I have a little review up at Entropy Mag, a venue I really admire. “Jae-in Doe” might as well be essay of this year as well!
Reader reception ought to be a big part of a materialist literary criticism. More specifically, we should be monitoring the ideology of literary culture, and that’s not just the ideology articulated inside literary texts, but how these literary texts get deployed by reviewers, the press, and the academy. What political lines do such deployments serve?
Nowhere does our literary culture betray itself as an organ for western capitalist imperialism better than in that bugbear “totalitarianism.” What hath Hannah Arendt wrought?! That signifier is how liberals merge two into one: they conflate Nazism and revolutionary socialism in the 20th century together. One of these delivered the world from the other. That historical reality alone ought to suggest that this conflation is an irresponsible thing to do.
And it only ever seems to demonize communism rather than fascism. (At least fascists are still pro-capitalist.) Even Arendt herself was bashed by other intellectuals for applying her concept to Israel. Nazi Germany and non-western states are the only politically correct targets.
(And now people want to merge two into one again, and subsume totalitarianism into terrorism. How will we ever keep our account of the enemy straight with all this blending?)
Anyway, I happened to have been reading a lot of Jewish mystical texts and Benjamin and phenomenology last year. It was fortuitous that LICHTER, a really enjoyable short book if that wasn’t clear in my review, was put out by NYRB Classics. I love this outfit and their cool covers, but it’s funny that their back copy for THE SEVENTH CROSS, a novel set in Nazi Germany, and deals with Nazism and only Nazism, nevertheless must use the T-word.
The story of this novel’s production, how it slipped by the censors in socialist Romania, is of course a perfect candidate for the T-word cottage industry in the literary press. And indeed after glossing other reviews in the respectable venues, I tried to offer a modest alternative take.