The Universe of Precision

… how is this time to be measured? Is its measure to be that of what Alexander Koryé calls “the universe of precision”? Obviously we live in this universe, but its advent for man is relatively recent, since it goes back precisely to Huyghens’ clock — in other words, to 1659 — and the malaise of modern man does not exactly indicate that this precision is in itself a liberating factor for him. Are we to say that this time, the time of the fall of heavy bodies, is in some ways sacred in the sense that it corresponds to the time of the stars as they were fixed in eternity by God who, as Lichtenberg put it, winds up our sundials?

—Jaques Lacan

The Commentator

David Mamet once told a reviewer: “In order to write well, however, the good dramatist must absolutely identify with his subject. This does not mean to be in “sympathy with,” but “to become the same as.” (The Secret Knowledge)

I’ve often thought of that as I write various posts on such thinkers as Slavoj Zizek or Nick Land. People often accuse me of complicity in these thinkers, as if I agreed with their stance on life and thought. How silly… to confuse the commentator with the subject of his essay. It’s as if one would confuse the author with the hero or anti-hero of his novel. To understand a thinker is to enter into his/her actual world of thought as Mamet suggests in “sympathy with,” which does not mean “to become the same as.” Dramatizing another’s thought in the minds of many is to implicate one in the stain of the other’s philosophical or political rhetoric. But this is a false implication, one that many never can discern.

Fate and Modern Art: We Are Alone with the Alone

This brings us again to the fate of modern art. Schoenberg still hoped that somewhere there would be at least one listener who would truly understand his atonal music. It was only his greatest pupil, Anton Webern, who accepted the fact that there is no listener, no big Other to receive the work and properly recognize its value. In literature, James Joyce still counted on future generations of literary critics as his ideal public, claiming that he wrote Finnegans Wake to keep them occupied for the next 400 years. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, we, writers and readers, have to accept that we are alone, reading and writing at our own risk, with no guarantee from the big Other. (It was Beckett who drew this conclusion in his break with Joyce.)

—Slavoj Zizek, Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism

Jean Baudrillard: Quote of the Day!


“Now, the interesting situations are those in which the object slips away, becomes elusive, paradoxical and ambiguous, and infects the subject himself and his analytical procedure with that ambiguity. The main focus of interest has always been on the conditions in which the subject discovers the object, but those in which the object discovers the subject have not been explored at all.”
…………….– Jean Baudrillard, The Perfect Crime

Anne Carson: Quote of the Day!


Invoking Plato’s Phaedrus, Anne Carson’s early book Eros the Bittersweet breaks into a sublimely resigned paragraph:

From the testimony of lovers like Sokrates or Sappho we can
construct what it would be like to live in a city of no desire.
Both the philosopher and the poet find themselves describing
Eros in images of wings and metaphors of flying, for desire is a
movement that carries yearning hearts from over here to over
there, launching the mind on a story. In the city without desire
such flights are unimaginable. Wings are kept clipped. The
known and the unknown learn to align themselves one behind
the other so that, provided you are positioned at the proper
angle, they seem to be one and the same. If there were a  visible difference, you might find it hard to say so,  for the useful verb mnaomai will have come to mean “a fact is a fact.” To reach for  something else than the facts will carry you beyond this city and perhaps, as for Sokrates, beyond this world. It is a high-risk proposition, as Sokrates saw quite clearly, to reach for the difference between known and unknown. He thought the risk worthwhile, because he was in love with wooing itself. And who is not?1

The notion that we might be the clipped and wingless citizens of that dark country of the mind which no longer believes in the future, but believes we are cut off from change living in a merry-go round nightmare world of economic servitude and accelerated inanity is without doubt a bitter pill to swallow. Yet, as we look around us and study the unimaginative leaders of our so called free world bind their wings with economic and political death, enforce unsustainable and illusive wars, live in a vacuum of powerlessness and apathy unable to communicate with each other or move things forward we begin to understand our predicament. That poetry and eros were once aligned to awaken and bridge our desires toward the future rather than this impossible myth of decay and enslavement we live in is without doubt the truth of our moment. As Carson reiterates we need once again enjoin Socrates’s belief in music, poetry, song and dance; as well as the power of that inner daemon of creativity and erotic awakening that seeks to convey us beyond the Land of the known and into the unknown Wilderness of Desire and Difference, where eros once again woos us to become other than we are.

Maybe we need to be wooed by eros once again…

  1. Anne Carson. Eros the Bittersweet: An Essay. Princeton University Press (July 14, 2014)

Jean-Pierre Dupuy: On Fatalism…


Fatalism is bound to get a bad press in an individualist society, which sees itself as guided by reason. A society that believes no science of the future is possible because the future cannot be known in advance, but instead is purely the product of human will, will have nothing to do with fatalism. The problem is that the antifatalism such a society urges upon its members is precisely what Weber means by fatalism! It is the fatalism of all those who believe they are free to choose and who always choose the losing strategy, in the name of rationality. It is a simple matter to clear up this latest paradox. Free will, as it is understood by a society that has been bewildered and bamboozled by Economy, is the bastard offspring of what I called earlier a supermarket metaphysics. This vulgar antifatalism— the view that at any moment there is a multitude of options from which to choose, a myriad of paths that may be taken, and from these the best one is invariably chosen— jumps head first into all of the traps that the dominant strategy has set for it. Mutual trust, on this view, is irrational, and only a deus ex machina—“ ethics”— can bring it into existence. Mutually advantageous transactions cannot take place, owing to a general mistrust that occludes the temporal horizon and prevents Economy from transcending itself. This mistrust takes the form of a withdrawal into oneself, the same retreat that degenerates into flights of panic and produces the madness of crowds in all its other forms. Deterrence in such a world is powerless to curb aggression among either states or persons, with the result that peace becomes an increasingly scarce commodity.

– Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Economy and the Future

Zizek on Freud’s Prosthetic God

Seal my ears, I’ll go on hearing you. And without feet I can make my way to you, without a mouth I can swear your name.
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Freud looked on technology and saw what was coming: the prosthetic God. Humans enfolded in the myth and illusions of Nietzsche’s self-overcoming man: becoming other, becoming machinic, enhanced; merging with his supplements, his technological appendages, shaping and shaped in their likeness bringing both transhuman and posthuman unhappiness and misery in pursuit of immortal godhood:

Long ago [man] formed an ideal conception of omnipotence and omniscience which he embodied in his gods. To these gods he attributed everything that seemed unattainable to his wishes, or that was forbidden to him. One may say, therefore, that these gods were cultural ideals. Today he has come very close to the attainment of this ideal, he has almost become a god himself. Only, it is true, in the fashion in which ideals are usually attained according to the general judgment of humanity: not completely, in some respects not at all, in others only half way. Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown on to him and they still give him much trouble at times … Future ages will bring with them new and probably unimaginably great achievements in this field of civilization and will increase man’s likeness to God still more. But in the interests of our investigations, we will not forget that present-day man does not feel happy in his Godlike character.1

Slavoj Zizek commenting on this passage would add the Lacanian twist. “In his Ethics seminar, Lacan invokes the “point of the apocalypse,” the impossible saturation of the symbolic by the Real of jouissance, the full immersion into massive jouissance. When, in a Heideggerian way, he asks “Have we crossed the line … in the world in which we live?,”  he refers to the fact that “ the possibility of the death of the Symbolic has become a tangible reality.”  Lacan himself invokes the threat of an atomic holocaust; today, however, we are in a position to offer other versions of this death of the symbolic, principal among them the full scientific naturalization of the human mind. The apocalyptic process will reach its zero point when prostheses no longer merely supplement the human body but in a way supplant it, leaving behind the notion of the human being as a worker whose know-how enables him to use prosthetic instruments.”2

This notion of the zero point of humanity, the vanishing point beyond which one will not know what is human or not, but will cross the Rubicon of animate/inanimate becoming: producing in the process the erasure of the human in the inhuman.  The point that Zizek makes is that in this transition to prosthetic implementation or enhancement through technology, medicine, nanotech, etc. we will become unknowing of the line between the human and machinic, it will become ubiquitous and invisible:

While in principle this may be true, the problem is that when the prosthesis is no longer experienced as such, but becomes invisible, part of our immediate-organic experience, those who technologically control the prosthesis effectively control us at the very heart of our self-experience. (279)

My friend R. Scott Bakker will align this naturalization of humanity into either hybridity or machine-life as the ‘Semantic Apocalypse’. A cultural and socialization process that began with the breakdown in universal values: Kant’s moment of doubt when the notion of finitude and intuition emerged. The notion of eternal truths suddenly dies and spawns history, the dark truth that ‘truth itself is time-bound’, a cultural artifact that we have as Nietzsche once taught “all agreed upon”.

For Zizek this whole breakdown allowed the sciences to fantasize and bring into the world things that were not found in nature, that allowed a process to begin shaping itself without us:

Science and technology today no longer aim only at understanding and reproducing natural processes, but also at generating new forms of life that will surprise us. The goal is not just to dominate nature (the way it is), but to generate something new, greater, stronger than ordinary nature, including ourselves— exemplary is here the obsession with artificial intelligence, which aims at producing a brain stronger than the human brain. The dream that sustains the scientific-technological endeavor is to trigger a process with no return, a process that will exponentially reproduce itself all on its own. The notion of “second nature” is therefore today more pertinent than ever, in both its main meanings.(279)

One must remember that underpinning the notion of “second nature” is the old Christian or even monotheistic/gnostic notion of becoming the ‘being of Light’, etc. One could provide thousands of examples from the World’s religions of this transcension of the natural. From East to West various notions of becoming other than we are, of transcending our nature, etc. has been the goal of moral and religious engines for thousands of years. This movement from religion to the religion of science is one and the same: these new NBIC sciences are sponsored by a new secular religion seeking immortality. Yet, many fear this and realize it is once again the dream not of the common man, but of the elites seeking to gain a new dominion over nature, etc. At the bottom of this fear lies the fear that sex, a natural process that has up to now guided natural evolution is being replaced by what Lacan termed the lamella:

This fear also has a clear libidinal dimension: it is the fear of the asexual reproduction of Life, the fear of a life that is indestructible, constantly expanding, reproducing itself through self-division— in short, the fear of that mythic creature Lacan called lamella (which can be loosely translated as “manlet,” a condensation of “man” and “omelet”), the libido as an organ, an inhuman-human organ without a body, the mythical pre-subjective “undead” life-substance.(280)

Zizek will remind us that Lacan’s term for these objects that have become invisible, ubiquitous in our midst, objects that are merging with us are becoming the surround of our inforworlds are “lathouses”:

The world is increasingly populated by lathouses. Since you seem to find that amusing, I am going to show you how it is written. Notice that I could have called it lathousies. That would have gone better with ousia, it is open to all sorts of ambiguity … And for the tiny little a-objects that you are going to encounter when you leave, on the pavement at every street corner, behind every shop window, in the superabundance of these objects designed to cause your desire in so far as it is now science that governs it, think of them as lathouses. I notice a bit late since I invented it not too long ago that it rhymes with ventouse [windy]. (Zizek quoting Lacan, The Other Side of Psychoanalysis, p. 162.)

Of course Zizek will take on the political interpellation of this, saying that as such, lathouse is to be opposed to symptom (in the precise Freudian sense of the term): lathouse is knowledge embodied (in a new “unnatural” object). We can see why, apropos lathouses, we have to include capitalism— we are dealing here with a whole chain of surpluses: scientific technology with its surplus-knowledge (a knowledge beyond mere connaissance of already existing reality, a knowledge which gets embodied in new objects); capitalist surplus-value (the commodification of this surplus-knowledge in the proliferation of gadgets); and, last but not least, surplus-enjoyment (gadgets as forms of the objet a), which accounts for the libidinal economy of the hold of lathouses over us.(282)


1. Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, New York: Norton 1961, p. 39.
2. Zizek, Slavoj (2014-10-07). Absolute Recoil: Towards A New Foundation Of Dialectical Materialism (pp. 277-278). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.

