Sunday, June 04, 2006

"Pages I'm Turning" update: The Turn of the Screw, Strange Sounds, Tavio Nyong'o


The Turn of the Screw
Ah, is the governess crazy? Is she subject to repressed sexuality leading to Freudian hysteria? Did Henry James (pictured right) really mean this as a ghost story? Watch the Freudians, and postmodernists square off against the old school lit crits. I read with intrigue and frustration this intellectual ping pong match in the Norton Edition of James' novella. Edmund Wilson (pictured left) offers a Freudian analsysis of James, Robert B. Heilman (pictured below left)rejects Wilson and his rendering of the story as a "commonplace clinical record." Shoshana Felman (sorry, no photo available) reclaims the Freudian critique and furthers it by psychoanalyzing the Freudian refusée readings. I had to stop reviewing the critiques before they marred my enjoyment of James' narrative. I'm not much for the partisan approach to criticism; there are benefits to be gained from various "formulae," but not from the wholesale shoving of a size 10 foot into a size 7 shoe. Regarding the actual novella, I was riveted and loved James' convoluted prose--the multiple clauses were an effective strategy for holding tension and accessing the ways the speed and multiplicity of thought is accelerated with the heightening of fear. I also thought is was central to the success of the story that we never be sure if she was a trustworth narrator. For that reason as well, the criticism which aims to definitively answer that question as a way to lock the novella down, is not wholly interesting and misses the point of James' exploration of insidiousness of everyday evil.

Strange Sounds: Music, Technology and Culture
Timothy D. Taylor's study of technology's impact on post-WWII music composition, consumption, and distribution with a greater emphasis on the digital age. So far informative, Taylor has a knack for relating a number of elements which are sometimes considered disparate and foregrounding their aspects of cohesion. Of particular interest is his discussion of "Technonostalgia" a predominantly white male collector trend that has spurred the creation of lists and websites devoted to lounge and space-age music from the 1950s and early 60s. Taylor argues this is a response to male anxiety over the loss of seemingly secure male roles that typified that era, in other words "the way we weren't" (or "they weren't" as the case may be). It might be obvious that the aesthetics of those 1950s/60s futurisms inspired the cover art for Taylor's book.

Tavio Nyong'o
There are a few performance studies scholars whose currently available work I'm reading. Nyong'o is in performance studies at NYU. He generously gave me a pre-publication copy of an article he wrote on composer/performer Pamela Z for the 2004 Dakar Biennale, which piqued my interest in his work. He also writes on punk music. I may write about those folks here. Haven't decided yet.

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