Filed under: Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, depression, Detachment theory, emotion, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, Ordinariness, sexuality, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog | Tags: aesthetics, Aimee_Mann, Attachment, Barbara_Browning, conceptual_art, dreams, Gil-Scott_Heron, Kate_Lilley, Kathleen_Stewart, Love, sexuality, writing
3. What is the wish of the dream?
I open my hand and a small cluster of people peer up at me out of it silent and bug-eyed. I draw them out of my palm like taffy, but there is no snapping sound and no lost teeth. In a minute the crowded room buzzes harshly, wondering why it had bothered one more time to show up for nothing but an exhausted optimism. I was lucky to be the dreamer because the dreamer never stops being interested. People know when they haven’t said enough, that’s why they dream. Or that’s not why they dream, but why they continue loving.
When I met him he was raking leaves, in his tiny yard; usually they’re across some table in a room. And what of the very bald one who practices his Foucault Face™ in the mirror each day? If I try to write the story of someone who worked hard in case he showed up to work, what is the plot? She played touch tag by saying a thing then running into a field of noise. The delay architecture is so deliberate I can feel the shot-reverse-shot, the voiceover, and the signs of truth tattooed on my often-entered vagina. (more…)
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, ambivalence, Attachment, Belonging, class, Craziness, Encounters, non-sovereignty, psychoanalysis, sovereignty, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: bombs, detachment, Diana_Taylor, free_indirect_discourse, game_theory, scenarios, slow_death, slow_reading
2. This game is called “Watch Your Step.” I am not sure that it’s a game or that any of the games I’ve described is a game. It’s more like a scene that stimulates games of encounter, which is to say, scenarios of risk. My thinking about this was world-shaken by Diana Taylor’s article on double-blind scenarios, which came out after her book, which I also loved, but as I was the editor for the smaller, later piece, my bones know it as deeply as a body would that has many times leaned toward its object. This is not objective knowledge.
The best a thought can do, after all, is to make itself available to be found, by documenting its encounter with something so well that it shifts things into a new proximity, as though words in a dictionary had suddenly slid down into each other’s definitions. That’s not too eloquent, but the event of eloquence has only a little to do with meaning emerging. I was researching what a “scene” is while editing Diana’s piece for a “special issue on the case,” which the University of Chicago Press refused to make into a book because they thought it wasn’t “sexy.” (more…)
Filed under: Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, pedagogy, Politics, Theory of this Blog | Tags: affect, austerity, misogyny, Politics
Hi! I’ve been writing books, and so this blog, which is a research blog, after all, has been languishing. I imagine that, starting in June. I’ll post more often to retain and retrain focus, as I will be on an extended writing-for-deadline hiatus, researching a new book, letting things in. It’s exciting to be on the verge of a porousness that’s both deliberate and can’t be intended. In the meantime I’ve been using my blabbing time doing some interviews (listed below) and, in concert with Katie Stewart, doing some writing exercises that I’ll also post some of here. We’ll see where that work on the ordinary goes—maybe another little co-authored book. In January a book I’ve written with/against Lee Edelman will appear from Duke: Sex, or the Unbearable. I like collaboration, it’s taxing and revealing, like villanelle-writing, which is also influencing the current work. (more…)
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, emotion, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, pedagogy, poetry, psychoanalysis, sexuality, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: Adam_Phillips, Ariana_Reines, Attachment, Bollas, Derrida, Love, Nancy, psychoanalysis, shattered_love, teaching, writing
Delaminated from week 1 lecture notes, Love Theory (Winter 2012)…
I am a love theorist. I sometimes feel dissociated from all my loves. I sometimes ask them to hold more of an image of me than I can hold. By “sometimes” I mean all the times. The image is the regressed form, not the narrative noise that comes later to try to apply adhesive to the fantasy and its representation in objects, so that I know I am an event that lives in the world. The love and the images available for it are in a Thunderdome death-love match, yet we act as though affect could be held within a steady-state space like meat on a hook, or the image of meat on a hook, since actual meat turns green. Most storage lockers are cold enough to slow down that decay, as we know from narrative and domesticity. Aggressions and tenderness pop around in me without much of a thing on which to project blame steadily or balance an idealization. So it’s just me and phantasmagoric noise that only sometimes feels like a cover song for a structuring shape or an improv around genre. In love I’m left holding the chaos bag and there is no solution that would make these things into sweet puzzle pieces. See Phillips’ reading of attachment as the drive to return to the taste of another person: the “sweetness” love stands for binds itself to an infinity of objects and plots and strategies for investing the scene with a worthiness matching our intensity of a need for its nourishment. This is why, perhaps too, Laplanche uses the word “metabolize.”
This is a philosophical “I”. I don’t feel like using “we,” because I fall into the banality pit when I do. (See Derrida on film on love. He should have trusted his first instinct to say nothing, since what he says is nothing, but he was being a good boy, and trying to maintain his availability for the interviewer’s idealization, the death in life of the call and response: he was trying to be loveable. Maybe the phrases one offers as gifts are the best love because they metarecognize the demand for love in any call: but, in itself, the professor’s discourse is not an opening to the other’s inconvenience, and it is not love if it is not opened to that.) (more…)
Filed under: affect, ambivalence, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, Detachment theory, emotion, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, Ordinariness, pedagogy, psychoanalysis, sexuality, sovereignty, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: Bloomingdales, Camera_Obscura, cigarettes, femininity, french-wrap, high_heels, mother's_day, nominalism
I noticed, over the last few months, as my mother was dying, that I had taken pictures that seemed very specific. Now I am looking at the archive, as one looks at a drying hand after a manicure.
My mother died of femininity. I told her that I would say this about her. She had said, “Will you write a book about me?” and I asked if she wanted me to. She said “Yes. I want you to say that I left the world a better place because I had you!” I said I thought that this was a bad idea: people would think it an excuse to write about me. She said, “Can you think of another topic?” I offered this phrase about femininity, and explained why. My brother-in-law thought that it would be better to say that my mother died from vanity rather than from femininity. I can see why he would prefer that story; it’s interesting to see how a label shifts the implication.
In her late teens she took up smoking, because it was sold as a weight-reduction aid. When she died she had aggressive stage 4 lung cancer. In her teens she started wearing high heels, to enhance the back arch and ass-to-calves posture whose strut transforms the whole body to a sexual tableau, shifting between teetering and stillness. Later, she had an abortion and on the way out tripped down the stairs in those heels, hurting her back permanently. Decades later, selling dresses at Bloomingdale’s, she was forced to carry, by her estimate, 500 lbs. of clothes each day. Shop girls, you know, are forced to dress like their customers. They have to do this to show that they understand the appropriate universe of taste, even while working like mules in that same universe, carrying to their ladies stacks of hanging things and having to reorganize what their ladies left behind on the dressing room floor. She liked this job, because she liked being known as having good taste.
Filed under: Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, class, Craziness, depression, economy, emotion, Encounters, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, Ordinariness, pedagogy, Politics, sovereignty, teaching, writing | Tags: " masculinity, "American Dream, Freud, Lacan, precarity
I’m converting a cafeteria to a café—Valois just got wi-fi and I wanted to be in a capacious space, light with big tables and no soundtrack. It’s empty, almost, mid-afternoon. A few old people are sitting around schmoozing as they will, and we look after each other’s tables when we need bathroom breaks or a refill. After a few hours a father and son come and sit two tables up. The father, young, instructs his son relentlessly: on how to use a laptop, how to play a game, how to sit, how to be quiet, and how to eat without smacking his mouth. I am working with my head down trying to drown out the noise. Then at one point I hear him say to his son, why do you want to give up on your dream, why do you want to give up on your dream of being a football player? Kid: I want to draw cartoons. Father: you also want to be in the NFL, why do you want to give up on your dream? Kid: I want to draw cartoons, I have lots of stories to tell. Father: tell me, why do you want to give up on your dream?
A piece of paper falls off the table. It has boxes drawn on it and word balloons. The figures they’re attached to look better than stick, but there’s a not lot of detail. His father says, Don’t you see, when you’re 35 and you’ve been in the Super Bowl, you’ll have the skills of a 35 year old man, not a 9 year old boy, and when you’re 35 and a cartoonist, you’ll have the skills of a 9 year old boy?
They call it a skill set, the father says.
Filed under: Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, Detachment theory, Encounters, Mood, Ordinariness, poetry, potentiality, queerness, sexuality, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: C.D. Wright, Louie, Louie C.K., ordinariness, poetry, sexuality, violence
#2 in the series.
I spent most of the summer reading the kind of fierce poetry that moves fearlessly into barely inhabitable breathing space three beats beyond the object that was supposed to anchor attention. A poetics of associology whose noise world sits me down in disbelief at the rare freedom of other people’s minds. Not because attention gets things right (any more than attachment guarantees love), and not because there’s always in operation productive energy that can never be tamed but because—in these poems, and for me–revolt requires curiosity, a tipping over on a verge.
I can’t remember how I heard of C. D. Wright; this book written from within incarcerated space seems to have migrated onto my desk from a lateral impulse I must have had once. People who liked this also liked. It’s been in a pile of revealed intention that I’ve been reading up and down.
Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit is one version of the commons: C.D. Wright includes it as a kind of acid irony. After all, the next line, si bleu, si calme, isn’t available as realism to the incarcerated–or the manumitted for now who swerve around aggressively while looking down at their feet, or anyone with a stomach overfull of the indigestible. I read this book and my brain clicked around over it all summer: glory hole, dream hole, peephole. (more…)
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, ambivalence, Attachment, Craziness, Mood, non-sovereignty, Ordinariness, Politics, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: aesthetics, affect_theory, dissociation, poetry, suicide
I. Kathryne Lindberg
Awhile ago a student killed himself and all I could do was take his parents to dinner—it was a nice dinner. Later a friend offed himself and all I could do was take his “next of kin” to lunch and to miss him. Then over a year ago, a lovely, lost while alive ex-student whose people I don’t know killed herself and all I could do was to email mutual friends and protect the loved ones who don’t know me from me for fear of a stranger’s extending a wound, which isn’t worth it. Then my friend seems to have left her car a shell on a bridge with the keys still in it. She vaporized, although her daily friends reported that in recent sightings she was exuberant. A bipolar friend of mine calls us academics all extroverted introverts. Exuberant was the name of my first blog, which was a failure. In sum: a mood is neither anchor nor plot. (. . .)
II. The Nervous System
Supervalent Thought has been, among other things, a project that tries to reintroduce dissociation as a mix of psychoanalytic, formal, affective, and performative modalities of detachment from the scene and sense of expressive continuity between outsides and insides, spaces that, like public and private, are effects rather than causes, differentially produced, and existing in projected perceptions of origin and event. I wanted no longer to presume some naturalized feedback loop between inside and outside, as has been endemic to affect theory, missing the spray of things. (more…)
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, class, Craziness, Detachment theory, emotion, Encounters, Mood, optimism, Ordinariness, sexuality, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog | Tags: affect_theory, anorexia, bulimia, eating_disorder, marx, simmel
Contact. I just saw the most anorexic woman I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. She was walking in 90 degree heat in full Gaga: white face, red lip, yellow blonde streaks all beautifully blown out yet so sprayed that it barely touched the face it surrounded. Her face looked like an @. She was crossing the street wearing a yellow cape, black skirt, and black opaque tights over legs that could not possibly be thinner. The platform shoe gait was ungraceful, but it was haughty, and my first thought was competitive, as in, when I was anorexic I still could pass, people said, for a manic New York Jew: whereas this person really did look as though if she’d had to dodge a bike too sharply she would have snapped in two.
At Banff a group of us who liked each other turned out to have in our backgrounds the overlap of Oberlin and eating disorder, and I got the impression that the back is not too far a ground from the front for some of us. The curse of recidivism attaches to predators and eating disorders. The revelation of that form of fort/da appeared in this group of people otherwise professionally linked when someone commented that another of us who had just walked by was surely bulimic, and the assurance with which she said this made me ask how she knew, and it was interesting. She saw semi-circles around mouths and eyes. We were all eating at the time, which seemed to be proof of something, although it was proof of nothing.
I thought of all the things I know about the “deepest problems of modern life” that “flow from the attempt of the individual to maintain the independence and individuality of his existence against the sovereign powers of society, against the weight of the historical heritage and the external culture and technique of life,” and I thought about another kind of impact I’d been amassing as I continue to think about contact as the intensification of the encounter with non-sovereignty, so of course this series twist happened without quite being a project. All summer I have been taking pictures of phrases that hit me and induced reveries and reorientations that made me both stupid and more alive. (more…)
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, emotion, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, Ordinariness, Politics, potentiality, psychoanalysis, sexuality, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: affect, drama, emotion, theatre
The fantasy of a common sense, a sense of a capacity or of something affectively general at the core of democracy, is not necessarily sentimental. But the drive to create a more capacious democratic sensorium so often tips into intimacy’s sentimental vernacular that its placeholder status as conceptual magnet, not origin or experience, is very hard to discipline–and the drive to discipline it is the source of so much social theory. The local occasion of this post is the Theatre Oobleck production of There Is a Happiness That Morning Is. The play, riffing on Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, was classic Oobleck: noisy, vital, and entirely intentional. There wasn’t a supervalent moment in it, which was an achievement of sorts, since it is about love and fucking and freedom and lyric poetry and death, and how they shape profound scenes of self-encounter that reveal enigmas of suffering and impaired autonomy at the heart of ordinary intimacy. But it was unsatisfying, because it aimed to be too satisfying: the writing overdramatized every emotion, including disbelief, as though to color within the lines must amount to blackening an entire page. In this it was exemplary of so much aesthetic and theoretical work that works over the emotions, attempting to drown out the affects and to claim that when we are authentic we feel one known thing at a time.
The problem of writing about this play is that any substantive discussion of it will make it more wonderful than any minute of seeing it. This is what critical engagement does: it adds value through staging interest that’s been magnetized to a form. It converts the event of form into a situation. In reading with a thing a transitional environment emerges that changes what attention can attend to. The encounter makes change prehensible, resonating toward a leavening sense of a concept whose potentiality is virtually affirmed even if the encounter itself fails to have much afterlife. But what I am trying to do is to think about the downsides of potentiality modes when they are tethered to a simplifying desire for emotions already normatively held in common to provide a foundation for (aesthetic or political) transformation.