Chris Kraus will make you Jump, Jump
March 15, 2010 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I Love Dick is composed of the billet doux written by [Chris] Kraus and husband, Columbia philosopher Sylvere Lotringer, to their special friend, Dick. As a kind of art-world roman a clef, the novel fuses gossip and "theory." The profanely and lustfully personal coalesces with intellectual ambition and conceit.
posted by Joe Beese (21 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The end of cultural studies as we knew it, and in 1997 no less.

That was the year I started my teaching career in the academy. The "pomo" and canon battles were still going on, and blood was still flowing in many humanities departments.

Flash forward to 2010, and all of it seems so archaic to me. "Theory" for theory's sake (or for tenure's sake) is in serious decline, and thank goodness. "Western Civ" didn't win either, and thank goodness for that. It is slowly declining in significance as a framework for justifying humanistic scholarship, just as it had been doing for decades before Fred Jameson picked up his sword and every graduate student, no matter what her field, had to read all of Foucault. (Do people still read Foucault?)

Eventually we were going to have to produce useful knowledge. Luckily, the two generations of scholars who have come through PhD programs since 1997 seem pretty clear on that concept, at least the ones who have tenure track jobs.

posted by fourcheesemac at 9:26 AM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

"Dick? Dick is every Dick, Dick is Uber Dick, Dick is a transitional object."
That's all you need to know, right there.
posted by Floydd at 9:28 AM on March 15, 2010

It is my sincere hope that her naming the novel I Love Dick was to give the art world an en masse initiation into the Pen-15 Club.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:37 AM on March 15, 2010

fourcheesemac: "(Do people still read Foucault?)"

Dunno. But they seem to cite him plenty.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:37 AM on March 15, 2010

Do people still read Foucault

Nah, he's been eclipsed by the much more earthy philosopher and theorist, Jersey's own, Joey Buttafoucault.

(God, I've been waiting to use that....)
posted by lumpenprole at 9:44 AM on March 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I know. I'm sort of kidding. Actually, I think Foucault outlasts his moment in the dim sun of the American humanities fields, and I got a lot from reading his more empirical work.

Now, Deleuze and Guattari, there's a true WTF? for me.

Also, I'd say the frequency with which most poststructuralist theory is cited is actually inversely proportional to the number of scholars who are actually reading these books. 90 percent of all citations of Foucault I have ever encountered have been what I call the "notional citation" genre -- you sort of know what someone is famous for saying, in a caricatured way, and you cite them every time you make a similar point, usually of a very commonsensical nature, without ever having to read the original source. Especially because Foucault (et al) have been so thoroughly digested for you already by the Theory Industry that prevailed in academia in the 90s (when you could make a career by assembling a few translated French articles and writing a short commentary as a preface).
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:46 AM on March 15, 2010

(Do people still read Foucault?)

My Administrative Law professor brought up Foucaldian analysis in a very casual way and I blinked in recognition. I also remember him from my freshman year writing workshop class. I've read him out of perverse curiosity since then, but then again, I wasn't a humanities major.

Unrelated nitpick - aren't romans à clef (romans aux clefs? derp) supposed to use disguised names? I see tons of real names in here (Nick Zedd, Xavier Fourcade, David Byrne, even Dick himself).
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:49 AM on March 15, 2010

Was I the only one thrown by this?

late 70s disco song

Was that intentional? It's Upside Down by Diana Ross. From 1980.

And the correct lyrics would be
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And, round and round
Michael, would you come up here?

Hmm, I guess further reading indicates it could be intentional... I am slightly intrigued, but not enough to read more than the main link. It still smells lazy to me.

I will agree with this: "It's not a great big melting pot that we need, it's a crap incinerator."
posted by mrgrimm at 9:51 AM on March 15, 2010

Unrelated nitpick - aren't romans à clef (romans aux clefs? derp) supposed to use disguised names?

Maybe that's what's so transgressive/interesting about it? The name dropping must be intentional.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:52 AM on March 15, 2010

Unrelated nitpick - aren't romans à clef (romans aux clefs? derp) supposed to use disguised names?

Maybe that's what's so transgressive/interesting about it? The name dropping must be intentional.

At first I was going to say, "yes, but doesn't that make it no longer a roman à clef?" but then I caught myself, because it is actually interesting to have a work of fiction with so many real people name-checked in it. You win this round, Kraus.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:55 AM on March 15, 2010

"I love Dick."

