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

Literature and Politics published 05/04/2015


Writers have often been asked to explain the purpose of literature. What, the question may have been posed, (sometimes by writers themselves), is the point of writing? Why do writers write? And despite all of ways in which literature may of use to others, perhaps the most immediate and honest response would be that they write because they have to. They write who must. “It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing” , Robert Hass explains to us. Writing is perhaps, as Rilke, described, in a passionate letter to a Franz Kappus, a young man uncertain about entering a literary career, a “calling” ; and those on whom such a vocation alights “would have to die if … forbidden to write.”

Yong Jie reflects on thoughts provoked by Calvino‘s The Uses Of Literature.

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kebabylon and the urban night published 02/04/2015


Walk into the centre of any British city and you’ll see Kebabylon. I glimpse it around the student village of south Manchester. A weary Palestinian yawning behind the counter as he checks his phone. A middle-aged Indian tapping his fingers on the wheel as three girls in nano-skirts bundle into his car. Chips, booze, pubs, clubs, pills, thrills. Mark Fisher called it “depressive hedonism”: student life as a carousel of thuggish stimuli.

Dale Lately on thugs, booze, youth, and Manchester.

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Luxury Complex: Remembering Satan published 30/03/2015

Luxury Complex Cover Art

Writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely business. It does eventually become a collaborative process of sorts, but only at the bitter end, working through final drafts with editors and quibbling over fonts with cover designers. Last Friday was a very different experience for me. It was fun even. For a short while I became involved with a gang of artists.

Simon Crump on Luxury Complex: Remembering Satan.

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Neoliberal cyborg Science: World of Warcraft as gamic vehicle published 26/03/2015

Chun articulates the construction of the individual by software by noting that: “[c]omputer programs shamelessly use shifters, pronouns like ‘my’ and ‘you’, that address you, and everyone else, as a subject.” WoW stages neoliberalism’s fetishisation of the individual while disguising the paradox engendered by the conferral of radical agency onto every individual. The player feels empowered while unbeknownst to them, their agency is in fact an illusion.

Rafael Lubner on how World of Warcraft functions as an atopic form of neoliberal ideology.

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There Is No Cure For This: A Reading of Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s “In The Idle Style” published 17/03/2015

Geoffrey G. O'Brien

After several failed attempts at memorizing “In The Idle Style,” I became less interested in committing it to memory than exploring the idea that there was something in the deeper fibers of O’Brien’s poem that resisted my initial attempts at memorization — and that such resistance was a signal to its meaning and value.

Gary Sloboda on Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s poem “In The Idle Style”.

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flatness/interruption published 11/03/2015


She finds the potatoes she put on the stove earlier boiled over. Jeanne is upset, and starts to walk through the flat in panic – the pan of potatoes in her hands. Finally she tosses them into the trash.

Katharina Ludwig on Chantal Akerman‘s Jeanne Dielman.

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On Vincent Harding, Benjamin Netanyahu and Selma published 08/03/2015


That a police officer can draw a gun on an unarmed young man and shoot him many times, killing him, and be “protected” by current “legal practice” – the cop who drew his gun on Taj Blow, a student on the Yale campus, is similarly and bizarrely “protected” – is a great scandal of modern America. If this is a free regime, what is a police state?

Gil Caldwell on civil rights in the US.

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The social contract theory according to Socrates published 07/03/2015


There are two courses of actions: persuade or obey, according to the laws of the city. If you are in disagreement with an order, you are actually obligated to persuade. You must persuade the authority that issued that unjust order to change their minds, but if you fail, you must obey. This is the core formula to sustain the system. The integrity of the system depends on the endurance of this procedure. Of course, there are circumstances that are unpleasant to us, and we would wish it otherwise, but we cannot overrule the system at our leisure. That conclusion is the result of the debate with Crito about the value of expert opinion of the few over the opinion of the majority.

Shahram Arshadnejad on Socrates and the Social Contract.

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Sounding out the Idols: Images, Ideology & ISIS published


The video explains their ruinous behavior as the fulfillment of religious duty: “The Prophet Muhammed commanded us to shatter and destroy statues.” The irony here is perspicuous: threatened by the potency of the image, these militants undertake drastic measures to destroy it, yet in so doing engrave an immeasurably more powerful image before the entire world by uploading their video. This perplexity runs deeper than this incident and gestures towards a paradox at the origin of the aniconic and philosophical traditions.

Gilah Kletenik on ISIS and Iconoclasm.

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Innocent Abroad: Rupture, Liberation, and Solidarity published 02/03/2015


So here, in these philosophers, was stuff that seemed just as hard as the physics and chemistry that were bringing me to New York. Moreover, philosophers seemed to value a lack of confidence—telling me, not to ignore my doubts and get back to studying, but to push my uncertainty as far as it could go. Sartre explained why this is inescapable—only by self-deception can we hide from ourselves the fact of choice and the depth of our inability to anchor life in external or internal certainties. Like it or not, we were in the end responsible for who we are and what sort of world we inhabit.

Peter Railton‘s Dewey Lecture.

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