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AMCrenshaw
08-13-2008, 08:51 PM
What is the relationship between the perceiver (the reader) and the perceived (the novel) and perhaps of what exactly is the perceiver (i.e., does the transcendental ego of the reader dissipate in the act of reading)?

I should start by comparing the novel (or any text for that matter) to the world-of-being insofar as it is an object in the world presumably before it can possibly be read. For the purposes of this discussion, let's assume that the text is not created (or that the matter of its creation is irrelevant) and that in the process of reading the novel, it is a world and reality unto itself.

The process of reading a novel is two-fold: real and represented physical experience and intellectual/emotive interaction. The two are inseparable for one could not exist without the other; even in the case of the physical experience of reading the novel, a reader would have to not-read the text to avoid ordering it into some sort of coherent meaning. However, the stance I will present here asserts that the text is not made by meaning but ordered by it; that is, without being read, the text is an unreflected object, much like the world-of-being, but in order to re-discover this unreflected object, it needs to be reflected upon, and is structured to allow such activity.

What this concedes then is not that there was an intention to the text (although there very well could be; but to admit that is to admit that there is for one, a supreme author over the text, and secondly, that this supreme author is itself a transcendental ego, or speaking subject) but that the text, regardless, is open to reflection by way of its ontological structure.

The reader, then, is in a very particular position of being able to view the world-of-being (the text) as a subject, a transcendental ego capable of passing judgment. Is this the case? Is any reader in this position? Or is the world-of-being, the novel, that they are partaking in no longer separable from the consciousness, the reader, so that this is not a question of two entities somehow separate or distinct from, or external to each other, but of the relationships between them that forms from their necessary integration?

This thread hopes to probe not at authorial control by way of intention but authorial and reader relationship by way of the ontological structure of the novel.

Higgins
08-13-2008, 09:16 PM
What is the relationship between the perceiver (the reader) and the perceived (the novel) and perhaps of what exactly is the perceiver (i.e., does the transcendental ego of the reader dissipate in the act of reading)?

This thread hopes to probe not at authorial control by way of intention but authorial and reader relationship by way of the ontological structure of the novel.

Unfortunately for authors, the reader's thinking-parts (transcendent pretty much, perhaps not so much ego as interpretive consciousness) work the same way versus any object. The book/story acts just as another set of encounters and isn't as different from just being on vacation as you might suppose.

For example...to use a philosophical story from a book about Husserl that I otherwise can't recall...suppose some travelers hike up to a water pump. Some are on vacation, some are very thirsty and one is there to sample the water for contaminants and one is there to repair the pump.
Ideally I suppose the contaminants are checked, the pump is repaired and the contaminants are checked again. But suppose the travellers arrive say at 10-minute intervals. The vacationers remark on what a picturesque pump they have encountered. The thirsty traveller is relieved of his thirst and so on.
Each person has a very different phenomenological encounter with the pump even though in ontological terms things are pretty much the same depending on how bad the contamination is.
The novel is sort of like the pump. Its relation to its readers depends a lot on what they are expecting to get out of it or do with it and in that way it is no different than any object in the world.

Higgins
08-13-2008, 10:50 PM
What is the relationship between the perceiver (the reader) and the perceived (the novel) and perhaps of what exactly is the perceiver (i.e., does the transcendental ego of the reader dissipate in the act of reading)?

I should start by comparing the novel (or any text for that matter) to the world-of-being insofar as it is an object in the world presumably before it can possibly be read.

An interesting project. Here's a bloggative moment involving the transcendental reduction. In the midst of the nearly illegible green text
there is a version of the pump I mentioned in the post before this one.
This time it is a rock.

http://yolksoc.blogspot.com/2007/12/what-is-transcendental-reduction.html

ColoradoGuy
08-13-2008, 11:43 PM
Interesting, but you'll have to explain to me how your formulation is a significant departure from Fish's now standard Reader Response Theory (http://www.xenos.org/essays/litthry4.htm). I take you to mean that the act of reading in some part brings the work into existence from the nascient, potential work that is the written text. To me, that's Reader Response, with both author and reader participating to varying degrees (the exact degree up for discussion) in actualizing the text. The author supplies the raw material--the reader constructs the reading.

AMCrenshaw
08-14-2008, 03:58 AM
Interesting, but you'll have to explain to me how your formulation is a significant departure from Fish's now standard Reader Response Theory (http://www.xenos.org/essays/litthry4.htm). I take you to mean that the act of reading in some part brings the work into existence from the nascient, potential work that is the written text. To me, that's Reader Response, with both author and reader participating to varying degrees (the exact degree up for discussion) in actualizing the text. The author supplies the raw material--the reader constructs the reading.

It's more than just the author, which what I was getting at. The convention of the novel, for example, is conducive to a certain way of deriving meaning. Although it is possible to begin a novel on page 140, we rarely do so. In book stores we browse through the middle to see if we like the sound, but it's almost certain that one page in a novel (in the middle chapter XX) has little to no meaning because it has little to no context. The rock from Higgins's contribution doesn't necessarily work for what I am trying to question precisely because the rock is without a context. It's undecipherable, as Calvino or Eliot might put it-- it just is. But a novel isn't just being. Its very function is to be experienced and to be interpreted. Its form, thus, takes the route that is most conducive to it being interpreted. An author, thus, can lead a reader a certain way (perhaps more precisely) by manipulating these conventions. I will give two examples, one from literature itself and one outside of literature, per se.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Leaves
http://www.houseofleaves.com/forum/

If you have never heard of House of Leaves, which I find doubtful, it is a maddening frustrating piece of work. Why? Because a reader (who is assumed to be a reader) is frustrated in his or her conventional, and what some could call lazy, approach to reading the novel. In case you haven't delved into the depths of this book, I will try not to ruin all of it for you. Suffice it so say that the book demands certain things of us in order to attain the meaning (if there's any to be had) of the text. I had to use a magnifying glass, mirror, footnotes and wikipedia in order to understand how a certain phrase might add to the mystery which is The House of Leaves. Now, as far as Reader Response goes, I will address more of that later. But for now, I will say this much: I could have put it down. I could have disobeyed its demands, put the book down, and said Good Job, Asshole, you've written an unreadable book. But a reader is a reader, a perceiver a perceiver. And in that book, it is not logical (in the framework of trying to understand the text) to go from page one to page 600 straight through.

So what I'm pointing to is not the possible meanings (which are clearly plenty) but conducivity to the realization of meaning that is inherent in the text-- if, of course, there is any to be had-- through the experience of the text itself as it is presented. Or, to put it another way, "What is real for us, as given in experience, is neglected" and the real experience to be recovered in my example is the text itself. It is the thing-before-meaning, the "thing-before-reflection" (Muldoon). The ontological structure itself allows for the ordering events for us that have been conducive to our realization of meaning. But do new structures, then, allow for new meaning? And couldn't we, then, as authors (or artists), change the direction meaning is realized almost entirely (save for non-narrative images, which are fewer in America these days)? Merleau-Ponty, for example, says:

"What defines man is not the capacity to create a second nature---- economic, social, or cultural---- beyond biological nature; it is rather the capacity of going beyond created structures in order to create others" (Structure of Behavior 174-5).

