Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form

Written by:
Sianne Ngai
Narrated by:
Nancy Wu

Unabridged Audiobook

Ratings
Book
Narrator
Release Date
September 2021
Duration
12 hours 51 minutes
Summary
A provocative theory of the gimmick as an aesthetic category steeped in the anxieties of capitalism.

Repulsive and yet strangely attractive, the gimmick is a form that can be found virtually everywhere in capitalism. It comes in many guises: a musical hook, a financial strategy, a striptease, a novel of ideas. Above all, acclaimed theorist Sianne Ngai argues, the gimmick strikes us both as working too little (a labor-saving trick) and as working too hard (a strained effort to get our attention).

Focusing on this connection to work, Ngai draws a line from gimmicks to political economy. When we call something a gimmick, we are registering uncertainties about value bound to labor and time-misgivings that indicate broader anxieties about the measurement of wealth in capitalism. With wit and critical precision, Ngai explores the extravagantly impoverished gimmick across a range of examples: the fiction of Thomas Mann, Helen DeWitt, and Henry James; photographs by Torbjørn Rødland; the video art of Stan Douglas; the theoretical writings of Stanley Cavell and Theodor Adorno. Despite its status as cheap and compromised, the gimmick emerges as a surprisingly powerful tool in this formidable contribution to aesthetic theory.
Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form
This title is due for release on September 14, 2021.

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Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form
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