Sunday, January 28, 2007

displacing Big Other

And what, he also wondered, if every speech act is already overdetermined? Might not the use of "literal" language in fact constitute a form of minimalist courage? Whose subjective hermeneutics of suspicion are we trusting here, in any case?

It is this citational nature of all discourse that both makes intentionality possible and limits its purity. It is also what impels Mikhail Bakhtin's understanding of the inherent dialogism of all discourse and why Bakhtin concludes that "Language is not a neutral medium that passes freely and easily into the private property of the speaker's intentions; it is populated—overpopulated—with the intentions of others" (Dialogism 294).

If anything is clear, it is that without a bare minimal good will (a will-to-understand)–indeed, a sort of faith on the part of both members in any relation or exchange, no conversation has a future.

And yet, one has to be attracted to the idea of the Russian Formalist or Bakhtinian 'loophole', despite it's distinctly metaphysical heritage. At the very least because it seems more elegant than the Lacanian version (or more elegant, at least, than the conclusive, all-encompassing explanatory scope to which said version is often currently being stretched). By which he means, the Russians may have been more attuned to the question of 'literature' and specifically, of 'testimony' as the condition of literature/fiction (cf: Demeure).

But might there not still be a sort of minimal faith–not to mention principle of charity–involved in negotiating loopholes? Granted, this is a difficult term to define, and conversations about how Bahktin's work itself constitutes a sort of loophole (namely, occupying a historical space between poststructuralism and modernity strictly speaking) seem, to him, to almost miss the point. What if the loophole is understood not as some purely metaphysical or patriarchal/pastoral transcendent 'gaze' or final judgement, but rather as the bare minimal promise of infinite deferral, as that which forces us to confront the fact of irreducible alterity–the absolute and deathly otherness, beyond any symbolic reductions–of the other. Of the other as God, if you like, as she who witnesses your death (literary as well as physical).

Why, such grandiose questions. Not at all sure (needless to say) they are well-formulated. (And without even beginning to think on 'the sublime', or 'the neuter!') Perhaps it's best go back to carpentry!

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