DEF follows a proposal that Raymond Queneau called ‘definitional literature’ and that Stefan Themerson called ‘semantic literature’ which was taken up most fully by Georges Perec and Marcel Bénabou.
Starting with a passage from Gottlob Frege, Craig Dworkin replaced each of the words in Frege’s sentence with its dictionary definition. He then replaced each of the words in that new sentence with its dictionary definition, and then each of the words in the resulting sentence with its dictionary definition, and so on.
DEF presents five iterations of the process using the Oxford English Dictionary and another five using the first, 1806 edition of Noah Webster’s Compendious Dictionary of the English Language.
Structured like an hourglass, DEF begins with the longest of the O.E.D. sentences (at almost forty-five-thousand words) and hones in to asymptotically approach the vanishing point of the Frege source before expanding back out with the Webster versions.
As the Keynote speaker, Craig Dworkin presented his book DEF at the Poetics of Information Symposium at New York University, 16 November 2018.