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Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press

COLLECTED ESSAYS ON LITERATURE AND CRITICISM:

EFN2

EXPERIMENTAL FICTION NOW


  • A survey of current writers whose work might be called "experimental." Includes a prefatory discussion defining terms, as well as essays on David Foster Wallace, George Saunders, Gary Lutz, Ben Marcus, Mark Danielewski, John Keene, Shelley Jackson, Steve Tomasula, more than a dozen others.
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Iww

INNOVATIVE WOMEN WRITERS


  • "I offer here no overarching theory about the nature or direction of innovative writing by women writers, although as I do note in several of the essays in the first section, there is a recognizable affinity among numerous current writers for what I am here calling 'fabulation.'" Includes essays on Rikki Ducornet, Aimee Bender, Noy Holland, Helen DeWitt, Eimear McBride, more than a dozen others.
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APF (2)

AMERICAN POSTMODERN FICTION


  • "Although the term has come to identify a general attitude toward traditional intellectual assumptions or, more specifically, discernibly related practices in philosophy, the social sciences, and all of the arts, "postmodern" was originally a critical label attached to an emergent group of American fiction writers perceived to be challenging established literary convention."
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Realisms

REALISMS

BSS

BETWEEN SILLINESS AND SATIRE:BLACK HUMOR FICTION


  • In the early to mid 1960s, an iconoclastic mode of American fiction that came to be called "black humor" presaged the larger movement succeeding it that eventually came to be known as postmodernism. This volume looks at the essential features of black humor fiction, with essays on all the major black humorists: Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, Bruce Jay Friedman, Terry Southern, and more.
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AODPurdy

THE ART OF DISTURBANCE: THE NOVELS OF JAMES PURDY

My Post (6)

MANY WINDOWS: ON EXPERIMENTAL FICTION


  • Is a work of experimental fiction really an experiment? What was metafiction? Experimental fiction and tradition. New Romancers. Poetic structures. Fiction as performance. Varieties of experimental fiction.
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Angle

A WIDER ANGLE: AMERICAN FICTION AT THE PERIPHERY


  • Beyond the major publishers’ seasonal lists to out-of-the-way presses and lesser-known writers.
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Litsphere

THE LITERARY SPHERE: TAKING CRITICISM ONLINE


  • "In this volume I have included most of my substantial posts on the blog as medium, as well as literary culture online in general. . .They are presented in chronological order, from 2004 to 2019. I have chosen this arrangement because it shows the development of my thinking about online literary criticism and because it may perhaps be interesting for readers to survey the issues that arose as literary blogging itself developed. "
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Tiol

THE IDEA OF LITERATURE


  • What do we talk about when we talk about literature? This volume explores that question by, first of all, looking "inside the text" at the dynamics of reading and the tangible effects of writing. It then moves "outside the text" to consider the relevance of social context and culture to perceptions of literature, as well as the assumption it is the writer's job to "say something" of political or moral value in addition to (even as a substitute for) creating literary art.
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My Post (5)

LITERARY AESTHETICS

Lituni

LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY


  • Inventing Literature. Performing Literature. Reading Literature. Theorizing Literature. Historicizing Litera- ture. Relinquishing Literature. Reclaiming Literature?
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LR

LET'S REVIEW: BOOK REVIEWING AS LITERARY CRITICISM


  • A collection of essays considering the current state of general-interest book reviewing. Topics include: negative vs. positive reviewing, gatekeeping, writers reviewing writers, and criticism in cyberspace, among others.
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« Business Decisions | Main | Market Discipline »

01/07/2006

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Jonathan Mayhew

I guess the left and the right share a contempt for the autonomy of art. I take your point that the human element in art is implicit in the fact that it is made by and for humans, and that it would therefore be nonsense to talk about art as though this were not the case. But that you don't need, therefore, to distinguish between human and inhuman forms of art. That's equally nonsensical.

Dan Green

What would be an example of an inhuman form of art?

Jonathan Mayhew

I guess a non-human intelligent life form on another planet might have its own distinctive forms of art.

Nick

I think Jonathan Mayhew is saying there is no such thing, i.e. he's actually agreeing with you.

