A philosophical and cultural distillation of the bleak joys in today’s ambivalent ecologies and patterns of life
Bleak Joys develops an understanding of complex entities and processes—from plant roots to forests to ecological damage and its calculation—as aesthetic. It is also a book about “bad” things, such as anguish and devastation, which relate to the ecological and technical but are also constitutive of politics, the ethical, and the formation of subjects.
Avidly interdisciplinary, Bleak Joys draws on scientific work in plant sciences, computing, and cybernetics, as well as mathematics, literature, and art in ways that are not merely illustrative of but foundational to our understanding of ecological aesthetics and the condition in which the posthumanities are being forged. It places the sensory world of plants next to the generalized and nonlinear infrastructure of irresolvability—the economics of indifference up against the question of how to make a home on Planet Earth in a condition of damaged ecologies. Crosscutting chapters on devastation, anguish, irresolvability, luck, plant, and home create a vivid and multifaceted approach that is as remarkable for its humor as for its scholarly complexity.
Engaging with Deleuze, Guattari, and Bakhtin, among others, Bleak Joys captures the modes of crises that constitute our present ecological and political condition, and reckons with the means by which they are not simply aesthetically known but aesthetically manifest.
Offering a new queer theorization of melodrama, Jonathan Goldberg explores the ways melodramatic film and literature provide an aesthetics of impossibility. Focused on the notion of what Douglas Sirk termed the "impossible situation" in melodrama, such as impasses in sexual relations that are not simply reflections of social taboo and prohibitions, Goldberg pursues films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Todd Haynes that respond to Sirk's prompt. His analysis hones in on melodrama's original definition--a form combining music and drama--as he explores the use of melodrama in Beethoven's opera Fidelio, films by Alfred Hitchcock, and fiction by Willa Cather and Patricia Highsmith, including her Ripley novels. Goldberg illuminates how music and sound provide queer ways to promote identifications that exceed the bounds of the identity categories meant to regulate social life. The interaction of musical, dramatic, and visual elements gives melodrama its indeterminacy, making it resistant to normative forms of value and a powerful tool for creating new potentials.