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Nicola Masciandaro: Black Metal Interview

Black Metal"No one merely listens to music, without participating in it. It is an object that infects and possesses the subject."
     - Nicola Masciandaro

I enjoyed Nicola Masciandaro's new Black Metal Theory interview published on his blog recently. At one point he tells us that "black metal perpetuates itself via a satanic logic that corrodes and occludes its own resources while allowing them to remain apparent. You could say that black metal practices what Benjamin called “the art of citing without quotation marks.” Rebelling against the logic or order whereby the citation produces authority, black metal weaponizes citation against its own authorizing aura. For black metal, repetition IS the original."

In this statement above I was at once reminded of Angus Fletcher, John Hollander, Harold Bloom  and Jorge Luis Borges. Why? Each used a form of that strange rhetorical trope we term metalepsis (Greek) and transumption (Latin).  

First there is Angus Fletcher, he is Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Graduate School at the City University of New York. His research interests include theory of literature, comparative literature, allegory, the literature of nature, Edmund Spenser, and postmodernisms. He is perhaps best known for his classic study, Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode (1964). Fletcher is also the author of Time, Space, and Motion in the Age of Shakespeare (2007), A New Theory for American Poetry: Democracy, the Environment, and the Future of Imagination (2004), Colors of the Mind: Conjectures on Thinking and Literature (1991), The Prophetic Moment: An Essay on Spenser (1971), The Transcendental Masque: An Essay on Milton's Comus (1971), and Time, Space, and Motion in the Age of Shakespeare(2007). Of this last book Harold Bloom said: "Angus Fletcher is an Orphic seer, a curious universal scholar of Renaissance vintage, a fusion of the best traits of Northrop Frye and Kenneth Burke, his true peers.... His new book on Shakespeare, Marlowe, Donne, Milton and so much more is a marvelous demonstration that cosmology, rhetoric and psychology are not three entities but one. Here they fuse together with the magus Fletcher performing his superb critical alchemy." Two excellent reviews of his work are Nick Halpren's The Space of the Poem and Honoring Old Masters: Angus Fletcher at Printculture blog for those unfamiliar with his work.

As the poet John Hollander said in his book, The figure of echo: a mode of allusion in Milton and after, said it was Angus Fletcher who "first called modern critical attention to metalepsis in a discussive footnote, in his Allegory, on Milton's allusiveness, and on Samuel Johnson's reminder that "he saw nature, as Dryden expresses it, through the spectacle of books." Hollander goes on to advocate a return to the classical rhetoricians' trope of transumption, because "we deal with diachronic tropes all the time, and yet we have no name for it as a class... the echoing itself makes a figure, and the interpretive or revisionary power which raises the echo even louder than the original voice is that of a trope of diachrony... the interpretation of a metalepsis entails the recovery of the transumed material. A transumptive style is to be distinguised radically from the kind of conceited one which usually associate with baroque poetic, and with English seventeenth-century verse in particular. It involves an ellipsis, rather than a relentless pursuit, of further figuration..."

Transumption along with hyperbole are part of that arsenal of tropes that Kenneth Burke called master tropes: three (irony, metonymy, metaphor; or dialectic, reduction, perspective) are acts of re-seeing, or simple revisioning, while a fourth (synedoche or representation) is desire, which redirects purpose, and so is a more complex revisioning stance. Hyperbole and transumption being the two tropes that enhance through a heightened representation the events of desire. Moving on to Harold Bloom we discover that what he terms revisionism subsumes this rhetorical troupe as a triad of dialectical or diachronic events: re-seeing, re-esteeming or re-estimating, and re-aiming, which in his small work Kabbalah and Criticism  he termed contraction, breaking-of-the-vessels, and restitution; and, yet again in poetic terms this triad was seen as limitation, substitution, and representation. In these terms, sublimation is a re-seeing but repression is a re-aiming, or, rhetorically, a metaphor re-sees, that is, it changes a perspective, but an hyperbole re-aims, that is, redirects a response. As Bloom states it "an irony re-sees, but a synecdoche re-aims; a metonymy reduces a seeing, but a metalepsis redirects a purpose or desire. In re-seeing, you have translated desire into an act, but in re-aiming, you have failed to translate, and so what you re-aim is a desire." So in poetic terms you get acting as limitation, but desiring becomes a form of representation. Ultimately what this comes down to for poetry or philosophy is that acts try to make objects present and more dialectical, to reduce the differences, and to change the sense of otherness of the object, of it being elsewhere or to use Graham Harman's term "withdrawn" from all relation, by perspectivizing it. Yet, desire itself becomes the need to be elsewhere or be other, to be different, and to represent that otherness, that sense of difference and of being elsewhere so that the object is situated not as an act that is present but an absence. 

This brings me now to Jorge Luis Borges who in his final great story Shakespeare’s Memory iterates a statement from Borges's master Thomas De Quincey: "De Quincey says that our brain is a palimpsest. Every new text covers the previous one, and is in turn covered by the text that follows – but all powerful Memory is able to exhume any impression, no matter how momentary it might have been, if given sufficient stimulus." In this tale a man is suddenly given the memories of the poet Shakespeare, which for him become both a gift and a burden. We remember that Masciandaro's statement that in the first paragraph of this essay stated that "repetition IS the original", which following Borges tale we realize that to be a thing is to repeat not its acts but its desires. For as Borges says "No one may capture in a single instant the fullness of his entire past….A man’s memory is not a summation; it is a chaos of vague possibilities.” Why? Borges summed that up in another tale, Everything and Nothing, which begins with the great line: "There was no one inside him; behind his face (which even through the bad paintings of those times resembles no other) and his words, which were copious, fantastic and stormy, there was only a bit of coldness, a dream dreamt by no one."

Jorge Luis BorgesIn the last lines of that essay on Shakespeare Borges tells us that "History adds that before or after dying he found himself in the presence of God and told Him: 'I who have been so many men in vain want to be one and myself.' The voice of the Lord answered from a whirlwind: 'Neither am I anyone; I have dreamt the world as you dreamt your work, my Shakespeare, and among the forms in my dream are you, who like myself are many and no one.'"

The originary act is to be everyone and no one, while desire is a repetition of absence and otherness: a desire to be elsewhere or withdrawn. As Nicola Masciandaro says of this rebellion "against the logic or order whereby the citation produces authority", and of the weaponization of "citation against its own authorizing aura" one learns not to cite an author or authority but to become that author or authority by repetition of the very acts and desires of creativity that produced the original, which was always already a repetition of an absent other. For if the real can never ever be made present then by its absence we can know its desires through the representations of its otherness as difference and affect as it touches us through the sensual allure of its otherness. As for Black Metal itself as act and desire Masciandaro says: "All I can say is that black metal theory is neither for anyone nor for no one. I do not even want to say that it is for the people who practice it. At a practical material level it does not seem to be. More positively, I think black metal theory attaches importance not to social identities and roles, but to the act of penetrating once again into the essence of black metal, an act whose value might be compared to the release of kind of intoxicating atmosphere." Even here we hear the echo of an echo, a citation that is not a citation, a transumptive inlay of a memory encoded in a space of black metal where it is "neither for anyone nor for no one"...




S.C. Hickman
S.C. Hickman

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