Sunday, November 28, 2004
And these winter days
Linger for just too short
I'm unread as yet, tho'
And too young for love, therefore
I still long for those days, somehow
Where there was anyone at all to talk
As a poet I live too much alone
And I'm no good at telling stories
Lest when I'm alone
Of Jerusalem I write only fiction
And the sea is a story of Greek love
I'm a lonely young poet
But there's comfort:
In the world of thoughts
A Jew is never alone.
And in my mind
I see paintures and momenta
Of interesting stories
Of the foretold
That entice my young soul
Maybe I need companion
A less interesting life
And more talk
But who am I to predict the future?
See, without even imagining
I saw a ghost, a few hours ago
I believed him to be slain
In a play no one wrote
And I'm unable to talk on behalf of God
He and I aren't talking anymore
He must be woman, tho'
What an imagination he's got!
And of my woes he's kept no account
Therefore, I gather he didn't do university
For historian he's clearly not
But neither did I anyway
Yet a bit I understand
About this crazy world
And as long as I can write
I'll linger about and remain alive
And probably live even after I die
It's a beautiful witner's night
But I must run and hide
I'll be borne to the light
And not frighten from my own life.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
In chirping murmurs
Wasn't heard from a far
The yieldings of my heart
A profound yearning
From those clear urban mornings
Its drunken pitch
Intoxicating and pure
Didn't shake my walls
As the winds shake your oak
In my winter bruises
Through my brooks
You're vain, fictional and old
And all my capital
Such as the greenery
In the hedgerows
That woed upon my name
And wound my roads
Didn't call me from Aeolia
Its dying caress
Doesn't poison my skin
Its lowering height
Valleys and rows
Have forsaken my soul
Yet I so much long
For that voice of yours
That bestowed upon my soul
Ancient names and hopes
That granted to my youth
Riches and everlasting gold
For these days
I barely see your echoes
But in the thorns
That in zealous wrath
From beyond Orion
Continue to puzzle my sores
And in such bleedings
Looking into the canvas of my soul
Innocence and youth
I remember your voice
The thorns have come from the bushes
Not any near your oak
From within the gloom
Wherein, stroom this fog
That filthy as bog
Beneath my words
Stole your tongue
Its silence lingers
In my poems
For just too long.
Let us hasten into the days
When these pages
Sorrows will withhold
For their parfum
Is a sallowing odour
That requires from our souls
To be covered with a wooden cloth
Let our strems hollow
So that your words
No need to be pronounced
I'm sickening in agony
And foregoing your voice
For its embassies
Do not reach me
Its false and shallow comfort
Doesn't drunken my boats
That sink into the night
As I drown in my black-hued soul
I hear those tunes from Cyprus
That have come to dry my soul
I shall no listen to your voice
But the Cypriot chariot-wheeled mother
Understands how much I long
Of your voice I'm devoid.
Friday, November 26, 2004
A realm of encores
Wherein yielded my soul
A wealth of hopes
Dreams in store
Pouring through the thatched hairs
Of that midnight sun
In his bedroom
I forsook my gloom
Drowned in the noises
Of some chivalrous love
How would I not remember
His delicate touch
I was his little echo
Not as yet an ode
Now, I became an old song
Unforgettable those walls
Wherein my awe I overwrote
The morning brown table
With Schopenhauer and Proust
The needling brooks
Caressing the oak
Past the wall
Yielding my nerves
I just smoked
Then long hours of hope
Vanished as seconds of thought
Merciless Helios, behold!
The morning broke
My fear was sprung
And for the last time
His lips my name would recall
I would occupy my throne
And upon my will
Even the dew, would cease to fall
Beneath his arms
Around his back
I would dwell in comfort
All through the night
Selene would ail my sores
And for the last time
Of my oak
In my thoughts
I took hold
Simply by contemplating
Of what, among my riches
Would not be counted
My beautiful oak
As promised to the sun
With the arrival of Aurora
My throne, I forsook
I took a glance at the walls
And no longer my dreams
They wished to hold
It was a momentum
And then this wanderer
Continued his road
To whom once sought my soul
I smiled to the oak
Whose glowing face
I saw no more
And to a bucolic milieu
Where I belong, yet long
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Canvas of my thought
Today, I've realized
How alone you are
Devoid of soul
How much you long
You've never left me
You've been witness
Of the thousandth storm
My only companion
You, poor soul
Your humble nature
Stirrs my soul
But I couldn't give you more,
Of the knowledge of gods and lords
Of the wisdom of others
You've been envelope.
Have some pity on me, mon coeur
For even beneath your skin
I feel I long
Nowhere to belong
Tilting up my head
Searching for comfort
You're still a virgin
I'm your Don
How lonely is the poet
For his own pages
In his same language refuse to talk
Even in the Alps
The poet is alone
To an old sorrow
That pains at me
A sejour, an encore
Only for one day
To those foregone voices
In slowing depth,
Almost kinetic, soft
My purpose I endeavour
With slowing death
A timeless shade
My old ode
Thence I chew.
Dying with the day
Yet, it does no rain
Drowing with my ode
We're victims my ode
We're victims of the smoke
We seem of such pale
Almost made of stone
Almost all alone.
There's a circus of hopes
I've been a page
You've been my ode
In unwritten corpus
I'm your blank page, though
Henceforth you owe to return.
Your fatherland is lost
He's also your voice.
But today, is Wednesday.
I woke up to my filter coffee
On a Wednesday's morning
I returned to life, once again
I returned from Belsen, that day
After the last train
A postcard awaited me in the station
A postcard from him
Post nubilae, eternum.
I returned from Belsen that morning
But I didn't find you home
Has anyone kept my hopes in store?
I returned home on that Wednesday's morning
I returned to the tongue of my parents
Mon chanson, unison.
I read a few too many novels on the way
I retrieved your encores
In your chin, back then
I left a song.
Near the Unterwald we had a stop
Through those valleys in Thur, and beyond.
Therein, the song of your chin
I didn't find
Thence, from my childhood I returned
Only hadn't my answers grown old.
I still didn't find you home
Yet, to and fro
Your tunes in still
Is anyone home?
On that Wednesday morning
And that morning
Was still day
Today, is that morning when I returned
From Belsen, back and forth
Do not hasten your coffee cup
Only for one day though
I may here just long.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
I wouldn't be able to say whether Anne Frank herself is that particularly universal as the media has pretended us to believe in order to create a super-Anne Frank that would bring revenues to the Anne Frank Stichting (Holland) and Fund (Switzerland). Then we're talking about a mistified Anne Frank; and hence a particularly politically correct denial of the Holocaust and the Jewish-Dutch and Jewish-German experience during and following World War the 2nd. For each and every child in the West (and probably also in the east as the diary[ies] was successful translated into Japanese for example) and in particular in war-aware countries such as the Netherlands and the USA, have cried and laughed and smiled before the words written by a young girl known as Anne-Frank Hollaender. I believe the universality of her "work" does not rely on the fact that her concepts are universal themselves, but because the scope of the human experience in which the diary was built gives place to different phenomena that are common to the human sensibility, and that therefore might affect our general sensibilities. The Diary is actually not read in our history classes or in social science lessons, but rather in the fashion of language and literature, hence we cannot talk about universal concepts product of social dichotomies and phenomena that are common to each and every kid.
The theater plays and movies on the diary have tried vehemently to de-Hebraize the personality of Anne Frank, the personality in the text. Hence sentences such as "Why the Jews suffer?" are omitted and in many cases replaced by for example "Why people suffers?". To take away from the diary its Jewish character is to devoid Anne Frank of her inner value and of her life experience itself. Anne Frank was not "murdered" because she was a girl, a young girl, or because she was Dutch [because in fact she was NOT] but because she was Jewish, and that must be clear to the audience that pretends to plunge their ears into the sounds of her diary and the 2nd World War in general. You cannot destroy the Jewishness of Anne Frank in the text, which is basically a pivotal axis of the "theme", yet not of the substance which remains truely universal. Children-parents relationship, accute moral observations and above all, I believe the diary is specially particular because of the simple but deep philosophical divagations the young girl engages us into.