These will serve as my other examples. Economic and social and cultural structures are structures comparable to that of the structuring of literature in that each, in some way, is a reflection on the real thing-that-is. In our country, wouldn't we think differently about money if we lived in Cuba? Wouldn't we think differerently about individuality, boostraps, and guns? The vertical structure of hierarchy that is necessary in Capitalism, if changed, would completely alter our perception of American life in general. And the meaning of our life is clearly changed too.

A literary text, it seems, is like any structure: it cannot be unless it perceived. I admit to the quasi-existentialism of such a phrase. But I also admit that the subjective (the conscious perceiver) and objective (the real thing-that-is, what is perceived) relationship is one in which its parts can almost never be made distinct. So while it is true that any one person will think derive a different meaning from a text, it is also true that texts have been presented in such a way that makes certain meanings more obvious. The difference between this and the Reader Response is essentially I think that an un-awareness of the literary techniques and devices that may lead us a certain way, and less of knowing that the text has an author, will put us before the real thing, an almost pre-perceived object. I think the value of this is in forming a relationship with the text that allows that text to be its own framework, its own context, and thus to allow it its own meaning. There are obvious marks of fallibility in this approach, and we see them all the time: I can't read German, or Latin, for example. So the text in and of itself is "meaningless" to me if written in those languages. Others similar to this exist as well. But, I would say that these sorts of restrictions exist everywhere and all the time in our lives, whether biological, social, cultural, or not. And yet new systems and new meanings give rise anyway.

EDIT: In my haze, I forgot to re-emphasize something I think is really important to emphasize from the beginning. As much as the novel is an object, it has certain properties that make it comparable to a consciousness in that it has both 1) a body: the physical words, the pages, the page numbers, the narrative and 2) a mind: the philosophy, commentary; in other words, ideas and that both of these are integrated so thoroughly they cannot be separated. Important as it is to see the novel as an object, it is more important to see it as one an object that isn't fixed, that it is in fact changeable in meaning due to the relationship it has with a reader. However, this relationship begins with the experience of reading, but the mutuality of the relationship is due to this fact that a text can actually relate to a human as if it were a consciousness of its own.


"De Bolla is looking at a Barnett Newman painting (Vir Heroicus Sublimis) in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He has decided that the usual critical questions – what does this painting mean?, what is it trying to say? – are the wrong ones. He offers one or two not all that appealing alternatives (‘how does this painting determine my address to it?, how does it make me feel?, what does it make me feel?’) and says that ‘beyond these questions lies the insistent murmur of great art, the nagging thought that the work holds something to itself, contains something that in the final analysis remains untouchable, unknowable’. Then de Bolla arrives at what I find the truly haunting question: ‘What does this painting know?’"

From: (http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521844765&ss=exc)



AMC

Ruv Draba
08-14-2008, 04:52 PM
For the purposes of this discussion, let's assume that the text is not created (or that the matter of its creation is irrelevant) and that in the process of reading the novel, it is a world and reality unto itself.For the purposes of discussion I'm not sure that I can.

Novels are fictions written in language. Language is a cultural artifact created specifically for the purposes of cultural communication. Nobody writes novels using just numbers or chemical formulae; we only read cultural communications. The matter of its creation is highly relevant, and cultural context forms a large part of auctorial intent and (for better or worse) reader interpretation. So here I'll disagree with the summary of Fisher that Colorado Guy posted - there is indeed a context against which the work is intended to be read.

Secondly, novels are not a world and reality unto themselves. They're just descriptions of places and people and events that are fleshed out by the reader's imagination. It's that fleshing-out that gives them such a compelling 'alternative reality' feel, but that fleshing-out is done from our cultural and personal perspectives. So now, I'm about-facing and agreeing with Fisher. Reader response matters.

But novels are not just individual experiences. They bind us because they're written from a shared culture to a shared culture. Even when we disagree on points of meaning in a novel, we'll generally agree on context and broader elements -- as long as we share the same culture in which it is written.

If we want to discuss transcendent 'I', then I'd have to ask at first 'transcendent of what?' Not transcendant of culture, I'd suggest. But perhaps somewhat transcendant of individual perspective, since our whole purpose of reading someone else's fiction is to taste their thoughts and perspectives.

How is it then that we can read and (more or less) understand some novels written in foreign cultures? Because we're not members of just one culture, but of many concentric cultures. Many of our best (most impactful, longest-lived) stories are those of the human culture. So perhaps our most transcendental readings are readings of those stories.

The issue of degrees of understanding perhaps is not formed from one circle, but many.

The reader, then, is in a very particular position of being able to view the world-of-being (the text) as a subject, a transcendental ego capable of passing judgment. Is this the case?Maybe not. The text has a voice (or perhaps several) that may argue certain perspectives, but readers are used to this. Most of us have times in our thoughts when we'll argue one side or another. Again I'd have to ask transcendant of what? Many of the voices we find in novels argue things that we understand perfectly well and may have ourselves discarded. Those voices don't 'climb beyond' anything (to invoke the literal meaning of transcend), but simply dig us back into a hole we already know.

Some voices do... they climb us to places we haven't gone... But often in novels they take us to more than one place. Some we might like; some we might not.

The Grand Argument view (http://www.writebetweenthelines.com/ws_home/theory/dramatica_theory.htm) of stories gives for each theme a thesis and an antithesis. The balance for these is shaded by the story itself, but the synthesis is normally left to the reader. That suggests to me that in some stories at least there isn't a single transcendant ego but some sort of plurality of babbling bound egos. (And that's much like what happens in many readers' heads too. :D)


This thread hopes to probe not at authorial control by way of intention but authorial and reader relationship by way of the ontological structure of the novel.Well, that's okay with me because even members of the same culture will disagree. At issue then in reader interpretation is perhaps:

How much common ground has the reader with the author?
How willing is the reader to set aside any differences?If you wanted a quick summary of why critique so often goes astray, you could easily point to 1) and 2) and perhaps cover 80% of the critical misalignment we see. The other 20% you might attribute to the physicality of reading itself: was I reading to appreciate or just skim... what mood was I in.. was I famished or tired or interrupted by phone calls... :)

[Here I'm assuming that the writing actually reflects auctorial intent. In other words, it's a pro author with a good editor. The sloppier the craft, the less that 1 and 2 will matter]


To me, that's Reader Response, with both author and reader participating to varying degrees (the exact degree up for discussion) in actualizing the text. The author supplies the raw material--the reader constructs the reading.I wouldn't exactly call it 'raw'. It's clearly refined to achieve effect (or why else would we redraft?) I'd agree that the exact amount is up for discussion, but I think that it's largely predicted by 1) and 2) above - modulo the writer's skill.

There's something else in this asymmetric relationship too I think: most readers can't write good stories; most readers read for good stories. Fiction isn't simply some arrow shot into the dark. Most readers are happy to move the target around some while the arrow's in flight to help you score a bull's eye.

Higgins
08-14-2008, 05:08 PM
"What defines man is not the capacity to create a second nature---- economic, social, or cultural---- beyond biological nature; it is rather the capacity of going beyond created structures in order to create others" (Structure of Behavior 174-5).


