The Black Room @ UC Berkeley

“…The Black Room, a new interdisciplinary working group organized by the Departments of English and African American Studies and sponsored for the [Academic Year] 2014-2015 by the Institute for International Studies,”* will be hosting its second event of the semester next Monday, October 27th, in Wheeler 300, from 6 to 8 p.m.: an open discussion of “a series of essays by William Pietz that trace the
origins of the discourse on fetishism to the West African coast in the late sixteenth century.”**
The Black Room
* via an email from organizer Nadia Ellis ** via an email from organizer Bryan Wagner

Running / Running to Hounds

by Margaret Wise Brown

An old body

Rises up in the new

And leans forward into the wind

Made by its own running

Long strong leaps

As though the fields had springs

And my body hangs from the shoulders

As the shoulders help it along

And my fists climb the air

And the lean

muscles of

an old stomach

Come in my new stomach

And my legs run

on though my

weariness

Keep running

 

…from an unpublished and undated typescript at the Westerly Public Library in Westerly, Rhode Island, via Leonard Marcus‘ biography “Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened By The Moon.

The *New* Fantastic: A [Working] Definition

[Working] Definition:

THE *NEW* FANTASTIC is (a piece of) equipment with which to read texts.

When practically applied, it takes the form of a question:

In what manner does what deviate from what normativity?

THE *NEW* FANTASTIC

is [evinced] by the way(s) in which something [deviates from] a normativity.

The original formulation of the verb evinced was the adjective measurable. This was primarily because the formal structure of The *New* Fantastic is that of a scale, an extension of the formal logic of the binary. I began thinking about The *New* Fantastic in this way after spending some time thinking about aesthetics, ethics, and hermeneutics: it was the form of the logic found in the relationships inherent in each – beautiful/ not (or less) beautiful, good/ not (or less) good, and surface/ depth -that struck me as being similar, on a very basic level, to the form of the logic of my emerging concept of The *New* Fantastic, which is itself something that is seen to exist as more or less fantastic in relation to some sort of normative foundation, that does something like slide along a scale from less fantastic to more fantastic.

Similarly, the way(s) in which came to replace the original formulation the degree to which. The above formal logics involve the suggestion of the measurability of something that is not, strictly speaking, measurable (e.g. the fantasticity of a text). The strength of this suggestion of measurability is important because it introduces the concept of a metric, which has as its smallest functioning feature the distinction-making degree. To speak of the degrees of either an essentially unmeasurable thing, or of something for which the end of said measuring is mere categorization, would not only be critically questionable, but boring as well. Therefore the noun ways (a hypernym of the “methods, styles, or manners of doing something”), opens up the field of possibilities in which something might be found to be fantastic.

The field of possibilities is made possible and defined up and against what I refer to as (the working term) “the normative.” This normative can be thought of as a cluster of possible baseline foundations that make up various takes on what is often called “reality:” (what is) concrete, actual, normal, real, present, now, logical, reasonable, reasonably possible, etc. It is from these that The *New* Fantastic deviates from.

What is particularly useful to this form of inquiry is the relative mobility of this normativity: as bearing a special relationship with any number of possible subjects – reader, characters, authors, the “reading public,” etc – it can be seen to change depending on its subject position. This doesn’t negate the critique of global or hegemonic modes of normative oppression or dominant logics, it simply isolates, for the sake of inquiry, the specific contexts and manifestations of normativity and its world-making effects on reading subjects and their texts.

Questions, Comments, Refutations, Formal Requests for Collaborations, Etc.: joshuaanderson@berkeley.edu