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Showing posts from April, 2011

A Note on Constructs

I've been rather snowed in over the last few weeks, finishing off teaching and writing the first chapter of my new book. There's something I want to write - provoked by a lecture I attended on 'Knowledge Work, Self and Belabourment' - on irony and capitalism, but in the meantime, there's a couple of random musings which don't really justify a full entry, but which have intrigued me over the last few weeks.
It's a commonplace in literary studies and associated disciplines that phenomena are socially and ideologically mediated. This means that experiences are historically conditioned: not just the obvious ones (notions of legitimacy and authority differing between a 13th century monarchy and a contemporary democracy, for instance), but most interestingly also things that we may be tempted to say are universal (love, privacy, the body, truth, even the self).
However, the endpoint of this is that perpetual historicising treads a fine line between profundity and …

From Hunger to Mysticism: Crace's Quarantine

I just want to return to a question that got raised at the Paris conference I attended last week, which was to do with the 'eye' of the heart (inner eye, third eye etc.) in religious mysticism. The question is, I think, too large to answer, but roughly concerned the privileged cultural place of the heart - cardiocentrism, we might say. It is an organ which seemingly exceeds its restricted place: not only is it metonymically promiscuous (being able to stand in for an array of different sensations and effects), but it can be exchanged with a beloved, perceive things that the external sense organs cannot, and it even has a language and a voice. Potentially this is historical accident - Aristotle, apparently, believed the heart rather than the brain to be the 'seat' of the self, and that error echoed down the ages - but I suppose probing that would require an anthropology of the heart to match the various, excellent historical studies (e.g. Kirstie Blair's book on Vict…

Nostalgia and the Other

'How could the desire for presence let itself be destroyed? It is desire itself’ (Jacques Derrida)Beginning with a student question from a few weeks ago about the boundaries between social necessity and personal choice (you're asking the wrong question, I helpfully answered...), I've been thinking about issues of identity and alienation, and the way that individual subjectivity and its freedoms are enclosed within trajectories which pre-exist it - what Adrienne Rich describes as a kind of music which we start in media res: we take on everything at once before we've even begun to read or mark time, we're forced to begin in the midst of the hardest movement, the one already sounding as we are born ('Transcendental √Čtude') In particular, I'm thinking about how the site which traversed by those movements (i.e. the self, the 'I') is experienced differently, according to, for instance, ethnicity or gender.
The issue came home to me listening to papers (and g…