Saturday, May 03, 2008

What I Did This Year

Below are my lists for my qualifying exam, which I take on May 13th (not a Friday, sadly). The irony of doing a independent study on the Situationist International on the 40th anniversary of the "évènements de mai" has not escaped me, of course. But I can't shut down a university all by myself, can I? There were about 50 people at the immigrant rights rally at Berkeley on Thursday, so I fear that the inspiring dockworkers strike and the marches over in S.F. on May 1st are about as good as things are going to get this month. First time as tragedy, second time as documentation. Better luck next year, I suppose. The historical fields are partly a negotiation between my own predilections and the "canon," such that it is. There are may holes. History is ugly, the present world is ugly (and the people are sad) and thus are these lists a record of violence.

I. 19th-Century American (Mitch Breitweiser)

1. Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland (1798)

2. William Cullen Bryant, “Thanatopsis” (1817)

3. Washington Irving, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon (1819)

4. James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (1826)

5. Nat Turner/Thomas Gray, The Confessions of Nat Turner (1831)

6. Ralph Waldo Emerson

a. “Nature” (1836)

b. “The American Scholar” (1837)

c. “The Snowstorm” (1841)

d. “The Divinity School Address” (1838)

e. “Self Reliance” (1841)

f. “Experience” (1844)

g. “The Poet” (1844)

7. Margaret Fuller, “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” (1845)

8. Henry David Thoreau

a. “Civil Disobedience” (1849)

b. Walden (1854)

9. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

a. “A Psalm of Life” (1838)

b. “Hiawatha” (1855)

10. John Greenleaf Whittier, “Snowbound: A Winter Idyll” (1866)

11. James Russell Lowell, “Fable for Critics” (1848)

12. Edgar Allen Poe

a. Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838)

b. “Ligeia” (1838)

c. “Fall of the House of Usher” (1839)

d. “The Tell Tale Heart” (1839)

e. “The Man of the Crowd” (1840)

f. “The Purloined Letter” (`1844)

g. “The Raven” (1845)

h. “To Helen” (1845)

i. “Sonnet: to Science (1845)

j. “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846)

k. “The Purloined Letter” (1844)

l. “Annabel Lee” (1849)

13. Nathaniel Hawthorne

a. “My Kinsman, Major Molineux” (1832)

b. “Young Goodman Brown” (1835)

c. “The Maypole of Merry Mount” (1835)

d. Wakefield” (1835)

e. Rappaccini’s Daughter (1844)

f. “The Birthmark” (1846)

g. The Scarlet Letter (1850)

10. Herman Melville

a. Hawthorne and his Mosses” (1850)

b. Moby Dick (1851)

c. Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852)

d. “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853)

e. Benito Cereno (1855)

f. Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866)

11. Frederick Douglass

a. Narrative (1845)

b. “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” (1852)

c. My Bondage, My Freedom (1855)

14. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)

15. Fanny Fern, Ruth Hall (1855)

16. Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)

17. Walt Whitman

a. 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass

b. “Song of Myself” (1855)

c. “The Sleepers” (1855)

d. “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” (1856)

e. “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” (1860)

f. “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed” (1865)

g. Drum Taps (1865)

h. “Respondez!” (1871)

18. Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems (1850-1888)

19. Mark Twain

a. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)

b. Pudd’nhead Wilson (1893)

20. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892)

21. Henry James

a. Daisy Miller (1878)

b. “The Figure in the Carpet” (1896)

c. “The Turn of the Screw” (1898)

d. “The Beast in the Jungle” (1903)

e. The Ambassadors (1903)

22. Stephen Crane

a. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893)

b. “The Open Boat” (1897)

23. Frank Norris, McTeague (1899)

24. Sarah Orne Jewett, “The Country of Pointed Firs”

25. Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)

26. Charles Chestnutt

a. The Conjure Woman and Other Conjure Tales (1899)

b. The Wife of His Youth (1899)

27. Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)

28. Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1901)

29. W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)


II. 20th Century (Charles Altieri)

Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)

W.E.B Dubois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

Edith Wharton, House of Mirth (1905)

Henry James, The Ambassadors (1909)

