Lecture 16 - The Dream of Integration


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Sixteenth lecture for my students in English 192, "Science Fiction," summer 2013 at UC Santa Barbara.

Course website: http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/m13/

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Lecture 16 - The Dream of Integration

  1. 1. Lecture 16: The Dream of Integration English 192 Summer 2013 29 August 2013 “We’re undone by each other. […] This seems so clearly the case with grief, but it can be so only because it was already the case with desire. […] As a mode of relation, neither gender nor sexuality is precisely a possession, but, rather, is a mode of being dispossessed, a way of being for another or by virtue of another.” — Judith Butler, “Mourning and Melancholia” (23-24)
  2. 2. The “face” as “catachresis” (133) ● “Catachresis” is a catch-all term from rhetoric for many different figures of speech that “use language wrongly”: paradox, highly exaggerated euphemism, very mixed metaphors, etc. ● For Derrida, “catachresis” denotes the originary incompleteness at the root of any system of meaning – that void which motivates language, which demands a supplement that never fills it or compensates for the lack that underlies our ability to communicate in the first place.
  3. 3. ● For Derrida’s student, post-colonialist theorist Gayatri Spivak, “catachresis” denotes those “master words” that create apparent unities by obscuring areas of vast and fundamental difference underneath. ● Perhaps the most fundamentally fair summary of all of these positions would be to say that a “catachresis” is a word (or phrase) that has a genuinely arbitrary relation to meaning.
  4. 4. Which is to say: the face is a structure “the face, if we are to put words to its meaning, will be that for which no words really work; the face seems to be a kind of sound, the sound of language evacuating its sense, the sonorous substratum of vocalization that precedes and limits the delivery of any semantic sense.” (134) “The face of the Other comes to me from outside, and interrupts that narcissistic circuit.” (138) “To respond to the face, to understand its meaning, means to be awake to what is precarious in another life or, rather, the precariousness of life itself.” (134)
  5. 5. The claims of unintelligibility “The ‘face’ of the other cannot be read for a secret meaning, and the imperative it delivers is not immediately translatable into a prescription that might be linguistically formulated and followed.” (131) “To respond to the face, to understand its meaning, means to be awake to what is precarious in another life or, rather, the precariousness of life itself.” (134)
  6. 6. Representation as such “It [the face of one of the Afghani women] became bared to us, at that moment, and we were, as it were, in possession of the face; not only did our cameras capture it, but we arranged for the face to capture our triumph, and act as the rationale for our violence, the incursion on sovereignty, the deaths of civilians. Where is loss in that face? And where is the suffering over war? Indeed, the photographed face seemed to conceal or displace the face in the Levinasian sense, since we saw and heard through that face no vocalization of grief or agony, no sense of the precariousness of life.” (142)
  7. 7. “the human is not identified with what is represented but neither is it identified with the unrepresentable; it is, rather, that which limits the success of any representational practice. The face is not ‘effaced’ in this failure of representation, but is constituted in that very possibility.” (144) because: “the human is not represented by the face. Rather, the human is indirectly affirmed in that very disjunction that makes representation impossible, and this disjunction is conveyed in the impossible representation. For representation to convey the human, then, representation must not only fail, but must show its failure.” (144)
  8. 8. Ai’s gradual enlightenment “I remembered how he [Estraven] had stood sweating on the parade-stand in Erhenhang in panoply of rank and sunlight. I saw him now defenseless and half-naked in a colder light, and for the first time saw him as he was.” (201) “On the other hand, if he [Estraven] could lower all his standards of shifgrethor, as I realized he had done with me, perhaps I could dispense with the more competitive elements my masculine self-respect, which he certainly understood as little as I understood shifgrethor.” (219)
  9. 9. “an old word for shadow” (248) “the lords of Kerm Land are proud men and umbrageous men, casting black shadows.” (123) Estraven: “The King shortens no man’s shadow, though he try.” (273) Ai: “It was, I thought, as if they [people of Orgoreyn] did not cast shadows.” (146)
  10. 10. “potentials, or integrals” (94) Tormer's Lay had been all day in my mind, and I said the words, Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the right hand of light. Two are one, life and death, lying together like lovers in kemmer, like hands joined together, like the end and the way. (233)