The Seduction Of Normalcy - Diana Arterian reviews poet Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts
The most radical thing about The Argonauts is not Maggie Nelson’s love affair with her genderfluid partner, Harry Dodge, or the fact that she mentions ass fucking and Wittgensteinian paradoxes on the first page. It’s true: Nelson is more than willing to give us searingly intelligent musings on philosophy, scenes of love, raunchy sex, her thoughts on queerness—and does so, often. But while these topics are hugely important, requiring continual probing from the world’s radical citizens, they are rarely as ghettoized as motherhood, procreation, children, and family are in the creative world and academia. Where most writers would hold back, Nelson lopes forward: “I was ashamed, but undaunted (my epithet?).”[more inside]
In Theory is a column in Ceasefire Magazine that introduces and reflects on major figures in cultural/political/literary theory (Agamben 1 2; Althusser 1 2; Amin 1 2; Appadurai 1; Aristotle 1 2; Badiou 1 2; Bakhtin 1 2; Bakunin 1 2 3; Barthes 1 2 3 4 5 6; Baudrillard 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14; Benjamin 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8; Deleuze 1; and Marcuse 1) in addition to discussing general topics such as anarchism, asymmetrical war, autonomism, commodity fetishism, global cities, local knowledge, peacekeeping, and precarity.
Adam Thirlwell has written five essays in as many years for The New Republic. They all concern themselves with literature, especially French, though the first one was about Charles Dickens and how he was the most avant-garde writer of the 19th Century. The second was about Roland Barthes' plans to write a novel which came to nothing when he died. In Visionary Materialism, Thirlwell explores Rimbaud's Illuminations from several angles. Genocide and the Fine Arts is about Claude Lanzmann, the director of Shoah, and his complicated relationship with his famous work. The latest one, Baudelaire's Humiliation as a Way of Life, is about Baudelaire's place at the crux of the 19th Century revolution in letters.
In June 1979, I left Paris, returning home to San Francisco without saying farewell to Barthes. Why advertise my failure? I left Paris without fulfilling my reason for coming. His letter arrived in October. Barthes explained that he was retiring from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes at the end of the year. If I wished to complete my thesis under his direction, then I would have to have it written and in his hands by the 15th of December. No extension was possible. The date was a deadline. "A vous de jouer," he wrote. "Your move."- Deadline [pdf] by Stewart Lindh, Roland Barthes' last doctoral student, is an account of how he wrote his Ph.D. thesis.
But like many an inarticulate young lover, I thought for a time that seduction was a matter of giving the right book to the right woman. In my case it was Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: a meditation on Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther that catalogues the melancholic lover’s prized ‘image repertoire’ – the scene of waiting, the feeling of being dissolved in the presence of the loved being, the attraction of suicide – and thinly veils the author’s own life as a middle-aged gay man in Paris in the 1970s. This gift was always a prelude to disaster.– RB and Me: An Education is an essay by Brian G. Dillon about his relationship with the books of French philosopher Roland Barthes. It's also a lovely autobiography of an awkward boy finding his place in life. Dillon's website collects his essays, and is trove of interesting insight. Besides writing essays and fiction, Dillon is also the UK editor of Cabinet Magazine, and you can read a fair number of his articles online, including ones on Beau Brummel and the cravat, hypochondria and hydrotherapy.
Is Your Soul Weighing You Down? Store It! Or, if you're tired of your own soul, try a new one on for size! Er... uh oh. [more inside]
For Roland Barthes, the Death of the Author came on March 23, 1980, in the form of a car speeding down the Rue des Écoles (perhaps that car has become, like wrestling or detergent, another myth); though the Author is gone, his works--texts--remain; they are about history, about fashion, about love, about chopsticks, but fundamentally, they are about signs--as Barthes, once interviewed, said, "Each of us speaks but a single sentence, which only death can bring to a close"--rapidly approaching the end of his sentence, Barthes thought about living together, but the period would be found on his tombstone: écrivain. [more inside]