Tuesday, April 20, 2010

DG 003542 EN

THOUGHT IS WAR. In one noetic stroke I 'mak siccar' my tanist ascension-succession to the throne of blood,[i] suffer decollation by the sword of Damocles,[ii] martyrically live to tell the tale,[iii] and wander the burnt plains of being . . . a cephalophore: "Di sé facea a sé stesso lucerna, / ed eran due in uno e uno in due; / com' esser può, qui sa che sì governa . . . levò 'l braccio alto con tutta la testa / per appressarne le parole sue, che fuoro: '. . . Così s'osserva in me lo contrapasso'" (Inferno 28.124-42).[iv] Bertran's bellophilic body—"Que nuills om non es ren prezatz / Tro q'a maintz colps pres e donatz"[v]—displays the logic of war's dyadic vortexical intensity (2-becoming-1-becoming-2 in perpetuo: "He can no more be reduced to one or the other than he can constitute a third of their kind")[vi] as thought's essential gesture: holding forth a speaking head. Raising the arm to press words towards another (ad-pressare) is a haptic nexus of striking and speaking that indicates war to be the writing of thought's weight on all bodies, a bloody texting of the general violence of dissatisfied embodiment: "war does not embody any special suffering. People really suffer all the time. They suffer because they are not satisfied—they want more and more. War is more an outcome of the universal suffering of dissatisfaction than an embodiment of representative suffering."[vii] War does not typify suffering, but is the very writing of suffering that thought constitutes as its/our splitting-choosing (haireses) into desire/dream/reality.[viii] "Writing is the dissimulation of the natural, primary, and immediate presence of sense to the soul within the logos. Its violence befalls the soul as unconsciousness."[ix] Consciousness is the unconscious of war.[x] Your thoughts are its subtitles. And if thy head offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Cf. Matthew 5:30). The fog of war rises from black-biled earth, humus/humour, dark with organic matter for thought. War-genius is melancholic, a thought-sufferer, knower of its passions.[xi] And plunges us back in: "the emerging battlespace—the intermezzo where/in we make contact with the SIMAD—is a locale in which an ungrounding of the Earth is in process and, as such, is a vertiginous soft spot on the surface of the Earth."[xii]  

[i] "The ancient succession of Scotland had been by tanistry, that is, the monarchy was elective within a small group of kinsmen, the descendants of Macalpine. In consequence, the king was almost as a matter of course assassinated by his successor, who chose the moment most favourable to himself to 'make siccar' an inheritance that could never be regarded as assured . . . by tanist law Macbeth had as good a claim as Duncan, and his wife a rather better one" (M.C. Bradbrook, "The Sources of Macbeth," in Shakespeare Survey 4: Interpretation, ed. Allardyce Nicoll [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951], 38). Here is a telling of Robert Bruce's killing of John Comyn in the Franciscan church at Dumfries that allegorizes perfectly unintentionally the binary verbo-violent dynamism of murder (Cf. "Roussillon waited until Cabestanh was at close range, then he rushed out at him with murder and destruction in his heart, brandishing a lance above his head and shouting: 'Traitor, you are dead!' And before the words were out of his mouth he had driven the lance through Cabestanh's breast. Cabestanh was powerless to defend himself, or even to utter a word, on being run through by the lance he fell to ground" [Boccaccio, Decameron, trans. G.H. McWilliam (New York: Penguin, 1972), 4.9]) as thought's endless war of succession around the boundary of doubt and certainty: "They embraced and kissed each other, after the manner of the times, with a glow of friendliness, and then walked up the church together towards the high altar, engaged, as it seemed, in earnest conversation. As they advanced their words grew high and keen. Bruce accused Comyn of having betrayed him to Edward. 'You lie!" said the impudent traitor. Bruce, without a word more, drew his dagger and struck him down on the very steps of the altar. It was the outburst of a moment. Bruce instantly felt shocked at the rash deed. He rushed to his friends, who waited him outside church. 'I doubt,' he said, 'that I have slain the Comyn!' 'You doubt;' cried Sir Roger Kirkpatrick; 'I mak siccar;' and running into the church, he dispatched the wretched man with repeated wounds. 'When you kill a man, do it well,' says the Koran; which also seems to have been the opinion of Sir Roger" (James Mackenzie, The History of Scotland [London: Nelson and Sons, 1867], 131-2). Note the uncanny opining of the word of God as internal engine and hermeneutic limit of the event. Corollary: thinking is the material where divine logos enters as weapon: "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning [κριτικός] the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Whence criticism as cutting word (dis-cernere), self-naming of an awakened one the ultimate weapon: "Muad'Dib: [thinks] My own name is a killing word. Will it be a healing word as well?" (Dune, dir. David Lynch [1984]). Commentary as weirding module. "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. . . . I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh – with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired heads of the enemy" (Deuteronomy 32:39-42). Playing God, the critic rains arrows on the globe: "Ad  mundum mitto mea iacula, dumque sagitto; / At vbi iustus erit, nulla sagitta ferit. / Sed male viuentes hos vulnero transgredientes; / Conscius ergo sibi se speculetur ibi" [I send my darts at the world and simultaneously shoot arrows; / But mind you, wherever there is a just man, no one will receive arrows. / I badly wound those living in transgression, however; / Therefore, let the thoughtful man look out for himself] (John Gower, Minor Latin Works, ed. and trans. R.F. Yeager [Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications, 2005]) — no collateral damage. These lines from the frontispiece to the Vox Clamantis:

