Why Criticism Matters

Why Criticism Matters – Essay by Elif Batuman NYTimes, 2011.

Literature viewed in this way becomes a gigantic multifarious dream produced by a historical moment. The role of the critic is then less to exhaustively explain any single work than to identify, in a group of works, a reflection of some conditioned aspect of reality.

Batuman reads “Constructed Worlds” is adapted from her forthcoming first novel, “The Idiot.”

Also, How to Be a Stoic.

It is the system

Jacques Rancière on the representative democracy, professional politicians and the french election. Applies to much western democracies. via verso.

Édouard Louis echoes critiquing the system, of a failed Left, from which the far Right seems hopeful. via guardian.

Journalism can help with a deeper probe of the politics, numbers and language of the system. via On the Media.

Rosi Braidotti – Organize

“DON’T AGONIZE, ORGANIZE!” by Rosi Braidotti.

Braidotti argues for a need to form an inclusive “We”.

We find ourselves in a “democratic” political regime where factual truths play no role at all: in Brexit, as in the Trump campaign, people were shamelessly lied to. What mattered most to them was expression of negative emotions and violent passions, like hatred, intolerance, rage, cynicism and opportunism. As a teacher, I believe firmly that my task is to fight untruths and injustices with the instrument of critical reason, but also by speaking truth to power both in classrooms, and in the public sphere. Lies are lies, no matter how many may actually believe them, or much backing they get from the powers-that-be. It is important to advance a radical critique of the vulnerability of representative democracy as a system, starting from two main sources. On the one hand a critical reappraisal of collective action aimed at affirmative forms of social and ethical interaction and the respect for freedom, and on the other hand the historical experiences of feminisms. We need to move beyond dialectical oppositions, beyond the logic of violent antagonism, to develop an operational politics of affirmation. This requires accurate political cartographies of the power relations that we inhabit and by which we are structured. That’s hard work.

More than ever we need forms of political opposition that are rich in alternatives, concrete in propositions and attached to everyday projects. This is not a simple or pain-free process, of course, but anger alone is not a project, as Hillary Clinton so lucidly put it. Anger needs to be transformed into the power to act; it needs to become a constitutive force addressed not only “against,” but also in favor of something. It is obvious that Trump and Johnson represent the pit of negativity of our era and that, faced by their dishonesty and violence, we will echo Deleuze and say: No, thank you, we would prefer not to follow you. The crucial question however is: who and how many are “we”? “We” may well be against the alliance of neoliberalism with multiple fundamentalisms, but we need to compose together a plane of agreement about what our shared hopes and aspirations are. We need to agree on what we want to build together as an alternative. Critique and creation work hand-in-hand

The way to handle these issues is to start from the project of composing a “we” that is grounded, accountable and active.

Toni Morrison

No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear by Toni Morrison
March 23, 2015, The Nation.

Christmas, the day after, in 2004, following the presidential re-election of George W. Bush.

I am staring out of the window in an extremely dark mood, feeling helpless. Then a friend, a fellow artist, calls to wish me happy holidays. He asks, “How are you?” And instead of “Oh, fine—and you?”, I blurt out the truth: “Not well. Not only am I depressed, I can’t seem to work, to write; it’s as though I am paralyzed, unable to write anything more in the novel I’ve begun. I’ve never felt this way before, but the election….” I am about to explain with further detail when he interrupts, shouting: “No! No, no, no! This is precisely the time when artists go to work—not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. That’s our job!”

A similar sentiment. (Paris Review)

Flâneuse: Women Walk the City by Lauren Elkin

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Flâneuse byLauren Elkin

A flâneuse is, in Lauren Elkin’s words, “a determined resourceful woman keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city, and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.” Virginia Woolf called it “streethaunting,” Holly Golightly epitomized it in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Patti Smith did it in her own inimitable style in 1960s New York.

Part cultural meander, part memoir, Flâneuse traces the relationship between singular women and their cities as a way to map her own life—a journey that begins in New York and takes us to Paris, via Venice, Tokyo, and London—including the paths beaten by such flâneuses as the cross-dressing, nineteenth-century novelist George Sand, the Parisian artist Sophie Calle, the journalist Martha Gellhorn, and the writer Jean Rhys. With tenacity and insight, Elkin creates a mosaic of what urban settings have meant to women, charting through literature, art, history, and film women’s sometimes liberating, sometimes fraught relationship to the metropolis.

The Guardian – A tribute to female flâneurs: the women who reclaimed our city streets.
The Guardian invites one to share.