“Exploring the Boundaries of Age Studies,” a roundtable at the MLA convention in Philadelphia in January 2017, was proposed by members of the Modern Language Association’s Age Studies Forum as a response to this year’s Conference’s Presidential Theme: “Boundary Conditions.”
At times, it seems that Old Age is something that only we post-moderns have had to think about, let alone deal with its physical and economic consequences, or the cultural polarization that renders the elderly as wise or foolish, rich or poor, healthy or sick, or athletic of bed-bound. We are attuned to the media battles that pit youth against age, but there is another, more disturbing conflict that sets elderly people off against each other. Perhaps this is seen most clearly in the role of money and medicine in the life of older people. We can chart a clear demographic shift between people who have money and access to elective health care procedures and those who do not.
Intermedialiteit is in. Ongetwijfeld is de enorme impact van de nieuwe media daar debet aan. Mediatheorie en -geschiedenis lopen aan de frontlinie van het culturele onderzoek. De literatuurwetenschap wil niet te zeer achterblijven en hijst met intermedialiteit de vlag van de vernieuwing. Helemaal onproblematisch is dat niet, want de term intermedialiteit mag dan hip zijn, het is doorgaans niet erg duidelijk welke lading zij dekt. Intermedialiteit loopt zo het gevaar het zoveelste modieuze containerbegrip te zijn dat het banier van de literatuurstudie siert om een jaar of tien vrolijk te staan wapperen totdat het weer vervangen wordt door een vaandel dat een nieuwe vernieuwing aankondigt. Wat zijn precies de problemen met intermedialiteit?
As you may have noticed, this issue of FRAME did not include the usual exposition, listing recent books connected to our theme. This was because this issue is so full of amazing articles, we had to cut a few pages! However, we did compile a lovely exposition, and it would be a shame not to share it, so here it is…
Post-Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back
Ebury Press, 2017
Welcome to the Post-Truth era—a time in which the art of the lie is shaking the very foundations of democracy and the world as we know it. The Brexit vote, Donald Trump’s victory, the rejection of climate change science, the vilification of immigrants, all have been based on the power to evoke feelings and not facts. So what does it all mean and how can we champion truth in a time of lies and “alternative facts”? In this eye-opening and timely book, Post-Truth is distinguished from a long tradition of political lies, exaggeration, and spin. What is new is not the mendacity of politicians but the public’s response to it and the ability of new technologies and social media to manipulate, polarize, and entrench opinion. Where trust has evaporated, conspiracy theories thrive, the authority of the media wilt, and emotions matter more than facts. Now, one of the UK’s most respected political journalists, Matthew d’Ancona, investigates how we got here, why quiet resignation is not an option and how we can and must fight back.
Post-Truth: Knowledge as a Power Game
Anthem Press, 2018
“Post-truth” was Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 word of the year. While the term was coined by its disparagers in the light of the Brexit and US presidential campaigns, the roots of post-truth lie deep in the history of Western social and political theory. Post-Truth reaches back to Plato, ranging across theology and philosophy, to focus on the Machiavellian tradition in classical sociology, as exemplified by Vilfredo Pareto, who offered the original modern account of post-truth in terms of the “circulation of elites.” The defining feature of “post-truth” is a strong distinction between appearance and reality which is never quite resolved and so the strongest appearance ends up passing for reality. The only question is whether more is gained by rapid changes in appearance or by stabilizing one such appearance. Post-Truth plays out what this means for both politics and science.
Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives
Columbia UP, 2017
Why are women so often considered unreliable witnesses to their own experiences? How are women discredited in legal courts and in courts of public opinion? Why is women’s testimony so often mired in controversies fueled by histories of slavery and colonialism? How do new feminist witnesses enter testimonial networks and disrupt doubt? Tainted Witness examines how gender, race, and doubt stick to women witnesses as their testimony circulates in search of an adequate witness. Judgment falls unequally upon women who bear witness, as well-known conflicts about testimonial authority in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries reveal. Women’s testimonial accounts demonstrate both the symbolic potency of women’s bodies and speech in the public sphere and the relative lack of institutional security and control to which they can lay claim. Each testimonial act follows in the wake of a long and invidious association of race and gender with lying that can be found to this day within legal courts and everyday practices of judgment, defining these locations as willfully unknowing and hostile to complex accounts of harm. Bringing together feminist, literary, and legal frameworks, Leigh Gilmore provides provocative readings of what happens when women’s testimony is discredited. She demonstrates how testimony crosses jurisdictions, publics, and the unsteady line between truth and fiction in search of justice.
