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Taking the Dirt Out of Growing, One Closet At a Time - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Taking the Dirt Out of Growing, One Closet At a Time
Here's a little something for your bowl, courtesy of Alain Badiou's short essay "On a Finally Objectless Subject". Be sure to use the cleaning tool beforehand, though, because it's on the massy side:
A subject is that which fends off the generic indiscernibility of a truth -- a truth it effectuates in discernible finitude by an act of naming that leaves its referent in the future anterior of a condition. A subject is thus, by the good graces of names/nouns, at once the real of the procedure (the assessor of the assessments) and the hypothesis of that which its unachieved result would introduce once again into presentation. A subject emptily names the universe yet-to-come that is obtained from the fact that an indiscernible truth supplements the situation. It is concurrently the finite real, the local stage of this supplementation. Naming is only empty insofar as it is pregnant with what its own possibility sketches out. A subject is the antonym of an empty idiom [langue]."
I'm not always sure how many stamps to put on a letter, but I'd place this one just to the right of Curium. Remind me to tell you about that time I couldn't lift my head off the floor, yet somehow found myself packed into a VW bug with five others for a trip to Bertola's, where I ended up drinking one Long Island Iced Tea after another. Vive la liberté et la vie au rebours!

Tags: , ,
Mode: breathless, like my man Richard Gere
Muse: Iron Butterfly?

11 comments or Leave a comment
masoo From: masoo Date: April 11th, 2006 06:40 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
"breathless, like my man Richard Gere"

You misspelled "Jean-Paul Belmondo."
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 11th, 2006 06:50 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Mais, oui, monsieur!
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 11th, 2006 08:29 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
So....Wait. What does it *mean*? I've read this thing three times and can't bend my head around it.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 11th, 2006 01:50 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm not really qualified to answer that with authority. What I get from it, though, is that whoever does this naming is using terms whose value will only be clear retroactively, looking back from a future that has not yet arrived. In other places where he makes similar points, Badiou uses the example of the word "communism," which refers to a reality that does not exist at the time of its deployment. Earlier in this particular essay which is, to be fair, one of his densest pieces -- it's basically a summary of his book Being and Event -- he seems to obliquely acknowledge that his own terminology functions along these lines:
The outside observer, noticing that the names are mostly lacking in referents in the situation as it is, considers that they make up an arbitrary and contentless language. Which explains why revolutionary politics are always thought to involve utopian (i.e. unrealistic) elements, scientific revolutions are greeted with skepticism or viewed as nonexperimentally confirmed abstractions, and lovers' babble is cast aside as infantile madness by prudent people. Now these observers are, in a certain sense, right. The names generated -- or rather composed -- by a subject are suspended, as concerns their meaning, upon the yet-to-come of a truth.
In other words, it makes sense if idioms of this sort, including Badiou's own, don't make sense, because they are oriented toward a moment of revelation that still lies in the distance. Returning to the passage I quoted in my entry, the sentence that expresses this notion most clearly and compactly is the one that invokes pregnancy: "Naming is only empty insofar as it is pregnant with what its own possibility sketches out." I don't think it would be off base to regard this trope as analogous to the one that closes William Butler Yeats's poem "The Second Coming," conjuring the specter of the "rough beast" that "slouches toward Bethlehem to be born." Or, to invoke something a little closer on the intellectual map to Badiou, the image with which Jacques Derrida concludes his hugely influential 1966 essay "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences":
I employ these words, I admit, with a glance toward the operations of childbearing -- but also with a glance toward those who, in a society from which I do not exclude myself, turn their eyes away when faced by the as yet unnamable which is proclaiming itself and which can do so, as is necessary whenever a birth is in the offing, only under the species of the nonspecies, in the formless, mute, infant, and terrifying form of mostrosity.
To be sure, Badiou's formulation is a lot less "sexy" than that of either Yeats or Derrida. But I believe he has a similar attitude toward the future and that moment within it when and idiom that once appeared "arbitrary and contentless" will be shown to have made sense after all.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 12th, 2006 07:12 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Ahh. Thank you, that does make more sense now. Kind of a bastard child between Derrida and Lacan?
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 12th, 2006 07:19 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
That'll work, though he's definitely closer to Lacan. But he's from North Africa, like Derrida, though not of Jewish descent. Where are you writing from, BTW?
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 13th, 2006 06:46 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Tucson, of course.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 13th, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Oh, interesting. The "of course," I mean. I suppose I could have looked up the URL. But it's easier to ask with anonymous comments.
From: bobo_amargo Date: April 11th, 2006 06:41 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Electric Avenue

Love this entry. Nice gloss on what Badiou's getting at, I mean, since there are no Long Island Iced Teas immediately available. But unless Badiou has a rarified understanding of the subject, I would propose, following someone like Derrida (thanks, by the bye, for the quotation from him: I haven't read that paragraph in a long time), that where B says "subject" and "naming/nouning," it should -- or could -- read "poet" and "poetizing."

Think here of Bishop's man-moth -- trying to squeeze out of the tube the moon creates of the world he presently haunts more than he inhabits -- as an allegory of the poetizing act endeavoring to catch up with that future the near impossibility of which is at once that act's essence and the condition of its possibility. I would argue that every important poem she writes after "The Man-Moth" repeats its essential structure. As to the idea of the empty idiom, think of Ashbery's anticipation of the (im)possible future in terms of his constant retokening of banality and cliché.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: April 12th, 2006 07:23 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: Electric Avenue

Badiou is a playwright and novelist. I can't speak to that aspect of his career, since none of his "creative" work has been translated into English and my French is minimal. His philosophical statements on poetry are a little baffling. He wants poetry -- which subsumes other creative writing, up to a point -- to have an existence apart from philosophy, but still invokes it to make philosophical points. It's been a long time since I read Bishop. I'll have to get Kim's books down. The Asbery makes total sense.
schencka From: schencka Date: April 11th, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

re Badiou

I wonder if the turgid Badiou quote could be problematized by Jameson's defense of utopian thought and whether Freudian backformation. "Communism" becomes a word that signifies a disappearing trace of utopian thought. The utterance creates a possible future, which recreates a present; one big happy swirl.

"Pregnant," the word, strikes me as ironic when used by theorizing men, but more importantly the term works in much the same way as "communism." Present and future are remade into a present-future, which is an impending horror (following WB Yeats and Derrida). The trope begs Freud in its anxiety of the feminine.
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