The Success and Failure of Fredric Jameson: Writing, the by Steven Helmling

By Steven Helmling

A severe review of the paintings of Frederic Jameson, with an emphasis on his notoriously tough writing type.

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Additional info for The Success and Failure of Fredric Jameson: Writing, the Sublime, and the Dialectic of Critique

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I want here to focus Jameson’s projection of “the sentence” as the most immediate locus of the activities of writing and reading in and for themselves, not as indices or symptoms pointing elsewhere (though they do, and for Jameson analysis must eventually encompass that “elsewhere”), but as themselves constituting, so to speak, the lived experience, the vécu, of intellectual and critical labor. As we have seen, Jameson adapts Barthes’s term, the scriptible, from the opening pages of S/Z, where it is distinguished from the lisible ; and this binary of Barthes’s is an obvious analogon of Jameson’s distinction of a “dialectical” from a “reified” or “reifying,” “thematized” or “thematizing” prose.

Jameson literalizes Barthes’s conceit to make the “writing” that the reader “produces” not merely the reading of the scriptible text but the actual writing of the reader’s own (new) text or “sentences” in response to it: “[Barthes’s] notion of the scriptible [involves] sentences whose gestus arouses the desire to emulate it, sentences that make you want to write sentences of your own” (IT1 21). The scriptible is thus an affair of transactions between texts, a kind of “intertextuality” that retains what many invocations of “intertextuality” calculatedly evade: not only, as we have seen, an insistence on something “outside the text,” but also an implication of influence (“the desire to emulate”), and a suggestion of something (extratextually) physical, some bodily “gestus,” in its workings.

The motive of escaping literariness, and the possibilities of critique as a vehicle for that ambition, are issues that will recur below; for now, recall the poststructuralist objection (for example, Derrida’s) that no writing can be “white” to begin with: Jameson elides this more disabling objection, preserving a margin of possibility for “style,” and (interestingly) a temporal one—that interval when an aesthetic innovation can have its effect, before its domestication by its own success re-”familiarizes” it.

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