Sunday, February 27, 2011


56---In the late 20th Century, three French intellectuals---Derrida, Foucault and Barthes destroyed--- via their eager gullible American acolytes--- most English and literature departments of American universities and when they were contemporaneously joined by the feminists, queer study folk and Marxists of various persuasions smart sensitive students departed to science and math if they wanted to preserve any real interest In the reading of literature.

33---Derrida was a huckster of the first order who in reality was your typical Gnostic adept possessed of a specialist vocabulary who initiated disciples into his supposed esoteric wisdom who in turn in a traditional Ponzi scheme recruited unsuspecting students who in turn…

89--Foucault worked the psychology side of the street and poorly read and disciplined set out to undermine supposedly received ideas about madness, incarceration and sex. His life ended in squalor after aggressively infecting young men in San Francisco and other cities with the AIDS virus while on tour in the United States.

67---Barthes launched a thousand students of signs and with the same abstruse language making common a line I heard in Dublin pubs: Who’s reading the telephone directory… the reading of telephone directories becoming equal to reading Shakespeare in many American universities since Barthes had argued that there was no real difference, there is only reading…

99---However, Barthes did create two books that will endure: Roland Barthes on Roland Barthes and A LOVER’S DISCOURSE. Finally the rubbish of what had made him in demand was cleared away and Barthes was able to write about as someone might have said. His real subject: himself.

I have been reading with great pleasure and actual anguish THE PREPARATION OF THE NOVEL by Barthes published by Columbia University Press. Made up of the notes for the lectures Barthes gave in the College de France in the years just before his death in 1980 they take up the question of what it means to want to write a novel.
At first I didn’t get far as I got bogged down in the prefaces but as I read the first lecture which comes with very good annotations as do all the lectures, I discovered that miraculous moment again… the reading slowed, so that I could read only a paragraph at a sitting… I was moved to the center of my being.

So the question of how to share this and Benjamin at hand: just quote what I have underlined from that lecture of December 2, 1978:

a---Each year, when beginning a new course, I think it apt to recall the pedagogical principle stated programmatically in the “Inaugural Lecture”: “I sincerely believe that at the origin of teaching such as this we must always locate a fantasy, which can vary from year to year…

b---The subject is not to be suppressed

c---Better the illusions of subjectivity than the impostures of objectivity. Better the Imaginary of the Subject…

d---Dante:”Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita.” Dante was thirty-five. I’m much older

e---Age is a constituent part of the subject who writes

f---I’ve gone far beyond the arithmetical middle of my life, it’s today that I’m experiencing the sensation- certainty of living out the middle-of-the- journey

g--- Having reached a certain age, “our days are numbered”

h---This reference to age is often taken the wrong way, misunderstood—it’s seen as coquetry: “but you’re not old

i---There comes a time what you’ve done , written (past labors and practices) looks like repeated material, doomed to repetition, to the lassitude of repetition

j--- The self-evident truth: “I am mortal” comes with age

k---Foreclosure of anything New (= the definition of “Doing Time”)

l---I have no time left life to try out several different lives: I have to choose my last life, my new life, Vita Nova (Dante)

m---I have to get out of this gloomy state of mind that the wearing effects of repetitive work and mourning have disposed me to, This running aground, this slow entrenching in the quicksand (which isn’t quick!) this drawn out death of staying in the same place

n---So to change, that is to give a content to the “jolt” of the middle of life

o---But to change idea is banal; it’s as natural as breathing

p---From Blanchot: There is a moment in the life of a man--- consequently, in the life of men--- when everything is completed, the books written, the universe silent ...there is left only the task of announcing it

q---Either retreat into silence, rest, retreat

r---Or to start walking in another direction, that is to battle, to invest, to plant with the well known paradox: Building a house makes sense but to start planting

s---Part of a life’s activity should always be set aside for the Ephemeral: what happens only once and vanishes, the necessary share of the Rejected Monument, and therein lies the vocation of the Course

t---The same uninterrupted sadness, a kind of listlessness… a difficult afternoon: the afternoon … I reflect with enough intensity. The beginning of an idea, something like a literary conversion--- it’s those very old words that occur to me to enter into literature, into writing, to write, as if I’d never written before to do only that

u---To want to write

v---To say that you want to write--- there, in fact, you have the very material of writing; thus only literary works attest to Wanting-to-Write--- not scientific discourses. This could even serve as am apposite definition of writing (of literature) as opposed to Science

w---The proof that In Search of Lost Time is the narrative of Wanting-to-Write resides in this paradox: the book is supposed to begin at the point when it’s already written


Anonymous said...

Bravo, Tom...Brilliant! So much nourishment in what you have posted.

Thomas McGonigle said...

The good writer Tom Whalen who now livesin Germany wrote to remind me that Foucault's DEATH AND THE LABYRINTH is a very very good book of rea literary criticism, a model for sending a reader to the words of Raymond Roussel in the same way that Nabokov's book on Gogol sends you to the actual words of Gogol

Thomas McGonigle said...

a book of real literary