My friend and fellow 3Quarkser Morgan Meis keeps an open notebook of his aesthetic ideas at his personal web log, Idle Chatter. Over a series of posts he has been developing an intriguing idea he calls “neosincerity.” If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I would say that neosincerity involves the portrayal of heartfelt emotion in works of art, film, literature, etc., which does not avoid irony but rather works through it and goes beyond it. It is unafraid of feelings but presents them in a complicated way. Off the top of my head, I can think of no better example of neosincerity than the films of Wes Anderson, where you might get choked up and laugh at something ridiculous all at the same time. If one accepts the novelty and beauty of Anderson’s films – which I certainly do – then it’s a worthy goal of criticism to figure out why they work and what is new about them.
Neosincerity is not unselfconscious, but it is also not intimidated by snarkiness and does not ultimately resort to mere irony to cover its tracks. The notion fits in with Morgan’s academic work on Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, which sought out a philosophy to account for popular culture.
His most recent post involves the film Sideways and offers a critique of David Denby:
“I have become more and more enthused with the idea of writing a new kind of review. It is called, the Review of the Review, Review. There is something about reviewing the review that brings you back around to the work of art you wanted to talk about in the first place, but through a lens that has already reflected once. It is like achieving immediacy through the over-application of too many layers of mediation.”