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Agon (ἀγών), the root of agōnía (ἀγωνία); agony. A contest or struggle. The counterposition of the antipodal. Paroxysms of pain and of joy; the prodigious swell of life alternating between the ecstasy of death erupting within one’s breast. The contestation of the artist with their precursors, the struggle between disparate elements within a work of art, the striving of one voice or figure for supremacy over another: this is the territory of the agon. But within this violent space the flesh of one brushes against the other’s, fingers from both dueling hands interlock, the cheek of one body preparing for the takedown nestles against the other; the movement against becomes a movement towards.

AGON believes literature (or art, theory, philosophy, et. al.) is not a dialogue with what has come before, but a quarrel with its own legacy; a taking-to-task and a defiance of the precursors who have brought us to bear, and an anticipatory anxiety and hostility (however tinged with excitement) for what the immediate or distant future holds for an artistic medium. And yet we believe that this disavowal delineates the traces of a relationship which survives this turning-away because it is produced exactly through this hostile act. It is because I love you that I wish to be unlike you, says the contentious child. It is because I am afraid that you have already done everything I have set out to do, and by more prodigious means, that I must turn my back.

This is the violence of love, the brutality of the embrace, the madness of adoration—the space of the agon.

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