Slavoj Zizek: Spirit as the Wound of Nature

Spirit is itself the wound it tries to heal, that is, the wound is self-inflicted. “Spirit” at its most elementary is the “wound” of nature. The subject is the immense— absolute— power of negativity, the power of introducing a gap or cut into the given – immediate substantial unity, the power of differentiating , of “abstracting,” of tearing apart and treating as self-standing what in reality is part of an organic unity. This is why the notion of the “self-alienation” of Spirit is more paradoxical than it may appear: it should be read together with Hegel’s assertion of the thoroughly non-substantial character of Spirit: there is no res cogitans, no thing which also thinks, Spirit is nothing but the process of overcoming natural immediacy, of the cultivation of this immediacy, of withdrawing -into-itself or “taking off” from it, of— why not?— alienating itself from it. The paradox is thus that there is no Self that precedes the Spirit’s “self-alienation”: the very process of alienation generates the “Self” from which Spirit is alienated and to which it then returns. … Spirit’s self-alienation is the same as, fully coincides with , its alienation from its Other (nature), because it constitutes itself through its “return-to-itself” from its immersion in natural Otherness. Spirit’s return-to-itself creates the very dimension to which it returns. What this means is that the “negation of the negation ,” the “return-to-oneself” from alienation, does not occur where it seems to: in the negation of the negation, Spirit’s negativity is not relativized, subsumed under an encompassing positivity; it is, on the contrary, the “simple negation” which remains attached to the presupposed positivity it has negated, the presupposed Otherness from which it alienates itself, and the negation of the negation is nothing but the negation of the substantial character of this Otherness itself, the full acceptance of the abyss of Spirit’s self-relating which retroactively posits all its presuppositions. In other words, once we are in negativity, we can never leave it and regain the lost innocence of the origins; in the “negation of the negation” the origins are truly lost, their very loss is lost, they are deprived of the substantial status of that which has been lost. Spirit heals its wound not directly, but by getting rid of the full and sane Body into which the wound was cut. It is in this precise sense that, according to Hegel, “the wounds of the Spirit heal, and leave no scars behind.”  His point is not that Spirit heals its wounds so perfectly that, in a magical gesture of retroactive sublation, even the scars disappear; the point is rather that, in the course of the dialectical process, a shift of perspective occurs which makes the wound itself appear as its opposite— the wound itself is its own healing when seen from another standpoint.

– Slavoj Zizek,   Absolute Recoil: Towards A New Foundation Of Dialectical Materialism (pp. 140-141)

Quote of the Day: René Descartes

So if we seriously wish to propose rules for ourselves which will help us scale the heights of human knowledge, we must include, as one of our primary rules, that we should take care not to waste our time by neglecting easy tasks and occupying ourselves only with difficult matters. That is just what many people do: they ingeniously construct the most subtle conjectures and plausible arguments on difficult questions, but after all their efforts they come to realize, too late, that rather than acquiring any knowledge, they have merely increased the number of their doubts.

– René  Descartes,  The Philosophical Writings of Descartes

Slavo Zizek: Quote of the Day

Kinder Surprise, one of the most popular confectionery products on sale in Europe, are empty chocolate eggshells wrapped in brightly colored paper; when you unwrap the egg and crack the chocolate shell open, you find inside a small plastic toy (or small parts from which a toy can be put together). A child who buys this chocolate egg often unwraps it nervously and just breaks the chocolate, not bothering to eat it, worrying only about the toy in the center—is not such a chocolate-lover a perfect case of Lacan’s motto “I love you, but, inexplicably, I love something in you more than yourself, and, therefore, I destroy you”? And, in effect, is this toy not l’objet petit a at its purest, the small object filling in the central void of our desire, the hidden treasure, agalma, at the center of the thing we desire?

Slavoj Zizek, The Puppet and the Dwarf

Quote of the Day: Jussi Parika

 “Insect media”… is a transversal field that has moved from the historical examples from the nineteenth century … to the more recent discussions concerning swarms and network culture, and from the discourses surrounding art and the transmutation of bodies and their sensoriums to new diagrams of tapping into and capturing such bodies in technocapitalist projects. It is defined by this complexity, and by the media ecological relationality that demands an insectlike compound vision system and the alternative senses of the cultural analyst as well, to be able to take into account the various planes on which the notion of insect media is organized and distributed but also finds its lines of flight. … The way some insects are defined by metamorphosis connects them to a conceptual agenda of cultural analysis and media archaeology keen on developing conceptual tools to open up “universes of virtuality” and ecosophic cartographies that are less about interpretation than about creating potentials for “assemblages of enunciation capable of capturing the points of singularity of a situation.”  In this case, the singularity resides in ethological relations, metamorphosis, and bodily intensities and potentials of communication that are not captured from an anthropomorphic perspective. Incidentally, these points are what connect contemporary network culture and the much older techniques of environing that we find in animals such as insects.1

1. Parikka, Jussi (2010-12-20). Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology (Posthumanities) (Kindle Locations 4165-4182). University of Minnesota Press. Kindle Edition.

Zizek & Deleuze: On Desire

Of late I’ve been tracing down the two forms of desire that interplay through much of the past two-hundred years in discourse. I was rereading Zizek who is a student and epigone of Lacan/Hegel who both conceived desire as lack, while Deleuze on the other hand conceived desire as fully positive. I had discovered in Nick Land’s works this same sense of desire as in Deleuze. There is this undercurrent of philosophers that seem to battle between these conceptions of desire as if it were a central trope and mask for aspects of drive and energy that those following the transcendental Idealists despise with a passion. I’m just taking a few notes here and there as I trace this strange battle of the philosophers over conceptions of desire. It seems important.

