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

Thought As Style: Montaigne’s Essays published 04/04/2016

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Inventing a literary form is an honor bestowed upon few. We may speak of Don Quixote as the “first novel,” or Emerson as the “father” of American poetry, or Augustine’s Confessions as the earliest example of autobiography, and enjoy doing so because it exercises our desire to create ranks, build consensus and celebrate true originality, even if we know full well that American poetry didn’t begin at any one point, nor was there a first novel. Still, this hyperbole is fun, and lists need to be made. So when it comes to the essay, it should be said that the verdict is essentially unanimous: it belongs to Michel de Montaigne.

Jared Marcel Pollen on Montaigne.

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The Crisis in Capital Cruelty or How Europe is Slowly Banning the American Death Penalty published 22/03/2016

The firing squad is so last-century, far too static and literary for modern death culture. For a generation raised on Grand Theft Auto and POV porno, there is little meaning in lining some human up against a wall and ordering five slugs banged into them. No, much better to go all Hunger Games on their ass, set them free on the streets, give ‘em a head start and then call the cops to try and gun them down. Oh, and remember to film then post the whole thing.

William Watkin analyses the ambivalent status of capital punishment in contemporary America in relation to theories of power, control and transatlantic political relations.

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Recapturing the Technical published 21/03/2016

What the internet provides, then, is the potential for a collective unity of psychic individuals that step beyond the hyper-industrial categories of proletarianised consumers and producers. It is their interconnected desires that have the potential to provide the libidinal energy that is necessary to counteract the negative tendencies of the pharmakon.

Matt Bluemink continues his research into the work of Bernard Stiegler by focussing on the transformative properties of libidinal energy as part of the ‘third industrial revolution’.

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The Sick Chirpse Alphabet of Cannabis Prohibition in the UK published 13/03/2016

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Prince Harry was caught smoking cannabis as a youth, as was the current Prime Minister, yet neither received any legal ramifications for their childhood discrepancies. Prohibition allows certain individuals to be above the law, yet countless working-class minors are prosecuted for possession of cannabis every year.

Simon Doherty on why prohibition sucks.

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Lunch with Mr Hobbes: what a 17th century monarchist has to say to modern democrats published 12/03/2016

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For warre consisteth not in Battell onely, or the act of fighting; but in tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battell is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of warre; as it is in the nature of weather. For the nature of foule weather lyeth not in a showre or two of rain; but in an inclination thereto of many dayes together; so the nature of warre consisteth not in actuall fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.

Michael McManus on what Hobbes would make of us now.

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Amateur Porn: The End of Secrecy in the 1990s published

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The late 1990’s were the beginning of the end of everything clandestine. There were no tweets back then. No snaps, or apps. Likes and pokes were a twinkle in 14-year-old Mark Zuckerberg’s eyes. In just a few short years, however, smoky back room deals would never be again, and everything would go on display for all to see, all the time. 1998 was the dawning of the age of transparency.

Taylor Garcia on the end of secrecy.

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The Novelist as Failure, the Language as Failing: A Recursive Reading of Melville’s Pierre published 20/02/2016

either praising the presently-discussed work as unsung genius—the work being Melville’s Pierre; Or the Ambiguities—or attempting to align this critique of Pierre with all past critiques and all works written by the man, is not of paramount interest here. What is, and ever is, is failure.

By Grant Maierhofer.

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New Ways of Composing a Novel: On Dumitru Tsepeneag published 15/02/2016

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Romanian novelist Dumitru Tsepeneag would seem to be among those post-communist East European writers whose fiction, as if in leaving the legacy of socialist realism as far behind as possible embraces its perceived opposite, could be described as “postmodern”… The case of Tsepeneag specifically is a little more complicated, however, as his career began before postmodernism could be called a transnational phenomenon (when, in fact, it was almost exclusively a phenomenon of American fiction), and he was part of an anti-realist group, the Onirists, which was essentially an extension of late modernism.

Daniel Green on Dumitru Tsepeneag.

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Naoko Haruta and the Arboreal Imagination published 14/02/2016

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It is a unique and bold venture, this series of Ms. Haruta, one which immanently employs and enjoins East and West and which surely places Ms. Haruta at the center of those brave contemporary spirits who refuse the self‐ deluded provisos to which art contemporaneity in practice and discourse gives itself in an epoch‐‐already unfolding sixty years ago‐‐of the total inundation of all forms and discourse in the modes of aesthetic modernityʹs conflicting and polyvalent projects of transgression, negation, disassemblage, zero degree reduction, purification, displacement, and preformed and postulated reversal, an epoch increasingly inimical to substantialist adventure and affection and for which substantialism, thereby, art contemporaneity has substituted the automatism of received and enacted gambits, gimmicks, prefabrications, and signals in a constant mens momentanea of indifferentiation and the arbitrary, i.e. Ryman, Richter, Reed, Guyton, Wools, Oehlen, Koether, etc. etc.

Steve Light on the Trees series of paintings by Naoko Haruta.

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‘Marooned at a tangent to the everyday’: Katrina Palmer’s The Necropolitan Line published 13/02/2016

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An uncomfortable emotional charge is experienced by the would-be passenger alongside the realisation that sitting there, waiting for something that will never arrive, you are actually on the Necropolitan Line, journeying passively towards the time of your own death. In this frame of mind, the Platform Announcer’s murmur about proceeding towards the white light – the clear signal, as opposed to the danger signal – seems to suggest ‘near death’ narratives with their images of heading towards a bright light.

Bridget Penney on the installation by Katrina Palmer.

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