Posts Tagged ‘Jameson’
* What happened in Atlanta this week is not a matter of Southerners blindsided by unpredictable weather. More than any event I’ve witnessed in two decades of living in and writing about this city, this snowstorm underscores the horrible history of suburban sprawl in the United States and the bad political decisions that drive it.
* Accreditation Standards Should Include Treatment of Adjuncts, Report Says. This has been my revolutionary scheme for a while, glad to see it could actually be feasible…
* “I wouldn’t go so far,” writes Horton of Kincaid’s central thesis that short science fiction exhibits all the signs of exhaustion. “I don’t think that ‘all meaning has been drained from’ the tropes we use, but I do think they are becoming overfamiliar. And I do think that the field of science fiction has to a considerable extent become enamoured with explicitly backward-looking ideas.”
* “These findings suggest that potential harm to faculty-student relationships and academic freedom should not continue to serve as bases for the denial of collective bargaining rights to graduate student employees.”
* Boom: A Journal of California interviews Kim Stanley Robinson.
* My friend Jack Hamilton eulogizes Pete Seeger.
* Stradivarius violin stolen in armed robbery in Milwaukee. Said to be the biggest heist in city history.
* And The State reunites (for a segment anyway)…
I was recently asked to write a review of Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America for a special “Petrofictions” issue of American Book Review. Imre has put the full text up on Facebook; hopefully you can read it there. Here’s a bit from the end:
…Here then is what science fiction looks like without (or after) the future: the twentieth century is envisioned not as the launching pad for a glorious technofuture but as an anomalous moment of prosperity and historical possibility which quickly burns itself out, leaving in its place the worst combination of Manifest-Destiny America, feudal Europe, and decadent Rome. The novel’s odd, melancholy temporality—a retrospectively narrative bildungsroman set in a future that is simultaneously a parody of the past—completely upends our sense that the last hundred years represent the apex of progress, and indeed the idea that history can be thought of as any story of progress at all. By its end Julian Comstockhas taken its reader well beyond the postmodern mood Fredric Jameson famously called “nostalgia for the present,” and comes to feel something like officiating at our own collective funeral.
But for all its anticipatory retrospection of the coming post-oil disaster, the novel is not hopeless. In the epilogue we are told that Adam has in essence gone on to reinvent the lost art of science fiction itself; in 2192 his most recent novel is American Boys on the Moon, a Jules-Verne-style adventure yarn about a group of youngsters who discover an old NASA rocket buried in Florida and use it to reach the moon. (In a footnote, Adam concedes the story is completely implausible, but admits he likes it anyway.) There are similar hints throughout the novel that a second age of enlightenment and invention could be in the offing, and indeed that the reign of the despotic and theocratic Dominion may soon be at its end. The theocrats are themselves huge believers in progress, insisting “the history of the world is written in Scripture, and it ends in a Kingdom”—but Julian’s revolutionary retort, seemingly borne out, is that history is actually chaos, written in sand and shaped by the wind (674). For Wilson, it seems, there’s an exciting, even necessary freedom in this permanent historical flux, which when juxtaposed against the violent schemes of the rich and powerful becomes in its own unstable and impermanent way a kind of unexpected utopia. The cyclicality of history turns out to be as cruel to kings and tyrants as it is to everything else; in time all their dreams of power and control turn to ash as well. Even in a history that can’t stop repeating itself, we find, the bad times eventually end, and good days someday come again.
So the question of history returns. How do we act on what we know? The time has come when we have to solve this puzzle, because the future, from where we look at it now, is different than past futures. Before we just had to keep on trying to do our best, and we would be OK. Things seemed to slowly get better, for some people in some places anyway; in any case, we would keep trying things, and probably muddle through. This is no longer the case. Now the future is a kind of attenuating peninsula; as we move out on it, one side drops off to catastrophe; the other side, nowhere near as steep, moves down into various kinds of utopian futures. In other words, we have come to a moment of utopia or catastrophe; there is no middle ground, mediocrity will no longer succeed. So utopia is no longer a nice idea, but a survival necessity. This is a big change. We need to take action to start history on a path onto the side of the peninsula representing one kind of better future or another; the details of it don’t matter, survival without catastrophe is what matters. In essence the seven billion people we have, and the nine to ten billion people we’re likely to have, exist at the tip of an entire improvised complex of prostheses, which is our technology considered as one big system. We live out at the end of this towering complex, and it has to work successfully for us to survive; we are far past the natural carrying capacity of the planet in terms of our numbers. There is something amazing about the human capacity to walk this tightrope over the abyss without paralysing fear. We’re good at ignoring dangers; but now, on the attenuating peninsula, on the crazy tower of prostheses — however you envision it, it is a real historical moment of great danger, and we need to push hard for utopia as survival, because failure now is simply unacceptable to our descendants, if we have any.
* “A lifetime achievement award is a little alarming,” said Jameson, who came to Duke in 1985. “But on the other hand, it’s very nice to have the recognition.”
* Your democracy at work: Barack Obama Has, on Average, Attended a Fundraiser Every 5 Days in 2011.
* Matt Stoller: When a switch in the party in power does not result in policy changes, there’s little point in electoral politics.
* And just to counter that cynicism a bit: arguably one of the more important (and more progressive) components of the ACA took effect yesterday, the requirement that health insurance companies spend at least 80% of premiums on actual health care. UPDATE: Countering the counter-cynicism, Tim Worstall says this probably isn’t a big deal after all.
* As is standard journalistic practice, the New York Times has allocated space for an accused child molester to tell his side of the story.
* If Duke is one of eleven campuses with “major Occupy movements,” I fear for the movement. Occupy Duke was genuinely tiny, and the #occupyduke hashtag is comprised almost exclusively of mockery and contempt.
