This piece serves as the introduction to the Full Stop Quarterly Issue #6. The quarterly is available to download or subscribe to here.
In his Proslogion, St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, brings out the heavy artillery — rigorous logical argumentation — in order to prove to the Fool who says in his heart that God does not exist (Psalm: 14:1) that not only does God exist, but God must exist. We’re not very interested in all this, and if we’re going with a Christian apologist we’ll go with Tertullian every time — Credo quia absurdum, I believe because it is absurd. What does interest us is Guanilo of Marmoutiers, a Benedictine Monk in France who spoke up “On Behalf of the Fool.” Guanilo launches a parody of Anselm’s argument, invoking a Lost Island (his version of Utopia) to show that imagining this perfect, lost island no more establishes its existence than imagining a perfect, yet not directly perceived God. We are resolutely on the side of the Fool for three reasons: The Fool gets us thinking about Utopia to undercut an argument for the existence of God; Utopia is an Island for the Fool (and in this respect the Fool has far more sense than the Archbishop, because obviously Utopia would be an island), and; The reason to think about Utopia is not only to undercut God’s existence but to undercut Utopia’s existence itself.
Just as Utopia may serve to narrow rather than broaden our perspective, so too does its opposite, dystopia, about which we heard a great deal in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election. In its grim aftermath, dystopia has persisted — in so many reading lists, humor sketches, and reboots — as a catchall signaling national decline. But there’s something facile in our reliance on these poles, a collapse or erasure that threatens to flatten the complexity of our political and social realities and to ironize actually dire circumstances.
Where do these paradoxes leave us? Well, exactly the contents of our Quarterly, which has coalesced around the theme of No-Place as it wends its way through some strange, troubling times. Ultimately, like the Fool of Guanilo’s parody, the writers and artists and thinkers included in this issue press us beyond the the confidence of our political convictions and beyond our commonplace visions of Utopia. They ask us not only to imagine a better world, but to consider the contradictions and conundrums that we must confront whenever we seek to think in terms of ideals. Further, they face up to the formal and rhetorical constraints of Utopia, the conditions in which the standard arguments and narratives that we use to orient ourselves and make arguments for our positions are no longer effective. Through essays that fail and then fail better, digressive travelogue, long-form interviews, and photographs that document and tip over into fantasy, this issue of the Full Stop Quarterly asks, how do we think ourselves or talk ourselves or write ourselves out of our assumptions and reflexes and into No-Place?