This chapter is a history of what Bataille might call the general economy of punctuation: its distributions, luxuriant overaccumulation, and rhythmic rise and fall (Amiri Baraka’s “delay of language”). Economy of punctuation shows how spacing/pacing create meaning on the page, also how tactics of interruption, delay, rhythm, periodicity, and stoppage are all essential means of communicating within literature’s long history. Economy of punctuation reveals the social norms surrounding how we feel about the discontinuities of what we want to say. Viewing the relationship between punctuation’s excess and its manifestation in twentieth-century poetry through a collection of 75,000 English poems by 452 poets who were active during the twentieth century, the chapter explores methods that move from the elementary function ("grep") to more sophisticated uses of word embeddings; it also explores poems that deploy periods well in excess of the norms of their age. Few narratives are more strongly ingrained in the field of poetics than this era's growing antipathy to punctuation. Yet we observe how the period became increasingly deployed by these poets. The period’s abundance creates a language space marked not only by a sense of the elementary (deictic/rudimentary) but also of opposition/conjunction, a sense of the irreconcilable.
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