Anatomizing the Anomalies

The temper of Timpanaro: at points deliciously over the top. There is no mistaking his animus in the postscript. He is no friend of Freudianism: "psychoanalysis is neither a natural nor a human science, but a self-confession by the bourgeoisie of its own misery and perfidy, which blends the bitter insight and ideological blindness of a class in decline".

This after a whole book devoted to offering alternatives to the repression-based explanations of parapraxes. A book peppered with counter-examples and occasionally his own gem-like explanations. This stands out for me as a little tour de force in textual criticism and discursive analysis:

I once found Empedocle e gli autonomisti instead of the heading Empedocle e gli atomisti. This was in 1961 or 1962 (the book was published by La Nuova Italia some years later after further revisions had been made to it). At that time, the struggle within the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) between the so-called 'autonomists' under the leadership of Pietro Nenni, and the left wing of the Party was at its height — with the result that autonomisti was a term of current parlance in all the debates on the Italian left and in all the newspapers. Today it has virtually disappeared and Leucippus and Democritus no longer risk being numbered among the followers of Pietro Nenni.
Sebastiano Timpanaro. The Freudian Slip: Psychoanalysis and Textual Criticism. Published with a lovely index of slips along side the usual index of names and themes. The index of slips quite usefully places an asterisk next to those referenced by Freud. Handy.

And so for day 1319
24.07.2010

Affect Generation

In my copy of Barry Lopez Crossing Open Ground there is a yellow sticky commenting on this passage dealing with the effects of shared storytelling.

I felt exhilaration, and a deeper confirmation of the stories. The mundane tasks which awaited me I anticipated now with pleasure. The stories had renewed in me a sense of purpose of my life.

This feeling, an inexplicable renewal of enthusiasm after storytelling, is familiar to many people. It does not seem to matter greatly what the subject is, as long as the context is intimate and the story is told for its own sake, not forced to serve merely as the vehicle for an idea. The tone of the story need not be solemn. The darker aspects of life need not be ignored. But I think intimacy is indispensable — a feeling that derives from the listener's trust and a storyteller's certain knowledge of his subject and regard for his audience. This intimacy deepens if the storyteller tempers his authority with humility, or when terms of idiomatic expression, or at least the physical setting for the story, are shared.
"Landscape and Narrative"
The yellow sticky (written no doubt at a time I was taking Brian Stock's seminar on Augustine) references the vision at Ostia in the Confessions which is a case of another occasion where storytelling works its magic.
And when our discourse was brought to that point, that the very highest delight of the earthly senses, in the very purest material light, was, in respect of the sweetness of that life, not only not worthy of comparison, but not even of mention; we raising up ourselves with a more glowing affection towards the "Self-same," did by degrees pass through all things bodily, even the very heaven whence sun and moon and stars shine upon the earth; yea, we were soaring higher yet, by inward musing, and discourse, and admiring of Thy works; and we came to our own minds, and went beyond them, that we might arrive at that region of never-failing plenty, [...]
Augustine
Book IX, The Confessions
Translated Edward Bouverie Pusey
I could leave the comparison in this simple juxtaposition. But I want to signal that I have a hunch that the phenomenology of the affect generated by shared storytelling follows a path whereby one's concentration moves from names to things to relationships. The hunch comes from a hint in another of Lopez's essays "Children in the Woods" in which he muses on the brightest children being fascinated by metaphor. This is how he sets it up:
I think children know that nearly anyone can learn the names of things; the impression made on them at this level is fleeting. What takes a lifetime to learn, they comprehend, is the existence and substance of myriad relationships: it is these relationships, not the things themselves, that ultimately hold the human imagination.
And I would like to tell that the relationships include the narration - the bond between storyteller and audience - which in its potential for self-referentiality can entrance well past the thousandth and one night into a "region of never-failing plenty".