Anne Frank was not only a "young girl" whose procrastinations and illusions we've been reading since our young age; Anne Frank is indeed a particularly literary "persona" and the book beyond its historical meaning should be understood as a literary text; that's the homage we pay to Anne Frank. Many people was killed during the Nazi occupation and probably many diaries were written, and many of them have been therefore published but none of them has reached the level of success and international difusion Anne's did. The Diary was not simply a diary, but literary craftwomanship that has trascended the boundaries of the simple "telling" discourse and has become a canon, of children's literature and of Holocaust literature. The term of Holocaust literature is relatively new and the coining of the term might be inaccurate but if righteously so, Anne Frank shall occupy a place among the canons of this particularly non-uniform literary definition next to others such as Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi; although Miep Gies (who is not Jewish) and Stella Mueller-Madej should be included in this grouping as well.
Anne Frank is a literary phenomena that has sold millions of books, produced endless films and theater plays in different languages from all over the world. I believe we should retain the image of Anne the writer without forgetting the driving force and motivation to teach our kids about her "work". We can say even she was a writer in the make, consciously so. She dreamt about the times of the post-war when she'd become a writer and a journalist. We must honour her as the writer in order to satisfy those dreams that the Nazi machine of war cut off; in Bergen-Belsen, the concentration camp, we lost Anne Frank the writer, who might have been an "asset" indeed for the Dutch literature, for woman's literature and for Jewish literature. See the example of Laureen Nussbaum, who met Anne Frank in her childhood. Without having the apparent talent of Anne, Mrs. Nussbaum became a phenomenon in the feminist school in the United States and has been for already some time an emeritus lecturer in the field of literature; and also one of the persons that has honoured Anne Frank, for example through her contribution to the book "Women writing" with her essay "Women writing in Dutch". Mrs. Nussbaum might as well prepare a new edition of the diaries, that might not see the light at anytime soon.
[to be continued]
Monday, November 15, 2004
Here I go, from the diary of Anne Frank.... an opera of human life saved from the ashes of dread and death left by World War the 2nd. After I grew up I realized children's books are the most intellectually challenging and dense books, it's all so clear that it takes a while until you can diggest it. In the aftermath I'll comment, of course I chose the most universal paragraphs altogether with paragraphs that I find personally relevant. To be continued.
I hope I shall be able to confide in you completely, as I have never been able to do in anyone before, and I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to me.
"Paper is more patient than man"
I come to the root of the matter, the reason for my starting a diary: it is that I have no such real friend.
But I'm not so sorry, memories mean more to me than dresses.
"Misfortunes never come singly"
Ordinary people simply don't know what books mean to us, shut up here.
The only way to take one's mind off it all is to study, and that I do a lot.
"Go outside, laugh, and take a breath of fresh air," a voice cries within me, but I don't even feel a response anymore; I go and lie on the divan and sleep, to make the time pass more quickly, and the stillness and the terrible fear, because there's no way of killing them.
I do talk about "after the war", but then it's only a castle in the air, something that will never really happen. If I think back to our old house, my girl friends, the fun at school, it is just as if another person lived at all, not me.
Der Man hat einen grossen Geist
Und ist so klein von Taten!
[The spirit of man is great,
But how little in deeds he is]
"Leave me in peace, leave me alone," that's what I'd like to keep crying out all the time. Who knows, the day may come when I'm left alone more than I would wish!
"As long as this exists," I thought, "and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts, I cannot be unhappy."
When I looked outside right into the depth of nature and God, then I was happy, really happy. And Peter, so long as I have happiness here, the joy in nature, health and a lot more besides, all the while one has that, one can always recapture happiness. Riches can all be lost, but that happiness in your own heart can only be veiled, and it will still bring you happiness again, as long as you live. As long as you can look fearlessly up into the heavens, as long as you know that you're pure within, and that you will still find happiness.
And no one, especially the stupid "know-alls" here, can understand us, because we are much more sensitive and much more advanced in our thoughts that anyone here would ever imagine in their wildest dreams.
He clings to his solitude, to his affected indifference and his grown up ways, but it's just an act, so as never, never to show his real feelings. Poor Peter, how long will he be able to go on playing this role? Surely a terrible outburst must follow as the result of this superhuman effort?
God has not left me alone and will not leave me alone.
You know and I know that I'm strong, that I can carry most of my burdens alone.
I am the best and sharpest critic of my own work. I know myself what is and what is not well written. Anyone who doesn't write doesn't know how wonderful it is; I used to bemoan the fact that I couldn't draw at all, but now I am more than happy that I can at least write. And if I haven't any talent for writing books or newspaper articles, well, then I can always write for myself.
I want go on living even after my death! And therefore I'm grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me.
I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.
Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us what we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it's over, then Jews instead of being doomed, will be held up as example.
If Miep had taken us to the party we shouldn't have left any rolls for the other guests. I can tell you, we possivitely drew the words from Miep's lips, we gathered round her, as if we'd never heard about delicious food or smart people in our lives before! And these are the granddaughters of a millionaire. The world is a queer place!
Is it really good to follow entirely my own conscience?
"For in its innermost depths youth is lonelier than old age."
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Interior minister's clerks ignoring policy on foreign spouses
Poraz: Gay, not an excuse for illegal immigrants to stay
Poraz' Last Excuse
2. I'm not hyper-literary Mr. Judge; I'm rather conceptual and demistified. It's only your political correctness what has made of me an structural chapter of history.
3. The prohibition on coffee has been waived. It's a wholesome chapter of moral philosophy; now men are allowed to drink coffee; if we could only leave our screens.
4. Are you still subject to the laws? I thought you obbeyed divinity; but you've betrayed me. You're just another of those modernists.
5. I'm convinced you are a concrete building. How can you know that?. I've noticed your foundations already. What did you see?. A cluster of self, in a metallic shell.
6. Tomorrow. Will I be me?
Neither in the morning
I'm precluded from sleep
I rather awaken her,
I've returned to the days of Belsen,
My grandmother, my uncles,
I think of everyone
As I probably never left from there.
It's still an only one day for me,
Since the tale, since you are brave
I no longer ponder about me
I can only see myself behind wires.
In my diaries no more I write,
No words for the fatum of man I have,
But you're still alive
That always makes me smile.
There's no coffee this morning,
Because there was no sleep,
When the dew hasn't poured here....
Why would we waste our tears?
There was no bed, there was no self
Books in a shelf, myself a trend
Remember your name?
I, not other than myself
Into blank pages we turned
We no longer sleep
Tears are never shed
They preclude our existence
Behind a bar, or many bars
Urbanity in the fall
Insanity for all
Words of love before mourning
We still wait for a next morning.
Anne Frank, Saturday, March 25, 1944
That's some relatively new website devoted to some very specific gay issues; that are truely interesting. World history of male-to-male love in the Classical Cultures, mythography, novels, tales, poetry, and others.
I might actually start writing my paper about Hebrew medieval poetry; but I might need a couple of months to get over and done with it. I'm happy nevertheless.
Soon you'll see my name there, the guys going there are a bit weird but hopefully I can put some "order in the house"; I always do anyway... such a liberal myself. Thank goodness I ain't no American.
I'll comment this one when I've got some time, it's truely great.
The review is available at
A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader
Antony Easthope + Kate McGowan (editors)Allen & Unwin 1992
What is this thing called Postmodernism? What do they teach in Cultural Studies courses? Who are these people -- Derrida, Foucault, Kristeva -- my sister keeps talking about? It was in an effort to find answers to these and related questions that I bought A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader from the university bookshop, where a large stack marked its status as a course textbook.
Since much of what I am about to say is rather negative and will probably not be taken very happily by many people (ie anyone working in a Cultural Studies department), before I go any further I had better confess that I am a eurasian, middle-class, heterosexual male with a background in the natural sciences. No doubt someone will try to explain that this is why I can appreciate Said but find Althusser and Cixous and Spivak and Derrida "threatening". (Actually, since a majority of the people with access to the internet are still scientists, engineers, or people in the computer industry, I rather fear that this review will fail to provoke anyone at all, the most likely response being "Why on earth did you take it seriously enough to bother reviewing it? I could have told you it was all garbage without actually reading it.")