Gertrude Stein, Three Lives (1909)

James Weldon Johnson, Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912)

Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons (1914)

Robert Frost, North of Boston (1915)

T.S. Eliot, Prufrock (1917)

Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio (1918)

Willa Cather, My Antonia (1919)

T.S. Eliot, Poems (1920)

Ezra Pound, Personae (1912-1920), Gaudier-Brzeska (1916)

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)

T.S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1923)

W.C. Williams, Spring and All, (1923)

Wallace Stevens, Harmonium, (1923)

Mina Loy, Lunar Baedeker (1923)

Jean Toomer, Cane (1923)

John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer, (1925)

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time (1925)

Hart Crane, White Buildings (1926)

William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929)

Nella Larsen, Passing (1929)

Hart Crane, The Bridge (1930)

Poems by Laura Riding, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore, Countee Cullen. Essays by Eliot and Pound.

Gertrude Stein, Stanzas in Meditation, (1932), Lectures in America (1935)

Ezra Pound, A Draft of XXX Cantos (1933) / XXX Cantos in New Directions vol.

Charles Reznikoff, Testimony, (1934)

William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom! (1936)

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1936)

Wallace Stevens, Ideas of Order (1936), Owl’s Clover (1936)

----, The Man with the Blue Guitar, (1937)

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

Laura Riding, Collected Poems (1938)

Nathanael West, Day of the Locust, (1939)

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, (1939)

Richard Wright, Native Son (1940)

Selected poems by Oppen, Zukofsky, Reznikoff, Marianne Moore.


Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1947 /1952)

Wallace Stevens, Notes toward a Supreme Fiction (1942), The Necessary Angel (1942)

Gwendowlyn Brooks, A Street in Bronzeville. (1945)

Langston Hughes, Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951)

James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son (1955)

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955)

William Carlos Williams, Paterson (1958)

William Burroughs, Naked Lunch, (1959)

Barbara Guest, The Location of Things (1960)

Donald Allen, ed., The New American Poetry (1945-1960)

Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire (1962)

John Ashbery, Tennis Court Oath (1962)

Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems (1964), Odes (1969)

John Berryman, 77 Dream Songs (1964)

Sylvia Plath, Ariel (1965)

John Ashbery, Rivers and Mountains (1966)

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

George Oppen, Of Being Numerous (1968)

Amiri Baraka, Black Art (1969)

Philip K. Dick, Ubik (1969)

Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (1972)

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (1977)

John Ashbery, Three Poems (1977)

Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly (1977)

Lyn Hejinian, My Life (1978)

Bernadette Mayer, Midwinter Day (1978)

Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior (1979)

Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979)

William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)

Kathy Acker, Empire of the Senseless (1988)


III. Spectacle and its Interlocutors (T.J. Clark)


Agamben, Giorgio. “Marginal Notes on Commentaries on the Society of the Spectacle,” “Notes on Gesture,” Notes on Politics.” Means without Ends. Minneapolis: Minnesota UP, 2000.

Anderson, Perry. The Origins of Postmodernity. New York: Verso, 1998.

Atkins, Guy. Asger Jorn: The Crucial Years: 1954-1964. New York: Wittenborn. 1977.

---. Asger Jorn: The Final Years: 1965-1973. New York: Wittenborn, 1977.

Baudrillard, Jean. The System of Objects. New York: Verso, 1996.

---. Simulacra and Simulacrum. Cambridge: MIT, 1991.

---. The Mirror of Production. New York: Telos, 1975.

Beller, Jonathan. The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the Spectacle. Hanover, NH: UPNE, 2006.

Bernstein, Michèle. Tous les chevaux du roi. Paris: Buchet/Chastel,1960.

Berréby, Gérard. Documents relatifs a la fondation de l’I.S. Paris : Edition Allia, 1985.

---. Textes et documents situationnistes: 1957-1960. Paris: Allia, 2004.

Clark, T .J. “The Origins of the Present Crisis.” New Left Review: No. 2, March-April 2000.

Constant, The Activist Drawing. Drawing Center/MIT. Ed. Mark Wigley, 2001.

