Theory Literature

There still is a lively debate at the margins of literature and the commerce around it about theories of literature. Even if the best of years of theories about literature have passed, in 2024 we see several revivals of theoretical perspectives on literature. Travelling in Europe we celebrate, for example, the 100 years of Belgian and international surrealism in Brussels. The French artist and theorist André Breton was preparing in his thoughts the art and literature of surrealist inspiration. Of course, we think of Magritte as one of the eminent figures of the painted surrealism. Franz Kafka, who died relatively young in 1924, was the author in the spirit of the surrealist movement. The powerful impact of literary theory and theory of art to form communities of practice have had lasting effects, which fascinates large audiences in 2024. Exhibitions across Europe reflect the importance of these art movements to understand European culture, inspirations and aspirations.
Not least through this revival of the surrealist artists in the broadest sense we are returning to a more theory-driven view of literature a bit like 100 years ago. I find it remarkable to read in “Le Monde Livre” of 2024-4-12 the article on “Défense de la théorie” by Tiphaine Smoyault (p.8 see quote below) with a comment on the book by Florent Coste on the usefulness of a theory of literature to understand the world around us. Reworking of language is the contemporary concern of literature: pluri-linguistic experiences, re-discovering oral performances, irony in language and digging into archives are the major strands of contemporary literature. Theory of literature reflects on the past and allows to synthesize the present. For some it also enables to project into the near future of what is going to be published. In any case the theory of literature provides orientation in a huge ocean of published oeuvres. Writing or painting with ideas ahead of your time has been a painful experience for most of these artists. Some artists or authors are lucky to become famous during their lifetime, but lots have struggled for years or never learned that their contributions advanced humanity for more than a hundred years.

Beckett and philosophy

Beckett and philosophy is the title of challenging read of usually unconnected literatures. Richard Lane embarks on the challenge “theorising Beckett and Philosophy” in Part 1 of the book. This is followed by 2 other parts on “Beckett and French thought” and “Beckett and German thought”. The whole book constitutes an attempt to identify the links between seemingly unrelated work. Sometimes spurred by tiny citations, the importance of influences becomes apparent.
Beckett like Rousseau favours speech over writing. Speech giving access to nature. This, Beckett has taken from French thought traditions. Redefining philosophy after the 2nd world war links Beckett to the thoughts of Adorno and Habermas (early writings). Posing Nietzsche’s thoughts as a post-modern project of endless questioning, Beckett himself enters into a kind of Socratic dialogue with Nietzsche. Spoken words become writing, the written word resembles an unspeakable void. The borders between void and silence, between spoken and written, become blurred. The essence is the world in-between.
It appears like irony and yet it is our very existence. We probably need somebody to translate Beckett for us in order to better understand his philosophical stance. “Beckett translates Beckett” is such a book title. It invites us to study Beckett’s own efforts to translate himself, at least from one language to the other.

Ant population

Studying ant populations is a fascinating topic. Structures of these populations reveal various functions, each pursuing its own goals. Albeit the whole system is not breaking down due to well organised ways of communication. From a bird’s perspective human populations appear a bit similar to ant populations. Maybe our sets of tools we use for building accommodation for our species have an extended repertory. Our mass media might facilitate instant spreading of messages to all members of a specific community and even beyond our own hive. Watching a video of people moving around on a large square,

we are puzzled that there are almost no accidents occurring even over longer time spells. Speed adjustment is key. Respect for the other person’s trajectory is yet another precondition for the sake of the benefits for all. Even different modes of transport bicycles, scooters and the tram find their way crossing the square.
There seems to be an optimal way of adaptation to the more or less crowded place. A construction site may restrict the available space, but the crowd has little choice but to circumvent the obstacle. Climate or simple weather change necessitate adaptations. On a warm autumn day many persons decide to walk after work or school. The physiology of the population has an impact on speed patterns. Communication and meeting people is another function of the square. All these parameters are important elements of urban planning and a city’s adaptation to climate change. Cooling trees will structure meeting points and walking paths if there is too much sunshine in summer. Adaptation is easy if you start to adapt early.

Political theory 2

Chris Brown (2004, pp. 289) comments on the tension between the notions of political theory and international relations in the Handbook of political theory. Whereas the former notion has a foundation in the “cause and effect” rationale, the latter notion has predominantly developed into an approach of “Realpolitik”. Realpolitik that starts from observed facts, normative or historical approaches rather than scientific methodologies applied in “natural” sciences. The link of this approach to the theory of democracy is obvious, but it is also under a lot of discussion within the disciplines concerned.
One of the corner stones of political theory in international relations is the concept of the “balance of power”. Derived from a rational choice perspective this approach holds that states can only be controlled by other states and, taking this for granted, international relations are built on power relations. Therefore, moving away from a bi-polar balance of power to a multi-polar balance of power will entail some frictions. These frictions might be wars of independence where states attempt to relocate themselves within the new multi-polar world and space. Even “Brexit” becomes a strategic move to remain an independent power in the upcoming new multipolar world. Russia is testing this multi-polar world order right now. The big countries like Brazil, Russia, India, Nigeria and China, (which I abbreviate BRINC) have huge populations, country size and economic potential. From the Arab States certainly Saudi Arabia has the potential and is eagerly beginning to play a more important role in the world arena. Beyond capability it is a question of willingness to get involved in costly matters of world affairs.
In the 1940s, post-World War 2, the entry ticket into the Security Council of the UN required the possession of a nuclear weapon of mass destruction. As this technology and the ban of these weapons is no longer really working internationally, we shall have to rethink the requirement of an entry ticket. A radical solution would be to ban all countries who own nuclear weapons from the international assembly of the people of a peaceful world. In theory this sets an incentive to dismantle the deadly threats of nuclear weapons. As a side-effect, nuclear power plants used to enrich uranium for use in weapons would no longer be necessary as well.
Political theory allows us to rethink the bi-polar world, which is no longer bi-polar for some time now (perhaps only in the psychiatric sense of the word). The multi-polar world has to be prepared. It is a question of political design. The toughest issue is not only the design, but the implementation of the transition to distributed power systems with multiple rising and failing states or actors. It might get ugly before peace will reign.