Whence bombs as percussive prophecy: smart missiles raining wrath and reform on the earth (shock & awe), self-detonating auto-decapitating "voice[s] of one crying in the desert" (Mark 1:3) — all profanely belated heralds of presumed last prophets, martyrs (death-witnesses) to their own living deaths. But this photograph shuts my eyes to looking from either idealized end, to seeing the explosion arrive from heaven or earth. Here I no longer watch through the lens of the either/or, the filter of enemy/friend. Locating me on the endless continuum of the middle, in the living space of subtitular existence between two spear points that never touch ("Then the king gat his spear in both his hands, and ran toward Sir Mordred, crying: Traitor, now is thy death-day come. And when Sir Mordred heard Sir Arthur, he ran until him with his sword drawn in his hand. And there King Arthur smote Sir Mordred under the shield, with a foin of his spear, throughout the body, more than a fathom. And when Sir Mordred felt that he had his death wound he thrust himself with the might that he had up to the bur of King Arthur's spear. And right so he smote his father Arthur, with his sword holden in both his hands, on the side of the head, that the sword pierced the helmet and the brain-pan, and therewithal Sir Mordred fell stark dead to the earth; and the noble Arthur fell in a swoon to the earth, and there he swooned ofttimes" Malory Le Morte D'Arthur), it shows the real case (casus, befalling event): here everyone is 'taken out.' "When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, / And the women come out to cut up what remains, / Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains / An' go to your Gawd like a soldier" (Rudyard Kipling, "The Young British Soldier," War Stories and Poems, [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990], 56).
[ii] "This tyrant [Dionysius II of Syracuse], however, showed himself how happy he really was; for once, when Damocles, one of his flatterers, was dilating in conversation on his forces, his wealth, the greatness of his power, the plenty he enjoyed, the grandeur of his royal palaces, and maintaining that no one was ever happier,' Have you an inclination,' said he, 'Damocles, as this kind of life pleases you, to have a taste of it yourself, and to make a trial of the good fortune that attends me?' And when he said that he should like it extremely, Dionysius ordered him to be laid on a bed of gold with the most beautiful covering, embroidered and wrought with the most exquisite work, and he dressed out a great many sideboards with silver and embossed gold. He then ordered some youths, distinguished for their handsome persons, to wait at his table, and to observe his nod, in order to serve him with what he wanted. There were ointments and garlands; perfumes were burned; tables provided with the most exquisite meats. Damocles thought himself very happy. In the midst of this apparatus, Dionysius ordered a bright sword to be let down from the ceiling, suspended by a single horse-hair, so as to hang over the head of that happy man. After which he neither cast his eye on those handsome waiters, nor on the wellwrought plate; nor touched any of the provisions: presently the garlands fell to pieces. At last he entreated the tyrant to give him leave to go, for that now he had no desire to be happy" (Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, trans. C.D. Young [New York: Harper, 1899], ch.21).
[iii] "Instantly the body of Saint Dionysius stood up, took his head in his arms . . . " (Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints, trans. William Granger Ryan, 2 vols [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993], 2.240).  ""Tunc erigens se sancti viri corpus exanime, apprehendit propriis manibus sanctum caput abscissum" [Raising itself, the lifeless body of the holy man then grasped with his own hands the sacred severed head] (Odone, De sanctis martyribus Luciano episcopo, Maximiano presbytero, Iuliano diacono, 5.21, Acta Sanctorum Database [ProQuest]). ""Ubi es? ecce, mirabile auditu, caput martyris patria lingua respondebat dicens, Heer, Heer, Heer; quod est interpretatum, Hic, Hic, Hic" [Where are you? Behold, marvelous to hear, the head of the martyr responded in his native language, Heer, Heer, Heer, which is to say, Here, Here, Here] (Abbo of Fleury, Passio Sancti Eadmundi, cited from Corolla Sancti Eadmundi, ed. Lord Francis Harvey [London: John Murray, 1907], 566). On John the Baptist: "The original martyr (witness) is neither a martyr nor not a martyr. He dies neither for the sake of what he testifies to nor not for the sake of what he testifies to. The original martyrdom is instead the supreme death of the supreme witness in relation to which other martyrs stay original, i.e. remain in proximity to their unrepeatable origin. It is the death of one who cannot survive his witnessing and the witnessing of one who cannot not die. John's identity is a severed identity which becomes the seed ensuring that each following death is a witnessing and that each following witness must die, the a-martyric ovum holding