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  • Introduction
  • Shepherd Steiner

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Stan Douglas. A Luta Continua 1974. 2012. Colour photograph, 120.7 x 181 cm. From the eight-part suite Disco Angola, 2012.

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Here it is, Mosaic issue 53.3 from the midst of the pandemic and a little behind schedule because of it, but with contributions from a range of scholars: Phillip E. Wegner, Jill Marsden, Nahum Brown, Fergal Gaynor, Robert Zacharias, Mark Taylor, Ayelet Ishai, Xiaohu Jiang, and Piotr Sadowski.

Allow me to single out the work of precisely three of these authors: Jill Marsden, Fergal Gaynor, and Phillip E. Wegner, each of whom finds their way to Mosaic through the fortuitous ties that bind one life to another. Each of their contributions have a certain timeliness of which we are badly in need. Jill Marsden's special focus lies at the perimeter of things where she suggests the question of "literary thinking" begins. Her essay comes to us via loose connections to one of Mosaic's long time friends, David Farrell Krell. Marsden works in the vicinity of Krell—a claim many of us would like to make—but she also lets her version of "literary thinking" be taken to places where he does not go. In "Poetic Connections: Sympathy and Community in Whitman's 'Song of Myself,'" we travel with Marsden as she travels with Whitman to a place where criticism on the poet rarely ventures. With hints to her book After Nietzsche: Notes Towards a Philosophy of Ecstacy (2002) and with her unique feeling for the edges of things and outsides—here especially bolstered by the work of Jane Bennett—the author brings us into proximity with irreducibly singular moments in Whitman's [End Page vii] "Song of Myself." She argues these resist being wholly absorbed into Whitman's well-known "vocabulary of sympathy." And it is on these singular points that Marsden locates what she calls a "community of common sentiment." While she herself does not explicitly speak of this community in terms of futurity, I think it productive given recent events, given the timing of this issue, and given her own work on Nietzsche to let this temporal horizon sit as one of the possibilities of her thinking.

Bending things this way has its purpose, of course. Like the expectations we harbour for a quarterly journal like our own to come out like a quarterly journal should, proposing a horizon to exist beyond thought is a promise not unlike exhaling after a long breath in. This performative dimension to breathing—on the minds of so many of us today—is Fergal Gaynor's subject in "'When the Panting Stops': Breath and Breathing in Beckett and How It Is." Gaynor is a poet with a background in the scholarly intersection between painting and literature in James Joyce with whom I have had the pleasure of spending a few idle hours. With Trevor Joyce, Gaynor runs the SoundEye poetry press in Cork, Ireland. His second book of poetry, a follow up to VIII Stepping Poems & other pieces (2011), will appear very soon. With Beckett's breath as form and text as content, with inhalation and exhalation the minimal, "radically economic representation of human life," Gaynor foregrounds what he calls the "cold music from which the messy, dreadful doings of the text are excluded, even if one cannot exist without the other."

Finally, Phillip E. Wegner is the Marston-Milbauer Eminent Scholar and Professor of English at the University of Florida. His books include Periodizing Jameson: Dialectics, the University, and the Desire for Narrative (2014), Shockwaves of Possibility: Essays on Science Fiction, Globalization, and Utopia (2014), and Invoking Hope: Theory and Utopia in Dark Times (2020). I had the good fortune of sitting in on one of Wegner's classes on Alain Badiou and ethics many years ago and it shaped me. He is one of the crucial voices of American Marxism today and he is perhaps Fredric Jameson's most astute and compelling respondent. "How to Fix this Intolerable Present with the Naked Eye; or, Periodizing the Contemporary" is Wegner's contribution to the present issue. His argument for "fixing the intolerable...


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