I think this has been set up all along as an unfortunate dichotomy (I mean the entire debate, not this one on the list especially). The great irony, of course, is that precisely when women, historically, asserted agency and a voice, theory focused on denying both. But I do not think it succeeded; it did, aptly, reframe the terms of the problem. The theory I found most helpful when writing on the topic was Susan Hekman's "Subjects and Agents: The Question for Feminism" in Provoking Agents, ed Judith Kegan Gardner (U Illinois, 1995). If anyone is interested, my article on contemporary Scottish women poets is on the subject: "Complexities of Subjectivity" in Assembling Alternatives: Reading Postmodern Poetries Transnationally, ed. Roman Huk (Wesleyan, 2003). Since I would stand by my view in that article, reiterating it here seems redundant.
I share Diana's view that this does involve Eliot, and I would be interested in ideas about that. I think, for example, that his whole claim to "impersonality" is filled with complications, and that newer discussions of it (like Charlie Altieri's or Tim Dean's) need to be brought into the analysis.
>>> Diana Manister 01/13/10 11:19 AM >>>
Dear Carrol and Nancy,
"Sartre introduced Heidegger to France, and the generation of Derrida et al claimed he misinterpreted Being and Time; Rajan points out that he did _not_ misintepret it, he DISAGREED with it."
Heidegger's enterprise undercut the binary self/other by dissolving self in Dasein, an always-already-in-the-world situatedness he illustrated with examples of transparent coping, when consciousness of self and object dissolve in absorption in the task at hand. This is what artists, sports figures and others call being in the "zone." A carpenter is not aware of his hand as separate from the hammer when he is nailing something; the nails just go in without subjects or objects existing separately in consciousness. Going through a door is not "I" passing through "door" but "go through." The action is agentless in that sense.
Heidegger's project undermined Cartesian dualism; he took on the whole Western philosophical tradition and replaced it with his non-dualistic phenomenology. Sartre loved Being and Time, and Being and Nothingness was meant as a tribute to Heidegger. But Sartre went back to Cartesian dualism -- he did not understand Heidegger's main accomplishment. If he disagreed with Heidegger's non-dualism he would likely have defined his disagreement rather than proceeding in Being and Nothingness as if he didn't "get" Heidegger's attack on dualism.
Diana > Date: Mon, 11 Jan 2010 22:01:42 -0600 > From: [log in to unmask] > Subject: Re: Eliot's poetry: the medium & the message > To: [log in to unmask] > > > Nancy Gish wrote: > > > > I don't disagree with any of this. But it seems to me really > > concerned with what we mean by "self" or "I"--not whether some agency > > must exist. I'm not addressing the meaning of "self" or the necessity > > of consciousness; I am simply pointing to the fact that to discuss it > > all, there must exist (note passive voice) some residue of agency, > > whatever you call it, that does the discussing or challenges the > > definition. To claim there is only discourse would, I presume, mean > > that discourse exists. But how if no agency discourses? I don't find > > any of the theories get at this, and I did, as I said, read a lot on > > it once. > > > > For example, if no "I" exists, who or what is your "you" who/that > > thinks of it? That is the conundrum I am noting. And I do not think > > it is simple at all--no one, in any case, seems to solve it. > > Cheers, > > Nancy > > As Marcia says (my paraphrase) "Theories are a dimve a dozen." And every > so often someone invents a really catchy name for a few hundred of them > (e.g. "postmodernism"), then thousands or 10s of thousands of people > pick their favorite plum out of the bundle and try to relate everything > they come across to that plum. Then pretty soon (a generation, maybe a > couple centuries, sometimes only a few years) someone makes a new bundle > of them, and off we go again. > > For a careful attempt to sort out the miscellany of tendencies that have > variously been labelled "postmodern," "post-structuralist," and > "deconstion" see Tilottima Rajan, _ Deconstruction and the Remainders > of Phenomenology: Sartre, Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard_. Also see T. > Rajan & Michael J. O'Discoll, eds., _After Poststructuralism: Writing > the Inetellectual History of Theory_. > > That title is telling: Already one can look BACK on that ensemble of > theorists and theories as _history_, past tense. (She is not being > sarcastic: she regrets the passing, and has written an article which I > can't > locate an exact cite on just now called _The Moment of Thoery_. > Incidentally, she points out in the first book cited that "thoery" was > coined by Derrida et al as a way of doing philosophy without having to > deal with Sartre. (Note: she is an admireer, even 'disciple,' of > Derrida, but not a cultist.) Sartre introduced Heidegger to France, and > the generation of Derrida et al claimed he misinterpreted Being and > Time; Rajan points out that he did _not_ misintepret it, he DISAGREED > with it. > > As to the "self" -- that's been under critique for at least two > centuries. Take a look at Marx's "Theses on Feuerbach," or at my > "Citizen Angels: Civil Society and the Abstract Individual in Paradise > Lost." About 80% of it is fluff, but the core holds. Satan presents > himself as a cherub wandering around looking for tourist information; > Uriel takes it all in stride, though a bit surprised. Note that in > Milton's heaven we have angels who are strangers to each other: cf. > Elizabeth & Wickham, contrast with Dante's heaven of Homer's gods. Marx > also, in the Grundrisse, refers to the "dot-like isolation of the mere > free worker." This isolated individual, who comes from nowhere and must > by an abstract choice or act of will enter into relations with other > equally abstract individuals coming from nowhere (consider implied > writer/implied reader in the first sentence of Pride & Prejudice) -- > this indvidual or self is a creation of modern commodity production, and > Milton's epic of that individual gives some weight to Pound's aphorism > that artists are the antennae of the race. But, incidentally, > neoclassical economics still takes this individual as gospel, they call > it rational choice individualism, and contemporary economics is the > pseudo-science of how such spooks relate to each other. > > To put it another way, there's a hell of a lot of complex history here > and you just can't grab a writer her or there, give it a fancy name, and > say this is the way it is now. > > Carrol
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