Maybe I should google that...
posted by chairface at 10:12 AM on March 15, 2010

Gah. The tortured excuses academics find for creating (inferior versions of) the pop culture they're supposedly too smart for sickens me. Does anyone still take these clowns seriously?
posted by turducken at 10:47 AM on March 15, 2010

turducken: by "these clowns" do you mean "this one person who wrote the book in the FPP"?
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:56 AM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm studying theater in my undergrad and all I have been made to do is read Foucault.
posted by Esoquo at 11:36 AM on March 15, 2010

Do people still read Foucault?

No, they keep meaning to, but don't get around to it and would rather read almost anything else instead: cereal boxes, appliance manuals, old bank statements, Metafilter....
posted by Skygazer at 11:38 AM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

The first few pages of Discipline and Punish, however, gave me nightmares. Sadly, the gory and clearly sadistically extended description of torture there is the most readable part-- and rather undermines his entire point that criminal justice policies are not less barbaric now. Um, yes they are. Still suck, and he makes an important case about how to think about why, but not pouring molten lead into people's wounds = a good thing.
posted by Maias at 12:23 PM on March 15, 2010

I guess it's kind of hopeless to attempt a defence of this project? I think it's fascinating, what I know of it-- I haven't read the book-- in its acute self-consciousness of exactly how shallow the world she is navigating is, and how it turns on cults of (masculine) personality. And I think this is dead on: "I Love Dick is also a female appropriation of a male genre - love poetry from Boccacio to Shakespeare in which the literary form is contingent on the silence of the (generally female) love object." If a man had written this book (I'm just suggesting), it would fall easily into traditional literary modes, from Dante on.

And people read Foucault all the time, it's really not that intimidating, especially since so many of his ideas have worked their way into general discourse.
posted by jokeefe at 2:00 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think this is dead on: "I Love Dick is also a female appropriation of a male genre - love poetry from Boccacio to Shakespeare in which the literary form is contingent on the silence of the (generally female) love object."

To self-consciously appropriate a genre that one simultaneously claims "ends" with Shakespeare (itself a specious claim, one that ignores the possibility that Shakespeare's sonnets were written with a man in mind, and also defines "love poetry" in such a way so as to exclude drama, etc.) does not strike me as especially revolutionary.

Furthermore, where does this leave the erotic lyrics of Sappho, or for that matter Catullus or Chaucer? Clearly lyric poetry celebrating love and eros has morphed a lot since Shakespeare: consider Cavafy, Neruda, Adrienne Rich, to name a few. There's also the tradition of the Troubadors, that of the Romantics and Symbolists (Eluard's love poetry anyone?), and the whole question of poems about unrequited love.

Finally, I'm not sure how the sublime object of a poet's love or erotic desire can be expressed in such a way so that the charge of "objectification" can ever be completely avoided. In other words, in some sense the very nature of lyric (as opposed to dramatic or epic) poetry reveals language as positing a subject. Unlike dramatic poetry, one is not looking to the lyric for evidence of developed characters: lyric poetry is necessarily subject-oriented, and this orientation is paradoxically what gives it its resonance. Expecting lyric love poetry to present, unambiguously, the POV of the "object" of its meditation or celebration is like expecting a still-life painting to turn one who views such a painting into a vase full of flowers.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 2:33 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

HP LaserJet: You make good points, but the claim is not, I think, that love poetry ended/culminated in the works of Shakespeare (which as you rightly demonstrate it completely did NOT), but rather that a particular type of love poetry (that is, the Petrarchan tradition) reached its apex with him (with "Shakespeare" perhaps being a metonym for "late Elizabethan/early Stuart lyric). The Petrarchan mode was almost exclusively male-authored and, according to Nancy Vickers, worked through the dismemberment of the female object into parts for the consumption of male audiences -- the poetry was written "about" women but largely "for" men, kind of a Renaissance locker room bragging about sexual conquests as well as a demonstration of one's poetic skills. In that sense, then, Shakespeare's sonnets, the first 126 most definitely directed to a young man, are the epitome of the mode, given that they essentially cut out the middle(wo)man of the female love object and are about the Platonic (=! non-sexual) love between 2 men. But, I may be being generous.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:08 PM on March 15, 2010

Ira Glass interviewed Chris Kraus and Sylvere on This American Life some years back. She also reads excerpts from I Love Dick. It's a great episode.
posted by BClady at 11:04 PM on March 15, 2010

Ira Glass is like the petit bourgeois Yankee version of Foucault.

Life is too short for me to try to figure out what either one is on about.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:45 AM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

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