* Occupy Commencement: UNC students are petitioning against Michael Bloomberg as commencement speaker.
* And Reuters selects the best 100 photos of 2011. Here’s #72:
* Two sites keeping track of Occupy Wall Street news: Greg Mitchell at The Nation and the 99 Percent Movement tag at Think Progress. Meanwhile the movement continues to go national (and international), and is apparently leading to walkouts on college campuses as well, including here in NC.
* In class Jameson often notes that for decades the word “capitalism” was a shibboleth of the left; people on the right just didn’t say it. It’s happening just a bit faster with this 1%ers meme.
* This July, beginning with the Secure Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison in Northern California, as many as 6,600 inmates at thirteen prisons underwent a three-week hunger strike to protest the state’s use of “supermax” facilities designed for long-term solitary confinement. The strike ended on July 20 when inmates received as concessions winter beanies, wall calendars and the promise of “some educational opportunities.” But their larger, more basic demands—more humane living conditions and a feasible exit strategy from solitary besides “parole, snitch or die”—went unmet. As a result, on the morning of September 26, the hunger strike resumed at Pelican Bay.
* And submitted for your approval: the most gerrymandered district in history.
Continuing to break radio silence to report that Criticism‘s special issue on The Wire includes a piece from Jameson on realism and utopia in the series, as well as a piece from Mark Anthony Neal on social capital and cosmopolitan masculinity.
More on Detroit and ruin porn, also via Aaron Bady.
These photos of uninhabited ruined spaces do little more than confirm what the most casual observer already knows about Detroit and cities like it. Moore is sensitive to this danger, and does includes a few photos that represent Detroiters leading lives amidst the ruins. Besides two portraits of Detroiters at home, Moore also includes a photo of a rooftop party by twenty-something white urban explorers, a self-conscious reflection, perhaps, on his own access to these spaces and on the well-beaten paths of ruin fetishists. Vergara, the Chilean-born photographer whose photographs of Newark, Detroit, Chicago, Camden, and New York are collected in The New American Ghetto, addresses the ahistorical failing of much ruin photography by investing much more heavily in the ruins: Revisiting the same site over a period of years, or even decades, Vergara’s pictures show with often heartbreaking clarity the slow, painful transformation of a house, a street, a neighborhood. And Austin and Doerr’s Lost Detroitcombines ruin photography with architectural history, seeking to fill in the historical gaps. The ruin photos in Detroit Disassembled and The Ruins of Detroit, despite the authors’ obvious reverence for their brick-and-steel subjects, are also spectacles of degradation, in which, as Frederic Jameson writes about the postmodern condition, our “putative past is little more than a set of dusty spectacles.” In requisitioning the ruin’s aura of historical pathos, ruin photos suggest a vanquished, even glorious past but, like the ruins themselves, present no way to understand our own relationship to the decline we are seeing. After all, this is not Rome or Greece, vanished civilizations; these ruins are our own, and the society they indict is ours as well. As a purely aesthetic object, even with the best intentions, ruin photography cannot help but exploit a city’s misery; but as political documents on their own, they have little new to tell us.
* “The worldwide triumph of capitalism … secures the priority of Marxism as the ultimate horizon of thought in our time”: Benjamin Kunkel reviews Fredric Jameson in LRB.
* Archie Comics will soon be introducing its first openly gay character, “strapping, blond Kevin.”
* If you were trying to persuade me to support the climate bill, you picked the absolute worst possible approach.
* The ACLU explains everything that’s wrong with Arizona’s brazenly unconstitutional documentation legislation.
* Julian Sanchez has been doing an influential series of posts about epistemic closure on the right.
* And some breaking news: Jay Leno sucks.
In a text from 1988, Fredric Jameson argues for the necessary emergence of what he calls ‘an aesthetics of cognitive mapping’: an aesthetic adequate to the highly ambitious – and he suggests ultimately impossible – task of depicting both social space in our historical moment – then described as late capitalism or postmodernity – and the totality of class relations on a global scale: what Jameson calls ‘a cartography of the absolute’. This notion of cognitive mapping builds on Kevin Lynch’s book from 1960, The Image of the City, and Jameson argues that an inability to cognitively map the contours of the world system is as debilitating politically as being unable to mentally map a city would be for a city dweller. The works that would emerge under the banner of this aesthetic would allow individual subjects and collectivities to understand their local situation in a globalised world: ‘to enable a situational representation on part of the individual subject to that vaster and properly unrepresentable totality which is the ensemble of society’s structures as a whole’(6). While the works emerging under the aesthetic of cognitive mapping would not merely be didactic or pedagogical, they would necessarily also be didactic or pedagogical. While Jameson’s text remained speculative, as he claimed that no such works had yet been produced and that he could not even imagine what their formal characteristics might be, The Wire can be understood as one the most cogent attempts at producing a work classifiable under such an aesthetic.
Crossing my radar tonight: “Baltimore as World and Representation: Cognitive Mapping and Capitalism in The Wire.” Via Vu.
* I’ll be posting this year as a HASTAC Scholar at the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboatory. My first post is about status update activism of the sort that is all over your Facebook newsfeed today.
* Speaking of health care, Olympia Snowe now runs your health care.
* LRB makes an impressively desperate bid for my attention with Fredric Jameson’s review of Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood alongside reviews of Inglourious Basterds and Inherent Vice.
* Kevin Carey nicely notes the difficulty inherent to blogging about a book you’re two-thirds through with. Another post or two on Infinite Jest soon. The total collapse of blogging at A Supposedly Fun Blog is one of the great disappointments of Infinite Summer, I think.
* And Gawker declares the Michael Cera backlash has officially begun.