A literary text, it seems, is like any structure: it cannot be unless it perceived. I admit to the quasi-existentialism of such a phrase. But I also admit that the subjective (the conscious perceiver) and objective (the real thing-that-is, what is perceived) relationship is one in which its parts can almost never be made distinct. So while it is true that any one person will think derive a different meaning from a text, it is also true that texts have been presented in such a way that makes certain meanings more obvious. The difference between this and the Reader Response is essentially I think that an un-awareness of the literary techniques and devices that may lead us a certain way, and less of knowing that the text has an author, will put us before the real thing, an almost pre-perceived object. I think the value of this is in forming a relationship with the text that allows that text to be its own framework, its own context, and thus to allow it its own meaning. There are obvious marks of fallibility in this approach, and we see them all the time: I can't read German, or Latin, for example. So the text in and of itself is "meaningless" to me if written in those languages. Others similar to this exist as well. But, I would say that these sorts of restrictions exist everywhere and all the time in our lives, whether biological, social, cultural, or not. And yet new systems and new meanings give rise anyway.

EDIT: In my haze, I forgot to re-emphasize something I think is really important to emphasize from the beginning. As much as the novel is an object, it has certain properties that make it comparable to a consciousness in that it has both 1) a body: the physical words, the pages, the page numbers, the narrative and 2) a mind: the philosophy, commentary; in other words, ideas and that both of these are integrated so thoroughly they cannot be separated. Important as it is to see the novel as an object, it is more important to see it as one an object that isn't fixed, that it is in fact changeable in meaning due to the relationship it has with a reader. However, this relationship begins with the experience of reading, but the mutuality of the relationship is due to this fact that a text can actually relate to a human as if it were a consciousness of its own.


AMC

Actually, one effect of a text like House of Leaves is that it reintroduces the text as a more "ordinary" object. But of course the idea of an ordinary object, something that is "just a rock" or "just a pump" or "just a novel" is itself a convention. But in fiddling with the standard approach to reading a novel (which is nothing new...There's always Tristram Shandy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristram_Shandy ) the novel becomes more like an ordinary object. It has internal structures mirroring its (seeming history of) accumulation like any forged/inauthentic item. So the supposed difference between some ideal ordinary object and an ideal novel is shown to be more of a continuum.
So perceiving is (as I've suggested) so phenomenologically complex and contingent on so many things, that to work out how perception really works for anything is always already a novelistic enterprise.
An effect of novels like house of leaves is that they bring this natural interpretive complexity into view so that readers end up saying "I thought it was a horror story but its really a love story."...which you might say is more like real life or more like a purely deceptive contrivance or inauthentic accumulation.

Which...well...suppose you compared an actual accumulation of artefacts with the inauthentic accumulation presented in House of Leaves. The perceptual work of dealing with real accumulations is much more suggestive of what is novelistic about the novel than the House of Leaves seems to be. Or to put it another way, sometimes the haunting questions have more to do with fashion in the 1950s than they do with the more contrived mysteries of art.

Higgins
08-14-2008, 06:49 PM
If we want to discuss transcendent 'I', then I'd have to ask at first 'transcendent of what?' Not transcendant of culture, I'd suggest. But perhaps somewhat transcendant of individual perspective, since our whole purpose of reading someone else's fiction is to taste their thoughts and perspectives.



I thought the OP was talking about transcendental in the classic Kantian sense, ie that mechanism where consciousness presents the world to itself. In novelistic terms, this happens via parceling out narrative elements into associative domains (so that we smell the arsenic...or think we might have some idea of smelling the arsenic)...but in terms of transcendental (necessarily phenomenological in ontological terms) experience the novel text is no different from encountering anything else.
We automatically think up a story to go with any object or our phases of an encounter with any object.
So to return to the horror of love on vacation:
Suppose skippy and biff hike up to a pump. The pump is surrounded by a low wall and has a plaque on it saying that it was built by the CCC (or its more constitutional successor) in 1942. After they satisfy their thirst (if any)...they might discuss the wall and its function...perhaps it has benches on the inside...The whole little scene could easily be novelized just by describing the internal states as biff and skippy progressively get to know the wall and the pump and this novelization is in a sense inherent in their relations with the real world.

AMCrenshaw
08-14-2008, 08:00 PM
For the purposes of discussion I'm not sure that I can.

Novels are fictions written in language. Language is a cultural artifact created specifically for the purposes of cultural communication. Nobody writes novels using just numbers or chemical formulae; we only read cultural communications. The matter of its creation is highly relevant, and cultural context forms a large part of auctorial intent and (for better or worse) reader interpretation. So here I'll disagree with the summary of Fisher that Colorado Guy posted - there is indeed a context against which the work is intended to be read.

But I would say that the novel like a person has two qualities, mind and body, which I've already posted. But a mind and body entails so many things, doesn't it, particularly when you consider how deeply implicated consciousness is into the world-that-is and the one we as humans create and are creating. So a consciousness, which is what I am suggesting is comparably existent in the novel, is not just a consciousness (even though it is). The consciousness of a novel (like that of a person) belongs to the culture, the history, the time and place, the biology, etc and all these things belong to the consciousness.

"Secondly, novels are not a world and reality unto themselves. They're just descriptions of places and people and events that are fleshed out by the reader's imagination. It's that fleshing-out that gives them such a compelling 'alternative reality' feel, but that fleshing-out is done from our cultural and personal perspectives. So now, I'm about-facing and agreeing with Fisher. Reader response matters."

They are like a world and reality unto themselves. So say you read a book like Tristam Shandy, you are encountering the relationship between two (in my opinion) false realities -- yours and the text's.

"But novels are not just individual experiences. They bind us because they're written from a shared culture to a shared culture."

My sentiment exactly. I would never say "individual" actually exists except as a narrative or in relation to an-other which has been made attributed difference according to its apparent difference (which is still a narrative). And these narratives that I am referring to, the ones we give ourselves, are like consciousness itself. Our personal narratives give memory some kind of meaning when memory itself (if not a narrative) has inherently no meaning whatsoever. Thus memory, when unobserved, is a thing that is unreflected. When we observe it, we reflect upon it, which gives it meaning. Consciousness works this same way: it just is--- that is, until we give it meaning. So the only way to see the consciousness as a thing that just is, unfortunately, it needs to be reflected upon. This reflection is what opens up the relationship I discussed in my second post. The one that opens up all the possible implications that the two (perceived and perceiver) can communicate to one another. In that blog, it discusses the rock where all sorts of people find different meaning in the rock itself. But those meanings were always, presumably, possible-- and thus belong in some ways to the rock; however, they were not possible without the "other" consciousness, or, the expectations, desires, and cultural viewpoint of the perceiver. Think of this relationship between the reader and the book this way: "there is no outside-text" (Derrida), neither for the perceiver, nor the thing that is perceived.

