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Certainly, when people say to me, as they often have done, ‘I can’t remember anything afterward,’ I think, Great, that’s the point! The work is not there to be repeated or identified with, but something works on you.
‘Ironically,’ Meaghan Morris writes, ‘no text is more bleached of cultural particularity than the one which relentlessly theorizes “difference” without ever once stumbling over some stray material fact—a poem, a press photo, a snatch of TV news—that could, in its everyday density, take “theory” by surprise.’2 Ecstasy and Economics itself pops up as a ‘stray material fact’ that took me by surprise as a student more than two decades ago, and it still does. First, consider its surprising contents page: it dedicates what it terms ‘American essays’ to the late Australian poet John Forbes, a pairing at face value as surprising as the pairing of ecstasy and economics. That surprise extends to the pun of its cover photograph, a parody of Max Dupain’s 1937 photo The Sunbaker by Anne Zahalka, an image which recalibrates the photograph’s late Modern complexion by substituting a bleached and blurry beach surround for the deep shadows of the original. This image feels as historical now as the Dupain’s earlier subtlety of tone; Ecstasy and Economics analyses that ‘bleaching’ itself, the ‘stumbling’ into theory (as John Mowitt would say) where the unexpected ‘stray material fact’ renews analysis against sheer stultification.3 In the case of its cover photo the stray fact is hue, shade, distinction: a head of red hair whose capacity to surprise installs difference as surprise.
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