And so for day 1318
23.07.2010

Shrivel: dark heart of dark

Choice-Noice-Noise-Poise

This is the chain that I have dug up from a stanza from ryan fitzpatrick "A Sparrow's Song" in Fake Math. It reads in part like a syntagm carrying a transformation through the static. Here it is in its setting:

Yet, as Frost says, fuck choice, let freedom
race. Noice. Our sparrow lobs grenades at
glasnost — an 80's relic — instead it's Star Wars,
global spread of, and bottle coffee. Noise.
In Dolby or THX, hear nipples rub over
polyurethane, weather stripping over poise.
This is a far cry from the suave and sensuous renderings of other passages in fitzpatrick (including his edgy lyrics inspired by advertising calls to action — they propel). See this stanza from "The Dark Heart" where "poem stands" operate like groups of trees out of Ashbery...
Yet the poem stands pollute, stumbles to the dark
heart of dark amidst a fleet of tin canoes, brilliant
sugar maples craft a landscape of wide-eyed chocolate
wrappers. Private sawdust soaks up crops. Orchards
vanish into picture books. Propellers vent family farms
into tight designer jeans. Landfills, rotation act,
industrial waste percussion, signification bottlenecks
brainwaves; work of all wordplay: codeplay.
Indeed there are :signification bottlenecks:

A hint on how to assemble some of the more disjunctive parts is presented by Shelley Woods reporting on poetry and play with a Rubick's Cube. Swivelling my way to clarity. Hers is a different poem but the procedure is suggestive for other contexts: chop and re-sequence.

Poise-Noise-Noice-Choice

And so for day 1317
22.07.2010

Affronts to Aboriginal and Arab Cultures

Mark Abley treats us to engagements with the ghost of Duncan Campbell Scott, poet and bureaucrat, in a series of encounters related in Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott. Close to the end of the last session, our narrator lets loose.

"I concede nothing," I said, for once overriding his interruption. "It so happens that my father was an organist. I was raised on J.S. Bach, and I'll always be glad of it. But if I'd been raised on Sufi chants or African-American gospel music or the ragas of India, I wouldn't be any less civilized. I think Aboriginal dances can hold just as much meaning and beauty as Giselle. And besides, we've reached a point in history where that word 'civilized' sends up loud alarm bells. Were the Nazis uncivilized? They revered the music of Wagner. I'm sure many of them loved Bach and Mozart too. Ads went up recently in the New York subway system saying 'In any war between civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.' That's not just a slogan I reject, Mr. Scott — it's a war I refuse to fight."
In order to comprehend more specifically the narrator's refusal let us excavate some links to some of the news coverage of the NYC and also of the San Francisco transit ads:

ABC NEWS
NYC Subway Ads Call for Defeat of Jihad 'Savages' Sept. 20, 2012

BBC
The ads have also appeared on San Francisco's public transport system. In response, the transit authority ran anti-bigotry ads next to the [Freedom Defense Initiative] FDI's.

Mother Jones
Though Muni may have to run the ads, it has taken the unusual step of posting its own ads denouncing Geller's campaign [...] [Transcription from picture of sign with arrow to offending sign: SFMTA policy prohibits discrimination based on national origin, religion, and other characteristics and condemns statements that describe any group as "savages." ] Muni is also donating the money Geller paid for the ads to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.

What does Abley, the author, accomplish when Abley, the narrator, doesn't provide a reference, doesn't tell the reader which group is aimed at by the term 'savage'? Evidently, he elevates the sentiment of refusal to a universal status. Less evidently but equally important, he offers the reader an opportunity to stomach more and explore the coverage and the comments on the coverage. And in the dynamics of the conversations and their aftermath, the refusal serves to clearly state the stakes. The refusal adds an echo within an echo for the narration ends with this observation: "Then his voice was no longer floating around me, though its echo seemed to fill a space the size of Canada." By this point, thanks to the outburst of refusal, we as readers know there are other voices capable of filling space.

And so for day 1316
21.07.2010

Labrys Rising

Andrea Dworkin
1975
Lesbian Pride
in Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics

Delivered at a rally in Central Park

The structure of the address is simple: three sources of lesbian meaning and power and to close, an admonishment that rocky days lay ahead. Her three meanings: love and respect of women; erotic bond with women; and mother-daughter connection. And these were not mere abstractions. Take for instance her characterization of the erotic bond. It's bold.

