Edmund Wilson (1895-1972) was the most influential of twentieth-century literary and social critics in America, a journalist in the biographical tradition of Johnson, Arnold and Sainte-Beuve, who energised the magazine columns until the 1960s. A Princeton graduate and friend of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the much-published Wilson was editor at Vanity Fair (1920- 21) and then The New Republic. He also reviewed for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books.Add a Comment
Wilson's blind spot is said to have been poetry. Worse, in an infamous essay from 1934 he wrote of it as a 'dying technique'. At the same time, he wrote occasional poetry himself and contributed some necessary and judicious work on the Modernists in Axel's Castle (1931) and on Civil War poetry in Patriotic Gore (1962), a monumental study of the literature and character of that time, as well as some significant essays in his collections The Shores of Light (1952), Classics and Commercials (1950) and The Bit Between My Teeth (1966). These are the books his reputation lives by and where his contribution to the poetry of his time is remembered. MORE...
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"What response does seeing human suffering demand of us? Filmmaker Julia Haslett seeks an answer in the controversial French philosopher and activist Simone Weil (1909-1943), whose life and work took on this question in a dramatic way..."
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Writing in The Quietus, Nix Lowery gets it spot on, calling 'Subterraneans' Bowie's "most po-mo moment on Low, and also arguably the most beautiful":
'Subterraneans' is a multi-layered and celestial piece, a sonic painting brimming with referentiality and subtext. With a reversed bassline taken from his rejected The Man Who Fell To Earth soundtrack, Bowie references his attachment to the film, to his character Thomas Newton, and to the general sense of a man out of step, and out of time, with his surroundings – allegorically explored earlier in his work through his 'Major Tom' character. The main melody, a sweeping and encompassing phrase, contains a melody audibly mirroring Edward Elgar's 'Nimrod' from his Enigma Variations. Whether coincidental or deliberate, there are subtexts to be read here. 'Nimrod' is part of a series Elgar wrote in which each piece obliquely referenced one of his acquaintances. 'Nimrod' referenced Augustus J Jaegar, who convinced Elgar, when in a moment of great despair, to continue writing music, citing the German composer Beethoven as an inspiration. Bowie, too, was surfacing from a period of disillusionment, despair and drug induced creative drought – perhaps Visconti and Eno were his Jaegar? Or perhaps the idea of Berlin, and its isolated idealists, was his muse? The shimmering ethereal backwards melodics combined with synth-strings recall Eno's solo work significantly – on 'Subterraneans' more so than on any other Low composition. Lyrically, Bowie echoes the cut-up style of beat poetry, and a lone jazz saxophone answers the lyrical call, summoning surrealism and the creative fire of Burroughs and Ginsberg. Regardless of the replete referentiality of this track, its real beauty is that it works emotively, a contemplative and fragile beauty like ripples on a lake, Subterraneans' melodies flow organically. Ripples too, of its magic can be discerned in Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack, and most audibly in Angelo Badalamenti's collaborations with David Lynch – Subterraneans reaches towards futurity with a surreal and mystical architecture.Add a Comment
Paul J. Ennis has compiled a useful bibliography of Quentin Meillassoux in English (hat tip to Steve).Add a Comment
Paul Virilio says the title of his book The Administration of Fear "sprang to mind right away as a direct echo of the title of Graham Greene's well-known book, The Ministry of Fear... I use the expression "administration of fear" to refer to two things. First, that fear is now an environment, a surrounding, a world. It occupies and preoccupies us... [it] also means that States are tempted to create policies for the orchestration and management of fear... When I read Graham Greene's book, I found the expression "ministry of fear" to be particularly well chosen because it carries the administrative aspect of fear and describes it like a State."
Fear, then, is a product of the State, part of the modern mood; something the State contributes to, sustains and extends through its activities - and often especially through the activities it pursues to counter fear's epiphenomena. The administration of fear, then, is the administration of fear that the State causes and makes perpetual by its actions. The administration of fear pace Graham Greene is a Catch-22 situation.
