PRINT April 2017


Victor Burgin, Possession, 1976, duotone lithograph, 46 3/4 × 33 1/8".

1. DESPITE RUMORS OF ITS DISAPPEARANCE, the real remains with us. The labor of its production is “obstinate,” Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt argue; it persists in the overlooked furniture of our everyday lives. The real is as intractable as history, Fredric Jameson adds; neither can be transcended. If these formulations seem right, then the question of the real is not a matter of its presence but of its position—where it is located, how, by whom, and for what reasons. One way to come to terms with some criticism, art, and literature is through these framings.1

2. We say that modern critique took its bearings from Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche, but what did these thinkers have in common? Little more than a “hermeneutics of suspicion” (as Paul Ricoeur termed it), the operative assumption that the real is hidden or buried and the critic must hunt it out or dig it up.2 Of course,

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