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October 27, 2008



Beautifully put. Thanks for this. I was thinking this morning before I read this about how our political fantasies of how the world should be share a lot in common with the fictive.

Reality indeed intrudes on the vision as the slap in the face, the truck passing, the end of the dream. It's always there, but much of the time we are able to avoid it. Then avoidance becomes impossible. Much like the current world wide economic meltdown.

Richard Prouty

Oh yes, this whole economic meltdown is a slap in the face--to me, to a lot of people, to the entire American economic system. We're not going to have the same system when this is all over with--exactly the effect of the real as changing how we look at the world.


In contrast to your definition of the real, here is one from the WSJ last week.

"...here are the words of Ronald Reagan's pollster, Richard Wirthlin, as recorded in one of the main Reagan strategy documents from 1980: "People act on the basis of their perception of reality; there is, in fact, no political reality beyond what is perceived by the voters.""

I think this is a highly cynical view of political reality. One that increases audience manipulation, and one that we are paying for dearly as this economic crisis unfolds. As you have so well pointed to here, the real slaps us in the face and points to a reality beyond our perception, humbling us with the shock. But it reminds us that reality exists beyond perception, and that we are either in a quest to find it, or it will eventually find us.

Pacze Moj

Or, instead of defining reality, we could do a Nabokov and just keep putting quotation marks around the sucker!


PS: I like the post, but haven't read the story (not in my Intro to Lit course!) and don't quite follow how that one line destroys so much...

Richard Prouty

Hi Pacze:

I added a link to the story online.

I didn't get too deeply into Lacan's concept of the real, but effectively we put quotation marks around the real most of the time--or all of the time, in the case of Nabokov. We can't function as subjects unless we do. (Remember, this definition of the real originates in psychoanalysis.)

What struck me about the Chekhov story was that it's usually classified as a realistic story, but it's all about delusions. Most of the significant action happens internally.

Richard Prouty

Hi a.m.:

I fully agree that the whole so-called Reagan Revolution is based on a cynical manipulation of reality. As individuals, we have to have our delusions to some degree, but politics is supposed to orient itself to very real conflicts and problems. What's interesting about the 2008 election is that people finally seem to be seeing through the Republicans' manipulations.

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What Is One-Way Street?

One-Way Street [Einbahnstrasse, 1928] was Walter Benjamin's first effort to break out of the narrow confines of the academy and apply the techniques of literary studies to life as it is currently lived. For Benjamin criticism encompasses the ordinary objects of life, the literary texts of the time, films in current release, and the fleeting concerns of the public sphere. Following Benjamin's lead, this blog is concerned with the political content of the aesthetic and representations of the political in the media. As Benjamin writes in One-Way Street, "He who cannot take sides should keep silent."