Foucault tells us how hegemonic history controls us, and then…

Making historical analysis the discourse of the continuous and making human consciousness the original subject of all historical development and all action are the two sides of the same system of thought. In this system, time is conceived in terms of totalization and revolutions are never more than moments of consciousness.

In various forms, this theme has played a constant role since the nineteenth century: to preserve, against all decenterings, the sovereignty of the subject, and the twin figures of anthropology and humanism. Against all the decentering operated by Marx–by the historical analysis of the relations of production, economic determination, and the class struggle–it gave place, towards the end of the nineteenth century, to search for a total history, in which all the differences of a society might be reduced to a single form, to the organization of a world-view, to the establishment of a system of values, to a coherent type of civilization. To the decentering operated by the Nietzschean geneology, it opposed the search for an original foundation that would make rationality the telos of mankind, and link the whole history of thought to the preservation of this rationality, to the maintenance of this teleology, and to the ever necessary return to this foundation. Lastly, more recently, when the researchers of psychoanalysis, linguistics, and ethnology have decentered the subject in its relation to the laws of his desire, the forms of his language, the rules of his action, or the games of his mythical or fabulous discourse, when it became clear that man himself, questioned as to what he was, could not account for his sexuality and his unconscious, the systematic forms of his language, or the regularities of his fictions, the theme of a continuity of history has been reactivated again; a history that would not be division, but development (devenir);

not an interplay of relations, but an internal dynamic; not a system, but the hard work of freedom; not form, but the unceasing effort of a consciousness turned upon itself, trying to grasp itself in deepest conditions: a history that would be both an act of long, uninterrupted patience and the vivacity of a movement, which in the end, breaks all bounds.

–from The Archeology of Knowledge

 

I will not be analyzing this here unless you decide to engage me in conversation. The benefit is that we collectively decide what it is this means, but what this idea of Foucault’s brings.

my review of @khajj’s ‘An Endless Hunger’

I first read Narcisse Navarre’s An Endless Hunger in May when I was caught underneath a threshold of depression. Reading my bewilderment of reality into his searing hunger for living, Navarre’s vampire spoke back into me. And, deeply.

I could say that I did not expect that to happen, but I would be doing a disservice to my awareness of the quality of Navarre’s writing. We had shared many a poetic exchange through Twitter, always after I had been exalted by her way with words. Erotic and visually drawing, Navarre left linguistic imprints upon me on nights where I was up late working on academic scholarship. All too often, there we both were: writing ourselves into the night.

It made sense to me that An Endless Hunger would leave a similar indelibility. My surprise was only in how strong this textual memory ended up becoming.

Months passed by since my reading in May. Work and personal circumstances took me far astray from exaltation. Nonetheless, I kept realizing that the only vampire I had cared to read was, none-too-frequently, with me—in the faces I saw in social media, yearning for another voice and another void. Some nights, on my long drive home from school, he would speak directly to me though he was nowhere near my sight.

Or was he?

Navarre’s cold-blooded killer is as human as any of us. He salivates for warmth. The significant pull of An Endless Hunger is in association. Navarre doesn’t just get inside the mind of a man driven to consumption, she grips her readers in their insatiable greed for human contact.

This is why I could not process my reaction to this text at first. This is also why it wouldn’t shake me. We, An Endless Hunger and I, were inseparable because of my hunger was very alive inside me. The narrator says, “I passionately envied those who blinded me and made my eyes bleed like fountains. In those rare moments I recoiled back into my grotto sick with envy, yet burning inside, as if stung by a million morning suns.” I, too, have recoiled. Many times over.

 

Navarre’s writing finds in me my own absence—she writes the way my pain sees the world. On winter hiatus from work, I was ready to look into An Endless Hunger again, needing the validation that reliving that exaltation of desire and madness, ache and a quenching could only give.

For me, this story is about man at his basest. Base in the sense of our most terrific need to consume. Where we are so ready to accumulate possessions and people, we fall victim to the part of ourselves we cannot acquire. Whatever this may be may very well be unique to every individual; reading this text promises that we alone can name our need. Navarre’s vampire lives himself through his drive to self-satisfy. He is frightening, yes. Yet he is also devastatingly relatable.

