Saturday, November 18, 2006

Just something I had to say



Sometimes, perhaps as rarely or as frequently as in fiction/literature/yada-yada, theoretical passages too can give you that slight chill at the pit of your stomach, that fleeting illicit delight in the sudden curfew down the well-lit streets of reason. You are about to step inside the red circle.


'There is always a surprise in store for the anatomy or physiology of any criticism that might think it had mastered the game, surveyed all the threads at once, deluding itself, too, in wanting to look at the text without touching it, without laying a hand on the “object,” without risking – which is the only chance of entering the game, by getting a few fingers caught – the addition of some new thread. Adding, here, is nothing other than giving to read. One must manage to think this out: that this is not a question of embroidering upon a text, unless one considers that to know how to embroider still means to have the ability to follow the given thread. That is, if you follow me, the hidden thread. If reading and writing are one, as is easily thought these days, if reading is writing, this oneness designates neither undifferentiated (con)fusion nor identity at perfect rest; the is that couples reading with writing must rip apart.


One must then, in a single gesture, but doubled, read and write. And that person would have understood nothing of the game who … would feel himself authorized merely to add on; that is, to add any old thing. He would add nothing: the seam wouldn’t hold. Reciprocally, he who through “methodological prudence,” “norms of objectivity,” or “safeguards of knowledge” would refrain form committing anything of himself, would not read at all. The same foolishness, the same sterility, obtains in the “not serious” as in the “serious.” The reading or writing supplement must be rigorously prescribed, but by the necessities of game, by the logic of play, signs to which the system of all textual powers must be accorded and attuned.'


- Jacques Derrida, introductory matter prefacing ‘Plato’s Pharmacy,’ Dissemination.

And then comes the startlingly honest confession. We all know, when we trudge through piles of academic bullshit that’s poured on us every day (since that’s what we are supposed to put up with and speak knowledgably about for the sake of our credits/paychecks at the end of the day), that the best of arguments need no more than a few pages to lay out. The rest is of course the froth, the clerical and mechanical collection of piles of data that create an enormous web of inter-referential excreta manufactured with professional perseverance from the all-too-familiar Societies of Bibliographic Per(e)versions – that permanent fixture along university corridors. But Derrida, in his characteristic irreverence, takes the game up like a challenge, refusing to wear the uniform of disguised academic detachment. He goes on:


'To a considerable degree, we have already said all we meant to say. Our lexicon at any rate is not far from being exhausted. With the exception of this or that supplement, our questions will have nothing more to name but the texture of the text, reading and writing, mastery and play, the paradoxes of supplementarity, and the graphic relations between the living and the dead: within the textual, the textile, and the histological. […]


Since we have already said everything. The reader must bear with us if we continue a while. If we extend ourselves by force of play. If we then write a bit: on Plato, who already said in the Phaedrus that writing can only repeat (itself), that it “always signifies (sÄ“mainei) the same” and that it is a “game” (paidia).'


And then follows the essay proper, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy,’ not as a mere illustrative adjunct, but as the matter proper - the play on the above argument, the game that can take over the rules of the game.

2 comments:

Rimi said...

Kill Soumik.

Soumik said...

err?