the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Archive for January, 2015

loh on uses and powers of horror

Posted by rigorousm on January 29, 2015

Horror shakes us to the core and reminds us not only of our own mortality, but also of the vulnerability of our coping strategies (whether they be articulated through the discourse of religion, medicine, science, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, phenomenology, etc.) (326)

Horror tears at the skin, opening a wound where the internal space of the subjective viewer and the external realm of disembodied representation bleed into one. Horror externalizes—makes visible—deep-seated anxieties. In its allegorical mode, it is a means of working through, but also of displacing and repressing our fears through representation.

… The power of horror, to paraphrase Kristeva, reveals itself in those places where meaning collapses… or perhaps where the production of meaning is questioned and challenged in a constant state of flux. In this sense, our use of horror moves perhaps closer to Bataille’s notion of the informe, as re-articulated by Rosalind Krauss, which resists the attempt to pin down the formless into a manageable system of knowledge and looks instead of the fear-driven violence of meaning production in and of itself…. At bottom, horror is a confrontation with representation, with an image that is placed before the spectator’s gaze, a fiction which nevertheless demands an embodied and even visceral response from the viewer as if it were real. As such, horror is always-already a meditation upon the pathos of representation; it pokes at the vulnerability of the spectator’s vision, cognition, and language while heightening his/her awareness of the affecting force of images. (329)

Maria H. Loh, “Introduction: Early Modern Horror” published in Oxford Art Journal, 34.3, 2011. (archived online here)

See also Susan Stewart, “The Epistemology of the Horror Story,” published Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 95, No. 375, 1982, pp. 33-50. (jstor access here, read online for free)

“What is at risk in these [horror] stories is our good faith in our ability to know the world by means of a socially given system of interpretation. Our hierarchies of relevance, our assumptions of the social, and our faith in the reliability of the self and its potential for apprehending the real are all suspended, put into brackets.”

see also The Philosophy of Horror, ed. Thomas Fahy (online in full pdf here)

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susan stewart on cuteness

Posted by rigorousm on January 27, 2015

What is… lost in this idealized miniaturization of the body is sexuality and hence the danger of power. The body becomes an image, and all manifestations of will are transferred to the position of the observer, the voyeur. The body exists not in the domain of lived reality but in the domain of commodity relations. Hall noted in his study of dolls that “a large part of the world’s terms of endearment are diminutives, and to its reduced scale the doll world owes much of its charm. …Smallness indulges children’s love of feeling their superiority, their desire to boss something and to gain their desires along line of least resistance or to vent their reaction to the parental tyranny of anger.” This impulse toward transcendence must be juxtaposed with a consideration of the other side of diminutives: their application is especially reserved for children, pets, servants, and women. The diminutive is a term of manipulation and control as much as it is a term of endearment.

— Susan Stewart, “The Imaginary Body,” On Longing, p 124.

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susan stewart on the aristotlian notion of aesthetic size

Posted by rigorousm on January 27, 2015

… complexity and simplicity are functions of the intellectual capacity of the viewer. … the proper amplitude of a form depends upon expectations of genre. In a nonliterate culture the qualification “what can be kept well in one’s mind” is an aesthetic value serving the particular and necessary functions of memory. … We cannot speak of the small, or miniature, work independent of the social values expressed toward private space– particularly, of the ways domestic and interior imply the social formation of an interior subject. And we cannot speak of the grand and gigantic independent of social values expressed toward nature and the public and exterior life of the city.

– Susan Stewart, “The Gigantic,” On Longing, p 95.

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susan stewart on the particular tricks of writing miniatures

Posted by rigorousm on January 21, 2015

“The writing of miniaturization does not want to call attention to itself or to its author; rather, it continually refers to the physical world. It resists the interiority of reflexive language in order to interiorize an outside; it is the closest thing we have to a three-dimensional language, for it continually points outside itself, creating a shell-like, or enclosed, exteriority. “Correctness of design” and “accuracy of representation” are devices of distance, of “proper perspective,” the perspective of the bourgeois subject. … they allow the reader to disengage himself or herself from the field of representation as a transcendent subject.”

