THEORY FICTION PROCESS: hyphenating, theorising, fictifying

I came across a couple of blog posts (1 and 2) devoted to « theory-fiction », and I thought it would be interesting to list some of my own recommendations. I felt that if I played this language game naively I might learn something about some things (myself included).

I don’t think that the concept of « theory-fiction » really exists, so it would probably be a mistake to talk about it over-theoretically. Nonetheless, it has evoked such a torrent of replies and examples on twitter that it can’t be considered as unreal either, and an entirely fictional approach would be equally inappropriate.

I have been talking sporadically on this blog about a concept of the literature of « meta-cognitive estrangement » or « noetic deterritorialisation », so I guess that « theory-fiction » has a family resemblance with such notions.

On the theory side, I do not think that « theory-fiction » is an all or none affair but involves relative position on a scale or a spectrum, and any one instance may tend more to one end or other of the hyphen, being or seeming more theoretical or more fictional.

A hyphen of course separates as much as it binds the incommensurables that it seeks to juxtapose.

A linear spectrum seems an inadequate image for such a potentially complex notion, so I propose a polygonal spectrum capable of containing as many typological scalarities as may seem necessary.

On the fiction side of this language game, the rules require listing only one book for each author cited, which makes the list perhaps more fictive than it would be for a theoretical survey. I will stick to the supplementary rule of only twenty entries, to further fictify my list. Thus there is no pretension to objective canon-construction.

Ideally my list would itself be a theory fiction situating its examples in an n-dimensional space, according to the number of criteria invoked. Gregory Marks cites four criteria:

degree of fictivity,

high-low academic theory continuum,

range and degree of « intersection » of incommensurables,

degree of subjective consonance/dissonance.

1) Friedrich Nietzsche THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA

2) Ludwig Wittgenstein PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATIONS

3) Jean-François Lyotard LE MUR DU PACIFIQUE

4) Pierre Klossowski LES LOIS DE L’HOSPITALITÉ

5) Carl Jung THE RED BOOK

6) Henry Thoreau WALDEN

7) Ursula LeGuin ALWAYS COMING HOME

8) Neal Stephenson ANATHEM

9) Gene Wolfe THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN

10) Samuel Delany THE MOTION OF LIGHT ON WATER

11) James Joyce FINNEGANS WAKE

12) Thomas Mann THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN

13) Michel Serres THE PARASITE

14) Alain Badiou AHMED THE PHILOSOPHER

15) A.E Van Vogt THE WORLD OF NULL-A

16) Paul Feyerabend DIALOGUES

17) Thomas Pynchon GRAVITY’S RAINBOW

18) Maurice Blanchot AMINADAB

19) Felix Guattari A LOVE OF UIQ

20) Kim Stanley Robinson RED MOON

As may be seen my own reading penchants tend towards the philosophy and SF sides of the « theory-fiction » polygon. This is something I already « knew », but the list itself gives a new specificity to this fuzzy global image of my reading paths.

Feyerabend suggests that thinking in terms of aggregates or lists is a way of approaching a « Homeric » as opposed to a « Socratic » rationalist type of theorising. This is in line with the whole Deleuze-Lyotard-Guattari-Foucault-Serres-Latour approach to writing thinking and with the non-Aristotelian lineage of  high speculative science fiction.

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