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Showing posts from February 23, 2014

what the newsman gives us

“The least sophisticated reader, whenever he takes an old book in his hands, knows in advance that he is entering a world where even the most familiar words will not mean quite what they do today. This is the unsophisticated reader’s historical intuition.” – Lidiia Ginzburg, On Psychological Prose The least sophisticated reader has all the advantages against today’s sophisticated news reporter. The news can be described as that discourse that does its best to eliminate the reader’s historical intuition. Some news items really make this clear. Take, for example, this platitudinizing item in the New Yorker today, which begins on a note of unconscious propaganda that it sustains to the last sentence: “ On Saturday, Mexican authorities arrested   Joaquín (El Chapo)Guzmán Loera, who was the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, acriminal organization responsible for violence and drug trafficking."    This seemingly bland announcement ends by associating El Chapo’s “organization” – of wh

the moraliste and the ethicist

Here’s a couple of sentences from Cioran’s Thinking against Oneself: “Assaulted by the malediction attached to actions, the violent man only forces his nature, only goes beyond himself, in order to return furious, as an aggressor, trailed by his enterprises, which come to punish him for his having instigated  them. No work fails to turn against its author: the poem will crush the poet, the system the philosopher, the event the man of action.” This is the voice of a moraliste. A moraliste is an expert in generalizations that are rooted in his exacerbated sense of the world as a place where he tests himself, and fails – taking each failure as a mark left by the world on his hide, and worth studying for that reason. The ethicist, on the other hand, is an expert in generalizations that are, ideally, not suppose to make contact with his personality at all. From the ethicist’s point of view, the moraliste is carelessly and unforgiveably unconcerned with the truth of his generalizations, a

Barthes and the paragraph

To read Barthes properly, one must be equipped with a pen and a piece of paper, a notebook, have them at hand, cite and dissect. There’s a reason for this besides the difficult theoretical terms and arguments in the text – that reason being that the texts tend to be disconnected in subtle ways, and one needs to have some record to chart the gaps. We know that his method  of composition was to write on index cards and arrange them – which he did not only in his study of Michelet, but, according to his colleagues, also in his other work, throughout his life. Thus, Barthes’ text offer not the forward flow of a text that moves over a notebook, or over the loose pages of a typewriter, but instead in short bursts. Barthes once wrote an essay entitle Flaubert and the phrase. It seems natural to associate Flaubert with phrases, since he made so much of them. A similar essay could be written about Barthes and the paragraph. The paragraph is eminently prosaic. Poetry – save for prose poems – doe