[B]eing a lesbian means that there is an erotic passion and intimacy which comes of touch and taste, a wild, salty tenderness, a wet sweet sweat, our breasts, our mouths, our cunts, our intertangled hairs, our hands.
In closing with an invocation of the difficult struggle on the horizon, Dworkin is almost addressing warriors. One recalls that the labyrs symbol used to be worn by many a proud amazon. O where have all the radical lesbians gone?

And so for day 1315
20.07.2010

Notes to Get Lost In and Find the Other

Tony Hiss The Experience of Place

on simultaneous perception

We can experience any place because we've all received, as part of the structure of our attention, a mechanism that drinks in whatever it can from our surroundings. This underlying awareness — I call it simultaneous perception — seems to operate continuously, at least during waking hours, even when our concentration seems altogether engrossed in something else entirely. [...] While normal waking consciousness works to simplify perception, allowing us to act quickly and flexibly by helping us remain seemingly oblivious to almost everything except the task in front us, simultaneous perception is more like an extra, or a sixth, sense: It broadens and diffuses the beam of attention evenhandedly across all the senses so we can take in whatever is around us — which means sensations of touch and balance, for instance in addition to all sights, sounds, and smells.
on utter watchfulness
We can detect cross-sensory patterns like the cooperation in a moving crowd because of three other processes in simultaneous perception — processes that have been the object of research. According to Anton Ehrenzweig [The Hidden Order of Art], an art historian at the University of London, his work with artists shows that people have an innate capacity that he calls "utter watchfulness": We can pay equal attention to everything at once, omitting nothing and at the same time emphasizing nothing. Ehrenzweig also considered the speed with which we can put together and respond to the information made available by "utter watchfulness" and concluded that people's thinking then show "split-second reaction to innumerable variables."
on choice and consciousness
[...] a secure place, as well as a quiet place, and a place with a rich variety of things to look at, listen to, and otherwise interact with. Such places offer simultaneous perception an enriched kind of stimulation and offer us a chance to intensify such perception by making it conscious. But then we have to choose what to do: whether to keep our attention on our own thoughts and plans or accept whatever our surroundings have to give us — whether to experience ourselves or what's around us. That choice — made once or made many times — determines in the long run how well we get to know a place and whether we ever get the full benefit of the experiences it makes available.
on legibility
The Kaplans think that we also have an innate preference for open spaces, which provide what they call "legibility." "Just as one can imagine oneself somewhere in a scene acquiring new information, one can imagine oneself somewhere in a scene getting lost," they write in Cognition and Environment. "Legibility . . . is characteristic of an environment that looks as if one could explore extensively without getting lost. Environments high in legibility are those that look as if they would be easy to make sense of as one wandered farther and farther into them. Enough openness to see where one is going, as well as distinctive enough elements to serve as landmarks, are important here."
from Froebel
In Froebel's formulation, which was based in part on the many days he spent outdoors as a child [...] people are created both as wholes and as parts — that is, they have to learn how to function both as separate individuals and as participants in larger patterns that include harmonious relationships with other people and all of life. And, Froebel asserted, it was only outdoors that a person could learn empathy [...]
to read, to sense, to experience, to project, empathize

And so for day 1314
19.07.2010

neopostcolonial

Consumerism.

I bought the book. I read the book.
Was I consumed?

The question arises in part from the vampire-inspired figure raised by Judith Barry in her critical and art work.

Architecture has become transparent, a giant screen into which social life dissolves. By making explicit certain unspoken yet intensely felt subject relations, my work attempts to develop a theory of mass/media consumer culutre, whereby as opposed to Baudrillard's schizophrenic, we inhabit the world like vampires, those last great, sentient beings of the 19th century imagination who are neither dead nor alive.
Judith Barry
Public Fantasy, an anthology of critical essays, fictions and project descriptions published to coincide with an ICA Exhibition, Public Fantasy 20 June - 14 July 1991
Project description "In the Shadow of the City ... Vamp R Y ..." 1982-85
I love that line ... those last great, sentient beings of the 19th century. What are we to do in the 21st?

