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Showing posts from May 11, 2008

doctors and devils

LI wrote the following post last night. This morning, I woke up and found that there had been several comments left on Amie's post, which make good reading. So read that instead of this, which is a post pursuing the project of my first chapter - the reconstruction of the broken schemata of volupte. ..... I’ve been working up to translating Theophile’s visit to the possessed woman of Agen. And, as you will remember from my previous posts, I have tried to do an ungodly quick triangulation between Robert Boyle, writing almost half a century after Theophile, and Quevedo, writing at the same time, in order to bring out the complexities in ‘erudite’ culture concerning nature and spirits. To add to that catalogue, I went to Johann Baptist Ullersperger’s Geschichte der Psychologie und Psychiatrie in Spanien and found an impressive roll call of 17th century Spanish doctors and their concerns. This isn’t quite the list of animals from the Chinese encyclopedia of Borges, but it is illumin

The phantoms of ideology

You can skip this boring part ... LI has not been able to keep up with Chabert in her multi-entry assault on Derrida. As in a proper duel, this one has been about honor – Chabert defending Marx from Derrida’s “cynicism” and misprision – or outright fraud - and LI lagging behind, defending the honor of Derrida. But that’s a harder task to do for a writer who was born into the decline of the honor culture than to do for a writer who was conversant enough, in his student days, with dueling clubs. So I have defended, instead, a Derridian approach to Marx – which is to see Marx’s texts not in terms of doctrines that become lessons to repeat, but as historically situated, and full of conceptual choices that pull against each other. Some are derived from ripostes and occasions and gradually entombed in the massive work - this is true, I believe, of Marx's materialism. Or, just the reverse, promising tendencies from the romantic years are not fully developed - Marx's idea of alienation

Theory Theory Theory

Robert I. Levy, in a very useful essay entitled Emotions, Knowing and Culture [1984], proposed two axes for analyzing emotions on the sense making level – that is, not as private experiences, but as experiences that enter into the public domain. On the one hand, he speaks of hyercognition – “Hypercognition involves a kind of shaping, simplifying, selecting, and standardizing, a familiar function of cultural symbols and forms. It involves a kind of making “ordinary” of private understandings.” In contrast to that stands hypocognition – “Hypocognition forces the (first order) understanding into some private mode.” Citing his own work on “sadness” among Tahitians (Levy claims that, while there are words for severe grief and lamentation, there are “no unambiguous terms that represent the concepts of sadness, longing, or loneliness… People would name their condition, where I supposed that [the body signs and] the context called for “sadness” or “depression”, as “feeling troubled” pe’ape’a,

Off to see the witches

LI is going to fumble around a bit. When I last left Robert Boyle, I was drawing an implicit contrast between his objections to the ordinary or scholastic use of the term “nature” and the use of nature as a touchstone of style in Theophile de Viau. Since volupté emerges as a way of living in conjunction with the revival of Epicurus, and since that revival was a controversial part of the new learning – a way of introducing atomism into philosophy – “nature” is partnered with volupté among the libertines. In the chain of sememes, if volupté appears, soon nature will appear. Either as a term of reproach – the voluptuary who lives like a beast – or as a term of affirmation. The latter is new, it is modern, it is something that doesn’t yet have a full meaning. It is the promise of a program. Certainly, it leads the esprit fort to a negation – the negation of those things that are against nature, or supernatural. It is this slide towards skepticism that Boyle fears, and that we might not e