[Content warning: The following contains a brief depiction and a discussion of suicide.] Excerpts from J.D. Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”:
“Muriel. Now, listen to me.” “I’m listening.” “Your father talked to Dr. Sivetski.” “Oh?” said the girl “He told him everything. At least, he said he did – you know your father. The trees. That business with the window. Those horrible things he said to Granny about her places for passing away. What he did with all those lovely pictures from Bermuda – everything.” “Well?” said the girl “Well. In the first place, he said it was a perfect crime the Army released him from the hospital – my word of honor. He very definitely told your father there’s a chance – a very great chance, he said – that Seymour may completely lose control of himself. My word of honor.”
“Sybil,” he said, “I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll see if we can catch a bananafish.” “A what?” “A bananafish,” he said, and undid the belt of his robe. He took off the robe. His shoulders were white and narrow, and his trunks were royal blue. He folded the robe, first lengthwise, then in thirds. […]. He bent over, picked up the float, and secured it under his right arm. Then, with his left hand, he took Sybil’s hand.
He got off at the fifth floor, walked down the hall, and let himself into 507. The room smelled of new calfskin luggage and nail-lacquer remover. He glanced at the girl lying asleep on one of the twin beds. Then he went over to one of the pieces of luggage, opened it, and from under a pile of shorts and undershirts he took out an Ortgies calibre 7.65 automatic. He released the magazine, looked at it, then reinserted it. He cocked the piece. Then he went over and sat down on the unoccupied twin bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol, and fired a bullet through his right temple.”
What follows is an essay by Thomas E. Wartenberg (Mount Holyoke College), based on his recent book Thoughtful Images(OUP, 2023).
The first illustration of philosophy that I have been able to identify is the Roman mosaic from Pompeii made in the first century C.E. that you see here. It shows a group of men focused on a standing man who is speaking. The figures have been identified as Plato holding a stick and pointing, surrounded by other philosophers from Ancient Greece, though there is debate about who they are.
This beautiful mosaic illustrates an aspect of the Platonic practice of philosophy: it depicts a group of men having a discussion. This is an important aspect of how philosophy was done in Ancient Greece, and it accords with the famous portrait of Socrates doing philosophy with his followers. It thus represents an advance in the illustration of philosophy, for the only traces of philosophy in previous works of art were the busts of famous philosophers.
What follows is a case study by Alex King, republished from Bloomsbury Contemporary Aesthetics, the newest module of the Bloomsbury Philosophy Library. Bloomsbury Contemporary Aesthetics is anchored by a set of exclusive and original case studies contributed by some of the leading voices in aesthetics today, and written to introduce new students to the broad range of topics in aesthetics and the philosophy of art, from interpretation and ontology to appropriation, taste, curiosity, and the aesthetics of confusion. More information on Bloomsbury Contemporary Aesthetics follows at the bottom of the page.
He leaned over, laughing, and sneered just a little: “But like, ironically, right?”
What follows is an interview by Samara Michaelson.
A few months ago, I asked scholars John Gibson, Magdalena Ostas, and Hannah Kim to have a conversation with me about art and literature. Each of us brought a different perspective to the conversation. We discussed the difference between artistic and philosophical or historical modes of knowledge production, how art engenders or generates meaning, and the relationship between meaning, sense, and “aboutness” in the experience of art.
After sending along a list of questions over email, the four of us met over video and spoke together for an hour and half – and could have talked even longer. Below is an edited version of this conversation, which contains some disagreement, some consensus, and above all, inevitably, more questions than answers.
What follows is a roundtable discussion of the new book Philosophy of Comics written by Sam Cowling and Wesley Cray.
To do philosophy of comics is to engage with everything from philosophical aesthetics to cognitive science, from moral philosophy to the history of mass art, and from complex debates in metaphysics to nuanced issues in the ethics of representation. It’s in this spirit that we wrote Philosophy of Comics: An Introduction (Bloomsbury, 2022), and it’s in that same spirit that we’ve looked forward to engaging with the range of philosophers, comics scholars, and artists who graciously agreed to collaboratively engage in this roundtable. (Enormous thanks are also due to Matt Strohl for pulling this roundtable together.)
First, a lightning quick overview of our book! Our goal is not to explore philosophy through comics—that is, using the medium as a lens through which to tackle perennial philosophical questions—but instead to explore, expand, and fortify the growing field of philosophy of comics: that is, philosophical examination of the medium itself, as well as its relations to other social and artistic phenomena. For that reason, the book covers a lot of ground, ranging from social questions (e.g., the ethics of comics pornography, the norms of re-coloring) to artistic questions (e.g., how to approach the relation between comics and literature or the aesthetic evaluation of comics adaptations) to ontological questions (e.g., what kinds of artifacts comics are, what kinds of entities fictional characters are) and more. Our hope is that philosophers will find interest in the investigations into comics, and that comics creators, scholars, and fans alike will find interest in the philosophical explorations.
Editor’s Note: It’s been a little quieter around here than usual, sorry about that! Let’s get back to it. Up first in 2023…
Thanks to our readers for another great year with us. As we’ve done before, we wanted to dedicate a post to 2022’s most-viewed pieces. Scroll through to make sure you haven’t missed something big. (And check out our Top 5 of previous years: 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, and 2021.)
What follows is a guest essay by Elizabeth Scarbrough.
The loudest voices on the internet have had the same response to Lizzo playing James Madison’s crystal flute and Kim Kardashian wearing Marilyn Monroe’s dress: unbridled outrage. How dare she (Lizzo/Kardashian) desecrate a piece of our country’s cultural heritage! Those are precious, irreplaceable items! How will we ever recover!
What follows is a guest post by G. M. Trujillo, Jr.
Jason Allen recently ignited a firestorm of controversy by winning first place in the Colorado State Fair’s digital art competition. His work, Théâtre D’opéra Spatial, is undeniably beautiful. Its color palette and composition evoke drama. Expressive brush strokes prove care for each element. And the subject—women staring out onto the countryside from a vaguely European but suggestively futuristic ballroom—invites interpretation. Maybe it is a comment on being “kept women”, the anonymous ladies secluded from nature and politics in their artificial home. Or maybe the painting is a comment on class, the wealthy women in the ballroom looking out at rustic people. But Théâtre D’opéra Spatial is a digital painting generated by AI.
The advent of sound recording has made audiences experience music differently than audiences did for all of history before that. This may sound like a grandiose overstatement, but it’s true. For the last 75 years, popular music listeners have tended to think of songs as belonging to particular recording artists and represented canonically by a particular recording. We think of that as the original recording, and every version after that by anyone else is a cover.