AMC

Higgins
08-14-2008, 08:35 PM
Thus memory, when unobserved, is a thing that is unreflected. When we observe it, we reflect upon it, which gives it meaning. Consciousness works this same way: it just is--- that is, until we give it meaning. So the only way to see the consciousness as a thing that just is, unfortunately, it needs to be reflected upon. This reflection is what opens up the relationship I discussed in my second post. The one that opens up all the possible implications that the two (perceived and perceiver) can communicate to one another. In that blog, it discusses the rock where all sorts of people find different meaning in the rock itself. But those meanings were always, presumably, possible-- and thus belong in some ways to the rock; however, they were not possible without the "other" consciousness, or, the expectations, desires, and cultural viewpoint of the perceiver. Think of this relationship between the reader and the book this way: "there is no outside-text" (Derrida), neither for the perceiver, nor the thing that is perceived.

AMC

In Derrida's book on Husserl, Derrida follows a pretty dissimilar arguement.
For example, we don't have neutral memories/narrative/worlds/novels and then impose meaning on them...we are always already involved in all those things. That's what the transcendental work of perceptual consciousness does "off-stage" so to speak. The rock is never just a rock, because as soon as we start edging our perception and story around it we start incorporating it in something that was already there. Meaning happens in the delay, in the deferring in the difference between one set of staged perceptions and the next...it is in the syntax between the different self-presented images/perceptions. There's no outside (the text), because that outside is the imaginary neutral ground were we have not yet thought ourselves into the picture. To say there is no outside is to say there really is no neutral ground where we can exclude ourselves and our meanings and intentions from the encounter.

PS...I wasn't aware of the publication of Derrida's dissertation on Husserl. I was thinking of Speech and Phenomenon...see the next post

Higgins
08-14-2008, 08:50 PM
Think of this relationship between the reader and the book this way: "there is no outside-text" (Derrida), neither for the perceiver, nor the thing that is perceived.

AMC

possibly relevent:

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/metadata.epl?mode=synopsis&bookkey=27743

But I was thinking of this:

http://www.unige.ch/lettres/philo/enseignants/km/doc/HowNotRead1.pdf

http://www.amazon.com/Speech-Phenomena-Essays-Husserls-Theory/dp/081010590X

http://www.ucd.ie/philosophy/staff/Mooney/howread.pdf

RG570
08-14-2008, 09:44 PM
I could be oversimplifying things or not understanding, but to me it seems that a Lacanian standpoint could eliminate most of these questions quite easily. In that there is no need for most; a novel resides mostly in the symbolic order which, however much post-structuralists want to deny, does have meaning and does have authority.

I'm a bit lost because some have used "transcendent" and "transcendental" interchangeably.

Higgins
08-14-2008, 10:04 PM
I could be oversimplifying things or not understanding, but to me it seems that a Lacanian standpoint could eliminate most of these questions quite easily. In that there is no need for most; a novel resides mostly in the symbolic order which, however much post-structuralists want to deny, does have meaning and does have authority.

I'm a bit lost because some have used "transcendent" and "transcendental" interchangeably.

It appears the discussion actually is mostly a matter of "transcendental" things...You're right about how a Lacanian look at this
would be very different, but I was thinking things might wander that general direction in any case.

AMCrenshaw
08-15-2008, 02:01 AM
In Derrida's book on Husserl, Derrida follows a pretty dissimilar arguement.
For example, we don't have neutral memories/narrative/worlds/novels and then impose meaning on them...we are always already involved in all those things. That's what the transcendental work of perceptual consciousness does "off-stage" so to speak. The rock is never just a rock, because as soon as we start edging our perception and story around it we start incorporating it in something that was already there. Meaning happens in the delay, in the deferring in the difference between one set of staged perceptions and the next...it is in the syntax between the different self-presented images/perceptions.

Then again it's not Husserl I was starting from, but Merleau-Ponty, who might argue that the recovery of the thing-itself or..'not neglecting what is real' is a matter of reflection. That matter of reflection leads, to me, whether or not a transcendental ego exists. To me Derrida dispels the standard idea of such a perceiver. What I am trying to move to is the sense that both the thing that-is and the consciousness are objects until reflected upon, and when they are reflected upon they become subjects, even speaking subjects. That perhaps sounds silly to say that a rock or novel can speak, and know things, but I think they do (but only when reflected upon).

And I think your next passage might complement what I've already written here.



There's no outside (the text) [Side point: my French is not great, but I had a different interpretation of that particular phrase], because that outside is the imaginary neutral ground were we have not yet thought ourselves into the picture. To say there is no outside is to say there really is no neutral ground where we can exclude ourselves and our meanings and intentions from the encounter.

The thing that interests me thinking ourselves into the picture is that I do not find it an intentional effort, even from Merleau-Ponty's
standpoint. It's an intention to see the thing that-is, to see what is real. Not sure it's possible.

EDIT: I'd welcome a discussion about Lacan, here or elsewhere. But his reliance on objectification is something I am, perhaps, working in the opposite direction of. [considering the possibility that all things are not objects but subjects, and that capacity to be a subject is very much so real; my argument relies on, ironically, the phenomenon of objectification.]

AMC

Ruv Draba
08-15-2008, 06:49 AM
But I would say that the novel like a person has two qualities, mind and body, which I've already posted.I'll buy that the novel has a body, but if I do then I have to also buy that a novel has many bodies: paperbacks, hard-covers etc... different printings and typefaces and cover-art. We've discussed in this forum before how the physicality of the medium can affect our interpretation.

Really though I think that you're talking about a logical body rather than a physical one: an intended reading order. Okay, fair enough.

I don't at all buy that a novel has a mind, though. A mind sometimes is but always does. Yet a novel doesn't do anything but gradually curl and turn yellow; after it's printed and bought, it's the reader's mind that does the work.



"Secondly, novels are not a world and reality unto themselves.


They are like a world and reality unto themselves.I'd say that the reading experience is like that. But the novel isn't the reading experience; it's just some words on paper.

The magic of writing is that the author can design a reading experience and send the publisher a manuscript, the publisher can render it as words and images on pages, and the reader can pick it up and (with some craft on the author's and editor's part) get much the experience the author intended. But the novel is neither the intention of the author nor the experience of the reader. It's simply a rendering of some communication. Pure data, if you will.


So say you read a book like Tristam Shandy, you are encountering the relationship between two (in my opinion) false realities -- yours and the text's.I'll use 'fiction' instead of 'false reality'. Reality is what it is; fiction is something else.

I'd say that there are two fictions: the author's fiction and the reader's. The novel is a rendering of one, and a guided impetus to the other.


I would never say "individual" actually exists except as a narrative or in relation to an-other which has been made attributed difference according to its apparent difference (which is still a narrative).I think that you may have almost tucked the tail of your argument into its own mouth.

You've argued here and elsewhere that individuals are fictions, and to support that you've chosen to ignore a bunch of behaviour and assert that the narrative 'is' the person. Now you seem to want to argue the reverse: that fictions are individuals, and to do that you're ignoring a bunch of critical process just to support your assumption that narrative is all there is to individuation.

Again, I'd argue that chewing your own fingernails vs someone else's is more than just a matter of narrative convention. Individuals are more than merely narrative. Conversely if you argue that every narrative is an individual then I'd ask you whose narrative? Every narrator has an audience, even if it's only himself. A book with nobody to read it isn't a narrative; it's just data (or woodpulp, depending on how you prefer to see it).

