Can words describe what Virginia Woolf calls “the daily drama of the body”? Can literature verbalize our interiority: physical and spiritual change, the home, the mind, and the relationships between them? In her celebrated novel Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf’s eponymous protagonist is plagued with perpetual anxiety: Clarissa Dalloway is always on the verge of sickness, waking up on a sunny morning with a feeling of “terror,” “overwhelming incapacity,” “awful fear.” Out in “society,” Clarissa feels better, but resting midday in her big and comfortable townhouse, the bed itself becomes narrower and narrower. Is it safer outside, or at home, inside one’s thoughts? ...
Dialectical thinking is sometimes unfashionable. But in a world shot through with contradiction and ambiguity—progress or disaster, equality or stratification, technology or nature, market freedom or political freedom, minority identity or class or national community—it’s also irrepressible. What comes out of thinking with and through contradiction? Can dialectics as a method furnish the tools for not only understanding the world, but also, potentially, for changing it? ...
At Antonio Gramsci’s 1928 trial, the prosecutor famously demanded, “we must stop this brain working for twenty years!” Despite being imprisoned in rather brutal conditions by Mussolini’s fascist government, this goal was not achieved. Gramsci would produce, in the notes, scraps, fragments, commentaries, and essays, that constitute his so-called prison notebooks, his most famous thinking. Although the work covers tremendous ground—from interpretations of classic political philosophy to questions of historical and economic development to cultural analysis—the central question around which Gramsci’s mind orbited in this period was: what went wrong? ...
In 1990, Mike Davis published a book about his hometown, Los Angeles—“the city that American intellectuals love to hate.” City of Quartz depicted Los Angeles as a site of never-ending social war, where each new subdivision represented a desperate, self-undermining race to claim what he called the “Southern California Dream”—a dream rooted in whiteness, exclusion, anti-urbanism, and, ultimately, subordination to business and to the prerogatives of the rich. ...
In a world that is itself sick—with the irascible demands of production that continuously propagate new forms of exploitation—and that in turn sickens its inhabitants, what kind of response is retreat? In Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain, a young scion of the bourgeoisie undergoes an unexpectedly protracted rest cure in a cloistered Swiss sanitorium, while the outside world is igniting for war. In Deborah Levy’s Hot Milk, nearly a century later, against a background of economic collapse, mass unemployment, and political upheaval, a forlornly underemployed daughter brings her inexplicably ailing mother for treatment at an isolated clinic in southern Spain. And in Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation ...
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Faculty Writing: On Authoritarianism in Bangladesh and the Political Theology of Conservatism
Writing in Jamhoor, Nafis Hasan explores the tangled historical roots of an acute, and increasingly violent, “identity crisis” in Bangladesh—between Bengali and Muslim identifications: “The identity crisis, arising from the scars of the 1947 Partition and carefully nurtured by political parties in the last five decades for political gains, has brought the specter of authoritarianism […]