20 April, 2009

Octavio Paz, translated by Eliot Weinberger

At times poetry is the vertigo of bodies and the vertigo of speech and
the vertigo of death;
the walk with eyes closed along the edge of the cliff, and the verbena
in submarine gardens;
the laughter that sets fire to rules and the holy commandments;
the descent of parachuting words onto the sands of the page;
the despair that boards a paper boat and crosses,
for forty nights and forty days, the night-sorrow sea and the day-
sorrow desert;
the idolatry of the self and the desecration of the self and the dissipa-
tion of the self;
the beheading of epithets, the burial of mirrors;
the recollection of pronouns freshly cut in the garden of Epicurus, and
the garden of Netzahualcoyotl;
the flute solo on the terrace of memory and the dance of flames in the
cave of thought;
the migrations of millions of verbs, wings and claws, seeds and hands;
the nouns, bony and full of roots, planted on the waves of language;
the love unseen and the love unheard and the love unsaid: the love in

Syllables seeds.

From PDX Writer Daily. While, at first, I find this mostly dear and really pretty charming, if a tad disturbing, I think it deserves a little thought. The intentionality of identity in the  creator of this document is unsettling in, I think, a good way. Click the image to view the origin post a larger version of the image so you can read it.



Fritz Lang’s “M”

6 April, 2009

A key scene in the film occurs as the murderer is being tracked by the criminal underground. The murderer and Elsie have stepped inside an ice cream parlor but they have been tracked there by one of the criminals. He has found them based on a tip given by a blind citizen who recognized the sound of the murderer whistling (he was a witness to one of the previous murders). The criminal spots the murderer and Elsie as they step out of the shop. He takes a piece of chalk and and marks his own hand with the letter “M” which he then surreptitiously transfers to the murderers back, thus “marking” him – an attempt to force him to enter the symbolic order which he has previously proved resistant to. Remember that he has no name, and his crimes have not even been fully explained to this point in the film, only alluded to. It is in this moment that we recognize the tension between the Symbolic and the Real. The murderer appears to us as a spectre of the Real, and apparition not fully symbolized. This scene is then an attempt to incorporate an eruption of the Real in to the symbolic order. The symbolic, it becomes clear exists not only as a failure to describe the Real, but it also constitutes the Real by failing to describe – or confronts the Real at the point of this failure. As Zizek formulates it, “The Symbolic works upon the Real; it introduces a cut in to it […] one of they ways in which you can recognize the Real is by noting when something is indifferent to Symbolization”  (Slavoj Zizek, Meyers). One of the primary characteristics of the Real, and one way that we may come to the conclusion that the murderer does indeed represent a confrontation with that space is his resistance to symbolization. Note the messy, temporary method of the marking and the opportunity this method leaves for mis-reading. Additionally, we note the fervor with which both the Police and the criminal underground pursue him.

The confrontation with the Real is, after all, quite traumatic. It presents itself as an unthinkable or unknowable moment which cannot be named or understood. In The Sublime Object of Ideology, Zizek, alluding to the moment when the ship hits the iceberg in the film “Titanic” describes a similar moment when he says, this rock is of course the Real, that which resists symbolization: the traumatic point which is always missed but none the less always returns, although we try – to neutralize it, to integrate it into the symbolic order” (The Sublime Object of Ideology, Zizek)

The balance of the film “M” we see is preoccupied with attempts to neutralize or integrate the murderer in to the symbolic order by surrounding him with discourse, placing him on trial, subjecting him to the language of Law, of the symbolic order. The murderer becomes an object of interest precisely because of his Real-ness and his appearance in the symbolic. He is an “obscene, excremental Object out of place, the Real ‘itself’,” which must be handled, integrated, neutralized, incorporates, somehow symbolized because his very presence both confirms and “ masks the structural Real…” (Interrogating the Real, Zizek).

This formulation suggest that the murderer is “outside” the symbolic structure of the film. His interruption comes from the outside and the confrontation with him occurs at border between the order and the Real. But, the presence of the murderer, from the first frames of the film, as the central subject of the films discourse and around which all discourse within the film-text revolves, suggests to the viewer that he belongs not outside, but at the center of any structural formulation.