Asked by his interlocutor Bertrand Richard "isn't it inappropriate to use the same expression for both the tragic historical events of the Second World War and what we Westerners are experiencing today," Virilio replies that he does not think so. A brief discussion of Hannah Arendt and an overview of his dromology, his politics of speed, is followed by a fascinating thought: when "Henri Bergson, the theorist of duration, and Albert Einstein, the inventor of relativity" met in Paris (in April 1922) they were not able to understand one another - a unique rendez vous, a moment of fate, happened but did not take place. Science became part of the "military industrial complex" and philosophy failed to think a political economy of speed.
Dissident Trotskyists once argued that the Second World War never really ended, just morphed; certainly, today, war is ubiquitous. The war on terror was a response to fear that has created an ever-present climate of anxiety, the administration of which only makes more plain to its makers the need for it - and clearer to the rest of us that the situation is both manufactured and all too real: this is hell, nor are we out of it.
Virilio takes a novel to furnish him with a metaphor with which he can think about the present. This is one of art's tasks. Perhaps another, however, is the administration of fear itself. Art doesn't just provide metaphors. As a matter of actuality, it works with words to administer, to oversee, to organise fear. Fidelity to our metaphor must make us ask, however, whether, as with the homologous activity of the State, the very fact of this administration doesn't itself add to and extend the reign of the regime of fear art portrays itself as the antidote to. What if The Ministry of Fear ministers to fear, furthers fears aims and objectives? What if The Ministry of Fear is not only the name of a novel but a name for what novels are?
A novel organises material to augment itself, prove the worth of its story, prove the fact of its own requirement, prove the worth of its own solution (a novel is the answer to its own question). Or it subverts itself, shows the worthlessness of its form and instantiates, in that move, the humanity of its humility (refuses to answer the question it has itself posed). A novel administers fear, pretends lack away, narrates with hubris, brings up the bodies and declares that all shall be well - narration as order, as good governance - or it dismantles itself, not allowing itself ever to be itself, allowing itself only to be the motor of its own disruption: not to be the sum of its parts, and to have parts that disrupt its sum.
Crudely stated, Virilio thinks that speed equals terror: "the question of global finitude... the enclosure of consciousness is happening in a world limited by the immediacy of nano-chronology - the acceleration of reality is a significant mutation of History." The novel has always concerned itself with time. Virilio believes only a meeting of new Bergsons and new Einsteins can save us. Perhaps...
American poet Ben Lerner's overpraised debut novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, has its hero, Adam Gordon, an American poet on a year out in Madrid, wonder whether, on seeing someone weeping in front of a painting, he has ever himself had "a ‘profound experience of art’". In such a mediated world is an authentic, immediate, profound experience even really possible? At the beginning of Leaving the Atocha Station the thrill for the reader is whether Lerner can sustain this investigation into the administration of, the separation from, authentic feeling that Gordon is trying to work through, in his poems and his life, in the novel. But it soon becomes clear that the investigation - which if it is authentically to be a process of thought about the way thought can preclude authentic feeling - has to fail to succeed. Sadly, it only succumbs to its own logic. After a promising start, Leaving the Atocha Station becomes a dull book about a rather precious young American poet abroad. The question, at whatever 'meta' level it is pitched, of whether it is possible to have a profound experience of art was rightly joined, in the novel, to the question of how to make the art of having a profound experience of one's own life without becoming an alienated spectator of it. The novel fails, however, not because it sets that existential question against the backdrop of the profound and real tragedy and crime of the bombing of the Atocha Station, but because it loses its nerve and becomes merely a bildungsroman.
The fear that Adam Gordon - has he ever had a ‘profound experience of art’? - and our own experience of the novel are weakened by the inability of Lerner to communicate the alienation his hero feels because the novel he writes is itself so very sure of itself. In a world where a bombing like the one that killed 191 people and wounded 1,800 at the Atocha Station can occur, we're served badly by a novel that doesn't recognise that the disaster is not something a novel reports on - however well, however badly, however obliquely - but something that structures and disrupts its very being. To have a profound experience of art is not possible inside the administrative space of the contemporary novel of fear - most especially because the contemporary novel is not nearly afraid enough of what it can do, of what it is.
