Friday, October 21, 2011

late autumn

The turn to late autumn was marked today by the return of temperatures upwards of 60 degrees. It is not that this change, marks the turn, but rather that it functions as a reminder both of the autumn or late summer that has passed (the ``long summer days``) and, as it is somewhat needless to say, of the winter days to come.

In his essay ``Autumn of the System: Poetry and Financial Capital,`` Joshua Clover uses this figurative language of the change of seasons--Braudel`s ``sign of Autumn,`` which must already be the ``onset of Winter``--to describe a challenge to narrative, the problem of time. The narrative mode that he details here, of ``Autumnal literature,`` is one that takes as its organizing trope ``the conversion of the temporal to the spatial.`` The fact of this conversion, something like the synchronization of diachronic passages, leads Clover to argue for the aptness of poetics--including as variants the non-narrative and poetry, to grapple with these situations of ``manifold absence`` (46), ``discontinuity`` (47), and ``dislocation`` (46).

Such situations refer to the gap between our experience of daily life and our material role in the economy, what Clover calls a ``phantom space`` (48) between the financial and real economy, which represents the inability to ``forward its accumulation via real expansion.`` Similar reflections seem to abound in the Zizek- and non-Zizek-inspired discourse of the end times, with its varying degrees of fantasy about life and non-life.

The feeling is, if not easy to take up, at least ubiquitous. How could it not be? Riding home on my bike tonight, it occurred to me that the unseasonableness of the weather reflected, more than anything, the ephemerality of existence, the basic fact of non-existence that is so aptly characterized by the season.

Winter becomes a trope for this state, in ways that belie this more fundamental presence of non-existence in life. In riding home, so pleasantly--one of the truly enjoyable activities that I undertake in the city--it was easy to imagine that in a month, this form of activity would no longer take place. It is not much of a revelation, and trying to recapture some of it makes it less so, but it is the case that the summer (and as the summer moves to fall) produces the sublime effect that winter is unimaginable. Not just undesirable (in fact it is quite desirable), but actually impossible to imagine that the terms of accessibility and environment are so altered (buried, to be precise) that the prior form of existence can really appear not just to be altered, but actually gone.

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