Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eve's Labor Pains

Eve deceived Adam and seduced him. Their joint punishment was mortality and a lifetime of work for sustenance. Eve, the instigator, received an extra special punishment -- the pain of childbirth.

Now we all know the Old Testament God, even Milton's God, was something of a hard-ass. But labor pain as punishment? Mere pain seems like petty payback, even for God. (Why, then, did he create Eve with the higher pain tolerance?) Could it be that the real punishment here was not a simple pain, but nine months of marginalization, followed by hours of intense pain and exhaustion, followed by a lifetime of living under the male gaze that sees motherhood as paradoxically both weak and strong, yet definitely as something in the way? This is a much harsher punishment than a few hours of bodily discomfort. But by guaranteeing those few precious, torturous hours, God found a way to put Eve on her guard, to doubt her own strength, to bind her with the double doubt of her very ability to give birth, all this putting her in a position even farther below Adam than she had been in her original "innocence." And Adam, after watching Eve's soft belly deform, after hearing her screams of anguish, after finding her crouched in a warm place with a bloody, blue infant, would certainly never again look at his wife the way he did in that field where they had romped on the day of the fall. Perhaps that is the punishment God intended.

"If a woman views herself as weak, she does not create the image of herself necessary to give birth, for labor is hard work. If a woman views womanhood as strong, but only as long as womanhood does not include childbearing, she is equally in conflict..." -- Gayle H. Peterson, Birthing Normally

Woman's struggle for some kind of equality has led women to separate from themselves what is most feminine -- labor and birth. We must instead recognize the power that labor and birth give us (actual and potential power, for some women may for good reason choose not to have children). The ability to give birth "is a power and strength unique to women alone, and without reference of experience for men [...] out of this evidence comes the recognized birth envy." Peterson's book is the first time I have come across the concept of birth envy, and I was angered and excited by it. It seems like the likely counterpart to Freud's penis envy -- only no one talks about it in those terms. What if birth envy, as Peterson suggests, is the very reason man sought to come up with something for woman to envy back? Such a strong envy of such a fundamental property of womanhood seems a likely trigger for an extreme reaction from men (though still no good excuse for millennia of kicking us around).

Eventually Adam would partially resolve his birth envy by taking charge of the management and procedures of pregnancy, labor, and birth (and even child rearing). Since the Enlightenment rained down its blessings of knowledge, men have scientifically and systematically dealt with their lack by turning the thing to be envied into a thing to be pitied. Pregnancy is a burden, a disability, a vulnerable state, a pitiable malady. Birth is a medical emergency requiring the attendance of a physician, nurses, and myriad life-saving machines and intravenous drips. Through their pity, through their role as savior from the pitiable condition, men bring pregnancy and birth into the realm of male experience.

Where's Mom?

Women have internalized the male attitudes about pregnancy and birth perhaps even more deeply than we have internalized that we are physically inferior, less intelligent, or more emotionally fragile than men. Fortunately feminists of all kinds have stood up against these latter attitudes, striving and creating and keeping it together all at once to show that we are equal in strength, intelligence, discipline, logic. But a woman often arrives at this place of confidence and "equality" by removing the most basically feminine quality from her concept of womanhood. There is room in her picture for climbing corporate ladders, participating in contact sports, or earning doctoral degrees. But none of these things would be possible, she thinks, if she were to give birth.

Feminists of the sort I just described cannot be blamed for arriving at such a flawed picture of womanhood. After three waves (or more?) of modern feminism women do more, say more, write more, take more degrees, and make more money, than ever before. However, the reality of babies as career killers, education killers, even self-definition killers, is still, well, somewhat real. This is no fault of the women who do embrace motherhood and attempt to make a life for themselves wherein that role is only part of the picture.

A junky for literature on "alternative" women's health (don't even get me started on breastfeeding...), I was reading Peterson's birth book when I came across an online article about how mothers simply cannot expect to succeed in academia. The actual act of popping out babies (which Birthing Normally goes into in great detail, with pictures even!) may not seem directly related to a woman's career success, but everything I've been writing here, everything I've been reading in Peterson about attitudes and beliefs, how they affect our ability to succeed at giving birth... well all of this also affects our ability to succeed at life. The author of this article is of the belief that she cannot succeed (read: get tenured) because she is a mother. This is a manifestation of Eve's punishment. As I mentioned above, it would not be enough to rob Eve (or the article writer) of a joyous birth experience. Many of us, denied of such an experience, eventually work through that denial when we see our children grow. The punishment would be only temporary. Eve and her daughters are instead robbed of the hope of attaining a joyous life. Now I do not say here that Eve is robbed of the joyous life itself, but of her hope for it. This is where attitudes, acculturation, bad advice, past experience, the support of loved ones, all come into crucial play. The PhD who wrote the article telling us we can't "have it all" was writing from what she sees in the world. But is what she sees -- her anecdotal evidence of denied tenures and abandoned careers -- really playing out that way because mothers are incapable, or even because men (and childless women) think we are incapable? I think the attitudes of those denying the tenure may sometimes be misguided, but I think any woman who accepts that "that is the way it is," is complicit in her own failure.