In the words of its introduction, A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader "is meant to provide an accessible introduction to the analysis of the texts of high and popular culture together." Many of the extracts, however, seem to have little or nothing to do with textual analysis. There are twenty-seven extracts by twenty-two authors (there are two extracts each from Foucault, Marx and Williams, and three from Barthes) divided into seven sections (entitled Semiology, Ideology, Subjectivity, Difference, Gender, Postmodernism and Documents in Cultural Studies). Each section has an introduction written by the editors and the back of the book contains summaries of the included works and short biographies of the authors and other important figures. The introduction admits that the editors' selection of texts is arguable and also points out that they have concentrated on the textual wing of Cultural Studies rather than the sociological wing.
What I am going to say applies mostly to those works that go way beyond textual criticism -- Derrida, Lacan, Cixous, Kristeva, Spivak, Lyotard and to some extent to Althusser, Barthes, Baudrillard, Macherey and others. I devote most of this review to discussing these extracts, as I feel they are the most representative in the volume, being the most recent in date and hence the most explicitly postmodern. What follows certainly does not apply to the earlier writings in the volume (Marx, Saussure, Freud, Leavis, Tzara), or to all of the others.
It is clearly hard to say anything generally applicable about such a diverse collection of extracts. But my reaction to a large number of the extracts (and those I feel are most "representative" for reasons discussed below) was extremely negative. The most notable thing about these writers is that they are extremely hard to read -- some of them use language so obscure as to be almost indecipherable. They also have a tendency to claim authority by citation and exegesis of one another and often equally obscure predecessors. They base their arguments on this kind of appeal and literary and linguistic word games rather than by reasoned argument or appeal to any kind of evidence. They also make extravagant claims about the scope and validity of their particular ideas/theories, while at the same time being amazingly parochial in their use of other disciplines. And when one succeeds in sorting out a kernel of content from the word games and exegesis, it usually turns out to be either banal or blatantly false. We are looking at constructions of dubious stability in their own right built on highly questionable theoretical foundations.
It seems to me that the writers in question actually go out of their way to be difficult to read. Their sentence structure and syntax seem designed to perplex and they have a fascination with puns, plays on etymology and grammar, apparently random use of quotation and other linguistic games. Now I have no objection to this (it is sort of entertaining) provided it is taken as a purely literary exercise (or perhaps as a kind of Zen Koan). However it seems rather out of place in any attempt to argue anything serious and, even worse, some of the authors seem to think they can demonstrate something significant with a play on words, or that particular aspects of French grammar or difficulties in translation from the German actually have some kind of universal significance. And they cite one another's puns!
The other way in which they abuse language is lexically. They use specialised jargon from different disciplines in inappropriate places, introduce their own terms without definition, and use ordinary language terms in what are clearly not the ordinary senses of the words. Unexplained capitalisation of words like "subject" and "other" and the use of untranslated Greek is commonplace. It seems to me that this is largely done in order to hide the otherwise manifest confusion of their basic metaphysics. The basic problem here seems to me to be that certain ideas and theories, most notably semiology and psychoanalysis, have been ripped from their proper domains and grossly misapplied. Some of the authors seem to feel they can use whatever metaphysical theories are most convenient and then discard them when they sprout unwanted consequences.
The worst offender in this regard is Derrida's essay Differance. (This is included in its entirety and is the longest extract in the volume, so the editors clearly feel it is important. It is also cited by other writers included in the volume.) Since no amount of description will give the uninitiated any idea of what it is like, here is an extract (an unusually clear paragraph!).
"Uneasy and uncomfortable" indeed! Anyone can claim immunity from metaphysical prosecution, and I am tempted to respond by playing the positivist and arguing that this is completely meaningless nonsense. That would be asking for trouble, however, so I will instead steal a line from Feyerabend , and just say that it bores me to tears -- I have no intention of reading any more Derrida, as life is too short and there are too many other interesting things to read.
"Retaining at least the framework, if not the content, of this requirement formulated by Saussure, we will designate as differance the movement according to which language, or any code, any system of referral in general, is constituted 'historically' as a weave of differences. 'Is constituted', 'is produced', 'is created', 'movement', 'historically', etc. necessarily being understood beyond the metaphysical language in which they are retained, along with all their implications. We ought to demonstrate why concepts like production, constitution, and history remain in complicity with what is at issue here. But this would take me too far today - toward the theory of the representation of the 'circle' in which we appear to be enclosed - and I utilize such concepts, like many others, only for their strategic convenience and in order to undertake their deconstruction at the currently most decisive point. In any event, it will be understood, by means of the circle in which we appear to be engaged, that as it is written here, differance is no more static than it is genetic, no more structural than historical. Or is no less so; and to object to this on the basis of the oldest of metaphysical oppositions (for example, by setting some generative point of view against a structural-taxonomical point of view, or vice versa) would be, above all, not to read what here is missing from orthographical ethics. Such oppositions have not the least pertinence to differance, which makes the thinking of it uneasy and uncomfortable."
This linguistic and metaphysical confusion is paralleled by a worrying anti-empirical streak. I don't suppose it would ever occur to some of these people to look at the real world. Of course they probably don't accept that there is a "real" world and hold more or less extreme relativist positions, but they make no effort whatsoever to make their position explicit, and certainly do not face up to the problems that come with such views. Marx criticised his fellow philosophers for interpreting the world instead of trying to change it, but some of these writers aren't even interested in interpreting the world, only in interpreting one another's interpretations!
The other common feature is argument by exegesis of certain authors who have been "canonised" by the postmodern movement. So there is a tendency to quote Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein or even Derrida himself the way Fundamentalists use the Bible -- as if they were divinely inspired sources of truth. For this kind of "proof by citation" the more difficult and obscure the author cited is the better . The inclusion of the passages by Marx in the volume seems to me similar in nature. They are not necessary to understand the other extracts, and seem to serve mostly to "authenticate" the discipline (and "legitimate" it politically) by claiming Marx as a spiritual ancestor.
None of these things would upset me so much, except that the writers in question insist on making massively extravagant claims. So the introduction to the section on gender begins "Every sign is gendered" -- a claim from which we can rule out a priori the possibility of an asexual alien species with culture! And on the basis of psychoanalytic theories which are arguable enough as explanations of human neuroses people feel they can make pronouncements about epistemology in general. Everyone wants their discipline, their pet theory to be more fundamental than all other disciplines. (Not that this isn't a failing of some physicists and biologists too, of course, but they very rarely achieve the kind of idiocy evidenced by several of the authors in this volume.)
This extravagance of claims is matched by an amazing parochiality of knowledge. While cultural studies claims to embrace sociology and literary criticism and anthropology and linguistics and psychoanalysis, what its exponents have in fact done is to take the bits and pieces from each discipline that suit them and ignore the rest. They have completely turned their backs on the natural sciences, not even deigning to acknowledge their existence by denying their importance. One wonders whether some of these authors actually know of their existence. At any rate it certainly wouldn't occur to them to them that if they want to understand consciousness or perception of time then the work of cognitive psychologists, neurobiologists and philosophers of mind might be relevant. So Lyotard (in an extract from The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge) is prepared to make general statements about science although he appears to know nothing about science, the history of science or any work on the philosophy of science done since Wittgenstein. Apparently to understand modern science all we need to do is to read Kant and Hegel and assorted other 19th century thinkers in the right way.
Well that sums up my general feelings about those extracts, but what about the others? The passages from Saussure, Marx and Freud do not suffer from the problems above, however due to their age and positions they can hardly be considered part of the cultural studies program per se. (And some people would do well to remember that Freud thought of himself as a scientist, not a literary critic!) The extract from Saussure's Course in General Linguistics was interesting, since I had never seen it before, despite its frequent citation in linguistics. The two extracts from Foucault (particularly the first, from Discipline and Punish) stay just close enough to reality to be interesting, and I could be tempted to read more of his work. I have come across references to Said's Orientalism in several other places, and the extract contained here has encouraged me to go and buy myself a copy.
