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Volume 34, Number 2 (2009)

The Meaning Revealed at the Nth Degree in Christian Bök’s Eunoia

February 23, 2010


Christian Bök is one of the foremost Canadian poets of the avant-garde; however, the success of his book Eunoia is surprising because it has formidable structural constraints. The obsessive construction of Eunoia is influenced by the textual/mathematical constraints of the French literary group called the “Oulipo.” In “The New Ennui,” Bök himself schematically reveals his compositional method for writing Eunoia and implicitly hints at the possibility of a cipher that facilitates a more accessible reading of the work. Each vowel chapter means more because of what is excluded (i.e., the other vowels). It is this exclusion that is hinted at by the symbolic N, which appears in the word “eunoia” but does not have its own chapter. Bök’s Oulipian attention to detail gives meaning, significance, and cohesion to a text that is ultimately the work of a literary visionary who seeks to open doors to the possibilities of linguistic innovation.