an image diary

"And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be? ... You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream! If that there King was to wake you'd go out -- bang! -- just like a candle!"

"Hush! You'll be waking him, I'm afraid, if you make so much noise."

"Well it's no use your talking about waking him when you're only one of the things in his dream. You know very well you're not real."

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Kristeva: Can Disenchantment Be Beautiful ?

I read and read. I am looking for something, a reminder of what is clear. Research is like that: immersed in a dark sea, what saves you is only the occasional bright belly flash of fish or the facing surface sinking above you, and this you keep in mind as you can to avoid seeing the vast lack you drown in, what you don't want to see, ultimate freedom, nothingness. Read Kristeva's gorgeous essay, "Holbein's Dead Christ." I think hold onto that:
Nothing seems desirable anymore, values collapse, you are morose? Well, that state can be made beautiful, one can give desirability to the very withdrawal of desire, and as a consequence what might have appeared an abdication or a deadly dejection will henceforth be perceived as harmonious dignity. (122)
Remember that as you search for a discourse that describes the fixed significance of suffering, you would hold onto anything resembling recognition, yours, what you would call a fetishized screening. It looks back at you if only because you see. And being seen, you look again to be seen. Holbein's Christ is dead, is seen and in un-seeing, is horribly violated by the living who see and collapse seeing into live suffering, who gaze and look back or towards birth, who walk, in pain, in resurrection. How would you know goodness or humanity or God, looking on, without surmising that death is the other good: life is good; death is also. Is there an interim? Only the tension between believing you must live and believing you must die. Freud nails it: Eros and Thanatos, desire versus death, the will to live and the will to return to (before birth) nonliving, death.

But no literary theorist (so far) answers my questions without the necessary delusional impulse towards survival and I want more. I need to give more as a teacher and won't rest happily with romantic ideals. The spring course on poetry and suffering is a phantom thing I see now as a misshapen face behind the mask of our scapegoat clown, the (forgive the need for cliche) tortured artist. We write to stave off death? For resurrection? No. For this: was it for this that I heard you, great river, as Wordsworth nearly said: for this. This unseen dark, this womb, this penetration without visibility, this wound ending eternally internal. And so before my death is seen, is raped (and therefore raised to live among the living), before memorials made ceremony and ritual, made story of the meaning of my life, I make. I write. I get it out first lest I invite you in.

Can disenchantment be beautiful? The regressive is more pressing: can the beautiful be true?

I can't help it, what they will turn to, as students:

1. That suffering is necessary (and poetry in that case therefore)
2. That suffering is romantic (and poetry, etc.)
3. That suffering is empowering (etc.)

1-3 is true, I'm convinced. But how to determine the poem from here? Poem as fetish, Kristeva says, which is to say that the beginning of moving away from repetition is the compulsion to repeat, rhyme, make rhythm. Life, art, not true. Who needs truth to live?

"and what is the use of a book...without pictures or conversations?"

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