June 12th, 2012 / 11:11 am
Craft Notes

Masha Tupitsyn Do The New Sincerity In Different Voices

Emotions are no longer from people, for people, between people. For real people or real life. For real period. You don’t feel emotion: you look at emotion, you act emotion. You play emotion like another part. Emotions are now for the camera, on camera, between cameras. You don’t need a camera to live on camera. You don’t need to be an actor to be an actor.


PS – When considering a work of art, there is no such thing as sincerity because sincerity implies intention and intention is irrelevant at best and soporific at worst. Every action is a performance. You hurt my feelings. I didn’t intend to hurt your feelings. Nevertheless, my feelings are hurt. You broke my nose! I didn’t intend to break your nose! Nevertheless, my nose is broken. You slaughtered the entire village! I didn’t intend to slaughter the entire village. Nevertheless, the entire village is slaughtered. What matters is not what’s behind the event, what matters is the event. In other words, what matters is not the author’s intention behind the text, but the text itself. Am I being sincere? You will never know, in part because there is no such thing as “I” and there is no such thing as “you,” and in part because there is no such thing as “being” only becoming and this whole idea of sincerity is very unbecoming. We are each many. A swarm. Constantly in flux. Constantly changing. One performance after another. Some parts of what constitute “me” have no sense of humor; other parts vibrate ha, ha, ha, all day long. Some parts of “me” subscribe to every word I write; other parts only subscribe to some things; while other parts don’t subscribe to anything I write. Some parts want only to provoke; some parts want also to engage. Some parts care deeply; other parts could care less. “I am” a monster pretending to be “human.” (Hello Žižek!) How’s that for sincerity? No, I’m only kidding. No, I’m being serious. No, I’m joking. No, wait, I’m both! You see, all of “me” happens simultaneously; there’s no way to discern what is sincere from what is ironic and what is honest from what is bullshit. Every action is a performance. Though my parts may appear to coalesce, it is but an illusion. To believe in the coherent self is tantamount to believing the sun revolves around the earth. Sure, you can believe whatever you like, but just so you know: the egg on your face makes the whole room smelly.

PPS – Is it Mean Week yet? j/k


  1. Ethan

      I am a troll pretending to be human.

  2. Bobby Dixon

      I am just now realizing how amazing Žižek is (!)

      I have been watching him on youtube and someone sent me a zipped folder w/ so much of his writing (like ~1gb of text). 

      Any recommendations on where to start, I am sure they are all great though.

  3. Anonymous

      Ok, but maybe too generalized about “intentions.” Because after all, none of your examples here are art (hurting feelings, punching nose, burning village) but you would probably not disagree that if someone intended one of these events to be art, it could be considered as such (see Chris Burden). So, sometimes in art intention is all that matters. Intention of “honesty” is a separate issue from intention of purpose.

  4. Shane Anderson

      i wish you could hear my arsenio hall woof cry from here

  5. Stephen Tully Dierks

      interested in this perspective. how does this view inform morality/politics? how does this perspective respond to the idea of being able to (maybe even “drawn to”) *make* meaning because none simply exists? 

  6. jose Alvarado

      That every act is a performance does not recast the act of performance as unreal or ambivalent. It just means that the act’s essence isn’t grounded in a completely stable or pre-ordained set of determinants. Therefore its “acting out” and its meaning are open to re-evaluation. It seems that in the logic of this argument actions are things only registered at the personal subjective level: “you hurt my feelings,” “you broke my nose.” How can these be “events” in themselves rather than indications of what substantiates their perceived happenings; if there is no “you” or “I” then you cannot perceive that I have broken your nose. Entire villages tend not to be slaughtered by accident either.

      Intentions do matter, in art and in life. Zizek’s entire oeuvre has very real political intentions, which while they do not over-determine the value and meaning and use his his work will ever have, are absolutely a part of it’s phenomena and function.

      “…there’s no way to discern what is sincere from what is ironic and what is honest from what is bullshit.” 

      This is bullshit and I mean that sincerely.

  7. Anonymous

      You mean the sun isn’t a goddess chased by wolves?

  8. postitbreakup

      could you make a little clearer what the relationship is between none of us having an actual identity, and “New Sincerity” (such a gross name)? i get the first part, it’s like buddhism kind of and all the “parts” you describe are desires but there’s not actually a cohesive whole. so what does that mean re: muumuu house and all that, i don’t get it.

  9. Christopher Higgs

      In terms of output, Žižek is the Joyce Carol Oates or the Stephen King of theory.  So it’s hard to say where to begin.  Plus, some of the volumes are huge (the tome he just published on Hegel is like 1000 pages!) 

      Personally, or should I/we say the majority of “me” at least, would recommend his How to Read Lacan as a good starting place.  I fancy reading thinkers writing about thinkers as entry points, because it seems like lenses get sharp when rubbing up against other lenses.  Hence, I’ve recommended Deleuze on Nietzsche in the past for the same reason.  From there, you might want to try The Puppet and the Dwarf and Violence as appetizers, but save room for The Parallax View because it’s a hearty meal.  For dessert, watch Astra Taylor’s documentary  on Z. or, if you can find it, Z.’s Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, which is très fantastique.       

  10. Michael Martin

      So, when I mourn my (m)other’s death it is artifice?

  11. Christopher Higgs

      Hey, Stephen.

      Because I roll with Deleuze, I tend to believe the most fruitful task of the critical/creative reader is to describe work rather than interpret it.  In other words, “Meaning” just isn’t interesting or important to me, when it comes to art.  So what an author intends or doesn’t intend is beside the point.  In terms of politics,  there’s a beautiful passage in a song by the great Ani Difranco where she says, “Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.”  I feel like that applies or resonates somehow. 

  12. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      I agree with this, mostly. Love Dog’s quote seems to imply we only emote in the presence of others. Would argue that sincerity exists, but only when we are by ourselves, not being watched, punching our couch and crying because it’s so fucking hot out.

  13. Anonymous

      I follow this discussion. Yet using the phrase “part of myself” / “parts of me” “part of her” “the parts of him that” even in private thoughts, has always bothered me. Don’t know why.  

  14. Anonymous

       Cool. Isn’t poetry supposed to be about communing with yourself? So isn’t sincerity technically something all good poetry is concerned with?

  15. Anonymous

        Cool. Isn’t poetry supposed to be about communing with yourself? So
      isn’t sincerity technically something all good poetry is concerned with?

  16. Christopher Higgs

       Hello, Jose.

      (i) you write, “It seems that in the logic of this argument…”  Consider the possibility that the “argument” is purposefully illogical.  That was my intention.  No, it wasn’t.  Well, yes it was.  No, just kidding. 

      (ii) you write, “if there is no “you” or “I” then you cannot perceive that I have broken your nose” Consider the possibility that the concept of “you” and “I” can remain legible while simultaneously existing as misnomers.  I recommend Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto.”  Pay special attention to the part where she discusses the three constitutive boundary breakdowns that make the cyborg possible.

      (iii)  you write, “This is bullshit and I mean that sincerely.”  Ouch!  I’m sure you didn’t intend to hurt my feelings.

  17. Christopher Higgs

      Well, one answer would be the one proposed by Paul de Man, which is that death is “a displaced name for a linguistic predicament.”  Another answer would be to say, everything is artifice, there’s nothing wrong or bad with artifice.  Another answer would be, the attempt to mourn a mother’s death is impossible, even if we try and try:


  18. Anonymous

      Derrida would think so too, namely if mourning, in its truest sense, means to imperatively yet impossibly re-present that which conditions the singularity of the Other, right? That’s just a start. 