the Christian meaning of martyr. What enables this generation is John's uncanny intimacy — 'There was a man sent from God whose name was John' (John 1:6) — with what he absolutely cannot be, with what he must say he is not: 'I am not the Christ' (John 1:20). In a strange and unspeakable way, the martyric meaning of John's beheading poetically approaches its precise impossibility. It becomes the performance of exactly what it can never be, the necessarily decapitative murder of the theological traitor, the killing of the one who says I am God [cf. Mansur al-Hallaj]" (Nicola Masciandaro, "Non potest hoc corpus decollari: Beheading and the Impossible," in Heads Will Roll: Decapitation in Medieval Literature and Culture, eds. Larissa Tracy and Jeff Massey [University Press of Florida, forthcoming]).
[iv] "Of itself it was making a lamp of itself, and they were two in one and one in two — how this can be, He knows who so ordains. . . . he raised high his arm with the head, in order to bring near to us his words, which were, '. . . Thus is the retribution observed in me.'" 
[v] "For no man is worth a damn till he has taken and given many a blow" (Bertran de Born, "Bem platz lo gais temps de pascor, " trans. Ezra Pound, cited from Lark in the Morning: The Verses of the Troubadours, ed. Robert Kehew [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005], 142-3]).
[vi] Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 352). D&G's "can no more" corresponds to Dante's "e" [and], which joins by holding separate "uno in due" and "due in uno." I.e. Bertran is precisely not both 1-in-2 and 2-in-1, but the and of their non-intersecting identity, the touch of the split or heresy-choice that makes them. Cf. "Severing also is still a joining and a relating” (“[A]uch das Trennen ist noch ein Verbinden und Beziehen” (Martin Heidegger, “Logik: Heraklits Lehre vom Logos,” in Heraklit, ‘Gesamtausgabe,’ Bd. 55 [Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1970], 337).
[vii] Meher Baba, Discourses, 3.10.
[viii] Cf. the schismatic community of Dante's ninth bolgia to which Bertran de Born belongs, headed by arch-self-splitter Mohammed, who identifies himself as a visual third-person: "Mentre che tutto in lui veder m'attacoo, / guardommi e con le man s'aperse il petto, dicendo: 'Or vedi com' io mi dilacco! / vedi come storpiato è Mäometto!" (Inferno 238.28-31) [While I was all aborbed in gazing on him, he looked at me and with his hands pulled open his breast, saying, "Now see how I rend myself, see how mangled is Mohammed!"]
[ix] Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 37.
[x] "Get on the ground! Get on the fucking ground! Now! [Thinking] This great evil.  Where's it come from? How'd it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who's doing this? Who's killing us?" (The Thin Red Line, dir. Terrence Malick [1998]).
[xi] "Lastly, we come to men who are difficult to move but have strong feelings––men who are to the previous type [choleric] like heat to a shower of sparks. These are the men who are best able to summon the titanic strength it takes to clear away the enormous burdens that obstruct activity in war. Their emotions move as great masses do––slowly but irresistibly" (Carl von Clausewitz, On War, trans. Michael Howard and Peter Paret [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007], 53). Kleemeier comments: "A melancholic in the Clausewitzian sense is . . . someone who will act in exactly the right way, because his passions form a strong and solid foundation for action. So melancholy is not an illness at all, but a source of successful action. There is a certain ring of paradox here. On the one hand, you cannot eliminate the element of suffering from the notion of passion (Leidenschaft). Having a passion, as distinct from having a spontaneous emotion or affection, means being driven by a constant and powerful mental need, and to be in permanent need of something certainly indicates suffering. On the other hand, passions can become the very basis of great actions. This is so, because passions can combine with reason in a way spontaneous feelings cannot. . . . The link between passion and reason is will power" (Ulrike Kleemeir, "Moral Forces in War," in Clausewitz in the Twenty-First Century, eds. Hew Strachan and Andreas Herber-Rothe [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007], 112-3). Cf. "In most persons the mind accepts ends from the promptings of wants, but this means denial of the life of the spirit. Only when the mind accepts its ends and values from the deepest promptings of the heart does it contribute to the life of the spirit. Thus mind has to work in co-operation with the heart; factual knowledge has to be subordinated to intuitive perceptions; and heart has to be allowed full freedom in determining the ends of life without any interference from the mind" (Meher Baba, Discourses, 1.140).
[xii] Manabrata Guha, "Introduction to SIMADology: Polemos in the 21st Century," Collapse VI: Geo/Philosophy (2010): 327.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Now in Print: Glossator 2: On the Poems of J.H. Prynne

