Myth dissimulates time as it is actually lived, insofar as time itself isn't just a bag of moonshine, a concept whose time has come and gone with the tides. Perhaps we are compelled by circumstances to make of myth an instrument of doubt, to use it's transformative power over thought in order to pursue our inquiries undeterred by such stupidities as the Real or Finitude. You see, we are so wrapped up in myth it is to be doubted whether we can formulate a proper question, an emancipated question. We try to undo by the same means by which we've been done in. So who's up for a little abolition of time?
Loraux writes, "wrath in mourning, the principle of which is eternal repetition, willingly expresses itself with an aeí, and the fascination of this tireless "always" threatens to set it up as a powerful rival to the political aeí that establishes the memory of institutions" ("Of Amnesty and its Opposite," in Mothers in Mourning, p. 98). Loraux wants us to think about the cultural construction of mourning (one thinks of Danforth and Seremetakis, among others, though Loraux's work isn't an ethnography, obviously, and we might suspect the ethnographers of having their own narrative issues with time), yet I think maybe the mask has slipped and I can't help wondering about the thought behind "eternal repetition," a concept which can only be understood in mythic or dramatic terms. In a footnote Loraux adds that the aeí falls under Lyotard's category of "identical repetition" in which the mark is upon the speaker, in contrast to the "Jewish" sentence in which the mark is upon the addressee. Hmm.
If we can bring the impossible on stage, why not the brazenly contradictory? "[J]ust as mēˆnis, álaston expresses the atemporal duration, immobilized in a negative will, and immortalizing the past in the present" (p. 100). Her meaning is that forgetting is also positive, at least for the polis. We'll keep that in mind. But what a strange alignment of concepts! "Nonoblivion is all-powerful insofar as it has no limitsand especially not those of a subject's interiority" (p. 102). We are dealing here, allegorically in a certain light, with ritual mourning in ancient Greece, proscribed mourning, that is, mourning as it is written, which also means mourning as it is performed in the theatre. Loraux wants us to understand this genre of mourning as more "real" than any feeling of mourning that isn't put together just so, with just-so puttingtogethers of time and its opposite. Does one rebel? Does one criticize? Is it even in the picture? And for Sophocles' Electra, who has a freedom from time that we don't have, though we know (always knowing that we are free to see our knowledge ironically) that it's a falsehood? "Refusal and control of time, such appears to be the preferred linguistic formula to assert the oblivionless existence of Electra" (p. 105). An existence without oblivion? Omnipotence? Isn't this all the same story, the same myth, even myth itself and by extension conceptual thinking? Or is it just the concepts we've elected to deal with that constrain us? Well, in any case I'll give Loraux the final word:
And the negative formulation becomes a claim for omnipotence and a plan for eternity. Nothing of that recourse to litotes we sometimes think is detectable in the utterance of nonoblivion. Just the opposite, the reduplication that reinforces the negation, as in oú pote amnasteȋ 'No, he does not forget,' or the eternity of a future perfect (táde áluta keklḗstai 'Forever it will be called indissoluble'). It is up to us, listening to Freud, to understand in all these utterances the same denial, and the confession, made without the speaker's knowledge, that in fact one shall renounce and disown the wrath to which the future gave assurances of an unlimited becoming; it is up to us especially to understand the confession that the excessive negation will nevertheless be foughtvanquished, or at least silenced, and already forgottenby another negation, for renunciation also expresses itself with a great many verbs meaning "to deny": apeȋpon in the case of Achilles, and apennépō in the case of the Erinyes, compelled to revoke the prohibitions they had uttered against Athens.