critical theory

The world as I see it in pieces: Part 1

I don't see much point in psychedelic drugs anymore. We are now living in the future and hyperreality has taken such firm root that we now appear to be models of models that never existed in the first place that were themselves reflections of shadows of an irreal void-space and that likewise have been completely consumed before they could be produced. In such a world, why bother cooking acid and possibly going to jail for buying it and taking it, let alone the tedious process of hanging out with all the hippy drug-culture people that a serious psychonaut has to spend time with to get the tools of the trade, when you can blow off the back of your skull and get yourself twisted as far down the rabbit hole as you're willing to go just by watching CNN?

Mind, Body, Spirit, Whatever: The New Poetics of the Metaphysical

Adam Fieled has published a very interesting essay at Word For/Word about what he sees as a needed resurgence of metaphysical concerns in contemporary poetics. I largely agree with his thesis that the poetics of previous generations, in particular those of the American avant-garde of the latter half of the twentieth century, have been overly enmeshed in a variety of materialisms. There are notable exceptions, of course, chief among them I think would be poets of the Beat generation like Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg and a few others from the New York School, most notably Joseph Ceravolo. But in surveying the poetics of the major movements of the last 50 years of poetry, it's clear that in particular the obsessions of post-structuralism and the new criticism with the text as material object have infected a great deal of the late poetries with a pervasive materialism that has created the problems that Fieled notes. I don't want to quibble with the problematization as Fieled conceives it, but I do see a flaw in his historical analysis that I'd like to reformulate because I think it will make clearer those problems as well as help to point out possible approaches to solutions in the search for a way forward.

Lazy Writing Part 1

I am not often one who gets my feminist hackles up, since i think mostly that sort of thing reduces mostly to class differences. One thing I am starting to find truly annoying, though, is the Dumb Bitch Who Doesn't Know What's Good For Her archetype. You know what I'm talking about: something is clipping along in a story things are progressing from Point A to Point C via Point B, when out of the blue because the plot is running too fast the writer figures that he needs to complicate things a bit and add a subplot of some kind and he introduces this character. And god is she annoying. Even though it's mindnumbingly clear to the reader, the writer, and every clued in character in the story what it is that this character should do in the situation they are thrust into, she instead does the exact opposite. Because this activity is in fact insane and is only there to complexify an otherwise extremely linear and predictable story, the writer needs to create a reason for her to do this thing. There are a few stock reasons, all of which generally work in service of some sort of neanderthal view of human nature, but by far the most irritating is the general appeal to hysterical femininity. The audience is in effect being asked to accept that this character is behaving in a completely stupid way contrary to what the protagonist needs her to do because he emotions have short-circuited her ability to think clearly and act sanely.

Atlas Shrugged Part 1, Pages 12-18: Enter Mary Sue Rosenbaum

In 1973 Paula Smith, the editor of a Star Trek Fanzine, wrote a story called "A Trekkie's Tale" as a satire of the kind of strange wish fulfilling fan fiction that she received from people writing themselves in to the crew of the Starship Enterprise. The story featured a character named "Mary Sue" who was a fifteen and a half year old wunderkind who in the course of a few brief paragraphs earns Captain Kirk's love, Mr. Spock's respect, is revealed to be half vulcan, and then runs the whole ship while the main characters from the TV show are languishing with a sickness. In the end she dies of the sickness herself, mourned by the entire crew, and is given her own "national holiday" aboard the enterprise. The story spawned the term "Mary Sue" as a pejorative term for an authorial surrogate whose primary purpose is to live out the fantasies of the author in a fictional world. This criticism has worked its way into the sort of collective unconscious of amateur writing, and admonitions to avoid writing Mary Sue characters is well known in the fan fiction world.