An utterly unique collection composed by the award-winning poet and writer, a global anthology of pieces from lesser-known classics by luminaries like Franz Kafka, Samuel R. Delany, and Gwendolyn Brooks to up-and-coming writers that examine pathos and feeling, giving a well-timed rehab to the word "pathetic"
"Literature is pathetic." So claims Eileen Myles in their provocative and robust introduction to Pathetic Literature, a breathtaking mishmash of pieces ranging from poems to theater scripts to prose to anything in between, all exploring the so-called "pathetic" or awkwardly-felt moments and revelations around which lives are both built and undone.
Myles first reclaimed the word for a seminar they taught at the University of California San Diego in the early 2000s, rescuing it from the derision into which it had slipped and restoring its original meaning of inspiring emotion or feeling, from the Ancient Greek rhetorical method pathos. Their identification of "pathetic" as ripe for reinvention forms the need for this anthology, which includes a hearty 106 contributors, encompassing canonical global stars like Robert Walser, Jorge Luis Borges, Rumi, and Gwendolyn Brooks, literary libertines like Dodie Bellamy, Samuel R. Delany, and Bob Flanagan, as well as extraordinary writers on the rise, including Nicole Wallace, Precious Okoyomon, and Will Farris. Wrenching and discomfiting prose by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, Jack Halberstam, and Porochista Khakpour rubs shoulders with poems by Natalie Diaz, Victoria Chang, Lucille Clifton, and Ariana Reines, and butts up against fiction from Chester Himes, Djuna Barnes, Chris Kraus, and Qiu Miaojin, among so many others, including Myles's own opening salvo of their 1992 presidential campaign. The result is a completely anomalous and uplifting anthology that encourages a fresh political discourse on literature, as well as supplying an essential compendium of pained, awkward, queer, trans, gleeful, and ever-jarring ways to think differently and live pathetically on a polarized and fearful planet.
About this Author
EILEEN MYLES (they/them) came to New York from Boston in 1974 to be a poet. Their books include For Now (an essay/talk about writing), Afterglow (a dog memoir), I Must Be Living Twice: new and selected poems, and Chelsea Girls. The Trip, their super-8 puppet road film can be seen on YouTube. Eileen has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and was recently elected a member of the American Academy of Arts & Letters. They live in New York and Marfa, TX.
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