So I don't support this as a model for reality because of all the critical things it ignores. I certainly don't support it as an approach to critique because it misses out on the key decision-making functions - the author and the reader. :)

But I'd support it as a fictional premise right away: what if books were people with their own minds, living in some sort of fuzzy time-bubble with an indeterminate past, a concrete but ambiguous present and no real concept of future.. and what if some people didn't realise that they were books? :) You could have a lot of fun with notions of time, causality, free will and determination with such a premise -- and some authors have. :)

And these narratives that I am referring to, the ones we give ourselves, are like consciousness itself.Only in the sense that dung is like digestion - a sign that a process has occurred, but it's not the process. ;)

Our personal narratives give memory some kind of meaning when memory itself (if not a narrative) has inherently no meaning whatsoever.That's remniscent of my data vs narration point above. I won't contest it now but I'll reserve the right to do so later. :)

I reserve that right because I'm pretty well convinced that memory isn't data, and I'm utterly convinced that it's not narrative either (because recollections of one event can produce many narratives). Narrative may be its output, but I strongly suspect that memory is some sort of activity rather than an object.


Thus memory, when unobserved, is a thing that is unreflected.If memory is an activity - especially one with a lot of cognitive association - then it may influence our decision-making even when we don't narrate from it. That being so, it may be evidently reflected. Consider for instance, the snap reactions and microgestures people may display to dangerous events that they've experienced before. There's no time to narrate - so what's happening there?

My suggestion: you needn't become a behaviourist AMC, but I think you need to accommodate activity and not just concept if you want this to work. :)

Dawnstorm
08-15-2008, 01:12 PM
Hi, AMCrenshaw.

Your thread reminds me first of Roman Ingarden's (http://www.formalontology.it/ingardenr.htm) theory of art, which is an investigation into what art is. He distinguishes three aspects of objects: material, formal and existential, where existential subdevides into originality, autonomy, connectiveness and independence.

It also reminds me of Wolfgang Iser's concept of the implied reader (http://www.stevencscheer.com/artofreading.htm). There are surprisingly few good summaries on the web; the best one I found is the above - but it's procedural rather than theoretic, and it's already an interpretation of Iser.

I may be back later; out of time and concentration for now. ;)

AMCrenshaw
08-15-2008, 07:33 PM
Really though I think that you're talking about a logical body rather than a physical one: an intended reading order. Okay, fair enough.

I don't at all buy that a novel has a mind, though. A mind sometimes is but always does. Yet a novel doesn't do anything but gradually curl and turn yellow; after it's printed and bought, it's the reader's mind that does the work.


No, books don't just curl and turn yellow. Are you saying that while all the rest of the universe is changing, while all the minds of society are changing, the books stay the same? So the words stay the same, you might say, yet will you admit to their meanings remaining the same? I doubt it. And the common objection is that it's still we as humans who change the meaning because we are changed. I wonder where we get our ideas from? Our expectations? What reveals our desires? I am one who refuses to separate narratives from their culture, and so to say that narratives do not change is denying that they were narratives of a changing culture.


The magic of writing is that the author can design a reading experience and send the publisher a manuscript, the publisher can render it as words and images on pages, and the reader can pick it up and (with some craft on the author's and editor's part) get much the experience the author intended. But the novel is neither the intention of the author nor the experience of the reader. It's simply a rendering of some communication. Pure data, if you will.
I'll use 'fiction' instead of 'false reality'. Reality is what it is; fiction is something else.

I'd say that there are two fictions: the author's fiction and the reader's. The novel is a rendering of one, and a guided impetus to the other.

You've argued here and elsewhere that individuals are fictions, and to support that you've chosen to ignore a bunch of behaviour and assert that the narrative 'is' the person. Now you seem to want to argue the reverse: that fictions are individuals, and to do that you're ignoring a bunch of critical process just to support your assumption that narrative is all there is to individuation.


First, I know that the narrative is not the person (that's exactly my problem all along)**; however, identity is not the person either. What I am referring to is the absence, or, at the very least, the negligence of an actual Personal Identity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_identity_(philosophy) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_identity_%28philosophy%29) . So that the ego-identity, the one which refers to itself, the one that tells "its own story" is mostly a fiction. A lot of my time is trying to decipher what is revealed in that fiction. What is it pointing to that is essential, a being of its own, an actual individual. I'm finding very little evidence for Real individuality, only functional individuality. So for me (as of now, which is subject to change), individuals do not exist except as narratives, but that doesn't mean that narratives do not have significant functions. Such as:


Again, I'd argue that chewing your own fingernails vs someone else's is more than just a matter of narrative convention.

Right? Personal accountability, etc. All good functions of a narrative identity.


Individuals are more than merely narrative. Conversely if you argue that every narrative is an individual then I'd ask you whose narrative?

All narratives are in some way false. And I think that individuality is, when considering Reality, false. It's like one illusion arising from another.

Nor does 'individual' mean that it belongs to something or someone. How can it? If it does, then an individual is still a part of something bigger than itself and so belongs to whatever that is as an attribute. Spinoza would argue that's what we all are.


Consider for instance, the snap reactions and microgestures people may display to dangerous events that they've experienced before. There's no time to narrate - so what's happening there?

This is assuming that narration is always a conscious act! When a dangerous event develops, it is that same unconscious story that surfaces in the immediate moment. Freud discusses this more fully in On Metapsychology.


I reserve that right because I'm pretty well convinced that memory isn't data, and I'm utterly convinced that it's not narrative either (because recollections of one event can produce many narratives). Narrative may be its output, but I strongly suspect that memory is some sort of activity rather than an object.


Narrative is what gives memory meaning. Narration is activity and the output is narrative.

The reason I say that a book has a mind is that while (yes, for certain) it is simply a collection of data, to reach it one must experience it. And that's a process on the part of the perceiver, sure. I won't disagree. But this lends itself to the idea that, perhaps, novels know something (DeBolla), and that the structure (the logic of the text, the way it reveals itself) can communicate what it knows to a suitable listener. This mind and body and knowledge and logic that a text has is purely metaphorical-- the book itself has no processes of its own. But the novel, no matter the intention of the author, has a lot of accidental elements that might emerge. So when the novelist sends the book away, there is "data" (so you prefer :)) that remains somewhat a mystery because the author didn't intend for it to be there and the readers do not know to look for it. But, like a conversation between two people, some of us get each other, and some of us do not.

AMC

** The narrative "I" bothers me for this reason, among many: When I ask someone, how is something your thought? They might reply, Because it comes from-- or is unique to-- my brain, which is in my skull. But when I ask, What makes that brain and that skull your brain and your skull, they might reply, Because it comes from my body, and then I ask, What makes that body your body? "Er, my mind?" And round we go.

