Rhetoric of Temporality (yet again)

Let’s take yet another stab at that infamous Paul De Man essay.

What is “metaphysical” disruption… what is a, you know, a real disruption? That is the question we can turn back to here — this question feels “safe”, it feels like something that will withstand the test of time, etc..

A disruption is not phenomenal, well, I mean, that it cannot be perceived, it is not aesthetic. That much we can be sure of, and yet beyond that we run into trouble, or — as I think I’ve discovered myself doing — we unwittingly return to aesthetic models. For example, for too long, we’ve relied on this notion of a human encounter, but we should have known better.

So having recognized the error of the encounter I asked myself what other possibilities there were. (1) Perhaps the real disruption is shrouded in darkness? Isn’t it true that we can only sense the aftermath of the encounter, when we are once again blissfully content? (2) Does it involve an encounter with something lower than the human, or maybe with the very peices that we use to organize our life?

So in this context let’s talk about allegory and irony. Now, to begin with, I think it’s importance to recognize this concept of intentionality, which seems notoriously difficult to define, even though we understand it to be “not representation”. But we did hypothesize that intentionality, in this “disruptive” sense, was an infinite, recurring process, which means that we can’t really say it is the shift from one form to another. Intentionality might be one of those things — and this definitely runs counter to our, you know, inquisitive spirit — leave alone, or let the mechanical sphinx deal with. Maybe my past error was basically the attempt to define intentionality.

So add to this the question of a kind of temporal displacement. What is allegory? Well, it is something that is somehow temporally reversed, and — what’s more — is understood as temporally rearranged. (This may seem odd if we believe our perceptions have to “wait” until the situation is understood holistically.) Allegory, then, is an understanding that is, on the one hand, blasted out of the conventional flow of understanding — itself a process of rearranging — via this mysterious notion of intentionality, but then reincorporated into understanding at a later moment, a moment that doesn’t “forget” the ealier moment. It seems to me that intentionality really cannot be understood without this later moment of “return” — leaving open, and probably moot, the question of progressive or retrogressive causation. 

 

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