Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form
Sianne Ngai

Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form

$22.95

Christian Gauss Award Shortlist
Winner of the ASAP Book Prize
A Literary Hub Book of the Year

"Makes the case that the gimmick...is of tremendous critical value...Lies somewhere between critical theory and Sontag's best work."
--Los Angeles Review of Books

"Ngai exposes capitalism's tricks in her mind-blowing study of the time- and labor-saving devices we call gimmicks."
--New Statesman

"One of the most creative humanities scholars working today...My god, it's so good."
--Literary Hub

"Ngai is a keen analyst of overlooked or denigrated categories in art and life...Highly original."
--4Columns

"It is undeniable that part of what makes Ngai's analyses of aesthetic categories so appealing...is simply her capacity to speak about them brilliantly."
--Bookforum

"A page turner."
--American Literary History

Deeply objectionable and yet strangely attractive, the gimmick 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 working too hard (a strained effort to get our attention).

When we call something a gimmick, we register misgivings that suggest broader anxieties about value, money, and time, making the gimmick a hallmark of 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; 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.


Full Description
Published by: Belknap Press
Pub date: 12/06/2022
Binding type: Paperback
Pages: 416
ISBN: 9780674278745
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  • Description

    Christian Gauss Award Shortlist
    Winner of the ASAP Book Prize
    A Literary Hub Book of the Year

    "Makes the case that the gimmick...is of tremendous critical value...Lies somewhere between critical theory and Sontag's best work."
    --Los Angeles Review of Books

    "Ngai exposes capitalism's tricks in her mind-blowing study of the time- and labor-saving devices we call gimmicks."
    --New Statesman

    "One of the most creative humanities scholars working today...My god, it's so good."
    --Literary Hub

    "Ngai is a keen analyst of overlooked or denigrated categories in art and life...Highly original."
    --4Columns

    "It is undeniable that part of what makes Ngai's analyses of aesthetic categories so appealing...is simply her capacity to speak about them brilliantly."
    --Bookforum

    "A page turner."
    --American Literary History

    Deeply objectionable and yet strangely attractive, the gimmick 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 working too hard (a strained effort to get our attention).

    When we call something a gimmick, we register misgivings that suggest broader anxieties about value, money, and time, making the gimmick a hallmark of 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; 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.