Navarre once told me that it takes a lot for her to write this character into being. She said, “He is so hungry.” I didn’t ask then, but want to now: aren’t we all?

But asking this is actually quite unnecessary. To take one read-through of An Endless Hunger is to know immediately that Navarre’s talent as a writer comes down to a naming. Navarre sees; stigma, flaw, and selfishness are not hidden underneath her prose, but made as much a part of the story as they are ourselves. Navarre knows that it is our fear of seeing that we need unveiled. She recognizes these indiscretions are the fashions we wear when we try so hard not to be what we are undressed and vulnerable.

Why a vampire buries himself in the earth at day to sleep; why he encases women in porcelain just to eternally objectify the loss of beauty in his glance; and why consummation will always confuse itself with consumption, the heart of An Endless Hunger is not a draining. The death of our sins, we learn, is an admission of their capacity for revival. In Navarre’s words, “Gazing into those mirrors reflected a perfect lie.” Every time I read this, I will ask of myself whether it is sin we should shun, or society’s refusal to let us have our need.

united front

Black is not the opposite of white;

It just has less in it.

As this is so, I deduce the color

within you.

Say I saw a yellow so yellow

it was green:

a burnished gold.

I mistook that for warmth.

But all metal is cold

until it burns.

A scald reads in the retina

as red.

So I saw red.

Red isn’t just a color,

as no colors are.

Red is a metaphor:

a symbol—

the angry line between

love and hate.

 –

Red is the in-between

of binaries,

when the binary is

me and you.

Red is that warmth I saw,

and how I clam for the cold.

Bloodshed is red

when it routes out of the heart

and in through our veins.

Every breath of air

 –that invisible color—

feeds the red inside.

Red is a need,

a need to be.

Necessity.

 –

What I cannot figure out

is which binary I am:

black or white?

And if they’re even colors.

If they are the lack of color,

binary begins anew.

Color versus not color.

Uncolor?

Discolor?

It doesn’t take much to see

that it doesn’t matter

who is black;

who is white;

or whether there is red

between the two of us.

 –

 –

Because

we are on the same side:

not color.

Fighting

a war against something

we are not:

color.

And may never be.

Solidarity.

(i wrote this poem in the fall of 2010. my how it comes alive again. )

longer, no longer

i could write a book about absence and loss.

yesterday, i chose to etch into distance and memory.

both last just as long as the other two, but replace what isn’t with an overwhelming is.

 

didactic dopplegangers.

 

why do we pay for love?

the cost of affection is change,

what a sorecery it doth create:

the void-made intimacy breeds intolerance.

 

a silent man no longer sits within himself, working his way into forgetting–

in tenderness, awaiting.

a not so silent woman stops berating herself, listening to the wind for its abating–

of bliss, undaunted.

 

another man’s television easily ignored when eye’s focus is on fight,

pouring his bitterness into glass.

 

modified lives

 

carving a fortress into a cave,

staved off their dreary utility,

the shadow of omnipresence befell them.

with a cold beckoning

(just as every story told before, and again)

 

lovers will always embrace escape for its warmth.

 

Did he not see?

Privileged reluctance bent itself disdain

causes loss of what is left,

loses oneself.

sweetness will always feel like a shudder.

inside

I started this blog with one quote in mind: Il n’ya pas de hors-texteThat is by the one and only Jacques Derrida. Loosely and ambiguously (often even erroneously) translated as “There is nothing outside the text,” Derrida’s words echo an inclusion. Nearly a year ago, when I set out to create a space where anyone could speak, and speak freely–both economically (you’ll never find any request for finances or exploitation, on my part, of voice here) and literally (granted the legality of such a thing in this country), I did so to incorporate my own interpretation of this premise.

I sit here today in front of the same computer, in a mind-set not too much different. Surprising, yes I know. Many things I can say, and many more things I can argue.

However, I want to do something else here; I am not even sure what that is.

Several milestones have reached me, my crossing of them tantamount toward what I want in life. I have produced some quality work on this blog. I have watched my son grow. I began teaching on my own. And, I have made a conscious act to love someone worthy of my love and devotion. Some friendships I have lost, quite a few others have strengthened beyond belief–I cannot thank everyone who has stayed alongside me through this last year enough.