There were some statistics in the article as well, but the author used them as prescriptive rather than descriptive. "Look, this chart shows you wont get hired. That's the way they have to do things at the universities." An interesting and somewhat positive statistic was given for men -- having children, even several children, seemed to boost their chances at tenure. The relationship of "kids to tenure" was completely inverted, with women raising more than one child at the bottom of the heap. Men who have children are stable, not a flight risk, probably good teachers. Women who have children? Well, they've just got too much on their minds. How are they going to manage all that?

Some of these statistics must have to do with personal priorities and not just snotty committees. It is likely that a mother may have put some lofty academic goals on hold to enjoy her children. She may be set back several years simply because she has spent that much time not giving herself over completely to her "driven" side (as if raising kids doesn't take drive!). But beyond her small setback due to time alone (less articles published, less conferences attended, etc.), the fact that her body has done something miraculous should not cause her to expect to fail miserably once her time for promotion or advancement does come. She can and should be judged on her merits as a scholar and a professor, not on her familial or marital status. I fully understand why committees have to know these family facts about women (and men) and even use them to weigh a decision. But I'm willing to bet they are keen on attitudes as well as petty demographics.

The saddest part about the "evidence" in this article is that academia, especially once tenure is achieved, seems like a career so well suited to raising children. Summers off with them, the occasional opportunity to travel away from them, an exciting and interesting environment for growing up, and decent pay. The article writer could not recall any such success stories she knew of. I knew one personally. Two children, both born while she was teaching, one before tenure, one right after. She had had a late start at a state school, a miscarriage that set her back shortly after she began teaching, and even lost a job during that rough period. Her resilience, her image of herself as a both a mother and a teacher, and her amazing work as a scholar are all a great inspiration to me. The clincher? Her husband is also a professor, and she has the better job. The article writer was very concerned about women's possible job loss due to brilliant professor-husbands' job offers snatching us away from our incipient careers. I guess she never read about Sandra Gilbert, whose brilliant husband did have the better job, who had three children she left at home with him, and who "commuted" between Indiana and California to keep her position. Nor has she heard of Sandra's friend Susan Gubar, a scholar and single mother who stood in to read a paper for Sandra at a CUNY conference, while breastmilk soaked the front of her blouse. (Their writing on motherhood sustains me!)

So there is no reason for anyone, especially an educated women, to go around writing articles discouraging mothers from doing what they know they can do best. Seriously, what a bitch.

Again, the connection between the "no tenure for you" article and the birthing book might not be so obvious if you've got a penis (which I don't envy by the way -- there are better things to envy in masculinity), but I hope I have made some sense of why reading these things within days of each other set off a reaction in me! (Illogical, I know. Just like a mother.)

If I am accepted to a doctoral program for Fall 2012, I will be about thirty-four years old* when I finish that degree and start my career, hobbling off as it might in the form of adjunct or temporary this or that. This delay (and any subsequent delay) does not affect my attitude about my ability to succeed in academia. Nor does my motherhood, even if it is the main cause of the delay. Now if I can join the pity party for a moment, I pity the mothers who allow negative attitudes (both their own attitudes and the attitudes of others) to dictate not only their birth experiences, but their entire life trajectories. The Eves of the past have suffered enough for all of us, and I think it's about time we cast off that eternal sentence of "pain in childbirth" and all its trappings and potentially pitiable life outcomes, and told the whole chorus of patriarchs (some of whom are in female form) where they can shove it.

*As for my late start, I look pretty young... no one would take me seriously if I didn't wait till thirty-four to introduce myself as "Doctor"!

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Back Road to DFW

Got paper?

