Victory, not Vengence

Current Music: Concrete Blonde: Mexican Moon

All hail Sim-Ronan!

Well, for all of you VNV Nation haters out there (apparently there are many . . . the interview in the new Industrial Nation begins, “whether you love ’em or hate ’em,” or something like that), we have this lovely track, “Perfect Burger.”

“You take no prisoners, do you”

Current Music: Cocteau Twins: Garlands

Subtitle: Letter to a mentor.

Dr. Phrenesis,

Tenacity is only two syllables away, plus and minus, from mendacity.

As my favorite high school teacher once disclosed in a letter to me during my freshperson year of college, he was in therapy for many years because of his fretting over the size of his penis. It was not so much the size, of course, but the fear of being found out (so he told me). This is an anxiety of our times, particularly, which can be tracked, on the one hand, by all the email I receive on a daily basis about “blow her away with your tool” and “BIG PENIS NOW!,” and on the other, by the conspicuous absence of trough-style urinals in newly constructed sports stadiums.

This was for the longest time Freud’s preoccupation: being found out. “On [not] Being Found Out” has been a theme I’ve played with since grad school. It is, of course, the central problem of philosophy, usually expressed in terms of the mind-body “problem” (though John Searle has faith! He has the longest nose-hair of any intellectual I’ve ever had the fortune to meet). I discovered this argument in an essay of Freud’s last week:

“To find a way out, the philosophers at least were obliged to assume that there were organic processes parallel to the conscious psychical ones, related to them in a manner that was hard to explain, which acted as intermediaries in the reciprocal relations between ‘body and mind,’ and which served to re-insert the psychical into the texture of life. But this solution remained unsatisfactory. . . . Psycho-analysis has escaped such difficulties as these by energetically denying the equation between what is psychical and what is conscious.” (“Some Elementary Lessons in Psychoanalysis,” SE 23, p. 283)

Oh, East is East, and West is West, as Kipling’s cliche goes.

I think psychoanalysis is one of the most sophisticated ways in which twinning has been theorized to explain our plight, and that Judith Butler is, I think, one of the most important thinkers in this legacy. Like Slavoj Zizek, she is seeking to forge dialectics with an ontology of twinning. And like Zizek, the rigorously pursues the cleave by denying there is anything prior. *Gender Trouble*, then, I think reduces to this: “If gender attributes and acts, the various ways in which a body shows or produces its cultural signification, are performative, then there is no preexisting identity by which an act or attribute might be measured; there would be no true or false, real or distorted acts of gender, and the postulation of a true gender identity would be revealed as a regulatory fiction” (p. 180). So, I suspect, “when in doubt, for Judy, it’s about why there’s no ‘before.'” It’s temporal. And with Slavoj, “when it doubt, for Zizek, it’s about why there’s no ‘there there.'” Perhaps it is Baudrillard’s fault in a way: although we are wont to believe, although we long, for a singular when we think about twinning (before two there was always one), there is no “prior” and there is not essential “stuff.”

So to sort out Butler’s rejoinder to Kristeva, you have that basic, fundamental critique (and we cannot forget that for Butler sex, as much as gender, is a fiction as well; p. 139) which I think you and I have a general grasp of. It consists, bascially, of the following (paraphrased from p. 102):

1. the primary relationship to the maternal body is not a viable psychoanalytic concept because it is essentialist (Lacan also takes a beating here).

2. one cannot base a program of cultural subversion on a pre-Oedipal economy of drives, because drives cannot be prior to the law (e.g., drives are mutable precisely because they are not instincts).

3. the notion that, within culture, this Real, pre-discursive, libidinal economy leads to psychosis and cultural breakdown is absurd.

One and two you and I have discussed and, I think, cleared away–at least as a point of disagreement between Butler and Kristeva, and perhaps not so much between us. A am a fence sitter in all this business, so I may sing with the chora yet.

Regardless (still stylin’ the transference), the psychosis of homosexuality falls into the third bone-prick of the Butlerian strap-on: Butler would fuck shit up with her phallic nose and her polymorphous panoply of words

As I understand it–whether from Butler’s strawpersonage or not–for Kristeva, because female identity is essentially melancholic, lesbianism is an unmediated, incestuous encounter with the internalized maternal body. That is, the maternal body is folded into the female-ego by girls as a negativity that cannot be grieved, and in the homosexual idiom, contact with that which cannot be grieved is an impossible transgression leading to psychosis. How this relates to the two unpleasant choices you mention (virgin or whore), I am uncertain (I need to get with my Chinese women).

Regardless, Butler’s critique of this nugget is, of course, predictable (she demolishes mourning and melancholia theory in the previous chapter). To paraphrase, she really takes issue with an understanding of psychosis that requires compulsory heterosexism: “The relation between heterogenous drives and the paternal law produces an exceedingly problematic view of psychosis. On the one hand, it designates female homosexuality as a culturally unintelligible practice, inherently psychotic: on the other hand, it mandates maternity as a compulsory defense against libidinal chaos” (p. 110). Or in my terms, desire particular to the “feminine” is explained away as a yearning to finally individuate from the maternal body by literally giving (it) birth. This means, for Butler, that Kristeva “indissolubly” links heterosexuality with “coherent selfhood.”

But is sure does explain, in some sense, the guilt associated with foregoing fucking with a purpose.

