DESERT/DESTROY, VARIATION, FOURTH DRAFT

“What leads to knowledge is the hysteric’s discourse.” (Jacques Lacan, Seminar XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis)

This token initiated what follows, and what follows is a thread searching for the button at the bottom of the well. This thread twists and drifts in the darkness, descending. We’re standing at the top, bent at the waist and peering into the depths, cool dark air around us and the distant sound of water echoing lightly off the stones. We conjure the thread from a spool in our chests; a long, long thread of words. Enough thread and we will catch the button. Get it out, sew it on—there.

Literature, like love, compels us to speak. How can we teach it?

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THE BIO-FICTIONAL: TRANSLATING FRIDA KAHLO IN RAQUEL TIBOL’S FRIDA KAHLO: AN OPEN LIFE AND ANDREA KETTENMANN’s FRIDA KAHLO, 1907-1954: PAIN AND PASSION

In this paper, I compare the biographical process to the translation process, whereby the historical subject is translated and transformed into the biographical subject; I argue that despite the biographer’s intentions to remain truthful to the historical subject, this subject cannot be fully portrayed via biography. Similar to the translator’s task, the biographer also undergoes a process of interpretation, transfer and reorganization of information as s/he translates the historical figure into a biographical subject, whereby the historical figure is transformed and reinvented by the biographer. I contend that in Raquel Tibol’s Frida Kahlo: An Open Life and Andrea Kettenmann’s Frida Kahlo, 1907-1954: Pain and Passion, the biographical authors construct a fictionalized subject for they resort to interpretative and fictional methods to imaginatively recreate the historical subject. Moreover, like translators who transfer meaning from one text to another, the biographers also transfer the historical Kahlo into biography while molding her into certain identity frameworks. For example, while Tibol portrays her as an exemplary woman, Kettenmann depicts her as an exemplary artist. In addition, the biographers also omit certain aspects of her life and oversimplify her identity, further restructuring her life and identity to fit certain identity frameworks. Thus, I argue that the historical subject cannot be fully equated to the biographical subject insofar that the biographical subject is transformed and reinvented as the biographers imaginatively recreate her life and mold her identity on the basis of certain biographical focuses.

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THE ECSTASY OF LANGUAGE: ÉKSTASIS AND THE DIFFEREND IN THE RHETORICAL SUBLIME

After his work on language in The Differend, in which the stuttering and arresting of phrasing is accompanied by a feeling that something remains to be said, philosopher Jean-Franҫois Lyotard turned to the aesthetic of the sublime in order to thinking through this impasse found at the limits of language, largely through the art of the avant-garde. The aesthetic of the sublime, in its 18th century Burkean and Kantian inflections, continued to hold a prominent place in Lyotard’s thought until his vocation as a philosopher came to an end with his death in 1998. Yet, despite the extensive writing devoted to the sublime by Lyotard, the work of Pseudo-Longinus, a major figure in the history of the sublime, remained largely uninterrogated. By reading Pseudo-Longinus’ Perí Hýpsous alongside Lyotard’s The Differend, I attempt to provide a reason for Lyotard’s neglect of the former due to its tendencies to further tighten the situation of the differend rather than unravel it.

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SEMANTIC PLENITUDE AND THE PHENOMENOLOGICAL PROJECT: AN IN SITU ANALYSIS OF PSYCHOGEOGRAPHICAL SUBJECT / ENVIRONMENT RELATIONS

Undergirding every theoretical framework is a network of material referents upon which ideas collect, propagate, and disseminate. Academic discourses not only exert an influence on the world, but are themselves equally influenced by it: the egalitarian feedback loop between subject and object is dictated by the constraining fact that we are embodied beings in a physical milieu. Despite the seeming immediacy and intuitiveness of this statement, however, it is a well-worn adage that we must be mindful of the delicate balance of theory and praxis. This is not only a normative statement or an ethical injunction, but a methodological observation: from the intimacy of Platonic dialogues to Jane Bennett’s “thing-power,” the history of philosophy points not only to the value of lived experience on thought and reason, but also its inescapability.

While such a philosophical position is well accounted for in the abstract in contemporary literature—e.g., Donna Haraway’s notion of situated knowledge—the movement from “a conquering gaze from nowhere” into a place infused with tradition, language, and culture demands a robust understanding of what this really (perceptively and emotionally) looks like. In the spirit of intellectuals like Gaston Bachelard (The Poetics of Space), this investigation proposes use language as a springboard to enact a phenomenological ‘bracketing’ in the style of psychogeography and the context of Southwestern architecture, foregoing a symbolic unpacking of traditional cultural iconography in favour of narrowing in those distinctive features of regional design—from pastel hues to the unity of adobe walls—that give it a distinctive and influential ‘feel.’ We will therefore work to unbind the subject from its strictly intellectual tethers, transcending the liberal humanist subject and transforming it into something much more embedded in and indebted to the realm of the particular—the trance of our own material constitution.

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THE EYE OF ZEUS: MADNESS, TRANSGRESSION, AND DREAM IN AESCYHLUS’ PROMETHEUS BOUND

In Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, the maiden Io describes, in violent terms, the sexual overtures of the god Zeus that are made to her in a dream. Her father, asking the oracle at Delphi for advice concerning these nightly visitations, is ordered by Apollo to drive his young daughter from her home to wander aimlessly over distant lands. Io describes how, attending her banishment, she is transformed into a heifer and driven mad. While the transformation into the heifer is directly attributed to Hera, Aeschylus leaves the origins and essential nature of Io’s madness vague. Compounded by contradictory accounts of her madness and its origins within the play itself, we are left with a patently mad young woman and yet with very little unambiguous reason for her madness. In order to resolve this ambiguity, I have chosen to make use of Lacanian psychoanalysis and its particular emphasis on the subject’s relationship with itself and with external reality. Focusing on Io’s account of her dream, I argue that her dream expresses her strong identification with an ego focused on childhood—an ego that is in the process of being undermined by her impending transition into adulthood. Ultimately, it is this state of contradiction, appearing in the figure of the Eye of Zeus, which reveals to Io the essential vanity of identification with both childhood and adulthood and which brings about her descent into madness.

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