Bristling. I don’t use this word much, and I definitely do not see it on the page often. Maybe that is why it stood out to me when Carrie Rohman (whose post you can read here) employed it in her keynote at the Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf in June 2021. It seemed offhand but managed to strike me as significant. Carrie was saying something about how we—women, I think, in the context of her talk, but let’s circle back to this we later—bristle when we encounter familiar but nonetheless distressing articulations of sexism and misogyny in our places of work.
One of the touchstone quotations in Franco Moretti’s work on distant reading is a line from the composer Arnold Schoenberg, which Moretti seems to have encountered in Theodor Adorno’s The Philosophy of Modern Music. It’s a repudiation of middles, and it goes like this: “The middle road . . . is the only one which does not lead to Rome.” In Moretti’s “Modern European Literature: A Geographical Sketch” (1991), Schoenberg’s claim helps set up a series of polarizations within modernism—James Joyce and Franz Kafka, T. S.