Friday, April 18, 2014

Theme: Literature

  • Various explanations have been offered for the obsession with conspiracy. C. G. Jung theorized that our sense of individuality is enhanced by the possession of a secret which the individual is pledged to guard, and that the earliest evidences of social structure reveal the craving for secret organizations. If Jung's theory accounts for the appeal of organizations promising special insights or powers – whether teams, clubs, gangs, or political parties, and whether clandestine or not – others have conjectured that "agency panic," or anxiety about the loss of autonomy, accounts conversely for our fear of conspiracies that can control our actions.Read more
  • Chimamanda Ngozi speaking on the role of literature with Ellah Allfrey, deputy editor of Granta Magazine. Read more
  • When we read literature from the 19th century, we usually try to be vigilant in order not to project our contemporary ideas and obsessions onto the past for fear they might obscure the radical difference of another era. What happens when we look at our own century from a necessarily imaginary 19th-century viewpoint? How do we recognize fragments of discourse that persist in contemporary texts, ripped from their original contexts, but not quite consciously assimilated as a cultural reference?Read more
  • Since this is a paper about the computational context of literary writing, and to some extent poetry, I have invested heavily in metaphor, at least as far as the title is concerned. Taking key terms in no particular order: by end I mean not so much terminus as singularity or convergence of opposites, that defining, indefinable point where turn becomes return as one state gives way to another; from the imperative lift.Read more
  • Readers of contemporary art criticism may have come across the following story about Michael Fried. Fellow critic Rosalind Krauss was with Fried at a show in the early 1960s when someone confronted him about a Frank Stella painting. “What’s so good about that?” the challenger asked. According to Krauss, Fried told the young man that, on some days, Stella went to the Metropolitan and stared for hours on end at the Velázquez paintings there.Read more
  • Implicit in the Google view is the idea that our consciousness itself is no longer capable of attending to thought, communication, and reflection without technical assistance. In the same year, the Ars Industrialis group declared in their Manifesto that we must “struggle against carelessness [incurie], against the destruction of attention” (Ars Industrialis).Read more
  • In the essay "Hallowe'en? Over Already?" (1999), Thomas Pynchon writes about some of the fall 1998 goings on at the Cathedral School in New York City, where his son, Jackson, was enrolled in the second grade. They included a picnic, though not for Hallowe'en; the Blessing of the Animals, which the Pynchons missed that year as they had the year before, at the church associated with the school, the Cathedral of Saint John the DivineRead more
  • Creators of electronic literature are progressing toward a more pervasive employment of the “ludic” — of the spirit of play inhabiting not just the writing, and not just the programming, but both in an elaborate, symbiotic combination. The tradition of “ludic” writing is well-rehearsed in criticism of electronic literature, for example in the magisterial anthology The New Media Reader, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort.Read more
  • One of the things the Oulipo claims sets them apart from other avant-garde groups is that their movement isn’t meant to be political. And yet strong Oulipians, like Raymond Queneau, Harry Mathews, and Georges Perec, have wanted to interrogate the world we live in, largely through a disruptive use of language and a more conscious approach to the everyday world. Read more
  • Focused as some of us are on medieval and early modern literature, the question of context comes up a great deal. Is our work sufficiently contextualized? Where and how do modern theories of language and meaning (our inevitable toolkit) fit into our work?Read more
  • My livelihood depends on fiction. To this end I have published a book arguing for the importance of literature in life. I have posted personal blogs that combine internal reflection with cultural commentary. In short, I see the absolute importance of narrative in life and work. Yet, I also realize that stories can get in the way of understanding life.Read more
  • Some of the best recent books about things, such as John Plotz’s Portable Property (2008) and Elaine Freedgood’s Ideas in Things (2006), deal with artefacts, commodities and curiosities that find their value and significance by means of circulation, moving from place to place and hand to hand.Read more
  • Through a close material, formal, and textual analysis of "books" that are meant to be shuffled and read entire, we develop some insights about the sparsely-populated but remarkable category of shuffle literature. Works of shuffle literature are not simply anti-books, nor are they exemplars of or homages to codex books. Read more
  • Literature seems to be everywhere in Cartagena and not just because Gabriel García Márquez still has a house there. I was prepared to find a literary city as I had recently read Ilan Stavans’ biography of García Márquez. But as I rambled through the jewel of the Caribbean with two local poets, René Arrieta Pérez and Pedro Blas Julio Romero, poetry seem to cascade down from balconies like bougainvillea.Read more
  • I am in Iceland for the first time in many years, for no better reason than that Icelandair offers extended stopovers on transatlantic flights at no additional cost. I cross the Atlantic as casually as one might take the subway from borough to borough, but now that I am here, again, in Reykjavik, it seems to me that, if we have to fly at all, stopovers in Iceland should not just be possible, but mandatory. They make it all make sense.Read more
  • As I write this in San Francisco, Jacques Jouet is at the Place Stalingrad in Paris, writing a serial novel in thirty-two parts. He has agreed to sit for eight hours a day inside a windowed tent at the southwestern tip of the Bassin de la Villette, typing away in 18-point Times while the text on his computer screen is projected onto a display nearby for anyone who cares to monitor his progress. Read more
  • Now that we have reached the point at which postmodernism, rightly or wrongly, has been declared moribund, it is time to assess its literary legacy critically. What has been the effect of postmodernism? Have we gone beyond it in literature? And why this desire to go beyond? What criticism has been levelled against it in the last decades by writers and critics? What have they replaced it with? Read more
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