Documentary Comics: Graphic Truth-Telling in a Skeptical Age
Palgrave Macmillan, 2016
Can comics be documentary, and can documentary take the form of, and thus be, comics? Examining comics as documentary, this book challenges the persistent assumption that ties documentary to recording technologies, and instead engages an understanding of the category in terms of narrative, performativity, and witnessing. Through a cluster of early twenty-first century comics, Nina Mickwitz argues that these comics share a documentary ambition to visually narrate and represent aspects and events of the real world.
The Work of Literature in an Age of Post-Truth
What is the role of literary studies in an age of Twitter threads and viral news? If the study of literature today is not just about turning to classic texts with age-old questions, neither is it a rejection of close reading or critical inquiry. Through the lived experience of a humanities professor in a rapidly changing world, this book explores how the careful study of literature and culture may be precisely what we need to navigate our dizzying epoch of post-truth politics and ecological urgency.
The Powers of the False: Reading, Writing, Thinking beyond Truth and Fiction
Northwestern UP, 2014
Can literature make it possible to represent histories that are otherwise ineffable? Making use of the Deleuzian concept of “the powers of the false,” Doro Wiese offers readings of three novels that deal with the Shoah, with colonialism, and with racialized identities. She argues that Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish, and Richard Powers’s The Time of Our Singing are novels in which a space for unvoiced, silent, or silenced difference is created. Seen through the lens of Deleuze and his collaborators’ philosophy, literature is a means for mediating knowledge and affects about historical events. Going beyond any simple dichotomy between true and untrue accounts of what “really” happened in the past, literature’s powers of the false incite readers to long for a narrative space in which p
In this article I compare two stories by Yugoslavian author Danilo Kiš, “A Tomb for Boris Davidovich” and “The Encyclopedia of the Dead,” which address the problems and possibilities of writing a truthful history. Although the stories seem to contradict each other, I will argue that in fact they do not. Instead, when read together through frameworks of historiography and cultural memory studies, these stories show how literature can reflect on the past in meaningful ways outside of the means of scholarly historical writing, and in doing so offer a better understanding of the status of fiction about true events, in a time in which this is increasingly contested.
In the West, we know the Vietnam War as a conflict where political, physical, and emotional borders frequently became blurred. This article focuses on the war’s role in literature as such a time and place of “in-betweeness” which requires a constant switching between fact and fiction to describe. It identifies two “unbelievable” narrative ele-ments in Vietnam War stories—the supernatural and the female perspective—to illustrate the prob-lem inherent in calling these narra-tives “true war stories.”
This essay pursues the idea that within our new media eco-systems fake news, trolling—and other forms of unethical pseudo-communication—are simply an updated version of the age-old idea of mythmaking. This is a phenomenon which could be better navigated if literature is regarded as a probing tool, as in the teachings of the Toronto School of Communication, instead of seeing literature simply as a subject. Fake news is a growing tree, with roots in classical mythmaking and with branches spreading across a complex inter-media scenario that affects our way of being human (or transhuman), as well as our way of inhabiting our hyperrealities.
* This essay is a revised version of a keynote talk delivered at the conference Thinking Through the Digital in Literature: Representations+Poetics+Sites+Publications, Linköping University, Sweden, 29 November–1 December, 2017, now being printed (Elena Lamberti, “Malware Digitelling: Fakenews, Or Mythmaking 2.0?”).
In this article, I investigate how the characteristics of information—speed, instantaneity, newness, impersonality—influence human perception. I contrast these characteristics with the artwork Moule by Anna Lena Grau, a work that slows down understandings and asks its audience to take their time in making sense of it. If an artwork slows down processes of meaningmaking, it allows recipients to become aware of their own semiotic activities. I argue that information is a specific form of message, that is far from objective because it does not take personal experiences and historical, cultural, and geopolitical situatedness into account. With both kinds of procedures, I will ask what is at stake and develop an alternative vision of connecting people, histories, and events that are taking place afar.
This article explores fact and fiction in digital culture by linking “complex” or “networked” narrative forms in television, Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), and other transmedia forms of storytelling—with the persistence of paranoid models of knowledge and post-critical modes of judgment. It argues that distinctions between fact and fiction are aesthetic judgments that differentiate kinds of knowledge and kinds of experience, and demonstrate the limits to contemporary articulations of critical interpretation.
This article considers drag as an artform that queers identity through its use of techniques of fictionality that explore and problematize the body as the material ground for truth claims for identity. It examines a recent controversy regarding the position of trans performers within the global media phenomenon RuPaul’s Drag Race in order to consider how the aesthetics and politics of embodied identity as a site for truth claims are productively disrupted by drag performance.
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