:: Essays archive ( 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

Why does America torture? published 02/01/2015

Habeas corpus – the right of each prisoner to a day in court and not to be tortured – is, as Philip Soper argues, the central feature of a system of law as opposed to despotism. It is what had distinguished (somewhat, if one does not disregard genocide against indigenous people, the ordinary practice of slavery, Jim Crow and the like, which mark American history…) the US or English system of law from, say, the Chinese.

Alan Gilbert on US Torture.

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America at War: Errol Morris and the Era of the Perpetrator published 31/12/2014

Morris, by not a priori taking the point of the view of the victim, is asserting the political dimension of human suffering that cannot be captured by the simple reaffirmation that violence causes pain and, as such, must be deplored. He is trying to draw out the intellectual link between the vicissitudes of power and the causes of human suffering.

Julian Cosma on the role of the perpetrator-witness in Errol Morris’ Fog of War, Standard Operating Procedures, and Unknown Known.

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World Versus America: Ballard And The Global Asylum published 30/12/2014

An insane text, with the capacity to mutate into image, is the only form able to project Ballard’s wasteland-cityscapes, abandoned cinemas, motorways and mental hospitals, all populated exclusively by the terminally insane. That unsustainable strain of condensation in Ballard’s writing was released by 1973 with Crash, but by a final aberration, it returned to his work in the notebook form of his final fiction project, World Versus America, from around 2005, when the contemporary world has become a global insane asylum of arbitrary reversals and compulsions, and a European coalition of America’s former allies must now unite to destroy it, using terrorist strategies, as the only means to annul its irrepressible neo-colonial manias.

Stephen Barber autopsies J.G. Ballard.

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Patrick Modiano: in and out of silence published 29/12/2014

Modiano’s oeuvre – upward of twenty novels, plus poetry, plays and children’s fiction – acts as commentary and analysis of the French post-war experience. Interviewed about his Nobel win, he says: ‘I have the impression of writing the same book for forty-five years’. That book could be said to be a study of the disruption of the Nazi Occupation and its effects on identity in France, and an investigation into – as the Nobel Committee hints – the construction of memory and, indeed, of fiction itself.

West Camel on Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano.

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Dinner with Tomaž: remembering Tomaž Šalamun 1941-2014 published 28/12/2014

He was a quiet titan who bestrode Tito’s communism and EU Europe with an ease and deference that was his hallmark. To speak to him or read his work was to be convinced these seismic changes were of secondary importance behind the actions and thoughts of each individual human being, whose true complexity and humour and love and expression were to be found in the layered, brisk, intelligent, timeless poetry that he penned for nearly fifty years. His reputation was as strong in America and the UK as it was across Europe and the rest of the world. He was, despite himself, a major poet of great significance.

By SJ Fowler.

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the slowdown perspective published 19/12/2014

New centers are created out of peripheries. New peripheries face centers with fresh ambition. The colonizer and colonized morph into new entities. The purchase of cultural capital, such as indigenous medicine, offers yet new doors into industrial modernity. The extension of the project of late capitalism comes to ride on the shifting position-alities and strategic moves of those that carry such cultural capital.

Atreyee Majumder analyses the representations of postcolonial capital accumulation in James Cameron’s Avatar.

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Deep subjectivity: immaterial transactions of bodiless data published 12/12/2014

This new kind of aesthetics functions not so much as to create dutiful subjects of the internet ecology but to render subjectivity into a commodity. The internet thus exhibits all the signs of the capitalist hegemony that served as the background for the emergence of the first wave of Enlightenment aesthetic philosophy, paradoxically more or less explicit in its capitalist aims.

TheLitCritGuy on the parallels between enlightenment philosophy and net aesthetics.

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Sex, Style, and Sewage Farms: Winifred Holtby and Virginia Woolf published 02/12/2014

Winifred Holtby’s novels offer us not the “luminous halo” of consciousness, but the materiality Virginia Woolf rejected as lifeless; to Woolf’s rhetorical question “Must novels be like this?” Holtby implicitly replies that at any rate they can be like this and still convey something important.

Rohan Maitzen on the literary relationship between and legacy of Winifred Holtby and Virginia Woolf.

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Prediction and the flagpole published 29/11/2014

The study of economics is faced with this problem – let’s call it the flagpole problem (I’m borrowing it from the philosopher Julian Reiss) – all the time. The IMF says there is an association between austerity and lower growth. Yet a range of other phenomena were associated with both austerity and lower growth during the study period. Interest rates were at or near zero. The financial system was broken. Households had high levels of debt.

Emran Mian on economic prediction.

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“weird sex under the pier” published 28/11/2014

What fun we had at The Colony, talking books and writers, loving words and laughter we both got on well. Each month we both got up and did The Colony Showtime along with Alabama 3, The Magic Numbers and Badly Drawn Boy; the only night where Shane McGowan paid to sing. I thought it wouldn’t be long ‘til Salena was discovered by the rest of the world, such talent and beauty, inside and out rarely go together and a great natural performer.

Sophie Parkin on Salena Godden‘s books of poetry and autobiography.

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