In general, where "postmodernism" is restricted to literary criticism and critical studies (as the introduction claims is its domain) it is a lot more reasonable. In the hands of Barthes semiology appears to be a useful tool for the analysis of mythology and of a short story of Balzac's (extracts from Mythologies and S/Z), and the same holds for the extract from McCabe about realism in the cinema. But even within literary criticism the theoretical background of postmodernism often seems more of a hindrance than an aid. So extracts from Macherey (semiology applied to the production of literary texts), Baudrillard (Disneyland as reality), Mulvey (psychoanalysis of cinema narrative) and Jameson (Postmodernism or, the Logic of Late Capitalism) share many of the problems of the authors discussed above. The final section (Documents in Cultural Studies) is the only one which really seems to address what the introduction claims is the topic of the volume. However none of the extracts really seems to have much to do either with postmodernism (as explained in the previous section) or with the rest of the volume. The extract from Leavis' Mass Civilization and Minority Culture is a straightforward defence of "high culture" and the passages from Adorno and Williams seem to draw a lot more on Marxism than on "postmodernism".
And what about the "sociological wing" of the "cultural studies program" which was omitted from this volume? I don't know anything about Habermas or Bakhtin or Bourdieu, but I have delved fairly extensively into the works of Levi-Strauss and Geertz (these are the five writers listed as representative in the introduction). As far as I can see Geertz and Levi-Strauss are anthropologists, and it makes no sense whatsoever to incorporate them into "cultural studies" along with Derrida and Kristeva and company; they have a lot more in common with Malinowski and Evans-Pritchard. I don't think that either of them would want to be associated with the kind of anti-empirical nonsense this volume is full of, either.
So what is left of the "cultural studies programme" when one removes the linguistic games, metaphysical drivel, arguments by exegesis, etc.? I would argue that one is left with a collection of many different strands of thought -- some of value, some of dubious interest -- without any real unity. It seems to me that those parts of "cultural studies" which are of interest are more sensibly labelled "sociology" or "psychoanalysis" or "anthropology". I cannot see what Derrida has in common with Williams, or why Foucault should be classified along with McCabe. I suspect that they are tied together only because their "followers" share certain beliefs and that Cultural Studies departments are the result of academic empire building as much as anything else.
In the name of pluralism cultural studies tries to cram everything into a narrow theoretical framework built on semiology and psychoanalysis, a framework entirely incapable of carrying the weight put on it. In the name of interdisciplinary studies postmodernists have sealed themselves into their own narrow degree programmes and courses and turned their back on the rest of the universe. While many of the works that are labelled "postmodern" and taught as "cultural studies" are interesting, the subject/discipline as a whole is built on sand.
 Talking about astrology in the postscript to Three Dialogues on Knowledge.
 Has anyone noticed how rarely Russell is quoted compared to Wittgenstein? The reason is that one can read Russell, understand what he is talking about and then rewrite it in one's own words. You don't get any kudos for interpreting him. But with Wittgenstein and Nietzsche it isn't possible to do this, so one can show how clever one is by finding new and different interpretations of their writings. This, to me, is the way one tells philosophy from literature.
28 June 1993
My name is Ari, and I'm writing you from Israel. I read your review on the book "A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader" and I most likely tend to agree with your opinion thoroughly and have quoted the article in my paper "Theo Van Gogh & Arafat: Our Prince of Sarajevo or Deconstructionist Semiotics?" available in my blog (http://philologist.blogspot.com). I want to give you my opinion on a few topics though:
1. Cultural Studies is indeed a discipline, and it's not only post modern fallacy. It was actually "invented" by the guys of the Frankfurt School and it was divided into different segments of divagation. I believe that was the beginning of the modern philosophy, post Nietzsche, Heidegger and the other great philosophers. Ever since nothing has been done, just critical theory. But there's also serious people engaged in CS.
2. True, I don't need to read Derrida either, the triangle of Foucault, Derrida and Delezue I thoroughly avoid. I find myself more comfortable with the HHH triad (Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger)
3. Ever read books of Jungian thought? I think that's from where they fed themselves. From cognitive psychologisms, then they started to destroy western philosophy and literature.
4. They need to quote of course people like Heidegger, Saussure and Marx for they have no theories of their own. I can't say we haven't benefited from this postmo CS thing, but most likely not. I'm actually leaning towards classical liberalism, modernism.
5. Postmodernism is not a discipline or a movement, is a grouping (proper or not) of several disciplines and movements. Whether they're as correlated as their preachers claim, I don't know. Only After Postmodernism will answer to that.
6. Sure, I agree. To understand modern sciences it suffices with reading the good ol' philosophy. If you want to not-understand-at-all science, then curdle up into the postmodernist crap.
7. Postmodernism as any intellectual movement can't be restricted to literary criticism. In fact show me the first poem or novel that we can call postmodern? Maybe hyper-literary or pragmatic or feminist. But postmo as a whole?
8. Cultural theory will be the philosophy of the future, you'll see. It's been ever since the Frankfurt School. We just need to get rid of this postmo crap first, a NY-based art curator once told me: A 2nd modernism, that's what we need. A new modernism.
9. Geertz and Levi-Strauss? Watch out, they're probably the core of modern cultural studies. Anthropology actually collaborates a lot to CS&T, in as much as sociology does, don't overlook the fact the post-modernity have brought most science closer to each other. for example biology and linguistics. We don't know the answer whether it's good or bad.
10. The discipline is not built on sand, only the current theory is. Ever since post-structuralism. The deliberate "assassination" of text.
PD: Your review goes back as far as 1993. I hope you are not as yet aware of the outrage Postmo has caused in CS ever since.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
I find no comfort in my sleep
I still wander through devenir
Who am I to please, indeed?
Still didn't get a haircut
In still, smoked, I've been
Devoid of thought, enfin
I no longer believe the time.
Neither remember whether I lived,
Nor the tongue I now speak,
Happily gay, even queer,
A child lived thorough in me.
Below his arms, I could falter
Above the earth, I hasten
Ever since grew old my answers,
I dwell'd in the moon, the sea, oh! father.
Still lost within, somewhere in Jerusalem and trying to forget that there's anything outside this room, that there's anything outside my books, my writing and my poetry. I'm fully aware this blog is not really a diary but sometimes I owe to tell the truth to myself. I don't really have anyone I can talk to, therefore I talk to myself most of the time. The sky here down in Rechavia is very beautiful, I see the trees and the air is so cold... I feel like transported, like living somewhere else. My life up north seems like a distant nightmare I don't want to get hold of, in spite of all those wonderful people that are always around me. But despite all my fluffy talk I never really get to say anything real about myself... hence to avoid the deceiving words and thoughts and pitiful remarks from most of my acquaintances I rather write poetry and think about the beauty that there's in knowledge, the beauty of life itself and I think about how fortunate I am for I've received a brilliant mind, I actually started to like it, my analogies, my inner music, the way I think, my fastening ideas.
Ever since the theft of the computer I feel one of my arms has been cut for I'm unable to write, so I wander in between houses of friends and strangers in order to get hold of some little space in my only window to the world, my window to this precious knowledge of books and ancient civilizations. My books don't seem to do a job anymore, but I'm just being ambitious for I have enough of them and were I disciplined enough I think I could learn far more than the average man knows about anything I would like to; I could for example get for once at all acquainted with mathematics. In the prison that my room is actually so many interesting things are learnt, beautiful music is heard and I see myself in the beauty of the Greek ephebus, transparently clean somehow and with silk-weary skin... I know for sure this all will fade away one day but as for now, I enjoy contemplating it... I touch my arms in the day light and I find how delicate and fragile of a thing I am. And albeit no one can really look through it I'm glad that I have it because it makes me feel I'm not that contemptuous monster I believe myself to be.