What has really happened with this blog was that I wrote through my finding a way to become whole.

I know how cliche that sounds, how inconceivably trite. It isn’t, though, I assure you. And what the possibility of this blog comes down to is the inside. Derrida has probably taught me more than anyone else. I have been a devout student of his since I took my first class in literary theory. It was this phrase that pulled me. It is this phrase that echoes through my consciousness in strange ways always. He often comes back to me when I have forgotten him, and dismissed the given that I actually live in his collar.

That dismissal usually doesn’t last long, because something happens. Someone, somewhere, speaks him into me again: here. My friend Salwa and I have often shared discourse on twitter regarding the Other, and the ontological necessity of seeing ourself in ourselves. This tweet here reminded me just this morning that there is no outside–we are inside, all of us.

Yet I had read something else, something written by another friend, something told in the royal ‘We’. It caused me to struggle with my reading; I questioned the resonance of inclusion in a text in which I did not want to associate. This resistance, I can see, is a violation of self because there is not outside. That means I need to question what inclusion means, and how a not-so-simple thing as a pronoun can shape our identity as readers, authors, and beings.

Pronoun choice is tricky, and wholly rhetorical. Had I written this in academic third-person, my blog would feel completely different. Most of the time, I choose first-person both singular and collective. I like to think I know how to speak the ‘we’ for us.

But I need to be an “I” to do that.

Now I am going to shift this conversation without solving this issue of pronominal significance. Please do comment or question along with me if you desire or have ideas. I could use them, trust you me.

Something majorly significant has just happened: The @YourAnonNews account has been suspended, most likely due to their #OpWestboro work. I want to comment, but I am not sure I have words. I will try.

This account represents so much to me in relation to this blog. I began studying Anonymous over a year ago now, when I was looking at Occupy Wall Street for my scholarship last Fall. The YAN account became a quintessential place where I could see how the conversation and discourse of Anonymous’s social activism moves. To think that they have been silenced maybe forever because of their work shows us what it means to be both inside and outside.

The silencing of any voice is an attempt to place that voice outside of our discourses. It is exclusion and ostracization. Yet if we are to understand Derrida’s phrase, there is no outside. Voices will be heard no matter, and speech is even more apparent in silence. I cannot comment in any more depth than this right now; my feelings own much too many thoughts for language.

I leave this post hanging, then. My promise to you all is that I will gladly hear and share conversation on any of this–if you’d be so kind to pick up where I have left off. You all must surely know this will be addressed in length and detail within the Thesis.

In solidarity,

Les

Be stronger, Foucault

This place marks a moment where Foucault bends. I wonder why…?

In order to define more precisely what I mean by ‘preconceptual’, I shall take the example of the four ‘theoretical schemata’, studied in my book The Order of Things, and which characterize General Grammar in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These four schemata –attribution, articulation, designation, and derivation– do not designate concepts that were in fact used by the Classical grammarians; nor do they make it possible to reconstitute, over and above different grammatical works, some sort of more general, more abstract, more impoverished system, but discover, by the fact, the profound compatibility of these different, apparently opposed systems.

Well that was interesting

I use this term very often, as anyone who converses with me will know all too well. To say something is interesting is to acknowledge it.

But here we are with a discrepancy of what acknowledgment means.

In her book review of Sianne Ngai’s Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting, Hua Hsu points us toward these words that float effortlessly around in our conversations working harder than others in their popularity. It seems “interesting” is one of these ubiquitous terms (another word I use often). Before I get all into theory, motive, and purpose, I want to point out the subtitle of this article: “Sianne Ngai on the go-to descriptor of the modern age.” We have to stop here and remind everyone that we are NOT in the modern age. We have reached pinnacle postmodernism at the very least—those of us more fluent in theory would have other words.

So there’s that. Obviously I cannot expect a media channel such as Slate to do things completely right. But, Hsu’s book review does provide an adequate place for discussing why it is that we use the word interesting, which is, surely, a common linguistic denominator in our contemporaneous moment.

We are currently inundated with sensationalized headlines, slogans, and performed, idealized conceptions of what we need to know from every facet of our lives. Webpages and billboards are a “natural” part of our everyday experience. In them, we are promised and sold hype of egregious ontological magnitude.

