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Showing posts from April 26, 2009

eternal sucklings of the world unite

In 1779, Emperor Joseph II was contemplating a second wave of land reform, removing certain burdens from the peasantry. Habsburg officials in Vienna conducted a survey among the empire’s official’s in the field, including Justus Moeser, who is, surely, among the counter-enlightenment’s greatest lights, along with his friend Friedrich von Gentz. Moeser was an administrator in Osnabrück, and responsible for the reforms there. Technically, Osnabrück was not a Habsburg territory, but Moeser had a reputation for understanding the incredibly complex structure of legal obligations that bound together the peasants and the masters in a relation of Horigkeit – dependence. Jonathan B. Knudson used the discovery of Moeser’s response in the state archive in his book about Moeser: ‘He states at the beginning: “serfdom (Leibeigenthum) is a notion which can be eradicated by a carefully conceived theory or better [which] can be regulated, so that it is beneficial to the state; and I have ventured to

I, Christoph Haitzmann

We come to know him as a man who fails in everything and is therefore trusted by no one. – Freud, A demonic neurosis from the seventeenth century Ich Christoph Haitzmann unterscheibe mich diesen Herrn als sein leibeigener Sohn auf 9 Jahr. 1669 Jahr” . I shouldn't entitle this post I, Christoph Haitzmann – although what I should and shouldn't do, what I am tempted to do, and how I fail to resist temptation, can be seen not only in the title but in grain of Haizmann's life itself – since that long dead painter is not going to come to life again under my fingers, nor his shadow, his fiction, his mask. Instead, I’m going to consider Freud’s notion that Christoph Haitzmann could be analyzed as a neurotic. In fact, Freud’s notion – which not only has its place in universal history but depends on the series of equivalents (the savage = the infant, sacred gestures = neurotic personality types) that are the circus figures of universal history – is one of the touchstones of the twe

making my bed of snow

And you wrap up his tired face in your hair and he hands you the apple core I’ve been contemplating my posts on Foucault. I like trying to combine thinking and writing in the daily format, where the writing is all about having no shock absorbers, and the longer term project, where all arguments, rhetorical feints, themes, tropes, tricks, hedges, and surprises have been milled through the thick shadow of reflection. The shadow I cast inside, my beloved, the shadow that no sunlight reaches, but only a lunar and lunatic glitter. The Buddhists are right to compare the mind to a monkey. So I’ve been contemplating my posts on Foucault with the shock of thinking through the Other, basso profundo O, that German import. I came upon this truth before I understood its meaning – which is of course the method of the monkey, the illuminated monkey. Although am I really saying anything more, deviating from the standard intellectual history that would make Hegel’s dialectic between the master and the

A round of laughter

1. Imagine naming a child after its mother’s laugh. 2. The mother’s characteristic laugh. Which is not the same as the characteristic way we represent a laugh – a haha, a hoho. These onomatopeia are grossly AWOL from the real sound of laughter. Yet as signs of that natural sign (laughter, since Occam, being treated in the tradition as a natural sign of joy – as, for instance, in Descartes), ha ha and ho ho have fed back into the pool of laughs. In English, at least, they sound much like the forced laugh, and perhaps this is because the forced laugh sounds like them. The forced laugh, in that sense, is quoting a laugh, which is representing a sound that has become, through some process of selection, the convention for the laugh. The sign, briefly, stands for itself. The forced laugh is humiliating. It is a way of being, for whatever reason, servile. Every forced laugh I have ever uttered has been cancerous. 3. Such a name, the name of this child, would confront the brute nature of the

Enlightenment, education and song

In the Styrian town of Leoben on a cold Christmas night in the year 1773, the believers in the town’s church beheld an uncanny sight: a man, dressed from head to foot in white, came into the church. The white clothing was inside out, exposing the seams. The man knelt at the altar and during the whole service seemed to be engaged in intense prayer. At the end of mass, he left with such haste that he forgot one of his white canvas shoes. Being shoeless, he was easily caught, and being caught, he was brought to the attention of the authorities. The name of the man was Jacob Kirschmueller, and he confessed that he was attempting a supernatural experiment. He’d heard that on Christmas day, the witches were out. If you went clothed all in white and knelt at the altar, you would see the devil, who would also be kneeling at the altar with his witches. At the changes in the mass, the devil would take off his cap. That was the moment to act – if you grabbed the cap, the devil would have to deal