I wish I could start some chapters of my life once again and that had my fate been written again, I'd have a more pleasant come and go about through the divagations of life, that hideously enjoys plenty of leisure time on my weightful existence. Here in Jerusalem at a half-stranger's house I just do nothing but spending time in front of the computer, writing, reading, specially reading and enjoying the pleasure of literatures and philosophies; if anyone could understand how much all this is valuable to me. I think I have no other real passion in life than this knowledge, and if I ever had any others they've slowly but certainly taken away from me. Except one though, I'm always believing these hastening and darkening days will pass and that I'll find some comfort in my life; I don't really expect to grow up... neither to live a normal life for I've already accepted it's technically impossible for me... but I want to be a child, I want to play with my science and my poems and to spend the rest of my life doing so, against conventions, even when it means doing it against the conventions that are against conventions.
It's a survivor's tactic probably, you're unable to lose your faith... and even when I procrastinate and talk I always have faith, I believe in myself and that something great will come out of me when it's the right time; I just owe to have some few good beginnings and I think I truely deserve them. These hard days make me think about how beautiful my life has been and how much I've received, maybe not the way I wanted but I have. I've been also loved by people, maybe not by my parents but by other people, I receive lots of love... and I should be grateful for that. I don't think there's anyone who hasn't been loved at all in his life... and in juxtaposition sometimes I've received way more than I deserve. But life knows how she does her things, who am I to live up to it anyway?
I see a darkening future approaching me with a venomous breathe, but I also see some light in the end, I see my mind as the only weapon that will succeed in pulling me through this storm. Two days ago was daddy's birthday, I can't even remember what he's really like, I mean... we talk sometimes just because I make the effort curdling into the hope of some loving words but they never come. He thinks I'm too smart and too cosmopolitan and too well educated to waste time on that shit, and he doesn't waste it either, because he considers himself too low-class for that as well. I really wish I had less of a brain and more of a restful life but you can't get everything in life. Such has been the fate of the greatest masters of all times, not that I'm one of them but probably one day people will hear what I have to say. When will I happen to have the chance to sit in a classroom again? To walk fearlessly and smile to people in the streets? To delight myself in the windows of the stores and dream? My dreams seem to have been in unrest for so long, and they're just longings for all those things I'm lacking of. I live in my own world insice a little cup, inside a little glass house and it's beautiful in there, but I'd like to come out to the world every once in a while, but for now I see it's absolutely not possible. .. when I do anyways I have no one to talk to, or at least not someone who I'd call a friend. There's people who loves me, and some of them I love back, but I don't know if I'd call them friends. This diary, journal, blog, academish site, etc. is probably the only confident I have. The one who understands my metaphors and my hyperbolic sentences and those desperate longings for warmth I write about in my verses.
It's time to have a smoke, the nicotine always produces a poisonous effect on my brain, it's like a drug.. and I don't seem to refuse clinging onto it as much as I can. The last months have given me the impression every minute out there can be my last one.
[Focus Nederland] Theo Van Gogh and Arafat : Our Prince of Sarajevo or Deconstructionist Semiotics? (Incomplete)
"Justice is discordant; war being the father and mother of justice, the one that turns kings into slaves and slaves into kings";This is one of the politico-philosophical statements least seriously taken by modern readers from the works of the Pre-Socratic philosophers. Written in an ancient and dark Greek dialect that is still uncomprehensible to most students of Attic Greek in our Classics seminars without previous experience; nevertheless this powerful statement, that could be simply defined as a very early statement in political thought should have been taken more seriously and it still should. Some thinkers and politicians of our times have probably not read the Pre-socratic philosophers and are not what we would call logocentric thinkers; our philosophical systems and scientific paradigms have evolved in many different ways so that we normally need not to regard such as "sententia magna" in our highly interpretative cultures; specially in times of deconstructionist philosophies and humanist thought, openly encouraged by our postmodern thinkers that rather "destruct" and not "deconstruct" the operae magnae of our our civilization in their social semiotics; the destruction of the text and the super-importance of the discourse. The current structuralist and post-structuralist approaches, even when undeniable important for the advancement of the modern linguistic science, constitute nothing but a denial of the most basic linguistics principles; sciences such as the historical-comparative linguistics and molecular biology themselves are more to regard as explanatory vehicles of our history in diachronic perspective than any constructivist and hyper-cognitive approach of our days.
As a classicist I do not fear to defy the current paradigms of political sciences, who regard Plato and his dialogue "Republic". On the ground of having looked up into the Classical works of different civilizations that make up the cultural-anthropological strati of the Western culture, I could definitely state that political philosophy might be regarded as old as organized language and might have been present even in the so-called anthropological cultures that preceded our fore first civilizations (Sparta, Athens, Israel, Egypt, et alia) ; I might even regard it as "political thought" instead of political philosophy, having radically altered our definitions of science, thought and philosophy all through the centuries, standing nowadays way behind Kant's famous "Was ist Erklaerung?" and occupying ourselves once again with simple questions such as what is science, philosophy or culture in general. Not even the works of Leibniz and Descartes have achieved their purpose to respond to those questions effectively, and certainly postmodernism does not in any sense. What we have elaborate probably is a methodological interdisciplinary discourse that have allowed the social science, the human science and the exact science to begin pondering about those questions borrowing methodologies, approaches and current dogmas. Sciences such as socio-biology and cognitive psychology are a good example of the current "devenir" of science in general. Political thought, inasmuch as homosexuality, religious conscious, essential sexual identities and others has been present since the awakening of civilization; and it would be wrong to state there is no political struggle intended in so-called sacred texts as the Hebrew scriptures, the Athenian laws and the Roman codex; I could mention many others that were present in different Near-Eastern and less known Indo-European cultures such as the Tocharians, the Babylonians and the Hitties, but from my background almost exclusively relying on the Classics I prefer to withhold myself to quote relevant examples without having been sufficiently elucidated in the subject. I also must clearly state I am not pretending to establish or expose any Marxist view on the subject, I am talking about cultural sub-identities (albeit we probably know no longer what this really means in the melting pot of deconstructionism of text) as a whole. It is not an economics-centered history of civilizations that includes sub-strati of economic power and trade as a consequence what I am advocating for.
Many of what I would call "cultural sub-identities" of the Judeo-Christian civilization have been to some extent mistakenly drawn from accidental and circumstancial "endeavours" of former civilizations. Good examples of this cultural wrongdoing would be homophobia, certain spectra of national identity (another term to a large extent confused ever since modernity), religious identity and the pre-modern legal systems such as the "Droit Roman", the Islamic law and Halacha, the Jewish legal system. The contemporary legal battle between identity and logic, between usability and semantic formality, between constitutionality and citizenship concensus are just small examples of how our modern democracies have engaged in the well-extended deconstructionist discourse of social semiotics and in spite of the state-of-the-art-technology our world exhibits we are as yet unable to tackle with the most simplistic matters that make organized live in society possible. It is a super-imposed example of what social science would call "social symbiosis"; our development as societies, civilizations, countries, etc. is dependant not on our conceptual asbtractions, definitions of the limits of power and science, etc. but on other less fundamental issues such as immediate power, mediatic outreach and economic progress; again this is not meant as a Marxist theory of history, it could be actually more of an Existentialist view. Even in the awakening of the 21st century the most basic questions of human existence and knowledge "in itself" and "by itself" are still largely unanswered. The civilizations are being led simultaneously in two ways, one forward and the other backward; that phenomena actually make me think about the end of history that was foreseen in the Classical and even Archaic texts; such as the statement of Hesiodus in which he claims in "those days" -probably referring to the modernity,
"our children will not borne such as the children of today, our children will be borne with their eyes wide open".I grant some degree of truth to this metaphor, finding ourselves in a competitive society of the end of times in which our science seems to able unable to break through the most basic concepts; quantum physics is a clear example of this trend, the quantum physicist will be able to explain us what the quantum is about, how it behaves, how it developed, how it can be used and how we are as yet unable to use it; still he is unable to tell what this quantum is about. The same could be said about most other sciences, unless we are following a postmodern discourse in which everything is relative to the observer and the intention of the author, and therefore text itself has no value of its own and the discourse is what we should be calling upon; postmodern arbitrariness. I personally still find myself puzzled by this structuralist view, and even when I condemn as well the narrow-minded view of the philologist (in which I was educated and from which I constitute a somehow biggoted and intellectually-classist element) to follow the text slavishly, relying on nothing but the literary metaphor to explain core values of men; there the modern social sciences provided us with a great deal of information, for example anthropologists and sociologists enhanced our views of the Classical world from providing us with extra-textual information that accounted for the understanding or interpretation of certain historical period as a whole. The text has value, for it is the only evidence we have of history; nevertheless there are exceptions such as oral traditions maintained through generations and folk tales whose versions vary from one historical period to the other, from one dialect to the other, from one geographic region to the other. In this aspect linguistics have proven itself one of the most interesting sciences (indeed a science) clustering somewhere in between the human sciences (e.g. historical linguistics), the social sciences (e.g. semiotics), and the exact sciences (phonology, computational linguistics). This science serves an ulterior purpose by investigating language as a whole without procrastinating in the symbol or the text or the purely socio-economic trends; I will sin of postmodern and will leave linguistics allienated and on its own, trying to avoid the structuralist claim of Levi-Strauss that linguistics is the most advanced of the social sciences because of its highly empirical methodology and analytical approach infered from certain given data, which cannot be interpreted thus by any other social science. Maybe it is needlees to be thus postmodern, we might just say in general lines, linguistics is still a human science, not the science of text, role that is definitely played better by the goold ol' philology (although the term is not very widely used in English, the Germans in their lust to be super-specific use it much better, "die Philologie") than by critical theory or anthropology. Linguistics is, as the coining of the term specifies it, "die Sprachwissenschaft"- the science of language.