The Ministry of Fear could very well be the title of Kafka's collected works. For Graham Greene it was the title of a novel of war and faith - great narratives both. For Lerner, ennui and irony - late capitalism - stop Adam Gordon from feeling. But perhaps ennui and irony are already profound experiences of their own. Only a novel could explore that, but only if it didn't administer the answer.Add a Comment
How does Freud define the unheimlich (in his famous essay here)? The question is important – and we should be clear we know what it is asking: the question is not, what is Freud's definition, but rather how does he go about defining the word? What is his method? What needs noting is that Freud's process of (arriving at a) definition, his attempts at clarity, problematises the very idea of a fixed and final definition. And this paradox can be used to gain some insight into how a novel opens itself up to the problem of its own subject matter, how the novel deals with the self-undermining fact of itself.
The unheimlich – crudely, the uncanny, or the opposite of what is familiar – itself points at something beyond definition and suggests language – and the particular kind of conversation that psychoanalysis is – is always in excess of itself. As Bifo Berardi argues this excess is what makes (poetic) language (potentially) revolutionary. And it is what makes fetishising the mot juste a reactionary step. Freud's etymology is scientific or pedantic, depending on your sensibility, but quaint, dogged and laughable regardless – and it echoes in this essay in miniature the insightful purblindedness of his whole weltanschauung. The unheimlich essay (available in volume 14 of the old Penguin Freud Library, Art and Literature but not the new replacement to that volume; I hear the editor Adam Phillips didn't want it included for some reason) begins with an extensive trawl through many complimentary and contradictory dictionary definitions. We see the word pulled and pushed and extended and bent to move between meaning unhomely or undomestic to ghostly, haunted and on to secret, concealed. Page after page of yet more exact definition and one finds only that exactness and definition have proved illusory. Uncannily, unheimlich is a word that contains secret worlds and will not settle down. Uncannily, unheimlich names something that can just about be named but barely owns its own definition. In a sense – and we read in the essay its multiple senses – it is the word for what poetry is always concerned with: nomenclature – naming with absolute precision what absolutely has no precise meaning, naming what always wriggles free of being named and held down, naming what is always beyond language in language, naming what is left behind, unsaid, unheimlich, after language has got close, moved nearby, danced around, scented, approached...
Once Freud has waded through a number of definitions of unheimlich, dissatisfied he walks us through several definitions of its antonym heimlich. He finds something deeply strange, something unheimlich, during this work: secretly, heimlich is not the antonym of unheimlich at all, but rather its sometime synonym; their secret sharing is that they secretly share the same meaning: "What interests us most in this long extract is to find that among its different shades of meaning the word heimlich exhibits one which is identical with its opposite, unheimlich... Thus heimlich is a word the meaning of which develops in the direction of ambivalence, until it finally coincides with its opposite, unheimlich." Heimlich shivers with an an unheimlich quality. Unheimlich finds in its opposite only itself. Specifity – a scientific trawl through the dictionaries – has led us back to an unheimlich place. Specifity has proved itself merely to be a mode of obscurity. The domestic is weird, very weird at root. Underneath the heimlich, the homely, the unheimlich is. It takes Freud a few pages of dictionary-sourced entries to prove this; it takes Karl Ove Knausgård a novel.
The finest novel of this year, A Death in the Family (the first volume of six, the series entitled My Struggle) is a novel of the unheimlich and an unheimlich novel. It was so far beyond anything else published this year because of its engagement with the fact that quotidian dreariness, everyday pain, and something numinous that lies just beyond sight, beneath grief, certainly lies always beyond language, is precisely what the novel at its best yearns to reach, knowing it will ever fail to reach there. This is not a typical bildungsroman – life's untaken paths are not the novel's concern. Cliche, commonplace and unremarkable constructions abound. Language's untrodden paths are not a concern either – the path language is always already taking, the path we're never not on, is suffused with the unheimlich: the yearned for mot juste doesn't get us any further than just our everyday yearning, The subject here is death – and whether writing/language has anything to say about this commonplace disaster that haunts and harries and shapes us everywhere we turn.
The novel begins, before it gets caught up in a sometimes pedestrian if always hypnotic retelling of a young man growing up, with the unheimlich. Knausgaard the author writes directly about death's ubiquity (the first line, in Don Bartlett's translation, is: "For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops.") Knausgaard the boy is then described seeing, on the TV news, after a disaster, a face in the sea. Beneath the whole novel something is stirring, something unheimlich that can't be said. After Knausgaard's father dies, the key event in the novel, the huge, overwhelming presence he was in Karl Ove's life continues. As Knausgaard and his brother clean the filthy detritus his dead drunken father has left behind in a house become hovel, he realises that he has to write this, has to write of this, write out of this, write about the stink, the misery, the pain, the boredom, the embarrassment because the stink, the misery, the pain, the boredom, the embarrassment is never all there is – things are always in excess of themselves, and in this way things are like words, are like icebergs, and their excess isn't captured by words but mirrored by them.