This vampire figure is taken up by Jean Fisher in Vampire in the text: narratives of contemporary art (2003) which includes an essay on Judith Barry's video and installation work. There is also a piece called "Other Cartographies" which takes up the vampire analogy in a postcolonial setting:
The colonized body is a vampirised body; it arises as a debt — a depletion of blood, of identity — and it cannot be settled or buried since it inherits a perpetual and inexhaustible demand. If we consider the symbolic function of the grandmother in relation to this draining of colonized communities, then she appears as the site of recollection: of the recounting of stories that are the bearers of beliefs and values. She is the sign of continuity: a genealogy, a line back to cultural memory. Hence in Harold of Orange what otherwise refuses to be laid to rest, what constantly appears is tradition — tradition, not in the sense of nostalgia for what once was, but a continuous production of meaning. The debt, the circulating residue in the exchange between disparate cultural entities, is the constant production of otherness.
Can we take this highly gendered perspective to a reading of a reading of The Orenda by Joseph Boyden? Hayden King in a review published in Muskrat Magazine and represented by CBC.
The consequences of these themes – the marginalization of the perspective of the Haudenosaunee, the centering of the Jesuit point of view and the cultivation of old tropes, specifically the savage Indian – amount to a tale about the inevitability of colonization. The vanishing Indian was ordained (even desirable) because of his/her character. Indeed the un-named Sky People who open each section of the book observe the carnage below and conclude the grim history was pre-determined partly because of the selfishness, arrogance and short-sightedness of the Huron. Even Christophe’s torturer, Tekakwitia, will be converted: soon after the events of the book take place Kateri Tekakwitia is born, living a Christian life and eventually becoming a Catholic saint. It’s a grim reality and a difficult book to read. At least it will be for many Native peoples. For Canadians, The Orenda is a colonial scribe and moral alibi.
First the persistent Sky People. Theirs is the final word. They preside over more than beginnings; they have ends in view. Their words do open the book by stating the Jesuit view of the Orenda as unclean. They state the view, they do not endorse it. Indeed, this wrongmindedness is linked to bad behaviour. Orientations matter. In the final passage, they present a call for accountability and by implication a striving for a better future. It is difficult to read their words as simple colonial alibi.
But hindsight is sometimes too easy, isn't it? And so maybe this is what Aataentsic wants to tell. What's happened in the past can't stay in the past for the same reason the future is always just a breath away. Now is what's most important, Aataentsic says. Orenda can't be lost, just misplaced. The past and the future are present.
King claims in his reading that The Orenda characterizes the Haudenosaunee as torturers and a continual threat. As the plot unfolds the Huron are the first to torture two captured Iroquois; the Haudenosaunee do not have a monopoly on treating prisoners to caressing with hot coals. Indeed, at one point, one Jesuit addressing another says the Europeans are no different with their Inquisition. It is difficult to see the Haudensaunee as relentlessly depicted as the bad guys.

King offers historical extrapolation to point towards some triumph of colonial power and Christianity. But one could point to other passages in the novel that undermine any such triumphalism. On more than one occasion the Jesuit remarks on the lack of corporal punishment in the Huron child rearing practices and that will change once they are "civilized". Readers need not be reminded of residential schools to feel a foreshadowing shiver of abuses and almost fast upon that dark image to recall cultural resilience.

Indeed, the play of polyphony throughout the novel is often displayed with an economy of detail. You have to be attentive to the almost musical patterns to appreciate the ironies. Take for instance, the Crow (characterized by King as "the doomed hero that reinforces colonial myths of savagery on the one hand, and salvation, on the other") who after speaking with his companions about witnessing sorcery and trickery and admonishing "You'll be confronted by this type of foolery on a daily basis" turns his attention to our other two main characters sitting on the shore. His is a view outside-looking-in.
Bird must have said something funny to the girl, for she smiles brightly, looking up at him. She allows her hand to stay in his. A pang of jealousy roots about in my gut.
In King's reading readers would identify with the jealousy of the Jesuit, the instance of the narrating "I". [But this is more complicated because King separates out readers into Natives and Canadians.] But I will point out that the Sky People — not to mention the narration which shifts perspectives — have conditioned readers to view the scene as a whole regardless of who is relating the story. There is here to recall Fisher "constant production of otherness". All the fictional foolery leads to a variety of authenticity - something sentient in our imaginations.

And so for day 1313
18.07.2010

Der Hauch

What do you smell when you smell a book?
What do you breathe in when accessing bits and bytes? Do you have the aroma of coffee wafting nearby?