 Below is a quote from Organs without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences by Slavoj Zizek:

…Deleuze insists that desire has no object (whose lack would trigger and sustain its movement): desire is “a purely virtual ‘movement’ that has always reached its destination, whose moving is itself its own destination.” This is the thrust of Deleuze’s reading of masochism and courtly love— in both cases, not logic of sacrifice, but how to sustain the desire … According to the standard reading of masochism, the masochist, like everyone, also looks for pleasure; his problem is that, because of the internalized superego, he has to pay for his access to pleasure with the pain, to pacify the oppressive agency which finds pleasure intolerable. For Deleuze, on the contrary, the masochist chooses pain in order to

dissolve the pseudo-link of desire with pleasure as its extrinsic measure. Pleasure is in no way something that can only be reached via the detour of pain, but that which has to be delayed to the maximum since it is something which interrupts the continuous process of the positive desire. There is an immanent joy of desire, as if desire fills itself with itself and its contemplations, and which does not imply any lack, any impossibility.

And the same goes for courtly love : its eternal postponement of fulfilment does not obey a law of lack or an ideal of transcendence: here also, it signals a desire which lacks nothing, since it finds its fulfilment in itself, in its own immanence; every pleasure is, on the contrary, already a re-territorialization of the free flux of desire.

Of course Zizek goes ballistic at Deleuze’s insistence on the notion that desire lacks nothing… Zizek being a faithful child of Hegel gets exasperated and wants to say, ah ha, I got you Deleuze when he says:

Therein resides the ultimate irony of Deleuze’s critique of Hegel: when, against Hegel, Deleuze claims that creation “is immediately creative; there is no transcendent or negating subject of creation that might need time in order to become conscious of itself or otherwise catch up with itself,”  he thereby imputes to Hegel a substantialization-reification which is not there and, in this way, obliterates precisely that dimension in Hegel which is the closest to Deleuze himself. Hegel repeatedly insists that Spirit is “a product of itself”: it is not a pre-existing Subject intervening into objectivity, sublating-mediating it, but the result of its own movement, i.e., pure processuality. As such, it does not need time to “catch up with itself,” but simply to generate itself. (ibid, KL 169)

What’s truly ironic is that for Hegel ‘Spirit’ is a mask for desire, so that it is Zizek not Deleuze who is bound to a misprisioning of Hegel and Deleuze both. Zizek has a fetish for the self-reflecting nothingness at the center of his own empty being: what he calls subjectivity. He could not find desire there so he has been chasing after it through all the worlds of philosophy, film, art, trash, culture, Lacan, Hegel… will he find it? All he need do is give up his love of nothingness. But that’s the key he desires less than nothing so will continue to revolve in his own black hole of non-being.

Yet, if we remember from his opus Less Than Nothing the basic theme was on desire:

This book tries to demonstrate that the Freudian drive cannot be reduced to what Buddhism denounces as desire or to what Heidegger denounces as the Will: even after we reach the end of this critical overcoming of desire-will-subjectivity, something continues to move. What survives death is the Holy Spirit sustained by an obscene “partial object” that stands for the indestructible drive. One should thus (also) invert Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of how we relate to the proximity of death in the Kierkegaardian sense of the “sickness unto death,” as the series of five attitudes towards the unbearable fact of immortality. One first denies it: “What immortality? After my death, I will just dissolve into dust!” Then, one explodes into anger: “What a terrible predicament I’m in! No way out !” One continues to bargain: “OK, but it is not me who is immortal, only the undead part of me, so one can live with it …” Then one falls into depression: “What can I do with myself when I am condemned to stay here forever?” Finally, one accepts the burden of immortality.2

And, of course, one realizes that Zizek is being beyond ironic in such statements since he is a purist of atheists. Zizek is after that “something continues to move”. The burden of life and immortality for Zizek is to be condemned to this life forever, to repeat it ad infinitum like Kafka’s surveyor in The Castle he is condemned to a novel that will never end because the author left the stage before it was completed. An irony too sweet to be missed: one can also conceive desire as a mode of avoiding the circularity of the drive: the self-enclosed rotary movement is recast as a repeated failure to reach a transcendent object which always eludes its grasp (Zizek, KL 5319). This is Zizek’s desire as lack. A sort of hell where one is condemned like Dante’s lovers to whirl in the winds of infinity just out of reach of each other, condemned to an eternity of longing that can never be fulfilled.

Deleuze will offer his own view on desire in which he will point out that desire always flows from within an assemblage. To desire is to construct and assemblage, to construct and aggregate – a dress, a sun ray, a woman or assemblage of a woman, a vista, a color, etc. To be abstract about it: desire is a constructivism. Everytime someone says they desire something, they first of all desire to construct an assemblage, to shape their desire around a mileu:


In the video he goes on to speak of the three points he and Felix Guattari had in disagreement with classic forms of psychoanalysis:

1) they were persuaded with the notion that the unconscious is not a theatre, a place where Hamlet and Oedipus continually play out their scenes. It’s not a theatre but a factory, a production… the unconscious produces, continuously produces… ;

2) the theme of delirium, which is closely linked to desire… to desire is to become delirious… it is opposite to what psychoanalysts discuss – it’s not about the father and mother… the great secret of delirium is that we desire about the whole world… one desires about history, geography, tribes, deserts, people, climates, etc. … it’s not about family, its about tribes and milieu, about one’s place within these…the determinants.

3) desire always constructs assemblages and establishes itself in assemblages, always putting several factors into play, while psychoanalysis is just the opposites and reduces the factors to a single factor: the father, the mother, etc.  While assemblages are a multiplicity, psychoanalysis is a reduction to the one. 

1. Zizek, Slavoj (2012-05-04). Organs without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences (Routledge Classics) (Kindle Locations 156-169). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
2. Zizek, Slavoj (2012-04-30). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (Kindle Locations 313-321). Norton. Kindle Edition.

Quote of the Day: Michael Foucault on The Year Without Names

Q: Allow me first to ask why you have chosen to remain anonymous?

