Archive for October 2010

p 180 Skanky Shem continued   Leave a comment

A cold is now deciding the rhythm and tone of this reading. This is apt, given the gross state of Shem’s living quarters.

(180.34-183.4 & 183.5-187.14)

Posted October 30, 2010 by R.H.H. Nisbet in Finnegans Wake Audio Recording

169.1 -175.8; 175.9-180.33 (Shem is short for Shemus)   Leave a comment

I’m still bunged up, so I had to cut my recording in two in order to blow my nose. This turned out to be kind of ironic, as the second part has fart noises with pardons in brackets.

Posted October 28, 2010 by R.H.H. Nisbet in Finnegans Wake Audio Recording

OOO   1 comment

This morning I have been listening to this MP3 post on object orientated ontology over at Ecology without Nature. It is a good introduction to OOO. And it has helped me to start to elaborate the statement I make on my profile page: that I’m interested in slippages between word and world… I’m interested in what this slipperiness belies -that Worlds (and words) are  constructs, pretenses at structural stability to block out- perhaps, what in geologist speak is called the dynamic Earth.

Making Worlds. Let’s at least own that complicity in pretense! Understand the slippery construction.

World making: Here is the advertising blurb for our new living room wallpaper:

“The outdoors comes in with this leaf stripe design, lightly distressed to give a subtle natural effect.
All of the papers in Graham & Brown’s eco collection are printed with water-based, VOC free inks, on FSC acredited, sustainable paper. The wallpapers are also wrapped in a compostable material.”


p 161 Burrus and Caseous   Leave a comment

A cheesy investigation into the actant margarine.

Posted October 26, 2010 by R.H.H. Nisbet in Finnegans Wake Audio Recording

Assemblages   Leave a comment

Last night we talked about Bennett’s citing of the the electrical grid as an example of an assemblage:

“a volatile mix of coal, sweat, electromagnetic fields, computer programmes, electron streams, profit motives, heat, lifestyles, nuclear fuel, plastics, fantasies of mastery, static, legislation, water, economic thory, wire and wood” (25, Vibrant Matter).

My husband (a power engineer) accepted Bennett’s description, and concurred with the analysis of the 2003 North American power failure as being attributable to a variety of agential loci (26). One of these loci being the excessive consumption of reactive power. In my husband’s words, reactive power is out of phase power “sloshing around in the network” and users can take it out, and then immediatley put back, like playing catch:

take out 60 VAR

put back 60 VAR

Here is the static VAR compensator at CERN, where my husband works:

Anyway,the grid is dependent on its clients to responsibly compensate in this game of throw and catch, or, as Bennett says, Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” may arise: the whole assemblage becomes unstable and there is a power blackout.

Bennett proposes that actants therefore need to be aware of operating within a moving whole. She illustrates her point with the example of dynamic off-road biking (38). That made me smile, as her discussion had already made me think of my husband balancing his bike when the traffic lights are on red.

When I am on my bike a red light = STOP! Put your feet down on the tarmac.

Whereas, my husband stays enmeshed within the assemblage, trajectory-bike-gravity-body. He keeps his feet on the peddles, twisting his handlebars 1mm to the right 2mm to the left, shifting his weight forwards a little, backwards a little.

Being enmeshed runs in my husband’s family. His twin is a sommelier and an expert on natural wines: An example of an assemblage that fits with Bennett’s discussion about the Slow Food movement in chapter 3 of VM. Generally, I find the language of biodynamic farming to be more vitalist than vibrant. But, it still places food as an actant connecting inorganic matter and organic life:

Vibrant Matter   2 comments

I have got a really sore throat today. So no reading out-loud for me. Instead, I’ve started reading Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter: a political ecology of things (Duke UP: Durham and London, 2010).

I found the book referenced on Timothy Morton’s blog:

I think it will be valuable as I develop my own river-themed Finnegans Wake project.

Bennet pursues “a materialism in the tradition of Democritus-Epicurus-Spinoza-Diderot-Deleuze more than Hegel-Marx-Adorno” (xiii). I’m glad of the chance to better understand this genealogy. And to observe how Bennet relates such theory to the work of the Russian scientist Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky, “who also refused any sharp distinction between life and matter” (8).

I’m also pleased to read about the “Spinozist notion of affect, which refers broadly to the capacity of any body for activity and responsiveness” (xii). And Bennet’s “willingness to theorize events (a blackout, a meal, an imprisonment in chains, an experience of litter) as encounters between ontologically diverse actants some human, some not, though all thoroughly material” (xiii-xiv).

This is sore-throat-compatible reading.

Nuvoletta: Vico and Joyce   Leave a comment

I didn’t mention the fantastic demise of the whimsical Nuvoletta yesterday. “Nuvoletta in her lightdress” is introduced on page 157. But, sadly her “sfumastelliacinous hair” and “mignons arms” are ignored by the Mooske, and Gripes – “a dubliboused Catalick” (157; 158). So, Nuvoletta “climb[s] over the bannistars” two pages after she is introduced, acting “as though her heart was brook” (159).

I was tempted to wonder if there is a personification of Giambattista Vico’s Scienza Nuova (New Science) in Nuvo-letta? Her name contains allusions to the New Science’s theme of philology. And after Nuvoletta’s demise her muddied name becomes the Missiliffi, the river of Finnegans Wake.

Joyce certainly drew on Vico in his writings. Donald Phillip Verene explains how:

“Joyce was especially interested in Vico’s notion that “memory is the same as imagination” (la memoria e la stessa che la fantasia) and with Vico’s notion of the cycle of the three ages of history [the ages of the gods; heros, and humans]”

Verene goes on to propose that Joyce even uses the Scienza Nuova “as the grid for Finnegans Wake”.

I can’t as yet comment on that last assertion. But I agree that both Joyce and Vico are invested in a Geistwissenschaften (scholarly knowledge of the spirit) that relates to, but is distinct from the Naturewissenshaften (scholarly knowledge of Nature). This link defines these two terms and explains how they apply to Vico’s work:

For his part, Joyce states his own position vis-à-vis the Geistwissenschaften in his essay “The Study of Language” (1899):

“The statement the study of language is to be despised since it is imaginary and does not deal with facts nor deals in a precise way with ideas, is absurd… [Since it is the] study of our own” (13; 15).(James Joyce. Occasional, Critical and Political Writing (OCPW). OUP: Oxford, 2000).

The study of our own: Vico says, “We dwell in the disclosure of time.” I discovered this quote, and was thereby introduced to Vico’s oeuvre, through Robert Pogue Harrison’s Forests: The shadow of Civilisation.

Towards the end of this text, Pogue Harrison re-situates dwelling, not in the disclosure of time, but rather “in the logos”. He goes on to define “logos” etymologically, as “that which binds, gathers, relates” (200)*. I find this definition of dwelling to be helpful. Since at every moment in Finnegans Wake, I am conscious of my attempts to situate Joyce’s encyclopaedic project of gathering all logos within a sense our own: some imaginary that includes the obliviousness of the Mooske and Gripes and how this transforms Nuvoletta into the Missiliffi, flowing through Finnegans Wake.

* Sorry, I’ve just recalled that Heidegger is standing behind Pogue Harrison’s statement. “He considers the fundamental sense of this word also marked off by the German word “lesen ,” most common in the sense of “to read,” but originally and for Heidegger more basically “to collect, to gather.””