Tore Rye Andersen (reviewing Stephen Burn’s Jonathan Franzen at the End of Postmodernism) is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Aesthetic Studies, Department of Contemporary Literature at Aarhus University (Denmark), and chief editor of the Danish literary journal Passage. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the work of Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen, and he has just finished a book on the contemporary American novel. His current research deals with the materiality and mediality of literature.
Category Archives: Miscellaneous
For Christopher Hitchens—the Left at War with Himself
What follows are nine essays inspired by Michael Berube’s book of 2009, The Left at War (NYU Press), prefaced by Nick Cohen’s shot at dealing in brief with some of the same issues, which he takes on at greater length in his book of 2007, What’s Left? (Harper Perennial). Our interview with Berube was conducted in light of his reading of these pieces, and his own piece—a “response to the responses,” titled “The Left at Bay”—which comes after.
On Intellectual Biography
When we have to change an opinion about anyone, we charge heavily to their account the inconvenience they thereby cause us.
-Friedrich Nietzsche, “Beyond Good and Evil”
Almost twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is not too far-fetched to argue that Eastern European women have carried the burden of the post-communist transition. The transformative paradigm shift caused by the collapse of communism left the political and social positions of women in shambles. And while the Soviet system undoubtedly offered a number of state-protected privileges to women, unparalleled in the Western world, those privileges where often ideologically masked to represent a closely-controlled and fabricated sense of emancipation. This was meant to restrict the role of women in society to those directly benefiting the state-namely, the production of goods and the reproduction of population growth. As Azhgikhina (1995: 3) aptly pointed out, ‘in effect, the declaration of emancipation condemned women to a double burden – the new power demanded that she should take an active part in developing industry, and at the same time, the national mentality insisted that she fulfill all the traditional women’s duties in the home’.
Censorship used to be quite a predictable research subject. It was often associated with ideas about State oppression, intolerant governments or other powerful institutions controlling the minds of powerless citizens and society’s dominated classes. Censorship was related to dictators and their brutal strategies to limit freedom of speech, or to undermine artistic expression. It was seen as part of a carefully orchestrated strategy of controlling or even silencing public debate in society.
1. Political discourse in context
In the age of mediatized mass democracies, political discourse in the media is an important means for ordinary people to encounter politics (Lauerbach & Fetzer, 2007). This is particularly true of political debates and interviews, in which political information is transmitted in dialogue-anchored forms. Against this background, different discourse genres, such as political interviews, panel interviews or talk shows provide the opportunity, first, to translate politics, which has been frequently conceptualized as a macro structural phenomenon, into text and talk (Chilton & Schäffner, 2002); second, to transfer macro-domain oriented politics to the micro domain; and third, to personify party-political programs, agendas and ideologies. Furthermore, the dialogic nature of these genres allows for the presentation of symbolic politics (Sarcinelli, 1987) as a language game composed of questions and answers, in which the politician’s and journalist’s argumentation and their underlying reasoning and negotiation of meaning are made explicit. This sort of contextualization facilitates and supports the comprehension of macro politics, making it more accessible to the general public.
To a western ear there is presumably nothing ambiguous about the term post-communism. It seems to be merely descriptive, referring to the realities of countries which only 20 years ago lived under the political and socio-economical system known as ‘real socialism’. In the last decades, those countries are believed to have been undergoing the process of structural social, economic and political change, usually referred to as ‘transition’. At first glance, one can see that both terms suffer from being too vast in order to provide a good ground for further investigation. They embrace very heterogeneous realities, histories and perspectives. What cognitive use can we make of a term such as post-communism, applicable both to Slovenia and Mongolia? Analogically, in what way can transition explain the dynamics of social processes in those states? But one could also argue that this kind of vagueness is (to some extent) ineluctable in the description of social realities.
Chameleon strategies of BBOT-BNA, a Brussels digital storytelling organization. Dealing with the urban community, institutional politics and participation.
In a city like Brussels, where different communities live together and interact, participatory media practices can play an important role in the construction of a democratic and communicative urban network. Analyzing one of these participatory urban media organizations – the digital storytelling organization BBOT-BNA (a combination of abbreviations of the Dutch ‘Brussel Behoort Ons Toe’ and the French ‘Bruxelles Nous Appartient’, both meaning ‘Brussels Belongs To Us’) – allows for a closer look at the construction of a Brussels urban community. Since 2000, BBOT-BNA has been facilitating inhabitants of Brussels to record and upload their conversations in an online open-access database.
In this fourth issue of Politics and Culture (2008) we have explicitly chosen for a European perspective. An editorial team of 6, consisting of 3 Belgians (Joke Bauwens, Nico Carpentier & Sofie Van Bauwel), 2 Germans (Tanja Thomas & Fabian Virchow) and one Hungarian (Peter Csigo) launched a call for essays and reviews, for instance using ECREA’s mailing list. The end result is an issue with 6 essays and 8 reviews. Given the media studies background of the 6 editors, it is not surprising that most of the essays and reviews also focus on the media as an inseparable component of the spheres of the cultural and the political.
English Is Getting Weirder. R We?
By Evelyn Nien-Ming Ch’ien
Evelyn Ch’ien is the author of Weird English (Harvard University Press, 2004)
English is getting weirder. Many of the same catalysts for the stretching, breaking, and reconstruction of English is happening to all utterance that we call speech and mark-making that we call writing. In the 21st century, technology has been the driving force of English proliferation. Our fascination and love for all that is aesthetic about language and communication, by our immersion in the linguistic experience, can be enhanced by technology and thus render us creators of linguistic worlds. To be a teaching world literature at this moment, and writing about weird English, is to not only teach the texts and the stylistics that are evidence of this change, but to conceive of how our subjectivities are changing, to see that the human race is thinking, feeling and designing the mental world differently, and that new linguistic tools are being invented to help in that architectural project. It is to acknowledge that only is English getting weirder, but so are we.