      Chris, have you ever read the “RAMS” essay in Sovereignties in Question by JD? In it is one of his most gorgeous tracings of mourning, by way of the loss of his friend Gadamer and a reading of Paul Celan.

      Thank you for these fruitful links to my half-hearted but ‘sincerely’ bemused comment. 

  19. Christopher Higgs
  20. Christopher Higgs

      My pleasure, MichaeAlMartin.  And thank you for the lead on that Derrida essay, which I haven’t read, but will most certainly now seek out! 

  21. Christopher Higgs

      Ha ha!  This is great, David, especially because I just watched Star Trek: The Next Generation season 7 episode 17 (“Masks”) in which the crew comes upon an ancient library that recreates it civilization by possessing Data and acting out their sun god ritual.  There weren’t any wolves, but then last night after watching that episode I watched Steve Roggenbuck’s new video, “hashtag yolo” which ends with a wolf running:


      In other words, combining Star Trek and “hashtag yolo” will get you what you need, and answer all that needs answering.

  22. Christopher Higgs

       Could you say more about “Intention of “honesty” is a separate issue from intention of purpose.”?

  23. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      I think technically that’s true, but falling back on Higgs’s definition of Self as provided underneath Love Dog’s quote (a definition I agree with [everything is massive complicated shit/we are all massive complicated shit]), the concept of communing with Self feels almost like a cop out, because there is so much Self available that at least some of it always is going to complement whatever it is you write.

      One night I sat a bar next to a publisher. The publisher was drunk and scum, imo. He asked me who to write for like I was his fucking student. I told him myself, of course, and he repeated “For yourself” as if he hadn’t heard my answer. Then he threw me a hypothetical:

      Would you rather write a novel that makes you cry at your keyboard as you are writing it (his saccharine example, not mine) that is not financially successful


      Would you rather write something trite that makes you a million dollars
      I thought about it and told him I’d write something trite that makes me a million dollars, and then use the million dollars to produce any writing or art I wanted. He got upset, told me something about
      integrity, told me publishers wouldn’t respect me if I took this path,
      all while wearing a gold watch. I asked him if I write for myself, who
      cares? He left at some point and didn’t pay for his tab.

      The story feels relevant, because I don’t doubt that the publisher
      believes with strong conviction that he writes to commune with himself
      the same way I write to commune with myself. It’s just that the
      publisher’s Self is more vapid and needing of approval of publishers
      he’s never met, and my Self is more concerned with having the
      resources available to do what I want with the least amount of stress

      Performing any gerund with or for the self is trying to wrap a net
      around a dust cloud, it is finely ground and nebulous and humongous,
      so I think quite possibly our writing is only serving the purpose of
      one part of Self, and not all of Self, so maybe what good poetry
      should be more concerned with is what part of Self it is trying to

      Apologies if format makes it tough to read, responding from email.

  24. jose Alvarado

      Your reticence to have your intention pinned down only foregrounds your intention. An effect which does not depend on the purposefulness (or not) of its illogic-ism, but rather clearly and easily reveals itself in your evasiveness.

      I cant respond directly to the Haraway as I do not have it before me, but I will say that “you” and “I” are legible precisely because they are functional constituents, as real as an other “illusion” and as “illusionary” as any other real. No one has ever said anything from anything other than an “I” position. Not even the Dalai Lama. The transgression of “I” happens only and ever through “I”.

      If your feelings are hurt its only because you feel the sincerity of the statement, and even if they’re not, you know it to be real.  

  25. Christopher Higgs
  26. jose a.

      I would say one of the failures of cybernetics in Bateson’s time was the lack of appreciation for somatic unity and it’s relationship to consciousness. something that is being adressed today. Also, I dont know if I’m confusing divergent systems with convergent systems as much as I am insisting on their valued coexistance.

      Still, I would never insist on “intention” or “sincerity” as dominant critical perspectives, I just find the reputed “death of the subject” so fabulously overblown. 

  27. Anonymous

       Hey, your story is funny but, somehow I feel this conversation suddenly eludes me. Perhaps I am a dust cloud. 

      This part was also funny “because there is so much Self available that at least some of it always is going to complement whatever it is you write.”

      I thought of sincere Styrofoam packing kernels

      I think whatever I said was coming from the opposite idea, contrary to an excess of self that original or authentic language is rare / what poets attune to

  28. postitbreakup

      so…. against New Sincerity?

  29. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      Maybe it has to do with me being a fiction writer, too? And probably that was a precautionary note I should have made before diving into a response. Not to mention I sort of rephrased your question to be about writing for self rather than communing with self. But I can see where you are coming from the contrary. The idea of whittling language down into only true honest language. I’m thinking maybe your idea was coming with a focus on the writing, while mine was focused on the writer? I need to stop drinking so much.

      It’s also been a new way of thinking about Self recently, for me, because for a while I was satisfied with saying “I write for myself” without providing a definition for “myself”, and then when I sat down to try and provide a sound defintion for what “myself” is I couldn’t.

  30. deadgod

      The Celan poem Grosse, gluehende Woelbung (‘Great, glowing vault’) ends:

      rennt er nicht an?

      Die Welt ist fort, ich muss dich tragen.

      does he not charge?

      The world has left, I must carry you.’

      (er, ‘he’, is ‘a ram’, on whose forehead ‘I brand this image’ of that ‘great, glowing vault’ of a ‘swarm of black stars’.)

      Derrida understands:

      In [Husserl’s phenomenological] absolute solitude of the pure ego, when the world has retreated, when “Die Welt ist fort,” the alter ego that is constituted in the ego is no longer accessible in an orginary and purely phenomenological intuition.  […]  The alter ego is constituted only by analogy, by appresentation, indirectly inside of me, who then carries it there where there is no longer a transcendent world.  I must then carry it, carry you, there where the world gives way:  that is my responsibility.  But I can no longer carry the other or you, if to carry means to include in oneself, in the intuition of one’s own egological consciousness.  It’s a question of carrying without appropriating to oneself.  To carry now [means] to carry oneself or bear oneself toward [se porter vers] the infinite inappropriability of the other, toward the encounter with its absolute transcendence in the very inside of me , that is to say, in me outside of me.  And I only am, I can only be, I must only be starting from this strange, dislocated bearing of the infinitely other in me.  I must carry the other, and carry you, the other must carry me […], even there where the world is no longer between us or beneath our feet, no longer ensuring mediation or reinforcing a foundation for us.  I am alone with the other, alone to him and for him, only for you, that is, yours:  without world.  I am left with the immediacy of the abyss that engages me on behalf of the other wherever the “I must” — “I must carry you” — forever prevails over the “I am”[.  …]  I must keep myself in your reach, but I must also be your grasp.  Always singular and irreplaceable, these laws or injunctions remain untranslatable from one to the other, from some to others, from one language to another, but that makes them no less universal.   I must translate, transfer, transport […] the untranslatable in another turn even where, translated, it remains untranslatable.

      [bold emph mine]

      I think Derrida says, or would say into becoming, both the impossibly other and the other’s – “your” – intrication in oneself as a condition for the possibility of a therefore-impossible-but-happening ‘self’.