Jeffrey T. Schnapp & Matthew Battels
The Library Beyond the Book

The relics of saints were always already multiples whose magic resided less in in their claim to uniqueness than in their ability to catalyze the energies of a community as well as higher forces. Such will be the destiny of digital relics as well.
The mention of relics and the notion of technological mediation brings to mind Walter Benjamin's essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction". What follows is less a screed about authenticity and reproduction and more of a sniffing about the origins of the term "aura" and its emanations.

On the intellectual origin's of Benjamin's aura I offer this extended passage from the Proxemics and Prosthetics chapter of Sense: Orientations, Meanings, Apparatus.
It is perhaps more appropriate to characterize this play of proxemics in terms of unlocking time or cutting time free since in this essay Benjamin in his definition of aura sees time as strangely woven into space to create the appearance of distance. Whatever the characterization, it is movement through space that destroys the timeless aspect of aura. Aura arises out of observer immersion in the phenomenon. Later in the Artwork essay Benjamin will stress the role of cultic practices in maintaining the contemplation necessary to sustain aura. However here in "A Small History of Photography" he accentuates the atmosphere-like quality; aura is breathed in. This quality is related to the factor of enfolded time the moment or hour becoming part of the appearance.

How aura as atmosphere can be related to enfolded time is not at all clear from Benjamin's text. In later essays, he drops from the discussion all direct mention of these two elements. The correlation between time and atmosphere passes through a mechanism of identification similar to the vessel-symbol of the Jungian soul. Whether Benjamin had read Jung at this point, it is clear that the auratic fusion of viewer and object places his discussion in the orbit of exponents of mythic images like [Ludwig] Klages.

The Artwork essay is marked by the traces of the work on Bachofen and mother-right. Benjamin compares early photography to the cult of remembrance of the dead. As well, although without reference to grave robbing, he refers to the destruction of aura when objects are pried from their shell. These passing references evoke less Bachofen's narrative of his first experiences upon encountering ancient graves than [Alfred] Schuler's story of his own first encounter with unearthed artefacts.

Schuler observing objects lifted from an archaeological excavation notes that as they come to light they loose their aura (der Hauch). It evaporates. Schuler claimed that a fluid, a film of life matter, was possessed not only by relics and cult objects but also by all ancient objects (See Fuld, Werner. "Die Aura Zur Geschicte eines Begriffes bei Benjamin." Akzente 26 (1979): 352-370. pp. 361-362). Benjamin could not refer to a written source for Schuler's lectures and fragments were published posthumously by Klages in 1940. However, it is the type of material that would circulate widely as anecdote. The evidence is compelling that Benjamin observed carefully the Munich circle around poet Stefan George of which Alfred Schuler was a celebrated part (Fuld 360). Indeed in the Bachofen essay Benjamin refers to George's dedication of Porta Nigra to Schuler.

The Schuler story perhaps did not influence Benjamin directly. Its key element, however, the fragility of the aura in the context of unearthing the past anticipates Benjamin's insistence on displacement in the destruction of aura. It also illuminates the perplexing combination of aura's source in ritual and in natural phenomena. It is upon the cult of the dead that mythic claims to a people's belonging to the land are founded. Without symbols such a cult is endangered. It is unable to envelop the departed, those now belonging to nature, and those belonging to history, the living, into one cognitive space. The past is not one with the present.
Following one's nose... metaphor for digital tracking. Not so much to find relics as to trace the paths of contact. There is a democratic mode to the creation of certain classes of relics in the Catholic tradition:
The 3rd Class Relic consists of something that has been touched to a 1st or 2nd Class Relic. Anyone can make their own 3rd Class relics by touching an object to a 1st or 2nd Class Relic, including the tomb of a Saint.
There are other traditions of relic veneration. What is remarkable here in the Catholic classification is how the question of authenticity and aura is mediated by proxemics and contact. The relic functions as a type of souvenir.

There is one such souvenir in my household. It's an old chipped brick. It could serve as a door stopper or bookend. A plain object. But it is a reminder of 1992 firebombing of the Morgentaler Clinic in Toronto causing damage so extensive that the building had to be demolished. The brick was salvaged from the rubble. The brick can now disappear in crumbling dust ... its story has been told. Digital dust will now help the brick tale disperse.

