Sunday, October 16, 2005

Claims and Arguments, Poses and Motions

And as a reader, I'd far prefer to live in a world where Kristen Ross reads Rimbaud as a set of claims on how we live, where Kristeva reads Mallarmé for argument and even for political argument, shock! — insightfully, dialectically — no matter how high he runs the l'art pour l'art flag up over the shipwreck.

Joshua Clover

A catalog of poses and motions produced from within a culture may read, then, like a form of special pleading, or, at the very least, like a product that must be ravaged of bias by scholars prepared to act as objective witnesses.

Ben Marcus


If we stick with the dark idea that the "thought" or "argument" to be extracted, by insight or dialectic (hook or crook?), from a poet's work is the "linguistic consciousness" that it "expresses", then we do well to ask whether Rimbaud or Mallarmé are the best places to go looking for it. They were not, after all, making the argument.

What they were doing was affecting poses and motions within the culture. And I think this simply is the difference between philosophy and poetry. Poetry should be assessed on its poise or stance, philosophy on its vision.

Scholars like Ross and Kristeva, it seems to me, are engaged in the act of ravaging their subjects of bias (insisting on an argument allegedly "expressed" by the pose). But bias just is the index of poise, it indicates a leaning.

5 comments:

Laura Carter said...

You can't appropriate vision for philosophy. It's the oldest mistake in the book(s).

Thomas Basbøll said...

Fair comment.

Of course: the "poet's vision" may be a still older mistake?

Generally I think of my divisions as unburdening the disciplines, not appropriating honours. So I am not appropriating vision for philosophy, not saying that philosophers are now entitled to their visions. Rather I am saying they are committed to seeing clearly.

Poets should move us. They should not open our eyes. Or rather: they don't have to; the other thing is enough.

Laura Carter said...

I am not interested in disciplines, Thomas. I think poetry can do philosophy, philosophy poetry or whatnot. The terms are useful, but the disciplines are becoming less important to me than good writing. Good writing moves and open eyes. There's no reason why what is often called philosophy/theory and what is often called poetry/verse can't do both. What moves does open eyes, and what opens eyes does move. Though I understand your project, I think. I'm being idealistic. It's the best way for me to think right now. At least today.

Thomas Basbøll said...

Hmm. "Disciplines" may be the wrong word.

What I'm interested in is what it means to "do philosophy" or "do poetry". That's the main thing.

What I want to understand is what the difference is between saying "philosophy can do poetry" and "poetry can do philosophy".

If "poetry" just = "philosophy" then there is no difference, right?

I think that there is mainly the doing, and, moving means getting people going, and elucidating means opening their eyes, and just getting them going doesn't "mean" openining their eyes, though you may accidently force them to have a look.

I guess I'm not interested in the accidental effects of poetry or philosophy, but in the thing poets and philosophers do on purpose.

Which might be the good sense of "discipline" I'm looking for.

Good writing is aware of the difference between a poetic and a philosophical moment and it doesn't try to accomplish one with means best suited to the other.

A given text, however, may include both kinds of moment.

Laura Carter said...

Now I am reading a marvelous book that makes me change my mind.

I see also what you mean about Kristeva. I like some of her ideas about language (there's a good bit that's freeing in it, for me) but don't want to scratch certain itches too much. Anything in Freud's line usually leaves me with this wariness.