conducted by Kris Cohen (KC) and Christa Noel Robbins (CR)
Question 1 You said in the lead up to this interview that you’re writing a lot about form right now. What’s driving that interest in form? Why now?
I always feel stupid in front of “why now” questions, because they seem to presume a shared “now” and, you know, I don’t think we can presume that, since I think of the present as an effect of mediation, a time-genre giving form to an affective sense that gains traction through circulation. I have always written about form: the nation form, the couple form, the form of life… Think of Formica, a laminate that appears as a single hard substance so stable it can be cut to order. Continue reading
In his “Forms” entry for Marxism and Literature Raymond Williams distinguishes between two senses of form. One has to do with the identification and description of “available forms” and their attendant “rules,” the other with the “active making of forms,” a “shaping impulse” by which forms of expression, of sociality, of being in the world more generally become identifiable as forms. “Form,” Williams concludes, “thus spans a whole range from the external and superficial to the essential and determining.”
There’s a famous crack about formalism in Trotsky’s Literature and Revolution: “Having counted the adjectives, and weighed the lines, and measured the rhythms, a Formalist either stops silent with the expression of a man who does not know what to do with himself, or throws out an unexpected generalization which contains five per cent of Formalism and ninety-five per cent of the most uncritical intuition.”