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Archive for December 2nd, 2008

melancholic intensity and short form writing

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Philip Lopate on Susan Sontag on Walter Benjamin in The Threepenny Review:

Benjamin was […] another exemplar for her of “the freelance intellectual.” Finally, he was a negative model in the difficulty he had finishing books. “His characteristic form remained the essay. The melancholic’s intensity and exhaustiveness of attention set natural limits to the length at which Benjamin could develop his ideas. His major essays seem to end just in time, before they self-destruct.” Her own essay on Benjamin runs a mere twenty-five pages. She later said, by way of explaining why she no longer gave her main energies to essay-writing, that some of the essays in Under the Sign of Saturn had taken her six months to write. From my perspective, this means she should have persisted in essay writing; it was just getting to the proper level of difficulty.

Just as the “literature of the no” (more to come on this) encourages one to romanticize one’s own lack of productivity, reading something like this is suggestive in probably just the wrong way. The ultimate intensity would take the form of aphoristic captions underneath single photos on an underread blog? But why do they require books? No one reads them anymore anyway!

(BTW I think everyone should subscribe to The Threepenny Review, by the way. It never ceases to amaze me that when I write in for address changes or to resubscribe and the like, it’s always Wendy Lesser herself who writes back…)

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December 2, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Posted in benjamin, distraction

bathrooms without toilets

with 3 comments

Go look. Funny! Will add MM to the linklist on this!

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December 2, 2008 at 1:31 am

agamben again

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I’ve been a bad amateur theorist for the past several years. * Attribute it to all-too-close-contact with a whole coterie of noxious lacanians, lording it over peasants like me with late-night phonecalls and backchatter and tenure threats. Whatever. But somehow I missed the fact that Agamben has gotten back to the interesting question (rather than the boring one, the s/o/e and all that schmittian jive). See No Useless Leniency for more information. I just ordered the book.

Agamben argues that he is not condemning pornography per se, but rather the neutralisation of the possibility of allowing erotic behaviours to idle, their profanation. What is reprehensible is to be captured by power, not the behaviour in the first place. This kind of idling can be found in the the indifferent gaze of Chloe des Lysses – a lack of complicity with the spectator, and a refusal of the brazen.

But this kind of profanation appears only temporarily, as the “solitary and desperate consumption of the pornographic image” (!) (“In Praise” 91) blocks this kind of possibility of profanation. The disgrace, according to Agamben, lies not in pornography itself, but in the apparatus of the fashion show or the pornographic shoot, that turns the sphere of pure means into a separated site of pure consumption.

“The unprofanable of pornography – everything that is unprofanable – is founded on the arrest and diversion of an authentically profanatory intention. For this reason, we must always wrest from the apparatuses – from all apparatuses – the possibility of use that they have captured. The profanation of the unprofanable is the political task of the coming generation.” (“In Praise” 92)

Ah, that’s just the sort of thing that gave this blog its Agamben-inspired name! Maybe I’ll rename the site profanatory intention.

* Really, I can’t even fake the pose. Those who know me know that I am Just-Another-Sweater-Bedecked English Professor Lecturer, far too gnomic and literary even to simulate it. Still, I am a JASBEL (interesting!) who appreciates a properly dialectical question when a properly dialectical question is raised….

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December 2, 2008 at 1:10 am

Posted in agamben, porn, theory