Form-fitting, brain-bending theory

FormsI’m not going to apologise for being overly excited at what I think is a highly original and unusual contribution to thinking, analysing and being political emanating from literary theory. And I’m not going to apologise for the feeling that because this contribution speaks directly to some frustrations I’ve had living in this world of research, theory and analysis, that I might be overstating its case. Towards the end of last year I read Michael Wood’s review in the London Review of Books of Caroline Levine’s Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network. Despite the review, I was intrigued (maybe ensnared) by the subject matter and set out to find the book which took quite some determination before I actually located it online and managed to buy it.

I then waited a bit once it arrived because it felt like this book was going to open up something important and I didn’t want to spoil it, or discover I’d been wrong. But I so wasn’t wrong about it. However, at the outset I need to say that Caroline Levine is a literary theorist steeped in Victorian writing (and this is the soil which provokes her thinking but doesn’t contain her range of ideas), I, on the other hand am a shameless magpie with an interest in the literary, a job in media studies and a weariness about grand theory (especially now that we’re living through another revolution and still talking the same talk of the previous ones, as though more and louder will be the trick).

So how to start? Continue reading

‘This is not an autobiography’

sketch-for-a-self-analysis“Why have I written and, above all, for whom?” asks Pierre Bourdieu in the conclusion to Sketch for a Self-Analysis, and then answers: “Perhaps to discourage biographies and biographers, while providing, as a kind of professional point of honour, the information that I would have liked to find when I tried to understand the writers or artists of the past…” (page 111).

Yes, me too Pierre, I like to know who’s talking to me from the pages of a book, where they grew up, what school they went to, what kind of family, I particularly like to know the struggles they’ve gone through to work out their ideas. Continue reading