:: Essays

What’s in a Name But Letters? Embodied Books in Three published 20/08/2018

When in 1967, Roland Barthes published his essay The Death of the Author about the self-determination of a text after its flight from its creator, he imbued the text with a sense of mobility, to escape the networked trenches of an author’s biography. Published a year later, Babs, in Gass’s book, doesn’t kill the author to leave his cadaver amongst the correlations of history, so much as she cuckolds him, lifting his chin as she couples with readers in exotic and improbable positions. Gass celebrates the virility of language as it spills into promiscuity—not affording the text sexual agency so much as sexual deviancy. In this sense, another of Barthes’s essays The Pleasure of the Text (1973), switches its subject of pleasure from the reader to the read.

By Jordan Harrison-Twist.

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Magick, Sex, William Blake & Lewis Carroll: Brett Anderson’s Apocalyptic Visions published 16/08/2018

The video to Suede’s early single ‘Animal Nitrate’ would see the cameras eye hurry from outside a Brutalist tenement, along its bleak walkways and inside a tower block. The interior is revealed as a sleazy performance space. In it, a shiny Taffeta curtain suggests transformation from a bleak urban flat into a liminal space that recalls the pre-war Berlin nightclubs. This is an impression enhanced when drag artists in masks frolic around the band in leopard print. With the band playing amongst figures dressed in pig masks (‘pigs’ being a key feature of Anderson’s psychic landscape and the name of his schoolboy band), the allusions to drug-induced conceptual room are clear.

By Guy Mankowski.

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Why the Show ‘Billions’ is Worth Watching in Traumatic Times published 06/08/2018

However frothy, topical and sensationalistic a drama ‘Billions’ presents itself as being, perhaps (especially when one watches it on repeat as often as I have), the show can be read in light of writings on trauma that link it specifically with the unique agony of being betrayed by those whom one trusted in the world most completely. I’m thinking most specifically of the psychologist Jennifer Freyd’s important concept of ‘betrayal trauma’, her explanation for why the sexual or physical abuse perpetrated by familiar, close relatives (and not diabolical strangers) is so unbearably hurtful that the human response to such trauma can range from amnesia, to ‘betrayal blindness’ (where the victim is does remember, and knows what is happening, but refuses to label it “abuse” even when physical injury or penetrative sexual contact is involved).

By Chaya Bhuvaneswar.

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Electric Earth published

I found myself in a Google Maps street view, turning round and round in circles, looking at people frozen mid-step, searching for my grandmother Daida, the dead Tunisian. Google obscures the faces of the people it catches in its street views, as though it would have preferred—for legal purposes—that those streets had been empty of the people that inhabit them. I keep clicking until I am running through the streets in every direction, time frozen in an unfamiliar modern-day, zooming in on faces as if to recognise a relative or a character in one of Daida’s stories.

By Massoud Hayoun.

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Suffer the Little Children: Sessions’ Zero-legality Policy published 05/08/2018

Hearing the voices of children separated from their parents at the US border calling for their mothers and fathers in secret detention centers makes any decent person, in the US and abroad, shudder. That the government uses secrecy even in grim public facilities, where at least the façade of the building is known to reporters, but also in nonpublic subcontracted warehouses for private military intelligence contractors like MVM to imprison children is both unsurprising – a sign of bureaucratically authorized crime – and appalling. Even some of the people who work in these centers – a nurse in Hastings, New York as well as someone who recorded the Propublica audio tape – take videos or make recordings with cell phones – at great personal risk and smuggle them out.

Alan Gilbert writes about the US policy of separating children from their parents at the US/Mexico border.

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Modern Nature and Queer Literature’s Yearning for the Sea published 23/07/2018

The sea and queerness have always been intertwined. The waves were a liminal space, not bound to the rules of the societies on land. It’s a place away from the eyes of family and friends, where desires can be explored away from the categorisation and labels of a conservative, heteronormative society. Allen Ginsberg, whose work Jarman describes reading in Modern Nature, wrote of his peers ‘who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of / Atlantic and Caribbean love’. The marrying of the natural with queerness, for so long castigated as unnatural, is seen throughout the work of gay writers who take the ocean as their subject.

By Hannah Williams.

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Declaring Poetry published

Poetry, on its own, can undo the declaration, though it can declare an undoing. Though introduced and repeated the ‘I’ can become an impossible source, even of its own continuity. Recounting a biography refusing unity while giving the latter that form of presentation in which the continuous ‘I’ would no longer be there: quand’ era in parte altr’ uom da quel ch’ i’ sono.

Andrew Benjamin thinks through poetry.

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Seven Theses published 19/07/2018

Concentration camps.  A legitimized Gestapo that rules at will, wherever it goes, with brute force behind it.
Geheimestaatspolizei. Violence cannot be contained at a border. The knock on the door is the Law. Militarized police enforce White Supremacy. As one German commentator put it, we have “Anti-Semitism without Jews.”  On this Continent, Muslims and Central Americans will serve just as well.  Not to mention transsexuals. And uppity young blacks. And women who don’t treat their fetuses with proper respect.

State of the nation address by Philip Green.

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Why Is Trump Doing What He Is Doing? published 18/07/2018

Let me give you my conclusions first, so you know where I am going with this.  I think Trump is being paid by Putin to conform American foreign, economic, and military policy to what Putin thinks are Russia’s interests.  This is not the only possible explanation for Trump’s behavior, but it seems to me the most plausible.  The principal items of evidence on which I am basing this conclusion are Trump’s trade war, his efforts to undermine NATO, his acceptance of Russia’s reabsorption of Crimea and effort to control Ukraine, his scuttling of the Iran nuclear deal, and somewhat more atmospherically his efforts to rehabilitate Putin as a respected player on the international scene.

Robert Paul Wolff asks why Trump is acting towards Putin like he is.

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The Policeman’s Beard is Algorithmically Constructed published 16/07/2018

Racter poses virtually no threat to human authors, nor does any other algorithmic author currently available. The question is hence not one of replacement, but of augmentation, of new responsibilities for the human author in light of the algorithmic one. When Juhl writes that computer-generated output lacks the intentionality of a text with a human author, he falls into a similar trap as Bök: both scholars fail to recognise the fundamentally human basis of algorithmic authorship. Human intention hasn’t disappeared, but is merely manifest in a new way. Indeed, The Policeman’s Beard’s apparent randomness is a rhetorical choice, and Racter’s nonsensical output pushes the limits of creativity by means of an intentional goal to be incomprehensible.

By Leah Hendrickson.

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