Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Freedom to be ambiguous

"Taking centre stage is Superman with his distinctive red cape and blue suit. To the left is Santa Claus and to the right Ronald McDonald, the mascot of the fast-food giant McDonalds, and the Joker also makes an appearance." – Emily Allen, Daily Mail Online Tues. 21 June, 2011

The article does not mention the fact that the "red flag" carried by the soldiers has been turned into Stars and Stripes. A "liberation" replaced by another "liberation"...

I guess many people would "read" in(to) this graffiti a celebration of the freedom to go to MacDonald's. I would rather "read" in(to) it a celebration of another freedom: the freedom to be ambiguous. Not political and economic "liberation", that is, but an artistic liberation – more constitutive for democracy than the introduction of "free" market economy, as I see it.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

"Love Will Tear Us Apart"*

To compose a collage of sorts, a note for later elaboration, I will take two very valuable quotes from J. Hillis Miller's excellent book, On Literature. The first concerns J.L. Austin's speech act theory, primarily as regards its implications for literature understood as "performative" (112):

The second concerns a very basic ethical principle – "basic" in the sense of both very simple and utterly important – that has crucial implications for reading literature:

Miller makes no explicit connection between these two passages belonging to subsequent chapters dealing with more or less distinct issues. However, I would like to suggest one.
What do we say – what do I say, what do you say – when we say "I love you"? I just heard someone telling about her youth in the eighties, as a "goth" or, in other words, as part of a generation that was both "neoromantic" and "postmodern", and about the ironic consciousness that was an integral part of that identity. The way of saying – or avoiding to say – "I love you", ironically distantiated by adding clauses like "as a poet would say", would be a telling example of "postmodern language consciousness". It would be easy to dismiss such a word-play, if not only as a childish pose, then at least as refusal to commit oneself – to commit oneself to "anything", since "I love you" is just a sort of extreme example of a phrase that should mean everything but has been completely worn away in its promiscuous usage by all kinds of industries – but perhaps this token of "neoromantic" irony implies a deeper motivation?
Perhaps the phrase "I love you" does not (just) express an affect, and perhaps responding "I love you" does not mean that we share the affect, that I "know exactly" what you mean by the phrase, and feel the same way too? As a matter of fact, neither you or I can know exactly what the other feels, or feel exactly the same "thing"; an affect cannot be shared "exactly", or even if we somehow could "participate" in the "same" affect, we could not know this participation.
Perhaps we could think of the phrase "I love you" in a different way, then? Not (just) as expressing and sharing an affect, but otherwise?

* The title of this note comes from Joy Division, of course.

Why philosophy?

Thinking is not just an activity, but a passion – a passion for that which is and remains to be thought.

Philosophy, as passion, is not – perhaps not – essentially mastery, but a vulnerability.

* * *

You could replace "philosophy", above, with "philology" – see Werner Hamacher's and Thomas Schestag's recent "theses" on philology – and, perhaps, "thinking" with "reading" and "thought" with "read" (that which "is and remains to be read" is "something" that certainly "is and remains to be thought", but some people might pretend that "that which is and remains to be thought" is not always something "to be read").

I am re-reading Octavio Paz's Children of the Mire, and the following in it:

Critical passion: excessive, impassioned love of criticism and its precise devices for disconstructions,* but also criticism in love with its object, ...

* "Disconstructions": I don't have the Spanish original at hand (while, on the other hand, the English translation is rather an English version, constituting Paz's Norton Lectures of 1972), but it would by no means be far-fetched to read "deconstructions", provided that we forget, for a moment, that deconstruction is not a device, let alone a set of "deconstructions" as a set of "devices".