      That’s fine; paradox and irrationality are useful weapons with which to disclose the evasively pressing, pressingly evasive ‘real’.

      I think, though, that for Celan, in contradiction to Derrida (and to Chris’s ludic gloss in the blogicle), it’s world – say – which is the smuggled condition for the possibility of alterity (or Chris’s “becoming”)–behind which no geocentricity can wheel the sun below its horizon.

  31. deadgod

      You could’ve asked – Wraptor-style – whom the jerk publishes “for”.

      One feeling to feel from Tupitsyn is that the “for” might be a false intentionality, a false dilemma. 

      One is always performing because the other is always there, others are always co-constitutive of – equiprimordial with – one’s selves.

      It’s not a matter of ‘performers’ and ‘audiences’ – though that might be a useful jargon – , but rather, of every thing being a peformance blending and contrasting with and everywise co-constituting every other performance.

      παντα ρει, ‘process without content or substance or stuff’ — that kind of antimetaphysics.

      Sure, one writes in communion with oneself… and, as Forster says, for a few friends whose opinion one respects, and for posterity, and for love (and hate) of yet-unknown readers…

      …you write for a lot of people irreducible to each other, no?

  32. Anonymous

      That wolf running sequence is fantastic!! There is also a lightning bug wildlife attack. A sick fuck eats the moon! Jesus! I think Steve calls Zizuzik a commie bitch in this but I’m not sure.

  33. J Lorene Sun

      As a writer interested in Buddhism, for for me, intention still matters. It’s right there in the 4th noble truth, the 8th fold path, step 2 which I’m trying to incorporate in my life and writing which, for me, is all wrapped up under this idea of sincerity. It’s hard for me to take a writer’s work seriously when their bad intentions are in someway revealed. It’s not something I can ignore. Notice how I’m stating this as “my view” and not making declarative statements to shut down other view points. 

  34. Christopher Higgs

      Yeah, “the death of the subject” is not meant to take center stage here; instead, “a revaluation of the subject” is more precise.  Rather than “I” and “you” as unity, the proposition being made is that “I” and “you” are junctions of various planes, various articulations, various lines of flight, various intensities.  “I” am a site.  “You” are a site.  These sites manifest zones.  These zones create permeable boundaries (not rigid borders), and through repetition they establish consistency to the point of legibility; the error comes when that legibility is mistaken for unity.  As a site, I am many, and so are you.  To distinguish our “intention of sincerity” from our “intention of insincerity” is akin to — using Frank Tas, the Raptor’s beautiful metaphor from below — “trying to wrap a net around a dust cloud.”  Despite our seemingly singular bodies, we are packs of wolves.  We are swarms of bees.  We are thick clouds of dust.  Our center is a non-center, yadda yadda yadda, Derrida “Structure, Sign, Play,” yadda yadda yadda, and so on.

  35. mimi

      gee, i always thought it was ‘woot’

  36. deadgod

      I think intentionality is simply mistakenly imposed on “sincerity”.

      “Sincerity” isn’t an intuition of ‘intention’ at root, nor, necessarily, a fallacy.

      When “sincerity” matters, the point of the projection is that it issues – that one feels it of the other.  –a sense which is continually confirmed or corrected (or some mixture) more or less reasonably as evidence flows — ‘reason’ itself flowing and ebbing and otherwise saturating/desiccating, too.

      It’s not that one is right or wrong about the other’s intentions, but rather, that the other is there, with its will-structure projecting (however opaquely and mutably).

      Sometimes a sense of that will happens to one, and that happening is “meaning” – heliocentrist or not!

      A punch in the face, the purchase of a car, a wedding oath — a commitment… of what? pure datum?  I don’t think that’s what becoming-other-for-another entails.

      To me, the commitment of a poet hardly matters:  I’m not buying a car separate from the purchase — the feelings and thoughts elicited, catalyzed, given by the poem are the transaction.

      Dickinson doesn’t really react to bees and guns and such? she’s just making shit up?  I care about her poems – not anyway… the caring is the ‘anyway’.

      –at least 99%.

  37. J Lorene Sun

      One non writerly exmple comes to mind: I buy a certain brand of milk because it says it’s organic and they treat their cows great. By the product alone it seems this way. But then I read a news article about how the owner of such and such dairy company gets caught saying how he doesn’t give a shit about the cows and is just making money off of the current organic craze going on right now. I stop buying that milk and switch to a different company who, as far as I can tell, have good intentions about their product. But that’s just me.

  38. J Lorene Sun

      One non writerly exmple comes to mind: I buy a certain brand of milk because it says it’s organic and they treat their cows great. By the product alone it seems this way. But then I read a news article about how the owner of such and such dairy company gets caught saying how he doesn’t give a shit about the cows and is just making money off of the current organic craze going on right now. I stop buying that milk and switch to a different company who, as far as I can tell, have good intentions about their product. But that’s just me.

  39. J Lorene Sun

      I see what you’re saying but when I look it up I get this: 

      sin·cer·i·ty freedom from deceit, hypocrisy, or duplicity; probity in intention or in communicating; earnestness.

      I’m confused :/ So it’s just the earnestness part then in this movement?

      It should be The New Earnestness movement lol that sounds terrible.

  40. J Lorene Sun

      I see what you’re saying but when I look it up I get this: 

      sin·cer·i·ty freedom from deceit, hypocrisy, or duplicity; probity in intention or in communicating; earnestness.

      I’m confused :/ So it’s just the earnestness part then in this movement?

      It should be The New Earnestness movement lol that sounds terrible.

  41. Anonymous

      Yeah I didn’t mean anything that complicated really, and generally I agree with what I think your point is here about intention of “sincerity”. For example when Steve Roggenbuck says “i watched THE NOTEBOOK/ and it made me cry/ because it was so amazing/ anywho/ i am gunna go have/ waffles for breakfast” what people are claiming is “sincere” about this is that these “facts” are “true”–the reader assumes he really did cry watching the notebook and he really did eat waffles, and thus the plainness of this delivery of these straightforward facts is “sincere”. I think your point, though, is that what is “true” doesn’t matter and isn’t the purpose of reading the poem, and conjecture about the real Steve Roggenbuck’s real life is not relevant.

      What I was saying though is that you are too broadly dismissing the concept of “intent” in art. Steve’s “intent” in writing words on a page is that they be perceived as a poem, and that kind of act/claim will accumulate all of the context associated with poems. That is a kind of intent. A lot of artists intend certain items, things they perhaps did not even make, or events which are not normally considered art (being shot in the arm) to be “purposed” into art pieces (most Conceptual art). In these cases, all the artist really has “done” is enact intent. Here, then, intent is really important.

  42. jose a.

      I understand this.

      But I understand that this type of thought is only one way of conceptualizing the phenomena of life and experience. Derrida must be understood beside Foucault. Because the “dust cloud” is being netted constantly, as the “netting” is what allows for the possibility of speech. So “truth” will not be gazed at either in the semblance of self nor in the atomization of the view.

      Experiencing the coherent self is not tantamount to believing that the sun revolves around the earth. So what I have a problem with is the lopsidedness of your rhetoric. 

  43. deadgod

      Packs hunt flocks, swarms build hives, clouds of dust scratch eyes on the way to falling into stone.  Permeability doesn’t indicate osmosis, but rather, osmosis discloses what doesn’t pass through — that is, osmosis entails rigidity.  Without rigidity, there wouldn’t be permeation, but rather, viscosity.  –and variations in viscosity disclose rigidities.  Viscosity without flow:  rhizome!  Zones withdraw from bodies which withdraw from organs which withdraw from tissues which withdraw from cells which withdraw from rhizomatic motes, each a zone of plenty, κτλ &c usw +.

