Re: _ROM_ -- hunger for self-transformation

On Jul 8, 9:27am, Malgosia Askanas wrote:
> Subject: Re: _ROM_ -- hunger for self-transformation
> > The point here, I think, is that the desire for disappearance does not
> > coincide with disappearance per se, but from a language that promises to
> > enthrall and to wrap the subject but never quite gets there. In language,
> > in thought as proto-linguistic, there is a veiling-unveiling of the
> > in, by and through whom language is made to speak, to answer to the
> > impossibillity of disappearance, of absenting oneself from relations of
> > power.
> But what is this "absenting"? Is it merely absolvement from
> personal responsibility? So that being transformed even as I speak
> would become proof, even to myself, that I am merely a conduit, rather
> than a willing accomplice of that which speaks through me?
> In Beckett, it seems to me, subjugation is an intrinsic condition of
> humanity: each character is always already self-subjugated, and
> discourse, in a way, is a discharge which, like a urine sample, discloses
> the particulars of each personal self-subjugation. Equally intrinsic
> is the desire to get rid of the dual burden of enslavement and
> responsibility. The Beckettian condition is one of saturation, of
> standstill: there exists, in human relations, no possibility of movement.
> The characters are self-subjugating immobile discharge-points of a
> longing for self-extrication. Everything else is just a consequence.
> But this, it seems to me, does not quite account for the way
> self-transformation (through writing) is talked about in RoM -- although
> I guess one _could_ fit it into this mold. Penelope, are you arguing
> that this is indeed the right mold?
> -
>-- End of excerpt from Malgosia Askanas

Actually, I think that the "mold" is itself the problem. What will work, and
what won't, in terms of permitting "us to see clearly what links us to our
modernity and at the same time will make it appear modified to us"(38), is
not fixed, cannot be fixed into one particular method. I think that the
double -edge that Foucault points to in the above quote (between truth and
fiction, between evidence and fabrication, between what binds and modifies
our relationships to both ourselves and others), could be addressed according
to Hiedegger's concept of alethia as a veiling-unveiling.

What is dangerous, in my mind at least, is concentrating on
self-transformation alone (and I don't think f. does this by any stretch of
the imagination). Tought and the valuations which are incurred as an "effect"
of it, tends toward the forgetful at the same time as it postulates what
"ought" to be/ is memorial. I don't think that F. is aiming at a "cult of the
new" or of self-transformation, but at seeking out new ways of imagining
relattionships. This means interrogating the limits of the possible, tring
"through experience to reach that point of life which lies as close as
possible to the impossibility of living, which lies at the limit or extreme."
(31) Writing toward the limit does not necessarily mean stepping beyond or
surpassing the limit because, despite the possibility of imagining the
beyond, one cannot absent oneself from what the limit encloses/foreclses as

Looking at "A Preface to Transgression" is important to this point. Language
delimits the "expressible," what can be said, even as one attempts to realize
in language what cannot be said. He wrote: "Perhaps this 'difficulty with
words' also defines the space given over to an experience in which the
speaking subject, instead of expressing himself, is exposed, goes to
encounter his finitude and, under each of his words, is brought back to the
reality of his own death"(51). This leads to a problem that seems to me to be
encountered often with F.'s work: Can self-transformation be equated in some
way with transgression?

Transgression and excess, the limit, point in the direction of the beyond at
the same time that they delimit the field of possibility; they are movements
which "consume and consummate us." For, "[t]ransgression is an action which
involves the limit, that narrow zone of a line where it displays the flash of
its passage, but perhaps also its entire trajectory, even its origin; it is
likely that transgression has its entire space in the line it crosses"

It is in the approach to the limit, rather than arriving at it, that what the
limit delimits becomes, as it were, unheimlich or verfremmdung. Making the
familiar strange is what F. credits Nietzsche, Blanchot and Bataille with
when he says "experience...has rather the task of 'tearing'the subject from
itself in such a way that it is no longer the subject as such, or that it is
completely 'other' than itself so that it may arrive at its annihilation, its
dissociation."(31) I would add Beckett to this list, primarily due to the
exhaustion of the rhetorical rights of reference (pronominal naming,
narration [time], and spatialization) in language that one "experiences" in
the Unnamable. Beckett writes toward the limit (the effect for him was the
inability to write for years following) to dissociate himself from bondage of
language. And, although he took up writing again, he could not absent
himself, step beyond, these bonds and continue writing. Of course, his
writing changed--he said that language had once again become strange to him
and that writing through the strangeness returned him to himself, albeit

What I think is vital here is not collapsing writing and self-transformation
and being done with it there and then. For, as F. says of his writing, "its
character is instrumental AND visionary or dream-like". From this I would
aks, how does writing become dream-like or visionary? What kind of
assumptionns are we making when we equate writing with dreaming?

Thanks for indulging me.

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


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