So no longer should I have to contest the function of having an "I", but that it might be one of the most useful, most inescapable fictions I've ever encountered. [In my case, for spiritual reasons, it's best to not escape from this identity, but to delve into it; I've encountered many sensible, although, particularly aesthetic answers to what the Self is. You've read them, I'm sure. :)]

Ruv Draba
08-16-2008, 01:43 AM
Are you saying that while all the rest of the universe is changing, while all the minds of society are changing, the books stay the same?Yes. :)

That's their virtue, really: dead and absent people can pass on information to us, unchanged by time and distance. Our science would be in a terrible state if this didn't work. We'd have to rely on oral tradition and mystic cabals. (Oh, I think there's a fun story idea there. :D)

Granted, it would be fun, fun, fun if the actual words shifted themselves diplomatically depending on which culture they found themselves in - but in the same way that a Pratchettian luggage-handling system would be fun. :)


I'm finding very little evidence for Real individuality, only functional individuality. So for me (as of now, which is subject to change), individuals do not exist except as narrativesI get that, but following your comments on reflexes and microgestures, you've said now that the individuality is located at the level of neuron-clusters and reflexes. Which means it's an organic existence rather than simply a conceptual existence, which means that you may as well say it exists. :)


All narratives are in some way false. And I think that individuality is, when considering Reality, false. It's like one illusion arising from another.I agree with you that individual narrative is at best a weak projection - a fiction that summarises something (I've posted on this here (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=107949)). It's the rest of the argument that doesn't rest well with me. Saying that the narrative is fictional doesn't prove that the individual doesn't exist - it just demonstrates that the individual has problems thinking and communicating.

By way of analogy, the Greek historian Herodotus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodotus)told a lot of lies - some that he could have known were lies and some that he probably couldn't. But to argue that the events he wrote about were entirely fictional smacks of conspiracy theory. :)


Narrative is what gives memory meaning.I very much agree.


Narration is activity and the output is narrative.Yes, but what are the input parameters? I'd suggest that there are two: a story and an audience.


The reason I say that a book has a mind is that while (yes, for certain) it is simply a collection of data, to reach it one must experience it. And that's a process on the part of the perceiver, sure. I won't disagree. But this lends itself to the idea that, perhaps, novels know something (DeBolla), and that the structure (the logic of the text, the way it reveals itself) can communicate what it knows to a suitable listener.This is a beautiful fictional construct: the idea that a vinyl Ella Fitzgerald LP somehow mimics Ella's voice and knows what jazz is, and is willing to share. It's almost an animist view of the world, that information equates to knowledge and that knowledge entails mind.

I don't believe it, but it would be lovely to use in a story. The gap for me is this: knowledge adapts to need; information does not. When we read a book, what we learn is constrained by our ignorance. On the other hand, when a person teaches us, their information adapts to our needs. The difference? A person has knowledge; a book merely has information.

In fairness, a very cunningly crafted book allows us to adapt our reading of it in part to our needs (tutorials and reference books often work this way, and hypertext does it even better), but it still doesn't solve our problems for us. We have to do that.


But the novel, no matter the intention of the author, has a lot of accidental elements that might emerge. So when the novelist sends the book away, there is "data" (so you prefer :)) that remains somewhat a mystery because the author didn't intend for it to be there and the readers do not know to look for it. But, like a conversation between two people, some of us get each other, and some of us do not.Yes, there is a lot of tacit information in every deliberate communication. Humans being cunning and political creatures, we're good at milking such stuff -- and sometimes getting it wrong. (To see how wrong, we need only look at deconstructionism in modern critique. :tongue)


The narrative "I" bothers me for this reason, among many: When I ask someone, how is something your thought? They might reply, Because it comes from-- or is unique to-- my brain, which is in my skull. But when I ask, What makes that brain and that skull your brain and your skull, they might reply, Because it comes from my body, and then I ask, What makes that body your body? "Er, my mind?" And round we go.Yes, 'I' is at best fuzzy. But when I bite my nails, I feel it and you don't. So politically, I'll call them my fingernails, and growl at you if you bite them. Political divisions are often about power and control and convenience. But they're also sometimes subject to renegotiation. In ancient times if you didn't have enough teeth, you couldn't chew your food and you'd die of malnutrition. So old people often had nice young people to chew their food for them. 'Whose food are you chewing?' 'Oh, this is grandpa's food'. 'Hey grandpa! Where are your teeth?' 'In my grand-daughter's head.' I've claimed elsewhere and repeat here that individuality is a political fiction. And we know how politics messes with narrative. Just ask Herodotus.

[Oh, wait. We can't because The Histories is not his mind. ;)]

AMCrenshaw
08-16-2008, 05:15 AM
Saying that the narrative is fictional doesn't prove that the individual doesn't exist - it just demonstrates that the individual has problems thinking and communicating.

Yeah, and what I am always trying to do, it seems, is find what exactly it is that does exist (if anything). And so far I can't describe "it". Thanks for the discussion, Ruv.

AMC

Higgins
08-19-2008, 07:13 PM
First, I know that the narrative is not the person (that's exactly my problem all along)**; however, identity is not the person either. What I am referring to is the absence, or, at the very least, the negligence of an actual Personal Identity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_identity_(philosophy) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_identity_%28philosophy%29) . So that the ego-identity, the one which refers to itself, the one that tells "its own story" is mostly a fiction. A lot of my time is trying to decipher what is revealed in that fiction. What is it pointing to that is essential, a being of its own, an actual individual. I'm finding very little evidence for Real individuality, only functional individuality. So for me (as of now, which is subject to change), individuals do not exist except as narratives, but that doesn't mean that narratives do not have significant functions. Such as:

All narratives are in some way false. And I think that individuality is, when considering Reality, false. It's like one illusion arising from another.

This is assuming that narration is always a conscious act! When a dangerous event develops, it is that same unconscious story that surfaces in the immediate moment. Freud discusses this more fully in On Metapsychology.

Narrative is what gives memory meaning. Narration is activity and the output is narrative.



Time for our projected Lacanian Drift? Basically I think Derrida is very unhelpful precisely in the area where he thought he ought to reduce Husserl's account of how consciousness and meaning are intertwined or not. And part of the lesson of Derrida's failure there is that texts and consciousnesses are very different (which I know is not very constructive in the context of this thread, but alas! it's all too true, I fear.)
Lacan often is read as though he had a "textual" model of what goes on in the mind...but I think...just as with Freud...his metaphors tend to throw people off the track....perhaps deliberately in both cases (ie in Freud and in Lacan).
On the other hand everything you've said in this thread about identity and fiction is true. The two really are intertwined all the time. But a personal fiction is very different from a text or a novel or even an oral tale. The process of writing or narration (see Freud on accounts of dreams for a few points about that) does all kinds of things with the raw fiction that supports a particular personal fiction. Derrida seems to suggest that this internal finding of meaning is the same as textual meaning and vis-versa...but there are a lot of diverse things that suggest that that is not true, for example one's own experience of writing and what one hears from analysts like Lacan.

Higgins
08-22-2008, 08:32 PM
Then again it's not Husserl I was starting from, but Merleau-Ponty, who might argue that the recovery of the thing-itself or..'not neglecting what is real' is a matter of reflection. That matter of reflection leads, to me, whether or not a transcendental ego exists. To me Derrida dispels the standard idea of such a perceiver. What I am trying to move to is the sense that both the thing that-is and the consciousness are objects until reflected upon, and when they are reflected upon they become subjects, even speaking subjects. That perhaps sounds silly to say that a rock or novel can speak, and know things, but I think they do (but only when reflected upon).


