Apr 9
    Modernist Aesthetics and Cultural Forms

    This wave will focus on modernism as artistic practice and cultural form.

    General Musings

    Apr 16
      Michael Taussig's "Nervous System"

    • A system, but one that is nervous. It strives toward unity, wholeness, but is always incomplete as a system, and in fact becomes more agitated the harder it pushes toward unification, toward enlightenment.
    • A modern-postmodern dialectic of sorts?
    • Affect and reason?
      Apr 19
      Alison Reed:
        Following the modernist tradition, Taussig performs his theory of intervention through style. There is no distance from which to analyze phenomena: all phenomena reside in the body. The Nervous System is the body, and it is a metaphor, and there is no longer any distinction between the two. As I suggested during seminar, I am particularly interested in his simultaneous un-/re-coupling of traditional meanings attached to language through word play. He couples words, un-does their meanings and their couplings, and then re-couples them to create new meaning. For instance, let us take the Nervous System as such, or rather "the nervousness of the Nervous System's system" (10). "Nervous" is an affected and cathected word, suggesting emotion, the senses, the "primitive," the bodily response to external stimuli (you make me nervous, you may touch me, I am undone by your nerve and the potentiality of our nerves meeting, it unnerves me). "System," on the other hand, suggests the systematic, reason, order, the absence of emotion. Paired, "Nervous System" is biological, it is life itself at work. By uncoupling the words and tracing out each one's meaning, we see the Cartesian duality of flesh/spirit, of the corporeal and the mind's attempt to rise above its body (breath of God/crumb of dust). When we re-pair them, the meaning of "nervous system" is not restored but instead constellated with new meaning. No longer a biological system or a metaphor, the Nervous System works at the interstices of this divide between body/mind, between the literal and the figurative, between affect and reason.

    • The individual and culture?
    • Image and text?

    • Here is my handout that situates Taussig in relation to the "standard modernist narrative":

      PDF handout

    Apr 19
    Alison Reed:
      A few more questions:

    • What are the ethics of doing not creating (meaning)?
    • Is effigy the ultimate postmodernist fetish?
    • What is the interaction between modernist fragments and postmodernist surfaces? Between modernist styles and postmodernist codes?
    • New ways of seeing as also new ways of touching?

    May 2
    Patrick Mooney:
      Handout from discussion this week ... sorry for the delay.


    May 28
    Alison Reed:
      My presentation handout:


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