Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I'm posting as a separate item the following [slightly edited] response of Jane's to this earlier entry just in case anyone feels the need to link to it w/o getting stuck w/ a lot of other stuff. I'll try to respond in the next week or so, and that will end this round of butting into other people's arguments; but I don't expect to post otherwise between now and then -- attention is required elsewhere.

Jane says:

I hope that I am not being simply reactive, and that you will take it in the right spirit, if I try to explain why I think that half your post re poetics gets it exactly wrong, misreads what I wrote at the most direct level; at worst, I figure I can move toward clarifying my own presentation of the issue.

The part you got right, at least from a responsive level, is about the card on the table and unturned, viz. my analysis of the turn toward Christian language. Except you give me too much credit; I hadn't actually gotten to theorizing that, and am not sure I am the guy to do it, beyond some banalities, e.g., in a very dialectically depressing way, I suspect the turn toward transcendental figures is a historical evocation of an inability to grapple with history itself: a kind of hysterical paralysis. the transcendental isn't frozen like "Truth" but frozen like a deer in headlight. But as I said, this is a very unfinished set of thoughts, and I like your ideas on it as much as mine. By the way, it was Jordan who endeavored to suggest that the God-Hating was rightfully transcendental, just displaced.

As to the other half, what I am responding to is, "It's hard to get into what's going on here without making it a referendum on all of one's doubts and questions about Marxism, getting stuck there, and never getting to poetry." I know to a certain extent you are voicing a fictionalized position rather than speaking your own, but nonetheless, I think this gets the priority of my argument exactly backward. I do believe that the whole point, about which I am fairly clear, is that, once you admit of the category "emergent poetics" (and particularly the proposition that they are "emerging with history") that this leads, fairly inevitably, to an extent of relations to politics, insofar as politics is the involvement with the forces that shape the emergence of history and is nothing else.

That is: one is not required in any way at any moment in the argument to accept anything Marxian or Marxist (more on that useful pseudodistinction shortly) before thinking about emergent poetics' relation to politics and simultaneously to criticism. Rather, if one accepts the simple propositions 4.0-1 and 6.4, one can start to think about emergent poetics' political relations. I could easily have never mentioned Marx, deleted Sec 5, and the argument works just the same [...]

At no point in the argument, for example, does anyone need to accept that class conflict is the engine of history, that the owners of means of production and the owners of their own labor constitute the classes, that surplus value of labor is where all profit comes form, etc., etc. Never not once, not even implicitly. Yet these are all constitutive of a worldview we could call "Marxist." Conversely, when folks say "Marxian," they mean, i think, something less resembling a complete worldview, and more pertaining to specifics of Marx's analysis; it would be like saying an economic idea was Keynesian, as opposed to, you know, endorsing his whole macroeconomic program. and there is, yes, exactly one Marxian idea in the poetics, distributed (somewhat awkwardly) over two propositions (4.0-1). So, does one have to believe in Marxism or even in Marxian ideas to consider section 4 and proceed? is your hypothetical referendum really necessary to my argument? Boy, i really don't think so. As i said, I could have never mentioned Marx and the argument wouldn't quiver. I think that Sec. 4 is where "emergent" and "Marxian" overlap -- yes. Yet, in no way are they cast in a determinate relationship, in this argument. Moreover, I think this overlap is straightforward: Marx (and Hegel! and other people!) says that history is driven forward by dialectical pressures that bring new things into being which bear traces of and are responsive to previous stuff. The very word "emergent" seems like its going to overlap with that, just via the dictionary, you know?

That's not to say one couldn't disagree. If one disagreed with 4.0-1 and took the transcendental position, well, that wouldn't be the first time. My argument is toward suggesting that such a disavowal wouldn't be so much a contesting of the idea of "emergent" as it would be a departure from it, and I think I can see the nature of the philosophical debate there, in which i am accused of nominalism and i insist it's strict constructivism, etc., etc.

i think my case here (in this note) has to do with the panic people have around the idea of Marxism, which I do feel like you've given rather clear voice to. If section 5 has a purpose (aside from, apparently, to frighten the horses by saying the name), it's to make clear that Marxian criticism of poetry doesn't require one to accept any of Marx's worldview aside from that stated in 4.0, to wit: art expresses the word-historical conditions in which it is produced, the end. [...]

So for me, I fear the next question is, what is it about historical conditions that causes such a panic around the concept-cluster "Marx" that simple sentences stop working?

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