'Pataphysics, the pseudoscience imagined by Alfred Jarry, has so far, because of its academic frivolity and hermetic perversity, attracted very little scholarly or critical inquiry, and yet it has inspired a century of experimentation. Tracing the place of 'pataphysics in the tangled history of the relationship between science and poetry, Christian Bok demonstrates that 'pataphysics is fundamental to the nature of the postmodern. Bok considers the work of Jarry, 'pataphysician, both by itself and as it influenced work by later generations. Discussing 'pataphysics in general and Jarry's work in particular as a ludic counterpart of Nietzschean philosophy, Bok examines the relationship of rule and chance, of science and poetry, of the rational and the surrational. His work draws on a wide range of reading in poetry and theory to establish a firm historical ground for understanding the influence of 'pataphysics, making a variety of seemingly difficult or obscure material accessible in a charming, poetic manner. A long overdue critical look at a significant strain of the twentieth-century avant-garde, 'Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science raises important historical, cultural, and theoretical issues germane to the production and reception of poetry, the ways we think about, write, and read it, and the sorts of claims it makes upon our understanding.
Christian Bok is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Fellow affiliated with the Poetics Program at SUNY-Buffalo. Bok is the author of Crystallography: Book I of Information Theory, a nominee for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award given for best poetic debut. He has published numerous articles on Canadian avant-garde poetry in Open Letter, Canadian Literature, and Studies in Canadian Literature, and his own experimental poetry has been frequently anthologized, appearing most recently in Imagining Language.