Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Glossing Dante

“Nam in omni actione principaliter intenditur ab agente, sive necessitate nature sive volontarie agat, propriam similitudinem explicare. Unde fit quod omne agens, in quantum huiusmodi, delectatur; quia, cum omne quod est appetat suum esse, ac in agendo agentis esse quodammodo amplietur, sequitur de necessitate delectatio, quia delectatio rei desiderate semper annexa est. Nichil igitur agit nisi tale existens quale patiens fieri debet” (Dante Alighieri, De monarchia, ed. Pier Giorgio Ricci [Verona: Mondadori, 1965], 1.13.2-3, my emphasis). “For in all action what is principally intended by the agent, whether he acts by natural necessity or voluntarily, is the disclosure or manifestation of his own image. Whence it happens that every agent, insofar as he is such, takes delight. For, because everything that is desires its own being and in acting the being of an agent is in a certain way amplified, delight necessarily follows, since delight always attaches to something desired. Nothing acts, therefore, without being such as what is acted upon is supposed to become.” In other words, my action discloses me, pro-duces me, renders me present, visible, as an image, to myself and others. Action does so not only in the weak sense that action, whether as doing or making, expresses or signifies something about me, such as a thought, feeling, or habit I happen to have. Action enacts or produces me, in the stronger sense, as an actuality, that is, on the basis of my existing as or being such a thing that is already and thus can be enacted or produced. Action thus takes on the character of a self-production grounded in the always already produced nature of existence, in the fact of being. And the increase of being that happens through action has the character of a circulation of the original, impossible gift of being, a recreation of createdness. Action gives us our own being, realizes it as our existence, and thus produces the delight of a pure reception, of receiving oneself.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Doing interesting work on is not the same

Doing interesting work on is not the same
As being fast friends with the other and the same.

The vast fastness of intellect is a threshold
At best brushing the beautiful hem of the same.

Beauty releases from the spell of suffering,
A bright welcoming of the return of the same.

All are welcome, everyone is able to see
That the black pyramid and its light are the same.

When the vertiginous light of your face appeared
I became a knowing of here and there as same.

A becoming anonymity saved our kiss
From being killed in the enclosure of the same.

Before being aware of what we are doing
You and Nicola repeat words never the same.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Notes on Glossing

Whereas much contemporary intellectual discourse says so much that it silences the thing itself and whereas much contemporary artistic representation says so little that it becomes merely and mutely a thing, the gloss both preserves the independence of the thing it speaks about and creates itself as an independently speaking thing. This balance between text and context, subject and object, derives from the essentially relational nature of the gloss. The gloss does not come at you like a monolithic thesis or sword-Logos born from a sperm whale’s forehead. The gloss comes towards you like a human being, hypothetical, curious, speaking your language. Formed of the accumulated impressions of innumerable actions and reactions to the text, the gloss accomplishes nothing and so becomes capable of everything. As waves are to the stones that caused them, the gloss is to what it glosses, spreading out in unending uniqueness from the page’s unmarkable center, giving witness to depths the undisturbed surface cannot.

The gloss thus materializes phenomenological consciousness, as expressed and enacted in Gaston Bachelard’s description of the reverberation of the poetic image: "Through this reverberation, by going immediately beyond all psychology or psychoanalysis, we feel a poetic power rising na├»vely within us. After the original reverberation, we are able to experience resonances, sentimental repercussions, reminders of our past. But the image has touched the depths before it stirs the surface. And this is also true of a simple experience of reading. The image offered us by reading the poem now becomes really our own. It takes root in us. It has been given us by another, but we begin to have the impression that we could have created it, that we should have created it. It becomes a new being in our language, expressing us by making us what it expresses; in other words, it is at once a becoming of expression, and a becoming of our being. Here expression creates being."

The glossator makes the text real through an act that both defaces and recreates it. Running towards the text by running away from it, the gloss discovers a text within the text, a deeper word spoken by neither author or reader but something both within and among them, a new authority. The gloss, being only more words, neither contains nor expresses this word. Rather, the deeper word that the gloss reveals exists in the silence between the gloss and its text, a word within the spaces between words. Here we find the real function of the gloss, not to explain the text, but to multiply explanation and signification fractally, to generate more and more verbal and visual enclosures within which the unexplainable is brought into presence. Secretly, the excessive, decentering, unending speech of the gloss multiplies silence, revealing it to be, not the absence of speech, but the real presence of what cannot be explained, a silent word, so to speak. The fruit of interpretation, to employ the medieval metaphor, is not merely understanding, but the direct conscious experience of things that understanding produces.

Glossing and phenomenology both express a longing to go beyond words and images to the reality of things themselves, not by transcending words and images, but by entering more deeply, perversely, wonderfully into them, by conjuring the presence of the res ipsa apophatically, via explanation as the intensification of absence, as the presencing by absencing of what is explained. Glossing and phenomenology enact deep frustrations with language and representation via excess language and representation: the slippery self-contradictory language of phenomenology that promises clear apprehension of experience of things themselves, the self-multiplying cross-referential signs of the gloss that promise unitary total significance . . . The problem with words and images is not that they are false, but that they are signs, vehicles of consciousness that simultaneously manifest and frustrate it, forever interposing themselves between self and world. Glossing fights against this condition of impasse through a whole-hearted acceptance of it, though a loving of the enemy of the sign that promises offspring between poetry and philosophy, intellect and art.

Glossing is doomed, futile, but how full of the infinite joys of intimate friendship with the futility of all things!