Improving Literary Studies, Part I: “The Faceit”

I want to coin a new critical term: the “faceit”. Without necessarily inscribing myself in the tradition of Derridean wordplay as Derrida’s rightful successor, I want to shortly praise the term’s as-yet unused possibilities. As adept poststructuralists will no doubt already have surmised, the idea of the faceit plays on several terms.

First, it takes up the idea of the critical conceit, which I take to be a guiding principle of individual acts of literary criticism: the act of “let’s assume that X holds,” or “let’s say we read X under the auspices of Y,” “let’s assume that X is true about Y,” and so on. It’s an inevitable act of critical creativity, in other words, with a broad range of uses, most of them related to revelatory possibilities inherent in kinda making up stuff and seeing if it works.

Secondly, it plays on the idea of the facetious, the not entirely serious but also not entirely not serious, the tongue-in-cheek, on the surprising (but possibly false) linkages drawn between one thing and another, the humorous act of suggesting something that you full well-know isn’t true, exactly, though it is, perhaps, in spirit.

Thirdly, it picks up the Latin faciet, “it will make” (well, lest I’m mistaken, which is possible, as I don’t speak Latin), which is aurally indistinguishable (well, lest I’m mistaken, as I’m not an English native speaker and actually pronounce Latin intelligibly), thereby suggesting in no uncertain terms the productivity of the idea of making funny shit up in order to have something to talk about at length.

You may feel free to use faceits from here on out in your critical work. Literary studies will be better for it.


Selected Works

beveled-the-selected-works-of-t-s-spivetPost45, the online publication of the eponymous research group on post-World War II fiction, has just published my short essay on Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet in their Contemporaries section.

I’m rather excited. Thanks to Ian Afflerbach for his valuable commentary on the piece, and to the editors and Post45 for their work on it!