Essays and reflections from one of the twentieth century’s most original cultural critics, with an introduction by Hannah Arendt. Walter Benjamin was an icon of criticism, renowned for his insight on art, literature, and philosophy. This volume includes his views on Kafka, with whom he felt a close personal affinity; his studies on Baudelaire and Proust; and his essays on Leskov and Brecht’s epic theater. Illuminations also includes his penetrating study “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” an enlightening discussion of translation as a literary mode; and his theses on the philosophy of history. Hannah Arendt selected the essays for this volume and introduces them with a classic essay about Benjamin’s life in a dark historical era. Leon Wieseltier’s preface explores Benjamin’s continued relevance for our times. Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) was a German-Jewish Marxist literary critic, essayist, translator, and philosopher. He was at times associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory and was also greatly inspired by the Marxism of Bertolt Brecht and Jewish mysticism as presented by Gershom Scholem.
Spatial and cultural analysis have recently found much common ground, focusing in particular on the nature of the city. Place/Culture/Representation brings together new and established voices involved in the reshaping of cultural geography. The authors argue that as we write our geographies we are not just representing some reality, we are creating meaning. Writing becomes as much about the author as it is about purported geographical reality. The issue becomes not scientific truth as the end but the interpretation of cultural constructions as the means. Discussing authorial power, discourses of the other, texts and textuality, landscape metaphor, the sites of power-knowledge relations and notions of community and the sense of place, the authors explore the ways in which a more fluid and sensitive geographer's art can help us make sense of ourselves and the landscapes and places we inhabit and think about.
As a visual medium, the photograph has many culturally resonant properties that it shares with no other medium. These essays develop innovative cultural strategies for reading, re-reading and re-using photographs, as well as for (re)creating photographs and other artworks and evoke varied sites of memory in contemporary landscapes: from sites of war and other violence through the lost places of indigenous peoples to the once-familiar everyday places of home, family, neighborhood and community. Paying close attention to the settings in which such photographs are made and used--family collections, public archives, museums, newspapers, art galleries--the contributors consider how meanings in photographs may be shifted, challenged and renewed over time and for different purposes--from historical inquiry to quests for personal, familial, ethnic and national identity.
Twisted bodies, deformed faces, aberrant behavior, and abnormal desires characterized the hideous creatures of classic Hollywood horror, which thrilled audiences with their sheer grotesqueness. Most critics have interpreted these traits as symptoms of sexual repression or as metaphors for other kinds of marginalized identities, yet Angela M. Smith conducts a richer investigation into the period's social and cultural preoccupations. She finds instead a fascination with eugenics and physical and cognitive debility in the narrative and spectacle of classic 1930s horror, heightened by the viewer's desire for visions of vulnerability and transformation. Reading such films as Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Freaks (1932), and Mad Love (1935) against early-twentieth-century disability discourse and propaganda on racial and biological purity, Smith showcases classic horror's dependence on the narratives of eugenics and physiognomics. She also notes the genre's conflicted and often contradictory visualizations. Smith ultimately locates an indictment of biological determinism in filmmakers' visceral treatments, which take the impossibility of racial improvement and bodily perfection to sensationalistic heights. Playing up the artifice and conventions of disabled monsters, filmmakers exploited the fears and yearnings of their audience, accentuating both the perversity of the medical and scientific gaze and the debilitating experience of watching horror. Classic horror films therefore encourage empathy with the disabled monster, offering captive viewers an unsettling encounter with their own impairment. Smith's work profoundly advances cinema and disability studies, in addition to general histories concerning the construction of social and political attitudes toward the Other.
Drawing on the work of a wide range of architects, artists and writers, this book considers the relations between the architect and the user, which it compares to the relations between the artist and viewer and the author and reader. The book's thesis is informed by the text 'The Death of the Author', in which Roland Barthes argues for a writer aware of the creativity of the reader. Actions of Architecture begins with a critique of strategies that define the user as passive and predictable, such as contemplation and functionalism. Subsequently it considers how an awareness of user creativity informs architecture, architects and concepts of authorship in architectural design. Identifying strategies that recognize user creativity, such as appropriation, collaboration, disjunction, DIY, montage, polyvalence and uselessness, Actions of Architecture states that the creative user should be the central concern of architectural design.
In Stereotype confronts the importance of cultural stereotypes in shaping the ethics and reach of global literature. Mrinalini Chakravorty focuses on the seductive force and explanatory power of stereotypes in multiple South Asian contexts, whether depicting hunger, crowdedness, filth, slums, death, migrant flight, terror, or outsourcing. She argues that such commonplaces are crucial to defining cultural identity in contemporary literature and shows how the stereotype's ambivalent nature exposes the crises of liberal development in South Asia. In Stereotype considers the influential work of Salman Rushdie, Aravind Adiga, Michael Ondaatje, Monica Ali, Mohsin Hamid, and Chetan Bhagat, among others, to illustrate how stereotypes about South Asia provide insight into the material and psychic investments of contemporary imaginative texts: the colonial novel, the transnational film, and the international best-seller. Probing circumstances that range from the independence of the Indian subcontinent to poverty tourism, civil war, migration, domestic labor, and terrorist radicalism, Chakravorty builds an interpretive lens for reading literary representations of cultural and global difference. In the process, she also reevaluates the fascination with transnational novels and films that manufacture global differences by staging intersubjective encounters between cultures through stereotypes.
The nature of the self is an important point at which philosophy and literature intersect. Text, Body and Indeterminacy acknowledges this connection by forging a link between the philosophical concept of the self and the category of the literary character. The philosophical horizon of Text, Body and Indeterminacy is delineated by the neo-pragmatist debate on selfhood. The book entwines the ideas of Richard Rorty and Richard Shusterman by stressing similarity in their aestheticizing of ethics and by showing the difference in their understanding of the self as textual or bodily. The characters created by Pater and Wilde are freshly assessed within this dual philosophical perspective. Their doppelgängers are seen as the forerunners of postmodernist concepts: the cerebral flâneur is reflected in Rorty’s model “ironist,” and the sensuous aesthete returns through Shusterman’s notion of the somatic self. Text, Body and Indeterminacy establishes how Pater renders his protagonists through discursive patterns—tropes of Decadence, philosophical theorems, and myths—only to subvert these vocabularies and to emphasize the reality of the body, the extra-textual dimension of the self. It also shows how Wilde’s sensuous personae, both bodily and indeterminate, transcend the vocabularies available to the Wildean flâneurs. Through its interpretations, Text Body and Indeterminacy uniquely combines literary portraits by Pater and Wilde, highlights interlocking themes and, in every reading, points to the ethical gains of tilting the idea of selfhood into the somatic realm.
Materialist Reflections on Politics, Ethics, and Aesthetics
Author: A. Abbas
Category: Social Science
A materialist critique of the politics, poetics and economics of suffering in liberalism that argues for attention to the labour of suffering of the victim in many well-meaning but flawed politics of redress, and imagines forms of representation, solidarity and justice that better honour the history and materiality of this labour.
This study considers the recent surge of science fiction narratives from the postcolonial Third World as a utopian response to the spatial, political, and representational dilemmas that attend globalization.