Foucauldian – Philosophy, Michel Foucault…
- Winter 2002
Earl Jackson, Jr.
Study Guide Seven
This guide is somewhat more of an
instruction manual than the earlier guides. It maps a couple intersecting
agendas. You will be glad you followed the instructions here. Not because
you will be submitting to external control – quite the opposite. The steps
that are worked out here give you the critical apparatus and train your
analytic skills so that you’ll
be far more in control of the theory than you thought possible. But
this is not a state of grace. You have to
work for it, but if you do, it happens.
We are Here.
Let’s do a little inventory of what
we’ve done so far, and where we are now. We have examined the basic founding
principles of semiology derived from the work of Ferdinand
de Saussure. We then moved on to the philosophy and semiotics of Charles
Sanders Peirce. These two systems remained our orientation points we
moved ahead in the subsequent histories of the discipline. We read Roland
Barthes, Emile Benveniste, and dealt with Umberto
Eco to some degree (via De Lauretis‘ emendation
of his semiotics). Our brush with Derrida in the first chapter of Kaja
Silverman’s The Subject of Semiotics was too quick and brief to
count, but we are aware of him and will return to him when useful. During
the first week of the course we read Vladimir Nabokov’s very short story,
„Signs and Symbols.“ But this
story was little more than an illustration of the theoretical questions
of the course.
Two weeks ago,we began our second work of fiction, Karen
Joy Fowler’s novel, Sarah Canary, a far more substantial
text that gave us rich territory in which to try out our new methods of
reading and ways
of conceiving of meaning.
I think that
our sessions about that novel demonstrated its suitability for semiotics
and vice versa. And remember – a successful encounter does not necessitate
the mastery of the method over the text. We found the ways the text challenged
our critical apparatus as interesting as the ways that semiotics opened
up the text for us.
Sarah Canary, I turned our attention to the semiosis of narrative
Although at times the discussion led through some circuitous
paths, the willingness to get lost is an index of a commitment to discovery.
We read Sarah Canary through a Peirecean analysis of semiosis. We
alternatively re-read Sarah Canary according to Barthes‘
structuralist analysis of narrative. And we supplemented these two
readings with narratological studies of the modes of subjectivity expressed
in the narrative discourse. In other words, we learned to categorize third-person
narratives according the techniques used to represent the speech
and consciousness of the characters. We distinguished among direct discourse,
indirect discourse, and free indirect
discourse. We did some pretty hands-on work with these techniques,
and documented examples of each. Time so far hasn’t permitted us to go
into other narrative techniques in such detail, but we did make a point
of constructing and inventory around these three basic orientations, that
would include: narrated monologue; narrated perception; stream-of-consciousness;
and interior monologue. Third-person narrators may be omniscient and neutral
(Is Joyce’s narrator neutral in Ulysses? In Finnegans Wake?)
or omniscient and personally intrusive. They may delve to any degree into
the minds of all the characters (like Henry James), or they might restrict
the presentation to what can be seen from an external view (the technique
Hemmingway is famous for).
Narratological studies such as this
one, especially fortified as it was with semiotics, dramatically illustrates
something that is repeated like a mantra in many introductions to contemporary
theory courses: that the subject is an effect of the signifying system
in which it is located. Novels such as Sarah Canary, Madame Bovary,
and The Sound and the Fury, unquestionably present „subjects“
who are effects of the language that speaks them. The semiotic
approach we have taken also makes the novel’s demonstration richer
and more vivid. Ah, but you might say – „Sure, people in novels are effects
of the language, because they’re fictional.“ And then I’d point out that
it was no accident that finishing Sarah Canary and concluding our
examination of free indirect
discourse coincided with reading Emile Benveniste’s essays, „The Nature
of Pronouns“ and „Subjectivity in Language.“
We Will [Have] Be[een] where It Was.
I want to call attention to the juncture
at which we arrived, especially as we traverse it. The narratological studies
of „subjectivity“ in fiction resonates with the relation of subjectivity
and language in Benveniste’s slowtime interface [my geeky
idiom for „real life“]. This handy dovetail subtends another upcoming cross-over:
the shift from fictional narratives to the
autobiographical narratives we have been reading in the background
until now. I kept them separate at first to allow for a certain familiarity
with the theory to establish itself. It is usually easier to teach theories
like this through fiction, since non-fiction
will present other challenges to our reading protocols. But now
I think we’re reading
to make the transition with all eyes wide open, like the woman at the
beginning of Un
Chien Andalou. [Notice my timely Freudian
slip too in the previous sentence.]