Debord, Guy, et al. Sur Le Passage De Quelques Personnes à Travers Une Assez Courte Unité De Temps : à Propos De l'Internationale Situationniste, 1957-1972. Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1989.

---.Comments on the Society of the Spectacle. New York: Verso, 1998.

---. In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni. Trans. Lucy Forsyth. London: Pelagian, 1991.

---. In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni. Paris: Gallimard, 1999

---. The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone Books, 1994.

---. With Asger Jorn. Mémoires. Paris: J.J. Pauvert aux Belles Lettres, 1993.

---. Ouevres Cinématographiques Complètes. Paris: Gallimard 1994.

---. Panegyrique: Volumes One and Two. New York: Verso, 2004.

Donné, Boris. Pour Mémoires. Paris: Allia, 2004.

Harvey, David. The Conditions of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into its Origins. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1986.

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991.

---. The Cultural Turn. New York:Verso, 1998.

Jappe, Anselm. Guy Debord. Berkeley: UC Press, 1999.

Jorn, Asger, and Guy E. Debord. Fin De Copenhague. Copenhague: Permild & Rosengreen, 1957.

Kaufmann, Vincent. Revolution in the Service of Poetry. Minneapolis: Minnesota UP, 2007.

Knabb, Knabb ed. Situationist International: An Anthology (Revised and Expanded). Oakland: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006.

Lefebvre, Henri. Critique of Everyday Life: Vol II. New York: Verso, 2002.

---Introduction to Modernity: Twelve Preludes September 1959-May 1961. New York: Verso, 1995.

---. The Production of Space. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1991.

Lotringer, Sylvere ed. Italy: Autonomia: Post-Political Politics. New York : Semiotext(e), 2007.

Lukacs, George. “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat.”History and Class Consciousness. London: Merlin Press, 1971.

Marcus, Greil. Lipstick Traces. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1989.

McDonough, Tom. "The Beautiful Language of My Century" : Reinventing the Language of Contestation in Postwar France, 1945-1968. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2007.

--- ed. Guy Debord and the Situationist International : Texts and Documents. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002.

RETORT. Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War. New York: Verso, 2006.

Sadler, Simon. The Situationist City. Cambridge: MIT, 1994.

Vaneigem, Raoul. A Cavalier History of Surrealism. San Francisco: AK Press, 1999.

---. The Revolution of Everyday Life. London: Rebel Press, 1993.

Vienet, René. Enragés and Situationist in the Occupation Movement. New York: Autonomedia/Rebel, 1992.

Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life. Cambridge, Mass: Semiotext(e), 2003.

--- “General Intellect.” Historical Materialism. Volume 15, Number 3 (September, 2007): 3-8.

---. with Michael Hardt. Radical Thought in Italy. Minneapolis: Minnesota UP, 1996.

Wigley, Mark. Constant’s New Babylon: The Hyper-Architecture of Desire. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 1998.


In Guy Debord’s film In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni, while an appropriated scene from the 1936 film The Charge of the Light Brigade runs on the screen, a voice intones the following: “Avant-gardes have only one time, and the best thing that can happen to them is, in the full sense of the term, to have had their time. After them operations commence on a vaster scene.”[1] This remark—it is one of the central points of his film—goes some way in explaining the curious status of the Situationist International today and, specifically, Debord’s theory of the spectacle—universally mentioned, familiar as any number of departmentally-approved names of French theory, but rarely engaged directly. More militant tactician than philosopher, Debord suggests that his theoretical contributions were historically delimited, meant to disappear and surreptitiously infuse the social field once they had outlived their moment: “These perspectives have today become part of some people’s way of life, and everywhere they are fought for, or against” (In girum, 159).

