Take this down!

We were prompted to have a discussion about the nature of aesthetics in literature, and in particular the subject/object relationship. More specifically, G.. – well I can’t name her, that won’t do… let’s call her X1 – specifically, X1 brought up the desire to plant aesthetic judgements in some form of objective discursive terrain. What is it about literature that we can describe independently of the reader? Form, the line, the science of the page. But more than that – more? my brain! – the question became one of whether or not the text (which we agreed (in fairness) does exist (materially) independently of the reader) can be said to have certain characteristics, the affects of which can be uncontroversially derived from some objective description of that text. Tricky stuff, we realised. Frustratingly simple, nonetheless!

X1’s project seemed to have this interesting conundrum at the heart of it; the end-goal of the wish for an objective discourse about literature was related to the affect on the reader that such an objectively existing thing could be said/predicted to have. At least that was my reading, which could be wrong because I’m mostly water. (Incidentally, am blind now too. Developed a vascular disease in my optic nerves after exposing myself to x-rays and magazines. It was just after Gerald and Barbara had that falling out at the barbecue. So sad, they were great. Well. She was great. That pig treated her like nonsense and… well if I could look him in the eye I’d tell him just what I think of him. I can’t, obviously, so he’ll live on unchecked.)

Two other things came up. Is Batman & Robin a “good” film? Evidently, it’s not…. BUT! (Pow! Blam!) BUT it’s lauded for it’s awfulness – it’s still an extremely enjoyable watch, if, perhaps, ‘ironically’. But what is ironic watching? Is this just some zone of reception that crops up when we get ‘pleasure’ from something, while deeming the form that pleasure takes to be unintended? (What if a bit of Barbara’s ice-cream falls off her cone and onto my sunburned leg? Was that ironic? If you’re reading this, Barbara, the vascular disease has done nothing to my heart but enlarge it. Literally). Jumping on from this, we thought of whether or not there is a piece of ‘art’ (culture, pop, etc.) that we could agree was straightforwardly ‘bad’. Needless to say, this was tough going – someone would mention something that we could all agree was ‘objectively’ awful, and yet there was always someone there to make an argument for enjoying it nonetheless. So it seemed (to me at least, I could very well be mangling X1’s ideas here! Where am I?) that the idea always sort of came back to an authorial/intentionality fallacy of some kind. Is the ‘pleasure’ we get from the unintentionally ‘bad’ thing substantively different from the pleasure we get from the intentionally ‘good’ thing? It seems to me there must be a dialectic at play, because we can only judge the misfire and botched execution of the bad thing by deference to the instances where intention and execution line up. It’s all so tricky!

X1 and Ru – no! that won’t do… let’s call her ‘X1’? Yes, that’ll do – X1 and X1 also mentioned a group of Medieval/Middle Age nun-types, who spent the majority of their time in a sort of solitary confinement, reading in such a way as to bring to life beside them the body of Jesus; an extremely internalised relationship with Christ with a sort of ongoing hallucinatory, sexualised aspect to it. They’d lie in bed and imagine he was next to them.



Excuse me. I have to admit I got a little confused during this part of the conversation (hunger; idiocy; I may have not been there), but my impression was that it concerned the affective properties of the texts that these women had to read (and the ways in which they read them). Analysing these original texts (and the accounts of the nun-types), are there objective schema we could build to explain what seemed to be their quite uniform effect? And what would this tell us about reading texts more generally? X1 and X1 each made a very good case for why this would be a fruitful area to look into, with X1 in particular suggesting that the subject/object/affect triangle might be especially well mapped out with recourse to Medieval devotional literature.

Thank you for listening. I’ve needs must find my dog. He’s also blind and he gets terribly agitated when we don’t spend at least an hour in a room together waiting for each other to take the lead. Peace and love.