Hmmm...you and Merleau-Ponty definitely endow reflection with a lot of force and power and perspective. I think both Husserl and Derrida did some constructive work in analyzing reflection -- Husserl by separating it from any adventures in the real and Derrida by explicitly stretching out the reflective moment into pieces arranged in time. At least that's what seems to have been going on in Speech and Phenomenon. As for Derrida's other earlier work on Husserl, I have no idea...

AMCrenshaw
08-23-2008, 12:10 AM
"On the other hand everything you've said in this thread about identity and fiction is true. The two really are intertwined all the time. But a personal fiction is very different from a text or a novel or even an oral tale. The process of writing or narration (see Freud on accounts of dreams for a few points about that) does all kinds of things with the raw fiction that supports a particular personal fiction.

I like to think about this text/consciousness metaphor when I read novels like Sanctuary, Wild Palms, and As I lay Dying by Faulkner. I wonder what, in his perpetual state of drunkenness, was added into the text that was neither the author's intention nor apparent to a standard reader.

Now, it is perhaps more appropriate for me to say that the experience of reading a text is like the experience of engaging another person. One might argue against this, of course, citing that humans are organic and living and have brains(!), but this is precisely what interests me about the situation of the text. People presumably change constantly; any particular meaning they might derive from a text, or from a conversation, is subject as well to change. Unlike Ruv, I wonder how appropriate it is to say that the text changes with us-- or, that it's impossible to separate our change from the change of the rest of the universe (up to and including the texts of novels).


Derrida seems to suggest that this internal finding of meaning is the same as textual meaning and vis-versa...but there are a lot of diverse things that suggest that that is not true, for example one's own experience of writing and what one hears from analysts like Lacan.

This I'd like you to unpack a bit. Particularly the last point.


I think both Husserl and Derrida did some constructive work in analyzing reflection -- Husserl by separating it from any adventures in the real and Derrida by explicitly stretching out the reflective moment into pieces arranged in time.

Derrida's stretching of the reflective moment into piece arranged in time is not, I don't think, contrary to Merleau-Ponty-- that is, if you admit that all things are subject to change of some kind, and that the meanings of things are not given in the objects themselves. The ego-self, or the fiction we were discussing does somehow try to stand for "individual" consciousness. And that's a socially agreed upon meaning, but as we know, not consciousness itself. Treating that meaning to a reflection of a piece-in-time is not denying that something Real does in fact exist, but at the very least that we can't describe that Real thing (if we are to continue along with Lacan). What I think Derrida points out most significantly is that there is nothing that exists that does not contain traces of history, past or future. We, as subjects, share this much with objects. And yes, the reflective moment in Derrida is inescapable from time, where the perceiver is; but this is precisely the point. In almost his own words, Derrida describes a method by which a person could, by reflecting upon anything in a given point in time, form a relationship with things that are not exclusively existing in this present moment. And what about consciousness itself? What if one were to reflect upon their own consciousness? Is there not a way to (metaphorically) scrape away what is culturally constructed, to leave only what is Real? Derrida doesn't think so, even though he most certainly points a way to do so.

"Through time time is conquered" T.S. Eliot


The communication of two things which are invariably in-time together is for now what I'm most interested in, considering that last point. I include consciousness as a thing and an activity. The experience of any given narrative (a thing) is activity.

AMC

Higgins
08-25-2008, 05:05 PM
The communication of two things which are invariably in-time together is for now what I'm most interested in, considering that last point. I include consciousness as a thing and an activity. The experience of any given narrative (a thing) is activity.

AMC

The thing is that Lacan -- who is seemingly the most reductive about consciousness -- actually allows for a lot more to be going on around the
focus of consciousness and these "goings-on" allow some useful distinctions to be made between the finding of meaning in texts (meaning as usually defined) and the finding of personal meaning (unfixed, fleeting, slippery meaning).
So to take a crude model: say reading is a matter of a focal region with signifiers passing through it and say consciousness is (seemingly) exactly the same thing. If we look at the reader...they can interrupt the reading at any time. If we look at the reader as consciousness, the flow of signifiers keeps going no matter what the consciousness does.
This is just a crude difference, but it does suggest that reading a flow of signifiers is usually very different from having a consciousness (ie a flow of signifiers that you cannot interrupt). Part of the difference is the relation to embodiment: when I put down the novel or walk out into the garden...just being in the world in a certain way has a larger impact on my consciousness than any focal signifiers do....As Husserl rather mysteriously remarks some where in Ideas: we can go over the wall.

Higgins
08-25-2008, 09:57 PM
Treating that meaning to a reflection of a piece-in-time is not denying that something Real does in fact exist, but at the very least that we can't describe that Real thing (if we are to continue along with Lacan). What I think Derrida points out most significantly is that there is nothing that exists that does not contain traces of history, past or future. We, as subjects, share this much with objects. And yes, the reflective moment in Derrida is inescapable from time, where the perceiver is; but this is precisely the point. In almost his own words, Derrida describes a method by which a person could, by reflecting upon anything in a given point in time, form a relationship with things that are not exclusively existing in this present moment. And what about consciousness itself? What if one were to reflect upon their own consciousness? Is there not a way to (metaphorically) scrape away what is culturally constructed, to leave only what is Real? Derrida doesn't think so, even though he most certainly points a way to do so.


Apparently Freud and Derrida would agree that you can't scrape your way into the Real. With Husserl...maybe...and according to Bruce Fink, with Lacan there was supposedly a way to ellude culture, the symbolic and the imaginary and get to some scraping at the Real. Bruce Fink called it the "way of renunciation"...but maybe that's pushing it all too far:

http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/155/2/298-a

http://www.slought.org/content/11398/

http://jdeanicite.typepad.com/i_cite/2005/04/bruce_fink_on_l.html

Notice there is a Bruce Fink who is a Lichenologist and I think not the same Bruce Fink.

http://openlibrary.org/a/OL2685384A

Higgins
08-26-2008, 09:45 PM
Derrida seems to suggest that this internal finding of meaning is the same as textual meaning and vis-versa...but there are a lot of diverse things that suggest that that is not true, for example one's own experience of writing and what one hears from analysts like Lacan.

Unpacking this a bit: In Derrida the "always already" of culture/language/meaning is a given. It's not a monolithic primordial ground...at least for Derrida, but for most people it is just that:
culture/language/meaning are absolutely given and more or less
entrapping. If we were all as adept at navigating cultural traces as
Derrida was...well...we would probably have a very pleasant, bittersweet world of interlocking vacations and commemorative events or something. But given that most of us have a hard time accepting the implications of even the simplest elements involved in interpreting the articulation/structure of culture/language/meaning...we are trapped in Lacan's world of the amputated consciousness that can exist in the imaginary interval between the horrors of the Symbolic and the magnetic promise of the un-reachable Real.
As writers, of course, we use some of the tools of cultural awareness (a la Derrida) to move our imaginary narrative around in an attempt to inject some of our personal findings of meaning into a textual/symbolic confrontation with the Big Bad Symbolic Order and sometimes manage a few hints at the infinite goodness of the Real.

