Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, ambivalence, Attachment, Belonging, Detachment theory, Encounters, Mood, non-sovereignty, Ordinariness, psychoanalysis, sovereignty, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing
I sat in at another conference recently, hearing lots of promising work, including a paper by Leo Bersani called “Illegitimacy” that pursues his current project, to understand what the Cartesian attempt to elevate thought over bodies, attachments, appetites, and sociality itself has wrought and what new social relations might be developed alternatively and in proximity to it. He has three models on offer these days for not reproducing the kinds of compensatory fantasy that allow one to feel autonomous, adequate to oneself, and separate/superior to the [enigmatic] other: one, a radically negative abandonment of the normative world, a project of becoming unnamable, illegitimate, and nonviable (he associates this with Edelman’s No Future); two, a sweet Bollasian affective sociality that focuses on effecting attachment in a way that does not require a full revelation of being; three, the Socratic model of impersonal narcissism that Bersani developed from Homos to Intimacies, involving the lover’s loving not just his own likeness seen in the lover (the Greek anteros or “backlove”) but also loving in the beloved a virtual form of universal individuation that at once gives the lover narcissistic satisfaction but also, motivated by love, induces the lover to foster the beloved’s becoming more like himself.
These three models for sidestepping the bubble of ego inflation do not cohere: they invoke different models of an alternative formalism that might be found in relationality. But all of them counter in specific ways what Leo calls normative personhood’s murderous drives to eliminate alterity. In a fine theorist, non-coherence is never a failure, but an expression of an experimentality I love: the feeling out of a problem in real time, even in the mode of a propositional definiteness, is what makes theory intimate, when it is. In Epistemology of the Closet, Eve called such liveness to the whole body work of conceptual transformation the “pincers movement”: one theory-driven claw forward, another claw lagging, such that movement keeps happening across a field made from scratches that don’t add up quite to an even plane.
But being me, I would foreground non-coherence as a principle of being rather than a cumulative effect of serial finitude: I never thought that the subject ought to be seen as in one state.
The intimacy of psychoanalysis with theatre, tableau, and dramatics has the effect too often of exemplifying subjectivity in discrete overorganized states that look one way, a fetishy way hiding a complexity that is often represented as unbearable. That might be good for clarifying a problem, but this tableau of the subject tragically sacrificed into form is not, to my mind, capacious realism. Not that melodrama is not realism, it is: in its way of partial distortion. But the subject in a pose of self-inflated organization or an overconsistent self-mirroring mirage of totality is a state that only occasionally interrupts the ambience of what’s ongoing. This inflated stabilization is what, in this series of posts, I will come to call the combover state.
In the alternative model I have been developing here for the last four years I imagine ordinary subjectivity—subjectivity moving through ordinariness—not as a thing borne in an image that seeks a copy to have, hold, or destroy (see Salacl) but as a scene of usually undramatically unstable, incoherent, disorganized activity whose work of being is to assume a form—form as the aim of effort, not the ground of being as such. Form as the achievement of relationality in time for the subject as for any mediated thing. Lot’s wife. I always want to pull back from the object and become more formal, by which I mean to see the taking up of a position in form to be something that happens in psychic and real time and in structures of sociality too that loosely suture all the inhabited times and registers of the subject’s ordinary encounter with herself.
Ha! I love all the pronouns in that paragraph! I won’t edit them out, they’re pointing to my limit. I am overhearing a Patti Smith documentary as I write this. When she rehearses her voice is a few registers higher and enunciatively looser than when she sings the same material in concert. The precise, lower register is the seduction. The nasal, whiny register is her loose broken doll vernacular. But she says her voice is always the same because it’s constituted by a rhythm, not a register. Sometimes, in the middle of a thought, all the encounters one has make a racket of analogy, such is the hunger for form/relationality.
5 Comments so far
Leave a comment