film and visual cultures, French, Humanities, literature

In memoriam: Still Loitering — Australian Essays in Honour of Ross Chambers

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Post Submission by: Dr Joe Hardwick and Prof. Greg Hainge

In October 2017, the world of French studies was saddened to learn of the passing of Ross Chambers. Chambers was a prolific scholar whose dedication, not only to French studies, but also fields such as comparative literature, cultural studies, queer studies, and literary and narrative theory made him an admired teacher and mentor to many within the academic community.

Arguably, Ross Chambers’ most famous book was Loiterature. In this text, Chambers argues that in Western literary tradition “waywardness itself is at work, delay becomes almost predictable, triviality is auspicious, and failure is cheerfully admired”. As Chambers argues, literature that falls into the “loiterly” genre, “blurs the distinctions between innocent pleasure and harmless relaxation on the one hand, and not-so-innocent intent on the other”. Loiterature thus “prescribes both “slow and careful reading practices but also quick-witted analysis” of such texts.

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In 2019, in memory of the work of Ross Chambers, Peter Lang Publishing released an edited collections of essays by Australian authors in honour of Ross Chambers. Still Loitering: Australian Essays in Honour of Ross Chambers is named for Chambers’ acclaimed book Loiterature. Still Loitering “draws together tributes, essays and critical responses to his wide-ranging work from Romanticism to the present, all demonstrating, through practice, the generative value of ‘loitering'”.

Two academics from the University of Queensland have contributed to this fantastic new collection honouring Ross Chambers: Dr Joe Hardwick and Prof. Greg Hainge.

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Dr Hardwick’s chapter, “House of Mirrors: Narrative Seduction and the Power of Fiction in François Ozon’s Dans la maison (2012)” pays homage to Ross Chambers by adapting his theories on literature in three major works to the cinema, specifically to François Ozon’s generically hybrid thriller Dans la maison (2012).  Chambers’ work often focused on the way marginal figures bring disruption to stable situations, transforming them in the process.  Some of these figures are also storytellers, which is also the case for the two protagonist of Dans la maison, a film whose queer undertones and continual self-reflexivity invite a Chambers-inspired analysis.  Dans la maison recounts the story of disenchanted middle-aged high school teacher Germain Germain who becomes obsessed with a story recounted by his student Claude who has insinuated himself into the lives of  the “normal” middle-class family of a classmate.   Drawing on Chambers’ work on self-reflexivity and oppositionality in Story and Situation: Narrative Seduction and the Power of Fiction (1984), Mélancolie et opposition : les débuts du modernisme en France (1987)  and Room for Maneuver: Reading (the) Oppositional (in) Narrative (1991), this chapter reads Claude as an homme fatal figure to understand how Dans la maison situates itself in the greater context of 21st century French cinema.

In Prof. Greg Hainge’s chapter, “The Uncanny Hinterland of Things: On Chambers’s An Atmospherics of the City and Speculative Realism”, Hainge aims to unpack some of the central arguments of Ross Chambers’ An Atmospherics of the City. In particular Hainge wishes to address Chambers’ arguments dealing with atmospherics, entropy, noise, the diary form and bricolage in such a way as to articulate them to broader philosophical concerns about the relationship between aesthetics and ontology. In doing this, Hainge claims that Chambers’s suggestion is ultimately that Baudelaire is engaged in an epistemological project that is linked in a number of different ways to the concerns of speculative realism. More than this, however, it will be argued that the implications of Chambers’s primarily literary analysis may have important implications for our reading of works associated with the speculative realist philosophical project.

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