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In a Derrida-based class again, hence a tired kind of sad. Taught by one of the Derrideans who misunderstand Derrida - assuming there's another kind - which makes me ambivalent, as his direction of misunderstanding is toward sense. But a mistake is a bad direction to approach sense from. Sense being in this case that:

Inadequate correspondence between concepts and things exists.

These inadequacies can lead to other troubles, since we act based on concepts and among things.

Assuming correspondence is exact can lead to snowballing errors.

Lots of cultural and linguistic factors influence our liability to assume this.

Active knowledge of the four facts above can save you from grief.

That's about as far as I go with "theory" (and I can give plenty of examples of people perfectly familiar with all this dating back to, ironically, Plato). The agonizing thing about theory courses, for me, is that frequently this is all the professor wants to say. They just don't feel it counts, as phrased. It needs the sponsorship of intellectual authority. Most aspects of which count among the influences in proposition 4, above.

There's no science to not being a dick, is the unfortunate truth. You can sensitize people by exposing them to facts and you can show them the various methods by which facts are obscured, making it more difficult to use some of these on themselves (thus incidentally killing religion and stuff). And in my experience that produces leftists pretty reliably. Whereas puritan hypochondria about puritan hypochondria just tends to imaginatively castrate existing ones.

Writing all this again, that's the sad tiredness.

"Step one is to see there are no steps." How sick I am of watching people fall into and out of this loop. Or loops, rather, each of the several interpretations of the line constituting a distinct one. As well as a step in a hierarchy.

Those hulaing the political loop make me the saddest. You'd only stay doing that if you'd been traumatized to the point where, trapped in conversation with what hurt you, you're willing to talk down the (you-ventriloquized) ghost of your enemy with what talks down talk itself.
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Shouldn't have read Barthes so close to appointed bedtime.

Not that I much mind him. He writes annoyingly, as translated, but I've had worse, and have read bits of him before so knew to expect some such -ness. And his enthusiasm is touching - he really did think he was suggesting something liberating, or naming a liberation already in progress.

And doubtless it is a liberation - not what he's suggesting, but the various stuffed substitutes one can convince oneself resemble how the Barthernet, the text-making about text that knows it's text, might manifest. They liberate from the fear that you might not be doing it right, that you don't understand the work as well as others. Whereas the text, as defined by Barthes, anyone can understand as well as anyone else, after all. He does keep it open to the system people, grudgingly, or anyway the three or four groups of them he presumably had to socialize with. And even if he hadn't left that opening they would have taken it - theory is vulnerable to these folks in exactly the way literature departments were vulnerable to theory: where there is transcendence without certainty the first passing huckster promising their merger, at some cost appearing trivial but in the small print compromising everything, will take over. Transcending transcendence, getting above any measure of high and low, must be remarkably appealing to those who fear they're mediocre, justly or not.

And especially so in a gradated hierarchical system where advancement must be to an inevitably large (but not total) extent arbitrary, like in literary studies. The anxiety that what you're doing might be worthless gets added to your fear you're doing it worthlessly, and in cases where mispromotion has occurred the mispromoted will be dealing with a number of underlings with more talent than themselves at understanding areas where training can only be of limited value. I'd add too the special problem of the increasingly non-fictional orientation in most readers as they age - students of poetry and imaginative essays being less vulnerable to this, maybe, but still affected. You want to put away childish things, or anyway move from a value to a knowledge footing, but value is what got you into this mess: unless you're a true believer, someone who knows just what they found in literature in the first place, the tendency to fall out of love with the works and consequent need to establish some other relationship with them (since they're still your job) will make certainty-movements - including equally certain certainty-destroying movements - awfully tempting.

And there's just enough '60s in there still to appeal to the '60s in some of the young. But - like the rest of the '60s - it's not quite the right kind of '60s.
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To see your own thoughts you would need an arbitrary, malleable, self-consistent medium that registered precise differences among different marks made. How does the thought mark the medium? Who the hell knows. But thought knows it's doing it when it experiences the marked medium and thinks, "Huh--seems like thought." Huh. Seems like me.