The point you make in the post is one you make pretty much every day. It's almost funny, the idea of you wearily surveying the internet each morning: 'who's made art serve some shoddy Other Purpose today...[sigh]'. Don't get me wrong-it's absolutely necessary, as evinced by the fact that the daily examples are so easy to come by (that's why it's only 'almost' funny).

Could one reason for this be that the notion of autonomous art threatens religion? The following, from your post, could be said to link art with the divine:

'What, finally, can be more "human" than to exercise the imagination in such a thoroughgoing and transformative way as to create a poem, painting, or musical composition that seems so self-sufficient that we want call it "autonomous"?'

Just an idea-probably old and certainly undeveloped, but I'll just put it out there. Judging from the 'Spare Us' post I do this at my own risk-I've started to imagine what would happen if everyone who contributed to that thread found themselves in a bar together, it would be refreshing to see a 'rumble' erupt due to a solitary figure (and I like to cast myself in this role) announcing: 'gentlemen, commercial publishing sucks ass, end of story'...

Dan Green

I apologize if I misconstrued Jonathan's comment. I think he knows (I hope he knows) how much I respect the intelligence of his own blog.

I think the notion of autonomous art does threaten religion--Kimball clearly thinks it does--if you think every other human activity must be subservient to it. My notion of "autonomous" art, however, is thoroughly material. Not as a depository of "spirit," but as a created aesthetic object.

Nick

But I'm talking more about the work-the devotion if you like-that goes into it ('to exercise the imagination in such a thoroughgoing and transformative way'). However, I don't think art rules out god, and there is something tiresome about 'art as religion' (I suspect it's a cliché).

Perhaps I am only adding to what you already say, namely that the creation of this aesthetic object is an activity that usurps religious attention to some degree. Obviously I don't just mean the time spent on it, but the similarities of dedication and necessary faith.

Carter

Nearly all of modern architecture is inhuman. That you can't think of any examples of inhuman art suggests to me you don't know what the word 'inhuman' means. It does not mean 'non-human', it means "Lacking kindness, pity, or compassion; cruel. Deficient in emotional warmth; cold. Not suited for human needs. Not of ordinary human form; monstrous." So inhuman is a highly accurate description of almost all of the newer buildings in my city's downtown.

Dan Green

I find much of modern architecture very "human" indeed. It represents the human ability to, literally in this case, think outside the box. Does this make me "cruel," "lacking kindness," "deficient in emotional warmth," and "monstrous"? If you think the problem with autonomous art is that it's "cold," then say so and explain what you mean. "Inhuman" is not an adequate substitute.

Carter

i don't know about you. I'm referring to the buildings themselves, which are the very definition of inhuman (a word you still seem to think means "not human"). The typical office tower is inhuman: monstrously tall, made of concrete, glass, and steel (materials which to most people, when used on such a scale, seem 'cold' or lacking in emotional warmth, and by blocking out the sun actually making its environs colder), not suited for human needs (windows that do not open, glare reflected from its glass is unpleasant for pedestrians, often no concern for fitting in with surrounding buidings).

Dan Green

If you're talking about the "typical office tower," (I thought you were talking about "modern architecture" as in "modernist" architecture), I would agree that many of them are ugly. But I still wouldn't think to call them "inhuman."

marlyat2

Having observed with curiosity the recent scuffles on T.R.E., I note that Mr. Green and Mr. Kimball appear to have at least one sentiment in common:

"The writer William Dean Howells once said that the problem for a critic is not making enemies but keeping them." --Roger Kimball

LD Rafey

I wonder. Is it not valid to say that art, not unlike mathematics, is also an innate vehicle for problem solving? Think of it! Virtually every work of art, even 'bad' art, is the product of innumerable decisions; decisions made by the artist (or group of artists) for the purpose of solving any number of problems encountered in represtational and symbolic, abstract and non-linear type of process as the artist(s) gradually forms an 'attitude' toward an observation or set of observations, informed, perhaps by individual memories and by current collective knowledge. Additionally, most forms of art have the added potential to represent an otherwise intangible idea. Ideas and concepts concerning religion, magic, superstition, science, beauty, naturalism, etc. are all subserviant to translation via the artistic process.
Anyway, just a thought. Now to pick up my brush and go back to my thoughtless work.

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On Contemporary Fiction