The Resonant

Sianne Ngai and Haley Thurston have done much, I think, for aesthetics by formalizing certain descriptive terms previously used informally: the zany, cute, and merely interesting (Ngai); the baroquewhimsy, and cheesy (Thurston). I want to continue that project here. Continue reading “The Resonant”

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”

Poets are Intelligence Assets

As I understand it, the idea in Benjamin Hoffman’s “Poets are intelligence assets” is that there’s all this ambient information about specific cultural moments which is packed into a text unintentionally. My impression is past theorists have called this, loosely, “ideology,” though the word carries deep-politic connotations. “Worldview” may be a better term, but I’m not as familiar with the theory as I should be. Continue reading “Poets are Intelligence Assets”

Abstraction & Processing

The art historian Jack Flam (2014) refers to this aspect of abstraction as “a new claim on truth.” By dismantling perspective, abstract art requires our brain to come up with a new logic of bottom-up processing. The work of Mondrian relies heavily on the brain’s early steps in processing objects, steps that depend on line segments and axis of orientation, and on the brain’s processing of color. But these bottom-up processes are likely to be modified or overridden altogether by extensive, creative top-down processing.

— from Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, Bob Grant

Return Maximization

Before I write, I pull a small lump of metal, no larger than a thimble, melted and dimpled and deformed, from the windowsill. According to the Sedona Crystal Vortex shop in Sedona, AZ it’s a meteorite, capable of activating Kundalini energy plus simulating the third eye and/or crown chakras. I rub it between my fingers, feeling its weight, its material strangeness. I don’t believe in the New Age but I like the idea that this thing  may or may not be from outer space, that I could have been scammed and it doesn’t even matter, that everything’s from outer space if we’re being technical and it’s the sort of technicality that mocks any attempt at de-vagueifying the unshapen. Continue reading “Return Maximization”