Julietta Singh's Unthinking Mastery (2018) does many things. One is that it works to undo the lingering embrace of mastery, especially those forms of mastery that seem desirable, laudable, even good. If mastery is about domination, then maybe our mastery over an art form, an instrument, or a domain of knowledge reinscribes an idea of power related to colonizers' oppression of dehumanized and nonhuman Others. Singh interweaves postcolonial studies, literary studies, animal studies, and new materialisms in her provocative challenge to the discourse of mastery.
The final chapter, in which she performs a beautiful reading of sound in the final scene Aime Cesaire's play A Tempest (1969), speaks to my interest in failure. While I am not claiming that False Rhyme is postcolonial in nature, Singh's insight adds political urgency to the arts of failure and opens up my thinking to the implications of critical failure studies, which I coined when I named this website. Singh writes, "I mean to suggest that in failure--and critically, in recognizing, reading, and becoming vulnerable to failure--we participate in new emergences, new possibilities for nonmasterful relations" (174-5). Singh suggests that in listening to the sounds of the island intermingled with the sounds of Caliban singing, we might reconsider the "nature" of power.
False Rhyme Project Team