Poseur alerts are awarded for passages of prose that stand out for pretension, vanity and really bad writing designed to look like profundity.
Below are the finalists we’ve selected for the 2013 Poseur Alert Of The Year, please review them and then vote for your favorite at the bottom of the page.
1) Ian Bogost (Nov 15):
“The McRib is like Holbein’s skull: we experience it as (quasi-)foodstuff, as marketing campaign, as cult object, as Internet meme, but those experiences don’t sufficiently explain it. To understand McRib fully, we have to look at the sandwich askew. … The McRib’s stochastic return mcdonalds-mcribmakes visible the relationship between the eater and the McDonald’s menu. It produces a stain, a tear in the order of things that reveals the object-cause of desire for McDonald’s, but only briefly before it evaporates like faux-cartilage. The fragile conditions that make the McRib possible also insure that desire for McDonald’s food more generally speaking is maintained.
Desire is a delicate system. For Lacan, the lover “gives what he does not possess,” namely the objet a that incites desire rather than sustaining it. Likewise, McDonald’s sells what it does not sell: the conditions of predictability, affordability, and chemico-machinic automated cookery that make its very business viable. … Industrialism is also a kind of magic, the magic of the perfect facsimile. Eating at McDonald’s—eating anything whatsoever at McDonald’s—connects us to that magic, allows us to marinate inside it and take on its power,”
2) Richard Brody (Oct 30):
“One of the beauties of the beard is that its lushness is polysemic, lending itself to an interpretive exuberance to match its flow.
A beard is a celebration of nature that brings appearance closer to that of untamed human animals—a Rousseau-esque gesture that was crucial to the age of Aquarius, a time when long-established norms of behavior collapsed and made public life a clearer expression of formerly unspeakable private desires. By contrast, the shaven and crew-cut athlete suggests a martial fury that is joyless—a grim, self-denying efficiency that may work in war but is exactly the opposite of the essence of baseball, which, for all its competitive ardor, is playtime. (And the over-all increasing regimentation and militarization of modern life has no more powerful, intimate symbol than the fanatical prevalence of depilation).”
3) Jesse Darling (May 25):
“The animated GIF, meanwhile—whose origins go back to the antediluvian age of dial-up modems and whose natural home is the resolutely non-artistic bottom-feed of Internet image production—rudely interrupts the unbroken sheen of all the slick shit, since to GIF an image is not only to create a loop, but—in very literal terms pertaining to the effects of LZW compression—to apply a verfremdungseffekt, or distancing effect. The shiny mirror finish of HD video is dithered to dust, dots and dashes, and all the smoothing of Photoshop reduced to a crude cartography of color. The v-effekt was one of political playwright Brecht’s theatrical techniques to ensure an audience never get too comfortable: a device to make the abstract immediate and the political relatable. Here, the distancing effect allows the moving image to circulate widely on low-bandwidth connections, bringing it closer to home. To GIF is to reduce a picture to the “poor image” defended by Hito Steyerl; the conditions of its own circulation made visible. ‘The poor image is no longer about the real thing—the originary original. Instead, it is about its own real conditions of existence: about swarm circulation, digital dispersion, fractured and flexible temporalities… In short: it is about reality.’
The animated GIF is a Brechtian medium not only in the distancing effects of image compression, but also in that the repetition of a single gesture ad infinitum constitutes a sort of gestus—a symbolic moment that is amplified in context to represent a whole paradigm of existence,”
4) Dominic Pettman (Aug 9):
“The chapter which attempts to account for the time of plants – their specific hetero-temporality – brilliantly guides the reader through the various seasonal rhythms of vegetal life, which unfolds within the continuity of nourishment and the discontinuity of germination. Agro-business is figured here as the commodification of the plant’s other-directed time and radical passivity, a blithe betrayal of the headless heeding of pure potential: ‘the plant, with its non-conscious affirmation of repetition, prefigures the affirmative movement of the Nietzschean eternal return, with its acceptance of the perpetual recommencement of life,'”
5) Virginia Konchan (May 2):
“The writing of difference (post-modernity’s unthought thought), and teleological pursuits beyond a continually regressive present, is contingent upon self-possession, and resistance to the “order of the same”: essentializing, pre-packaged “norms” based on white, male, or heteronormative experience. Bearing witness to the differend reanimates the relationship between aesthetic labor and the evacuation of political praxis: the slow work of critical assessment amid streams of liquid capital and pop culture. We undergo this work conscious of the legacies of scientific rationalism and deconstructionism on our thinking and language use, poetic and discursive. While Derrida saw deconstruction as a creative act of “liberating” language from accrued connotations and an unmediated relationship between signifier and signified, post-deconstructionism (a double-negation) invites self-erasure by the affixing of “post” to all identitarian claims,”
6) Colin McGinn (Jun 12):
“What kind of hand job leaves you cleaner than before? A manicure, of course. Why does this joke work? Because of the tension between the conventional idiomatic sense of ‘hand job’ (a certain type of sex act) and its semantic or compositional meaning (in which it is synonymous with ‘job done by or to the hand’). When you think about it, virtually all jobs are ‘hand jobs’ in the second semantic sense: for all human work is manual work—not just carpentry and brick laying but also cookery and calligraphy. Indeed, without the hand human culture and human economies would not exist. So really ‘hand jobs’ are very respectable and vital to human flourishing. We are a ‘hand job’ species. (Are you now becoming desensitized to the specifically sexual meaning of ‘hand job’? Remember that heart surgeons are giving you a ‘hand job’ when they operate on you; similarly for masseurs and even tax accountants.)
I have in fact written a whole book about the hand, Prehension, in which its ubiquity is noted and celebrated.
I even have a cult centering on the hand, described in this blog. I have given a semester-long seminar discussing the hand and locutions related to it. I now tend to use ‘hand job’ in the capacious sense just outlined, sometimes with humorous intent.
Suppose now a professor P, well conversant in the above points, slyly remarks to his graduate student, who is also thus conversant: ‘I had a hand job yesterday’. The astute student, suitably linguistically primed, responds after a moment by saying: ‘Ah, you had a manicure’. Professor P replies: ‘You are clearly a clever student—I can’t trick you. That is exactly the response I was looking for!’ They then chuckle together in a self-congratulatory academic manner. Academics like riddles and word games,”
McGinn is a philosophy professor who resigned this year from the University of Miami following allegations that he sent sexually explicit emails to a female graduate student.
7) Erwin Montgomery (Feb 18):
“Less representatives of their particular American subculture than creatures of their historical moment, The Jersey Shore cast, in their unsentimental sexual pragmatism, embody the general human disposition under neoliberalism. According to David Harvey, neoliberalism ‘proposes that human well being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms.’ If human well-being includes sexual fulfillment, then sexuality is in need of deregulation, so it may become more responsive to entrepreneurial initiative. The Situation is exemplary in this respect,”
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