Notebooks: An Artistic-Philosophical Experiment

Notebooks: An Artistic-Philosophical Experiment

In 2010, David Shields published Reality Hunger. Near the beginning, he writes:

An artistic movement, albeit an organic and as-yet-unstated one, is forming.

According to Shields, one of the central features of this movement was

A deliberate unartiness: “raw” material, seemingly unprocessed, unfiltered, uncensored, and unprofessional.

It was characterized, he continued, by

Randomness, openness to accident and serendipity, spontaneity; artistic risk, emotional urgency and intensity, reader/viewer participation; an overly literal tone, as if a reporter were viewing a strange culture; plasticity of form, pointillism; criticism as autobiography; self-reflexivity, self-ethnography, anthropological autobiography; a blurring (to the point of invisibility) of any distinction between fiction and nonfiction: the lure and blur of the real.

Shields had put his finger on something. By 2010, Knausgaard had already had great success in Norway with his autobiographical fiction. Within a few years, those books had become a worldwide phenomenon, and their success had created a new name ('autofiction') and justification for a very old type of writing.

Inspired by this artistic movement, and inspired by the long tradition of philosophers keeping notebooks - just off the top of my head, I can think of Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Simone Weil, Henry Bugbee, Sartre, Leopardi, Gramsci, and Kierkegaard - I'm going to try an experiment of my own. It's very simple.

I'm going to keep a notebook and publish it here. That's all. And for now I'm not going to explain or describe it any more than that, I'm just going to do it. The notebooks must speak for themselves.