MF: Why have I suggested that I remain anonymous? Out of nostalgia for the time when, being completely unknown, what I said had some chance of being heard. The surface contact with some possible reader was without a wrinkle. the effects of the book rebounded in unforeseen places and outlined forms I hadn’t thought about. The name is facility.

I will propose a game: the year without names. For one year books will be published without the author’s name. The critics will have to manage with an entirely anonymous production. But I suspect that perhaps they will have nothing to say: all the authors will wait until the next years to publish their books.

from Foucault Live: Collected Interviews, 1961 – 1984

Harold Bloom: Internalization of Romance Quest


What allies Blake and Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats, is their strong mutual conviction that they are reviving the true English tradition of poetry, which they thought had vanished after the death of Milton, and had reappeared in diminished form, mostly after the death of Pope, in admirable but doomed poets like Chatterton, Cowper, and Collins, victims of circumstance and of the false dawn of Sensibility. It is in this highly individual sense that English Romanticism legitimately can be called, as traditionally it has been, a revival of romance. More than a revival, it is an internalization of romance, particularly of the quest variety, an internalization made for more than therapeutic purposes, because made in the name of a humanizing hope that approaches apocalyptic intensity. The poet takes the patterns of quest-romance and transposes them into his own imaginative life, so that the entire rhythm of the quest is heard again in the movement of the poet himself from poem to poem.

The movement of quest-romance, before its internalization by the High Romantics, was from nature to redeemed nature, the sanction of redemption being the gift of some external spiritual authority, sometimes magical. The Romantic movement is from nature to the imagination’s freedom (sometimes a reluctant freedom), and the imagination’s freedom is frequently purgatorial, redemptive in direction but destructive of the social self. The high cost of Romantic internalization, that is, of finding paradises within a renovated man, shows itself in the arena of self- consciousness. The quest is to widen consciousness as well as to intensify it, but the quest is shadowed by a spirit that tends to narrow consciousness to an acute preoccupation with self. This shadow of imagination is solipsism, what Shelley calls the Spirit of Solitude or Alastor, the avenging daimon who is a baffled residue of the self, determined to be compensated for its loss of natural assurance, for having been awakened from the merely given condition that to Shelley, as to Blake, was but the sleep of death-in-life. Blake calls this spirit of solitude a Spectre, or the genuine Satan, the Thanatos or death instinct in every natural man.

There is no better way to explore the Real Man, the Imagination, than to study his monuments: The Four Zoas, Milton, and Jerusalem; The Prelude and the Recluse fragment; The Ancient Mariner and Christabel; Prometheus Unbound, Adonais, and The Triumph of Life; the two Hyperions; Don Juan; Death’s Jest-Book; these are the definitive Romantic achievement, the words that were and will be, day and night.

– Harold Bloom, The Romantic Era



Walter Pater: Quote of the Day!


We have an interval, and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among “the children of this world,” in art and song. For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come naturally to many of us. Only be sure it is passion–that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness.  Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake.

– Walter Pater, The Renaissance: Studies In Art And Poetry

W.B. Yeats: Quote of the Day

We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry. … Nor has any poet I have read of or heard of or met with been a sentimentalist. The other self, the anti-self or the antithetical self, as one may choose to name it, comes but to those who are no longer deceived, whose passion is reality. … He only can create the greatest imaginable beauty who has endured all imaginable pangs, for only when we have seen and foreseen what we dread shall we be rewarded by that dazzling unforeseen wing-footed wanderer. We could not find him if he were not in some sense of our being and yet of our being but as water with fire, a noise with silence. He is of all things not impossible the most difficult, for that only which comes easily can never be a portion of our being, “Soon got, soon gone,” as the proverb says. I shall find the dark grow luminous, the void fruitful when I understand I have nothing, that the ringers in the tower have appointed for the hymen of the soul a passing bell.

-William Butler Yeats,  Per Amica Silentia Lunae

Emerson: The American Sublime


As, in the sun, objects paint their images on the retina of the eye, so they, sharing the aspiration of the whole universe, tend to paint a far more delicate copy of their essence in his mind. Like the metamorphosis of things into higher organic forms is their change into melodies. Over everything stands its daemon or soul, and, as the form of the thing is reflected by the eye, so the soul of the thing is reflected by a melody. The sea, the mountain-ridge, Niagara, and every flower-bed, pre-exist, or super-exist, in precantations, which sail like odors in the air, and when any man goes by with an ear sufficiently fine, he overhears them and endeavors to write down the notes without diluting or depraving them. . . . This insight, which expresses itself by what is called Imagination, is a very high sort of seeing, which does not come by study, but by the intellect being where and what it sees; by sharing the path or circuit of things through forms, and so making them translucid to others.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Giambattista Vico on Poets


Poets were properly called divine in the sense of diviners, from divinari, to divine or predict. Their science was called Muse, defined by Homer as the knowledge of good and evil, that is, divination…. The Muse must thus have been properly at first the science of divining by auspices. . . . Urania, whose name is from ouranos, heaven, and signifies “she who contemplates the heavens” to take thence the auspices…. She and the other Muses were held to be daughters of Jove (for religion gave birth to all the arts of humanity, of which Apollo, held to be principally the god of divination, is the presiding deity), and they “sing” in the sense in which the Latin verbs camere and cantare mean “foretell.” – Giambattista Vico, Scienza Nuova

Poetic Influence: Quote of the Day!

Poetic Influence – when it involves two strong, authentic poets, always proceeds by a misreading of the prior poet – an act of creative correction that is actually and necessarily a misinterpretation. The history of fruitful poetic influence, which is to say the main tradition of Western poetry since the Renaissance, is a history of anxiety and self-saving caricature – of distortion – of perverse – wilful revisionism without which modern poetry as such could not exist.

– Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence

Poetry as Expectancy: Angus Fletcher – Quote of the Day!

