Thursday, September 27, 2007

Faithless Metaphor

Kristeva writes about "processes that underpin symbolicity":

Contrary to what enters the mouth and nourishes, what goes out of the body, out of its pores and openings, points to the infinitude of the body proper and gives rise to abjection. Fecal matter signifies, as it were, what never ceases to separate from a body in a state of permanent loss in order to become autonomous, distinct from the mixtures, alterations, and decay that run through it. That is the price the body must pay if it is to become clean and proper. Psychoanalysis has indeed seen that anal dejections constitute the first material separation that is controllable by the human being. It has also deciphered, in that very rejection, the mastered repetition of a more archaic separation (from the maternal body) as well as the condition of division (high-low), of discretion, of difference, of recurrence, in short the condition of the processes that underpin symbolicity

(The Powers of Horror, p. 108)

From my vantage point, which is rather removed, this is a case of the psychologist believing too strongly in her metaphors. I'd prefer not to doubt Kristeva's idea of an archaic separation, yet our separations from our mothers are many and complex. Here I question the belief in repetition not in order to supplant it with an idea of the ongoing, but rather to clear a space to question what it means to have faith in a metaphor. To be faithful to metaphor, what beliefs are required? Must we believe in source (mouth) and target (anus)? Must we believe that boundaries may be crossed, and if so, must we believe in boundaries? If we take seriously the defense of the psychoanalytic position, according to which the metaphor belongs to and is perhaps bodied forth by the in-fant, then must we also believe in conditions of processes that underpin symbolicity? Must we beleive in meaning? To use another metaphor, does metaphor ask us to become monotheistic or polytheistic in our beliefs? Possibly metaphor doesn't ask us to believe anything. Being faithful to metaphor expresses a commitment to expressivity or even a commitment to meaning, but such commitments do not require a foundation of belief. They require a sending with, but who can say what the truth of the sending is.

Since I don't believe in the clean and proper body (corps propre) its infinitude doesn't impress me. But I'll play along. Is infinitude an entailment of metaphor itself? Faithfulness to metaphor situates itself within the disorientation of metaphor, betwixt widdershins and deasil flows of sense. Neither difference of flows nor senses across boundaries hit me over the head with infinity, though disorientation does appear to carry beyond finite points. It's a mystery to me how finite ever got to be infinite, unless it was by a short cut–metaphor is the long way home.

The paradox of infinite becoming, i.e., the paradox of infinite identity, has not yet become a real problem for me (Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense, "First Series of Paradoxes of Pure Becoming"). By the same token, I neither believe nor disbelieve in the pause. Possibly the pause is relative to the speed of metaphor, although the speed of metaphor is not constant. Metaphor is an upper mantle beneath a subterranean dualism of the hard and the soft, of that which receives and that which eludes the kneading of Dough. Metaphor can just as easily be a Tree. Metaphor disorients without asking that we be sent to infinity. Is this a paradox? Metaphor is a parable, a circumlocution. Would the infinity that metaphor would carry over to–were we prepared to believe it–be a meaninglessness? That might contain a genuine paradox, though I might still hestitate to call it a problem. The destruction of meanings is de rigueur in metaphor; it happens most casually. Does the destruction of meanings require a faith in meaninglessness or a faithlessness in meanings or neither. Perhaps a commitment to the destruction of meanings is concomitant to a commitment to expressivity. If only to clear a path. I remain agnostic about metaphor, though I follow its path.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 3:42 PM.


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