If, uncannily, words, sometimes, mean the very opposite of themselves; if poetry, language at its most distilled, at its finest and most dense, is at the same time language freed from crude referentiality; if and when, as Freud shows us, unheimlich can mean heimlich – what can we make of words? And what, so labile, can words make? And why might this – call it porousness, call is slipperiness, call it irony – why might this unreliability of language be something either to celebrate or, more, even to find radical or potentially liberatory? Can we even agree with Bifo that it is? Doubtless, language, used instrumentally, used to pass along (messages about) value, used as info-exchange, is language as reaction, but is poetry really other to this? Millennia of poetry hasn't saved us – but perhaps millennia of poetry has prevented us finally from fully falling? Perhaps Knausgaard's struggle is our struggle – to see that the unheimlich is the heimlich, that the unfathomable death of a father might actually be, in reality, both the same as and at the same time the opposite of the clumsy symbol and actual tragedy it is in and out of a novel. And perhaps the separation of in and out of a novel finally fully collapses here – and collapses the only place where it can: in a novel.Add a Comment
Franco "Bifo" Berardi's The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance (part of Semiotext(e)'s excellent Intervention Series) is a perplexing text – often perplexingly bad, it has to be said. But beneath the autonomist reworking of a post-Foucauldian politics, and amidst the ruinous post-poststructuralist neologisms, a truth is trying to fight its way out. Infuriatingly, in such an often wooden (and when not wooden, wooly) essay, that truth is about poetry – the poetry intrinsic to all language that isn't tied to instrumental use, the poetry we see when language unmoors itself from crude referentiality.
When language is reduced to information exchange it loses its ironic potential; when language tries to describe those things that lie beyond language – love, hope, another possible world – its failure to pin things down ambiguously reveals its human success:
Poetry is language's excess: poetry is what in language cannot be reduced to information, and is not exchangeable, but gives way to a new common ground of understanding, of shared meaning: the creation of a new world.
Poetry shows that language cannot be counted upon – not least that it can't be counted on simply to count. When it is showing, it is always telling: as language's excess, it can never quite account for itself. Language's imprecision, its limitless lability, is precisely what proves it is fit for purpose. Fit to indicate hope, fit to hint at what the dream meant or might mean. Language fails at simplicity, and by failing succeeds: a cast iron definition of love wouldn't help anyone make love or know they were in love. Poetry shows us language is defined by what it cannot quite name.
Somewhere in Bifo's book something like this is trying to be articulated. And for that reason alone (helped along by some nice riffs about capitalist time and precarity) I commend it to the House!Add a Comment
Work is the latest book from CrimethInc.:
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After so much technological progress, why do we have to work more than ever before? How is it that the harder we work, the poorer we end up compared to our bosses? When the economy crashes, why do people focus on protecting their jobs when no one likes working in the first place? Can capitalism survive another century of crises?
Our newest book, entitled Work, addresses these questions and a great many more. To answer them, we had to revisit our previous analysis of employment and develop a more nuanced understanding of the economy. We spent months studying obscure history and comparing notes about how we experience exploitation in our daily lives, slowly hammering out a grand unified theory of contemporary capitalism.
In addition to distilling our findings in this book, we’ve also prepared a poster to diagram the system it describes. The poster is based on the classic illustration of the pyramid of the capitalist system published in the Industrial Worker in 1911. With the assistance of Packard Jennings, we’ve created a new version, much more detailed than the original and updated to account for all the transformations of the past one hundred years.
In combination, the book and poster explore the positions we occupy within this pyramid and the mechanics that maintain it. From the industrial revolution to the internet, from the colonization of the Americas to the explosion of the service sector and the stock market, from the 2008 financial crisis to the upheavals taking place right now across the globe, Work offers an overview of how capitalism functions in the 21st century and what we can do to get beyond it.