Whitman is always waiting, peering ahead, testing his own expectancy…” . Like Wordsworth, the inaugurator of modern poetry, he celebrates “something evermore about to be.” On this account Ashbery writes with a special way of paying close attention. You will say, all serious activities, including the activity in and around a poem, are surely attentive. But in fact most poetry is deliberately inattentive. It dwells in memorized formulas (ballads); it dwells in romantic exaggerations and hyperboles (“My love is like a red red rose”); it dwells in the great generalized traditions of myth, those stories appearing everywhere as the loosely ordered structures of poetry and literature; it dwells in a studied indirectness and obliquity which are the very opposite of attentively observed reality. Poems seem to be elsewhere, as booksellers know. Inspired, the poets’ minds drift or fly to the horizon. . . . Even neoclassic poets like Ben Jonson or John Betjeman are less haunted than might be expected by their societal facts; they are playing with societal principles. So it seems that a strictly attentive poetry is unusual, and will need a proper definition. But again, attentive in what sense? If there is something measuring and medical as well as meditative about Ashbery’s verse, then there would have to be an underlying order to it, something like a search for health, or the self-examination of a body that is working well or not, perhaps the first stages of a diagnosis. Some rule of order operates here, albeit mainly hidden from sight.”

– Angus Fletcher, A New Theory for American Poetry




Literature as a Way of Life ~ Quote of the Day!

Literary criticism, as I attempt to practice it, is in the first place literary, which is to say personal and passionate. It is not philosophy, politics, or institutionalized religion. At its strongest—Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, and Paul Valéry, among others—it is a kind of wisdom literature, and so a meditation upon life. Yet any distinction between literature and life is misleading. Literature for me is not merely the best part of life; it is itself the form of life, which has no other form.

– Harold Bloom,  The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life

Oscar Wilde: Quote of the Day!

“Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease. Fortunately…  thought is not catching. Our splendid physique as a people is entirely due to our national stupidity. I only hope we shall be able to keep this great historic bulwark of our happiness for many years to come; but I am afraid that we are beginning to be over-educated; at least everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching–that is really what our enthusiasm for education has come to.”

– Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying

As I’m rereading Wilde’s essay again after years of neglect I step back into a mind full of that vivacity, clarity, and indifference to the truth of things; he would rather find the lie that gives us back reality not as we find it in facts, but as it could be if our imaginations created what see out of the surfeit of motion around us. The notion of dead facts, of things that just sit their in their solidity, substances that seem to exist in some passive mode of irresolution and indecision seemed ridiculous to Wilde. For him Nature didn’t exist as nature but was always and forever a human creation or nothing. This is not to say he was a vein idealist, but that nothing around us is solid, everything is in motion and process and we pick and choose out of this vast storehouse of being the flowers that matter.

His exasperation and disdain for the modern novel and its practitioner was that it deigned to defend this static solidified world of objects, and to stay with the surface – meaning, ugliness of existence as if that actually told the story of life. Reading Cervantes and then reading Zola one cringes and realizes all too well that something dreadful has transpired in language, that the characters on the page are not real, no – they are dead and lifeless. If this is factual reportage and the shape of reality, then for Wilde the world was now filled with zombies and a world destitute of the art of aesthetic appreciation.

I’ve often thought how the society of Wilde’s day much like that of Socrates delivered him to the moral corruption of its vast legal systems based on the notion of the “corruption of youth” of which even Socrates did no escape judgment. Sad that so many artists have gone down into that dark night because of the little minds of our fearful socius and its pressures toward locking everyone into some rigid world of mores. What strange in our own moment is that it used to be the Right, the conservatives, who brought down people, but now it is the Left, with their views on political correctness that through the force of public banishment ruin peoples lives. We used to live in a guilt culture, but have now reentered the stage of Shame… of being shamed in public by the great political chorus of the media. Our personal lives are now touted out on the stage of public affairs and the notion of a private thought with friends is just a mobile phone recording away from total exposure. I wonder what Wilde who himself lived through such public humiliation and trials for his sexual proclivities would think of our age. Sad that we still have not learned anything at all. Instead we are a stupid people who continue to wallow in cruelty and vanity.

Alina Popa – Cruel Thoughts

“A diseased world from which time has been severed is a suffocating breathless world of absolute instance, of infinitesimal nowness where emergence equals eternity and events don’t happen, they just are, frozen in a snapshot of overlapping actualized potentials. It is a deaf vibrancy, a non-acoustic oscillation of matter-strings, a traumatic sensorium, an inhuman regime. It is not anymore a vibrant matter which folded onto a plane produces an unstable map of forces and trajectories, but a stabile instability, a map of the untraceable, the unrepresentable only a sadistic, suicidal thought could try to think. A productive paralysis similar with the “cruel thought” of Antonin Artaud. This collapse of movement and stability, this grounding of the ungroundable would be a world at the limit of thought, without process, a world of contradiction and paradox, of despair and catastrophic reason.”

 – Alina Popa, The Second Body and the Multiple Outside (here)

Reading this essay I imagined Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, and Emil Cioran merged in the figure of a lamentation, an almost Rilkean Angel of Annihilation. To imagine a time traveler who can see the static frames of history in stasis, frozen forever in an obscene gesture of pure clarity, the stubborn movements of reality measured not in time but in eternity, the blipscreen of a final cinematic frame that captures the moment between time and eternity just before the screen goes blank forever: a form that is both formless and frozen. Even the spirit of decay is stifled here, in a world where everything has already happened, where time stand’s still and the nothingness that is and the nothing that is not cross distinct light frames into each others gaze. She talks of how in every moment we are about “…to take an intimate shape, to consolidate in a known form, to create the world around us as we know it. There is an immense “fear of being undelimited”, of losing periphery, of falling through the ground. It is the fright of ungroundedness, the horror of being on the brink of the solid.”

