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Preview: Comments on In the Middle: Always Historicize? Historicism, Post-Historicism,...

Comments on In the Middle: Always Historicize? Historicism, Post-Historicism, and Medieval Studies

Updated: 2018-04-12T05:34:38.443-04:00


Gerald: as regards you point about whether settin...


Gerald: as regards you point about whether

setting "academic rigor" or "correction" as a goal for reading is setting the standard too low, in a way

:wonderful provication to further thought.

Eileen: Hello! Thanks for not finding my comments ...


Eileen: Hello! Thanks for not finding my comments incomprehensible. Just a quick response before I leave the internet for the day: I suppose by value I mean something like "enterprise" or "general" value--the value of "free speech" for instance--versus the "specific" value of a given reading. It seems to me a specific irresponsible reading needs the freedom to be utterly unprincipled, completely embarrassing, and possibly of no value to the academy--but that we want to encourage such readings generally. Klein's point about academic insiders and outsiders makes me wonder if the value of academic insiders performing--and defending, I suppose--"amateur" readings is almost a populist or bridging move that returns reading to some widely shared experience? I guess what I'm wondering is whether setting "academic rigor" or "correction" as a goal for reading is setting the standard too low, in a way.

Gerald: thanks so much for your comments here and ...


Gerald: thanks so much for your comments here and for reminding us of the comments at the forum from Stacy Klein and Susan Crane. For just this moment [as I am also composing a lengthier piece on the forum as a whole and my own position(s) within that], I want to say that I appreciate your reminder that when one "justifies" or "theorizes" the more ludic/performative reading practice, that perhaps something is lost, vis-a-vis the "fun" or "value" of that reading: here, I would like to hear you clarify a bit what that *value* might actually be, vis-a-vis this thing we call scholarship, even literary-historical scholarship. For myself, while I kind of agree with you about not letting the "argument," so to speak, overshadow the ludic moment itself, I absolutely *am* trying to argue for the ethics and even rigor of what I termed on Thursday night "ir-responsible" reading practices, but . . . more of that anon!

I'd like to draw attention to two other commen...


I'd like to draw attention to two other comments from the night, by Stacy Klein and Susan Crane, that resonated a bit with me. Klein pointed out that the kind of irresponsible reading urged--what I might call (positively) "pornographic" or "amateur"--seems to be performed by students and non-academics all the time; Crane seemed to want to know what such a reading practice would look like without its justification or explanation or theoretical apparatus. I also wondered if a lot of the fun and value of irresponsible reading get siphoned away by the felt need to justify, defend, explain, theorize--to prove one is not just an amateur. (I love how Remein just lied to us without explaining it!) On the other hand, I must admit scuffles can be quite fun, and it was a fun night for those of us watching.

(First time commenter! I'm responding to Eileen in a few weeks and thought it only fair to stop being a creepy lurker.)

Hi everyone: I'm in the process right now of p...


Hi everyone: I'm in the process right now of posting a longer version of my remarks at the NYU panel as well as trying my best to represent other remarks, and I'll bring some of this dialogue forward there as well, and will hope to see even more dialogue on what I think is an extremely important debate within our field, relative to histories, historicisms, and historicities [emphasis on the plural & multiple].

cont And the claim that Derrida in fact was only ...



And the claim that Derrida in fact was only a textual scholar, only talking about texts...I mean, to say there is no outsidetext is one thing, but this doesn't mean we or JD were never talking about the dead. in fact, he framed Specters of Marx as being about, above all things, not texts, but "Learning to Live," and that learning to live would have to happen between death and life, in the upkeep of conversation with ghosts or some ghost. Derrida in fact suggests that our ethics needs to being with the dead in the opening of this same text. I guess what I am saying is that there is no reason to have a fantasy of the medieval past resurected, or a medieval past that even ever happened (yet?) to speak with it or to it, to let it inform and enrich our lives, to do our duty to it and acknowledge our debt, infinite, to the Dead as the Other which always already has a claim on us....and not just as a figure in some text, even if there is no outside text. This is the whole reason to think the specter in specters of Marx. Text's may never succeed in referring outside themselves, maybe we don't either, but within that economy of the same we seem to live and die anyways.I guess I want to repeat what I was saying that night too, that I'm in no way willing to abandon History. In fact, I'd leave historicism to die on the altar of the historical itself, so I could finally relate to history instead of just talking about how to relate to history. That this relation of post to historicism will be complicated is a given. I get that.

