:: Essays

Farewell to Pnin: The End of the Comp Lit Era published 05/07/2016

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The chief aim of explicitly “democratizing” literary scholarship is often just the performance of the scholar’s own democratizing desire. How much good, though, does it do to study the “other” if you only ever talk about their otherness? How much good does it do to assume that our words are a politics when it’s so glaringly evident that they are not?

Jeanne-Marie Jackson explores what literary criticism has lost with the rise of faux-populist scholarship and the recession of “theory” and its alleged elitism.

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Letters Not About Brexit published 03/07/2016

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It may seem that writing, especially the writing of fiction, sometimes only indirectly on political subjects, like love, has no role to play in fighting this process of isolation, but the very nature of writing exists in the tension it produces by crossing, in the gaps between one word and the next, in the pull between the words (the writer) and the reader. Writers cross borders at every points where character, description, plot make the personal political and the political personal.

By Joanna Walsh.

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Brexit at 3:AM published 26/06/2016

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It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of vast public events, especially if we didn’t support them, as the majority of the UK population (‘remain’ voters + abstainers) did not. My question is one that I’ve been asked several times since Friday: what can writing do in the face of this situation?

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Art Is For Necrophiliacs (If that’s how you spend) published 08/06/2016

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Life extension is a big business. Everyone wants to live forever, even if all we do now is live through looking. Google has committed an investment up to six hundred million into the California Life Company to solve death. Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, foresees the possibility of reincarnating his dead father into a digital avatar. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has invested in twenty-five biotech companies & the combination of gene therapy, nanotechnology, & artificial intelligence. Mark Zuckerberg & a handful of others have been funding “Breakthrough Prizes” for six scientists a year, three million apiece to prove death is as antiquated as intimacy, or love.

Chris Campanioni on death, social media and art.

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Erkenntnis, Undings and the Grape published 07/06/2016

Erkenntnis, Undings and the Grape

With the testing movement of lips, these words take on unusual forms, all new—taken from another mouth. The idea of their sounds guides my tongue over unfamiliar space, stumbling against small silences. It begins with weiß. Where light is. White is the release of everything that may be contained. It indicates presence, and the permission to look. Everything that appears is a way to write a when around an encounter.

By Lital Khaikin.

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Monuments of Fire published 04/06/2016

Photo c Monia Lippi

As far as I can see, I see plastic bags. It is spectacular. I am mortified, and deeply saddened, and ecstatic with bewilderment. And taking brief refuge in abstraction, I remember Sputnik, the Monolith and the Black Square, and I reconsider: perhaps when all is said and done the plastic bag will stand as the most sweeping and poignant icon of human achievement. But the landscape is heavier than metaphor and the air is leaden, draped in a scrim of inscrutability, something other than sadness, sharper than melancholy, and shallower. As if to see through it reveals only more of itself, and what it already is: the exchange of base things, a potlatch of kipple and murmur on the great chain of unending spasm and digestion.

By Jeff Wood.

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How You Too Can Write Certain of My Books published 30/05/2016

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My experimental procedure, wherein I would take a line of text from Roussel’s original French version of Locus Solus (available at Gutenberg.org) and paste it into the online program so that I could then immediately sample the garbled and glitched auto-translation into my own narrative universe was something very much akin to the spirit of the original Rousselian work itself. Roussel had a very specific procedure for writing his books, something he outlined in the posthumously published How I Wrote Certain of My Books. The original title of the Afterword included in my version of Locus Solus was titled How I Rewrote One of His Books.

By Mark Amerika.

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Executing the Authority of Roland Barthes: A Recombinant Theory Manifesto published 27/05/2016

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Like Barthes, what I enjoy in reading is not directly a text’s content or even its structure. To be with the one I love and to think of something else: this is how I have my best ideas, how I best invent what is necessary to my work. Every word is a Pandora’s box from which flies out every possibility of signification and perception; recombinant theory continually opens the text, refusing to describe or solve the qualities of discourse.

Joel Katelnikoff on his Inhabitations.

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The Olympic threat to Tokyo’s ‘Citizens out of sight’ published 23/05/2016

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As quickly as the bubbles went flat on the celebratory champagne toasting the news of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, doubts set in. Many Japanese believe the benefits will be negligent given the country’s recession-hit economy. Others are of the opinion that money invested in the games would be better spent aiding those whose lives were destroyed in the Fukushima disaster. Sadly, it seems like in other cities that have played host to the Olympics, those who will suffer first are those already at the very bottom of society. They are the most disenfranchised social group who would never reap any benefit from the tourism or injections of corporate sponsorship promised. In Tokyo, as everywhere else, this means the homeless.

Chris Low looks at hidden poverty and Tokyo.

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Joe Lenski and Why Initial Exit Polls Are a Test For Fair Elections in the USA published 14/05/2016

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This is morally corrupt. This is, intellectually, specious. That this is the best the Washington Post, Edison and the Consortium can do – blaming others for “weak-mindedness” – is an embarrassment. With his long, international experience, however, Joe Lenski is probably quite aware that what he stands for is a betrayal of fairness, democracy and the purpose of exit polling itself. He does not return the calls of skeptics, like Hatlem…

Alan Gilbert on how exit-polling corrupts.

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