Click pic to purchase.

Volume 2 of the journal Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary. On the Poems of J.H. Prynne. Edited by Ryan Dobran.


RYAN DOBRAN, Introduction

JOSH STANLEY, Back On Into The Way Home: "Charm Against Too Many Apples" [The White Stones, 1969];

THOMAS ROEBUCK & MATTHEW SPERLING, "The Glacial Question, Unsolved": A Specimen Commentary on Lines 1-31 [The White Stones, 1969]

ROBIN PURVES, A Commentary on J.H. Prynne's "Thoughts on the Esterházy Court Uniform" [The White Stones, 1969]

REITHA PATTISON, J.H. Prynne's "The Corn Burned by Syrius" [The White Stones, 1969]

KESTON SUTHERLAND, Hilarious absolute daybreak [Brass, 1971]

MICHAEL STONE-RICHARDS, The time of the subject in the neurological field (I): A Commentary on J.H. Prynne's "Again in the Black Cloud" [Wound Response, 1974]

JUSTIN KATKO, Relativistic Phytosophy: Towards a Commentary on "The Plant Time Manifold Transcripts" [Wound Response, 1974]

JOHN WILKINSON, Heigh Ho: A Partial Gloss of Word Order [Word Order, 1989]

Glossator publishes original commentaries, editions and translations of commentaries, and essays and articles relating to the theory and history of commentary, glossing, and marginalia. The journal aims to encourage the practice of commentary as a creative form of intellectual work and to provide a forum for dialogue and reflection on the past, present, and future of this ancient genre of writing. By aligning itself, not with any particular discipline, but with a particular mode of production, Glossator gives expression to the fact that praxis founds theory.
ISBN/EAN13:1451599374 / 9781451599374
Page Count:334
Binding Type:US Trade Paper
Trim Size:6" x 9"
Color:Black and White

Sunday, April 11, 2010


[Draft projection description for: 1) “after the end: medieval studies, the humanities, and the post-catastrophe,” 1st Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group, 4-6 November 2010, University of Texas at Austin; 2) Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies, Volume 2, Issue 4 (2013). Send abstracts to Anna Kłosowska (roberta2 AT muohio.edu) & Nicola Masciandaro (nicolamasciandaro AT gmail.com).]