This extensive discourse obviously does not unravel the questions posed in modern science and philosophy, but rather complicates the matter so that we wind up with an hyper-cognitive tendency to "over-intellectualize" what once used to be clear definitions in science and knowledge. I am not self-assured about the accuracy of those out-dated definitions or of any definitions at all and as a classical liberalist I prefer to understand it as simple opinions within an epistemological system, thus the validy of those opinions entirely depend on the context of the receiver, such as in Saussure's "signifee" and "signifier" analogies that basically constitute the foundational ground of scientific linguistics. This freedom of opinions as convenient as it might be constitutes actually a foremost important limitation; for we're denying henceforth the existence of a material world as in the classical realism preached by Aristotle and foundational stone of the positivist science and theology. In the subjectivist system of thought founded by Descartes the world is actually an individual idea that is entirely dependant on the existence of the observer, of the Saussurian "signifier". This logocentric idea that was expelled from scholarly philosophy and science ever since the formal introduction of Christendom, that gave birth to the post-aristotelic philosophy whose main aim in the eyes of the Christian philosophy was to establish a world of absolute truth and dogmatism that in my eyes did not exist in any of the Classical cultures other than the Ancient Hebrews, which might have been actually a conservationist ethos. When the early Christianity of Byzantium underwent its formative period the absolutist idea of Judaism entered and permeated the West indefinitely; and finding there substance within those neo-aristotelic ideas would breed the new cultural identity of the West; that would be super imposed on other pre-existent cultures until the Middle Ages found a fully converted Europe. The ideas of Descartes were not properly his, for such ideas were taught in different schools of thought all over the Greek world, particularly in ancient times during which there was no clear distinction between nowadays clearly defined sciences such as philosophy, medicine, theology and literature. The famous aphorism of Heraclitus is illustrates the archaic hermeneutics:
"If you have not heard me but the Logos, it is wise to ascertain by means of the senses that all things constitute only one very thing".This idea is basic to our modern notions of cosmology and ontology and great philosophers and thinkers of our times developed wholesome systems of thought based on the science of those great men of the western antiquity, such as Heidegger and Nietzsche, and poets such as Hoelderlin. The motivations of their works are not to be elucidated here but this is merely a confirmation of how the ideas of the antiquity as they were, permeated through the Judeo-Christian positivism and gave birth to a liberal philosophy, whose highest peak was found probably in Nietzche with his openly alleged assassination of God, replaced by the ultimate man who happened to be an Indo-European, the sub-stratus of pre-Classical culture and obviously contrary to the dogma established by the systems of thought prevalent until that time. I am not sure we have produced any great philosophy ever since. Our ideas have been altered by fashionable anthropologisms and historicisms that have started to curdle up into old unanswered questions and righteously so; nevertheless following the opinion of those whom I consider the greatest thinkers of Western civilization those questions are not to be answered by means of positivist empirism and constructivism. As an alleged existentialist I could claim that poetry and literature of all times have extensively answered to the challenge of responding to those interrogants of existence without answering straightforward but simultaneously not precluding us from the divagations that are thus necessary; Camus, De Beauvoir and Unamuno, etc. are good examples of this introspective approach. I believe the role of popular literature in the interpretation of culture has been far more accurate than that of modern philosophy, for most of us intellectuals of present times sicken in our intellectual miopia; Marxism itself even as a working-class empiric response to the class-dominated science of the time, sins in its approach and lacks a broad spectrum of overview.
These questions themselves troubled the Renaissance man, and philosophy/art was produced as a response, even science. Not only the Renaissance man was bothered with this question, but also the Enlightenment man, such as Kant and Mendelsohn - particularly Kant. Many of those of us who have studied modern philosophy are familiar somehow with the moral categorizations of Kantian philosophy, its subjectivism and Idealism, better defined as Idea-ism. In his times science was probably less abstract than it is today, hence a more accurate definition of certain phenomena was thoroughly possible. The epos of positivist science was encouraged by philosophers, therefore a moral philosophy was necessary. It would not be the moral-political theory of the state that would invest the King with heavenly powers as representative of God on earth, neither would be a Marxist theory of the state; as we start to approach "Modernity" (a very complicated term these days) there was a need for an individually moral philosophy, that would be actually fundamental in the development of contemporary legal theory; yet very much not dettached from the dogma of a man's obligations and its morality as an end-by-itself. That certainly would be of nothing but little use in the world of today. Kant, still invested with the Prusian dogma would actually become the foundational stone of the later Protestant Ethics and Romanticism even, unknowingly. He claimed that man should be restrictive in private but more free in public; what does it really mean? Man should act "restrictively" in private, hence he owes to pay his taxes and comply with his obligations as a citizen and as a "member of the Church", and on the ground of those conditions being fulfilled then he would be allowed to be free in "society" and act less determinated. This categorization of morality as an end-by-itself strikes me as I find it terribly symptomatic of the Enlightened society, but what is interesting about Kant's "What is Enlightenment?" beyond the theory of man and the state is the question over the "mature man". Part of his moral philosophy debates the topic of "responsibilities of man" and hence he explains in detail how difficult is for man to be free; freedom requires more responsibility and self-consent than being restricted. Does then deconstructing literature and human conceptualization in general require more responsibility than simply constructing? Is this responsibility of the moral kind, or of the national kind or of the supra-national kind? I believe we are unable to answer those questions as yet. In the eyes of Kant the mature man was that of the Enlightenment, the man who could learn from its own history in a moral fashion and who would be dettached from the traditions and practices of backward cultures, either local or foreign. Such man would "adapt" himself to the state-of-the-art trends in religion; he would be restrictive in private but free in society.
