umm... what?

What is “what”?

In Ugly Feelings, the question of “what is ‘what’?” is posed. This question is posed as a response to the sentence “What is the difference between words and a sentence and a sentence and sentences,” which illuminates the indefinite nature of “what” as the sentence could be all at once a question and a definition. In this section, Ngai examines the different roles this tiny word plays, and in an instant it’s presence as a wholly ambiguous entity is established. This ambiguity when taken to an extreme can engage the audience as well as inflict cruelty upon them, as Artaud suggests, as it causes them to grapple with the unknown and come to conclusions based entirely on their interpretations of “what” as either an adjective, pronoun, or even the expletive. While we understand “what” in it’s context, separate from it, things become complicated, and can confuse one’s ability to truly answer this question, and can run you in circles if you make a serious attempt to do so.

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