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9 thoughts on “Hope everyone’s having a good one”
This was fun, and it reminds me of the difference between my daughter and partner’s response when I’d mentioned it was snowing. Our little one’s face lit up and then she gushed about snow angels and snowballs and snow people. Everyday for her is truly one full of possibilities. She lives in a magical world. And we only get the occasional glimpse.
hey john, you seem like you have a lot of things in your head, do you know any essays on defamiliarization?
I would say the pivotal text is Viktor Shklovsky’s essay “Art as Device.” Shklovsky coined the term “ostranie” (I’ve seen it translated as “enstrangement,” a neologism itself) which means “defamiliarization.”
thanks for the lead. i’ll check that out.
Just taught that essay to my Children’s Lit students this semester. Shklovsky never saw the sign until it got broke.
i was going to ask you what you meant by that last sentence, but now i’m guessing it was a pun, no? a damn good one, but i’m a little slow sometimes. and also children’s lit, that blew me away at first, but now i think i know why: the adult having to consciously return to the defamiliarized state of the child in order to be able to write something that would connect with, or even make sense to, the child mind?
shklovsky’s awesome, i’m definitely going to get a hold of that essay. i’ve only randomly come across references to defamiliarization in the past, but he digs his hand into the thoracic cavity and pulls it out still thumping, yeah? and now i see why i was drawn to the idea (from wikipedia): “The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar,’ to make forms difficult to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.”
i don’t believe in ‘the meaning of life’ (which doesn’t mean i think life is meaningless, or more accurately, worthless), but i sometimes can’t help but thinking in those terms, and when i do, i do so only in a non-teleological, non-purpose-driven, way (i feel that rather than giving life value, a purpose reduces life to the status of a tool, a means to an end). but sometimes i feel like the meaning of life could be encapsulated in something like a more refined form of defamiliarization. as opposed to a transcendentally aspirant religion, wherein earthly existence is something to be overcome, perhaps the virtue of this life lies in and of itself, but generally we are ill-equipped to recognize this fact not only due to the dullness that results from familiarization but also the preferential biases that are tangled up with our biological imperative (which yet is the basis upon which earthly existence is made possible and sustainable, i.e. self- and specie-preservation; and would require an analysis of ‘value’ from perhaps an evolutionary psychological perspective). embodiment, “an aesthetic end in itself”, full of nuances and infinite wealth only made possible by this particular state, having a body, and all that having a body entails. whenever i want to understand life when i can’t qualify it using reason, i always return to wallace steven’s ‘large red man reading’, which sums up a feeling that i can’t quite wrap my head around.
i was originally going to say, after reading the strip: that’s how i used to feel every time i did mushrooms. but then i thought not to, because i didn’t want to come across as a cynical, counter-culture, too-cool-for-school, anti-holidays psychonaut. but after reading john’s observation, it simply solidified my initial sentiment: that the ever-psychoactive tabula rasa of childhood consciousness is kin and precursor to the wonder and aura that accompanies the rimbaudian derangement of the senses. hence the inclination to conflate mysticism with childhood (or innocence). non-realist literature i think serves, in part, a similar function, that of defamiliarization. the child approaches, of course, from a stance of never having been familiarized, only after which does the residue build up and hence dulls the spectacle of the senses. but moving in the reverse direction of removing the built-up residue, however temporary, and all the more intense if suddenly, can have radical and ecstatic ramifications: the enthrall of pure possibility, pure potential, and the astonishment of the beholder when stepping barefoot into such a contrasting transformation.
therefore, snow is beautiful. and hope you are having a good one too.
Really well put, Keith. There is a sense of wonder elicited by the mystery and difficulty of non-realist literature.
yeah, exactly, the mystery. the existential mystery. the mystery of being strikes me as sacramental. i’m not sure how else to say it. in terms of non-realist lit, i was thinking of modes that are entrenched in the ordinary and yet overturn it, like magical realism, postmodern fabulism, and what i call network subrealism (netsub). each one starts and even stays within the familiar, and yet torques and twists it in different ways to suggest the illusion of familiarity. the psychological process of familiarization is an amazing thing. what fascinates me so much about netsub is the core disruption that occurs, and yet, due to the ensuing internal consistency, the phenomenon of familiarity is so quickly recovered. and as opposed to the annihilation of the ego-structure, which a derangement of the senses approaches, the ego-structure stays firmly in place, not annihilated but rather thoroughly rearranged.
i think of the ego as a rubiks cube, throughout childhood the pieces of the cube are gathered, and throughout adolescence and into adulthood they are gradually arranged into a stable configuration, so much so that we forget that there is even the possibility of other configurations, until we are confronted with a structure-challenging encounter. netsub seems to grip the rubiks cube with both hands and starts twisting and turning and makes us (or at least, me) remember and feel the rubiks cube structure of my own ego, brings me back to the awareness of my own psychological nature and how that shapes the experiences around me.
of course, the danger here, as heidegger pointed out, is that we simply become accustomed to shapeshifting, the endless transformation of information (which, it has been argued, has already happened in our culture given the rise of the information age). but personally, i’m still excited by the opportunity offered simply by the idea of netsub, by the possibilities inherent in a modality that has the capability of yielding alternate configurations, some of which might strike very peculiar chords in the vast wharehouse of our collectively accumulated knowledge, offering alternate configurations that might illuminate some hidden corners. and above and beyond that, reminds us of that sense of mystery that always surrounds us and is our original condition.