The Kantian philosophy was not an end-by-itself, and such moral philosophy was radically altered by others, in particular the HHH triada that is studied together at some European universities (Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger). Heidegger might have been the last slabon of moral philosophy before the "deconstruction" and his philosophy, insofar as morality and technology goes is still very influential in Postmodernism. Kant was advanced by others and his categorizations, if not useless, proved themselves unnecessary and out of fashion by the philosophical trends that followed afterwards; that does not refer only to Kant but probably to any pre-modern philosopher, now we presumably do not have this challenge as we are not really making philosophy, or that is at least my opinion. In times of critical theory and semiotic hermeneutics the text as itself has lost its value; not that I didn't mention it before. The bastard son of formalism and structuralism is probably the death of the text and the new super-position of his majesty the discourse. If the text has no value, hence we cannot create philosophy, or at least as such as we used to believe it to be. We cannot demerit the value of Kantian philosophy and specially, of Kantian aesthetics in the panorama of general theory of art and the so-called critical theory or cultural theory, laid out by the Frankfurt School that in my humble view constitutes the "new" philosophy. The critic and hermeneutics of our current philosophical faculties might be better described as such, critical theory and hermeneutics; Nietzsche killed God and Postmodernism killed the text, only the discourse matters, and accordingly our current philosophy could not be described as such, for shall it be considered text? Probably not, we are more concerned with the get-around's of the discourse. Hermeneutics and critical theory then, not philosophy. Yet, is this critical theory to be considered systematic thought or a system of thought? That is a question we must leave for the next generation; for the "neo-modernists" S. Subrizi advocates in art.
In between the lines we can read then that the Enlightenment man of Kant was apparently not our "mature man"; neither was that of Marx nor the Modernist. Several ideological movements motivated by different world crisis did not respond to the question of the mature man, neither constituted themselves an example of the mature man. This question is posed by Foucault, the father of social constructivism and one of the most important Postmodern thinkers. The only thing I did not read about that "mature man" in Foucault, was that probably the "ultimate man" of Nietzsche is too "mature" to our understanding. Probably his philosophy was advanced way too many decades; and as far as art and literature are not able to cope with this phenomenon of the "ultimate man" of Zarathustra, we are unable to answer the question of whether he constituted the mature man or not for we lack a popular expression that might integrate the cognitive experience of the pure science with the manifestations proper of an intellectual or social movement. Existentialism, albeit my core trend, does not really constitute a rational or rationable explanation to the questions posed on the "mature man". Somehow the "man" of Kafka, Camus and Kierkegaard solves the question of the mature man, also does Kundera probably. But their proposed alternative do not really fall into the place in the eyes of the reason, and if we try to look at it through the eyes of Modernism, that is openly an anathema that contradicts Realism and Modernisn; for on the side of the cultural struggle for openness and freedom of speech and forms, the Modernist talk advocates for a different kind of knowledge, for an open knowledge against the conventions of Plato (the structure of the dialog would become a recurrent topic in early formalism and structuralism) and the "oscurantist" philosophies that would pose questions pre-assuming a certain knowledge and leave the question unanswered. The Modernist wanted answers in a world in crisis and struggled to find them through exploration of different new and radical creative styles; we can trace this evolution for example from the paintings of Camille Pissarro that markes a definit hit in the French Impresionist School through the greatest painters of our times such as Kandinsky and Van Gogh.
[Pictures Pissarro, Van Gogh and Kandinsky]
All sets of philosophical works that were merely "textual" were still valid in Modernism though, which was considered to have been a rational movement. Symbolist and Modernist Schools in French poetry are good examples of how successful the Modernist movement was in its pursuances. Baudelaire postulates a "theory" of Modernism, just as Shelley proposed a general manifesto of Romanticism. In his view Modernism was not a movement that claimed for the destruction of the old forms, but instead looked for new perspectives, for different perspectives, and for answers to the needs of our times; not to the needs of kings and patrons of long aristocratic lines. Asher quotes Foucault when he says that the two great discontinuities in the "episteme" of Western civilization are the first, inaugurated with the Classical period, and the 2nd, in the 19th century marking the beginning of what we call the "Modern Era". This revolutionary movement known as the Modernism and the inauguration of "Modernity" as a panoramic concept would surpass the achievements of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment in a very different way. The socio-political and cultural movements of the time, with the conflicts the world found itself at the time would shape most of the prevalent ideas of our times. I am not sure myself whether Modernism ever came to an end, but it is clear from literary and artistic schools that it branched out and streamed into different movements that would give birth to its wicked son; Postmodernism. According to C. Greenberg, the great art critic, we are not sure anymore and never have been about what Postmodernism is, except in architecture. The contemporary urban theory and its streamings in between the exact sciences, art and the social theory have indeed turned into a Postmodern era; as far the arts and the humanities are concerned such phasing has not taken place. Greenberg and others find themselves also in the position that many artists are described and criticized as Postmodern by art writers and critics that might have come from a certain Postmodern school, but not because they have ever claimed so. Postmodernism is a highly debatable concept, and in general a movement I oppose not only for the sake of the Classical values and importance (mind I did not say super-importance) of text, but also because such movement has been the trigger of the spread over the world of a new "unanimous" humanism that has led our societies, and therefore our civilization in general, to a state of destruction. Not the humanism of Eramus, nor the one of Descartes and the liberal thinkers. A politicized humanism, from a politicized Postmodernism. Postmodernism would make semiotics of terrorism acceptable, would make of militant feminism an example of sympathy, and hand by hand a new type of working-class homosexuality would be "created" on the ground of a socio-constructionist queer theory, of course their aims are more over-politicized than intellectually-constructed. I want to talk about Postmodernism a bit.
According to Solomon and others, Postmodernism was born as a "misinterpretation" of Nietzsche philosophy and American social movements of leftist nature. I see it also as a French phenomenon product of Foucault, the critical theory and the crisis of science and religion. Solomon also claims it is a European theory in origin but one that reflects what basically is an American phenomenon. This might be true in the eyes of what Heidegger would call the theory of technology and knowledge, topic that interested the philosopher, also Marxist media theory (as from the Frankfurt School) could help us to view this "phenomenon" in a different way. European movements usually were breeded among certain intellectual elites and their trascendence was not certainly immediate, it extended into other societies normally by the text vehicle, that is when the text was regarded as the text. A more aggresive and mediatic approach on which the modern American "culture" was built could make but little use of the text. The kingdom of the discourse would start, from Bible studies to physics we would find ourselves drowning for a couple of decades already in the lacuum of social semiotics. Some modernist empirism and almost positive approach can be blamed for that too, for example through the literary and linguistic schools (which were in many cases the same school - e.g., formalist, structuralism) that found their cluster through the late Modernism. Knowledge was not important, only "opinions" were to count, and therefore we were to drown. The cognitive approach and the well-known constructivisms; the end of Modernism would erase from social sciences our conceptualizations of history and historical memory, collective memories.
I would like to view the chart proposed by Solomon as comparison between Modernism and Postmodernism. I might also add that Solomon does reckon the chart being a generalized comparison; but once again I tend to agree those comparison are useful as long as they can provide us with concepts.
Rational - Irrational
Scientific - Anti-Scientific
Utopian, elitist, belief in universal values - Populist claim, Local values only
Democratic - Feminist, minority hegemony
Hierarchy - Anarchy
Organized - Chaotic
Centered - Dispersed
European, Western (Judeo-Christian) - Multicultural
General - Non-general
Determinate - Indeterminate
Objective - Subjective
Objectivist values, masterpieces - Values determined socially/individually
Formal disciplines - Informal, undisciplined
Purposeful, meaningful - Entirely subjective meaning
Construction - Deconstruction
Progressive - Circular
Theoretical - Concrete
Analytical & Synthetical - Non-analythical, rhaetorical
Simple, Elegant, Spartan, Streamlined - Decorated-Elaborated, Evasive, Convolut
Cause-Effect - Chance
Linear - Non-Linear
Harmonious - Integrated, Non-integrated
Permanent - Transcience
Abstract - Concrete
Communicative - Arcane
Unified - Eclectic
Objective truth - Truth is socially constructed
Apolitical, occasionally political - Politicizes everything
Disciplines primarily indifferent to power struggles - Political power is primary concern
Reality is not anthropocentric - Reality is socially constructed
[cursive]: Analogies I do not completely agree with.
