“Speculative” in the sense of Hegelian world-dialectic meets “speculative” in the sense of telepathically linked swarms of insects, sentient inhabited stars, and green-furred humanoids that taste with their feet.
The Sometime Seminar discusses Star Maker (1937), a universe-spanning work of science fiction by Olaf Stapledon.
Picture, if you will, a madwoman in an attic. Now picture a house made entirely of attics, each containing a madwoman, and also the house was designed by a madwoman working in her attic studio. Sounds pretty great, right?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Villette (1853), the last novel by Charlotte Brontë.
How many inset narratives can you cram into a novel before it turns into a short story collection with an unconventional subtitle? Do story-filled conversations about the ethics and psychology of storytelling itself make for a good story?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Outline (2014), a novel by Rachel Cusk.
Supplemental links: review by Jenny Turner in the LRB
Scrupulous attention to nature in all its wonder and horror, stunningly beautiful descriptions of the landscape and its inhabitants, a healthy dose of self-abnegating obsession, and dead birds that smell like pineapple.
The Sometime Seminar discusses The Peregrine (1967) by J.A. Baker.
Supplementary link: Who was J.A. Baker? by Gillian Darley
The Sometime Seminar discusses the poetry of Robert Duncan (1919-1988), looking over his Selected Poems (which collects work published 1939-1987). Duncan’s Collected Writings are being published by the University of California Press.
Supplementary links: Duncan bio and sample poems from the Poetry Foundation
How do you read a philosophical work that explicitly disqualifies you from its readership? If the path of an argument seems perversely obscure and digressive, is it okay to throw rigor to the winds and just enjoy the sights along the way?
The Sometime Seminar discusses The Concept of Anxiety (1844) by Søren Kierkegaard. (Recently retranslated by Alastair Hannay in 2014; also available in the standard English edition of Kierkegaard’s works.)
If a novel is much more about mental states, processes and shadings than it is about external action, does that make it plotless, or does it make every word and implication part of the plot? And if the novel is quietly running a deceptively complex and even theatrically comic “real” plot in parallel with the psychological scalpel-work, what then?
The Sometime Seminar discusses The Ambassadors (1903), a late masterpiece of novelistic psychology by Henry James.
Many electronic texts of The Ambassadors are extremely poorly edited. We recommend the Modern Library edition (with a thoughtful introduction by Colm Tóibín) rather than the free Project Gutenberg or paid Oxford World’s Classics editions, both of which are ridden with errors.