Critical sketches – IV

Janet Ledger, Nuns and Doves


40 fragments about literature and contemporary life

Outline is a synonym for rough draft, a general outline drawing to be completed later. The sketch differs from the draft when it incorporates incompleteness. If it can be seen as lazy, it can also be seen as an invitation. Attempt to translate everyday experiences into a concept. Producing a type of writing that welcomes conversation, here thought of as a privileged form of intersubjectivity, a being-together.



The emergence of literary theory greatly facilitated transdisciplinary work. The conceptual apparatus that served the exegesis of fictional texts, today can be transferred to the most diverse fields of knowledge. Literary critics write about central themes of other specialties, without obviously dominating the debate underlying each one of them. One speaks of democracy, being a stranger to political science, of the unconscious, unaware of the various aspects of psychoanalysis, of society, ignoring the social history of the term, of time, ignoring its configuration in the philosophical tradition, of culture, without the comparative perspective of anthropology… Often, the final result is a hybrid that does not fully fit into any discipline, but that can penetrate each one of them. Literary theory has become a kind of virus. Those who say that literature is dead are wrong: it is more alive than ever, like a disease.



There are few things more endearing than the mixture of brilliant intelligence and abject physical appearance.



Definition of autonomy: to let be.



Definition of erudite: not simply someone who has read a lot, who has a library in his head, but someone who manages to place issues within very broad horizons.



I was watching a talk about new trends in digital humanities, but I couldn't understand what was interesting about it, which so excited speaker and audience. In half an hour, I felt old, without having physically aged. Here is a good example of the emphatic concept of anachronism, the coexistence of different times in the same space, one of the richest critical experiences, as it removes us from the present without anchoring us in the past.



The greatest difficulty in emulating Adorno's thought does not reside in the already almost absurd mixture of erudition and imagination, in the domain of a wide bibliographical horizon combined with attention and sensitivity to detail. It is found instead in the maintenance, in our mental space, of a horizon of possibility: the unbreakable insistence that things could be concretely other. Reality and narrowing imply each other.



Proofreading a real text means rereading it until only disgust remains.



Any text can be read as literary, with the exception of bad literature.



It is curious that memory as a theory, theme and even field is currently overwhelming in literary studies, while the memoirs of a Pedro Nava have fallen into oblivion.



Classical opportunism is based on a structure of concealment: finding “x”, but being willing to defend “y”, or “z”. What is interesting about this figure resides in the strategies that he needs to put into play to legitimize, for others, but also for himself, the coherence of choices, the underlying motivations to act, whose ultimate purpose cannot appear as such, but that at the same time instead it must appear to be the result of chance, of the natural course of things. This is largely outdated. The contemporary opportunist finds nothing; he has not had a strong enough education to crystallize a belief that he is forced to secretly reject. He can thus roam freely through the world of other people's opinions, picking up with pleasure those most appropriate to the moment, without worrying about the conscience of others or his own.



Microromance: “Her lack of intelligence lacks too much for me to fall in love with. "There's too little lack in his intelligence for me to be interested."



"I won't let you, even if you want to."



Methodological ideal: to speak “in” instead of “about”.



As a child, I found it very strange that school facilities were worse than people's homes.



Science by subtraction. Impressionist criticism is impossible today, not so much because of the verdict that was passed on it by a scientificized literary theory, nor even because there are few works today that actually impress, although this deserves emphasis and reflection. The main reason for its demise is the disappearance of the erudite, that person who, from the sedimentation of countless texts, managed to converge, albeit fallibly, taste and objectivity. In the face of this, science appears as a quick fix.



It's always a joy when we manage to realize that a person is not an algorithm.

NB. Deeming it impossible fits in one.



How fast, easy and smooth it is to pass the suffix “studies" for industry (and vice versa).



I'm reading Eichmann in Jerusalem, by Hannah Arendt, and I realize that, again, I am embarking on a fantasy: I go back in time and show the book to Jewish leaders, who can now mobilize to resist the Nazi extermination plan. I cannot deal with the bibliography on the holocaust without succumbing to some kind of daydream, which changes according to the content of the narration. To be precise, it is a small delirium, which only lasts for the time of reading, but which is already a sign of insanity. He reminds me of the child, who always imagines a far-fetched way out of facing the terrible. When you think about it, this fugue attests to the madness of the reality principle, the adaptation to which Eichmann and his cronies ruled.



When I was young I wanted to know a lot of things; today, I aspire to have just one idea.



Adorno writes somewhere that art knows us better than we know ourselves. Facebook and Google say the same thing.



