Microscopic image of Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

Crown of Thorns pt. I: A Viral Outbreak of Plenitude

Here we are, politicising a health crisis. And here we are repeating the obvious: a crisis, of any kind, is already a lens in which politics invariably appears, usually clarified, sometimes magnified, and always polarising. The global pandemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoV-2 (popularly Covid-19 or Coronavirus) is exactly such a lens.

Emblems VIII

I’ll tell you who I want, what I really really want.

In the 14th Century a man named Francesco Petrarca, surprised at the sophistication and subtlety of the classical works he was beginning to read, came to feel that he was living in a dark age. Petrarch could not have known that six centuries later a similar feeling would wash across the academic world; a feeling

Moonlight, Shadows

A lie is halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on

Mark Twain probably never said this. It’s another case of the Mass Memory Discrepancy Effect, or if you prefer, the Mandela Effect, or still again, cultural mnemohistory (this is my preferred term). It’s strangely ‘meta’ then that the saying describes its own social genesis as a saying. Knowledge spreads, with many loud and knowledgeable people

Joseph Mallord William Turner, English - The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, October 16, 1834 - Google Art Project

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

The Need-Fire (alt. Force-Fire, meaning ‘forced fire’) tradition depended on a structure of exception. In a superstition widely chronicled across Old Europe it was popularly believed that the efficacy of the need-fire (to cure ills, to establish normality where sickness — of animals, relations, etc — had taken hold) depended on the extinguishment of all

The_Court_Jester

What is called ‘joking’?

Rowan Atkinson, whose portrayal of Blackadder in my youth gave me a lot of simple pleasure, is dead wrong to support Boris Johnson. The distinction between a joke and a non-joke is an important one and can only be defined from the standpoint of reception. A joke is something said by a comedian, or one

The bridge broken, the city faint from fear

It is well-known that minister for propaganda Josef Goebbels used lines from the sixteenth century Propheties of Michel de Notre Dame (Nostradamus) to bolster Nazi belief in a coming victory; also that the British reciprocated by plucking their own prophetic writings out of the air. The game of using any suitably elastic corpus of words,

The Ersatz Image [2]

Roman Jakobson’s communication model1, while developed on the back of studies of verbal communication and the speech event, has proved invaluable for the semiotic analysis of culture beyond the scope of structuralist linguistics. One of the primary benefits of Jakobson’s functionalist understanding of language is that it avoids the transmission model’s reduction of communication to

The Ersatz Image [1]

As someone deeply invested in the disciplines of art history and visual culture studies, the recent shitstorm over a comment Jeremy Corbyn made in 2012 regarding a mural by Mear One (Kalen Ockerman) keeps flying into my radar range. Because it’s Easter and I’m supposed to give myself a break, I’ll stick working towards my

Lesson Plan

If history teaches us anything, it is that lesson plans are lies. Useful lies, sometimes, but lies nonetheless. How do we really learn things? How is it that something I did not understand yesterday, I can understand today? What did I do that uncovered a new relationship to the object of my inquiry, and can