I had never really thought about David Foster Wallace until some ridiculous writing analyzer (IWriteLike) told me to post on my blog "I write like David Foster Wallace." I thought that was kind of fun at first, but then I noticed that it also said Sarah Palin writes like H.P. Lovecraft. No way, unless that just means they're both xenophobes. Right then I knew it was just a crappy sentence length, punctuation count, word length sort of analyzer with no real stylistic connection to the writers it pretended to "know." Bummer. But despite the bummer, I suddenly wanted to find out about ole DFW. Maybe we at least had parentheses in common. I knew he is something of a humorist, writes in a "postmodern style" (whatever that means these days), and that he's a little bit greasy (and quite dead). But I'd never read him.

So on one of those Saturday nights at Barnes & Noble ("the bookstore where they have trains" as my son calls it), I found myself sitting in a miniature Adirondack chair by the kids' train table and picking through DFW's books of essays. Nothing sounded too interesting from the tables of contents, and glances inside revealed the "postmodern style" of excessive footnotes and disjointedness. I couldn't just jump into reading anything because he was all over the place. Finally, on one back cover, some reviewer mentioned that somewhere within the mess of A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again was a single essay on literary criticism. I decided to find that one. I found it to be only five or six pages long with absolutely no intrusive footnotes, and decided that essay, "Greatly Exaggerated," was my way into David Foster Wallace. Whether it was a good way in or not, it was the perfect length for a train table visit! I'd be done reading before any tank engines started flying across the room and before my not-quite-kid-sized ass could become permanently molded to the kid-sized chair.

I was immediately taken in by conversational, semi-outsider writing on the now age-old problem of the death of the author. I immediately wanted to take notes -- I didn't want to buy the whole jumbly book for a six page essay in the middle! Having just cleaned out my purse (it had had about ten pounds of paper in it), I could find no paper to write on. A crumpled Kohl's receipt for "LADIES SUNGLASS" would have to do. So here's my first take on DFW, as transcribed from boy-distracted, boyish handwriting on this poor receipt, and without the text in front of me.

In the essay DFW reviews H.L. Hix's 1990s published dissertation entitled Morte d'Author: An Autopsy. DFW starts out by explaining Barthes' (and basically all the poststructuralists') idea of the death of the author in layman's terms. He also notes how even if he's explaining it clearly, forgetting about authors altogether probably seems pretty ridiculous to the average reader. As a sort of outsider DFW looks into academic criticism from a unique place. He is an English professor, but holds no Ph.D. He earned an M.F.A. for his real passion, his creative writing, and was only convinced to enter academia by an enthusiastic friend. In other words, he's reviewing a kind of thing he would never attempt (or want) to write (i.e. a dissertation).

There are a couple of things going on in the review -- DFW is not only reviewing this particular work of Hix's, but making commentary on the current style of academic writing in general. He enjoys Hix's book, and he is glad that someone is seeking to resuscitate the author, but he is put off by Hix's critical style and wonders why academic writing has to be so inaccessible and boring.

Not being a "hardcore theory weenie" himself, Wallace never quite believed what he read in the author's obit. He lays out Hix's basic premise and objections about the "death," and even suggests that the things Hix will do with deconstruction might be "wicked fun," but soon starts to tell the reader not to bother with Mort d'Author unless the reader is a self-proclaimed "theory jockey." For Wallace, what looked like it would be a whole lot of fun turns out to be not nearly as fun or interesting as Hix's introduction makes it sound. The dissertation is representative of an academic's "obsession with anality that's so common [...] an obsession with the jots and tittles of making excruciatingly clear what he's saying and where he's going." The book runs long for Wallace too, and he wishes some kind-hearted, less academic editor would have snipped away at the published version, to "delete gestures that seem directed at thesis committees rather than paying customers." I don't think the point here is that hint at economy, but rather at how the paying customer is likely to be a more average reader, and once you've defended your dissertation to those in the know, perhaps you should open yourself up a little if you want your work to be at all useful or interesting to students and fans of literature.

What Wallace says about the death problem itself is less important than what he's saying in the review. He is on the fence, leaning toward anti-death. Hix is anti-death, but exposes how the problem is much more complex than just author or no author. I enjoyed Wallace's coining of the "pro-death" (mostly European) and "anti-death" (mostly American) labels, and waited for him to sneak in an abortion reference which he did just once, calling someone's anti-death work a "sneaky pro-life apology." Then lines like "before we whip out the spade or the defib paddles..." put the "death" into perspective. This essay is less humorous than the others in the collection (it was originally printed in a Harvard journal, so it probably wasn't permitted to cause too many grins), but it does put the death of the author into understandable and semi-enjoyable terms for regular reading folk, and explores some of the complexities that Hix brings to the death conundrum, while using humor and lightness as a way to make it all less daunting. I can't say that I understand all the stuff about "Derrida by way of Wittgenstein" (maybe something even Wallace himself should have cut from the "paying customer" version), but I think Wallace is talking about Hix's ability to look at both sides of the death problem by bringing together continental and analytic philosophy to try to solve (or at least better illuminate) it.

