Tentative Steps

Francois Lachance in garden at King Street, Kingston ON - early 1980s

This is a place holder. I am migrating content from the Berneval blog at Google’s Blogspot. Thrilled to be swimming in the Humanities Commons ecosystem.

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Smooth Striations

Almost like a reminder of the room as time-machine in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency [and for this reader: the metaphor of the book in hand as time-machine], the potential of language as a transportation device is referenced by Marie-Laure Ryan as being close at hand.

Life is lived in real time, as a succession of presents, but through its ability to refer to physically absent objects, language puts consciousness in touch with the past and the future, metamorphoses time into a continuous spread that can be traveled in all directions, and transports the imagination to distant locations.

Eerie that in a web search after typing in the first four letters of the keyword TARDIS a neurological disorder (tardive dyskinesia*) is offered up as next in line … and the association may yet shift over time.

Ryan’s marvellous book, Narrative as Virtual Reality, can account for such hypertextual transitions by reference to the suggestion from Mark Nunes (“Virtual Topographies: Smooth and Striated Cyberspace” in Cyberspace Textuality) that Deleuze and Guattari’s distinctions between the smooth and the striated have some use in describing types of … let us pick up Ryan’s words:

The spatial metaphor supports different scenarios, depending on whether textual space is conceived as a “smooth” expanse that the reader cruises for the pleasure of the trip or as a “striated” space of freeways whose sole purpose is to lead to a destination. […] In a smooth-space environment, the reader is driven by an obsession to get further, either fortified or dampened in this drive by the thought that her desire to exhaust all the links cannot be satisfied. In a striated space, the reader gives herself a goal, such as reaching the center of a labyrinth, or finding the exit, and her relation to the text is very much that of a player who hopes to beat a computer game.

Back to Nunes. His note 7

Guattari in later writing has addressed how computer-mediated communication can “not merely convey representational contents, but also contribute to the fabrication of new assemblages of enunciation, individual and collective” (19). See “Regimes, Pathways, Subjects” (Incorporations, New York: Zone, 1992) for a discussion of machines, assemblages of enunciation, and the production of subjectivities.

And to Guattari’s note 3 (trans. Brian Massumi) which concludes

What we need to conceptualize is a continuum running from children’s games and the makeshift ritualizations accompanying attempts at psychopathological recompositions of “schizoid” worlds, through the complex cartographies of myth and art, all the way to the sumptuous speculative edifices of theology and philosophy, which have sought to apprehend these same dimensions of existential creativity (examples are Plotinus’s “forgetful souls” and the “unmoving motor” which, according to Leibinz, preexists any dissipation of potential).

*This neurological disorder frequently appears after long-term or high-dose use of antipsychotic drugs.

And so for day 968
07.08.2009

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Inhaling

Bonnie Marranca in her preface to a collection of food writing entitled A Slice of Life offers this anecdote.

[T]wo summers ago in Nova Scotia, we stopped by the side of the road to have a picnic lunch with our traveling companions, a couple from Sardinia. The sea and air and sun were glorious. After we had eaten, everyone looked forward to a cup of coffee, even though there was only a jar of instant with us. But not a drop of water was to be had anywhere. Our friends were so desperate that they simply opened the coffee jar and took a deep breath, temporarily satisfying themselves with the aroma of memory.

One remove from a Barmecide feast.

And so for day 808
28.02.2009

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Fantasy Machines

Just what will replace the telephone book as a stimulus?

Whenever I’m asked what book I would take with me to a desert island, I reply, “The phone book: with all those characters, I could invent an infinite number of stories.”

Umberto Eco from the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures Six Walks in the Fictional Woods

And so for day 807
27.02.2009

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Laying Tracks Seizing Spaces

There is something akin to a mixture of imaginative labour in seizing through an almost casual and chance-like operation, the perfect occasion in Leonard Lawlor’s book on Derrida and Ricoeur. It is there in the summarizing he does at the end of Part I. He looks forward.

Thus, we are going to have to examine the explicit term Derrida substitutes for dialectic, dissemination. When we examine the notion of dissemination, as it is developed in “The Double Session,” we shall see that chance displaces imagination. This displacement is the difference between Ricoeur and Derrida.

And the sentences coming at the end of Part II perform a similar gesture in a retroactive mode.

The empty space between, what Ricoeur’s hermeneutics, perhaps hermeneutics in general, does not account for; empty space, what Derrida’s deconstruction, perhaps deconstruction in general including that of Heidegger, counts on. This brings us to one more difference between the thought of Ricoeur and Derrida: hermeneutics, the endless questioning of the one principle, of the monarch; deconstruction, the infinite response to the lack of a principle, to anarchy.

Both passages lifted in an almost aleatory manner to be presented to the luck of the reader: from Imagination and Chance: the Difference between the Thought of Ricoeur and Derrida.

And so for day 806
26.02.2009

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On Bait

I like how the quest for appreciation takes shape in this remark from James Merrill. I can imagine the archness in the voice (Unfortunately I only have the print booklet from the Random House AudioBooks volume in the series “The Voice of the Poet” and it’s not clear that these clever bits set in grey text boxes were part of the recording as one assumes the poems were). In any case one can hear the meaningful pause…

Think what one has to do to get a mass audience. I’d rather have one perfect reader. Why dynamite the pond in order to catch that single silver carp? Better to find a bait that only the carp will take. One still has plenty of choices. The carp at Fontainebleau were thought to swallow small children, whole.

What a blast!

And so for day 805
25.02.2009

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Spirit-Made Flesh

Edmund White City Boy on Balanchine and the art of choreography:

In a quite different way I suppose he was showing us how the supreme manifestations of the mind require sweat and muscles, how the spatial and temporal meditations of an old man can be realized only by willing young bodies with flushed cheeks and taut rumps and long necks and a good turnout.

The implied Platonism is only superficial. This is about dedication to craft and guidance.

And so for day 804
24.02.2009

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Details

Taking this celebration of the interesting bits as an injunction to pay attention to details, I lifted it out of the specific context of not concentrating “either exclusively or primarily on those points that appear to be the most ‘important,’ ‘central,’ ‘crucial.'”

Rather, I deconcentrate, and it is the secondary, eccentric, lateral, marginal, parasitic, borderline cases which are ‘important’ to me and are a source of many things, such as pleasure, but also insight into the general functioning of a textual system.

Of course this sentence from Jacques Derrida Limited Inc does not mention “details”.

And so for day 803
23.02.2009

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Blinkers

The epigraph to Rabih Alameddine Koolaids: The Art of War

I wonder if being sane means
disregarding the chaos of life
pretending only an infinitesimal segment of it is reality.

Of course compulsively obsessing about a segment is a form of madness hence the delightful ironic twist of the epigraph.

And so for day 802
22.02.2009

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Weather Watching

The characters in Jane Austen’s novels are susceptible to changes in the weather. Indeed, their ability to read the weather or talk about the weather proves important in plotting. Two examples.

Take Marianne’s proclivity for bracing walks hampered in Sense and Sensibility:

[…] and an evening merely cold or damp would not have deterred her from it; but a heavy and settled rain even she could not fancy dry or pleasant weather for walking.

Our second example, upon re-reading the novel, provides warning against the facile charm of conversing about the weather — Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice:

Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was turned, and Elizabeth was the happy woman by whom he finally seated himself; and the agreeable manner in which he immediately fell into conversation, though it was only on its being a wet night, and on the probability of a rainy season, made her feel that the commonest, dullest, mot threadbare topic might be rendered interesting by the skill of the speaker.

Sunshine does not generate such attention.

And so for day 801
21.02.2009

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