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…… 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…… 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’…… Continue reading Schematic Disruption

Vibe Vectors

Sianne Ngai and The Sublemon have done much, I think, for aesthetics by formalizing certain descriptive terms previously used informally: the zany, cute, and merely interesting (Ngai); the baroque, whimsy, and cheesy (Sublemon). I want to continue that project here. In a separate project from this blog, I’ve sketched out what a “vibe” might look like if factored in terms more…… Continue reading Vibe Vectors

The Resonant

Sianne Ngai and The Sublemon have done much, I think, for aesthetics by formalizing certain descriptive terms previously used informally: the zany, cute, and merely interesting (Ngai); the baroque, whimsy, and cheesy (Sublemon). I want to continue that project here. “Resonance” is a term used primarily by non-scholarly readers, as Peter Stockwell notes in “The Cognitive Poetics of Resonance,” and…… Continue reading The Resonant

The Merely Epic

Sianne Ngai and The Sublemon have done much, I think, for aesthetics by formalizing certain descriptive terms previously used informally: the zany, cute, and merely interesting (Ngai); the baroque, whimsy, and cheesy (Sublemon). I want to continue that project here. In narrative the epic refers to works of great length, whose diegetic time spans years and decades,…… Continue reading The Merely Epic

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…… 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…… 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…… Continue reading Abstraction & Processing

Metric Prose in Austen’s Emma

Rhetorician Fred Scott divides writing into what he dubs the “motative” and “nutative” styles. Nutative writing, as its name implies, has a rhythm which nods; it was, contemporaneous with Austen, synonymous with verse and poetry. Motative writing, meanwhile, moves: Scott describes it as having the rhythm of the tides, moving shore-ward with each successive rising and falling wave, then receding back again in a similar fashion. It is writing which has climaxes and troughs but which bases its dynamicism on  content. (Pound’s distinction between the “musical” and the “metronomic” comes to mind.) Motative writing is primarily communicative; it encompasses the essay, the argument, the novel — essentially, prose writing.

Chloë Sevigny is Not the Coolest Girl in the World

From a February 10, 2017 profile of Chloë in the New York Times Magazine: It’s difficult to fathom how, exactly, this quaint Connecticut upbringing gave rise to the downtown It Girl and eventual indie actress the novelist Jay McInerney dubbed, in a now-infamous 1994 New Yorker profile, “the coolest girl in the world.” As “now-infamous”…… Continue reading Chloë Sevigny is Not the Coolest Girl in the World