I would recommend this essay to someone who has yet to get into the big poststructuralist claims, as a way to prepare one's self for what's to come (or perhaps a way to get frightened away from that stuff if it's not for you!). Wallace shows the seeming absurdity of the theories of the mid-century, but also shows the importance of such jarring theories to the legacy of literary study. Most importantly (for me), Wallace makes it okay to be pissed off by having to read dry, unfun criticism, whether you like what it's saying or not. His ultimate take on Mort is a positive review, but a rather backhanded one considering those paying customers who read this essay will likely steer clear of Mort d'Author and guys like Hix. And students like me who may or may not decide search Hix out, will certainly be more aware of keeping "excruciating" writing out of our own work.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Aesthetics: "the new disorder"

I've been reading Ranciere on aesthetics (which could mean a lot of things since he seems to be Mr. Aesthetics), and this is my first go at him: Aesthetics and its Discontents. I've posted recently on Romantic German aesthetics and some basic aesthetics history, but sifting through my last two years of class handouts and notes in an attempt to clean house has found me many forgotten aesthetic gems in the way of xeroxed excerpts from books I didn't know existed or can't afford (thanks to my professors for that). I soon got the idea that based on the sheer size of this paper stack (which I had heartily devoured last spring) I might be semi-prepared for reading some more contemporary approaches to aesthetics.

So first, I am really surprised how prepared I was for reading Ranciere! (I mean that to be the opposite of braggy. I've been feeling awfully, awfully stupid.) The style was a little difficult after laying off reading for awhile, but I got through it, and was galvanized for more reading. But only after some near-hallucinatory effects brought on by philosophical vocabulary recall overload coupled with no air conditioning.

When cultural critics and professors talk about Ranciere's writing they call it "incisive" or "trenchant," and lots of other fancy words that have to do with slicing and cutting things. I thought that was interesting, because while Ranciere does cut through a lot of long-held ideas and conventions about thinking about art, you do have to have some heavy reading under your belt to actually see the cutting action. What held me back the most, at first, was that he does not write in parallels -- that is, he will lay out three-ish unnumbered points and rebut them with exactly four numbered points, and so on. This non-parallel style is consistent at least -- his sentences are not parallel either, something that usually gets an American student those red double lines marked on his paper. Perhaps this is a feature of French style. Sentences are perfectly understandable (and shorter) without being forced into parallels, and we are Yankee ninnies to require such a thing at all times. Arguments, however, can be a little harder to follow when you don't know which point counters which or if they are even related points and counterpoints at all. You just read the whole thing and then stand back to see what you learned, then reread it hoping to le Dieu tout puissant it still says kinda the same thing. You can't just tick off notes as you go along. This conversational sort of argument development is probably a function of Frenchness as well. So Ranciere's arguments are in no way disorganized, they are just not "textbook" like we are taught to read and write as undergraduates. His non-parallel is nonpareil! Maybe. But as for the incisiveness? It's more like he lacerates than slices. You're left on your own to interpret a few hanging jagged edges.

Getting past Ranciere's style (which I have to consider in a book on aesthetics don't you think?), I read this book not knowing what to expect from "politics" going in. This is one book of his that actually does not have "politics" in the title, but I knew they'd be a big deal. Aren't they always?! I'm often a keep'em separated thinker (ideas in little TV tray sections, mixed together only if I choose to double-dip the fork), and I don't mix my politics with my art. Gag me with a spoon. But I had a feeling Ranciere was going to explain that popular mash-up in a way I could tolerate or even find palatable, and give politics a better (more complex, less bitter) role than it has in most thinker's aesthetics. Or maybe even deny politics altogether. (Gasp!)

What I'll do here (which might be incredibly boring but it will help me a lot, and maybe even help you if you like aesthetics but fear the heady stuff), is give a quick summary and discussion on the introduction to this book, which does a fairly good job of explaining where the book will go and ties in amazingly (to me anyway) with aesthetic things I've already learned and talked about here. This is all I can do these days.

