The Work of Spontaneity--Becky's Chapter
I think your chapter is amazing! Its ideas and connections are so well thought out, complex, and clearly expressed. I enjoyed reading it. You're helping me think through some ideas in my own work-- not only because the Gothic and ghosts make appearances in your chapter, but also because, in it, you touch on some issues I'm considering in relation to Proto-filmic Poe and Jewish emigres' 1930s film adaptations of Poe's stories. Thank you for your insights.
I think the turn to Niedecker's poem works well to conclude the chapter. What's missing for me in the final paragraph is a fuller comparison of N's and Albers' ways of, and reasons for, "lament[ing] 'today's' lack of useful objects," that links all of the issues that the chapter has so brilliantly pieced together. I also suggest adding transitions between sections in the body of the chapter to make the development of your argument on Albers' theory of modernism more explicit. Finally, I think beefing up support for your claim that Albers "was not entirely alone" in her perspective on "the connection between art and life, as well as labor, craft, and politics" would serve the chapter well. In addition to Adorno, Benjamin comes to my mind as a theorist to compare to Albers. In particular, B's expressed purpose of writing theses on art to contribute to the worker's struggle, and his argument that mass production can be used toward revolutionary ends, in the "The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility," and his ideas on having instantaneous flashes of insight (spontaneity?) while reading, and on comparing 'moderns' to "the ancients," in "The Doctrine of the Similar," seem to resonate with your claims about Albers' theory, not to mention that Benjamin is another German-Jewish exile. (Though perhaps simply because these essays are on my mind!)
Some questions on Albers' theory that occurred to me while reading your chapter and that perhaps would help you address the above:
1. Is the artist's struggle with material a kind of "negative objectification" in that, rather than do violence to the object, the artist gives (or takes?) voice/expression to (from?) the object? Perhaps say more about how Albers redefines objectification, as well as subjectification.
2. Do the terms unconscious, thought, subjectivity, subjectiveness, and individuality mean the same thing? Can you clarify how Albers redefines "thought," and why, if she's bringing the body and work into her idea of thought, does she see "convulsion" as anti-thought? Is Albers' theory anti-Freudian? (I think Benjamin has been interpreted as challenging Freudian theory.) Does Albers differ from Adorno in her refutation of a Freudian psychoanalytic paradigm? Does this relate to Albers "advocat[ing] working *with* mass production" (which, needless to say, Adorno found problematic, particularly in Benjamin's writing)? Is her comparison of the human and non-human (particularly, the machine) anti-Freudian?
3. What is the relationship between marginalization, minorities, minor art, the past, the folk, the feminine, and the response to WWI (as manifestation of the wrongs of and possible end to Western civilization)? Is Albers' theory primitivist because, in an effort to change the 'today' of the West, she equates the present of other cultures with the past (of the West), and argues the West must revive Others' pasts to create a future for the West? When Albers refers to "our way of doing things," does she collapse "Modernist" and "Western"? Is her theory implicated in a kind of cultural amnesia toward the pre-Enlightenment West?
4. Is Albers' theory anti-primitivist because she redefines assimilation?
5. On Naming: is Albers' stance toward anonymity more "conflicted" or "dialectical"? Can you say more about how advocating anonymity helps to revive the past and/or give voice to Others (in comparing Albers' theory to Niedecker's poem)?
6. Why is Albers' theory seen as conservative, exactly? Because she is against experimental art? Are conservativeness and conservationism the same?
That's all I have, for now. I hope these thoughts/questions are helpful. Feel free to email me or post any comments/questions on them. I'm sorry I didn't include page numbers in citing parts of your chapter, above. I printed out a copy with smaller font, less pages. But, if you can't tell what parts of your chapter I'm referring to in questions above, I'm happy to point to them.
Again, thank you for sharing your chapter, and well done!