Debord’s remarks have proved prophetic. For instance, a recent book, Jonathan Beller’s The Cinematic Mode of Production: Attention Economy and the Society of the Spectacle heads many of its chapters with quotes from Society of the Spectacle, but does not theoretically engage with the work until its fifth chapter, and then only cursorily. With a few exceptions, this is an exemplary engagement with Debord, rather than an anomalous one. Thus, the researches I project for my third field would trace the impact that the ideas of the SI and Debord could have—and could have had—on our understanding of late capitalism, art after modernism and political organization after the failure (however this is understood) of the project of an international socialism. In many cases, this will require teasing out—in Fredric Jameson, in Jean Baudrillard, in Perry Anderson—the contours of an absence, a potential engagement that never occurs, and imagining the corrections or syntheses that might have been possible on both sides had this occurred. For the writers above, the SI is rarely ever more than a noun phrase, a fragment, a historical marker, something one supposes is too obvious to warrant any critical attention: the society of the spectacle. As Debord predicted, his work has become part of culture, as anonymous and undetermined as he himself was in the last two decades of his life.

And yet, it seems that spectacle in Debord’s very specific account remains poorly understood—either confused with the image-machinery that is its synecdoche, or given, by way of various currents in poststructuralism, a quasi-ontological, fatalistic contour that does not match with the complexion of Debord’s thought. As for the theory and practice of the SI itself, the full range of its (sometimes contradictory) pronouncements and activities still seems to me not fully digested within any of the available studies—marred on the one hand by a will-to-hagiography that is incapable of speaking clearly of shortcomings, and on the other hand, by attempts to use the earlier period of the movement, with all its cultural flowering, to authorize certain artistic developments in the 60s and 70s while, at the same time, disregarding the larger, yet nonetheless central critique of art in late capitalism that accompanied it. Furthermore, aside from its assimilation into the Italian autonomist Marxism of Paolo Virno and Toni Negri, for example, few people have explicitly engaged with its critique of revolutionary organization, of the changed nature of ideology and value production in late capitalism, let alone assimilated this to its pronouncements on art. Aside from a few people whose remarks on these subjects are rather abbreviated, where this work has been done, it has gone on under other names.

A proper study of the movement would need to do several things. The first order of business is a thorough account of the notion of the spectacle that locates its origins in the Western (or Hegelian) Marxism of Lukàcs, Benjamin, Adorno, Horkheimer and others, and sketches its coincidence with and departure from these models. Secondly, we need an immanent critique of the multi-form and complex notion of spectacle, which as I see it complicates three crucial notions in Marxist theory: 1) ideology 2) reproduction of class relations and 3) value production. It is my contention that spectacle is an account of a supplementary mechanism of value production that is not figural—as in Baudrillard—but actual. Some attempt to expand upon this aspect of spectacle is found in the Italian theory mentioned, but the connections are tenuous as they stand now and problematic in several ways. If these aspects of spectacle were clarified, however, it would become clear that spectacle is not a new name for Lukàcs’s reification but an actual dialectical shift within capitalism, one with real consequences for the left. Thirdly, we need a study that ties the various (and perhaps irreconcilable) aesthetic positions within the SI to their political and social consequences. Too often the earlier, more generous stance of the SI around the time of its founding is used to authorize art that the later SI would have anathematized. Perhaps the position of the SI in 1967 vis-à-vis art is incorrect, untenable, or overly utopian; however, only argument and not repression will establish this. My sense is that one cannot have the SI of ’62 and the SI of ‘67 unless a new theoretical framework is found. Obviously, for those who are interested in researching art and writing in the 60s and 70s, such a theoretical project is indispensable. It is also of utmost importance for those who would consider the place, or non-place, of a politicized art and writing in response to the calamities that confront the world today.

[1] Guy Debord, “In girum nocte et consumimur igni,” trans. Lucy Forsyth, No: a journal of the arts (# 6, 2007), New York: 166.


Laura Carter said...

What a good list! I just got _Revolution of Everyday Life_ from the library. Good luck on your exams!

buuck said...

nice list - but are there really only one female, and no writers-of-color or non-Euros that have anything of worth to say abt spectacle? "meet the new canon, same as..."

Jasper Bernes said...

Yes, it's not a pretty picture. There are certainly many women and non-Euroamericans who can speak to "spectacle" in the broadest sense--from, say, Franz Fanon to Rosalind Krauss. But the list is pretty much geared to Debord's and the SI's particular rendition of the concept, as well as the people who've engaged with it directly. Michele Bernstein notwithstanding, it wasn't exactly a hospitable space for feminists and women. There's a Claire Gilman essay in the October collection that's good. And, I think, Lisa Robertson's engagement with SI writings, however outside of the scope here, is excellent.