He had me at the first line, "Aesthetics has a bad reputation," and then I knew we were on the same page. Ranciere discusses a few (unnumbered and they blur together) objections that academics, cultural critics, and aesthetic philosophers themselves have had to aesthetics since its name and initial "purpose" were conceived in the mid-eighteenth century. I tried to pull out and separate these points, even though they could not (in my ability) be made to match the counterpoints he will offer.

First objection -- Aesthetics perpetuates avant gardism, which is, like, baaad.
This one is glossed over because we who study aesthetics know it's a pretty naive and untenable position, one that art or ideas about art are bad just because they are "out there," or self-serving, or make promises and conjectures about something outside of art. All these objections and more could be argued for separately to try to take down certain, perhaps misguided, aims of avant gardism, but a blanket objection to the avant garde would probably only be made today by someone who doesn't even know what avant garde refers to and can't even think of a good example of it, and will likely confuse it with things postmodern. Those who object to what they might call "art for art's sake" might not realize the very art they call by that moniker is really for the "sake" of many other ideas, and they might not realize that they themselves don't even have any consistent criteria for what art is or isn't -- so what the heck is their basis for objecting? It's funny that these objections almost always concern visual art, because those not willing to study what they're looking at probably don't read. You hear many more complaints about toilets turned upside-down than about Finnegan's Wake. Anyhow, Ranciere passes on explaining why this objection has "gone out of fashion," but I'm willing to bet it's still very much on the lips of your average plastic arts audience.

Second objection -- "Aesthetik" the dominatrix.
Like most philosophy, aesthetics came to be seen by some as a system of thought that sought to dominate its subject. This is an especial concern for art, since some of it prides itself on flying under intellectual radar, or on turning rationality on its head. Even more traditional, figural art claims to come from some transcendent place, inspired by muses and other non-corporeal forces, and sometimes seems to object to being analyzed by the aesthetic thinker. Hegel, spirited as his geist system is (I will never get past making Hegel puns and jokes), rationalizes art's apparent power over us and relegates it to a backseat on the geist ride. In the end, it merely serves the progress of man. Kant uses art as a way into discussing morality. Schiller endows art with magical equality-making powers. In each of these instances, "aesthetics came to be the perverse discourse which bars [our] encounter [with art], and which subjects works, or our appreciation thereof, to a machine of thought conceived for other ends: the philosophical absolute, the religion of the poem, or the dream of social emancipation." Our experience of art and the art itself was being marginalized to make way for "bigger" ideas.

Third objection -- Those crazy Romantics!
By the time philosophers and poets really got going on writing on aesthetics (during the Romantic period), there were critics waiting to take them down. Romantic ideas about art are still criticized today. Ranciere discusses Shaeffer's and Badiou's objections to the Romantic approach. They "denounce aesthetics as a confused type of thinking involving a Romantic confounding of pure thought, sensible affects and artistic practices." They are most concerned that art and its "glorious sensuous presence" will be suffocated by the discourse on it. The pith of this concern is similar to that of the second objection, that art will be suffocated or dominated by thought. However, this third objection does not fear the clinical, rational thought of the Enlightenment or even of the 20th century, but the confusion and proliferation of all sorts of ideas in every direction that the Romantics' prolific, fragmented, reflective, and speculative writings might inspire. (I personally think these detractors may just be envious of that Romantic ability to think and create simultaneously, to be artist and critic in one, and to then reflect on the very fact that that is indeed what is happening in one's writing. I'd be envious too.)

Fourth objection -- Where's the politics?!
Some critics find all the confounding and confusing and even the more rational discourse on aesthetics to be useless because it all mostly ignores the realities of class division, the echo of politics in art, and the danger of the aesthetic utopia leading to a real totalitarian utopia (think about the role an "aesthetic" played in Nazi Germany). Some of these critics (the more well-respected critics' "chorus of subcontractors" Ranciere calls them) may want to throw out the baby with the bathwater and can aesthetics altogether. Others want to remind us of the distinctions between the creation, enjoyment, and social effects of art so that we stop being so "confused" by it. Ranciere argues, again and again (and I love this), that this very confusion is a "knot" that holds aesthetics together. Untying the knot wouldn't do. There goes the aesthetics.

