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Showing posts from September 6, 2009

The tree of death

Flies. Les mouches, from les Mouchards. “In defense of Brissot, it should be remembered that "spying" for the police could take the form of reporting on the mood of certain sections or milieux of the city rather than betraying friends. Spies, often called mouches (a term apparently derived from the name of the no- torious sixteenth-century agent Antoine Mouchy), buzzed like flies around the cafes and public places where gossip was to be gathered.” In Robert Darnton’s essay about whether Brissot was, as his Jacobin enemies claimed, a police spy, Darnton weighs the evidence and concludes that probably he was. In that parenthesis he affirms a doubtful etymology. It is an interesting case study, this etymology. Voltaire spread the idea that Mouchy, who was not an agent, but a theologian/inquisitor, gave birth to the many maggoted mouchards, or spies – mouches being the word for fly – that buzzed around and gathered information for the police. Abbe Coblet, in the nineteenth centur

a traveller in a wood

Both Gilles Deleuze and Stephen Gould had trouble with structures that were perfectly tree-like. The central trunk of a theme, and then subsidiary branches, diminishing towards the top. Gould objected to the old tree of evolution, which put man on the very top of the tree (although his superiority consisted in coming down from the tree altogether – and yet, in dreams, yes, he wants to be at the top). Deleuze objected to universal history erecting its tree on every shore of every ocean, Europe, or the West, on top, encouraging the other branches to follow – and in the meantime, boosting their fruit. Such were the problematic trees. Of course, both wrote in the shadow of the flaming Christmas trees, Yggdrasil, of the great echt deutsch Christmases remembered by Sebald, ah the advent calendars with the pictures of ss men, ah the chocolate swastiksa, the address by Rudolf Hoess with the family gathered around the tree, all hope and purity upon which were hung, as ornaments, the fates of th

Further notes on solitude

... I started out last month positing a tentative binary – individualism vs. solitude – that I took from Rousseau. It seemed to me then that Rousseau could not bring together his view of civil society founded on a fundamental equality and his view of the continuing dependence of women The contradiction imploded in his narratives. And the move, late in Rousseau’s life, to elevate solitude seems to me to be a political move, or hold the seeds of a politics. Contra Todorov, Rousseau did not represent his solitude as an exception. It was, potentially, the right to solitude, the development of solitude, that provides us with a whole new view of the relationship between the self and society. Solitude is a social development. This made me wonder about the right to solitude of women. Solitude, as I am trying to understand it, is not the right of the property holder who can shut the door on the public sphere and stay at home. That kind of privacy does fit with an emerging individualism. But sol