 (Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America. Dir. Tony Stone. 2007)

Ma certo poco pria, se ben discerno,
  che venisse colui che la gran preda
  levò a Dite del cerchio superno,
da tutte parti l’alta valle feda
  tremò sì, ch’i’ pensai che l’universo
  sentisse amor, per lo qual è chi creda
più volte il mondo in caòsso converse;
  e in quell punto questa vecchia roccia,
  qui e altrove, tal fece riverso.
(Inferno 12.37-45, Virgil explaining the creation of the “ruina” or structural breakdown in the earth that allows for passage through hell) [1]

Exactly the opposite of spontaneous unconscious associations, these examples suggest how medieval artists created marginal images from a ‘reading’, or rather an intentional misreading, of the text. (Michael Camille, Image on the Edge)

The nature of truth is un-truth. (Heidegger, Origin of the Work of Art)

But when I wished to exclude this thought altogether, lest, by busying my mind to no purpose, it should keep me from other thoughts, in which I might be successful; then more and more, though I was unwilling and shunned it, it began to force itself upon me, with a kind of importunity. So, one day, when I was exceedingly wearied with resisting its importunity, in the very conflict of my thoughts, the proof of which I had despaired offered itself, so that I eagerly embraced the thoughts which I was strenuously repelling. (Anselm, Prosologion, describing his conception of the ontological proof of God) [2]

Being is “ungraspable”. It is only “grasped” in error; the error is not just easy—in this case, it is the condition of thought. (Bataille, Inner Experience).

I have . . . preferred to take the risk of attributing to the texts of others what began its elaboration with them [ciò che andava elaborando a partire da essi], rather than run the reverse risk of appropriating thoughts or research paths that do not belong to me. (Giorgio Agamben, Signature of All Things: On Method)

Sin is behovabil. (Julian of Norwich, Shewings)

FAULT: It is yours, the one to blame, for everything. FAULT: Tellurian fissure, index of the means of mountains, earthquakes, islands. FAULT: Deep opening, essential accident, the only way for lovers to whisper: “The wall their houses shared had one thin crack, which was formed when they were built and then was left; in all these years, no one had seen that cleft; but lovers will discover everything: you were the first to find it, and you made that cleft a passageway which speech could take” (Ovid, Metamorphoses). FAULT: Lack, defect, shortcoming, mistake, error. FAULT: Exactly where you are at.

Take these sentences as invitation and incitement for post-medievalist work that willfully shares, practically and theoretically, in the significance of fault. The purpose of FAULT is to rigorously practice fault as the way of purpose, as the inevitable space of method. FAULT = to take things too far, to follow and seduce error rather than evade it, to fall hard for something, to creatively stray in the “sylvan wandering that allows itself to become lost enough to find what cannot be deliberately traced,” to pursue and persist in the identity of strength and weakness (“for when I am weak, then I am strong. I have been a fool!” 2 Corinthians 12:10), to corrupt, deform, perforate, decay, infect, disease, and totally lead to decline a text or other form of debris from the past, to colonize a little crumb into a vast continent, to studiously enjoy the fact that life is already over and you have/are lost, to do what you must do, what you will do anyway, but now to do it openly and fully, to a fault. This is not frivolity, but very serious folly. Only the desperate, the perversely imaginative, and the fatally flawed should attempt the crossing.

O felix culpa!

P.S. Some possibilities, topical and/or generic: irresponsible reading/writing, theory-fiction, dischrony, inordinate exegesis, forgery, rupture, alternative anagogies, postlapsarian poetics, fractures, postcriticism, fallen hermeneutics, heresy.    

   [1] “But certainly, if I reckon rightly, it was a little before He came who took from Dis the great spoil of the uppermost circle, that the deep foul valley trembled so on all sides that I thought the universe felt love, whereby, as some believe, the world has many times been turned to chaos; and at that moment this ancient rock, here and elsewhere, made such downfall.”
   [2] “Sed cum illam cogitationem, ne mentem meam frustra occupando ab aliis, in quibus proficere possem, impediret, penitus a me vellem excludere: tunc magis ac magis nolenti et defendenti se coepit cum importunitate quadem ingerere. Cum igitur quadam die vehementer eius importunitati resistendo fatigarer, in ipso cogitationum conflictu sic se obtulit quod desperaveram, ut studiose cogitationem amplecterer, quam sollicitus repellebam.”