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Mpls, MN, United States

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Work

When I was a freshman in college, my Honors College Writing professor asked each of us what books we'd really had to work for, and had found rewarding because of the struggle. Sadly, I could think of very little; I think I ended up picking Plato, whom I'd encountered in my Honors Western Thought class in the first quarter of that year. Sadder yet, I hadn't even read that much of Plato: I didn't do much of the reading that first quarter.*

Even though at the point the question was asked I had been reading for about 14 years, I couldn't think of anything that had really made me work for it, and that bothered me. The past decade has, thankfully, done a lot to remedy that situation.

Last night I finished the first half of a book for a seminar I'm taking about globalization. It's by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, is entitled Empire (2002), and contains sentences like this:

What Foucault constructed implicitly (and Deleuze and Guttari made explicit) is therefore the paradox of a power that, while it unifies and envelops within itself every element of social life (thus losing its capacity effectively to mediate different social forces), at that very moment reveals a new context, a new milieu of maximum plurality and uncontainable singularization--a milieu of the event. (25)
It made me work hard, and, especially in the beginning, made my brain hurt. But then it picked up, or I started getting it, and although I've only read the first 220 pages, as assigned, it's currently at the top of my list of books worth the grapple.

I am blogging now, however, because of how tired I am of reading a book for another seminar, this one on memory, that has so far not been outweighing in goodness or usefulness the pain reading it is causing me. Here's a sentence:
What is called present, past, are its "running-off characters," eminently immanent phenomena (in the sense of a transcendence reduced to its hyletic status). (33)
Here's another:
In a word: what is the eidetic necessity attested by the expression memory-image that continues to haunt our phenomenology of memory and that will return in full force on the epistemological level in the historiographical operation that constitutes the historian's representation of the past? (44)
Although the incessant Greek, German, and French terms (Stellungnahmungen, Selbstgegenwärtige, Vergegenwärtigung, eikon, tupos, muthos, opsis, etc.) simply add to the otherwise difficult language, what is really troubling me is that I'm supposed to lead the discussion on this text in class on Tuesday. With a geographer.

And I am just not (yet, hopefully...) getting it. Does anyone feel like explaining Ricoeur? And, in turn, Husserl? I have 76 pages and 10 hours before I meet my partner to send out discussion questions to the class. I'd much rather just sleep; I don't have much more grapple left in me.

*Not because I was a slacker. I was the anti-slacker, meaning, in this case, Completely Insane.

4 comments:

I Hope So said...

oh honey.

boy am i glad i'm not you right now.

good luck :)

Curly Sue said...

I took a seminar on the whole literature of history and memory. I have to say that I really didn't enjoy the seminar very much. I find most of the literature on the subject pretty fuzzy and most of the writers on the theory of memory to be hiding behind the very discourse that they're supposed to be breaking down. That is, they're using words from the discourse to explain that discourse, which, you'll recall from Bourdieu, is not the way to go. I think that the whole field of memory/history studies has a long way to go. That said, I did enjoy the book Silencing the Past by Michel-Rolph Trouillot. He, if I remember correctly, uses concrete examples of what he's trying to discuss.

Good luck, Ceri. Keep me posted on your seminar and what you're reading...I'm actually pretty interested, since this literature intersects marginally with my own dissertation project.

Yes Is A World said...

Ditto to I Hope So.

Hope it all works out!

My "Using Memory in Literature" class is not turning out to be hard at all. Last week the assignment due was to write down 50 memories. And then we spent an hour of class going around in a circle and sharing them.

I was all, "uh, isn't this grad school and not 3rd grade?"

Hopefully this week will be better.

Ern said...

I don't understand any words of that at all. Except maybe "what". And oh, "very". Ooh, and I know "memory" too!