Mike Kelley’s engagement and rupture with popular music began as a teen in Detroit, in the candle-lit gloom of the Catholic Church, with such polyphonic choral chants as the revised fifth-century liturgy “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” A piece of music that in “its dark and gloomy quality set the mold for much of my [Kelley’s] future musical interests.” The ancient order of choral music would evolve through popular tongue and secular insertion—French rather than Latin—to threaten, through undulating voice, the Church itself. Thirteenth-century clergyman Jacob of Leige decried this new music and its singers, saying that they “bay like madmen nourished by disorderly and twisted aberrations, they use a harmony alien to nature itself.”
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence: The Voice in Mike Kelley’s Music by Mark Beasley.Add a Comment
Expect Anything Fear Nothing "is the first English-language presentation of the Scandinavian Situationists and their role in the Situationist movement...."
The Situationist movement was an international movement of artists, writers and thinkers that in the 1950s and 1960s tried to revolutionize the world through rejecting bourgeois art and critiquing the post-World War Two capitalist consumer society.Add a Comment
The book contains articles, conversations and statements by former members of the Situationists’ organisations as well as contemporary artists, activists, scholars and writers. While previous publications about the Situationist movement almost exclusively have focused on the contribution of the French section and in particular on the role of the Guy Debord this book aims to shed light on the activities of the Situationists active in places like Denmark, Sweden and Holland. The themes and stories chronicled include: The anarchist undertakings of the Drakabygget movement led by the rebel artists Jørgen Nash, Hardy Strid and Jens Jørgen Thorsen, the exhibition by the Situationist International “Destruction of RSG-6” in 1963 in Odense organised by the painter J.V. Martin in collaboration with Guy Debord, the journal The Situationist Times edited by Jacqueline de Jong, Asger Jorn's political critique of natural science and the films of the Drakabygget movement.
Some excellent heterodox marxism – much from the pen of the recently deceased Robert Kurz – can be found on exit-online.org (that link to some of the work in English translation). Worth a read.
In popular culture, the philosopher Nietzsche is usually associated with moral nihilism. We might define nihilism as the absence of the highest values. Associated with moral nihilism is moral relativism. Moral relativism is the belief that all values, precisely because there are no higher values, are merely the expression of personal preference. Ironically, however, is it exactly this kind of moral viewpoint that Nietzsche is criticising. Rather than being a nihilist he is an anti-nihilist. Nihilism is a diagnosis of the decadence of Western culture, rather than a position that Nietzsche wants, and still less, wants us to aspire to (more...)Add a Comment
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Given my double passion for science and philosophy, the problem of clarifying the links between the two and between what I refer to as local orabstract modes of thought (such as the sciences, the arts and politics) has always been of utmost importance to me. To treat this problem, I wished to challenge both the solutions that subject these different modes to philosophical authority (be it ontological, transcendental, epistemological, encyclopedic or other), and the solutions which – inversely – subject philosophy to the model furnished by one of these modes, to the detriment of the others (as, for example, Husserl’s conception of philosophy as archi-science, Heidegger’s conception of philosophy as archi-poetry, or Levinas’s conception of philosophy as archi-ethics). In Benjamin’s theory of translation, I found a solution capable of satisfying two presumably irreconcilable constraints: 1) that of not yielding on the delocalized or transversal nature of philosophical work compared to different local modes of thought – and thus avoiding any potential identification with one of these modes; and 2) that of refusing any dominant position of philosophy toward said modes of thought. In short, Benjamin’s text allowed me to construe the connections between local modes of thought and philosophy by following the model offered by the connection between national languages and the regulatory idea of a delocalized and voluntarily impure language produced by the work of transposition and transfer undertaken by “translation”. To translate, it’s not enough to flit through the space of languages: you must master each of the languages involved by giving yourself over to their irreducible sovereignty. The conception of philosophy that results is that of an organon of composition between the different local modes of thought – an organon which, rather than speaking about these modes, must make possible free circulation between them. In this way, the philosopher’s task is to compose the “untranslatables” within a vaster linguistic space in which each language finds its place and time. The philosopher is the stalker of this space. In Lacanian terms, we might say that philosophical love alone is able to supplement the non-relationship between the different modes of thought – that is, to potentiate their connectedness while affirming their irreducible “untranslatability”. Philosophy alone is able to construct mediators – herein lies its truly angelic dimension – capable of probing the interzones that separate and connect the various modes of thought, in order to incessantly build what I refer to as a musaic language, following on from Benjamin.Add a Comment
Spike Island’s fourth book and zine fair brings together international independent publishers, designers and collectives whose work focuses on experimental design and literature:
Participants include: An Endless Supply / B.Books / Bedford Press / Book Works / Bronze Age Editions / City Edition Studio / Colin Sackett/UniformBooks / Copy / Eastside Projects / Foyles / G39 / Hato Press / Hyphen Press / Influx Press / Laydeez do Comics / Library of Independent Exchange / Mule Press / Museums Press / Nom de Strip / Penned in the Margins / Spike AssociatesAdd a Comment
To accompany the fair, we also present a series of short talks, performances and readings by artists and writers including Luke Kennard, Patrick Coyle, Samuel Hasler, Holly Corfield-Carr, I Am Dora and Marie Toseland.