  44. Christopher Higgs

      Lopsided rhetoric makes for the strongest rhetoric, especially when the determiner of the sided-ness, lop or otherwise, believes what they believe.  But if your position is that “experiencing the coherent self is not tantamount to believing that the sun revolves around the earth” I suppose we’ve hit our impasse.  Fare thee well down your path; I’m going this way down this path where the connection between geocentric thinking and coherent selves is kin and cousin.  Looks bright this way, real clear, but cloudy, real cloudy, unclear really, can’t see a thing.  Your way looks hazy, murky, but clear, real clear, real sharp.  Good luck.  Yee-haw!  

  45. Christopher Higgs

      No, not that simple.  More like….suspicious of the concept to begin with.  The material being labeled “NS” is lovely, I love much of it, but I’m uninterested in whether or not the material is sincere or insincere or ironic or whatever else.  Those aspects don’t interest me. 

  46. leapsloth14

      The number one question at public readings is what the “intent” of the author was/is? It makes me hurl. I hate the question, period. 

  47. jose a.

      Being anti-discursive and relying on “strong” rhetoric is easier than substantiating a position. But why would you do that if you were really like a cloud of dust, for which the whole world in all of its directions is a possible path?

  48. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      I was thinking that, too, Mr. God. Definitely a valid counterpoint. “Crying and punching the couch because it is so hot” is arguably no longer sincere once it’s revealed to the public, and undoubtedly the person’s thinking, on some level, while punching the couch, “This is going to be great material for my writing.”

      So that every step, alone or in public is a decision modified by exterior influence and scrutiny, and is therefore unable to ever be reduced to pure sincerity, bingo. My concern with that is if sincerity cannot ever be identified in a vacuum, does it really exist, so maune make the vacuum activities performed “In private, never shared with anyone or anything” — the unattainable, the unnameable — as a compromise, we compromise often enough as it is.

  49. Christopher Higgs

      Hello, J Lorene Sun.

      The last time I studied Buddhism was an intro college course back in 1997, so I’m woefully unprepared to respond to that aspect of your comment. 

      In terms of the “bad intentions” of writers being revealed, could you say more?  Are you referring to the connection between a writer and the world, like, finding out that V.S. Naipaul said that no woman writer could be his equal?  Or do you mean a particular work with a particular intention?

  50. Anonymous

      Sean, I would be fascinated to know, what were your intentions when you wrote this comment?

  51. deadgod

      I don’t think the New Sincerity people – whether, individually, each accepts the term about her/his poetry or that they’re in a real set – are saying that L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E people are not “earnest”, or that metafictionalists “hypocritically” don’t think there’s any value in reflexivity, or that ironists “deceitfully” don’t want to compel mixed feelings in their audiences.

      The term seems mistaken for that reason – it’s not really posed against anything which is not “sincere”.

      I think one thing they share – this said from tiny exposure – is that they want to talk directly and without protective filters about their experiences and feelings – or those of characters they make up.

      I think what they are is plainists, disambiguationists, superficialists, uncalculatedists:  ingenuositists — not the negative senses of these words:  uncomplicated in contrast to real complexity, but rather, in the sense of ‘all that’s simple and all that’s difficult is unhidden here’.

      It’s easy to look at any “sincerity” skeptically! – every mark is ‘artificial’, what’s your real agenda, and so on.

      –but I’m mostly with the ‘who cares about the poet’s real feelings?’ crowd on this thread.  You’re not being cheated out of money, or tricked into a terrible relationship, or anything like that when you get the wrong idea about a poet.

      The poet might be interesting, sure–but the poem, as you feel what you feel when you read/hear it, see its images, think about its tissues and effects, has a kind of autonomy from the poet.

      You think Steve Roggenbuck, say, wants to override that last by virtue of his extra-poem personality? or that it matters to you whether that’s what he wants or not?

  52. Anonymous

      What you’re saying [“So that every step, alone or in public is a decision modified by
      exterior influence and scrutiny”] does not negate “true sincerity.” On the contrary we probably agree that relationship to self influencing and influenced by relationship to society is what makes writing so compelling.

  53. deadgod

      I don’t think revelation or performance are contrary to “sincerity”, necessarily.

      The more pressing question for me is:  so what if the performer isn’t “sincere”?  What’s my stake – that I might lose?

      For example, one comes to the end and there’s a happy ending stapled onto a grim story–one suspects:  so that one leaves the show (whatever the medium) with a view to commercial re-engagement.  Well, that’s gross, and we blame the performer(s), but, really, it’s the work that contradicts itself, the work that cheats us.  We remember the name(s) of the performer(s), it’s personal, okay — but even so, it’s the work that we have in our hands, the work that occasions our blame.

      Even if the performer(s) really, really, meant for the story to end happily – I felt cheated.  You can convince me that the performer(s) weren’t ‘trying’ to cheat me, but the work did, damn it!  And those performer(s) – I don’t care if they have integrity!  The performance was bogus, you know?

      Whether there’s “sincerity” ever – when you’re buying a car, and so on — that’s just a different story (from a performance that is, itself, the car).

  54. Anonymous

      Maybe this entire discussion is cynical, in that
      like a soap opera
      anything that could possibly happen
      is seen as overwrought, vapid or melodramatic …
      if not for the moment-by-moment performance
      of the actress herself

      The reason I say this is, your question which is so pressing
      takes on new light when a soap opera has crappy actors
      instead of the other way around (bad writing)
      because then Everything is crappy
      not just the script

      Right now I’m reading a novel and often the writing is stale
      but I know the topic is important and meaningful
      perhaps we can’t say that about much recent work
      perhaps judging by “sincerity” is in vogue for a reason
      just thots

  55. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      I like thinking about this example. It brings in a lot of variables I wasn’t too much considering. One big question I think it begs is: How does one measure the merit of a performance as a whole? I think if the grim story that precedes the happy ending is well done enough, our brains will resolve the cognitive dissonance, find an appeal in it that they might not have been so welcome to accept if the grim story was poorly done.

      As for your stake if the performance isn’t sincere… it varies. I think that’s sort of the obvious easy response, so give me a second. It can hurt people when they think they are experiencing the same feelings the write wrote or the actor acted out. It can feel like a betrayal. So maybe the “it varies” is dependent mainly on an individual’s disposition, and their dependence on the performance as something they need in their life? I know I have difficulty going to musicals or large concerts sometimes because I know of all the polished flurry that went on behind the scenes before I see it, and being aware of that creates a disconnect between me and the performer that I don’t want to feel.

  56. J Lorene Sun
  57. A D Jameson
  58. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      It’s very cynical, but I think that’s ok. I think it’s important to question the motives of everything around you do all the time, especially as a writer/thinker/intellectual. I think it’s ok to say “Well this and this and this and this could have been better but I overall enjoyed it” often, because how often are things perfect?

      Right now I’m reading a novel and often the writing is stalebut I know the topic is important and meaningful 

      Yes to that!

  59. Anonymous

      Here’s some material not literary as example


      The video foregrounds sincerity (“Take One” it brags)

      The singer, she tears up at a certain point (around 2:33)

      But just before that her eyes were out of frame, so do you believe it?

