Archive for the ‘deconstruction’ Category

Feel the turn   Leave a comment

Trained it home from Verbier last night, after testing gorgeous Kastle skis. I want a new pair of planks, so I spent my test day being really attentive to:

how my turns initiated

how the skis carved

my body position, with respect to the fall line.

I love Lito Tejada-Flores Breakthrough on Skis, for understanding this kinesthetic process of writing on the slopes “All my skiers’s senses seem concentrated along the edge of my ski, and I love nothing better than to leave my signature… in a series of perfectly carves arcs”.

But for my journey to and from the pistes, I decided to read John Hartley Williams and Matthew Sweeney’s book, Writing Poetry and to follow some of their exercises in my notebook. As the train pulled out of Le Chable and headed down the valley, I was still dressed in my ski kit and my muscle memory was full up with ski sensations of anticipating, preturns, weight shifting and crossovers. I opened chapter 7 of Writing Poetry, titled “Visualizing“, and started to read Charles Simic’s poem “My Shoes”…

As I read, I could feel this amazing compression as I got to a line end. Things were happening to carve sense at each turn:

Shoes, secret face of my inner life:

Shoes, the container for feet – metaphorically signed as a secret face where experiences are pressed down and hidden away. A memories container surreally located at the other end of the body to the head.

Juxtapositions making unexpected sense built up anticipation in me, and at that colon on the first line I swung my eyes down and across the page wanting to know where  these shoes were going to take me…

Two gaping toothless mouths,

the image laughed at me like a Kermit the Fog joke; like beloved grandparents with unpronounceable stories; it made me think of Heidegger’s critique of Van Gogh’s painting of peasant shoes (The Origin of the Work of Art), and Morton’s critique of Heiegger’s critique (Ecology without Nature)… at which point the image had done more than enough to turn my head uphill into thoughts of similes and semantics, and my eyes swung downwards rushing into…

Two partly decomposed animals skins

Smelling of mice-nests.

This linked turn made for a volta. The shoes shape-shifted. Yet, were still faithful to the material origins of their original form, like powder snow transforming into névé.

But how?

This interrogation sent my body off into the second stanza:

My brother and sister who died at birth

Continuing their existence in you,

The shoes and the authorial feet they hold suddenly became a grotesque inheritance: two coffins, the size of babies. I turned in horror:

Guiding my life

to be embraced by hope: the stanza’s line by line additions of opposing emotion sublimated into:

Towards their incomprehensible innocence.

At the full stop, my eyes gripped the page, slid over the stanza break into the concrete-as-religion (?) of the next stanza – I navigated the stanza in tightly linked turns, and ricochetted off the final question-mark:

What use are books to me

When in you it is possible to read

The Gospel of my life on earth

And still beyond, of things to come?

We read the future from the past inscribed within the objects that surround and constitute us. Something totemic started to happen to my reading experience here: a substantive-spiritual piling up of immanent- transcendental- immanent- transcendental (maybe? The relation between these terms is my bug bear at the moment).

A questioning spills into the fifth stanza. In my mind’s eye I saw a film of a thin man in a jumper with holes in the elbows and too-short sleeves shuffling around his unlit living room to place his shoes on the mantle, as I read:

I want to proclaim the religion

I have devised for your perfect humility

And the strange church I am building

With you as the alter.

There is something lonely and scruffy about such a “strange church”. It calls to mind I friend of mine (I think he is in his late seventies) who was walking around with a piece of white artist’s sketch paper in his pocket last week. The date of a man’s death was written on it (17th of January, 2011) and the man’s name. It was written in blue biro. A scribble was below it. I wrote my email address down below all this information. I didn’t mention the marks above. Previously, we’d talked about how my friend felt simultaneously pinioned and betrayed by language when trying to accept death. He hates the management speak of “Je vais gerer ma mort” (I’m going to manage my death)…

In Simic’s poem I lost my grip at the full stop at the end of stanza four, and skidded into the next stanza out of control. Here, the words Simic landed me with were more helpful than the rave about Derrida’s deconstruction that I offered up to my friend a few weeks ago:

Acetic and maternal, you endure:

Sacrifice, sacrifice is what accompanies this being. (I translate for myself).

Kin to oxen, to saints, to condemned men,

This line feels like some graph plot, where enthalpy/entropy shifts cause an entity to change state, shifting from one form to another depending on the environmental conditions.

With your mute patience, forming

The only true likeness of myself.

Who follows us in our own shape shifting? Our most beloved, at the heart of our greatest loneliness and our most profound joy.(My head suddenly announces).

What an après-ski ride!

For the moment I’m bundling all this thought into William Ruekert’s comment “A poem is stored energy, a formal turbulence, a living thing, a swirl in the flow.” (“Literature and Ecology” , 108). To be unpacked.

Lowly, longly a wail went forth.   1 comment


Yawn interrogated by four old men.

One section of this passage (3.3.478.6-18) is discussed by McHugh in The Finnegans Wake Experience (17). Here, the translation of “Magis enarratur (eo) minus hoc intellego” is given as “the more completely it is explained the less I understand this.” Fair enough.

I like the way the complaint <this is hard to pronounce> “C’est mal prononsable” (478.18) is countered with <you’ve not got any water in your provincial mouth, Sir> “Vous n’avez pas d’o dans votre boche provenciale,  mousoo” (478.19). The comment reminds me of how, as a child, I announced to my Mum that it was easy to speak French: “you just need lots of spit in your mouth”.

The continued questioning of Shaun on page 478 is discussed by Peter Mahon in Imagining Joyce and Derrida (167-168). Herein, Mahon glosses the discovery of “la clee dang les champs” (the key/clover in the fields). And links this line to, “Whu’s teit dans yur jambs?” <What’s that between your legs>. Finding a correspondence between “the Messiah and the phallus-clover… they both have the potential to rise again” (168). Reincarnation: A theme at the heart of the Wake.