One thing popping mushrooms does, to carp on Huxley, is open the doors to association and the potential horror of a “bad trip.” I guess the frightening lesson Zizek is good at telling, and Butler less so, is that “not being found out” is a fantasy and anxiety that we all need. The seepage of the uncs. signifier–it’s fuckin’ shit up-and-out, if only in slips and unexpected farts–leads us to fumble about for indirect routes. Hence the occult is “always already” with us, part of the “deep structure” of all this goddamn writing. As I said in the dissertation years back, the “biggest secret is that there are no secrets.” That pressure from below is just there to remind us that there’s nothing really there, that there is no prior, or rather, that there are just suspicions built upon suspcions. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m with the program that there is only a vast network of signifiers and nothing much else, and that the body, well . . . Oh, East is East, and West is West . . . .

Love from Below,

Josh

PS: Wish you were here . . . .

Stuckness

Current Music: The Angels of Light: Everything is Good Here/Please Come Home

Tonight I’m in somewhat of a pensive mood, but I should survive, at least until midnight. It’s been a very busy week, with a visiting interviewee at work and a host of things to get done at home, including retraining the kitty to use the box (she lapses every two months or so).

I’m having somewhat of a time getting a paper Shaun and I am working on through a key transitional spot. There are fifteen ways to “end the paper,” but I am stuck figuring out which way is best. And not being able to figure that out infects the pages that come before it . . . paper sickness. I hate that. More trauma to be endured . . . and hopefully I’ll endure it tomorrow and have it done.

Not much more to write about I’d wish to make “public,” I suppose. I did get a Zizek edited collection in the mail that has me excited (a re-working of the cogito in the Lacanian argot). In addition to vocal ghosts, I want to write about the need to embrace a kind of dualism for our own sanity this summer (and what is a ghost but a tacit dualism, anyway? Say, Jacques . . . WTF is ‘hauntology’ but a binary?).

Self-terror; they broadcast images of what some soldiers were doing to Iraqi prisoners on the news this evening. It was chilling, as if Geneva has frozen over . . . .

Schizophrenic, I know. I will get me to bed.

“November Spawned a Monster”

Current Music: Morrissey: Bona Drag

Reading Baudrillard can make your head hurt, but it’s getting taught so I gotta finish up The Ecstasy of Communication. Though the man has since gone off the deep end (almost: his little bit on 9/11 and terrorism is quite good), he certainly was prophetic. Today lecture is about subjectivity as a “network.”

Gretchen sent along http://www.dokaka.com/”>this link for Dukaka, Japan’s answer to Bobby McFerrin. He has some pretty hilarious covers of Steely Dan and . . . Iron Maiden. Good for a pick-me-up. Warning: Do not listen with your mouth full of food or drink (unless, of course, you have purchased the keyboard protection warranty from Comp USA).

Watched The Haunted Mansion last evening. Laura was dead-on (so to speak): The story is about a butler who kills his master’s fiance because the fiance is obviously a “slave.” The Mansion is a thinly veiled plantation, of course, as the thing takes place in . . . New Orleans. It’s a remarkable ending: souls to go heaven and hell, a la Snow White, however, this time the “saved” ending is explictly “in yo’ face.” A remarkably bad film, but also remarkable: the political unconscious is in yo fuckin’ face. It must be read up against Song of the South, which I also have a bootleg of.

Speaking of bootlegs, the three-hours-plus version of “Alan Smithee’s” Dune is on its way.

Alright, off to school with me.

Sucking Blood

Current Music: Poe: Haunted

A’ight, the blog has now gone blogger, which should save me some time coding. Shortly I hope to post a report of my visit to Germany, replete with links to the places I visted and some of the photos I took. It will take some time to chose the photographs.

The reading group started Larry Rickel’s The Vampire Lectures, which Catherine Liu has a nice write-up about in case you are interested. The book is thick with puns and, as I read along, I’m fairly positive I am missing 70% of them (and oblique references to, say, dildos . . . “holes and poles,” “holes and poles,” that’s right folks–The Hokey Pokey had it only partially right). Anyway, Laura is an expert in Haraway, and is helping to point out some of the conceptual binaries underlying the first few “lectures” (reproduction vs. replication, for example). Michelle and Jim are both experts in psychoanalysis, so they’re helping point out important concepts (including, for example, “life is foreplay, and after that, you’re dead meat”). I’m afraid I bring nothing to the table for getting through this but a morbid fascination in morbidity . . . but that hopefully is enough .

Learned Kaja Silverman has a book on the disembodied voice, The Acoustic Mirror, and while I was hunting for that I discovered Chion has something on disembodied voices/talk-overs in cinema. Both, of course, are must-reads. The pile of “must-reads” is now quite immense . . . when I’ll get to it all is beyond me. I hear CRANK really does wonders . . . .

Laura also loaned me Poe’s Haunting CD, which is an interesting listen. I’m gearing up to start on the new book this summer, and I think the Poe album will work nicely as a way to get into the final chapter, which I had planned to be on the answering machine. The answering machine has always been a source of terror for me . . . .

Speaking of terror, The Haunted Mansion came out on DVD today; after the warnings, I worry about its subtextual message. But I am also anxious to see how the ghosts figure and dunno if it will make mention in the new project (not unless hearing voices are a part of the text).