      Could there have been an eye droplet bottle just out of sight?

      I thought this whole thing was real and moving first time I saw it

      But later had second thoughts

      Coming across as intimate and sincere … what does it take?

      Do we look for the absence of artifice? Do we even know what we’re looking for?

  60. Don

      “…there’s no way to discern what is sincere from what is ironic and what is honest from what is bullshit.” How do you function socially? You cannot tell when someone is lying to you? You cannot tell someone you love them and not know if you’re being ironic or honest or not? Or hear them say the same to you? When someone writes you a letter, you cannot discern what is sincere and what is ironic?I’m sorry you live this way.

  61. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      I believe she tears up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Take 1 is false, if the footage of her before and after the Take 1 were not contiguous, and that editors chose to splice it together so it looks like it were. I like the song though, I can turn off the video and like the song.
      I think coming off as intimate and sincere, first you actually have to be intimate. A lady in a filming studio standing of a giant uncaring camera with probably a food table somewhere doesn’t imply intimacy.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlTeCmn5paE&feature=relmfu 
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlrRmGqoMSg I think a lot of times we look for the absence of artifice and the absence of artifice is reinforced by an intimacy with the performer.

  62. J Lorene Sun
  63. Trey

      Isn’t there a difference between not being interested in something and that thing not existing?

  64. Christopher Higgs

      Don, Don, Don.  In art, in art, in art in art in art, in art in art, in art. In art.  In art.  Art.  Art.  In art.  Not life.  Not life.  Life?  No, art.  Someone lying?  In art?  How?  No, not in art.  In life?  Yes, in life lying. Yes, someone I tell I love I know it.  I just know it.  In art, art telling me it loves me?  No, not art.  I’m sorry I live this way, too. :)

  65. Christopher Higgs


  66. A D Jameson

      Thanks! I hadn’t seen that before.

      Although DJ Spooky would seem to disagree with your post’s premise…

  67. Christopher Higgs

      Yeah, that’s just a clip.  He does the whole movie.  It’s terrific!

      As to whether or not Spooky agrees or disagrees with my premise, I find it neither interesting nor important to deduce.  The experience I have with his Rebirth of the Nation is between me and the piece, not between me and him. (And then between me, the piece, and the world around us.)  If Spooky wants to email me or call me up and go, “I think that D.W. Griffith movie has problems in terms of how it treats issues of race.”  I would be like, “Yeah, I agree.” And he and I could communicate about it.  But when I encounter an artwork, I do not see that artwork as an object of communication, an intermediary between myself and the artist who created it.  I see it as an object.  I encounter it ass an object.  I describe it.  I examine it to see what it does and how it does it.  In other words, my formula does not look like this:

      Artist –> creates artwork, which speaks –> to me

      Which is what your formula seems to look like from my perspective, Adam.  Instead, my formula looks like this:

      Object speaks –> to me

      What happens on the other side of the object is uninteresting and unimportant to me.  I’m not interested in the art object as a meeting point for a communication between me and the artist.  If I want to communicate with an artist, I email them. 

      But again, I buy the idea that art objects are, in a Foucaultian way, imbricated in social, political, and economic fields.  My formula does not discount that reality.  My formula simply represents a different relationship: one that treats the object as an object, not as a message from an artist.  Objects speak for themselves.  We don’t need to interpret objects to discover “what’s behind them” or “what their creator intended.”  Let us look at art objects qua art objects.  Let us listen to the object and hear what it has to say, not what one hypothesizes an author was “trying to say.”

      Oh my god, I’ve started constructing sentences that begin with “let us” which sounds like I’m preaching.  Hear ye, hear ye!  I must shut up now.  It’s Wednesday, I gotta go to the comic book shop. :)

  68. A D Jameson

      When you say things like…

      when I encounter an artwork, I do not see that artwork as an object of communication, an intermediary between myself and the artist who created it.  I see it as an object.  I encounter it as an object.  I describe it.  I examine it to see what it does and how it does it.

      …I don’t disagree with you. Because how can I? You’re welcome to do whatever you want with artworks, at least in theory. You pay to enter a museum, and so you get to decide what to do with the experience—that’s capitalism for you. (“The customer is always right.”)

      But when you say things like this…

      When considering a work of art, there is no such thing as sincerity because sincerity implies intention and intention is irrelevant at best and soporific at worst. Every action is a performance. […] What matters is not what’s behind the event, what matters is the event. In other words, what matters is not the author’s intention behind the text, but the text itself.

      …I most strenuously disagree. And I also don’t think you really believe this. Because how could anyone? And who would want to live in a world where there’s no such thing as intention? If I forget my girlfriend’s birthday, that’s a different thing than my thinking, “Fuck her, and fuck her birthday.” And making a movie that accidentally glorifies the KKK is different from making a movie that intentionally valorizes the KKK. (If you teach a film class and show Birth of a Nation, and the students are offended, I hope you don’t say to them, “That’s just your response, and you’re free to have any response you want! Don’t worry about what Griffith is actually saying; just perform a different response!”)

      Language can be used for many things, and artists can do a lot of things. Communication is part of that; we’re using language to communicate right now.  Artists have intentions when they make artworks, and sometimes we can interpret the artworks to devise those intentions. When Rothko painted Red on Maroon, he was exploring how different colors of red and maroon paint interacted with one another. I feel very confident saying that, just as I feel confident saying that he was not trying to make an realist depiction of the Descent from the Cross.

      Any reaction to any artwork is no less right or wrong than any other reaction. If we both watch Birth of a Nation, and you like it, and I don’t, then who cares? But interpretations are different; they can be right or wrong. if you say it’s not a valorization of the Klan, then, I’m sorry, but you’re just wrong. Just like if Christian fundamentalists want to deny evolution, and claim that the earth is 6000 years old…then, I’m sorry, they’re wrong, too. Reason is still good for a few things yet, and I doubt you’re earnest when you say you want to chuck it out the window. (Clearly one consequence of your argument is total relativity.)

      Of course, as noted, you don’t have to be interested in interpretations. No one has to be. The question is whether we want to live in a world without interpretation and intention and meaning. To me, that sounds like hell on earth—in fact, it sounds like the hell that neoliberal capitalism is busy delivering right this second. (Everyone can believe or do anything they want…provided they can pay for the experience. And those who can’t pay can work retail.)


  69. mimi

      i would like to see Steve rogennberk’s words letter-pressed right-justified lots of white space on beautiful paper  

      i would like to see Steve Roggebnurk’s words on the internet block-printed white bold helvetica super-imposed on a photo of naked Marie Calloway 

      i would like to hear Stvee Roggenberk’s words read aloud dead-pan by Vanessa Place wearing all black hair forward mannish footwear     

  70. Anonymous

      As far as intent goes, it’s likely that Christopher crafted a certain amount of chain-yanking in this post, that he “intended” to provoke a certain type of response from certain types of people.

