'An anthropology of the present': caring about things in Siri Hustvedt's "The Blindfold"

Charnock, Ruth (2015) 'An anthropology of the present': caring about things in Siri Hustvedt's "The Blindfold". In: Living, Thinking, Looking, 23 October, 2015, Birkbeck College.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

What does it mean to care about an object? And is this different to caring for an object? The Blindfold poses these questions and reveals, to borrow Sara Ahmed’s phrase, a ‘queer phenomenology’ where the apparent ephemera of a dead girl’s life: a cotton ball, a glove - ‘[seem] charged with a kind of power’. In the novel, Iris Vegan/Davidsen takes a job, ostensibly as a research assistant, for Mr. Morning who has found himself ‘in possession of a number of [the dead girl’s] things’ [13]. He asks Iris to take these possessions home, one at a time, and to record herself describing them. She is then to return the object and recording to Mr. Morning, whereupon he gives her another.
This paper takes as its own object of enquiry Mr Morning’s collection of objects in The Blindfold, objects that he has gathered, he tells Iris: ‘[f]or a kind of biography. […] For a project about life’s paraphernalia, its bits and pieces, treasures and refuse’ [13]. Reading this collection, which Morning describes as ‘[a]n anthropology of the present’, our attention is drawn to objects that are ‘lost, abandoned, speechless, but not dead’ [13]. In laying out these as objects for the reader and Iris’ attention, Hustvedt imagines a form of caring for and about objects that often go uncared for. In this, I will argue, her work posits a queer phenomenology which, as Ahmed envisages it ‘might start by redirecting our attention toward different objects, those that are ‘less proximate’ or even those that deviate or are deviant’ [2006, 3]. Doing so, the novel privileges the kind of intense care towards objects that Morning practices, both in and of itself as a committed and meaningful way of being in the world [although this does not go without critique in the novel] and as a route in to imagining new constellations of human-human and human-object contact.

Keywords:phenomenology, thing theory, american literature, 20th century literature
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V500 Philosophy
T Eastern, Asiatic, African, American and Australasian Languages, Literature and related subjects > T720 American Literature studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:22442
Deposited On:07 Mar 2016 14:58

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