Krister Paul Friday,
"A Generation of Men Without History": Fight Club, Masculinity, and the Historical Symptom
This article uses a reading of Chuck Palahiuk's novel, Fight Club, as an opportunity to construct a Lacanian
framework for understanding historical self-consciousness. I argue that Fight Club's historical imagination
dramatizes the way the impossibility of defining the postmodern "present" is conflated with the interminability of
identifying with one's symptom, revealing how both are governed by the same tautological performativity. Fight
Club's narrator couches his wounded masculinity in conspicuously historical terms, seeking recognition from the Other
qua History as a means of interpellating an identity for both period and self. I argue that this dynamic, a dynamic of
historical interpellation, is one way texts "think historically," to borrow Jameson's phrase, in postmodernity. In other
words, maybe texts do not reflect or reveal their time so much as they assert--performatively, imaginatively--what their time
ought to be. --kpf
Julie Candler Hayes,
"The Body of the Letter": Epistolary Acts of Jean-Luc Nancy,
Simon Hantaï, and Jacques Derrida
- Abstract: Between June 1999 and April 2000, philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy and
painter Simon Hantaï exchanged a series of letters relating to a group of
artworks that Hantaï was producing to accompany the forthcoming book on
Nancy by their mutual friend, Jacques Derrida ( Le Toucher, Jean-Luc Nancy
). Hantaï's works consist of "unreadable manuscripts": passages by
Nancy and Derrida meticulously copied and recopied on stiffened crumpled
batiste. Ultimately, the letters were published as La Connaissance des
textes: Lecture d'un manuscrit illisible (Correspondances), including the
text of the correspondence, color plates of Hantaï's "travaux de lecture,"
photographic reproductions of all the letters, and a final letter by Derrida
addressed to both correspondents. This reading of the correspondence takes
into account its epistolary dynamics--its logic of sending and receiving,
its "message strategy"--which are analyzed in terms of a Deleuzian "desiring
machine." Other important aspects of the published correspondence include
its complex negotiation of visual and discursive modes and its relationship
to a set of significant pre-texts: the passages from Nancy's Etre singulier
pluriel and Derrida's Donner le temps that Hantaï renders "unreadable" as
he copies and recopies them; and, of course, Le Toucher. It is important
to look at Connaissance not only as a "text," but also as a "book": a
physical object, manifesting production constraints and editorial choices
that subtly interact with the dialogue of the correspondents. This analysis
is shaped by the reflections of Derrida, Nancy, and other scholars and
theoreticians on the vicissitudes of "the letter" and its emblematic
relation to questions of textual materiality, production, and reproduction.
Barrett Watten's Bad History: A Counter-Epic of the Gulf War
- Abstract: This essay situates Barrett Watten's book-length poem Bad History against the debate
between Jean Baudrillard and Christopher Norris regarding the proper position of the intellectual during the Persian Gulf
War. Bad History provides a provisional third way, mobilizing both the paranoiac postmodernity of Baudrillard
and the hyperrationality of Norris, in a poetry that refuses to extract itself from its own subjective position, a
resistance that speaks beyond the limits of its own political group. Watten's poem is the most sophisticated attempt to
grapple with the Gulf War in part because it situates itself in the cultural milieu that enabled the war itself to take
place: what Paul Virilio calls "Pure War"--that state of society whereby the real war is the constant preparation for war.
By invoking and countering the epic mode through a poetics of interference, a subjectivity vacillating between complicity and
resistance, and formal innovations (including use of footers, newspaper-like columns, and a hefty appendix), Bad
History stands out as perhaps the most important poetry to emerge out of the Persian Gulf War.
Is There a Subject in Hyperreality?
The article discusses a dominant trend in postmodernism toward the dissolution of subjectivity into something vague,
unstable, fragmented, amorphic, and always impersonal. In line with the ethical appeal of Lyotard's idea of the inhuman as a
resistance to the tyranny of subjectivity, Baudrillard defines the fatal or the inhuman as an expression of the enigma of the
world, its resistance to metaphysics. What makes Baudrillard's theory of the hyperreal problematic is the possibility for
confusing the hyperreal with the pure or the impersonal (i.e., with the fatal) since both are defined as the collapse of the
subject/object distinction. On one hand, the impersonal is the elimination of human perception as an external, privileged
point of view. However, the hyperreal is also defined as the elimination of the subjective point of view, the suppression of
the look, the fact that the object of perception is always already there, already seen, thus preventing the act of seeing.
Obscenity then has two mutually exclusive meanings: it signifies either the absolute triumph of subjectivity (the world has
been preempted by consciousness, objects are merely extensions or reflections of the subject) or the complete objectivization
of the world (everything becomes objective because what is already seen is, for that very reason, no longer accessible: it
cannot be manipulated by the subject). The de-realization of reality is the destruction of subjectivity but, as Baudrillard
notes, the crime is never perfect. If the real is still preserved--as the trace of what has been murdered--the subject also
survives its annihilation or dispersal; its destiny passes into the object. By subjectivizing or de-realizing the world, the
subject has revealed its ability to appear and disappear--to lose itself in multiplicity--which is, in fact, the strongest
proof that there is still a subject since Baudrillard himself defines the constitutive illusion of the world as the
possibility of things to appear and disappear. Subjectivity includes its own annihilation, its pseudo-sacrificial
self-reduction to objective (fatal) reality.
The Architecture of Information: Open Source Software and Tactical Poststructuralist Anarchism
- Abstract: Open Source Software refers to a software development model in which the source code is open for
modification and redistribution, unlike proprietary software such as Microsoft Windows, which denies access to the source.
The OSS model, in particular the Linux operating system, has garnered much attention from disciplines as diverse as computer
science, sociology, economics, law, and political science; however, cultural theory and media studies, especially theories
influenced by poststructuralist thought, have yet to address the social impact of Open Source and its potential as a political
philosophy in the network society. This paper examines the convergence of poststructuralist anarchism (using works by Michel
Gilles Deleuze, Lebbeus Woods, and Hakim Bey) and Open Source Software via a discursive analysis of Eric Raymond's Open Source
manifesto and ethnographic survey, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar."
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