      Relative to Christopher’s less-provocative thoughts on intent, it might be worth scrolling back to the Great Chicago Bookstore Kerfuffle: amid the ruckus following that post, Higgy-Baby’s windbag pops, his tone and composure change, and he ultimately spills a fair amount of ink explaining how his intent in writing the post was much different than the effect. And, crucially, that he considers that distinction important.I’ve been punched in the face by a close friend and by skinheads outside a bar. I’ve been elbowed in the jaw by a teammate in practice and by an opponent in a division game. Those blows all delivered a jolt, but none felt the same.Nothing happens in isolation.One of the commenters who took Christopher to task in the Great Chicago Bookstore Kerfuffle was Jac Jemc, Of all the thousands of books released so far this year, Christopher selected Jac’s new novel for a feature here. Was any benign fence-mending/closure-creation at play in Christopher’s reading of that book? Does that context impact the post Christopher ultimately created on the subject? Before Jac’s book as an object spoke to Christopher as a reader, she’d spoken to Christopher writer-to-writer, and before Christopher’s post as an object spoke to me as a reader, I had this backstory to consider.That backstory was not terribly important in my appreciation of Christopher’s piece on Jac’s book, but it was not completely irrelevant either.

  71. Anonymous

      As your doppelganger, I must say: you never cease to amaze. That you are given a dominant voice as a contributor here and are responsible for leading classes at a university is more amazing. 

      In this post, you confuse “intentional fallacy,” which is the idea that a critic should avoid guessing what the author intended during the creative process, with more complex notions of rhetorical “intent” generated by texts. That is, the unanimously agreed-upon idea in English Studies that a text creates its own “intent.” Whenever you write a post that discusses “experimental” literature as a category or genre–or discuss its attributes or qualities–you acknowledge “intent.”  It’s baffling that you a) can’t distinguish antiquated psychic criticism from rhetorical criticism that investigates a text’s intent, which includes things like “genre,” “form,” “message” (not to be confused with the author, per se), “audience,” etc.  and b) completely dismiss INTERPRETATION as a frivolous enterprise when the entire field of English is founded upon the interpretation of texts and you yourself interpret texts for their intent ALL THE DAMN TIME. 

  72. Mike James

      So you’re entire argument is: In Art, anything is possible.


  73. Christopher Higgs

      Dear doppelganger,

      Thanks so much for saying you find me and what I do amazing!  It’s tough, but I find a way every day.
      If only the mirror could speak.  Got catnip out front here; you got catnip out front at the doppelganger place?  You got a bicycle up there In North Carolina?  Mine got stolen back in Ohio.  Miss it, though.  Course, not much riding space where I’m at now.  Not much love for the bicycle rider where I’m at now.  They got bike riding up there in North Carolina?   
      Oh, so you know, in case you can’t read my diary (can doppelgangers read diaries? recall, Bob was reading Laura Palmer’s diary, and Bob was a doppelganger for Laura’s dad — SPOILER ALERT!) I most certainly do not interpret texts for their intent, not ANY DAMN TIME. I most certainly do not.  I do what I do.  Wait, what do I do?  I do not acknowledge intent, that’s for sure, in a post about toast or “experimental” whatchamacallit.  I talk about affect, about texts as machines.  You know what a machine is?  They got machines up there in North Carolina?  I was just now in my automobile.  That there’s a machine.  I was driving it on Monroe Avenue, and you know what?  The damnedest thing.  I was using it, without bothering to interpret what the car maker meant when he/she/they created it!  Crazy!  Cuh-ray-zee!  Loopdy woop!  I could drive the thing without understanding it.  I could drive the thing simply by engaging with the thing itself.  It was amazing!

      But, but, but, there’s a big difference between a car and a book.  First I said I was talking about art, then I started talking about machines, I must be the biggest stupidest dumb dummy ever.  I keep on confusing those things.  I just can’t distinguish between them.  Is it art or life?  Well, let’s forget it and all go eat some pie.  Shall we?

      (So glad you picked Andy Kaufman.  That’s a pleasure.)

      Now, you keep reading my posts regularly and diligently and carefully and thoroughly.  Okay?  Keep scrutinizing them for me.  A doppelganger is a special thing. 

  74. Christopher Higgs

      Who said anything about an argument?  No argument.  I agree.  Me, too.  I third that.  We fourth, fifth, sixth that.  No, no argument.  Have you seen the new Fiona Apple video?  She’s got an octopus on her head!  On her head!  I’ve been watching Vaginal Davis videos lately, he/she does a crazy thing with the voice and the cadence and there’s got to be an argument there, but I don’t think there’s an argument.  Is there an argument?  No, looks like there’s not an argument.  With me or Apple or Davis.  But maybe someone is arguing something somewhere?  I’m not sure.

  75. Anonymous

      And here I am crawling slowly out of self-abasement for the hypomanic e-mails I sent you last night.

      Keep up the awesome work, each and every Chris Higgs. Western Civilization is founded on texts of authorial incertitude, much less any known intentions thereof. 

  76. Anonymous

      “I do not acknowledge intent, that’s for sure, in a post about toast or “experimental” whatchamacallit. I talk about affect, about texts as machines.”


      You “talk about affect,” yet never acknowledge rhetorical “intent”? Saying that you read for “affect” IS acknowledging a text’s intention–through purposeful arrangement–to provide rhetorical pleasure. You CAN’T discuss “affect” without acknowledging the unique rhetorical arrangements that make such pleasure possible, and writers DO produce texts with the intent to please readers. One can easily make this claim without pretending to “know-what-the-author-was- thinking.” 

      Also, the human brain is capable of processing multiple tasks. Those of us who are honest have no problem acknowledging that it’s possible to enjoy a text viscerally–for “affect”– while interpreting its “meaning”–just like a car enthusiast is capable of driving his car to work while interpreting the role of the automobile in America’s transition from an Agrarian to an Industrial economy or whatever. The fact that people who read this site are more likely to be book enthusiasts than car enthusiasts is beside the point.

  77. Don

      Okay, so you do read intention and sincerity and honesty in life (ie. they are all possible to do in writing but only when it’s ‘personal’), but as soon as something is or becomes art, all those things are magically impossible? I don’t get it.

  78. Don

      What I like about this post and Higgs’ posts in general is that they reveal how utterly bankrupt ‘death of the author’ nonsense is. They read like satires of postmodernist English professors, but at this point I think they are sincere. School of resentment, indeed.

  79. Christopher Higgs

      Yes, art is magic.

  80. Christopher Higgs

      Nonsense is the perfect descriptor, Don. Your proposition is very perceptive: the sincerity of insincerity, or vice versa.

  81. Anonymous

      Thing is, “the death of the author” idea is misrepresented routinely by those who are really just interested in convincing themselves that it’s okay to be weird for the sake of being weird (trust us, it’s okay, but don’t pretend like it makes you special or anything). When read in its proper historical/cultural context, the death of the author idea is liberating and meant to level the playing field between writer and reader–it’s not meant as some excuse for lazy writers to turn off their brains, play stupid, and elevate “weirdness” in ways that are beyond necessary. You see a lot of this in the online and small press world–there’s a whole subset of writers who misrepresent postmodernism because, really, they have absolutely nothing to say beyond, “hey, look at me–I’m weird!” Yawn.

  82. postitbreakup

      I like thinking of a book as a communication and I really like books where I feel like I’m “hearing” the author in my head, like DFW.

      can you give an example of something that pushes you aside without communicating…?

      often feels like you, blake, & m kitchell etc would be happiest with a shuffled list of words and the closer those words get to becoming a story the more you distrust them/disparage them

  83. Christopher Higgs

      Sometimes my sloppiness comes across like a loaded brownie sundae on a hot afternoon and sometimes it comes across like a trashcan stuffed with sewage left in a cornfield somewhere in Iowa.  Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s unintentional.  Would be a fun game to play: which is which?  

