Saturday, September 11, 2010

GS: reading and reading

So this week I have been reading Saussure and Derrida (for last Tuesday's theory class) and now Freud, Lacan and Rzepka (for this coming Tuesday's class) and it is making me nuts.  especially Derrida and Lacan.  If I were just reading for pleasure, it would be kind of fun (for a page or two) to see what they do with language-- not what they say about language, which is also interesting -- but to watch how they express themselves in language.  I'm reading them in translation, of course, but still it is evident that they enjoy playing with words.  But I'm not reading them for pleasure, I'm trying to understand them, and it's enough to drive you nuts.  You have to suspend resolution of a thought sometimes for several paragraphs of densely written explication of ideas using words you've never heard ("neurax" doesn't even come up when you google it-- neuraxis, but not neurax, except as the name of software that predicts the outcome of horse races, and I swear I did not make that up.)

But anyway.  These guys talk about how we create our consciousness through language-- which makes sense to me on most levels, because how can you think about things for which you have no words? (but makes me wonder exactly how Buddhist meditation, which is beyond/beneath/outside words, fits in.).  And how would you even begin to think about something that isn't defined in your language, except to first try to articulate it?  we can't know anything outside of what language allows us to know, and thus we and our culture are created by what we can say/speak.  We can't find a place of outside of our culture from which to be objective about anything.  That all makes sense to me.  But it strikes me as odd that they somehow think that because they question every bit of common sense knowledge that you've ever taken for granted, that they have done that-- placed themselves outside of culture and are therefore able to make these pronouncements from a position of authority and objectivity.  They never outright claim to be doing that, of course, but the manner in which they state their observations certainly makes it sound like that's what they're doing.  it amuses me.  And of course it goes without saying that they are horribly sexist, but they (like all of us) are products of their time-- which is exactly the point.


  1. further poking around reveals that "neurax" means the same thing as "neuraxis," or central nervous system. just thought you'd want to know.

  2. I need xanax. I have to a big presentation in this class tomorrow and I'm so terrified I'm having to remind myself to breathe. ACK. I hate this. Why the hell did I think I wanted to go back to school?

    OK, just ignore me over here drooling in the corner while I have my psychotic break.

  3. It's interesting that you would mention how language is the basis from which your conscious mind is formed.

    I'm taking a class on the origins of language and religion and one of the things we have to do is define WHAT language is. Practically impossible. Gak!

    Anyway, I just thought it was interesting how Freudian thought (blecho, in my opinion) again dominates an abstract subject like language, even though language obviously existed thousands of years before.

    This is Alexa Schnee, by the way! :)

  4. Hi, Alexa! I knew it was you just from your blogname, I've checked it a couple of times (great blog!). You might be interested in the theories of Saussure and Derrida-- maybe the college has a book on literary criticism or literary theory? you want the chapters on structuralism and deconstruction. I'd loan you some of mine but I need them right now! This is class takes every resource I have!

    see you soon, I hope--

  5. Well, my blog is...interesting. My editor says it's entertaining, but I think that's mostly because I freak out about everything and not so much her liking the actual content.

    I would love to read those! It would be so very helpful in the class I'm learning now.

    But for sure when you're ready. Sounde like a difficult class.! :)

  6. Holy spelling and typing errors on that las comment. Oops.