Stuff, the hoard of minor objects which have shed their commodity glamor but which we refuse to recycle, flashes up in fiction, films and photographs as alluring, unruly reminder of how people and matter are intertwined. Stuff is modern materiality out of bounds that refuses to be contained by the western semiotic system. It declines its role as the eternal sidekick of the subject, and thus is the ideal basis for a counter-narrative of materiality in flux. Can such a narrative, developed by the new materialism, reinvigorate the classical materialist account of human alienation from commodities under capital? By shifting the discussion of materiality toward the aesthetic and the everyday, the book both embraces and challenges the project of new materialism. It argues that matter has a politics, and that its new plasticity offers a continued possibility of critique.
Stuff Theory's five chapters illustrate the intermittent flashes of modern 'minor' materiality in twentieth-century modernity as fashion, memory object, clutter, home decor, and waste in a wide range of texts: Benjamin's essays, Virginia Woolf's and Elfriede Jelinek's fiction, Rem Koolhaas' criticism, 1920s German photography and the cinema of Tati, Bertolucci, and Mendes. To call the commodified, ebullient materiality the book tracks stuff, is to foreground its plastic and transformative power, its fluidity and its capacity to generate events. Stuff Theory interrogates the political value of stuff's instability. It investigates the potential of stuff to revitalize the oppositional power of the object.
Stuff Theory traces a genealogy of materiality: flashpoints of one kind of minor matter in a succession of cultural moments. It asserts that in culture, stuff becomes a rallying point for a new critique of capital, which always works to reassign stuff to a subaltern position. Stuff is not merely unruly: it becomes the terrain on which a new relation between people and matter might be built.
New materialism meets historical materialism, to the expansion and improvement of both. With enviable nuance and sophistication, imaginative verve and critical acuity, Maurizia Boscagli explores the complex, dynamic life of the stuff of capitalism, producing an innovative and original materialism for the twenty-first century. Essential reading. -- Imre Szeman, Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies, University of Alberta, Canada At one point in David Fincher's 1999 cult film Fight Club, Brad Pitt's rascally Tyler Durden mocks a minor character who states vaguely that in college he studied "stuff." Maurizia Boscagli's dazzling Stuff Theory: Everyday Objects, Radical Materialism shows how Tyler might have taken this utterance seriously: "stuff" is indeed worthy of study. Each page brimming with fresh examples drawn from literature, art, and culture, and carefully informed by intellectual precursors from Marx to the new materialists, Boscagli's theory ultimately illuminates the practice of stuff, and suggests that this practice may be due for revision. -- Christopher Schaberg, Associate Professor of English & Environment at Loyola University New Orleans, USA, and author of The Textual Life of Airports: Reading the Culture of Flight Matter is desire. Whether conceived as an object that can be represented and appropriated or as force whose unpredictability and vitality throws life wide open, matter never leaves us in peace. In this wonderful book Maurizia Boscagli explores how the everyday is shaped by these tantalizing movements of matter. Beyond the capitalocentricism of historical materialism and the detached hype of new materialism Stuff Theory proposes an experimental materialist practice that works with matter to remake the stuff that power and politics are made of. Dimitris Papadopoulos, Reader in Sociology and Organisation, University of Leicester, UK, author of Escape Routes: Control and Subversion in the 21st Century Boscagli offers an exhilarating genealogy of the commodity in order to open up a questions that neither presuppose the old distinction between subject and object nor revel in the sheer plasticity of things. I especially admire the case that Stuff Theory makes for dialectic as the necessary means of thinking our way through and beyond the 19th-century opposition of materialism (which now includes cyborgian hybrids) to idealism (which has always included aesthetic expression). Bocagli's "radical materialism" shows that only a critique of post-commodity things can tell us how to read them as transformations of "stuff" that expresses the people and selves to which neo-liberalism denies subjectivity. Nancy Armstrong, Gilbert, Louis, and Edward Lehrman Professor of English, Duke University, USA
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: 22nd May 2014
Dimensions (cm): 21.6 x 14.0 x 1.9
Weight (kg): 0.42