Alongside this are a rare exhibition of works by Modernist printer Desmond Jeffery and a temporary studio where Spike Island-based designer Jono Lewarne works with UWE students throughout the day to produce a printed publication.
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Sad to hear of the death of critical theorist Mark Poster:
It is with deep sadness that we share the news that our esteemed colleague Mark Poster, Emeritus Professor of History and Film & Media Studies, passed away in the hospital earlier this morning. Mark Poster was a vital member of the School of Humanities, and for decades one of its most widely read and cited researchers. He made crucial contributions to two different departments, History and Film & Media Studies, and played a central role in UCI's emergence as a leading center for work in Critical Theory...Add a Comment
Mark Poster was a major figure in the rapid development of media studies and theory in the USA and internationally. While as an intellectual historian he could draw on Frankfurt School thought as well as on cybernetics, he was particularly interested in the potential of poststructuralism for media studies. From his translations of Baudrillard to his dissemination of Foucault, Poster played a highly influential role in the study of media culture, including television, databases, computing, and the Internet; he continued to offer crucial commentary on the relevance to technology and media of cultural theory, and his numerous articles and books have been translated into a number of different languages. Reflective of the breadth of his interests and expertise, Poster held courtesy appointments in the Department of Information and Computer Science and in the Department of Comparative Literature. First hired at UCI in 1968, Poster had recently retired after 40 years of service to the School and the Campus (more...)
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This evening of "politics, poetry & the fictions of modern love... with Danny Hayward, Jennifer Cooke, Reina van der Wiel and Felicity Allen" looks interesting (more at parasol-unit.org), particular the talk by Danny Hayward (How to be Dominated, or, Night Thoughts on Poetry and World History):
The talk will attempt to specify a category of writing that wishes not only to contest the ownership of the category of the popular, but which wants actively to ownthat category. In its first parts it will offer a polemical history of its central category for the previous two centuries of capitalist development, from Schiller via Wordsworth to Brecht, before proceeding to a more speculative discussion of contemporary writing that wishes to seize (and not merely to gain) popularity from the interests for whom popularity is a synonym of turnover. Setting itself in equal opposition to Adorno's view of "high" and "low" culture as two torn halves that will not be added together, and the profitable therapeutics of anything goes, the talk will argue that a contemporary communist popular culture can only function as a comedy of domination instated at the level of syntax, prosody, and narrative. Broadly speaking, the talk will claim that the poetic writing, if it wishes to maintain some relation to historical development, must learn how to work with its own domination.Add a Comment
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It’s often unclear whether Ulven’s voices are meant to be many, or one. They certainly speak and think of similar things. Like Beckett’s creations, all are crippled, decrepit, or otherwise waning. Decay, says one, is the “lowest multiple,” which may be why these characters seem to converge. In their infirmity, each shares something essentially human. As it’s put at one point, “people are only really revealed in decline.” Yet if decay and decline disclose the human condition, they also herald a kind of heroism. Early on, we meet an old man for whom “unbuttoning a shirt is a real task . . . a project in itself . . . a triumph every time.” Replacement is full of such everyday struggles. But because the book balances all events equally, compressing life’s major and minor moments, these delicate acts acquire a heartrending resonance...