So when Ngai asks this question as her major move in her text: “Is there a broader context for the conversational readymade ‘That’s interesting …’?”, we are left wondering why we drop a term that has to carry a lot of weight down as frequently as we do.

Ngai assures us that this is because we are inundated by the advertising community, and that our capacity for response leaves us to use signal terms that surmise everything into a lump exclamation. And, she may be right.

Well, I can’t speak for everyone. I know why I use the term “interesting.” Here’s her take, firstly:

To deem something “interesting” is to promise to return to it. It’s a judgment that doesn’t really say anything, beyond forestalling that judgment, like a (per Ngai) “sticky note” amid an endless wash of data. At its most thoughtful, calling something “interesting” might be an expression of indeterminacy, a placeholder for a future conversation. But more often than not, it’s just conversational filler, something dropped in when you don’t feel like judging at all.

This is the place where I agree with Ngai and Hsu, and then don’t. I’ve read my Burke; I’ve read my Kant. I’ve read Hutcheson; I’ve read the entire pomo theological movement on the sublime.  I was kinda into the thing.

You wanna know why?

Because the sublime is interesting. I never fully agreed with Burke on his take of the sublime. The Enlightenment thinkers—yes, that’s those who first began defining these terms back in, say, the 1700s—were a bit too determinist and binary for me. The sublime is that which terrifies us, and beauty is that which brings calm. These guys separated the theories on each to the genders, just like any good Platonian would do.

But I ain’t no fan of Plato, and Les don’t play binaries. The sublime, for me, is that which arrests my senses and my ability to speak (for once), and leaves me thinking. What I find truly beautiful usually does this the most—just ask the man who gives me the sublime on a daily basis. He hears my “interesting” comments regularly.

For that reason, Ngai and Hsu are correct, I think “interesting” can be used as a sort of place-holder for thought. And maybe some people do use it as filler. This leaves me to question: what is filler?

When I drop down “interesting” in a conversation, it can mean several things. Usually, I disagree with the textual ideologies surrounding me and my communities, so when I say something is “interesting”, I am signaling that it is offensive in some way, and that I don’t have the time to get into a full rhetorical analysis of why. My closest companions are able to understand the implicit reading I’ve done without my explaining. If I am able, I will find a way to relate my reasoning as soon as my time is freed from my more pressing capitalist impositions.

Or, “interesting” can represent something fascinating—something that has won the mass of my attention. When this occurs, I need a place-holder there for myself, so I can take time to think about what I am feeling. Like a most revered living-philosopher, I find my own understanding of self to be interesting at times.

Saying something is interesting isn’t just a binary between “good” and “bad”. To rely upon it on those two ways dismisses the complexity of our sensory interpretation and inception of our environments. Perhaps it is our own social lack of accepting the multifaceted fabric of existence through not having a complex enough language. O, ye modernists.

This is how Hsu ends her review:

Does anyone ever mean it when they say something is “interesting”—or do we all, in art and conversation, merely aspire to be interesting enough? We usually ponder the present condition by considering our consumer choices or modes of self-presentation. But perhaps the line around our imagination starts elsewhere, in those aesthetic experiences that happen on the edge of comprehension.  Before we are inventories of symbols and things, we are thinking, feeling people navigating a fluid, ever-changing world—a world where everything is interesting but not much more, where cuteness and zaniness are the only scales available to us when confronted with global vastness.

Well, here is some heavy analysis and questioning. I want to formally commend Hsu for her journey of thought. I do not have answers for her because these are all interesting propositions. I know how I feel about them. What I think works best, here in my own text, is to provide you all with a space for conversation in the hopes that we can make something interesting. Feel free to answer here, or write your own response. Please do, and tag me if so.

Questions for talk: What are you saying—signifying—when you use your most common, everyday words? Are you worried about your image, thus using it ubiquitously as an act of reputation-upkeep? Are you hunting for words, knowing that a simple one will have to do [in place of] for now? Are there other options?

~

The one thing this book and review do is get us thinking about our word choice. We can ask ourselves how we are using our language, and what it means to leave and lose meaning when we are engaging in conversation. This very act of self reflection feels a little sublime, does it not?