In the late sixties and seventies I experimented in the realm of visionary and ecstatic trance and psychedelics, and what she describes of this need of unhoming, of derealization, of the destabilization of identity and the brain’s hard-wired defenses against the pressure of too much reality was central both to the poetics of those like the decadents from Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Artaud, on up to our time… and, in such deterritorialized experiments in biochemical self-obliteration, a derangement of the senses, that I managed to both survive and continue in other ways up till now. I came away from these experiments with a sense of reality more open and horrendous than we are usually able to frame in our structured consciousness; yet, knowing that around us is a realm of pure indifference and impersonalism opens one’s thoughts to other possibilities and potentials from that point on.

Finally she tells us that what we seek is an Outside that no longer coalesces into this form, this body, but by way of metamorphosis becomes other in a shifting plane of oneiric simplicity, divers in an abyss of knowledge and playfulness: “As long as we are caught in the present available body, there is indeed no outside. The problem is not that there is no outside, but it lies precisely in the fact that we are caught in the same outside without working with it. There are multiple outsides to be produced. Even one devoid of human and without thought.” (here)

In following up those diverse traditions of shamanism and voodooist worldviews, the one tempted by drum and rhythm to ride the world-tree into heavens or hells, the other to allow the goa riders in dance and song, the possession by impersonal forces that surround us we see the opposing poles of the extreme limits of the body and its thoughts as outriders of the great Outdoors of being. Most of us stay home, comfortable in our inherited religious affiliations, or our secular worlds of progressive mythologies of disenchantment; while, others of us explore beyond the borders of acceptability the strangeness of reality itself unbounded by thought and its demarcations to a human core… Yet, without these wanderers of the borders and hedges of civilized reality what would we become, caught in out coded lives, bound to our artificial survival systems of culture? It has always been the poets, the outriders of thought who have intrepidly gone ahead of all normalized and normative pressures, and opened up our minds to other possibilities and potentials. Why stop now?

Follow Alina Popa at affectivealgorithm

Emile Cioran: On Sainthood as a Form of Despair



Sainthood: existence lived in one single absolute dimension. Saints can also hear the voices of the world; but they only speak of the pains that have become love; these are the voices of a single world. Let me turn to the music in which the worlds speak, the other worlds…
     – E.M. Cioran, The Book of Delusions


Raoul Vaneigem: Quote of the Day!

“Once a change has been exposed as illusory, merely replacing it with another illusion is intolerable. Yet such is precisely our situation: the economy cannot stop making us consume more and more, and to consume without respite is to change illusions at an accelerating pace which eventually dissipates the illusion of change. … Nothing surprises us any more, there’s the rub. The monotony of the ideological spectacle reflects the passivity of life, of survival. Beyond all the prefabricated scandals— Scandale girdles, scandal in high places— a real scandal appears, the scandal of actions drained of their substance to bolster an illusion that becomes more odious by the day as its attraction wanes; actions weakened and dulled by having had to nourish dazzling imaginary compensations, impoverished from enriching lofty speculations to which they play flunkey while being ignominiously categorized as ‘trivial’ or ‘banal’; actions now freed up but feeble, prone to stray once more, or expire from sheer exhaustion. … Anyone who talks about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life— without grasping what is subversive about love and positive in the refusal of constraints— has a corpse in his mouth.

     – Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life




Ray Brassier: Quote of the Day!

“At this particular historical juncture, philosophy should resist the temptation to install itself within one of the rival images [either manifest or scientific], just as it should refuse the forced choice between the reactionary authoritarianism of manifest normativism, and the metaphysical conservatism of scientific naturalism. Rather, it should exploit the mobility that is one of the rare advantages of abstraction in order to shuttle back and forth between images, establishing conditions of transposition, rather than synthesis, between the speculative anomalies thrown up within the order of phenomenal manifestation, and the metaphysical quandaries generated by the sciences’ challenge to the manifest order.”

– Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound Extinction and Enlightenment

*note: my brackets…

Valya Dudycz Lupescu, The Silence of Trees


THERE IS A UKRAINIAN LEGEND THAT ONCE EACH YEAR, on the night of Ivana Kupala, a magical flower blooms in the heart of the forest. Anyone who finds it will be granted their heart’s desire: the ability to hear the trees whisper and watch them dance, the power to make anyone fall in love with them, the magic to make barren lands bear fruit and barren women fruitful. It is a single red flower with several names: tsvit paporot, liubava, chervona ruta. The legendary bloom can grant wishes, open the doorway to the past, and awaken spirits to visit with loved ones.

I looked for the tsvit paporot when I was a young girl. I searched for it in many places, in different countries, over a lifetime. I eagerly went into the unknown, looking for magic, for mystery, for adventure. But sometimes magic finds you. Sometimes it comes in the least likely of forms: in a small black river rock, a deck of hand-painted cards, a sprig of purple herb or an envelope from home.

Just when you think that life is slowing down, magic happens. The universe sends you a message, like a tsvit paporot on your doorstep. The question is: what do you wish for?

– Valya Dudycz Lupescu,  The Silence of Trees





*Note: Night of Kupala Festival: here – entry from Encyclopedia of Ukraine

Kupalo festival (also Kupailo, Ivan Kupalo). A Slavic celebration of ancient pagan origin marking the end of the summer solstice and the beginning of the harvest (midsummer). In the western Ukrainian Lemko region and Prešov region it was called Sobitka. In Christian times, the church tried to suppress the tradition, substituting it with the feast day of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist (24 June), but it remained firmly part of folk ritual as the festival of Ivan (John, from Saint John) Kupalo.

Kupalo was believed to be the god of love and of the harvest and the personification of the earth’s fertility. According to popular belief, ‘Kupalo eve’ (‘Ivan’s eve’) was the only time of the year when the earth revealed its secrets and made ferns bloom to mark places where its treasures were buried, and the only time when trees spoke and even moved and when witches gathered. It was also the only time of the year when free love received popular sanction. On the eve unmarried young men and women gathered outside the village in the forest or near a stream or pond. There they built ‘Kupalo fires’—a relic of the pagan custom of bringing sacrifice—around which they performed ritual dances (see Khorovod) and sang ritual songs, often erotic. They leaped over the fires, bathed in the water (an act of purification), and played physical games with obviously sexual connotations. The fires were also used to burn herbs gathered in the previous year and various items of no further use, particularly those that had been blessed with holy water and could therefore not be discarded by normal means. The fires were never extinguished, but were always allowed to smolder out. On the eve female participants wore scented herbs and flowers to attract the males and adorned their hair with garlands of freshly cut flowers. Later they divined their fates according to what happened to the garlands which they had sent flowing on the water.