This imagery reminds me of a cheeky mediaeval fabliaux I heard Isabelle Jacquemain tell last year:

Two girls are out walking. The first girl notices a magnificent phallus underneath a bush. Quickly, she tucks it into her robes. The second girl sees all this happen and claims, “Stop! I dropped that by mistake the last time I came this way.” In order to settle their argument the girls call upon a convent. However the Mother superior confiscates the phallus, saying “thank you, dear children for returning the key that opens all our doors”. Touché!

Of Grammatology   Leave a comment

I’ve been reading OG this morning. Well, the extracts (pp. 6-26 &  pp. 302-316) from Spivak’s translation that are reproduced in Rivkin and Ryan’s Literary Theory: An Anthology.

Derrida’s assertions that “the supplement is always a supplement of a supplement” and that “one must recognize that there is a supplement at the source” (320), leads me to recall how two of my friends, who work as a World Health Organization economist and  as a CERN machine physicist respectively, have grapheme (number)-colour synesethsia.  I find this interior-doubling image helpful in understanding something of Derrida’s supplement, “neither presence nor absence” (329).

The OG quote that I will keep turning over and over with regard to Finnegans Wake is: “As always, death, which is neither a present to come nor a present past, shapes the interior of speech, as its trace, its reserve, its interior and exterior difference: as its supplement…. the supplement is especially not more a signifier than a signified, a representer than a presence, a writing than a speech” (329).

Posted December 16, 2010 by R.H.H. Nisbet in deconstruction, Derrida, Literary Theory

Deconstruction   Leave a comment

The blurb on the back of my copy of Finnegans Wake reads:

“Joyce’s final work, Finnegans Wake, is his masterpiece of the night as Ulysses is of the day. Supreme linguistic virtuosity conjures up the dark underground worlds of sexuality and dreams. Joyce undermines traditional storytelling and all official forms of English and confronts the different kinds of betrayal – cultural, political and sexual – he saw at the heart of Irish history.”

Now I’m back to reading my ten pages of FW a day, part of my head constantly interrogates this boundary crossing, this undermining of traditional forms and genres.

Last Friday seated in the Le Vidy theatre, waiting for Israel Galvan’s flamenco performance “La curva” to begin, I said to my husband: “Look, the lighting gels are blue. This is not going to be traditional flamenco.”

A formal line up of the four performers opened the piece: singer Inès Bacan, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, palmas performer Bobote, and the dancer Israel Galvan. This was followed by pedestrian movements from Galvan; his toppling of a stack of chairs; the sound of the chairs falling; the sound of the piano strings resonating, and a performative wiggle-waggle hand gesture from Galvan in the direction of the fallen stack.

So much attention focused on the un-stacking of chairs brought to mind Martin Creed’s 2010 exhibition at the Edinburgh Fruitmarket gallery. Interviewed by The Guardian (18/07/2010), Creed says of his first work (Work No 3: Yellow Painting – a piece of purple paper with a big yellow painted swirl on it): “It goes whoop.” …The article continues: “The thought process that inspired Work No. 3 has continued through to some of his most recent work, including some of his stacking pieces. We talk about the paintings on paper which look like steps. These works are all about restrictions: impersonal rules which require a quick, definitive line in space in order to complete the task. So, the stack paintings’ restrictions come from the paintbrushes used. The bottom mark, which acts like a sort of ground stroke, is made by the biggest paintbrush in one swoop, left to right. This then sets the parameters for the next mark, made by a smaller paintbrush: the mark made must be directly proportional to the ground one. And so on, until there aren’t any paintbrushes left in the packet. Part random, part ordered.”

3 minutes into “LaCurva”, my attention focused on exactly what Galvan was un-stacking. Is it the piling up of flamenco’s rhythm + voice + text +guitar accompaniment + dance? Does the resonance of one vibration curve and sound-wave its way into all other resonance chambers? Restricted by what?  Mediated by what?

Galvan suggests through virtuosity, flicking his four fingers against his teeth (think the semiquavers of an up beat) before tapping his forehead with his fist on the downbeat.

At the climax of Galvan’s performance he lies on a large white rectangle (powdered chalk?) positioned centre stage. He has jumped over this rectangle many times without touching it; dropped a mini dance “stage” into the centre of the white rectangle and danced inside it without touching the “chalk”; pulled a diagonal line out of the rectangle without putting his foot into the chalk (he keeps one foot on top of the mini stage which he drags along with his toe) until he has travelled to the front of the stage (stage left). It is as if he has created the visual trace of a fallen stack of chairs on the stage.  Once this trace is realised, Galvan no longer observes the black/ white boundary that he established on the floor. He walks in the chalk. He blurs it. He kicks up a white dust storm. The chalk tamps the sound of his dancing. Dust billows, visually indicating the rhythm of his footwork. He lies down inside the chalk rectangle. He smears white chalk over his black dance clothes.

At the end of “La Curva”, once the stage has emptied of performers, Galvan drops another stack of chairs using stage mechanics. The sound resonates. It is a wrap.

p 113 I am a worker, a tombstone mason…   Leave a comment

Write, carve, mark, inscribe. What you’re willed. This section reads to the end of chapter V.

I started to hear Derrida on p 115 of the Wake – “The interpretation of the letter” section: “So  why, pray, sign anything as long as every word, letter, penstroke, paperspace is a perfect signature of its own?”

For example: “Mon objet, ma chose, ce qui va prescrire une rhétorique propre à cet événement, s’il a lieu, ce serait Francis Ponge.” (Signéponge 25).

“My object, my thing that which is going to proscribe a rhetoric proper to this event, if it takes place, would be Francis Ponge (Richard Rand, transl.).