Who was it who described wrote about the “melancholic tradition of mimeticism” which gave us all those Greek anecdotes about pigeons pecking at Apelles paintings of fruit and the like? One of those anecdotes is Leonardo da Vinci’s claim – which LI culled from Schiller’s article in the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences – about an artist who painted a picture that was so vivid that anyone who stood in front of it was bound to yawn – since it was a picture of a yawning man.
Yawning is, of course, one of those mysterious mimetic behaviors – Aristotle compared its apparent contagiousness in men to the donkey’s irresistible inclination to urinate if it spots another donkey urinating. Which, given LI’s limited contact with donkeys lately, we haven’t been able to scientifically validate. However, there is something entrancingly meta about a painting of a behavior that is popularly considered mimetic framed by a discourse that considers painting to be modeled on certain canons of imitation.
Schiller’s essay cites another, more ambiguous response to the mimetic situation in animal studies:
“This brings us back to the oral aggressiveness of yawning. It finds a surprizing parallel in the experimental field, including the sexual aspect. Thus two Nigerian Patas monkeys, a male and female, produced what looked like yawning when they were exposed to mirrors, either fixed or hand held. They would also lick and chew them. The male displayed penile erection or masturbation at the same time. Yawning was repeated up to 23 times in rapid succession and would gradually diminish to a total of 67 yawns in 10 minutes as the mirror was losing its sense of novelty (Hall, 1962).”
That yawning or masturbation is the primal response to self examination is, from a philosophical perspective, a rather unpleasant thought. However, skipping bravely ahead, LI is bringing up the yawning topic to warn our readers that we are planning a post about the French philosopher Badiou. The mention of philosophy usually clears the room around here – so be warned.
When we vanished from graduate school (grad students, much more than old soldiers, don’t die, they just fade and fade and fade away), we had finished a master’s thesis that dealt with such French philosophes as Derrida and Deleuze. Lately, in taking a gingerly stroll around the web, we’ve discovered that today’s continentals are all about Badiou. Or at least there are a lot of excellent sites about him: Undercurrent (which, malheureusement, has gone under), is a good place to start. There is also a really smart philosophical site, Charlotte Street, which we’ve been planning on adding to our blogdex or whatever the hell you call the links section. We’ve already added Infinite Thought to our blogdex. The deleuzian journal, The Pli, introduction.html often has articles on Badiou-ian topics.
As for the man himself, he is widely distributed over the Net. We’ve included his site on contemporary French philo on our blogfuckingdex already. We particularly recommend reading his autobiographical sketch, The Philosopher’s Pledge (l’aveu du philosophe) and his 8 Theses on the Universal (like Luther, Badiou has a weakness for nailing up theses. It is an interesting early modern genre – mixing the axiomatic with the polemical, and allowing a certain hurried simultaneity of propositions – rather like a confused but inspiriting charge across a battlefield – in which all are held in semi-isolation, the logic of their dependence one on the other being, it seems, partly up to the reader to decide). Here, to continue the theses theme, are 15 theses on art – which is what LI will probably be discussing.