The Indecipherable Medium

I’m constantly writing drafts and I have a few here that begin with something along the lines of, “I think that my last essay on Keats’s Hyperion poems to be the best thing I’ve ever written…”. What’s so exciting about that entry is that it is like a door opening onto Keats earlier works, works which we (and many critics) considered to be “unreadable”. And, by extension, a door opening onto all of literature and perhaps life in general — it basically gives us a license to go after the “indecipherable”. Most people still tend to read, picking up bits and pieces that excite them, that they can “talk about”. I know this sounds either naive or condescending but — I used to be the same way — after all, I considered no writing to be bad writing, I counted the pages and the words I wrote — they really piled up. I would write when I had some insight into the text, some way to link the text with other things, write until I would burn myself out. So this is not going after the “indecipherable”, it’s going after what I understand. But with that last essay, I felt like I finally had some solid reason to go after the difficult sections of Keats, the most Keatsian sections of Keats, even if this insight was prompted by an unkeatsian Keats: namely, that the idea was that there is some link between the present and the past, that all the elements of the “easy” or unkeatsian Keats was in fact already present back then, that there are figures and intentions in that difficult section — in fact, intentions which had not yet been heard, which we cannot amuse ourselves with and speak at length to.

… some time ago I spoke about feminism as “isomorphism”. That is, not the elevation of cliched “feminine” traits but rather the mapping of the male onto the female. Yes, for the longest time, the male was considered the human as such — but they are in fact right. All good traits are masculine. The task of feminism was not to insist on an independent category but rather to understand the female as already espousing these traits (or as being more masculine). But, the point is, what we forget there, and our amendment here, is that this “work” of feminism necessarily involves the indecipherable and not merely narrative inversions. That is, the task of feminist reading would not merely be the weaving of an ever more elaborate story that would invert the male and the female — this is doomed to fail — but rather, as we mention here, the focusing on the difficult parts of the text and the attempt to establish intentionality there.

… I feel the need to emphasize here, as I reread all this, and as election day nears, that I hate… certain… liberals with a passion. I’m not sure if my ideological position really needs all that more clarifying, I can’t imagine this paragraph being all that surprising. Nonetheless — I obviously have no problem with Irish Catholic democrats or anything, nor with female liberals, nor with the more respectable liberals… and I’m certainly not suggesting I belong in that group or have anything really in common with them, but rhetorically I would favor the so-called rednecks. I have no great problem with racism (anti-Asian? anti-black? fine with me), guns, or anti-intellectualism. On the other hand I have gotten into fist fights with hipsters and urban liberal types — but that might be mostly because I see them as completely non-threatening physically. I have to pick and chose, after all, I’m far from intimidating myself. I guess you could say I’m pretty mainstream in terms of rhetoric — which doesn’t mean that I agree with them. I mean stay the fuck away most other redneck stuff, because it is shit — like country music or football.

… but, moving on, I don’t consider this reasoning wrong, I still consider that last essay to be extremely important, but we do need to amend it. As it stands, there is the feeling of pursuing a hunt here — to return to earlier works, with a renewed understanding, to focus on the indecipherable, and to bring forth hidden intentions or images. But actually, I’m slowly beginning to realize that there is really nothing there… I have two models I want to put forth.

1) Retrospective and the prospective — In the same way that the present is retrospective, turns towards the past which it would hope would yield insights, the past turns towards the present. The past is constantly behaving as thought things were there, but this is a kind of genuine hope — before these things or beliefs become justified, metaphorized, or rationalized  And the present is turning towards the past, towards the indecipherable, hoping to find something there. But in the middle there is nothing — well, not quite nothing. There is that medium which allows the two to meet — and this will be our primary question.

2) Planted pieces — this is almost the same thing but on a smaller scale. There is, for example, in the Heart of Darkness, this notion of past being like a dream that cannot be recovered. In this case Marlow has no “direct access” to the past, as we do with Keats (cf, eg, Boy of Winander), but nonetheless his recollection of that time is being shaped by this double play, despite the fact that he tells the entire story retrospectively. There are elements he leaves, then, planted, that would tend to link up these things.

There is an interesting expression in a draft here that I like, it goes that “language developed in the bosom of culture”. And indeed with are talking about culture here, the link between past and present, young and old. Language must be thought culturally, in between two things, and not merely physiologically. … as we were saying, the entire question here is of the medium.


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