Before Ranciere gets to his four "nonpareil" rebuttals (which, funny thing, he labels extremely clearly as "...four points...This is the first point...This is the second point..."), he goes on a little rant about how Schaeffer uses a story by Stendhal to show a distinction between the everyday aesthetic of beautiful impressions from life (Stendhal's inclusion of real sounds and his real childhood impressions of them in his story) and the aesthetic of art (the fictional story). Here's a short paragraph that starts to show the problem with making such a distinction:

"Far from demonstrating the independence of aesthetic attitudes with respect to artworks, Stendhal testifies to an aesthetic regime in which the distinction between those things that belong to art and those that belong to ordinary life are blurred."

And there you have a non-parallel sentence, and there you have the blur! The blur can be likened to the knot, I suppose.

The distinctly Romantic confusions that proliferated at Jena and elsewhere seem to be the perfect methods for seeking to interpret a new (for its time) kind of art like Stendhal's, in which life and art is blurred just like the philosopher's seemingly fuzzy thoughts; a new kind of art which becomes "at once more intimate and enigmatic" just like the aesthetic writings it inspires. (As I type this wonky sentence from notes it seems circular, but NO! It's the knot again. Ranciere will say it: aesthetics cannot exist without art, and art cannot exist as we know it today without aesthetics.) Think of that! Aesthetics as philosophizing that happens because it is inspired by something. Not because it seeks to dominate it or unravel it, but to participate in it. Aesthetik is no dominatrix after all. She is the muse of the art critic, and even an auxiliary muse of the artist.

The anatomy of the knot brings me to the next and final section of the introduction -- Ranciere's four points that promise to turn the "anti-aesthetic arguments...on their heads."

He starts with the point I alluded to above -- that art and aesthetics are symbiotic. He gives it in a one-two punch: "If aesthetic sentiment is to exist, it is not sufficient that pleasure is taken in seeing or hearing [art]work. For art to exist, what is required is a specific gaze and form of thought to identify it." The end of purely representative art was the beginning of a need for some system of discourse to interpret and think through what is going on in art. When art became paradoxical, consequently so did our methods of thinking about it. And the paradoxes of aesthetics should not be mistaken for confusions or "fantasies."

Ranciere's second point is that aesthetics is not really a "discipline" like philosophy, and it can't stifle art or force it in one direction or another. The first aesthetic thinkers did not "invent" or initiate the "slow revolution in the forms of presentation and perception" that they were describing and interpreting. They did not invent the new art forms, "but they did elaborate the regime of intelligibility within which they could be thought."

Ranciere's third point, and this is a toughy, is that the aesthetic paradox, inconsistency and confusion which forms the basis of many of today's objections is already there within the aesthetics as an objection. The Romantic thinkers themselves questioned what they were doing, tried to meld aesthetics with art and keep it from the molding hands of philosophy, and even questioned the very name of the thing, whose etymology denotes something solely about the senses rather than the intellect or the demiurge. The objections being contained within the early aesthetic writings themselves means to Ranciere that "our contemporaries strive in vain" to make the same denouncements. "Yesterday's excuse is as superfluous as today's accusation. The in-appropriation is constitutive." In other words, this very tension within aesthetics is essential to aesthetics. Sounds like a knot again! F. Schlegel, younger of the two "diabolical brothers [ha!] so gravely accused of being responsible for fostering the fatal illusions of speculative and Romantic aesthetics," was perhaps the most conflicted and apologetic about his own thinking. He was also a poet, as were many of his aesthetic buddies. I think the Romantics' personal stake in art makes them an even better judge of what aesthetics can or can't do to it. Today's thinkers are not usually approaching art from within, but from some high up and abstract place.

The final point is that politics does not function with or within art the way the art politicos make it out to. Art is the great political resister, defying association with a class, stirring up feelings of equality, making us remember something like "human nature" (wait, don't the postmodernists deny that there ever was such a thing?!), creating a "suspension of the rules," a "free play," a "promise we could not live without." And for Ranciere, the very loss of this promise (the realization that art is not a political driver, that it won't deliver on the promise) is what makes it so sweet.

And then we are reminded that yes, there will be a lot of politics in this book, and so it begins.

This is a fairly new book and not even a huge number of the smarty pants crowd have read it yet (but the only people I saw on Goodreads who've reviewed it besides me were definitely smarty pantsies). So I guess what I'm hoping here is that someone will show up and talk with me about it. 'Cause maybe I don't get it at all.

I want to write at least one more time on this book. The second chapter deals with "critical art" and I really have a lot of things to say about that (rather than just typing up a glorified summary of it), since I like my art with more Dionysus and less Apollo, and since it's a chance to get mad at postmodernisms. And that always makes for a lively evening.