Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mnesic Replay

Edgard Richard Sienaert, "Marcel Jousse: The Oral Style and the Anthropology of Gesture", Oral Tradition, 5/1 (1990): 91-106)

The human gestures obey the biological rhythm created by a concentration of energy followed by an energetic explosion after an action exercised upon man. The expressive quality and efficacy of gestural language is due to the fact that the subject relives in his gestures the phases of the experienced action in the order in which he saw them occur. The continuous gesture then is a propositional gesture similar to the basic grammatical proposition: subject-verb-object. In this way man plays out what was played in him, plays out his receptions, his "intussusceptions"–to "intussuscept" meaning taking possession of the outside world and carrying it inside. Play, then, is the osmosis of man and the reality that imposes itself upon him, it is the way by which reality is progressively instilled into him from childhood. It is this act of playing out, this play, that is at the origin of all art, for man needs to reproduce what he sees. He cannot but play out, he cannot do without art. Unlike the anthropoid, however, the anthropos can, through his bodily gestures, in an orderly fashion and in order to master them, consciously replay a perceived and intussuscepted gesture. This capability to re-play a once perceived reality in its absence, to re-present something past, is unique to man and it is memory that allows him to do so and thus makes him unique: through memory he replays experienced reality stored in him, through memory he conserves and transmits consciously his past actions and reactions and so is enabled to shape his future according to the experiences of the past. Memory is the reactivation of gestures previously internalized, shaped, played in us with the cooperation of our body. And the greater the participation of our body has been in the play–the more gestures participated in the playing out of the reception at first–the better will this past impression be expressed subsequently, the more efficiently will the stored facts be released, for memories are not ideas, much less images built into us, but gestures involving the whole of the human compound. Memory being gestural replay, the better the play–the intussusception–the better the re-play–the memory.

The original language then is corporeal, it is the expression of the entire body, of the entire being, of the whole of man. The gestures by which man replays can be differentiated according to the part of the body onto which the expression is transposed, according to which element of the human compound is called upon for ex-pression of the im-pression: the body as a whole, the eyes, ears, hands, the phonatory system–gesticulation can be corporeal, manual, ocular, auricular, or laryngo-buccal. Man went from corporage to manuélage to langage as global language was progressively concentrated in manual language–the sign language of the hands–and in laryngo-buccal language–that of the phonatory system, a gesticulatory reduction explained by a concern to economize energy and to free movement for purposes other than communication. This evolution is there for all to see, in all human beings who do not rely on writing—the "still spontaneous" peoples, children, deaf and dumb persons–and, on a secondary plane, in most verbal expression of literates, especially when emotion "takes over", clearly signaling that corporeal, ocular, and manual gesticulation is imbedded in the anthropos, that it is properly anthropological.

This of course relates to my experiments with the imaginary question. Let's play with the question a minute, think about its gesticulatory possibilities. How do Jousse's anthropological universals show themselves? What is the bilateralism of the question? How do we inquire evenhandedly? Why do we say things like "both sides of the question"? What is the mnesic question? What kind of experience could a question possibly relive? Does the question intussuscept in the same manner as the proposition? Is a question forever intussuscepting? Does the memorization of the question in any way interfere with its being a question?

Seinaert went on to edit The Anthropology of Geste and Rhythm which I hope to peruse a copy of before too long.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 1:09 PM.


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