Postmodernism then, was "created" or it would be actually fitting to say "decreated" as an attack to Modernism, movement which found itself as a critical-end-by-itself of a critical-world-in-crisis. Modernism responded mainly to Victorianism and the Classical epos. Yet it acquired a certain structure which was developed over a time of span of several decades, the evolution of the Modernist novel and poetry can testify that. Yet Modernism presented itself by the end of its locus as a new Renaissance, as a vivifying liberal renaissance of the 20th century that streamed into the most varied school of thought; which later on degenerated or not into Postmodernist approaches. Modernism posed the problem that it was not a uniform movement, specially when already in the 20th century, and its end was not remarkable or even noticeable as it was the end of for example Romanticism and the beginning of Realism and Naturalism. The same problematic was inherited by Postmodernism; no one knows when it really started and by what, was it Foucault? was it Nietzsche? was it Existentialism? was it Marxism? was it Feminism? was it Cognitive Psychology? The question still remains unanswered; except for American Postmodernism, but that's beyond the scope of our study. It is not clear either exactly what Postmodernism is, which is actually the sword of mouth of many of its followers; who contemptuously disagree on what Postmodernism is, for we rather find the most dissimilar "Postmodernisms". The movement can also be framed as brother and almost same with Post-Structuralism, and its manifestation in the arts and critical theory is better known as Deconstructionism. Postmodernism[s] includes the most diverse schools such as Pragmatism, Feminism, Post-structuralism, Cognitive Constructivism, etc. that are influential in the most diverse sciences such as literary theory, general criticism and Komparativistik, art theory, linguistics, psychology, sociology, etc.
- Course in General Linguistics, F. de Saussure. McGraw Hill.
- What is Enlightenment?, M. Foucault. Hyperlink.
- Was ist Erklaerung?, E. Kant.
- Archaeology of Knowledge - Introduction, M. Foucault. Hyperlink.
- Toward a Theory of Culture and Adaptive Potential, B. Colby. On-line Journal of Mathematical Anthropology. Hyperlink. [PDF]
- A Critique of Social Constructionism and Postmodern Queer Theory, R. Norton. Hyperlink.
- A History of Homophobia, R. Norton. Hyperlink.
- University of Colorado, Tutorials on Contemporary Philosophy, Critical Theory and Postmodern Thought. Hyperlink.
- Postmodernism: What one needs to know, W. Grassie. Journal of Religion and Science. March 1.997. Hyperlink.
- What is Postmodernism?, L. Solomon. Hyperlink.
- Turning point: Toward a Second Modernism, C. Subrizi. NY Arts Magazine. Hyperlink.
- Modern & Postmodern, C. Greenberg. Hyperlink.
- El Silencio de los Aparecidos, D. Wang. Acerbo. Available online in English.
- Autonomies of Art, C. Greenberg. Hyperlink.
- Structural Anthropology - Selections, C. Levi-Strauss. Marxist Archives. Hyperlink.
- Was heisst Denken?, Martin Heidegger.
- Introductory Essays on Classical Realism - Radical Academy; The Johnattan Dolhenty Archives. Hyperlink. From Aristotle and a Synoptic Philosophy through Equality and Liberty.
- La Condition Reflexif du l'homme Juif. R. Mizrachi.
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- The Semiotics of Militarism, Linton Weeks - Washington Post. Hyperlink.
- The Semiotics of War, 9/11 and its aftermath. Watson Institute. Hyperlink.
- From: Culture of Violence - 3rd Global Conference, Diversity within Unity. Ethnicity, Nationalism and Globalization: Three Modes of Technology of Violence, A. Idan. Open University Israel. Hyperlink.
- From: Conference on After Postmodernism. University of Chicago. 1997. The Present Tense? An Impossible Dream, K. Matsuno. Hyperlink. Use of Natural Languages in Modelling Evolutionary Processes, K. Matsuno. Hyperlink. Around Postmodernism, T. Csordas. Hyperlink.
- Who is the enemy?, N. Ragen. Hyperlink.
- Die Philosophie Judaismus, J. Guttman.
- The Frankfurt School, John Hopkins University. Hyperlink.
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- Why am I not Postmodern?, E. Friedlander. Hyperlink.
- A cultural and critical theory reader, review by D. Yee. Hyperlink.
- The Human and His Spectacular Autmun, or, Informatics after Philosophy, Anustup Basu. Studies on Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Postmodern Culture Magazine. Hyperlink.
- Anti-postmodernist letter by a pathologist. E. Friedlander. Hyperlink.
- Learning from Rosanne and Madonna: Postmodernism & Being Jewish, J. Williams. World Zionist Organization. Hyperlink.
- Why do I need to be a Zionist? Multiculturalism, G. Troy. Hyperlink.
- A Dilemma Judaism Prefers to Ignore: Homosexuality, King David and Israeli Pop. S. Federicko. Hyperlink.
- Jewishness in Postmodernity: The case of Sweden, L. Dencik. Hyperlink.
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- Middle East Nationalism with a human face: The impossible dream?, S. Fredericko/M. Kisilevski. Hyperlink.
- Introduction: The Identity Crisis in Jewish Continuity, A. Beker. Hyperlink.
- The Emergence of Jewish Law in Postmodernist American Legal Theory, S. L. Stone. Hyperlink.
Friday, November 12, 2004
Monday, September 06, 2004
Copyright Naomi Ragen, 2004.
I have not been able to recover from the terrorist attack in Beslan. Terrorism is not the enemy. Terrorism is a tactic of the enemy. Who, then, is the enemy that fights all those who identify with the civilized world -- the world in which children and their mothers arecherished and protected, even in war? The world in which school buildings, and ambulances, and hospitals, and holy places are respected and left out of armed conflicts as neutral zones? The world in which children are taught to love thy neighbor, even if he is different and follows another religion? A world in which there can be no excuse for wiring a school building with explosives, starving children and shooting them and their mothers in the back when they cry, and finally blowing up the roof over their heads, burying hundreds in rubble?
The enemy is the man who shot Tali Hatuel when she was nine months pregnant and then shot her four little girls in the head at point blank range.
The enemy is the man who blew up elderly Holocaust survivors at their Passover Seder in Netanya.
The enemy is the political framework that train this man and rewarded him.
The enemy is the country or countries that financed the political framework.
The enemy is the leader of these countries.
The enemy is the religious leaders of these countries, who did not teach their people right from wrong.
The enemy is the congregations who sat through the hate-mongering sermons.
The enemy is the head of the family who went home and beat his wife, and strapped suicide belts on his sons, and slit the throats of his daughter and sister for supposed violations of the family honor.
The enemy is the child who grows up in such a culture and becomes one of its perpetrators.
The enemy is the Western nations who turn a blind eye, looking to excuse this behavior so it will not have to do anything about it.
The Sunday Telegraph, Le Monde, Neue ZurcherZeitung, Bild, all claiming the problem is that the Russian government has brought this on itself by angering the Chechans. It is the victim who is to blame. Just as Israelis deserve what they get. Tali Hatuel deserved what she got. Her little girls. The little children of Beslan. The only way to stop the murderers of children from murderingis to give into their demands, these newspapers claim.
I disagree. The only way to stop murderers from murdering is todestroy them. And if you say this is impossible, I say: think back sixty years. The Thousand Year Reich is the dust of history. We destroyed their leaders, their governments, their buildings, their youth movements, their philosophy. We destroyed it all. We didn't negotiate. We didn't appease. We didn't try to show them our softer side. We uprooted the evil from mankind, because no negotiations, no fence, no signed agreement, no borders, no words were effective against them.
Long before September 11, I wrote to this list:If an Israeli grandmother and her grandchild is not safe in a playground, then no grandmother and no grandchild anywhere in the world is safe in a playground.
If the children of Beslan were not safe in their school, then no child and no school is safe anywhere in the world. Until this enemy is destroyed root and branch, without mercy or equivocation.
The breakdown in morality which we witness everyday is finally engulfing us. Those in the Western news media who call armed terrorists, men who wire schools with explosives and murder women and children, "hostage-takers" and "militants" are setting themselves up to mourn their own children.
A generation ago, fifty million people died because the reaction of their governments and their religious leaders and their press came too late. The Neville Chamberlains saw to that. Too late. And for us, who have our Shimon Peres', and our Yossi Beilins, and our Chiracs, and our Kofi Anans, and Michael Moores and John Kerrys, will it also be too late?
For the children of Beslan, the answer is yes. And for your children?