Counting Form: Gender and the Geometries of Address, in Frances Presley and Carol Watts

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This essay treats two innovative site‐specific sequences produced by women in the first decade of the twenty first century. Both are explicitly interested in the relationship between geometry, writing (as material and political practice) and geo‐cultural space, a relationship each finds inflected to some extent by gender emphases. Starting from the premise that any piece of
writing is itself a place, the essay considers the self‐conscious textualities of its primary texts—one concerned with Exmoor; the other with a sheep‐farm in rural mid‐Wales—in the light of their different, if similarly rural and relatively remote, contexts. Presley’s ‘Stone Settings’ explores the relationship between some of the quasi‐geometrical Neolithic stone arrangements dotted across Exmoor, and the mediation of their apparently Euclidean sometimes barely visible forms in/as text. Watts’ work‐in‐progress Zeta Landscape mobilises in the ‘analytical’ or ‘projective’ (ie non‐Euclidean) geometry of its title the complex weave of routine care‐giving and accountancy charging the contemporary (Michel Foucault’s ‘distributive’) pastoral. Both sequences wryly suggest that poetic form can finally no more adequately figure place than the abstractions of mathematical discourse can utter the cultural ecology of any environment, however concrete‐seeming. Aided by Jacques Derrida’s powerful essay ‘White Mythology’, the account comes to rest on the equally equivocal recognition of the in/effectuality of metaphor in any kind of address, critical or creative.
Original languageEnglish
Article number48
Number of pages17
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2020


  • geometry
  • place
  • site‐specific poetry
  • mathematics
  • metaphor
  • Exmoor
  • mid‐Wales
  • stone settings
  • Zeta function
  • prime numbers
  • pastoral


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