Monday, October 8, 2012


 (skip this paragraph if you want i didn't delete because im kinda giggly from dancing so much and maybe its funny) For reasons that I won't get into, I was recently reading a nightmarish exchange between Bertrand Russell and Sidney Hook.  Basically, Hook admonished his former role-model for saying he would prefer life under communist rule to nuclear annihilation, and Russell said that at least the former had a potential for not-communist living.  That summary doesn't reallly get into the absurd distortions and sleights of fact and each other's positions, but, well, let's look at Berlant's discussion of time on pg 68 "without a claim and a concept of [history, broadly], the subjects of capitalism will be doomed to think of themselves as merely inhabitants of a "thick" and nonporous present."
As well as validating my status as a history major, this recalls the converse of something going on in the Russell-Hook extravaganza.  (why did i commit to using this as a framing-point? is it too late?)  NO

Let's turn to the John Ashbery poem Berlant discusses, her analysis is nice, but i'd like to suggest also other possible directions, using a theoretical framework she establishes later in the book- namely the "thickness of time" described in a hopelessly capitalistic society (67-8), as well as snow crash.
   There is a sort of partial irony in the repeated references to sameness in the poem "no need to turn around" "were the places different" "bee's hymn drowns the monotony" etcetc , because there is of course, movement in the poem, as Berlant says, there is the movement from the zoned "yards the municipality created" to the unmapped space of everywhere, the hum of the wires overhead.  Berlant reads this as: the encounter created an impasse in the "thick time of capitalism,' and took life off the zoned grid of suburban america, but it could mean a connection in a widening sphere of sameness, a la snow crash.  From the grid of suburbia, where one must drive downtown to see their neighbors, but they're not home, we move to the omnipresent hum of wires, where there is no need to turn around, but where a connection is made.  The "thick and nonporous present" that Berlant will describe later -- 67-8 -- imprisons the narrator and the "we" of the poem; different places (and times, suggested by "reminisced") are not seen as different, they are stuck in a thick temporality, as well as a thick spatiality, conveyed by the samness of the municipal lawns.  The movement between the stanzas can be read as the movement from modern capitalism to postmodern capitalism - from the space of the grid to the space of the network, where spatiality solidifies more completely (all is the same, no need to turn around), but where there is greater room for temporal interruption (except the weight of the present- time is less thick).

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