Friday, January 30

“libidinal multiplicity” is a cool phrase?

this handy borrowed image here is my reaction to the section of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble we read this week for my Postmodernism seminar.

and this blogpost, the one you're reading here, is a slightly smoothed over and abridged version of the reading response I posted to our class forum. yes, I posted it under this very title. the phrase "libidinal multiplicity" is from this little chunk of Gender Trouble:
For Kristeva, the semiotic expresses that original libidinal multiplicity within the very terms of culture, more precisely, within poetic language in which multiple meanings and semantic non-closure prevail. In effect, poetic language is the recovery of the maternal body within the terms of language, one that has the potential to disrupt, subvert, and displace the paternal law.
see why my brain is crying Escher?

I know Butler and her theory is purposefully difficult. this section (and lots of this week's readings, actually), so crammed with according to so-and-so, and she says and he believes, and for this person, and if we accept that then, and allegedly etc., is live intertextuality. so exciting. Butler references Foucault’s “matrices of power” and seems to surrender to the fact that we are always participating in them, somehow. she picks apart Julia Kristeva's theories relentlessly, resigning everyone, much like Richard Rorty seems to do in his “What Can You Expect from Anti-Foundationalist Philosophers?” piece, to a world where everything is socially constructed and nothing else makes any reachable sense. In Rorty’s words “We anti-foundationalists have no hope of substituting non-social constructs for social constructs; we just want to substitute our social constructs for theirs” (726).

Dr. Salvo asked us, earlier, whether or not the articles and excerpts this week were going to cohere. in my notes I have tried tracing behind Butler’s complaints about the circular self-defeating nature of Kristeva's arguments. it's not easy. I am distracted by the words. libidinal. cathexis. semiotic. repression. ontological. circular.

as I ponder the word “circular,” and how many assumptions and perspectives and arguments about the world seem inescapably circular, I also let myself entertain appreciative thoughts about how satisfying circles can be. “to come full circle” in a story or a presentation or an experience always feels so right, and fitting, and complete. maybe even… coherent? I’m not sure this is anything like what Dr. Salvo is really asking, but the noticing of circular constructs seems like a theme of sorts to me.

these two Kenneth Bruffee pieces I had read before. the bibliographic essay on "Social Construction, Language, and the Authority of Knowledge" has been especially useful in previous composition theory classes. Bruffee implies that knowledge is a social artifact and asserts that because of this, collaborative learning and the synergy of working together = awesomeness. he makes an especially bold point about better conversations leading to better thoughts and then to better writing. I am not so sure about this. Richard Rorty, also dealing with authority and language, touches on and troubles a similar-ish idea. to Rorty, vocabulary matters. but he also points out what he sees as a virtue of his anti-foundationalist pragmatism: that “pragmatism doesn't provide much of a jargon. So it is hard for devotees of pragmatism to hypnotize themselves into thinking that by reciting the jargon they are changing the world” (725). however... just one page later he admits that the particular ways we talk about ourselves and our potential can be way rhetorically powerful. this latter comment seems more in tune with what Bruffee is saying, too: “I see no better political rhetoric available than the kind that pretends that 'we' have a virtue even when we do not have it yet. That sort of pretense and rhetoric is just how new and better 'we's' get constructed” (726).

that reminds me of the time I wrote this.

we are not only creating a world. we are creating the we that lives in it, too.


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