Counterfeit Capital: Poetic Labor and Revolutionary Irony (review)


Jennifer Bajorek’s Counterfeit Capital is a superb and unexpected hybrid entity: a book that manages to make time for intricate readings of Baudelaire’s poetry even as it remains preoccupied, from beginning to end, with revolution. Bajorek makes so much time for her readings, in fact, that, upon first perusal, her book appears to be primarily a monograph. An abundance of framing devices advertise the book’s underlying political concerns, but each chapter hinges upon a sustained engagement with one or two key poems that threatens to overflow its allotted space. Nonetheless, the book is animated by the urgency of the desire to make social and political justice possible. In the final analysis, Bajorek devotes at least as much space to Marx as to Baudelaire. More than any of its arguments, in fact, this delicate and often elusive distribution of critical labor would be the book’s central statement. The point here is to show, on the one hand, that literary criticism is inseparable from the more ambitious and urgent political projects and, on the other, to “revolutionize the revolution,” that is, to demonstrate a mode of political discourse that does not sacrifice the ethics of reading.

Read Article On Muse