Dispatches

Essays

The Clockwork Orgasm

Any minute now, all this technology will be mass-produced and affordable, transforming what are now sex dolls with AI heads atop their silicone bodies into the sex robots of science fiction, so sophisticated they are easy to mistake for a human. And then? Will men still bother with real women? Or will they prefer a projected fantasy to a more demanding reality?

Jack Higgins, Good Germans, and the Problem of Sympathy in Fiction

“Sympathy” in narrative usually means something more like “complex interest” than “pity.” The goal is (often but not always) to make characters as human as possible, within constraints of form, so audiences will find them meaningful. This requires treating characters with respect, at least to the point of trying to understand them, even if they are crooks, sadists, torturers, murderers, or Nazis. But if a narrative dramatizes very well, it risks justifying bad people or making us feel we “understand” or “identify with” them. This too is sometimes called “sympathy”—though it is more like empathy—for the devil.

Introduction: 19th and Division, 1954

The illusion conjured by modern segregation is that segregation is a totalized reality, a natural and normal state of affairs. It is only by the close visual and historical engagement with material sites of segregation as palimpsests, in the manner this volume models, that the precariousness of the segregationist project in St. Louis can be discovered.

Reviews

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