David Winters reviews Tor Ulven’s Replacement on full-stop.net.Add a Comment
When I was young, I thought Life: A User’s Manual would teach me how to live and Suicide: A User’s Manual how to die. I don’t really listen to what people tell me. I forget things I don’t like. I look down dead-end streets. The end of a trip leaves me with a sad aftertaste the same as the end of a novel. I am not afraid of what comes at the end of life. I am slow to realize when someone mistreats me, it is always so surprising: evil is somehow unreal. When I sit with bare legs on vinyl, my skin doesn’t slide, it squeaks. I archive. I joke about death. I do not love myself. I do not hate myself. My rap sheet is clean. To take pictures at random goes against my nature, but since I like doing things that go against my nature, I have had to make up alibis to take pictures at random, for example, to spend three months in the United States traveling only to cities that share a name with a city in another country: Berlin, Florence, Oxford, Canton, Jericho, Stockholm, Rio, Delhi, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Mexico, Syracuse, Lima, Versailles, Calcutta, Bagdad...Add a Comment
Herbert Rosendorfer was born in Germany in 1934 and died in 2012. His first novel Der Ruinenbaumeister (1969) was a critical and commercial success, and is regarded by many critics as one of the masterpieces of German twentieth-century fiction. It was published in English by Dedalus in 1992 as The Architect of Ruins. This was followed by Stephanie in 1995, which was shortlisted for the Shlegel-Tieck Translation Prize. Letters Back to Ancient China is the most commercially successful of his novels and in Germany has sold over two million copies. Mike Mitchell's translation was awarded the Schlegel-Tieck Translation Prize in 1997. Dedalus published Grand Solo with Anton by Herbert Rosendorfer in 2006.Add a Comment
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But how did Agamben get here, to this radicalized nihilism, where he swims delighting in the fact he has overcome (or concluded) Heidegger’s project? He has come across a long journey that is articulated in two directions: one a truly political-judicial critique, the other an archeological one (a theological-political dig). Carl Schmitt is at the center of this journey: he guides the two directions, the one that leads to qualifying power as exception and therefore as force and destiny, an absolute instrumentation without any technical quality and the sadism of finality; on the other hand, one that leads to the qualification of potency as theological illusion, i.e. impotency, in the sense of the impossibility of relying on its effectiveness. Therefore, he incites unproductiveness, thus denouncing the necessary frustration of will, of the masochism of duty. The two go together. It is nearly impossible, recovering the actuality of the Schmittian concepts of the “state of exception” and the “theological-political”, to understand if they represent the biggest danger or instead if they are simply an opening to their truth. Metaphysics and political diagnostics surrender to indistinctness. But that would be irrelevant if this indistinctness didn’t drown any possible resistance. Let’s go back to the two identified lines: the whole journey that follows Homo Sacer develops on this double track. The second track is summarized in The Kingdom and the Glory...
The sacred dilemma of inoperosity. On Giorgio Agamben’s Opus Dei by Antonio Negri.Add a Comment
Graham Harman with his new ontology proposes a veritable semantic descent (or we could call it an “objectal descent”), to reverse the linguistic turn, and to replace it with an ontological turn... My thesis is that much of OOO is a badly flawed epistemology masquerading as an ontology...
Provocative critique of Harman's OOO from Terence Blake. Blake picks up on a fear of mine that, having offered us the really real world, OOO seems to renege on the promise and simply re-instate, at a different level of abstraction, the Kantian distinction between phenomenon and noumenon...Add a Comment
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In other words, I think I’m giving an even stronger critique of authorial intention than is usually the case. Not only do authors fail to master the infinite dissemination of their texts, they probably don’t even put the text in the right shape in the first place. Most of them should have written better texts. Just as social surroundings fail to exhaust a literary work, the exact written form of a literary work fails to exhaust the deeper spirit of that work...
Graham Harman responds to Dan Green (who in turn was writing in response to Harman's The Well-Wrought Broken Hammer: Object-Oriented Literary Criticism [pdf]).
Speculative Realism and OOO have much of interest to say on literature and literary criticism. In particularly, Harman's concept of a withdrawing ontology, of objects that can't be fully known, has some potentially interesting literary critical applications. The conversation between Green and Harman opens up some interesting avenues, but I think there is yet a lot more to say on this...Add a Comment
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