AMCrenshaw
08-28-2008, 08:23 PM
Unpacking this a bit: In Derrida the "always already" of culture/language/meaning is a given. It's not a monolithic primordial ground...at least for Derrida, but for most people it is just that:
culture/language/meaning are absolutely given and more or less
entrapping. If we were all as adept at navigating cultural traces as
Derrida was...well...we would probably have a very pleasant, bittersweet world of interlocking vacations and commemorative events or something. But given that most of us have a hard time accepting the implications of even the simplest elements involved in interpreting the articulation/structure of culture/language/meaning...we are trapped in Lacan's world of the amputated consciousness that can exist in the imaginary interval between the horrors of the Symbolic and the magnetic promise of the un-reachable Real.
As writers, of course, we use some of the tools of cultural awareness (a la Derrida) to move our imaginary narrative around in an attempt to inject some of our personal findings of meaning into a textual/symbolic confrontation with the Big Bad Symbolic Order and sometimes manage a few hints at the infinite goodness of the Real.



Apparently Freud and Derrida would agree that you can't scrape your way into the Real. With Husserl...maybe...and according to Bruce Fink, with Lacan there was supposedly a way to ellude culture, the symbolic and the imaginary and get to some scraping at the Real. Bruce Fink called it the "way of renunciation"...but maybe that's pushing it all too far

I think that scraping away at the real is more of a matter of wading through the traces, as you (& Derrida) say. The object, though, is not to find what is Real per se, but to experience what Ricoeur calls the Historical Present. It's a moment in which one knows that history hasn't been entirely recorded because there is now to be "narrated", the way Lacan (and maybe even Freud before him) would say our unconscious narrates, or builds a coherent/acceptable/bearable story for ourselves. But I think in that moment, we are not "free" of the past, we are still in a million ways determined by it, but that we are in a position to "write the story" that will be most coherent/acceptable/bearable for us at a future time.

I want to say that renunciation is in a lot of ways impossible and itself reactive; the renunciation of the symbolic also makes that self-storytelling essentially impossible. For it isn't, to me, ridding of meaning that brings us to the Real, but the creation of new meanings that reveal what is Real in a different way that is significant. What is interesting here is that certain meanings will remain themselves indescribable (like that of wholeness, for example) but the narratives, or historical moments, that reveal such meanings may very well be coherently describable.

AMC

Higgins
08-28-2008, 09:04 PM
It's a moment in which one knows that history hasn't been entirely recorded because there is now to be "narrated", the way Lacan (and maybe even Freud before him) would say our unconscious narrates, or builds a coherent/acceptable/bearable story for ourselves.


I don't think Lacan or Freud would say the unconscious narrates. It provides the langauge and props for some possible narratives and thus radically limits any transcendental aspects of the narrating/narrative ego.
The ego is also an unconscious agency in Freud and Lacan, but one errected (note phallic image) on a mass of fictions (note deflation of phallic image) involving the autorecognition of a locus of consciousness and the illusory associated agencies of self-definition and "pure random chance"...far from building anything coherent, acceptable or bearable, Lacan and Freud emphasize the primorial horror of what the unconscious does (note the ambiguity of ""horror of")...so much so that Freud says that a cure allows the patient to escape into "ordinary unhappiness."

AMCrenshaw
08-29-2008, 02:55 AM
No I meant merely that the practice of psychoanalysis on a patient could lead to a cure, which would be the rebuilding of one's life story (narrative) that is bearable and acceptable to the patient. Of course, confronting what is actually in the unconscious is some times the subject of "horror".

AMC

Higgins
08-29-2008, 06:39 PM
I want to say that renunciation is in a lot of ways impossible and itself reactive; the renunciation of the symbolic also makes that self-storytelling essentially impossible. For it isn't, to me, ridding of meaning that brings us to the Real, but the creation of new meanings that reveal what is Real in a different way that is significant. What is interesting here is that certain meanings will remain themselves indescribable (like that of wholeness, for example) but the narratives, or historical moments, that reveal such meanings may very well be coherently describable.

AMC


No I meant merely that the practice of psychoanalysis on a patient could lead to a cure, which would be the rebuilding of one's life story (narrative) that is bearable and acceptable to the patient. Of course, confronting what is actually in the unconscious is some times the subject of "horror".

AMC

Well...our fictive patient comes to accept an element of fiction in their identity. I'm not sure what the (ideal) Lacanian "renunciator" does, but it is beyond me as is the joyous trace-tracking "sainthood" of Derrida. It's like playing the online role-playing fantasy game Acheron's Call in early 2000: you know you'll never be as good as the greatest online fantasy role-player of all time --yes I mean Og -- but that doesn't mean you quit the game.
Same with being a writer and accepting that there is no transcendental ego anywhere: not in you and not in the reader, but that doesn't mean we can't aim at approaching a state where we get our narratives together well enough to transport the reader to an improved state of ego-awareness.

kdnxdr
09-11-2008, 07:14 AM
I'm going to jump in here after trying to wade through all the academic ponderance of this subject of reality and intent relative to literature, as best I can understand it all.

I'll submit my apologies first, and if no one responds to my comment or becomes offended at my audacity to post, I bow to you now.

I vaguely understand, in my limited grasp of what's been written in this thread that the dilemma is at the core about perception/intent/reality within literature. I most definately want to learn more but it will take me awhile to catch up as I've never studied the things you discuss.

I personally believe that it does not take humanity's (always) limited perspective of discovery to validate anything. Nothing, nada.

If, humanity ceased to exist, or never existed, then what? Nothing would ever exist? Nothing would ever be created?

Humanity is nothing more than a bunch of "pirate discoverers" on a rogue voyage. What ever is perceived/recreated/known by humanity is, at best, stolen. The article of perception is always a fraction of what has/is being perceived/recreated/known. There is nothng in the world but data. How humanity reacts to that data is ALWAYS very personal and unique, even though it has quasi-universal elements.

Any object has the potential to exist regardless if it is ever perceived/recreated/known by humanity. Analysis/judgement is what takes place after an object is perceived/recreated/known.

kid

Higgins
09-11-2008, 05:27 PM
I'm going to jump in here after trying to wade through all the academic ponderance of this subject of reality and intent relative to literature, as best I can understand it all.


As I understood the OP's question, it was: is a fiction text, a novel say, a good model of how the ego (or just plain consciousness) is embedded in and to some extent determined by the perceptual space that it creates?

My answer was no, because the perceptual space of the novel is grounded in a completely different range (from personal consciousness) of illusions and delusions
about the sources of conventions and mechanisms that create illusions and delusions. The novel or other fiction gives us the wonderful chance to imagine things backward from the boundaries of the universe to the interiors of our hearts. Lots of fun.
The actual perceptual space of consciousness is inately grounded in the intricate horrors of embodiment and personal history as they relate rather shabbily to language, culture and society. No wonder we need some fiction.