Monday, 6 December 2010

David Large "Abstractions"

I recently came across an essay by David Large entitled "Abstractions" on the Professional Aesthete blog

The application forms and layers of seeking approval never cease, particularly when there’s something good held just out of reach. Case in point: a proposal for a book of essays coming out of a conference, a book which may or may not be accepted by the publisher. To be part of the proposal, we send in optimistic abstracts, start writing the essay in the meantime without knowing whether it’ll be accepted, and then, I imagine, drastically rework the essay according to editors’ and readers’ reports. And possibly again, once the publishers see the final text.

Below is an encapsulation of my optimism, its coherence (such as it is) in large part thanks to productive discussions with (and recommended reading suggested by) one of my classmates. Kinda off the wall, I think, but some metaphors are strong enough to spin out for a while. Hopefully this is one of them – books as textual cells on a two-dimensional plane? Grad school really is the epitome of self-indulgence.

Strange (pheno)type: Malcolm Lowry’s porous textual cells

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 395–396)

This essay examines the ‘porous’ or ‘permeable’ texts of Malcolm Lowry as case studies, offering a microcosmic parallel to Timothy Morton’s textual ecology as it consists of diverse and interdependent entities exemplified biologically in Darwin’s entangled bank. As Morton argues, the textual ecology is a subset of a cultural ecology – the extended phenotype, as it were, of human culture. Read more

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