Teachers of literature make judgments about value. They tell their students which works are powerful, beautiful, surprising, strange, or insightful--and thus, which are more worthy of time and attention than others. Yet the field of literary studies has largely disavowed judgments of artistic value on the grounds that they are inevitably rooted in prejudice or entangled in problems of social status. For several decades now, professors have called their work value-neutral, simply a means for students to gain cultural, political, or historical knowledge. Michael W. Clune's provocative book challenges these objections to judgment and offers a positive account of literary studies as an institution of aesthetic education. It is impossible, Clune argues, to separate judgments about literary value from the practices of interpretation and analysis that constitute any viable model of literary expertise. Clune envisions a progressive politics freed from the strictures of dogmatic equality and enlivened by education in aesthetic judgment, transcending consumer culture and market preferences. Drawing on psychological and philosophical theories of knowledge and perception, Clune advocates for the cultivation of what John Keats called "negative capability," the capacity to place existing criteria in doubt and to discover new concepts and new values in artworks. Moving from theory to practice, Clune takes up works by Keats, Emily Dickinson, Gwendolyn Brooks, Samuel Beckett, and Thomas Bernhard, showing how close reading--the profession's traditional key skill--harnesses judgment to open new modes of perception.
The years after World War Two have seen a widespread fascination with the free market. In this book, Michael W. Clune considers this fascination in postwar literature. In the fictional worlds created by works ranging from Frank O'Hara's poetry to nineties gangster rap, the market is transformed, offering an alternative form of life, distinct from both the social visions of the left and the individualist ethos of the right. These ideas also provide an unsettling example of how art takes on social power by offering an escape from society. American Literature and the Free Market presents a new perspective on a number of wide ranging works for readers of American post-war literature.
You have been awakened. Floppy disk inserted, computer turned on, a whirring, and then this sentence, followed by a blinking cursor. So beginsSuspended, the first computer game to obsess seven-year-old Michael, to worm into his head and change his sense of reality. Thirty years later he will write: "Computer games have taught me the things you can't learn from people." Gamelifeis the memoir of a childhood transformed by technology. Afternoons spent gazing at pixelated maps and mazes train Michael's eyes for the uncanny side of 1980s suburban Illinois. A game about pirates yields clues to the drama of cafeteria politics and locker-room hazing. And in the year of his parents' divorce, a spaceflight simulator opens a hole in reality. In telling the story of his youth through seven computer games, Michael W. Clune captures the part of childhood we live alone.
How do you describe an addiction in which the drug of choice creates a hole in your memory, a "white out,” so that every time you use it is the first time--new, fascinating, and vivid? Michael W. Clune’s original, edgy yet literary telling of his own story takes us straight inside such an addiction--what he calls the Memory Disease. With black humor and quick, rhythmic prose, Clune’s gripping account of life inside the heroin underground reads like no other, as we enter the mind of the addict and navigate the world therein. Clune whisks us between the streets of Baltimore and the university campus, revealing his dual life while a graduate student teaching literature. We spiral downward with Clune--from nodding off in an abandoned row-house with a one-armed junkie and a murderous Jesus freak to scanning a crowded lecture hall for an enemy with a gun. After experiencing his descent into addiction, we go with him through detox, treatment, and finally into recovery as he returns to his childhood home and to the world of color. It is there that the Memory Disease and his heroin-induced white out begins to fade.
For centuries, a central goal of art has been to make us see the world with new eyes. Thinkers from Edmund Burke to Elaine Scarry have understood this effort as the attempt to create new forms. But as anyone who has ever worn out a song by repeated listening knows, artistic form is hardly immune to sensation-killing habit. Some of our most ambitious writers--Keats, Proust, Nabokov, Ashbery--have been obsessed by this problem. Attempting to create an image that never gets old, they experiment with virtual, ideal forms. Poems and novels become workshops, as fragments of the real world are scrutinized for insights and the shape of an ideal artwork is pieced together. These writers, voracious in their appetite for any knowledge that will further their goal, find help in unlikely places. The logic of totalitarian regimes, the phenomenology of music, the pathology of addiction, and global commodity exchange furnish them with tools and models for arresting neurobiological time. Reading central works of the past two centuries in light of their shared ambition, Clune produces a revisionary understanding of some of our most important literature.