BOSQPW.1.doc - Against Paraphrase Graham Harman's Weird...

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Against Paraphrase: Graham Harman's Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy Washington: Zero Books, 2012, 268 pp., $24.95, ISBN: 978-1-78099-252-5. In Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy , Graham Harman advances an analysis of H.P. Lovecraft's oeuvre in order to support his claim that Lovecraft is to speculative realism and object- oriented thinking as Hölderlin was for Heidegger: a literary figure whose works expose the workings (perhaps even the necessity) of a philosophical project. The central theme throughout Harman's book is the indissoluble tension between style and content. This tension illuminates the central concern for object-oriented thinking: the dual polarities in the world (between the real and the sensual), and between objects and their qualities. 1 Harman insists against assessing Lovecraft's fiction through what he calls “paraphrasing,” a term of technique whereby one attempts to literalize any artistic statement. 2 Recognizing and touching upon the history of literary criticism surrounding paraphrase as a strategy for critique, Harman advances a novel criticism against paraphrase: the problem with this form of critique is that it claims to convert the literary into “an accessible meaning without energy loss.” 3 Harman divides his book into three sections, although arguably this is a book in two parts, with the initial section bifurcated by a lengthy demonstration of Harman's novel analytical technique, ruination. Section one of the book lays out the core concerns for object-oriented thinking: that the world is a strange place that cannot be adequately expressed by linguistic propositions, neither can it be directly accessed by any other objects, nor can the untangling of these relationships between objects exhaustively describe the nature of the world. Against these attempts at erasing the gaps between what is observable and what is , Harman offers Lovecraft as the exemplar of the opposite philosophical tendency, a creator of gaps. Against the reductionist strategies of some philosophers, Harman coins the term “productionist” and assigns the term to Lovecraft's writings. 4 Whereas some may read Lovecraft's descriptive prose and lament the inability to suss out an accurate portrayal of what is presented in that moment, Harman argues that this is the key to appreciating the speculative attunement possible in Lovecraft's writings. As Heidegger claimed that Hölderlin was “the poet's poet,” whose workings exposed the being of the artform itself, so too can Lovecraft's writings reveal to the reader the un- representability of reality because reality is fundamentally too weird to be subsumed under realist representation. Thus the first description of Cthulu, “If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination
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