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By Mitchum Huehls

After critique' identifies an ontological flip in modern U.S. fiction that distinguishes our present literary second from either postmodernism and so-called post-postmodernism. This flip to ontology takes many kinds, yet quite often After Critique highlights a physique of literature-work from Colson Whitehead, Uzodinma Iweala, Karen Yamasthia, Helena Viramontes, Percival Everett, Mat Johnson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Read more...

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taking on 4 assorted political themes-human rights, the relation among private and non-private house, racial justice, and environmentalism-After Critique means that the ontological varieties emerging Read more...

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In particular, it unnecessarily seals off texts, treating them like stones thrown into a river. How, then, might an ontological approach to literature account for a text’s more literary features? Can it tell us anything about literature’s language, figures, and forms? As this is one of After Critique’s grounding questions, the ensuing chapters will introduce an array of examples that detail the ontological production of literary value. To lay some foundation for those forthcoming discussions, however, I’d like to dwell for a moment on Introduction 25 one of Harman’s more useful insights about literary ontology: “The literal and the nonliteral cannot be apportioned between separate zones of reality, but are two distinct sides of every point in the cosmos” (“Well-Wrought” 190).

We might understand this approach as a scaled-up version of what Foucault describes as “arts of existence”—practices and actions that reconfigure one’s “singular being,” not one’s thinking. It’s an approach that analyzes “not behaviors or ideas, nor societies and their ‘ideologies,’ but the problematizations through which being offers itself to be, necessarily, thought—and the practices on the basis of which these problematizations are formed” (Use 11). In other words, change requires an intervention in ontology’s conditions of possibility, its configuration and arrangement, not in its already existing features and characteristics.

As this is one of After Critique’s grounding questions, the ensuing chapters will introduce an array of examples that detail the ontological production of literary value. To lay some foundation for those forthcoming discussions, however, I’d like to dwell for a moment on Introduction 25 one of Harman’s more useful insights about literary ontology: “The literal and the nonliteral cannot be apportioned between separate zones of reality, but are two distinct sides of every point in the cosmos” (“Well-Wrought” 190).

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