“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Aesthetics of Reverse Causation

My post on this is now up at Arcade (there is somewhat of a queue there).


Nathan Gale said...

Hey Tim,

Love the post over at Arcade Fire. It reminds me a lot of what Molly Anne Rothenberg calls "Retroversive Causality" or "extimate causality" in her book _The Excessive Subject_. For Rothenberg this type of causation (or irony, in your terms) works even at the sentence level when we read something like the following:

"He caressed her skin with a knife."

What initially sounds lovely, suddenly turns violent, and we have to read the whole sentence in a new way.

Rothenberg's point is that this type of causation changes the entire playing field or environment retroactively (and both internally and externally), so that new ideas, significations, or (I would add) objects have to be taken into account. In other words, it opens up a space for us to see the excess in the everyday.

- Nate

Nathan Gale said...

Oops, I think I wrote "Arcade Fire" instead of "Arcade". If I did, then I curse pop-culture. If not, then disregard this comment.

Timothy Morton said...

Hey thanks Nate. I was meaning to get around to reading that. Apolepsis is also the way evolution works....

Nathan Gale said...

I'm thinking it might also be the way withdrawal works - as a type of uncanny return, a moment when we are confronted with the excess of an object. Any thoughts?