Oscillation / Fashion

1. Oscillation

You can never really tell when James Murphy’s being sincere, whether he’s making fun of others or making fun of himself. “Pow Pow”’s his statement of philosophy—“from this position / I can totally see how the decision was reached”—which is a sort of pragmatist-PoMo enlightenment: acknowledge perspective’s providence on truth and then turn it into a middle-aged reasonableness (over youthful anger, over Roman conceit). Continue reading “Oscillation / Fashion”

Punk Ethos & the Blog: An Interview with A D Jameson, pt. 1

Read pt. 2 here.

I first read A.D. Jameson’s criticism on litblogs like HTMLGiant and Big Other, where he wrote about the New Sincerity, Russian formalism, and cinema. I was interested back then in irony and sincerity, especially because I was in an environment where a lot of people I knew were doing molly on weekends, were peripheral to a hippie rave subculture that was heart-on-its-sleeve.

Continue reading “Punk Ethos & the Blog: An Interview with A D Jameson, pt. 1”

New Fiction is Psychic Occupation

Fiction—or more generally, longform narrative text—has long been the handyman of society and culture, serving whatever functions are most needed at a historical moment. The Greek oral tradition, famously, functioned in part to preserve cultural histories and customs—hence the sprawling lists of names and figures, or lengthy descriptions of hospitality, in Homer. Arabic maqamas synthesized and preserved the collected wisdom of the medieval Iberian peninsula through proverbs and fables. Victorian novels provided an escapist entertainment for members of the aristocracy, while the Bible, Quran, and Mahābhārata operated as normative unifiers. Continue reading “New Fiction is Psychic Occupation”

Predictive Processing & Art as Cognitive Remodeling

Visual art — representational imagery — begins somewhere between fifty and one-hundred thousand years ago, overlapping with the Upper Paleolithic Transition. The period consists of rapid gains in tool technologies alongside the beginnings of modern symbolic thought, with human societies developing currency systems, dispersed social organizations, and increasingly sophisticated religious belief. Continue reading “Predictive Processing & Art as Cognitive Remodeling”

Backgrounding Techniques in Cinema and Literature

“In his later works, Klee began to erase the lines that typically distinguish a painting’s foreground image from its background, and he populated this background with numerous other figures that enter into a viewer’s awareness to greater and lesser degrees. Thus Klee’s late works… paint the usually inconspicuous tension of emerging and withdrawing, the usually unnoticed opposition of foreground and background which allows painting to work.” Continue reading “Backgrounding Techniques in Cinema and Literature”

A Conversation With Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry is a contributing editor at Ribbonfarm, and published Every Cradle is a Grave: Rethinking the Ethics of Birth and Suicide through Nine-Banded Books in 2014. Perry occupies a Gertrude Stein-esque role in the intellectual community of post-rationalism, bringing people together into a salon-like digital space while also producing vitally important work of her own. Perry’s writing has dealt with issues ranging from existentialist ethics and ritual practice to aesthetics, and has appeared (in addition to Ribbonfarm) in Carcinisation, The View From Helland Front Porch Republic.  Continue reading “A Conversation With Sarah Perry”

Predicting Joyce’s “Calypso”

Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.

So begins the fourth chapter of Ulysses. “Calypso” is one of the more straightforward episodes of the novel, but here we’ll look at the way the opening line maintains its own ambiguity throughout the chapter’s opening pages. The suspended ambiguity is initiated in the grammatical indeterminacy of “ate,” which functions either as preterit (simple past) or as unmarked imperfect, suggesting, respectively, either that Bloom has just eaten a meal consisting of animal organs, or that Bloom regularly eats animal organs (completed action vs. general habit or practice). Continue reading “Predicting Joyce’s “Calypso””

Enthusiasm, Play, and “Cool”

Idea: Young animals of countless species have been observed engaging in play, exploring their environment, testing boundaries, and entering low-stakes simulations of behavior that will in adulthood become high-stakes (e.g. wrestling, hunting, dollhouses). In humans, playful exploration in this sense is associated with the sincere enthusiasm of discovery—young children can still be surprised or highly excited in the face of imminent newness. These patterns of behavior inevitably leave a trace in group epistemics; that is, there is a strong association in the culture, conscious or not, between  affects like enthusiasm or playfulness and the status of an organism with much to learn. Continue reading “Enthusiasm, Play, and “Cool””

Sontag v. Top-down Frames

The title of Sontag’s “Against Interpretation” is misleading, and regularly confuses readers who believe her “erotics of art” precludes interpretive dot-connecting and inference. This is not the case: the piece is more accurately titled “Against Allegorization,” or “Against Ideological Readings” — those hermeneutic approaches that set out to find “encoded” and symbolic meanings in a work of literature according to the reader’s personal schema. Continue reading “Sontag v. Top-down Frames”

Schematic Disruption

Cognitive poetics is one of the most exciting literary-theoretic subfields I’ve stumbled upon. So far as I can tell, Peter Stockwell, whose paper on resonance I’ve cited previously, is one of cognitive poetics’ primary authorities, and has written an introduction to the discipline (Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction, 2002).

Stockwell summarizes “schema theory,” a composite of different theorists’ attempts to better grasp how readers bring interpretive contexts and frameworks to texts during a literary encounter. We can understand “schemas” loosely in the way Piaget, Kant, and Schmidhuber have all used it:¹ a mental framework and interpretive system into which new ideas are tested and assimilated. Synonyms for schema include frameworkworldviewway of seeinginterpretive filter, and mental modelContinue reading “Schematic Disruption”

Corpus as Concept: Poetic Sensibilities in Literary-Theoretic Discourse

There are two parts to an argument I want to make but lack the qualifications: 1) showing poetry, and poets in large, express, across their corpus, a worldview or way of seeing; 2) showing that literary-theoretic discourse actively leverages poets as concept handles in meta-level discourse (discourse about discourse; that is, to talk about how we talk about the world, to interrogate worldviews and discourses. Reading digs a channel, a channel dug with others’ words, through which communication can pass. Poets become stand-ins for sensibilities, the mystical, religious Blake held in opposition to the more level, moderate Wordworth (as in Kirsch’s Why Trilling Matters). Or the romanticism of Wordsworth held in opposition to the chthonic, darker Coleridge (as in Paglia’s Sexual Personae). Continue reading “Corpus as Concept: Poetic Sensibilities in Literary-Theoretic Discourse”