Goldsmiths: The Sixth & Seventh Weeks

What’s up internets? It’s been a while …

Week Six (2/11 – 6/11) was a reading week, so no timetabled classes. Instead, a bit of frolicking in London, a trip back to the Sussex countryside to see the parents, the peculiar voyeurism of watching novels being penned (keyboarded?) in real-time on Google Wave, and a concerted effort to finish the bulk of a diagnostic essay for my Digital Media course.

M&M at the Tate Modern, with Joseph Beuys‘ installation, (The Pack):

M&M with Joseph Beuys' (The Pack)
Creative Commons License photo credit: jfpickard

Two thirds of an extremely left-field essay on Katherine Hayles‘ theories of virtuality, giving far too much detail in my case studies of (1) Nintendo’s Virtual Boy console and (2) Princeton’s experiments with mice and the Quake III engine:

The Seventh Week (9/11 – 13/11) sees me handing in said essay, and giving a presentation on the utility of Barthes and Foucault when considering hypertext, which is the subject of our workshop in …

Digital Media – Critical Perspectives

Memex; a 1940s thought-experiment in surrogate (prosthetic?) memory. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman as a meta-text (hypermediacy!) … a precursor to hypertext?

Structuralist theories of text:

author –> language –> meaning = coherent –> book

Poststructuralist theories of text, following Death of the Author? The author (god) is supplanted by the reader, with semiotics highlighting the rupture between language and its (deferred) meaning.

Language is not nomenclature, but a system of signifiers. Writing as technology (Derrida) … as performative of the text (Barthes) … as code.

21st Century American Fiction

Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis – a brilliant book, which somehow combines Gothic horror and the self-indulgence of postmodernism. Here’s the blurb:

“Imagine becoming a bestselling novelist while still in college, and then seeing your insufferable father reduced to a bag of ashes in a safety-deposit box. Imagine drowning in a sea of booze, drugs and vilification before being given a second chance, as the Bret Easton Ellis of this remarkable novel, married to the mother of his previously unacknowledged son and living in the suburban hinterlands, is given. Imagine the unravelling of that new life. And remember as you hold this book in your hands: all of it really happened, every word is true.”

Suburbia as a refuge of the affluent. Insecurity, the uncanny, and the grotesque. Redemption through fatherhood? Self-medication, masks, the docile (domestic) subject. McMansions and the spatialities of late capitalism. Loss (historical, subjective) and absence.

The author/writer persona as a means to mount a claim on authorial knowledge (verisimilitude) and narrative control. A search for causal origins; anything to explain the current condition (regime?) of insecurity. Imminent threats, incursions of History and ‘the real’. A mise en abyme, in which the fiction gives way … but the ‘external’ world (external to suburbia) is not ‘reality’, but another, distorted (counter-factual) history:

“Miles of major cities had been cordoned off behind barbed wire, and morning newspapers ran aerial photographs of bombed-out buildings on the front page, showing piles of tangled bodies in the shadow of the crane lifting slabs of scorched concrete.”

(Easton Ellis, 2005: p.40)

Questions of form. Hybridities of genre; pastiche & parody. An uncanny return of the authors’ creations, given substance. The ghost of Stephen King.

Seventeen questions released; titles for the final assessed essay, due sometime in February. Nowhere near as bad as I was expecting, with a couple standing out as particularly feasible. Bodes well.

Anthropology & Representation

Skip class for a delayed bonfire night celebration with schoolmates back in Sussex, deftly avoiding the guilt of failing to submit an essay (unfinished, unassessed) on politics & narrative.

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