Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network
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Forms offers a powerful new answer to one of the most pressing problems facing literary, critical, and cultural studies today--how to connect form to political, social, and historical context. Caroline Levine argues that forms organize not only works of art but also political life--and our attempts to know both art and politics. Inescapable and frequently troubling, forms shape every aspect of our experience. Yet, forms don't impose their order in any simple way. Multiple shapes, patterns, and arrangements, overlapping and colliding, generate complex and unpredictable social landscapes that challenge and unsettle conventional analytic models in literary and cultural studies.
Borrowing the concept of "affordances" from design theory, this book investigates the specific ways that four major forms--wholes, rhythms, hierarchies, and networks--have structured culture, politics, and scholarly knowledge across periods, and it proposes exciting new ways of linking formalism to historicism and literature to politics. Levine rereads both formalist and antiformalist theorists, including Cleanth Brooks, Michel Foucault, Jacques Rancière, Mary Poovey, and Judith Butler, and she offers engaging accounts of a wide range of objects, from medieval convents and modern theme parks to Sophocles's Antigone and the television series The Wire.
The result is a radically new way of thinking about form for the next generation and essential reading for scholars and students across the humanities who must wrestle with the problem of form and context.
international reputation, his numerous high-profile shows, his portrayal in recognized arts publications, his place in art history classrooms, and his dedication to the exclusive activity of art-making. To hear these witnesses repeatedly invoking awards and guidelines, recognized authorities and international reputations, one might think that the goal of the radical avantgarde was to be conventional, disciplined, and orthodox. Epstein’s precedent and the court’s grasp of the art world as a
kinship line that enables that succession, how he becomes, finally, unmanned by Antigone’s defiance, and finally by his own actions, at once abrogating the norms that secure his place in kinship and in sovereignty” (6). Butler and others have taken these ironies as inspiration to pursue a deconstructive style of argument, and to show how what are asserted as foundational rules and norms, such as stable kinship norms, turn out to depend on deviations and transgressions—their “constitutive
possibility that upward mobility stories may not after all be built on the absolute necessity of betraying and sacrificing some Bertha Mason or some representative of Third World indigeneity. (239) To put this another way, both Spivak and traditional Marxism have fused together two hierarchical forms, bourgeoisie/proletariat and center/periphery, assuming that they work together in a coordinated way. Robbins urges us to separate them, and argues that something important happens at the point
(Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2002). I will return to poetic meter at the end of the chapter, but for a clear account of the temporal patterns of metrical form in general, see Derek Attridge, Poetic Rhythm: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). 14 Like Dames, Catherine Gallagher (“Formalism and Time,” Modern Language Quarterly 61 [March 2000]: 230–31) laments the fact that even narratologists and Russian formalists have favored stillness by drawing up graphs
for food. But then, inside the house there are masculine, light areas, assigned to human-centered activities such as cooking and weaving, and feminine, dark ones where animals sleep and eat. And famously, Bourdieu argues that the interior reverses the codes of the exterior: the west, for example, coded light on the outside, is coded dark within. The Logic of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 271–83. 20 See, for example, Diane Elson, “Labor Markets as