(Identity) Politics & Prose

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Jared Marcel Pollen in 3:AM Magazine:

The question of identity politics in literature is one that has been written about increasingly over recent years, but has seldom been discussed honestly and with an eye to many of its ironies. Writing about this brand of politics can be a perilous task, requiring an anxious level of delicacy and tact. Thus, many choose to ignore, or else silently brood about the subject, which now colors much of our thinking as readers, writers and critics, whether we’re conscious of it or not. We can hardly help it: we belong to an age not of politics, but of politicization––not a country, but a set of “cultures” constantly in conflict with one another. Such that something as basically ethical as being vegetarian has been deemed Liberal. The twenty-four hour news cycle means that every second of life that is being lived is also being reported, debated, narrated. Indeed, between social justice movements like, “Black Lives Matter” and struggles of the LGBTQ, a GOP that obsessively tries to regulate women’s reproductive rights, a crotch-grabbing President who has threatened to deport millions of Mexican immigrants and place all Muslims on a national register, it is hard to be as apolitical as one would like. Our consciousness is inundated with reminders of injustice against any group, and one can’t help but feel forced to takes sides, or join in the fight.

George Orwell, in writing about the politics of his age––one of concentration camps, war and totalitarianism––observed that it was impossible to banish these thoughts from one’s mind, let alone one’s writing: “When you’re on a sinking ship, your thoughts will be about sinking ships.” A sinking ship is not a bad metaphor for contemporary culture, or at least, the view from the present, which is that things are always getting worse. Indeed, the word “culture” itself, wherever it is applied (pop culture, gun culture, rape culture, culture war, etc.) seems intrinsically bound to decadence and decline. And in a climate of such hyperawareness, the infusion of identity politics into the products of that culture feels like more and more of an inevitability.

More here.

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