February 17th, 2011

S.C. Hickman

Nick Land: Quote of the Day!

In speaking of modernity we acknowledge that an insatiable historicization has befallen the Earth; a shock-wave of obsolescence has swept away all perpetuities. Far from escaping the frenzy of abolition, thought has been sublimed in the white heat of its outer edge, functioning as the very catalyst of history. What is new to modernity is a rate of the obsolescence of truth, although it is still (as I write) possible for a good idea to last longer than an automobile."
     - Nick Land, The Thirst for Annihilation

S.C. Hickman

Cengiz Erdem: The Nietzschean Subject; or, the Prison-House of Delirium

"In a world full of violence, destruction and death, or “madness in every direction,” as Kerouac would have said, the subject becomes nothing but a projector of the evil within society."
Cengiz Erdem

Nihil SolipsistThe Nihil Solipsist: a being that knows neither its own nothingness nor the dark self-cannibalizing force of all those others within; trapped within the introjected prison-house of an impure fear, bound to the cross of a symbolic gesture, tormented by the thought of its own paranoid-schizoid position this Nietzschean subject relishes the hunt as a repetition of the life-death drives it seeks to unleash at the hands of all those non-others within its own panopticon of deliriums. Cengiz Erdem in his essay
The Nietzschean Subject
 tells us that the "paradoxical nature of the contemporary Nietzschean subject is a result of the turning of self into the other within in the process of becoming. The self of the present has not only become a prison-house of the others within itself but also it itself has become a self-contained monad with no relation to the outside and no awareness of the external world populated by the others’ selves." 

Erdem tells us that today everything has been reduced to the pure or impure exchange value of Capital; even the invention of subjectivity, which no longer touches the oldest of criteria: use value. Instead we have always already become a cog in the machine, a machinic subject, a zombified cogito serving the greater good of Capital itself. Like somnambulists in a dream matrix we have become the illusory beneficiaries of an inhuman thought:

"With societies based on exchange value the relationship between the subject and the object is confined in the paranoid-schizoid position. There remains no gap between the subject and the object when in fact there should be. Everything becomes a substitute for another thing and everything is substitutable. With the advance of global capitalism the subject itself becomes an object. The subject begins to act itself out as an object for the desire and consumption of the other. The subject becomes a substitute of itself.  With global capitalism the subject starts to feel itself as a machine; it becomes inorganic for itself when in fact it is essentially organic. In other words organs start to operate like non-organs, all organicity is replaced by inorganicity, life with death, and in this kind of a society everyone is always already dead." 

Consuming machines that we are we have been reduced to eating our own... shall I say it: shit! Instead of difference we have all become entrepreneurs of the self-same identity of Capital: trending our way to the avant-garde in our latest designer outfits we speak the local lingo like the good netizens we are, forging identities in a spurious masqueradism of conformity to the latest fashion boutique or philosophical blog, hip-hopping or rapping along to life's happy nihilism like black metal fetishists apotropaically defending ourselves against the encrustations of an artificial slime world where the gods of filth and dionysian ecstasy infuse us with the abyss of the inhuman. Or, as Erdem defines it: "With the advance of global capitalism this herd-instinct can be said to have become nothing but a result of the exploitation of the life and death drives to reduce life to a struggle for and against life/death. The subject no longer has to carry the burden of being different. In this light and in this time we can see global capitalism creating not only the conditions of possibility for the subject to forget itself but also the conditions of impossibility for a remembrance of self, producing the non-knowledge of self as the counter-knowledge."

Nietzsche's Ecce Homo has become for the new trend setters the glorious cookbook for 'healthy living', and all those pesky little ghosts of our forbears otherness has suddenly surprised us as the unmasking of our daily selves in the present. Erdem in a final colloquy relates that "the the non-reason inherent in reason has become the reason itself, and yet the questions remain: 

1. What can be learned from Nietzsche’s failure, which caused and continues to cause many other failures?

2. What are the conditions of possibility for a non-antagonistic and yet non-illusory relationship between the self and the other and how can they be sustained? 

Those two questions could and should fill volumes, but being a small blog report upon the workings of such a fine mind we can only hope that Cengiz Erdem will be answering these either fully or partially in his upcoming book?

Addendum: Cengiz published another essay just after the previous one,
Barbaric Regress and Civilised Progress contra Deconstruction and Affirmative Recreation, which offers some further reflection on the above topic. 


S.C. Hickman

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"...