Saturday, April 07, 2012

Solipsism, Kenosis, Krosis

notes on (so we are now four times removed) a critique on a critique of Paul De Man's deconstructionist critique of Harold Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence by Joneil Ortiz:

"Paul De Man notes Harold Bloom’s insight that with respect to one poet’s influence on a later one, “the encounter must take place and that it takes precedence over any other events, biographical or historical, in the poet’s experience."

"De Man then briefly observes that Bloom’s six “revisionary ratios” (clinamen, tessera, apophrades, askesis, daemonization, kenosis), for describing the temporal/historical relations between texts, are not only paradigmatic rhetorical structures but explicitly concern substitution, metonymy, misreading, impropriety, etc. (Tessera, for instance, refers to the “potentially misleading totalization from part to whole of synecdoche” (De Man 274).) De Man’s greater point, however, is to demonstrate that Bloom’s influence model depends on a linguistic and intratextual, rather than temporal and psychological, schema."

"If one poet is complicatedly ‘indebted’ to another poet, that is one thing, but if criticism theoretically privileges that textual relation over any other, or excessively isolates that aspect of a text as the essential feature, then the critique has turned the corner from explication to aesthetic regime. However, the converse argument can just as easily be made with respect to the criticism that, in critiquing the privileging of these features, declares them applied, enforced, invented – an ‘effect’, in short, of the overextension itself. Indeed, in practicing ‘wild, free’ kenosis one is quickly rendered eligible for the counterpart error: the defining of ‘curtailment’ as supervenient. This error (or naïveté) substitutes the ‘influences’ imposed on the creative subject for a ‘raw material’ to mince and meld with freedom and without repercussion. Does not undoing and discontinuity somehow frequently manage to promise reconstitution just when we think it most free, detached, and clear in the open? Behind De Man’s hapless wonder over Bloom’s totalizing anxiety can we not discern the disingenuousness of a ‘calculation’ that is always, in its peculiar mixture of rigor and evasion, ‘helplessly’ right?"

"Different strands of the poststructural tradition likewise take up different aspects of the kenotic passage. (1) The de-construction or ‘undoing’ of tradition: kenosis, at least in De Man’s usage, here refers to Bloom’s figure but not necessarily to the New Testament kenosis that implies a return. (2) Hegelian subjectivity, externalization/internalization of desire, language, perception, the constitution of the self through the other. (3) (Levinas') Self-emptying to clear a space for ‘the other’, a form of receptivity and reading, the precondition of immersion."

"De Man’s remarks thus attempt to relate the first to the second. The ‘undoing’ of tradition is identified as specifically kenotic. But what, then, relates ‘undoing’ to ‘externalization/internalization’, especially when De Man seems to reject the countermovement of daemonization, return, reconstitution? Which is to ask: Can we in any way speak of a kenotic ‘undoing’ (of tradition or of a text) that does not ‘always already’ promise (or threaten) this movement with return, reconstitution?"

"The key perhaps lies in ‘where’ De Man and Bloom respectively identify this return. For the former, the misreading (which he relates to Bloom’s ‘misprision’) is already a return. In this view, which he elaborates on elsewhere (e.g. Paul De Man, “‘Conclusions’ Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Task of the Translator’ Messenger Lecture, Cornell University Lecture, March 4, 1983,” Yale French Studies 69 (1985), 25–46), the ‘original’ reading is just another misreading. Ammons thus redefines Emerson and does not simply return to him. Bloom would likely agree, but with the qualification that not every reading redefines another and that this is precisely what is at stake. Ammons achieved a redefinition (of Emerson), while Coleridge (of Milton) did not. Hence, the breaking of the vessels. Or, as Cixous stresses in a slightly different vein, the subjective process of gaining access to a text implies everywhere the threat of failure, breakage. Textual kenosis, if conceived as a self-emptying for something/someone else, cannot help but approach the hermeneutic."


what often takes place whenever Philosophy over-thinks Poetry is the persistent rigor of such an inter- and intra-textual discourse above. it is enlightening, yes, as the aesthetic often overrules the poetic and the mind benefits (especially when solipsism is the perspective being bannered). but, again, arguments like this privilege paradigms that are extra-curricular to the nature of the writing of poetry. both solipsism and kenosis are metaphysical, self-aware. when confronted not with critique but with a difficult poem (for example, most of John Ashbery's), the reader cannot take shelter in his or her familiarity with the theory behind the poet's intention; he or she should only navigate within the confines of the crafting and the subject. intention could be less imposing, particularly when studying the bitter clash between the canon and new writing. if all this just follows Campbell's high fantasy tradition (initiation, journey, return) anyway, or just alludes to that wayward son from the Bible, poets could settle with more familiar terms like mimesis, othering, generosity.

as for Krosis, well, he's a dragon priest in the role-playing game Skyrim. it's also an expression of startle, like saying "Sus!" or "OMG!". apparently, apostrophes used by the surprised and the reverent (the human) are the same anywhere, whether virtual or phenomenal. so, Krosis! just write!