I guess I just sort of feel that I was being told that not being a direct descendant of Derrida, I couldn't possibly understand either Derrida or his terms, and that to use a term he used without being his student is wrong.

PD's reservations seemed to take that form above as well as two others: 1) a need to constantly delineate her kind of criticism from whatever the other panelists were doing 2) a claim that the other panelists do not adequately understand the 'post' invoked in posthistoricism and that along with that, a claim that this debate was debated already and has its own history--that history as a term has its own historicity and histories, surrounding what she claimed was more compelling thought about time in the work of Theory in the late 80's and early 90's between mostly Jameson and Derrida and also I think Laplanche (I think an odd combination--folks from very different sides of the theory world, of different theories and not part of some homogeneous Theory)--all of this accompanied by a constant claim that to leave history behind is dangerous (implicitly misreading other panelists as wanting to leave history behind). Oh, and 3) there was this sense that the Other panelists were prescribing our style of crit. for everyone, as compulsory.

MKH: I think I remember the trace discussed and t...


MKH: I think I remember the trace discussed and this danger in connection with another term: resuscitation.

I remember very clearly that PD's concern had to do with thinking the trace in terms of resuscitation the past--which was actually the accusation of why the other 3 presentations were dangerous--and that this (apparently metaphysical ontotheological easter style) resurrection was somehow the dominant figure in this desire to 'leave behind history.' And this is the main place where I think she just missed what we were saying entirely. Karl's paper, for instance, wanted to arrest the narrative of 'Sir Erk' before the resurrection, Eileen complained and lamented that the Andreas poet resurrects folks just so they can be baptized (SO not fair to resurrect folks against their wills just so they can serve a tyrannical and imperialist god!). We discussed figures of resurrection, but by no means endorsed them. If we had such desires, this might be a problem, because traces are only ever traces of traces for the frenchman JD. Reading, in 'Archive Fever' from Freud, we note, in Beyond the PLeasure Princ., that the physiological inscriptions that make memories are formed not by any direct indexing of sensation but by the traces of a set of other transfers of excitations. As a result, the trace cannot be said to to be a trace of something that was ever even there for sure in the first place (the past is not yet, etc., and one cannot resurrect what cannot decidably be said to exist or not....etc). And I think E K and me all 'get that.' PD's problem then could only be a couple of things--first of all, demanding that JJC use the term trace only within its specific history and valence of Derridean discourse. As much as I'm a fan of JD, I don't think we can use terms which he used only according to the histories in his writings, unless we're treating Theory with a capital T like scripture, which, again, as much as I LOVE theory, I totally refuse to do (see E Sedgwick on the cost as which theories become Theory...).

I think this is actually a very important point though--not so much that PD for whatever reason 'missed' or 'misheard' how we were talking about the past or the dead, but that then she more clearly delineated her interest as concerning not the dead, "I'm not talking about the dead here, I'm only talking about texts."

As I recall, the precise wording PD used was that ...


As I recall, the precise wording PD used was that JJC was "dangerously close to the trace" -- a slightly different sense there, but I'll have to find my notes to see what else I can pull out of them. My thought was that the "danger," if there is such a thing, was more about not thinking through the trace explicitly as trace and the theoretical concerns that raises (and here my lack of recent engagement with Derrida will show) and less about the essay itself as a whole. Could be wrong though. More when I find and decipher my notes.

Eileen, I'll be more than happy to help you re...


Eileen, I'll be more than happy to help you remember. The main thing I remember is PD skipping the important 'quand même' in the opening paragraphs of JJC's chapter. He and Alex both treat the rock 'as if' it is knowing, while PD treated JJC as if he were (to summon up Zizek here) the subject-supposed-to-believe, who stupidly, directly believes in the revivified rock that we knowing subjects believe to be only a fetish.

At least that's how I heard it.

To be described as a signposter of a new critical ...


To be described as a signposter of a new critical mode fulfills mine (life dream). Nice b'day present. Cheers! ;)

To have been called dangerous for conducting medie...


To have been called dangerous for conducting medieval studies scholarship fulfills my life's dream; I can now die in peace.

Just a few quick words as I am also putting togeth...


Just a few quick words as I am also putting together my whole talk [extended version] to post here as well as a few words on the conference itself.