– Susan Stewart, “The Miniature,” On Longing, p 45.

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stewart on the miniature book as a talisman

Posted by rigorousm on January 21, 2015

“The social space of the miniature book might be seen as the social space, in miniature of all books: the book as talisman to the body and emblem of the self; the book as microcosm and macrocosm; the book as commodity and knowledge, fact and fiction. The early artisanal concern with the display of skill emphasizes the place of the miniature book as object, and more specifically as an object of person, a talisman or amulet. … This book/jewel, carried by the body, multiplies significance by virtue of the tension it creates between inside and outside, container and contained, surface and depth.”

Susan Stewart, “The Miniature,” On Longing, p 41.

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stewart on nostalgia

Posted by rigorousm on January 14, 2015

Nostalgia is a sadness without an object, a sadness which creates a longing that of necessity is inauthentic because it does not take part in lived experience. Rather, it remains behind and before that experience. Nostalgia, like any form of narrative, is always ideological: the past it seeks has never existed except as narrative, and hence, always absent, that past continually threatens to reproduce itself as a felt lack. … longing for an impossibly pure context of lived experience…, nostalgia wears a distinctly utopian face, a face that turns toward a future-past…. the realization of re-union imagined by the nostalgic is a narrative utopia that works only by virtue of its partiality, its lack of fixity and closure: nostalgia is the desire for desire.

— Susan Stewart, On Longing: narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir, the collection, p 23.

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stewart on the privacy of reading

Posted by rigorousm on January 14, 2015

Since the moment of Augustine’s reading silently to himself, reading has inhabited the scenes of solitude: the attic, the beach, the commuter train,scenes whose profound loneliness arise only because of their proximity to a tumultuous life which remains outside their peripheries.

— Susan Stewart, “On Description and the Book,” On Longing: narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir, the collection, p 14.

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Stewart on audience participation, control over a performance

Posted by rigorousm on January 14, 2015

In these postliterate genres, the time system of the viewer is collapsed into the time system of a machine that has erased its author. No matter how many buttons there seem to be on the television set, there are only two: on and off. The buttons that would be absolutely forbidden to the television would be the buttons Vertov and Chaplin liked to push as authors: the one that speeds up the action and the one that reverses. Once the viewer can manipulate these dimensions, he or she becomes aware of the textuality, the boundaries of the work. Through such manipulations, the viewer can become both reader and authority, in control of the temporality and spatiality of the work, and hence able to reclaim it by the inscription of an interpretation that has the power of interruption and negation. … In the former mode of production, the subject is performer or agent of tradition; in the second… the subject is performed, constituted by the operation of the device or the differentiation of roles determined by the mode of production itself. … We might note that recent revolutionary art movements — street theater and happenings, for example — have attempted a reduction of this differentiation, although of necessity this reduction has been self-conscious and nostalgic in its attempts to replace the mechanical and individual with “the homemade” and the communal.

— Susan Stewart, “On Description and the Book,” On Longing: narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir, the collection, On Longing: narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir, the collection, pp 12-13.

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stewart on translation and exactness

Posted by rigorousm on January 14, 2015

“In this productive mapping of sign upon sign, world upon world, reality upon reality, the criterion of exactness emerges as a value. And exactness, always a matter of a concealed slippage between media, is moved from the abstract, the true-for-all-times-and-laces of allegory, to the material, the looking-just-like, that sleight of hand which is the basis for this new realism. … Exactness is a mirror, not of the world, but of the ideology of the world.”

— Susan Stewart, “On Description and the Book,” On Longing: narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir, the collection (1993), pp 4-5.

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[poem] bass on grief

Posted by rigorousm on January 14, 2015

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

“The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass published in Mules of Love.

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