Does thought run into the trouble of misreading what isn't thought as though it were, occurrences of non-thought such as characteristic or accidental features of the medium in which the thought-seeming is experienced? Sure. The accidentals will probably be recognized as such after a while, for their membership in some recurrent repertoire of likely accidents or their unlikeness to remembered patterns of thought-seeming. But in a sense thought runs the risk of misreading the substance of the non-thought medium as though it were thought. What is characteristic of the substance but not of thought, if occurring wherever thought seeks it own image, might be treated by thought as characteristic of thought itself. Seeking to know itself, thought might lose as much as it finds.

Suppose, though, a medium that is not entirely self-consistent. It is enough like itself that thought experiences the same sorts of patterns in it, that feel so familiar as to be surely marks only of thought itself, though what takes the mark is not thought - nor of course is the mark itself thought. But in places it is different, is a slightly different medium, though one still markable by thought. Thought starts to know the differences in seeming. It starts to know that something is lost and something gained as the seemings shift. What is felt when either sort of seeming is experienced becomes memorable as something distinct from what is felt during just the one or just the other.

At this point thought becomes aware that the seeming cannot be trusted. Yet it also sees that something might abide in any seeming. It is hard to know just what without moving around. It moves around.

No medium is self-consistent. However, all that is required is enough of an element of consistency so as to be recognized as an element of consistency, in comparison to elements of inconsistency. Paintings, conversations, children, picture-words and sounds: none of them give us back ourselves quite plainly, or in codes completely decipherable by any single key. But they give us large tracts at once, and even more by what we see they do not give that others gave.

Our thoughts, too, are inconsistent. But we come to see just how, just where, how often, when not, when less, when more, when right, when wrong, when new. There is no stage that is not a mirror stage. The mirrors cut, but on a plane where they can also cut each other. What it once was like, if in us still, will be in one of them. Will be in lots of them, perhaps, in shinings, fragments, shadows. Our memory assembles them. Is this a limit, sad? Not at all. We make the it we might be in our memory, but if we are it still we will feel it, we know it will fit the marks because it makes them all again.

What it once was like will come again. (Even if it was never really like that.)
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Do we study it:

1. To prove that it is nothing until we study it.

2. To prove that we don't need to study it.
2b. To prove that we cannot study it.
2c. To prove that we should not study it.

3. To prove that there is no it.

4. To prove that it bears out what we said it would, just like everything does.

5. To grind it up into itty-bitty pieces.

1-5. To prove we're better than it.
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I think I truly hate Marjorie Perloff, who I've probably read more of in these two classes than all the poets combined. She's actually a very lucid writer, but that enables her to do a lot of damage. I think the lucidity may even be the damage, in a strange way: she thinks that different specific explanations of the specific differences in the ways texts fall are what texts exist to elicit. This is why she's happiest with the texts that make that plain, that get you started with some flowchart of underlined ambiguities. Not ambiguities where you ponder the difference between two possible but not quite appropriate senses until your pondering erodes some new way through that density as the poet intended, but ambiguities where you're off on one and then the other or maybe one each in each brain hemisphere, while screaming "wheeee!" And not for the sake of any of them in particular, but for whatever is proved by their being so many. Which you'd think would be just one thing and therefore eventually tedious. Does she worship that thing? I'd have to read even more to find out and I'm just not gonna.

We don't read more to get more of what it might be, we read more to get more of what it is. And yes, some of what "what it is" is is different things (since this it is never tedious), or can only be phrased uncertainly or as though, but it's specific different uncertain as though things, not just any old things that happen to be different. I wonder what's wrong with her that she doesn't know this? Her career?

Well, obviously it's the old demon you-must-be-wrong-because-otherwise-how-can-I-be-right, and its riding a victim explorer into branches of the cave no one would ever glance at if they weren't the most easily reached of those as yet (seemingly) unentered. Which may be active in me tonight, who knows.
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"How might the cause into which we have sunk so much of our time, energy and emotion still be somehow right, even if it no longer appears to be?"

