Berfrois

November 2011

Undoing the Image

Undoing the Image

Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity, Paramount Pictures, 1944 by Paula Quigley Depending on your position, the phrase ‘film theory’ can refer either to a critical rigour informed by mainly European intellectual currents, or a ponderous and parasitic dependence on certain schools of thought, particularly psychoanalysis. The...

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Beckett’s Fear of the Other Side

Beckett’s Fear of the Other Side

Samuel Beckett, Avigdor Arikha, 1971 From London Review of Books: At the turning point of this second volume of Beckett’s letters, which is also the turning point of his professional life, the moment when, after so many years of ‘retyping … for rejection’, his best work is finally to...

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What Counts

What Counts

Books & Books, Gibbs M. Smith From Lapham’s Quarterly: When we speak of literature, we should not imagine that we are speaking of some stable and enduring Platonic entity. The history of literature has always been about its highly mutable institutions, whether bookstores, publishers, schools of criticism, or, for...

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Peter Betjemann: A Precise 32

Peter Betjemann: A Precise 32

Vase by Janet Leach, c. 1980 by Peter Betjemann Consider what comes first to mind when one thinks about handcrafted ceramics. I myself would venture that many people’s initial vision of a handmade vase would involve some aspect of irregularity: perhaps a bold one-of-a-kind design, an imperfectly round rim,...

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‘Every place deserves an atlas’

‘Every place deserves an atlas’

At the bottom of the cover of Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas it says, “Rebecca Solnit,” but this is not really, or entirely, her book.  Rather it is the result of an amazing collaboration among artists, cartographers, geographers, activists, historians, gadflies, ecologists, photographers, and a law scholar, all...

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Why do supernatural experiences matter for history?

Why do supernatural experiences matter for history?

Heroldsbach, 1949, via From The Hedgehog Review: In the 1950s, in the midst of what came to be known as the Economic Miracle, West Germany was positively deluged with other wonders: mysterious healings, mystical visions, rumors of the end of the world, and stories of divine and devilish interventions...

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Lisa Rosner: To Burke

Lisa Rosner: To Burke

Burking Poor Old Mrs Constitution Aged 141, William Heath, 1829 by Lisa Rosner What could possibly link Britain’s Catholic Relief Act of 1829, the first in a series of Parliamentary reforms leading to full Catholic emancipation, with the horrific Burke and Hare anatomy murders? The answer is a series...

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As a Fly

As a Fly

Williams skipped college, enrolling directly in the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school in 1902, and it was there that he met Pound, along with Hilda Doolittle, who would become the poet known as H.D. when Pound showcased her poems in the various Imagist manifestoes and anthologies that flourished in...

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Hilary Plum: Behind the Headlines

Hilary Plum: Behind the Headlines

by Hilary Plum The Room and the Chair, by Lorraine Adams, Vintage, 366 pp. The Submission: A Novel, by Amy Waldman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pp. Zone, by Mathias Énard, Translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell, Open Letter Books, 517 pp. Lorraine Adams’ The Room and the...

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High on the Scoville Scale

High on the Scoville Scale

#occupyucdavis, photograph by California Aggie by Deborah Blum One hundred years ago, an American pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville developed a scale to measure the intensity of a pepper’s burn. The scale – as you can see on the widely used chart below – puts sweet bell peppers at the zero...

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Fed

Fed

On a big platter in the middle of the full table sits the fat novel, its dust jacket a cracking bronze, peeling at the edges, its pages sliced and curling, its story stuffed with, well, stuffing: characters mixed with plot in a warm, moist setting, everyone talking at once,...

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Squeezed

Squeezed

by Justin E. H. Smith In 1994 I was admitted to a few Ph.D. programs, but only two of them were not from my back-up list. One of these was UCLA, where I was admitted with full-funding for the doctoral program in Slavic linguistics, and the other was Columbia,...

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Disconcerted

Disconcerted

Poster by Charles Sharland, 1913 by James Warner In The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst explored the iconoclasm of the Thatcher years. But in The Stranger’s Child, he seems to portray England as a country self-defeatingly focused on its past. For some generations now, novels largely set in large...

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Owen Flanagan: Naturalistic Buddhism

Owen Flanagan: Naturalistic Buddhism

by Owen Flanagan In 2000, I was part of a small team of philosophers and Buddhist adepts invited to spend a few days in Dharamsala, India talking with the 14th Dalai Lama on the topic of destructive emotions. Several prominent neuroscientists attending the meetings were hatching ways to study...

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Eli Evans: Rajoy’s Inheritance

Eli Evans: Rajoy’s Inheritance

by Eli S. Evans Mariano Rajoy’s date with the Spanish presidency has arrived some eight years late. In 2004, as the handpicked successor to José María Aznar, Rajoy’s electoral victory was all but guaranteed. The years of rapid growth over which Aznar had presided, as the ruling Partido Popular’s...

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Are the Chinese prone to money illusion?

Are the Chinese prone to money illusion?

China’s monetary policy and its inflation have got people talking – particularly about the effect on other countries. But what about its effect on China’s people? Are they fooled by money illusion?

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Albert Rolls: Which (Side) Are You On, Man?

James Parker begins his review of Inherent Vice with the quip, “If Thomas Pynchon were a stand-up comedian, and Inherent Vice his newest routine,...

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Keith Doubt
Keith Doubt on Serbia

The intellectual integrity of cultural anthropology is based largely on its commitment to cultural relativism as a principled notion. Cultural relativism is the principle...

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A Gosse in Woolf’s Clothing by Andre Gerard

On May 31, two weeks after his death, and the day before Orlando was sent to the printer, Woolf noted his death as follows:...

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Andrew Gallix: Let’s Go!

Retro-futurism, as we now call it, came out of the closet in the late '70s due to the widespread feeling that there was indeed...

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I Know I Have to Go by Rick Whitaker

W.G. Sebald’s father joined the Reichswehr in 1929 and remained in the Wehrmacht under the Nazis. He was captured by the French and remained...

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B. Alexandra Szerlip: Vertigo

Vertigo has been scrutinized under the rubric of scopophilia, fetishism, voyeurism, the sadistic male gaze, objectification of the female body, “a dream substrate of...

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Bobbi Lurie With Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp sat silent. He seemed far away, lost in reverie. Then, he spoke of the death of art, which he described as...

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Bobbi Lurie
Bobbi Lurie and Marcel Duchamp on Lena Dunham’s Girls

But I was perplexed. Marcel Duchamp didn’t order a thing to eat at the café. I assumed it was because he was dead, requiring nothing...

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Europe’s Fascists in Suits by John Gaffney

Earthquake metaphors have had strong currency, both political and journalistic, in the aftermath of May’s European Parliament (EP) elections. The most spectacular tremors were...

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Lauren Berlant’s Love Theory

Both Derrida and Ronell suggest that saying yes is “telephonic,” both in the sense that it resounds over a distance and therefore always is...

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B. Alexandra Szerlip: Dream Train

Unless they lived in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California – all former Mexican territories – most U.S. residents in the 1930s were unaware...

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70-Minute Mark by Nicholas Rombes et al.

The different tools used to capture the frame and the wild variety in terms of image quality, which is the way films are remembered...

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You may say Rauan Klassnik’s a dreamer…

“We’ve got a problem,” says Andrew Shuta of Spork as he and Drew Burk guide me into a fancy conference room. Ron’s sitting across from...

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David Palumbo-Liu on Chinua Achebe

Many years ago, in an interview he did with Bill Moyers, Chinua Achebe was asked, “What would you want the West to do?” Achebe...

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