Dossier: Surface Reading
Drawing on Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Raymond Williams, Jason Baskin argues that the perceived divide between “surface” and “depth” models of reading ignores the phenomenological relationship between the surface of objects and their forms. Readers should therefore approach texts with “soft eyes,” a way of reading that approximates the object in relation to the social totality.
What if we were to understand Bahktin’s “dialogicality” as a description of the way we read, not the way we write? For Timothy Bewes, it is not the case that one novel is dialogical and another not; rather, a critic’s relationship to the novel should be dialogical. On this basis, Bewes questions the existence of the so-called crisis in literary meaning, developing a trajectory between Dostoevsky and contemporary novelists.
In his reading of Samuel Delaney’s Plagues and Carnivals, Kevin Floyd argues that the novel dramatizes “reading” as a mechanism by which events are made intelligible while suppressing a kind of multilegibility that better captures social relations. Delaney’s novel was written in the early days of the AIDS epidemic in New York City, but Floyd’s article reveals the way in which the reading practices it advances are no less relevant to global biopolitics today.
Three economic crises — 1929, 1973, and 2008 — provide waypoints for Ruth Jennison to make a formal and historical argument on poetic form and its relation to capital. Poetic form registers the crisis it seeks to represent, while still bearing traces of previous crises and the various forms of resistance to which they gave rise. In this sense, the limits of poetic form will ultimately allow us to read the limits of capital.
Dana Ward’s 2013 poem Crisis of Infinite Worlds opens up a confrontation between recent critical articulations of infinity as it appears in, on one hand, eco-criticism, speculative realist philosophy, and object-oriented ontology and, on the other, totality as it appears in Marxian thought and, on Christopher Nealon’s account, in Ward’s poem. Infinity discourse is fundamentally anti-hermeneutic and anti-humanist, while Crisis of Infinite Worlds demonstrates that there is no necessary division between interpretation, human experience, and the infinite.
The term “Anthropocene” is deployed to designate a period during which human activity has significantly altered global eco-systems and climate. But the term presents geological change as if it were something humanity controls, rather than a state of affairs out of our control. In his reading of the Anthropocene as a fetishization of the relationship between nature and humanity, Daniel Cunha calls for a radical break with a capitalist logic that has made catastrophic climate change an inevitable outcome.
Rob Halpern reads Taylor Brady’s Microclimates and Occupational Treatment as examples of the way the novel form can, on the level of the sentence, account for the disjointed temporality of financialization. Brady’s novels narrate affective epiphenomena — the histories of particular bodies and selves — that emerge to accompany or resist the damage of crisis, making the logic of intractable economic forces perceptible.
Konstantina M. Karageorgos: Deep Marxism: Richard Wright’s The Outsider and the Making of a Postwar Aesthetic
The 2014 recipient of the Sprinker Prize, Konstantina Karageorgos’s essay on The Outsider argues that Richard Wright used the space of the novel to present readers with "the limits of orthodox Marxism (or, Marx without Hegel) and Idealist ontology (or, Hegel without Marx).”
Emilio Sauri reviews Roberto Schwarz’s Two Girls and Other Essays.
Paul Stasi reviews Thompson’s edited collection Georg Lukács Reconsidered: Critical Essays in Politics, Philosophy, and Aesthetics.