The Weird Tale: Unanchoring our moorings in delusion…

The Weird Tale: Unanchoring our moorings in delusion…

“Whereas pessimism’s attempts at unanchoring run up against the inherent limits of conceptual and rational argumentation, weird fiction circumvents rational critique and counterarguments by using a form of signification that relies on imagery and association. Rhetorically speaking, weird fiction employs tropes that, rather than buttressing stable frameworks of meaning and interpretation, work toward the unanchoring of basic cultural ideas and institutions. As figural devices, such tropes have an impact on the relationship between consciousness and a world of experience; at the same time, however, they embody a self-devouring or self-destructing tendency of unanchoring a community’s traditional, taken-for-granted methods for making sense of a changing complex of appearances. If, as Kenneth Burke argues, an orientation consists of “a bundle of judgments as to how things were, how they are, and how they may be,” then the tropological maneuvers encountered in weird fiction can be regarded as attempts at undermining the basis of such sense-making bundles. Unlike the style of philosophical pessimism, which forwards rational arguments for viewing the world as fundamentally wrong and life as essentially futile, weird fiction adopts a style of laying bare and of creating the sense of the uncanny through the use of unanchoring tropes, conceived both as figurative expressions or, more broadly, as recurrent themes or motifs. This usage, we argue, consists of pointing up the unreliability of the various conceptual categories necessarily involved in interpreting the empirical-phenomenal world—of drawing attention to the inadequacy of what Jacques Rancière refers to as “partitions of the sensible world” or distributions of patterns of perceptual experience. In opposition to the rounded systems of basic cultural ideas and institutions (e.g., morality, religion, the State, etc.)—all of which enable, to some degree, the formation and maintenance of common-sense understandings of shared reality—weird fiction’s strategy of figural, uncanny disturbance aims at revealing the world, even life itself, as essentially unknowable, chaotic, and terrifying.”1


  1. Packer, Joseph; Stoneman, Ethan. A Feeling of Wrongness (Pessimistic Rhetoric on the Fringes of Popular Culture) (pp. 50-51). Penn State University Press.

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