The only authentication the brick is found in story. Likewise aura of a relic or any object, digital or otherwise, is held in place by the discursive structures that support its apprehension. All power to the metadata! And the ubiquity of digital dust.

And so for day 1312
17.07.2010

Noetic Fallacy Fallacy

The reading below hinges on the distinction between "Snowman" (a being made of snow) and "Snow Man" (a being observing snow). It is a nicety not found in Fowler's. Search engines readily respond to either strings with image sets of anthropomorphic snow sculptures.

It is the making human of the inanimate that brought the distinction to the fore for me via C.D. Lewis reading Robert Langbaum. Lewis picks up a discussion of pathetic fallacy and identifies a subspecies "noetic fallacy" (see Lewis The Lyric Impulse).

Mr. Langbaum sees the subject [... comments on Langbaum's reading of poems by Marianne Moore ...] It is salutary to be reminded that natural objects do not have human purposiveness or feelings; but I do not see that such reminders constitute a new nature poetry.

On the other hand, Mr. Langbaum adduces Wallace Stevens' "The Snow Man", "which contrasts the inevitably anthropomorphic human apprehension of a landscape with the landscape as it might be apprehended by the mindless 'mind' of a snow man". I have studied this poem very attentively, and come to the conclusion that the poem is attempting the impossible. He has tried to put himself into the mind not even of an animal, but of an artifact — a snow man which has no sentience whatsoever. Mr. Langbaum's "as it might be apprehended" gives the game away: the poet has sought by this means to convey the absolute purity, the essence, of a winter landscape; but his method is not purely objective. Side-stepping, the pathetic fallacy, he has tumbled into another pitfall — let us call it the noetic fallacy.
Let's sort out what the poet has sought to accomplish and what the critic sees at work. Langbaum does suggest that impossible attempt that pushed Lewis to new coinage. He writes in "The New Nature Poetry" (collected in The Modern Spirit: Essays on the Continuity of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Literature)
Take as an example of the new sense of nature Wallace Stevens's "The Snow Man," which contrasts the inevitable anthropomorphic human apprehension of a winter landscape with the landscape as it might be apprehended by the mindless "mind" of a snow man.
Langbaum then cites the beginning of the poem ("One must have a mind of winter [..]") and provides the last stanzas as both proof and illustration.
                                  not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Lewis accepts Langbaum's assertion that the reader is invited to identify with an attempt to apprehend a mindless mind. But there are three "nothings" at play that could very well be the counters of a contemplative mind: nothing from the subjective self observing is placed into the landscape, nothing is observed that is not in the landscape including the nothing that is in the landscape. Queue de poisson.

Abrupt end or beginning? The nothing that is the self. We need not be in the mindless mind or mindless. We can call upon Buddhist tradition to explore emptiness. I quote from Hōsaku Matsuo's preface to The Logic of Unity: The Discovery of Zero and Emptiness in Prajñāpāramitā Thought [Translated by Kenneth K. Inada] who is quoting from the Heart Sutra: "Consciousness is at once emptiness and emptiness is at once consciousness." Is this not one having a mind of winter?

And so for day 1311
16.07.2010

Epic of Cloth

The useful life of fabric is set forth as a catalogue of thrift. Toni Morrison in Jazz employs an epic simile that rises naturally out of the thoughts of one woman ironing.

Alice had finished the sheets and begun the first shirtwaist when Violet knocked on her door. Years and years and years ago she had guided the tip of the iron into the seams of a man's white shirt. Dampened just so the fabric smoothed and tightened with starch. Those shirts were scraps now. Dust cloths, monthly cloths, rags tied around pipe joints to hinder freezing; pot holders and pieces to test hot irons and wrap their handles. Even wicks for oil lamps; salt bags to scrub the teeth. Now her own shirtwaists got her elegant attentive handcare.
Labour marks the passage of time but also the recurring cycles of domestic space for Alice's thoughts turn to the future.
Two pairs of pillow slips, still warm to the touch, were stacked on the table. So were the two bed sheets. Next week, perhaps, the curtains.
Meanwhile there is a knock. There is always a knock.

And so for day 1310
15.07.2010