Friday, June 8, 2012

The Contemporary Literature That I Believe Is Most Worthwhile






The Contemporary Literature That I Believe Is Most Worthwhile

Takes aesthetic, linguistic, and/or structural risks, challenging present cultural and literary norms, while not being committed to a one-dimensional, one-size-fits-all notion of “the new.” Difference and uniqueness exists in relation to multiple contexts, literary and cultural. There is no such sufficiently identifiable total thing as the “field” of literature or cultural production in which only one main approach could be new.

These risks, however, must not be simply aesthetic; the literature also

Explores cultural, historical, environmental, and sociopolitical conditions (including that of literature and art) in the specificity of their materiality, recognizing that all such conditions are a function of human, bodily interactivity both with other humans and with the physicality of the world beyond the human. Such explorations understand that all writing is ideological, that there is no such thing as a neutral position and that an attempt to achieve an impossible neutrality always has ideological implications. These explorations, in their materiality, are not automatically opposed to ideas of magic, spirituality, and religion, since those are crucial parts of the full range of available human beliefs and attitudes and have real effects on bodies and environments. Such work can also be scientific and non-human-centered, as long as it includes the recognition that human perceptions are the ground from which any literary exploration takes place. No one ever gets outside themselves entirely.

The literature also

Must be readable and worth reading in its specific parts. I don’t mean “accessible,” since accessibility is a matter of convention and requires challenging. Rather, the specifics of the writing are significant and engage attention on a part-by-part basis, not just as overall concept. I say “part-by-part” rather than “line-by-line” because it is also possible to read a work’s visual elements, sound elements, and/or performance elements, and much worthwhile literature goes beyond being solely words on a page. I also include work whose overarching concept may be the main point, as long as the parts (the words and other elements) contribute significantly to a concept that is itself worthy of continued attention.

2 comments:

Susan M. Schultz said...

Good "abstract" on a field that is hardly that. I especially like the part about not counting out spirituality, as I too often find that our grad students (as only one "for example" of writers encouraged into some areas and not others) invoke that subject only to make fun of it. Causes nervousness.

DAN / DANIEL GUTSTEIN said...

A fine manifesto, and just like any fine piece of writing, it is inspiring me to think of my own similar statement. Thanks, man. Great stuff. ----Blood And