To write, perchance to dream...

I tend to agree with the idea that the self-transformation/transgression/
writing constellation is a difficult one to grasp, not only because Foucault
steeps them in the notion of the "dream-like," a notion that is both under-
and overdetermined depending on one's perspective, but also, as was pointed
out, because the link between writing and self-transformation itself has a
long and quite sedimented history. What I think troubles the connection that
F. makes between self-transformation and writing is his inclusion of the
concept of instrumentality--writing is not always transformative insofar as
one must view language as first being instrumental, being composed of
predetermined tools that, arbitrarily determined or not, both prescribe and
proscribe the limits of the expressible. This is where Deleuze's reading of
F. becomes problematic. He posits the primacy of the visible and the
articulabble in F.'s work without even making a nod toward the imaginable.
This is also were critics of F. fall into problems when they state that his
is simply a theory of "negative freedom."

Perhaps, in drawing a link between writing and pleasure we may be able to
find some common ground. My own experience of writing does not, to the best
of my knowledge, take me away from myself or place me in an interesse between
what could loosely be called my consciousness and my unconscious. This may be
due to my academic training. But, despite my own experience, I will
acknowledge that others may work differently. Part of what I think is
necessary to this, if we are to stick to F.'s schema and try to bracket the
long hiSTORY of writing as an almost mystical experience, is a kind of
instrumentality or use of pleasure. In an interview (The Macey collection, I
believe), F. speaks of pleasure as "an event 'outside the subject' or on the
edge of the subject, within something that is neither body nor soul, which is
neither outside nor inside, in short a notion which is neither ascribed nor
ascribable." It is through a kind of pleasure, then, that writing may come to
address the visible and the articulable, what can be seen and said, by way of
the imaginable. But, just because one can imagine the other side of the law,
this does not make the boundaries it inscribes any less immovable. In much
the same way, writing to the edge of the subject may not necessarily make the
bounds of subjectivity any less, as it were, pliable.

Writing and speaking, as M. Blanchot writes, are tools of forgetting, of
direccting the self into the realm of a deferral in which the postulation of
a subject can only happen under the sign of its own possible erasure. But,
according to Blanchot, this forgetting brings the self back to itself in an
"obscure battle between language and presence, always lost by one and by the
other, but all the same won by presence, even if this be only as presence of
language. Even if speech, in its perpetual disappearance, carries death, the
void, absence, it always resuscitates with it what it cancels or suspends,
including this limit where it itself disappears, whether it does not succeed
in exhausting presence, or whether, exhausting it, it must then, through
negation, affirm anew as presence of speech that thus vainly exhausts
presence.... It is thus also in struggling for presence (in accepting to make
itself naively the memorial of something that presents itself to it) that
langguage treacherously destroys it. This happens by way of writing. Writing
marks and leaves marks. What is entrusted to it remains.... Writing is
rememberance, written remembrance prolongs life during death."

If writing is remembrance, even as it forgets, then what is being remembered
in self-transformation, in the dream? Does writing, as both
self-transformation and transgression, not serve to return the desiring
subject back to self as bounded?

While we are on the subject of literature... This problem of writing and
self--transformation is addressed in Herve Guibert's __To the friend who did
not save my life__. Guibert, a friend of F.'s, writes F. into the text as the
character Muzil (a play on Musil, author of __The Man Without Qualities__) .
Artistic licence acknowledged (ie. Muzil and F. are not transposable), he
writtes of Muzil as a man obsessed with obliterating his name, as the author
of an endless book on sexuality.

Here is a long quote that might be of some interest from the text:

Dr. Nacier... that man was too ambitious to resign himself to a career as an
internist earning eighty-five francs a visit from flabbly, smelly, fussy
patieents, all hypochondriacs, in a crummy neighborhood doctor's office that
might just as well be a cesspool. That's why her first tried to make his mane
through the creation of a designer death resort, complete with registered
trademark, which, in the form of a high-tech clinic, or do-it-yourself kit,
would replace those long revolting death agonies with the speed and fairy
tale atmosphere of a first-class trip to the moon (not reimbursed by
Medicaree). To persuade the banks to finance his venture, Dr. Nacier had to
come up with someone whose moral authority would protect such a project from
any suspicion of shadiness. Muzil was the ideal godfather for this baby.
Through me, Dr. Nacier easily obtained an appointment with Muzil, with whom I
was going to have dinner afterward. When I arrived, I found my friend beside
himself with glee, a mad twinkle in his eye. The project--which he dismissed,
quite reasonably, as utterly worthless--was at the same time like the finest
catnip to him. Muzil never laughed so much or so heartily as when he way
dying. Once Dr. Nacier had left, he said to me,"this is what I told you
little buddy: that nursing home of his, it shouldn't be a place where pople
go to die, but a place where people pretend to die. Everything there should
be luxurious, with fancy paintings and soothing music, but it would all be
just camouflage for the real mystery, because there'd be a little door hidden
away in the corner of the clinic, perhaps one behind those dreamily exotic
pictures, and to the torpid melody of a hypodermic nirvana, you'd secretly
slip behind the painting, and presto, you'd vanish, quite death in the eyes
of the world, since not on would see you reappear on the other side of the
wall, in the alley, with no baggage, no name, no nothing, forced to invent a
new identity for yourself."

This is an AIDS novel, and I would recommend it to those who haven't read it

Penelope Ironstone-Catterall
York University
School of Social & Political Thought


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