Lit Crit Sh*t

“Talking does not make the world or even pictures, but talking and pictures participate in making each other and the world as we know them.” Nelson Goodman in Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols has pointed correctly in this statement to the inevitable association between works of art and the language used to talk about those works. In the last century, it was believed that the exclusion of subject matter (landscapes, people, family scenes) from painting would disentangle the image on the canvas (or the words of a poem) from literary associations and clear the way for a direct response of the eye to optical data. The hope was to reduce art to speechlessness. An “Art of the Real” exhibition recently at the Museum of Modern Art described its selection as chunks of raw reality totally liberated from language. “Modern art,” writes one recent critic “has eliminated the verbal correlative from the canvas.” Perhaps. But if a work of today no longer has a verbal correlative, it is because its particular character has been dissolved in a sea of words. At no time in history have more words been written in defence of art, in explanation of what it “really is,” in defence of its “uniqueness,” in the production of manifestoes of explanation and genesis. To describe a striped canvas and a striped tablecloth in the same terms is to commit an artistic faux pas of great proportion much like the child who, because he didn’t understand the rules of the game, remarked that the emperor was naked. The language of art criticism today is a subtle and abstract means to create the idea of art works in conceptual framework of theories instead of in the perceptual framework of the senses. Recently two young artists in Latin America contrived a Happening that was reported in detail in the press but never took place, so their “work of art” consisted of their own news releases and the resulting interviews, accounts,, and comments. Here the “work of art” was only what was said about it. There was no “picture” only “talking”. Continue reading


The Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry (AAPP) announces a competition for students, trainees, and early-career academics and practitioners. Eligibility includes medical students, graduate students in philosophy, psychology and related fields, residents in psychiatry, and those who have completed such education and training no more than three years prior to the end of the academic year in which the award is to be conferred.

The Karl Jaspers Award is given for the best paper related to the subject of philosophy and psychiatry. Entries must either be unpublished or published no more than one year prior to submission for the award. Resubmissions will not be accepted. Papers can have more than one author but all authors must be eligible for the award. Appropriate topics for the essay include, among others, the mind-body problem, psychiatric methodology, psychiatric nosology and diagnostic issues, epistemology, philosophy of science, philosophical aspects of the history of psychiatry, psychodynamic, hermeneutic and phenomenological approaches, and psychiatric ethics. Unless already published or submitted for publication elsewhere, winning submissions will be offered publication, following appropriate review and editing to meet journal guidelines, in the electronic version of Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology. The home departments and/or training progams of the award winners are notified of the outcome. In addition, the Jaspers Award is announced at our AAPP Annual Meeting, held concurrently with the American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Meeting. In 2019, the meeting will be on the weekend of May 18-19 in San Francisco. The award carries a cash prize of $350 and recognition in AAPP publications.

The deadline for entries is December 15, 2018.

Submissions must be no more than 7500 words in length, excluding footnotes and bibliographies.
Each entry must include a word count.
Entrants must send their submissions in PDF format.
Submissions must be ready for blind review and not contain the author’s name or other information what will make the author identifiable.
Entrants must also send separately an explanation of their current career status and eligibility to enter the competition. In cases where the work is part of a project done with others, they should also add an explanation of the contributions of advisors or others to the work submitted.

Submissions that do not meet the requirements will be rejected without being considered.

Send submissions to Scott Waterman (

SS: Letter from Laura

As readers will know, Laura is a contributor to the Blog, who has written for us several times, and who has been missing for a time. But, she is back! In her moving and important letter she explains her short absence and offers some wise suggestions for us all.

Dear Bob,
You don’t know what you have until is gone. That is the idea I want to explore here. How is that possible? And what is to know that I have something? And why does it matter? I think I’ll start with the last one.   I’ve had a tough year of cancer treatment. Before I was diagnosed I was riding my bicycle, eating fairly well, although eating too much sugar perhaps.  Those bikes rides in the backcountry were so energizing, so pleasurable, so refreshing. I miss them. I miss being fully mobile and strong. I keep thinking that the day I am able to ride again I am going to savor the journey even more. But I will savor it more only because I’ll have the memory of being impaired and how terrible the feeling of being sick is. As with other things, I think that a person can live not appreciating enough what she enjoys moment by moment. But I appreciated my rides before. It is only that I miss them because I love riding free. It is like a wine lover having a glass of nice wine after a long period of abstinence. His pleasure level will be higher than before. Now think of something much simpler. Every day I wake up, get up and walk. But I can’t say I enjoy these actions as I enjoy riding a bike, so it is a different feeling, a deeper one. What happens when I am sick in bed, with a bad backache or healing after surgery? That day I miss my capacity to get up and walk and it just dawns on me the complexity, perfection and wonder of moving to stand up position and how the body holds itself and stands there with no pain or difficulty and then starts to move legs and arms automatically with such a beautiful synchronicity and grace, without pain or difficulty. Every basic function my body has is terribly missed when for some reason it can’t perform. I miss them so dearly simply because I understand all these things are part of being human and being able to move and explore. And as I gain this appreciation, then I care more and I feel more in tune with my body. Not so much before and even less when I was a teenager. Does it matter that I really comprehend what nature has given me and what I have now? Yes. It is important to have this connection just so I live more deeply my moments on this planet and I take better care of myself and others.   By saying that it is important to really comprehend what nature has given me and what I have now means that that understanding is not so straightforward. You can ask a healthy 6 year old whether he can hear and he would obviously answer he can. So he evidently knows what capacities he has; same with me. So it is not just awareness. To know you have these amazing abilities is something beyond the mere realization one can perform some action. The thing is, you gain something to add to this simple awareness when the capacity is taking away. You marvel and realize how miraculous (not in the religious way) is. And in that moment of enlightenment you say, wow! I have it!. But it is this going to the nothingness what makes knowledge complete and perfect. I wonder, though, whether this fleeting moment can leave a permanent print. Or will I go back to take things for granted? I want to keep feeling the glory of what my body does and how it lets me move and experience. Routine, I guess, is what could take me back to the old not knowing what I have. The job is to do anything possible to not lose that knowledge.     I wake up feeling so happy that I can stand up. It is real happiness. Living the moment is what matters now. I want to be always thinking deeply about the want of simple abilities and the joy of having them.  Because I want to know well what I have before it is gone.