Do you recall how I seemingly inexplicably
read to you from too email conversations that took place several years
ago? Now one of the major reasons might become clearer. We had just done
all the work above on semiotics and narrative, and had the Benvenistean
notions of pronouns as shifters within a discursive reality clearly in
mind. When I read to you from the email exchanges you could assume the
person I identified as myself was the person you see twice a week in class
and the one who is presumably typing these words at this very moment [well
at this very moment that is long gone by the time you’re reading this.]
But that „I“ was different from the one that
speaks to you from the stage. And in both cases there was another „I“
whom you didn’t and couldn’t know. So what happens to both „I’s“ in the
interaction in the exchange, and what about the „I“ that read it aloud
to you? The „I“ was communicating to you but not by speaking to you
but by repeating a communication he had had directly with someone else,
whose voice was as present within the reading as the one standing there
no longer quite being who he had been until then.
The pronouns are the linguistic shifters
but the personalities also shift through them and the exchanges and recreations
of past discursive events. And the email exchange was a shift from
the fiction of Sarah Canary to the „real fact“ of the actual communication
in a few real lives. But notice how quickly self-presentation and self-
re-presentation becomes fictive. What was the relevance of what movie had
been playing in Jackson’s neighborhood at the time of the email message?
And how serious was he in his response to the student’s innocent misphrase,
gave it to you on a blank disk?“ Did he have to go on and on
like that? Was he sincere? If not, who was the „I“ when he was telling
it to the student in question? And who was the „I“ who took class time
up to read his telling it to the in question to students now in school?
Anyhow, I raise these questions as
a way to spring into our next direction, after having taken this look back.
This week we’ll have assignments that will carry on the questions that
we were left with last thursday. First of all, the nature of the shifters
in actual intersubjective exchange, and the stakes involved in constructing
the „I“ of autobiography. We have one more story to read from Names
we call Home for the latter half of this agenda. And for the first
half, please read attentively and interactively the six episodes of the
Scott Davis / Earl Jackson, Jr. exchange
that I call Tracing Semiosis.
Look at the One-winged Birdie! – Getting the Picture
Last week we concentrated on semiosis and narrative. But
we also read Barthes‘ „Rhetoric of the Image“ and „The Photographic Message.“
Beyond discussing the controversy over Barthes‘ unfortunate claim that
a photograph is „a message without a code,“ we did little with these
texts. That was deliberate on my part. As you know, I consider „narrative“
and what I call „the specular“ to be two pervasive technologies of subjectivity,
with their own laws and logics. I wanted to introduce them separately.
Now we’re ready to turn to the „specular“ – at least in terms of the question
of the image.
This is why we are going to read Michel
Foucault’s, This is Not a Pipe. It is a fascinating inquiry into
the paradoxes of meaning peculiar to an image. But it is also an exploration
of the limits to the relations between image and text. These limits
are historically and culturally contingent. The contradictions within Magritte’s
paintings are very much embedded in late modernist, and early post-modern
cultural production and theory [if such a period is conceivable as „early
post-modern“]. I’ll return to this momentarily. I hope this puts
the choice of this text in context for you. In many ways we’re reading
This is Not a PIpe, more than we’re reading Foucault. I could
imagine that introducing Foucault into the course now would constitute
not only one challenge too many, but one extreme detour away from both
our intended critical discourses. But the good news is that
This is Not a Pipe was a detour of sorts for Foucault. The work
is doubly „eccentric“ – first in its insistently playful tone, but also
in its distance from the larger projects for which Foucault is generally
known. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take this monograph seriously
– it just means that Foucault’s performance in this inquiry does not depend
upon a global understanding of his career. Of course, understanding
Foucault is always a plus, and you’re free to bring as complex a
relation to the book as you like. But I want clarify his position and function
within the project at hand..