The non-European world, too, is a big absence in the SI's literature (with the exception of some stuff on Algeria, and the work of Moustapha Khayati). So the non-European world has, I'm sure, repaid the favor. It's something that needs to be addressed, I think. It's a weakness of the theory.

What am I missing? If you can think of something, let me know. It's not an exhaustive list, but trust me, if there were an explicit engagement with the SI from a woman or a non-Westerner that I knew of, it would be on the list.



buuck said...

well my query is an unfair one, for two reasons - one is that given how academia works, you're more or less forced to compartmentalize thought/praxis into discrete 'fields' which by definition leave things out. and two, one can't really be expected to do some kind of lexus/google search on "spectacle and race" or "debord and gender" and expect that to be some kind of corrective.
I think the broader terrain for exploration here would be two-fold: one, to look at how other (sub)disciplines are addressing some of the same issues through different theoretical and methodological frameworks: commodity aesthetics, frankfurt school, LatAm cultural studies, some pockets of cultural anthropology/ethnography, "third-world" feminism and marxism, border gnosis/frontera studies, world-system theory, etc etc. And then to rethink Debord,Inc from these different positionalities. The second (related) tack would be to remind ourselves that, if we agree that uneven development is a key (if not central) element of what we call 'globalization' (or whatever), then might there not also be something akin to uneven spectacle-zation (word?) or what justin paulson has termed "uneven reification" or even what Hung Tu once called "uneven development, uneven poetics"? ie a comparative approach to how processes at work in the "advanced" (sic) world described by Debord et al might be at work/play in the global south and elsewhere, to such a degree that such conditions need be theorized in a way that wouldn't necessarily be recognizable as a direct engagement with the SI & its legacies...
I know that in my (uneven) scholarly work what "we" describe as spectacle sure functions/emerges differently in JoBurg or Harare - though I can't yet say what exactly "we" should make of such 'differently's...
at least these are a few quick thoughts.
& CONGRATS on becoming ABD!

TT said...


Exciting lists. My reaction is to actually commend you for allowing the troubling aspects of SI (not an area of critical expertise or even competence for me) to be present in your arrangement -- I think an available knee-jerk impulse would be to cover one's professional behind by expanding the notion of spectacle so as to allow a more divergent demographic sampling into your list, but what such a move would accomplish, I think, would be a simple masking of the intellectually and/or historically troubling aspects of the object of study, or would be akin to *apologizing* for the limits of the SI project(s) as opposed to troubling one's own thinking with them and their conditions (since one would be placing one's self at an enlightened position of non-implication with the troubling aspects). The more generative and difficult move is the one it looks like you're taking, and which I would hope I would also be willing to attempt, to allow one's self some real vulnerability to the limits and faults of the object of study (so to work through them more ably).

There is also the generative tack that David suggests in his 2nd post (howdy David), which I find commendable, but which also presents the danger of liquidating the troubling particularities at hand within a more enlightened framework, which can both help correct the troubling particularities but also maybe delay really working deeper into them. Maybe?

Anyway, I just feel a kinship with the difficulty since I find myself most drawn critically to the Black Mountain (& its precursors) type of project and its often ridiculously exaggerated masculinities, etc, and which makes me continually grateful for the examples of people like Nathaniel Mackey, Susan Howe, Jerome Rothenberg and others that demonstrate how Black Mtn impulses can be picked up and revised into traditions and situations the original cast couldn't have anticipated, and who provide links to less American-centric projects as well.

I think your statement that we need "a study that ties the various (and perhaps irreconcilable) aesthetic positions within the SI to their political and social consequences" is spot on with my own intuitions concerning my own cast (Olson, Stein, Pound, Cesaire, etc), and I'm not sure that I have the critical faculty to study those ties if I were to regard myself as having already overcome or separated myself from them.

Anyhow, I'm psyched by the possibilities implied in the intersection of your three lists. Congrats on ABD. So I guess all the hard work is over for us, right? Right?