An integral part of the festivities was a supper of eggs, varenyky, and liquor. An anthropomorphic effigy of Kupalo or a decorated sapling representing him was burned, drowned, buried, or torn apart and scattered in the fields as a symbol of the impending decline in the earth’s fertility. In some regions Kupalo was represented by a wheel laced with dry grasses or straw, which was set on fire and rolled down a hill as a symbol of the declining life-giving powers of the sun after the solstice. The representation of Kupalo was frequently identified with Kostrub, the pagan god of winter, or with Marena, the goddess of spring.

Magical properties were ascribed to the plants and herbs gathered on Kupalo eve. It was believed that such herbs could protect one from the evil forces of nature and even cure illnesses in humans and animals. Local priests seemingly sanctioned this belief by blessing the herbs in church on the day of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. On the morning of that day girls washed themselves with the dew that had fallen on Kupalo eve, which they collected in a bowl left outside overnight, and ran barefoot through the bedewed fields in the belief that doing so would accelerate their opportunity to get married. The sick would roll naked in the dewy meadows in the belief that this action would help them get well, and farmers would run their cattle through such meadows in the belief that this routine would prevent disease.

Written references to the festival date from the 11th century. Its origins are much earlier, however. On a 4th-century calendar pot found in the middle-Dnieper region once inhabited by the Slavic Polianians, for example, the time of the festival was already marked by two crosses. The term ‘Kupalo’ was itself first mentioned in the Hypatian Chronicle under the year 1262. In medieval and early-modern church documents—eg, ‘The Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom’ and the ‘Epistle of Hegumen Pamphil’ of Pskov Monastery (1515)—there are fairly detailed descriptions of the lascivious festivities. Despite the efforts of the church and secular rulers—eg, Hetman Ivan Skoropadsky issued a decree in 1719 categorically forbidding it, and many similar decrees were later issued—the tradition proved too old and too well rooted to disappear. By the late 19th century most of the pagan beliefs connected with the Kupalo rituals had vanished, but the festival was still widely celebrated to mark the beginning of the harvest (see Harvest rituals). As a theme it has figured in the writings of Nikolai Gogol, Mykhailo Starytsky, Lesia Ukrainka, Olha Kobylianska, and Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky, in the music of Mykola Lysenko and Anatol Vakhnianyn, in the paintings of Olena Kulchytska, and in an early film by Danylo Sakhnenko.

In postwar Soviet Ukraine, efforts have been made to revive a Sovietized, politicized version of Kupalo rituals. In 1958 the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR designated the last Sunday in June the ‘Day of Soviet Youth’ and recommended that it become a youth holiday throughout the USSR. Attempts at incorporating traditional rituals into the celebration of this day have not been widely accepted, however, because of the contrived nature of the Soviet Kupalo festival.

Potebnia, A. O kupal’skikh ogniakh i srodnykh s nimi predstavleniiakh (Moscow 1867; Kharkiv 1914)
Ukraïnka, L. ‘Kupala na Volyni,’ Zhytie i slovo, 1 (Lviv 1894)
Dei, O. (ed). Ihry ta pisni (Kyiv 1963)
Shmaida, M. Sobitky (Prešov 1963)
Dei, O. (ed). Kupal’s’ki pisni (Kyiv 1970)
Sviata ta obriady Radians’koï Ukraïny (Kyiv 1971)




Theodor W. Adorno: The Desolation of Truth

If today the subject is vanishing, aphorisms take upon themselves the duty – to consider the evanescent itself as essential. They insist, in opposition to Hegel’s practice and yet in accordance with his thought, on negativity: ‘The life of the mind only attains its truth when discovering itself in absolute desolation. The mind is not this power as a positive which turns away from the negative, as when we say of something that it is null, or false, so much for that and now for something else; it is this power only when looking the negative in the face, dwelling upon it’.

– Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia

Related posts:

The Aphorisms of Adorno: In The Face of Despair
Adorno’s Minima Moralia – Quotes from the Aphorisms and Maxims #1

Guy Debord: Quote of the Day!

Marx’s project is a project of conscious history, in which the quantitativeness that arises out of the blind development of merely economic productive forces must be transformed into a qualitative appropriation of history. The critique of political economy is the first act of this end of prehistory: “Of all the instruments of production, the greatest productive power is the revolutionary class itself.”

– Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

Luciano Floridi: Quote of the Day!

As a social organization and way of life, the information society has been made possible by a cluster of ICT-infrastructures. And as a full expression of techne, the information society has already posed fundamental ethical problems. Nowadays, a pressing task is to formulate an information ethics that can treat the world of data, information, and knowledge, with their relevant life-cycles, as a new environment, the infosphere, in which human beings, as informational organisms, may be flourishing.

– Luciano Floridi,  The Ethics of Information


*ICT = Information-Communications Technologies

Kurt Vonnegut: Another Quote of the Day!

In the public schools, I learned what America was supposed to be—you, you know, a beacon of liberty to the rest of the world. And obviously, that wasn’t the case. I wrote a letter to Iraq, an open letter signed Uncle Sam [laughs], and what it said was: “Dear Iraq. Do like us. At the beginning of democracy, a bit of genocide and ethnic cleansing is quite okay. After a hundred years, you have to let your slaves go. And, after a hundred and fifty years, you have to let your women vote and hold public office.” Some democracy. Anyway, when I was young, I noticed these contradictions and, of course, they were quite acceptable to a lot of people, but not to me.

– Kurt Vonnegut, The Last Interview: And Other Conversations