Some books take such a mammoth effort to produce that it’s hard to want to be critical of them. Rolling Blackouts is one of those books. The nearly 300 pages of delicately crafted, watercolored panels make evident that Sarah Glidden is a workhorse of a talent....more
Posts Tagged: criticism
To memorialize a tragedy, one must inscribe unmistakable significance into reticent materials, attempting to curb the natural processes of forgetting and obsolescence.
For The Nation, Becca Rothfeld writes about W.G. Sebald, author of The Emigrants, among others, and his obsession with artistic expression as the aestheticization of truth, almost necessarily a “mangling,” when the goal is to memorialize or find deeper truth in the wake of tragedy and violence....more
For the second time that day, then, I waited in the dark for something not quite human—and all too human—to begin.
If you haven’t seen Charlie Kaufman’s new film Anomalisa, we highly recommend that you do. And then after, read this wonderful piece by Zadie Smith on Kaufman, The Polar Express, Schopenhauer, and the uncanny humanity of puppets....more
Maybe the loneliness of the American critic stems from his obsession with freeing minds, which quickly become isolated monads.
Art shouldn’t be mere normalizing sublimation or queer desublimation, which amounts to the same thing. Should actually make your problems worse. Only then can the fantasy of endless role-playing and analysis be traversed. Art is, in this way, less delusional than psychoanalysis.
Lisa Ruddick, at The Point, gives a state of the union address on critical theory, arguing that current trends are leading us down a dangerous, anti-empathetic, anti-individualistic road towards “cool criticism”:
Academic cool is a cast of mind that disdains interpersonal kindness, I-thou connection, and the line separating the self from the outer world and the engulfing collective.
Irony abounds in a story from The Chronicle of Higher Education about Jonathan Gottschall, the pioneering figure of Literary Darwinism, who has taken to MMA fighting since his career as an academic foundered. Gottschall made a splash in literary circles with a dogmatic assertion that the lens of evolutionary biology can and should supercede all other modes of literary analysis; the reaction was polarizing and the fallout, it seems, is ongoing....more
New Jersey is about to get Poststructural, thanks to Princeton’s recent acquisition of Jacques Derrida’s library. The collection contains nearly 14,000 books, many of which bear marginalia from the celebrated critic and philosopher. The collection will be available to scholars at Princeton’s Firestone Library....more
Down at the New Yorker, Kelefa Sanneh asks where the black critics are (and whether we ever had any to begin with, and how the field is irrelevant until they come back):
Sociologists who study black America have a name for these camps: those who emphasize the role of institutional racism and economic circumstances are known as structuralists, while those who emphasize the importance of self-perpetuating norms and behaviors are known as culturalists.
The more all-encompassing art is becoming, the more we need criticism. The more books there are, the hungrier we are for a way to navigate the field. The more of other disciplines the visual arts take on – poetry, dance – the more we need critics to research, think through contexts and presentation, and, yes, judge the merits of these sometimes uncomfortable unions.
David Ulin at the LA Times makes interesting argument for retiring the word “brave” from jacket copy. Citing its overuse and the seeming dissonance of describing literature as brave in the face of countless acts of bravery in the world beyond books every day, Ulin argues that we do our authors a disservice with language that makes it sound “as if a writer were facing down some sort of fusillade every time he or she sat down to work.” He goes on suggest that we abandon the word to protest its chilling effect on genuine engagement with (and criticism of) the work:
This is my problem with “brave” and other words like it: They do not engage but rather insist.
Art isn’t just for fans, which means that it’s not just for the knowledgeable, but for passersby as well. Expertise, then, seems an excuse to make everyone talk about the same things in the same way.
For the LA Review of Books, Noah Berlatsky writes about ignorant commenters, outsider critics, and elitist experts and argues that, sometimes, the perspectives of the former two are more useful and illuminating than that of the latter....more
Can a good critic be a good novelist too? Daniel Mendelsohn and Leslie Jamison, who both have written both fiction and non-fiction, answer this question in the weekly Bookend column for the New York Times’s Sunday Review.
Though their ideas differ, the two authors ultimately share the same point of view, summed up in Jamison’s statement that, “We seem to have more patience for the novelist who writes criticism (Henry James, Virginia Woolf) than for the critic who writes novels (Susan Sontag, Lionel Trilling).”
Women’s work has always been awesome, just as the work written by people of color, minorities, and other classes of people who aren’t white men has been. The work of white men has been awesome, too, but it has benefitted from a system where their work has been assumed awesome, rather than graciously granted the chance to be awesome.