      In real life, we intend things.  Maybe?  Sometimes that may be the case.  But it’s way more complicated, isn’t it?  I  mean, if you think, “Fuck her, and fuck her birthday” about your girlfriend, but don’t say those things out loud, well what’s the problem?  Wouldn’t you need to say those things out loud in order for them to pack the punch you suggest?  And then once you say them out loud, couldn’t you easily say, “Naw, baby, I didn’t mean that.  I didn’t intend to hurt your feelings.”  Who cares what you meant or what you intended?  You did the thing.  Like, if I think lustful thoughts have I committed adultery?  Or must I act on those thoughts?  And if I act on those thoughts, but my “intentions” were not to hurt my wife, well who cares what my intentions were?  I’ve done the thing.  But this is all high concept religio-philosophico mumbo jumbo.  Talk best suited for the Ethics crowd.  (What an idiot I am!  In fact, intention does matter when it comes to crime, if we consider the distinction between premeditation and an act of passion.  That’s the difference between 1st degree and manslaughter, isn’t it?  In that case intention is paramount.  O-well, I guess I’m wrong again.  Better I prove myself wrong than someone else prove it for me.)  At any rate, I’d rather just duke it out over art.  That’s much easier. (But, grumble grumble, ethics and aesthetics are inescapably linked! Grumble grumble!  Arggggggg!)  

      For sure we disagree when it comes to art, because you say interpretations “can be right or wrong” and I say yuck!  Sounds like the fundamentalist preacher waving his finger from the pulpit shouting, “This is what the word of God tells us!  This is the right way to read the scripture!  Reading the scripture that way is wrong!  This is God’s intention!  God did not intend this other thing!”  Hermeneutics, hermeneutics, religiously bound and all that — Oh, no thank you.  I have enough authority in my life, what with these traffic light cameras snapping photos of my itchy inability to pause at a yellow light.  Nope, interpretation is for the birds, you ask me.  Saying Rothko was exploring this or that with a particular painting makes that painting small.  Makes it blah, makes it boring, makes it limited and sad and puny.  Makes it manageable.  Strips the mystery.  I don’t care for stripping mystery.  Don’t care for explaining what’s behind the curtain.  You want to talk about the curtain, want to describe the curtain, what the curtain is doing, how the curtain interacts with its surroundings, how the curtain shapes space, how the curtain shapes time, I’m with you.  But if you want to talk about what the curtain means or what the curtain represents or what the intentions were of the person who put up the curtain, I’m just not interested.      

      re: teaching Birth of a Nation.  Yes, I’ve taught it, and no I did not discuss Griffith at all.  What “he’s saying” is nothing.  He’s dead.  The film speaks.  The film is what we discuss.  What does the film do?  How does the film do it?  What does the film say?  How does the film say it?  Description, not interpretation.  What’s startling is how many students cannot describe what they are experiencing, which I attribute to the fact that they’ve been poisoned by the paradigm of interpretation.   

      You know, I just realized, books never seem to come into this conversation, at least from my end.  Just all this curtain babble and religious talk.  Would be better to make a concrete book example.  Would make more sense.  But then, as these and my previous comments and posts and etc. show, I’m not too good at making sense.  I’m a mess.  And I’m using this thread to procrastinate.  Better call it a day.

  84. Christopher Higgs

       Yes, art is magic.

  85. Christopher Higgs

      Nonsense is the perfect descriptor, Don. Your proposition is very perceptive: the sincerity of insincerity, or vice versa.

  86. J Lorene Sun
  87. deadgod

      [A]rt objects are[…] imbricated in social, political, and economic fields.

      Hm.  ‘Art objects overlap things [just each other?] in the way that roof shingles do, and, the nails attaching them to their neighbors being social, political, and economic integrators, this overlapping constitutes social, political, and economic fields.’

      Maybe that is a bit “Foucaul[d]ian” !

      It does co-exist, eh, uneasily with an art object ever speaking for itself.

      a)  Every human mark is spoken through by historically determinate cultural and political-economic “field”-constitution.  The discrete and autonomous speaking-for-itself posed on this thread is irresolvably contrary to “field”.

      b)  There’s no ‘speaking’ which is by ‘itself’.  ‘Language’ is a way of thinking the thought “field” as other-constituted and -constitutive.

      Let us listen to the object and hear what it has to say[.]

      This ‘listening to’ and ‘hearing what’ are facts of already-‘understanding’.

      Playing at being against “interpretation” – well, it doesn’t even look like fun–it looks like dutiful intellectual-career management–but fun’s in the diaphragm of the laugher.

      But paying attention to an art object – even noticing it, even not as an “art” object – is already an “interpretative” extension.

  88. deadgod

      Well, ‘interest’ and ‘lack of interest’ are impositions of one’s own interest – one’s own intentional framework – on the art-object-to-be-discovered.

      –and assertions of ‘interest’ and ‘lack of interest’ – ha! not much framing that’s more “intentional” than that.

      But I think Chris’s position/s can be phrased – altered, but not changed essentially – more reasonably than perhaps he’s done… and maybe closer to something you’d recognize as something you believe.

      Intention is always there in a mark – sometimes quite reliably to be deduced from its residue, often not – .

      –but in the case of art – and not of romantic relationships nor of buying a car, where betrayal is a pull on a compelling connection between one and another – , in the case of art, the maker’s intention is often remote from and secondary to the audience’s experience.

      Griffith wants a version of history to entertain itself into consensus, however counter-empirical that version is.  The argument against Birth of a Nation as fictionalized ‘history’ is different from the argument about it as a film:  tedious pacing, mannered acting that his contemporary comedians had disdained; a subsequent history of unaccountable overrating of his contribution to – even of – montage.

      There is great propagandistic art:  Dostoevsky.

      The heavy Russian-Orthodox bias, the soul-of-Mother-Russia nativism, the arguments of characters and through action for a mystically attainable union with God…

      –any of that stop you from enjoying the novels?  (- if you find pleasure in their garish fevers…)

      Dostoevsky is definitely intending to cause some effect, and, for most readers, the stories have effect(s).  For me, the the former is ‘there’ in the books, but only remotely and secondarily effective in my, eh, understanding of how the books worked on me.

  89. J Lorene Sun

      Just a thought, our laws take intent into account when it comes to the death of an individual by another: murder, voluntary and involunarty manslaughter, etc. To apply this to art we would have to trust that the artist’s intent is honest, sincere, etc. and only question it when evidence is presented, i.e. a body shows up like the post on here by Chen on Calloway. So IF we are going to consider an artist’s intent, it would have to be in a case by case evaluation. I hope this makes some sense. Again, I’m enjoying this conversation.

  90. shaun gannon

      whip me bitch

  91. Don

      You are right that postmodernism is often misread or misused, but it opens itself up to this misuse/misreading. Even when read correctly, I am opposed to the death of the author stuff. I don’t want to be “liberated” from the hard work of understanding a thinker or writer on his own terms, and I don’t want a level playing field between writer and reader. I don’t want to read people who are on a level playing field with me. I want to read people who are on another planet. If Shakespeare or Bolaño or Dickinson or whomever were on the same playing field as us mere mortals, they wouldn’t be so worthy of reading and rereading. (But I guess the postmodernists attack the canon and deny that some writers are more brilliant than others – it’s all a “text” so we might as well read carry-out menus rather than Donne, otherwise we might have to think about meaning.)