The dying first generation imagines a labyrinth into existence and cajoles its progeny into maintaining it. This the second dutifully does, but forgets where it was supposed to lead. The third does not understand what's happening at all. The labyrinth is just the place in which they live, and walls and rules come down one by one to let in the light and the air for better living. At last the outer wall itself is taken down, the world wonderingly re-entered, the cause the first distorted taken up anew, aright.

The astonished muse finds thousands by her side.
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Theory:

Thought cannot represent the world as it really is--if you turn the Reality expectation-dial to a sufficiently rich level of detail, anyway. But it tries. Where it fails, does it do so because our brains are tiny? Or is the problem that we think using language, or that our thought is enslaved by our desire, or is it that we're taught how to think and there's something wrong with the teaching? Language, desire, culture: no one is moronic enough to deny that these can take our thoughts away from their task of grappling with the real.

But suppose they take it away totally--how would we know?

The unnatural divisions, arbitrary connections and disconnections, clumsy overemphases or underemphases of language might lead thought away from the real categorically. How could you argue otherwise without using language?

Our need to rewrite the scheme of things nearer our heart's desire might be taking place at every moment, too. And supposing we all do it, and all the time, and (apparently) in ways too similar for one of us to easily call out another, to the point that wanting's selectivity and other misrepresentations lead us away from the real categorically? How could you argue otherwise without wanting to?

Culture's overpowering of whatever there is of our natural minds--are there natural minds?--from or even before the moment of our birth might mean we are its pawns, creatures, publications. Might mean we are nothing else. Our words, gestures and other discursive habits might all be learned--not just as units but as patterns, as totalities. What if we have no ability to go offscript, therefore categorically cannot represent reality--being ourselves representations? How could you argue that we do have such an ability if you yourself don't know to what extent your very thoughts are prerecorded?

You couldn't. The point of thinking these thoughts is to unravel the illusion that thought can be representational. On the other hand, you might argue that to say that the representational capacity of thought is illusory is itself a representational thought. But how could you argue that without committing yourself to the unproven assumption that thought can act autonomously of desire, culture language. You couldn't

These issues of culture, desire, language cannot be discussed without the help of language, desire, culture. Thinking about thought is contaminated by thought's preconditions. If we are to discuss this meaningfully we must find language that is not language, desire that is not desire, culture that is not culture. It sounds like thiskmarketyJoburgerfores___x^X o

But what if prying the lid off the impossible doesn't help. Can something else? There is a great work ahead of us, figuring this out. Paradoxes must be navigated, terms held onto but negated or problematized as we explore just what conditions might be stable, or more stable, among other conditions resigned to flux. As yet we see no light at tunnel's end, but through our speculative adherence to the technology of the critique, we perhaps lay down the groundwork for a conjectural reconstruction of the affirmative scaffolding necessary to emphasize performance of ideological interrogations recentering potentialities of

To date, though, what if this disconnect only occurs because of how things have been to date. Language and culture determine one another and desire to boot but there's something else in the mix, some other interest being served. Maybe men, rich men, rich heterosexual Western white men: the assholes on anyone's block. Theirs is the culture, theirs the language, theirs the everything else that has made us forget how we naturally speak or might be best made to, how we think and what we do and whether and how and whom we want. Perhaps there is an older way that has been forgotten. Perhaps there are uncontaminated traces extant. We must find them, feel them, the perhaps chirp chirp bosom bosom tribe tribe of

Theirs the culture, theirs the language, theirs the everything else but suppose we prove to them that they do not know what they think they know, because none of us can know whether we know, because of this potentially infinite contamination of thought. Applied to their icons, their stories, their smug assurances, our methods will terrify them, scatter their followers, raze their walls. From out of the rubble will spring

Trailings off intended. Welcome to theory.
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I'm aware my opinions about theory et al. are likely more negative than those of you still glancing at the journal, but: can any defense be made for Stanley Fish?

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