Sunday, April 08, 2007


If you watch the Zizek clips below (or the entire movie), one thing that may strike you is his involvement with spectacles. Hitchcock and Lynch are the main figures in his cultural analysis.

I am tired of the watered-down Situationist cliché of "the spectacle" being something to avoid - the idea that being a spectator is somehow equal to being entirely passive, a consumer (though I'm not saying that that is never the case!). As Zizek proves, spectacles are on the contrary often quite intense moments of exploration of the Symbolic Order, of the stuff that creates our subjectivities.

I think the idea of the "spectacle" has proven very succesful in American poetry because it has give the prevalent aesthetics of quietude (roughly speaking, with this I also include a lot of post-language types etc) and aura of ethical correctness. Repression, monoglossia, moderation - they have never sounded as Marxist as in the anti-spectacle rhetoric.

I would rather watch Hitchcock (Thanks Dane! "Poison" is indeed the episode I've been talking about for years!) than read these ethical poems.

This reminds me of a couple of reviews of The Hounds of No. In one the reviewer admitted she felt guilty about liking the book because it was so flashy. In another, the reviewer complained that it didn't make a statement, an argument, that it was too much spectacle. But the interesting thing is that reviewers seldom actually develop analyses of arguments - thus it's not the lack of an argument, but the appearance of an argument that the book lacks. And of course this charge comes from a very limited way of reading, as Jasper Bernes showed in his insightful review of the book in Jacket Magazine.

I think this has something to do with why Plath is now considered so gauche. Despite the fact that a lot of Ariel is about spectacleness in a way Stevens never/seldom manages to be.


Blogger jpate said...

I think the fear of spectacle shows a kind of childish view of how ideology work - as Althusser pointed out, fantasy is the actual, the objective, and there's nothing behind it, nothing outside of it...the fanatasy of capitalism can only be fought with another type of fantasy...that's what Zizek seems to mean in the film when he discusses the "third pill" (in reference to the Matrix) - the actual vs. fantasy is a false choice...

11:01 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

I absolutely agree: the naive idea that we can somehow avoid fantasy, spectacle. That's what annoyed me about Revell's repeated claims for immediacy of poetry. It's as if we could somehow avoid being part of the spectacle by avoiding images etc.

12:10 PM  

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