What gives?


1 April, 2009


Read me

27 March, 2009

According to Lacan the symbolic positions of man and woman (as genders) are both impossible to fully occupy and impossible to resist attempting to occupy. Butler rejects the impossibility of resistance and suggests that this “impossibility” is simply an articulation of compulsory heterosexuality. For Lacan, the attempt to occupy the normative symbolic positions results in a kind of pleasure for both the person occupying and the viewer of that person. For Butler, another kind of pleasure can be had in resisting occupation and also in viewing one who is resisting occupation. The terms “readerly” and “writerly,”  Barthes employs to delineate between different types of texts. Below, I smash them all together.
The gender-normative performer supplies the reader-viewer with a text (body) that complies with the ready-made meanings that the reader-viewer comes to expect from the signs deployed:

Readerly Text—A text that makes no requirement of the reader to “write” or “produce” his or her own meanings. The reader may passively locate “ready-made” meaning. Barthes writes that these sorts of text are “controlled by the principle of non-contradiction,” that is, they do not disturb the “common sense,” or “Doxa,” of the surrounding culture. The “readerly texts,” moreover, “are products [that] make up the enormous mass of our literature”. Within this category, there is a spectrum of “replete literature,” which comprises “any classic (readerly) texts” that work “like a cupboard where meanings are shelved, stacked, [and] safeguarded.”

The gender-transgressive performer challenges the reader-viewer to construct the meaning of the text (body) from the signs deployed in an unexpected way:
Writerly Text—A text that aspires to the proper goal of literature and criticism: “… to make the reader no longer a consumer but a producer of the text.” Writerly texts and ways of reading constitute, in short, an active rather than passive way of interacting with a culture and its texts. A culture and its texts, Barthes writes, should never be accepted in their given forms and traditions. As opposed to the “readerly texts” as “product,” the “writerly text is ourselves writing, before the infinite play of the world is traversed, intersected, stopped, plasticized by some singular system (Ideology, Genus, Criticism) which reduces the plurality of entrances, the opening of networks, the infinity of languages.” Thus reading becomes for Barthes “not a parasitical act, the reactive complement of a writing,” but rather a “form of work.”

body / talk

26 March, 2009

What is an assemblage? It is a multiplicity which is made up of many heterogeneous terms and which establishes liasions, relations between them, across ages, sexes and reigns–different natures. Thus, the assemblage’s only unity is that of co-functioning: it is symbiosis, a “sympathy.” It is never filiations which are important, but alliances, alloys; these are not successions, lines of descent, but contagions, epidemics, the wind. Dialogues Gilles Deleuze/Claire Parnet

For discourse to materialize a set of effects, “discourse” itself must be understood as complex and convergent chains in which “effects” are vectors of power. In this sense, what is constituted in discourse is not fixed in or by discourse, but becomes the condition and occasion for further action. This does not mean that any action is possible on the basis of a discursive effect. On the contrary, certain reiterative chains of discursive production are barely legible as reiterations, for the effects they have materialized are those without which no bearing in discourse can be taken. Bodies that Matter Judith Butler

We know nothing about a body until we know what it can do, in other words, what its affects are, how they can or cannot enter into composition with other affects, with the affects of another body, either to destroy that body or to be destroyed by it, either to exchange actions and passions with it or to join with it in composing a more powerful body. A Thousand Plateus Gilles Deleuze

Because this blog is an infant, and because so few of you are watching, I have given myself permission think out loud about what this blog will be—what it’s shaping up as. The blog itself seems to be giving me hints. Alright, I know everything that is here I put here. It doesn’t always feel that way. I can look at what’s here and try to decipher what the connections are—the blog presents itself as a foreign text to the author, me. The old title “codices” is a plural for texts, the new one “i palimpsest i” is starting to strike me as nonsense, but the word palimpsest is certainly a clue, implying multiple texts read together and apart, layered, fading to the front and back—intertextuality made material. The lazy posts, paired and grouped quotations, body-text metaphors, ideas/texts together. A theme is apparent:
Written on the body is a secret code only visible in certain lights; the accumulations of a lifetime gather there. In places the palimpsest is so heavily worked that the letters feel like Braille. Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson