Saturday, March 14, 2015

Something I Read #11 – Michel Foucault

From "The Discourse on Language" (The Archaeology of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language; trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith; Pantheon: NY, 1972; pgs 223-24)

Within its own limits, every discipline recognises true and false propositions, but it repulses a whole teratology of learning. The exterior of a science is both more, and less, populated that one might think: certainly, there is immediate experience, imaginary themes bearing on and continually accompanying immemorial beliefs; but perhaps there are no errors in the strict sense of the term, for error can only emerge and be identified within a well defined process; there are monsters on the prowl, however, whose forms alter with the history of knowledge. In short, a proposition must fulfil some onerous and complex conditions before it can be admitted within a discipline; before it can be pronounced true or false it must be, as Monsieur Canguilhem might say, 'within the true'.

People have often wondered how on earth nineteenth-century botanists and biologists managed not to see the truth of Mendel's statements. But it was precisely because Mendel spoke of objects, employed mthods and placed himself within a theoretical perspective totally alien to the biology of his time. But then, Naudin had suggested that hereditary traits constituted a separate element before him; and yet, however novel or unfamiliar the principle may have been, it was nevertheless reconcilable, if only as an enigma, with the biological discourse. Mendel, on the other hand, announced that hereditary traits constituted an absolutely new biological object, thanks to a hitherto untried system of siltrage: he detached them from species, from the sex transmitting them, the field in which he observed being that infinitely open series of generations in which hereditary traits appear and disappear with statistical regularity. Here was a new object, calling for new conceptual tools, and for fresh theoretical foundations. Mendel spoke the truth, but he was not dans le vrai (within the true) of contemporary biological discourse: it seimply was not along such lines that objects and biological concepts were formed. A whole change in scale, the deployment of a totally new range of objects in biology was required before Mendel could enter into the true monster, so much so that science could not even properly speak of him. And yet Schleiden, for example, thirty years earlier, denying, at the height of the nineteenth century, vegetable sexuality, was committing no more than a disciplined error.

It is always possible one could speak the truth in a void; one would only be in the true, however, if one obeyed the rules of some discursive 'policy' which would have to be reactivated every time one spoke.

Disciplines constitute a system of control in the production of discourse, fixing its limits through the action of an identity taking the form of a permanent reactivation of the rules.

We tend to see, in an author's fertility, in the multiplicity of commentaries and in the development of a discipline so many infinite resources available for the creation of discourse. Perhaps so, but they are nonetheless principles of constraint, and it is probably impossible to appreviate their positive, multiplicatory role without first taking into consideration their restrictive, constraining role.

There is a pdf of essay/lecture available at this link.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review: Fincher's Gone Girl

Newly added to the Cabinet . . . .


I have been a Fincher fan since Alien3, and indeed I've considered him one of the top directors in the U.S. pretty much since he successfully followed up Se7en (and The Game) with Fight Club. In truth, I consider him one of the few who might be able to step into the void created in the realm of film as artwork by Kubrick's death.

Which is not to say he is without criticism. For me, while it is a very interesting go at a very restrictive genre, I think Panic Room falls apart well before its final moments. But of more concern for me – speaking as a fan – is that it seems that in the last few films he has abandoned aesthetic creativity for narrative realism. While I am still in consideration of my position on them, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo[FN], and, now, Gone Girl are to me a regression into cinematic realism. Visually, as films as opposed to narratives, they may be meticulous, technically well executed, but they are to me rather uninteresting aesthetically. Up until Social Network, you could track Fincher's directorial choices as an exploration of genres, moving from one to another, never back tracking: Alien3 = science fiction; Se7en = horror; The Game = mystery; Fight Club = psychological thriller; Panic Room = lady in a cage; Zodiac = (60s-70s style) cop drama; Benjamin Button = literary fantasy (that might be called magical realism).

Something I Read #10 - Wallace Stevens

I used this in a recent post on the PDC, but I'll put it here as well. From "The Noble Rider and the Sound of Words" in Necessary Angel:

There is not a poet whom we prize living today that does not address himself to an élite. The poet will continue to do this: to address himself to an élite even in a classless society, unless, perhaps, this exposes him to imprisonment or exile. In that event he is likely not to address himself to anyone at all. He may, like Shostakovich, content himself with pretence. He will, nevertheless, still be addressing himself to an élite, for all poets address themselves to someone and it is of the essence of that instinct, and it seems to amount to an instinct, that it should be to an élite, not to a drab but to a woman with the hair of a pythoness, not to a chamber of commerce but to a gallery of one's own, if there are still enough of one's own to fill a gallery. And that √©lite, if it responds, not out of complaissance, but because the poet has quickened it, because he has educed from it that for which it was searching in itself and in the life around it and which it had not yet quite found, will thereafter do for the poet what he cannot do for himself, that is to say, receive his poetry.


One of the curious-not-so-curious subtexts that can be seen within the discourse of poppoetry is the effort to deny such a thought.