First Agenda: Tracing
Read carefully and follow the arguments and the rhetorical
flourishes of the conversation between Scott C. Davis and Earl Jackson
Jr., entitled, Tracing Semiosis.
Pay attention to hyperlinks and be sure you learn how
to bookmark hyperlinks and organize the bookmarks later. Earl will be happy
a workshop in any computer lab to give you helpful hints systematically,
or you can see him during office hours for technical instruction as well.
The conversation is currently in six parts and growing.
Here’s a console with all the parts:
Agenda Two: Michel Foucault, This is Not a Pipe.
Although reading This is Not a
Pipe does not require a full engagement with the body of Foucault’s
work or his larger projects, we still should be responsive to the readings
he gives and attentive to the cultural markers he traverses. What I have
written and prepared below is part guide and part assignment. I’ve extrapolated
out things that you should make a point of learning about and remaining
attentive to, and packed the site with some very valuable passover eggs.
Obviously a book by Foucault on Magritte
will rivet attention to Magritte’s paintings and Foucault’s way of reading
them. And a commonsense tip: Foucault mentions often enough to be significant,
two other painters, slightly older contemporaries of Magritte: Paul Klee
and Wassily Kandinsky. Consider part of your mission to find out
about those painters and look at their work, see if you can understand
why they are included in Foucault’s discussion of Magritte.
Foucault’s inquiry centers around the condundrums and
paraodoxes generated by the coexistence of image and text in the space
of Magritte’s painting. You’ll be able to follow Foucault’s
thought just by reading the book [carefully] but I’d like to suggest a
way to make your interpretant truly energetic. Be prepared to talk about
four earlier attempts to fuse image and text. This is how miraculous learning
is. By tuesday you’llbe talking about these phenomena like they’re
old friends, and at the moment you might not have ever heard the words
I’m about to list. You mission – find out about:
|Earlier hybridizations of image and text|
Illuminated Manuscripts of the
de France Collection.
miniature illuminated Manuscript Collection at l’Université
de Liège. Belgium
Resources: These resources are simultaneously
aids and assignments. Please use them.
One from The Archeology of Knowledge
|Excerpt from „What
is an Author?“ If you only read one text by Foucault besides
is Not a Pipe, this quarter, it should be this one.
Foucault Info Resources Includes transcripts of Foucault’s lectures
and excerpts from published works.
Foucault Bibliography Project
/The Untimely Past.
Untimely Past is a terrific site dedicated to historiography. Browse
the entire site after looking at this annotated bibliography of writings
Bibliography of the Works of Michel Focault. Downloadable in three
Site. Interesting Japan-based site. It has both English-language and
and Surrealism of the Truth
|Sherman Young, „Of
Cyberspaces: the Internet and Heterotopias„
|Veronique M. Foti, „Representation
Represented: Foucault, Velasquez, and Descartes.“
|The first and one of the greatest examples of ecphrasis
in Western literature, is the description of Achilles‘
shield in the Iliad. (Iliad
|Iliad XVIII: 462–615|
|Gregory Nagy, The
Shield of Achilles: The Ends of the Iliad and the Beginning of the Polis
|Watch the Real-Video lecture
of Gregory Nagy at this URL
Rebus Letter from 1777, United States.
Rebusi de Leonardo da Vinci
and explicated by Professor Augusto Marinoni.
The Image and the Text:
Visual and Pictorial Semiotics
|Tracing Semiosis||Roland Barthes, Mythologies|
Tracing the Index.
|John Hollander on
A Gallery of Several Art Works and famous poems on them
The Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci„
|One of the earliest and most exciting examples of ecphrasis
in Western literature is the description of Achilles‘
shield in the Iliad. (Iliad
|Then there’s the section on the Freize of Dido in Book
IV of Virgil’s Aeneid.
|Look how the postmodern world continually reaches back
and bites itself on someone’s arm-analogue. Consider the event kicking
off a special exhibition at the Ransom Center in 2001. John Ashbery one
of several artists featured for their own self-portrait. Of course, Ashbery’s
was not really iconic, but the poem, „Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.“
Any to get to the point. Guess what this event was called? It was called:
A Portrait Sampler.“ What would this mean in Foucauldian terms?
Earl Jackson, Jr.