Fredric Jameson

Fredric Jameson is the Knut Schmidt Nielsen Professor of Comparative Literature at Duke University.

War as a Rhizome: Genre Trouble

Fredric Jameson, 4 August 2022

Our interest in historical works always seems dependent on something extra-aesthetic: on the questions posed by the history books, for example (what were Hitler or Stalin really like?); on this or that current fad (Nazi materials, of course, exert a seemingly perennial fascination); on our historicity in general as it has developed since the French Revolution, and been sated by offerings from Walter Scott to Ken Burns, Tolstoy to Margaret Mitchell, Hilary Mantel to Ben Pastor. Pastor seems to have invented a new way of combining the whole and the part in what TV producers might call the limited series. Yet it might chasten us to remember that as a result of our increased historicity today all novels are historical (when not, indeed, science-fictional): all carry with them the fatal chronological questions ‘Before what?’ and ‘After what?’ Perhaps, then, it might be preferable to shift from the horizontal to the vertical: to see what it is that Bora’s ‘history’ is made of, what it offers us. For novels are put together out of all kinds of raw material; they don’t really have the purity of the older genres.

The Fog of History: On Olga Tokarczuk

Fredric Jameson, 24 March 2022

We have been approaching the figure of Jacob in a spirit of reverence, with hushed voices, as in church, as though he had a religious task or mission. What we have failed to understand is that the Messiah is come, not to fulfil the Law but to destroy it! Not to perfect it but rather to abolish it altogether. We have been trying to imagine the wrong kind of world: this is not the utopian world of Thomas More (or even that of Moliwda); it is the world of Sabbatai Sevi’s blasphemies and orgies, his vilification and repudiation of the Talmud, his public consumption of pork, his disregard – indeed, cancellation – of the most sacred Jewish holidays, his pronunciation out loud of the sacred name of God on all occasions. This​ is the very quintessence of transgression, the promotion of a Bataille-type mysticism to the very centre of social life, the injunction to destroy order itself, absolutely.

Time and the Sea

Fredric Jameson, 16 April 2020

Recently​ a happy accident put me in possession of a rarely seen film by Andrzej Wajda, Smuga cienia, from 1976. It is an adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s short, openly autobiographical novel The Shadow-Line (1916). Wajda conceived the film as a modest docudrama based on Conrad’s last mission at sea. The British government, in the thick of the First World War, had enlisted the...

Itemised

Fredric Jameson, 8 November 2018

I will call Knausgaard’s kind of writing ‘itemisation’. We have, in postmodernity, given up on the attempt to ‘estrange’ our daily life and see it in new, poetic or nightmarish, ways; we have given up the analysis of it in terms of the commodity form, in a situation in which everything by now is a commodity; we have abandoned the quest for new languages to describe the stream of the self-same or new psychologies to diagnose its distressingly unoriginal reactions and psychic events. All that is left is to itemise them, to list the items that come by.

Everything changes in Macondo, the state arrives, and then religion, and finally capitalism itself; the civil war pursues its course like a serpent biting its own tail; the town grows old and desolate, the rain of history begins and ends, the original protagonists begin to die off; and yet the narrative itself, in its rhizomatic strings, never grows extinct, its force remaining equal to itself until the fateful turn of its final pages.

As William Blake finds eternity in a grain of sand, so Walter Benjamin’s Surrealist gaze finds momentous meanings in the trifling and discarded. In the same way, he believes that every moment of time,...

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We think​ of immigration as a movement in space, from one country to another. In conventional terms, those who were born in the United States are American; those who were not are immigrants....

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The beauty of style indirect libre or free indirect discourse is that it seems to tell the truth without equivocation, to have all the certainty we could wish any third-person narration to have,...

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Into the Big Tent: Fredric Jameson

Benjamin Kunkel, 22 April 2010

Fredric Jameson’s pre-eminence, over the last generation, among critics writing in English would be hard to dispute. Part of the tribute has been exacted by his majestic style, one...

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Walter Benjamin once remarked that what drove men and women to revolt was not dreams of liberated grandchildren but memories of oppressed ancestors. Visions of future happiness are all very well;...

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The major contribution of the English theatre to last year’s Brecht centenary was Lee Hall’s dazzling version of Mr Puntila and His Man Matti, presented by the Right Size, a touring...

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What We Have: Tarantinisation

David Bromwich, 4 February 1999

Post-Modernism entered the public mind as a fast-value currency in the late Seventies and early Eighties, in the field of architecture, where its association with gimmicky tropes of visual play...

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Some Versions of Narrative

Christopher Norris, 2 August 1984

Philosophers are understandably aggrieved when literary critics presume to instruct them in the finer points of textual interpretation. Particularly irksome is the claim of conceptual...

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