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Fiction & Literature

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Correspondence 1995–1996

“Why am I telling you all this? Partly ‘cause the whole queerness/identity thing for me stretches through everything, absolutely everything. Slipping between straight/gay is child’s play compared to slipping between writer/teacher/influence-peddler whatever. I forget who I am. You reminded me of who I prefer to be.” [M.W.]

Grain Vapor Ray

We have entered the Anthropocene era—a geological age of our own making, in which what we have understood to be nature is made by man. We need a new way to understand the dynamics of a new epoch. These volumes offer writings that approach the Anthropocene through the perspectives of grain, vapor, and ray—the particulate, the volatile, and the radiant. The first three volumes—each devoted to one of the three textures—offer a series of paired texts, with contemporary writers responding to historic writings. A fourth volume offers a guide to the project as a whole.

The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has always been an original reader of texts, understanding their many rich historical, aesthetic, and political meanings and effects. In Profanations, Agamben has assembled for the first time some of his most pivotal essays on photography, the novel, and film. A meditation on memory and oblivion, on what is lost and what remains, Profanations proves yet again that Agamben is one of the most provocative writers of our time.

The Neuroscience of Aesthetic Experience

In Feeling Beauty, G. Gabrielle Starr argues that understanding the neural underpinnings of aesthetic experience can reshape our conceptions of aesthetics and the arts. Drawing on the tools of both cognitive neuroscience and traditional humanist inquiry, Starr shows that neuroaesthetics offers a new model for understanding the dynamic and changing features of aesthetic life, the relationships among the arts, and how individual differences in aesthetic judgment shape the varieties of aesthetic experience.

The Rehumanization of Art and Literature

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.

A Useless Guide

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.

Sylvie wanted to believe that misery could simply be replaced with happiness. Time was a straight line, stretching out before you. If you could create a golden kind of time and lay it right beside the other time, the time of horror, Bad History could just recede into the distance without ever having to be resolved.
—from Torpor

I believe that destiny is the hesitation between whorehouse writing and poetry, Evil and Good. In my body almost deadened to stupidity by its growing length, I am carrying that destiny.
—from In the Deep

• A boarder for two years following a national funeral, Mirabeau is removed from the Pantheon and transferred to the cemetery of Clamart when his pornographic novels are discovered • A photograph taken by Hessling on Christmas night, 1943, of a young woman nailed alive to the village gate of Novimgorod; Hessling asks his friend Wolfgang Borchert to develop the film, look at the photograph, and destroy it • The Beautiful Gardener, a picture by Max Ernst, burned by the Nazis
—from The Missing Pieces

Hamlet's Negativity

A specter is haunting philosophy—the specter of Hamlet. Why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?

Entering from stage left: the philosopher’s Hamlet. The philosopher’s Hamlet is a conceptual character, played by philosophers rather than actors. He performs not in the theater but within the space of philosophical positions. In All for Nothing, Andrew Cutrofello critically examines the performance history of this unique role.

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