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Archive for March 18th, 2005

Transcendent Homelessness -> Ad Without Products

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The greatest
discrepancy between idea and reality is time: the process of time as duration.
The most profound and most humiliating impotence of subjectivity consists not
so much in its hopeless struggle against the lack of idea in social forms and
their human representatives, as in the fact that it cannot resist the sluggish,
yet constant process of time; that it must slip down, slowly yet inexorably,
from the peaks it has laboriously scaled; that time – that ungraspable,
invisibly moving substance – gradually robs subjectivity of all its possessions
and imperceptibly forces alien contents into it. That is why only the novel,
the literary form of the transcendent homelessness of the idea, includes real
time – Bergson’s durée – among its
constitutive principles. (Lukács, Theory
of the Novel
, 120-1) 

But the question is, what happens when there’s no longer an “idea”
left for “real time” to diverge away from? The impossibility of the novel here
and now – the idea is no longer transcendently homeless, but rounded up and
exterminated, rationalized out of existence. Like the Olympics are coming, or a
big summit: the idea’s been interned in camp outside of the city, floats on a
listless boat just beyond the buoy that marks the start of “international
waters.” Lukács’s description is brilliant, but fails to take account (could
not have taken account) of the fact that, after the end of history, where we
live now, there’d be no tension left, nothing for the “real time” to grind
against. The idea itself has evaporated – again, here and now. Elsewhere,
perhaps, it’s another story.

Our story is the one that Agamben’s telling here, the parable
of the ad without products:

But
the absurdity of individual existence, inherited from the subbase of nihilism,
has become in the meantime so senseless that it has lost all pathos and been
transformed, brought out into the open, into an everyday exhibition: Nothing resembles
the life of this new humanity more than advertising footage from which every
trace of the advertised product has been wiped out. The contradiction of the
petty bourgeois, however, is obstinately trying, against all odds, to make
their own an identity that has become in reality absolutely improper and
insignificant to them. Shame and arrogance, conformity and marginality remain
thus the poles of all their emotional registers. (Georgio Agamben, The Coming Community, 68).

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 18, 2005 at 1:56 am

Posted in everyday

Terry Castle on Sontag

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Fantastically good piece remembering Sontag in this week’s LRB, and lucky you, it’s not behind the subscription barrier. 

My favorite bit. Castle is dragged along on what Sontag calls "a real New York evening" and it turns out to be a dinner party at Marina Abramovic’s Soho loft. (Abramovic’s a performance artist, she’d "recently been in the news for having lived for 12 days,
stark naked, on an exposed wooden platform – fitted with shower and
toilet – in the window of the Sean Kelly Gallery.") Famous folk are there – Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson – and Castle’s naturally not getting much conversational play.

Here’s the line I liked: "True, Sontag tried briefly to call the group’s attention to me (with
the soul-destroying words, ‘Terry is an English professor’); and
Abramovic kindly gave me a little place card to write my name on."

Ha!

Anyway, the funny thing is just how lost on the current generation of academics Sontag’s works are. I’d be willing to bet that not a single person in my cohort of English Ph.D. candidates on their way to assistant professorships (with a little luck) has ever read a single work by Sontag. Seriously. I’ve never heard the name come up either in seminar room or bar.

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 18, 2005 at 12:40 am

Posted in literature