David Fox (Ph.D. Economics, Columbia, Visiting Assistant Professor at Kester College, Knittersville, New York) is having a stressful year. He has a temporary position at a small college in a small town miles from everything except Albany. His students have never read Freakonomics. He thinks he is getting the hang of teaching, but a smart and beautiful young woman in his Economics of Social Issues class is distractingly flirtatious. His research is stagnant, to put it kindly. His search for a tenure-track job looms dauntingly.
Since the middle of the eighteenth century, political thinkers of all kinds–radical and reactionary, professional and amateur–have been complaining about “bureaucracy.” But what, exactly, are they complaining about?
“I am beginning to realize that taking the self out of our essays is a form of repression. Taking the self out feels like obeying a gag order–pretending an objectivity where there is nothing objective about the experience of confronting and engaging with and swooning over literature.” –Heroines
Imagine the astonishment felt by neuroscientist Rodrigo Quian Quiroga when he found a fantastically precise interpretation of his research findings in a story written by the great Argentinian fabulist Jorge Luis Borges fifty years earlier. Quian Quiroga studies the workings of the brain--in particular how memory works--one of the most complex and elusive mysteries of science. He and his fellow neuroscientists have at their disposal sophisticated imaging equipment and access to information not available just twenty years ago.
Of all the French cultural exports over the last 150 years or so, ‘pataphysics–the science of imaginary solutions and the laws governing exceptions--has proven to be one of the most durable. Originating in the wild imagination of French poet and playwright Alfred Jarry and his schoolmates, resisting clear definition, purposefully useless, and almost impossible to understand, ‘pataphysics nevertheless lies around the roots of Absurdism, Dada, futurism, surrealism, situationism, and other key cultural developments of the twentieth century.
The human figure made a spectacular return in visual art and literature in the 1920s. Following modernism’s withdrawal, nonobjective painting gave way to realistic depictions of the body and experimental literary techniques were abandoned for novels with powerfully individuated characters. But the celebrated return of the human in the interwar years was not as straightforward as it may seem. In Realism after Modernism, Devin Fore challenges the widely accepted view that this period represented a return to traditional realist representation and its humanist postulates.
“In his journal, Paul liked to make lists: What he ordered from Commissary (shaving cream, toothpaste, deodorant, the transistor radio he had for a week before the guards took it away). The books he picked off the cart (The Bible, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Codependent No More.) What phone calls he made and received; also, Bible Study certificates, letters and cards, his workout routines and his moods (Anxious, Nervous, Trusting in God, but mostly Depressed).
“I had to rediscover who I was. And that’s why I left the apartment.... And there I was, right in the heart of the Arab world, a world that never tired of making the same mistakes over and over.... I had no more leniency when it came to the Arab world... None for the Arabs and none for myself. I suddenly saw things with merciless lucidity...” –An Arab Melancholia
As a neurasthenic, kleptomaniac, man-chasing proto-punk poet and artist, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven left in her wake a ripple that is becoming a rip--one hundred years after she exploded onto the New York art scene. As an agent provocateur within New York’s modernist revolution, "the first American Dada" not only dressed and behaved with purposeful outrageousness, but she set an example that went well beyond the eccentric divas of the twenty-first century, including her conceptual descendant, Lady Gaga.
When Alfred Jarry died in 1907 at the age of thirty-four, he was a legendary figure in Paris--but this had more to do with his bohemian lifestyle and scandalous behavior than his literary achievements. A century later, Jarry is firmly established as one of the leading figures of the artistic avant-garde. Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Gilles Deleuze, Jean Baudrillard, Philip K. Dick, Paul McCartney, DJ Spooky, Peter Greenaway, and J. G. Ballard are among his many admirers.