To Allan: I did not know about the Lezra book, but have just ordered it, BUT: you were right to intuit thinking on the event as I have been enamored lately of several texts on that front: Claude Romano's "Event and World" [next up: Romano's "Event and Time," and THANKS to Nic D'Alessio for recommending Romano to me] and also some of John Caputo's recent writings on event via Deleuze [article in "Angelaki": "Bodies Still Unrisen, Events Still Unsaid."

Sarah: I love your comments here, which very much sum up the general feelings of the forum as whole, although we did have a bit of a scuffle with Patricia Dailey, who actually termed JJC's thinking in his chapter in "The Post-Historical Middle Ages" as "dangerous," and as I'm composing my post this a.n., I would like to call on everyone who was there last night to help me clarify the arguments that kind of burst out at the end. It was antagonistic in the better senses of the term and richly provocative, but then we had to stop and break for dinner before we were really able to hash through, as it were, our "antinomies."

Irina: I can't wait to hear your paper at Kalamazoo.

I just wanted to say, I loved "imagined uncoo...


I just wanted to say, I loved "imagined uncooperative other." What a great formulation, and what a great reminder and signpost of a new critical mode.

We are moving house, and I barely have internet ac...


We are moving house, and I barely have internet access, but want to say, quickly, fascinating post. PLEASE give us a report on how the event went ... and I'm especially curious to know if anyone gleaned that Maura and I had been in correspondence with our essays and that there is a dialogue between them that changed the orbit of each.

One way of breaking with our 'habitus' is ...


One way of breaking with our 'habitus' is to break from the habit of thinking you are either with me or against me, of breaking out from both utopia and its antinomies, of always classifying ourselves against an IMAGINED uncooperative other.

I felt that was the force of JJC's conclusion. I wish we could apply that in our scholarly lives too. But is such dialectic essential to creativity? What do you think?

Eileen's "There is no temporal direction:...


Eileen's "There is no temporal direction: and Irina's "alluded to all future scholarship" makes me add the following comments -- and celebrate the new issue of l'Esprit Créateur, edited by Cary Howie, on Sanctity:
Thus, fresh off the presses and already basking in the futurity of this issue's glory, in L'Esprit Créateur 50:1, 91-105: Nicola Masciandaro and Anna Klosowska: first page: Foucault dates to 1950-55 a turn in his thinking from the training in Husserlian phenomenology ("meaning which already envelops and and invests us before we start to open our eyes and speak") to the focus on "the formal conditions which can cause meaning to appear". The consequences of this turn in Foucault's work: historical approaches that move away from the logic of the relation man/institution, historical causality and linearity, and cause/effect to other modalities, other logics, for instance, the CONTEMPORANEITY of phenomena, A-CAUSAL relations. And here is the catch: Foucault identifies this new logic with the Ecole des Annales -- Bloch, Braudel. Foucault also extends the list of these possible historical a-causal relations "of a logical type": implication, exclusion, transformation. Recall the similar formation in the 1950s in Bachelard: Petics of Space (1957) is both phenomenology and his signature epistemic breaks. And recall also 1955 as the moment where Merleau-Ponty finally abandons his project of integrating humanism into existentialism. 1955, the New Wave of historicism?

Wish I could be there! Do I detect the influence ...


Wish I could be there!

Do I detect the influence of Jacques Lezra's Unspeakable Subjects: The Genealogy of the Event . . . in the remarks about falling atoms? Great book, that.

This comes at what is really, really the right tim...


This comes at what is really, really the right time for me.

Why? I'm trying to write up (instead of just think about) my little contribution to the Post-Abysmal roundtables at Kzoo... and what I'm working on is an experiment in reading a text through a deliberate anachronism, a deliberate mistake or misreading. (I trust Mr. Borges and Mr. Zizek will be of some help in this.) Still, my historicism is so ingrained, that despite my faith that the audience will be generous, I find it difficult to allow myself to experiment in this way.

Which is funny, because I've been accused of anachronism when I was making what were pretty well-founded historical arguments...

The thing is, aside from all the philosophical justifications, I have a practical one: this is a poem that has been approached, repeatedly, from the past, i.e., its sources, and we still don't understand it very well. Approaching it from the present allows me to read details that few critics have noticed. (Aside from its excellent editor in the 1940's, who I'm convinced has already alluded to all future scholarship in his introduction to the text.) I can read it better as a poem, and not just a collection of learned allusions, from this perspective.