One way or another education through toughness remains the general model. Faced with an arduous life, it seems to make sense to forge the subject with hammer blows, internally generating the mimesis of the oppression that makes the world. This adaptation mechanism has its opposite in the spoiled child. You see, it is not a question of receiving gifts, which often are nothing more than the materialization of the needs of adults at the service of the industry; it is about, on the contrary, originating a youngster's satisfaction with what he performatively becomes. It is clear that the confrontation with the rudeness of society will be painful, and the feeling of helplessness, almost inevitable; however, the deep conviction will remain that the world owes him, that, in the face of difficulties, it is his fault. This is fertile soil for critical consciousness.



(In a commercial announcer voice:) Is the question too hairy? No problem! Come up with a concept and it's all over.



The concept of generation is perfect for isolating something that bothers you.



Be suspicious when theory proves to be more radiant than reality.



intellectual-nut. No, it's not what you're thinking; this is not some crazy thinker (note the hyphen). The crazy-intellectual, on the contrary, is that person who, devoid of any personality, strictly follows the winds of academic fashions. It is a very useful figure, because it saves a lot of work: you don't need to do a bibliographical research to find out what's going on. in; just see what she is doing at the moment.



"No, 'mannerism' is not the study of manners." – Although it wouldn't be a bad thing if it were.



(Idea stolen from FU) The attack on the literary canon is a subterfuge to not have to turn to (or against) society.



Reading a text, I came across the expression “hegemonic interpretation”. I rubbed my eyes and took a deep breath to try to deal with a combination of words that for me should be an oxymoron, but for the author represented an enemy. Worse than the cheapening of interpretation, which is no longer seen as aspiring to the truth, but is confused with the simple production of meaning, which makes each one equal to the others in the supermarket of ideas – worse than that is the belligerization of the academic discourse, which thinks, with greater or lesser bad faith, to be doing politics.

“Hegemonic interpretation”, in reality, means “consensus opinion of the area”; by basing his discourse on the semantic field of war, the critic performatively erases everything that founds university democracy (collegiate decisions, self-management, peer review, the public nature of all documentation, etc.), adapting the intramural debate to the barbarism that is being constituted outside of it.



Sometimes writing a book is a strategy to manage to develop an idea until the end, to exorcise it in order to think about other things.



In literary criticism, praise could perhaps be defined as a strategy to prevent the argument from moving forward and thinking from breaking barriers. A way to leave everything as it is.



When you become more experienced, acquiring familiarity with the universe of fixed forms, it becomes almost inevitable to put them in relief. This gives rise to the possibility of speaking, literally, of a formal suspense: instead of “Is the murderer the butler?”, we have the question “Will the murder be revealed? What if the detective dies before then?” – But this example is fanciful, because it points to an opening, whereas the most common one is the opposite: “how is this interesting problem at the beginning going to be neutralized in the course of the narrative to lead to the inescapable happy ending?”



A colleague confesses to me: “I don't know if it's my students who are getting smarter, or I'm the one who got used to it without knowing it”.



A brilliant friend half-unknowingly made the best defense I know of in a joking essay: “I hate reading articles, because the abstract and the introductions already give spoilers of the argument”.

(If you need to explain: when literary analysis procedures are applied to theory, interesting results emerge: concepts such as characters, arguments such as plots, attention to the tome of writing, the position of the narrator, the semantic fields of the metaphors used, the phrasal stylistics, the insertion in subgenres, etc. From one hour to the next the imagination takes a leap.)



A modest proposal: the process of privatization and commodification of education demands that we get rid of an outdated terminology and replace it with a more agile and modern one, more adequate to the times in which we live. That the professor is a service provider, and the student, the client, is something we already know; still need to change “diploma” to “receipt”.



I have never been able to understand exactly why I am ashamed to write in front of others. Perhaps this modesty is linked to the choice of words, as if they were pieces of clothing.



In times of post-criticism. An intelligent graduate student explains to me why she chose the echoes of religious fundamentalism in contemporary North American literature as the subject of the thesis she is doing in the US: “it was the only way I found to guarantee a minimum of negativity in my work”, she said. she.



The three stages of intellectual development: (i) youth: little background but a lot of enthusiasm; (b) maturity: a repertoire of readings constituted in search of the construction of a work; (c) decadence: not for lack of strength, but as a result of falling in love with oneself.



“Wow, how well you look, you haven't aged at all! Can I have your gene recipe?”



Old age. Whenever I thought of the metaphor that would best describe the ideal relationship between criticism and work, the image of a child with his toy came to mind. Today the dog gnawing the bone comes to mind.



Chatting with a colleague.

He says: “How is it possible speak of a literary work? How to approach it, if everything is already there?”
Me: "It's just that she doesn't know that."
He: “But what about the critic?”
Me: “Pretend to yourself you know.”
Him: “Your reader?”
Me: “Hopefully believe”.

* Fabio Akcelrud Durão He is a professor at the Department of Literary Theory at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of What is literary criticism? (Parable/Nankin).

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