Weak, Frail Modernism

I am a fan of “weak theory,” as Paul Saint-Amour has described the constellation of engagements and scholarly endeavors that he brings together in his introduction to the “Weak Theory” special issue of Modernism/modernity. I myself am agnostic about using the term “weak” to describe the disparate approaches that are gathered there under the banner of “weak theory,” but that is a semantic preference attuned to what I want to emphasize, not an objection to the term. I am not ashamed of the taint that accompanies what Saint-Amour calls “reclaiming a term of derogation,” a move akin to the resignifying work of “crip” or “queer” in crip and queer theory respectively. Rather I prefer to focus less on whether a method is considered weak or strong, and more on whether any particular system of thought is relatively open or relatively closed. “Weak theory” is promising insofar as it tends to be open to contingency (even error) and therefore prone to untidiness, or “mess” in the sense articulated by Martin Manalansan’s “The Stuff of Archives.”

Publication Date:
Feb 07 2019
Date Submitted:
Jul 01 2019
1900 words
Modernism/modernity Print Plus
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 Record created 2019-07-01, last modified 2019-08-05

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