      My approach to reading/criticism is very conservative. I agree with Strauss that great thinkers ought to be understood/read as they understood themselves, and this requires reading closely (and reading letters/memoirs/journals/etc). Reading Plato’s ‘Euthydemus’ as a “machine” or whatever might make it look weird, but it won’t help one understand it. And if you don’t want to understand what you read, then why bother writing about what you read? Why not just stick to “cool bro” or “lame bro”?

  92. Don

      Cool. Have fun in academia.

  93. Anonymous

      I like when Chrissy Higgs gets frisky.  Reminds me of the old deadgod.  The one who didn’t suck.

  94. Anonymous

      Interesting post. The “death of the author” stuff annoys me too, but it doesn’t define or represent all of postmodernism, which has roots in modernism (some would argue that the two are the same). Recent trends in academia also reveal a general weariness of the theory-laden 80s and 90s (identity politics, canon wars, etc.). Lots of scholarship on genre, form, and an emphasis on clear, jargon-free criticism. Your approach doesn’t seem “conservative” at all to me. 

  95. O

      Do people really need to be told this anymore? Thanks, Masha. We had no idea. Nothing worse than someone who is dead certain they are expressing something that has never been said before. You see, this is the problem with giving voice to every single fucking idea in your head. Some ideas aren’t worth it. Some ideas have already been thought of and thought out and thought through. This idea of Masha’s is one of them. 

  96. deadgod

      What happened to the old jereme_dean?  The gal or guy who like to play, maybe take shit seriously, maybe just fuck around, but always actually paying attention.

      This new “jereme_dean” must’ve gaffled jereme_dean’s password, cos this curdled butt-pus sounds like a hostage holding up a newspaper for the polaroid… like homework.

  97. deadgod

      I think ‘the death of the author’ is an idea whose grain is worth retrieving from its chaff.

      If it’s used simply to avoid talking about difficult writing, or, more deviously, to reduce all “text” to ‘textuality’, to a smear or blur of equally disclosive and even artful construction, then it’s – as Adam suggests of the fruitlessly self-contradicting and inartful claim of ‘Ah’m agin “meaning”!’ – emptily, inertly relativizing.  (–say, in order to advance an identity-based agenda… one that’s oddly absolutist.)

      But ‘the author’ can be understood as qualified, as constituted, by the conditions for its possibility, in the dialectical way that a person is equiprimordially connected to the historical, cultural, political-economic conditions of her or his life.  (‘Dialectical’:  the Aristotelian relationship between καθ ολου and κατ αυτον, that is (in logical terms) the ‘universal’ and the ‘particular’.)

      So it’s not that ‘the author’ is ‘dead’ – excitingly apocalyptic though that wording be – , but rather, that where there’s an author, or more accurately, where there are (say) poems, there there is historical determination, culture, political economy–as well as the historically, culturally, political-economically communicable forms and substances of poetry.

      “Donne” – that word indicates a person of 400 years vintage, it’s unreasonable to doubt.  –which ‘person’ is, for me, anyway, expert poems and sermons and such:  “texts”, with words, syntax, images, assertions of feeling and thought, rhythm, music, and so on — but also a world that can reliably (albeit not with epistemic certainty) be touched.

      So, rather than ‘the death altogether of the author’, a ‘life’ which, as well as a bunch of books, is a horizon or tissue between worlds.

      That’s a commitment actually shared by Strauss and Barthes, no? and by Deleuze.

  98. Anonymous

      Agree. I’ve never interpreted “the death of the author” as literal, but figurative (though Don’s weariness–and my own, to an extent–probably comes from the chaff overtaking the grain–re: your first paragraph, which seems far too common these days). 

      If, however, we understand an “author” dialectically, the idea is liberating. Earlier on this thread, I wrote that “texts create their own meaning,” but this was assuming most would understand that texts are still written by human beings.

  99. Anonymous

      Agree. I’ve never interpreted “the death of the author” as literal, but figurative (though Don’s weariness–and my own, to an extent–probably comes from the chaff overtaking the grain–re: your first paragraph, which seems far too common these days). 

      If, however, we understand an “author” dialectically, the idea is liberating. Earlier on this thread, I wrote that “texts create their own meaning,” but this was assuming most would understand that texts are still written by human beings.

  100. Anonymous

       You got some tear drops on your v-neck, deadgod.

  101. Don

      How to tell the difference between life and art (if one insists on this distinction)? Authorial intent.

  102. Don

       Not only by human beings, but often by human beings who wrote extensively (in private or sometimes in public) about the meaning and intention of their work.

      We haven’t even raised the issue of esotericism… that for a lot of writers, they could not write whatever they wanted due to political or religious pressure or persecution. In order to get what they’re saying at all, we have to read for meaning and intent (meaning and intent that are not on the surface of the text).

      Ultimately, the type of approach Higgs is taking results in a world where it’s impossible to read anything incorrectly, where there are no ‘wrong’ readings. One can read Hamlet
      as a feminist critique of Catholicism or Virginia Woolf as a precursor to artificial intelligence or whatever. You can just make it all up, and it’s impossible to say “no” because there is no right or wrong. (Partisans of this stuff usually say – “of course there are no wrong readings!”, as if this is a great achievement, rather than an expression of the total hollowness of their “education”.)

      When Higgs says – “don’t read for meaning” – what he’s really saying is – “texts do not have meaning”. It’s nihilism, the ethos of late capitalism.

  103. Anonymous

      You’re preaching to the choir. Debating the merits (or lack thereof) of postmodernism is ultimately irrelevant in a discussion about Christopher Higgs, a person who–based on his posts here–hates literature and humanity. I have no idea why he doesn’t just do something else, like sell insurance during the week and screw prostitutes on the weekend. 

  104. deadgod

      I’d go a step farther:  regardless of the cough sincerity of the claim, I don’t think Chris – or anybody – does (and therefore can) ‘not read for meaning’.  ‘To interpret’ is one of however many things that “to read” indicates — namely, that one “reading” is one already ‘coming-to-understand’.

      I think that with the ludic–perhaps frustrated (at being misunderstood?? gracious!)–‘I’m telling the truth!  I’m lying!  Nonsense is the sense!  Tee hee!’ of Chris’s performance on this blogicle/thread, there’s a re-enactment of the radical performative contradiction of “I don’t read for meaning.”.

      –and that’s fine, generically.  In the pen of Nietzsche, deliberate self-contradiction is not ‘nihilistic’.  It’s something stranger, and beautiful:  meaning disanchored, but still harboring.

      I doubt that the corpses of “late capitalism” can reasonably be strewn at the feet of prehensile paradox, though, for sure, there’s plenty of strong argument in that direction.  For me, the decay – the paralyzed self-understanding – of “late capitalism” are things genuinely else:  miscarriages hallucinated as gods.  That is ‘accumulation justified’.

      In my view, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being a Nietzschean epheba/us.  I just don’t think Chris, as a blogger, is an artistically successful one.

  105. deadgod


      If jereme_dean escapes, this bar doesn’t close.

  106. mimi
  107. 23 brief replies to Blake Butler & Elisa Gabbert & Johannes Göransson & Chris Higgs re: (dear god, what else?) the fucking New Fucking Sincerity | HTMLGIANT

      […] Chris can certainly claim that an author’s intention doesn’t matter, and that interpretation’s unimportant—but it’s hard to fully embrace the consequences of those claims. […]