Thursday, August 07, 2008


A dictionary begins when it no longer gives the meaning of words, but their tasks. Thus formless is not only an adjective having a given meaning, but a term that serves to bring things down in the world, generally requiring that each thing have its form. What designates has no rights in any sense and gets itself squashed everywhere, like a spider or an earthworm. In fact, for academic men to be happy, the universe would have to take shape. All of philosophy has no other goal: it is a matter of giving a frock coat to what is, a mathematical frock coat. On the other hand, affirming that he universe resembles nothing and is only formless amounts to saying that the universe is something like a spider or spit.



Blogger Max said...

It seems he's making an argument for "formlessness" as "purity," though, which is equally pernicious.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Though at the same time, I'm not sure he's even making an argument.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Josh Maday said...

This piece makes sense in the context of your posts about the academicization of the avant-garde and the academic compulsion to apply predetermined criteria to contemporary literary movements (giving it a frock coat) in order for them to 'qualify' for a certain label (to be this or that a-g), and how this seems to contradict the notion of a contemporary avant-garde, which seems to need to circumvent, reverse, or destroy convention that wears like a heavy cumbersome frock coat. It seems to be a difficult act of restraint anymore to simply let a movement in literature be what it is without requiring it to function a certain way. (And I guess I don't know, is it necessary to lay down rules? Is it pointless to just allow intuition and creativity go where they will?) In order to (t)(pr)each in the academy, things must be pinned down, dissected, dunked in formaldehyde, labeled, and categorized/canonized for easy reference. Things must not continue to evolve if this is to happen, or else things must proceed according to the formula. Bataille's last line suggests, perhaps, that yes there is of course content, there is something to 'each thing' that can be pointed to and examined, but becoming a dictionary and appointing oneself as an arbiter who dictates the tasks that each thing must perform in order to be what it is is not within ones rights.

I may have talked in a circle or babbled into oblivion. Sorry. It made sense to me as I wrote it. I think the quote works nicely in the context of your recent posts, Johannes.

I ordered a copy of Dear Ra, too, and I'm anxious to read it.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Max said...

I just don't see why some artists are so threatened by this academic impulse. On the one hand, you have artists doing the shit they do, and on the other, you have professors at universities trying to teach their students about what the artists are doing. Exactly how the latter encroaches on the former, in any way that cannot be circumvented quite easily, is beyond me.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Well, Max I am quite self-conscious about my critique of academics. I am afterall defending my dissertation in October and I do happen to teach at a university... I absolutely don't want to turn this into one of those academics-bashing things. My critique of the recent construction of avant-gardism is afterall an academic critique of sorts; as is reading Bataille. But I think you have to agree that I have been very specific about the kinds of academization I oppose.

8:19 AM  

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