and performing of a poetics. This, Retallack
points out, always involves a wager, a staking of something
that matters on an uncertain outcome—what Mouffe and
Laclau have described as taking a decision in an undecideable
terrain (Mouffe 2013, 15). For Retallack a poethical attitude
thus necessarily comes with the ‘courage of the swerve’,
where, ‘swerves (like antiromantic modernisms, the civil rights
movement, feminism, postcolonialist critiques) are necessary
to dislodge us from reactionary allegiances and nostalgias’
(Retallack 2004, 3). In other words, they allow change to
take place in already determined situations. A poetics of the
swerve, of change, thus continuously unsettles our familiar
routes and notions; it is a poetics of conscious risk, of letting
go of control, of placing our inherited conceptions of ethics
and politics at risk, and of questioning them, experimenting
with them. For Retallack 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


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