12 Jan 2015

Sianne Ngai

Theory of the Gimmick
When we say that a literary work is gimmicky we mean we “see through it”; that there is an unwanted transparency about how an aspect of it was created and why. The gimmicky artwork thus confronts us with an object that would seem to undermine its own aesthetic power simply by drawing attention to the procedures by which its effects have been devised. Extending her previous book’s focus on equivocal aesthetic categories (such as the merely “interesting”) and with an eye to the special difficulties posed by the very idea of an aesthetics of production (as opposed to reception), Ngai’s talk explored the repulsion that the gimmick produces and its ideological implications across a range of cultural forms, including a prestigious literary genre we might not immediately associate with such a compromised aesthetic device: the so-called philosophical novel or novel of ideas.

Sianne Ngai is Professor of English at Stanford University and a 2014-2015 Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. She is the author of Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting (Harvard University Press, 2012), winner of the Modern Language Association’s James Russell Lowell Prize, and Ugly Feelings (Harvard University Press, 2005).


ICI Berlin
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In English

First published on: https://www.ici-berlin.org/events/sianne-ngai/
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Cite as: Sianne Ngai: Theory of the Gimmick, lecture, ICI Berlin, 12 January 2015 <https://doi.org/10.25620/e150112>