Frank Davey review of Disunified Aesthetics

Read entire review here

Disunified Aesthetics focuses on Canadian counter-hegemonic writing of the 1970s to the present, including that of Robert Kroetsch, Lee Maracle, Nicole Brossard, Alice Munro, bpNichol, Daphne Marlatt and myself – but one isn’t told that by the title. The book is equally an investigation of the ethics of reading, writers’ responses to globalization, the partiality of human subjects, literature’s relationships to social change, the dynamics of performance art, and of how art can imagine and thus open a way from the current hegemony of liberal humanism, with its quietly patronizing assumption of universalist values, to “democratic humanism,” in which people value the differences that they make among themselves and can act “together and apart at the same time” (248)…

Disunified Aesthetics is a rich, complex, and complicated book – very difficult to represent. At many times Hunter is obliged to invent her vocabulary in order to side-step the normative and its relentless attempts to absorb the dissenting into ‘fit’ with the universal – adding those words such as “fit,” “enough,” “alongside,” and “until” (“what has not been said has been said and then we have a choice” [16]) to her, and our, critical vocabulary. The complexity, diversity of interlocking focuses, and invention of a non-normative vocabulary challenges even how I may be able to Tweet news of this blog post, and news of the book, since such routine communication relies on normative categories as its ground. To assist bookstores and libraries, for example, the publisher’s CIP information on the verso of the title page categorizes the book as “1. Canadian literature (English) – 20st century – History and criticism – Theory, etc. [etc!] 2. Canadian literature (English) – 21st century – History and criticism – Theory etc. 3. Aesthetics in literature. 4. Performance in literature. 5. Ethics in literature. 6. Creation (Literary, artistic etc.) in literature” – despite there being no hint of Canadianness in the title or subtitle, and only a slight one of etc-ness. On the back cover publisher assigns two categories “CANADIAN LITERATURE, PERFORMANCE STUDIES.”

Indeed, I hope it reaches all those implied readerships.