Frames /sing


Monthly Archives: November 2008

Virtual City of the Sun

How Philosophies Stand Citied

The City of the Solarians

Here we find a virtual model of Campanella’s utopian City of the Sun (1602), written of in the year that he received his life sentence for a leadership role in a local failed revolution in Calabria, apparently with the anticipated help of the Turkish fleet, (not to mention astrological, millenial confluence). Bruno had been burned at the stake two years before (Campo de’ Fiori, Feburary 17th), an event which for some marked the end of the Renaissance, and the birth of Modern times. Campanella, not relegated to the heretical flames, rather employed a legal strategy of feigned insanity, the endurance of torture, and then decades of imprisonment, inspired writings to forward his quest for religio-political “mutatione”. The city is taken to be a blueprint for the kind of communitarian state Campanella hoped to help establish in impoverished Calabria.

What I am taken by, as I have recently been thinking about the prescriptions for society that tend to flow from Lacanian inspired analysts, is how each and every philosophical complex, as it seeks to explain the world coherently, and fulfills what Walter Benjamin called its Representational role, cannot help but enter a citadel dimension…that is, carve out a conceptual space in which we are meant to live.

Campanella conceived his city, archetecturally, as a Representation of the Universe. A Representation, and an expression. In a kind of sympathetic magic the 7 walls represented the 7 circuits of the planets. Further though, on each of the walls were fresco depictions of knowledge from every science so that the entire city, and its inhabitants manifested the discourses that shaped them:

As one traveled a circuit of a wall, one enacted a planetary course, absorbed a degree of knowledge. It is in particular the nature of these heavily defensive walls, the representive, expressional nature of them that fascinates me.

Rorty pointed out that to a great degree the ontological is a product of a fundamental ontology/epistemology divide, one governed by a primary metaphor of reflection. What we can and do know is supposed to be a mirror of, a corresponding aspect of what IS. And once this metaphor is given up, so is something of the ontological question. One is then left with either just epistemology, or just ontology, but not both.

This is only partly right. Much as in Campanella’s walls, the discourse of knowledge assumes an ontological dimension which Causes what we hold to be the case. Any theory works as a witness, engaged in the world, bringing it into relief, and organizing our place within it. The “walls” of any theory (its internal coherence), didactically tell us how the world is (ideologically), manifest essential aspects of the world (participating in its expression), and buttress the space they have created (coherence). It is a community of visions for those that inhabit it. The phraseologies, deductions, defintions all circulate to establish a civic realm. It is u-topia, in the sense that it is No-place, in particular, even if it is given an address in history. The ontologies of even the most post-structural and avant gaurde, are expressed not only in their ontological commitments, but if their very causal connection to the shared world. Even multiplicites stand carved and frescoed.

How many times have you traversed a text (Semper’s textile), passed your eye back and forth as you crossed it, on your way, aware of where you were, and were going, yet pleasurably puzzled over the signification, this figure of a phrase, this nexus of a meaning-logic, positioned on a city-scape on a landscape, knowing that others pass beside you?

There is a sense, in philosophy, where the invitation is ever…here, live in this world, Heideggerian, Foucaultian, Fregian, Lacanian, Wittgensteinian, Spinozist, Nietzschean, Sartean, Kantian, Augustinian, Deleuzian, Humean, Whiteheadian, Lucretian etc., etc., etc. It is not that philosophy is LIKE city-building, or architecture, or that the products of philosophy are helpfully applied to ways of living, modes of social building. It is likely best to say that philosophy is borne of the architectural impulse, the very space-organizing, living conceptions that first orient the species-organism. Philosophy is a kind of compass-work and an οἶκος. 

We might say as well that Tommaso Campanella in his commitment to legal insanity and utopian closure, enacted the very limit at which the philosopher operates. Architecturally outside of what she/he is inscribing, seeking to express herself/himself within what causes the inscription. Prescriptions to lives and society are immanent to the walls of structure and connection. The philosophical impulse is territorial.

And who is to build the City of the Lunarians? Where do you wish to live?

English Text of Campanella’s City of the Sun

From its end:

Sea Captain: [Speaking of Catholic Spainish power in the New World]…They sought new regions for lust of gold and riches, but God works to a higher end. The sun strives to burn up the earth, not to produce plants and men, but God guides the battle to great issues. His the praise, to Him the glory!

Grand Master: Oh, if you knew what our astrologers say of the coming age, and of our age, that has in it more history within 100 years than all the world had in 4,000 years before! of the wonderful inventions of printing and guns, and the use of the magnet, and how it all comes of Mercury, Mars, the Moon, and the Scorpion!

Sea Captain: Ah, well! God gives all in His good time. They astrologize too much.


A Response to Larval Subjects

It seems that Larval Subjects and I had a bit of back and forth over the importance of Lacan in reading the projects of both Deleuze and Guattari. New to her/his weblog, I did not realize the extent to which she/he was committed to Lacanian principles, and my struggle to provide a Deleuzian/Spinozist critique of Lacan ended the conversation from her/his end.

Below is my last posted response to the exchange, for what it is worth, she/he thinking it best not to allow posted (which is fair). For the sake of completion I post my response here. I actually have appreciation for the Larval Subjects weblog, where some very interesting points are being made.

LS: “You seem to be of the view that the analyst is doing something to the analysand… Namely tracing everything back to lack or absence. In point of fact, nothing of the sort actually takes place in the analytic setting. The analyst barely says anything at all, often simply repeating certain phrases or remarks that the analysand makes, occasionally modifying them slightly.”

Kvond: You seem to slip back and forth between one-on-one analysis, and theories of Being meant for societal prescription (the second of which I thought we were talking about by and large), as you wrote,

[LS:]”I’m looking for is more along the lines of a social formation that doesn’t lead to Oedipal hierarchy on the masculine side or the search for the guru and unassailable network relations on the feminine side.” Read more of this post

Do Küsse and Bisse rhyme? Penthesilea, breaking the injunction

I am reading through Larval Subjects’ crisp recapitulations of, and comments upon, Lacan, [here and here, etc.] And a single line come to me as she/he talks about the non-totalizing effects (or capacities) of language. There is a logic of “masculine” and a “feminine” failure (incompleteness or inconsistency).

The line comes from Kleist’s incalculable play “Penthesilea”, at its lexical apex/end. As the Amazon queen Penthesilea, having lost her senses, is informed by the High Priestess that she has torn into and fed upon her unfeatable/defeated Achilles as a beast among her dogs, she explains poignantly, how this act was born from love:

— So it was a mistake. Küsse [kiss] and Bisse [bite],

They rhyme, for one who truly loves

With all her heart can easily mistake them.

(Scene twenty-four).

[So war es ein Versehen. Küsse, Bisse,/ Das reimt sich, und wer recht von Herzen liebt,/ Kann schon das eine für das andre greifen. 2981-2983]

There is much that can be written about these brief, condensed lines. Penthesilea has passed over into a kind of feminine psychosis, literalizing words (earlier she confesses to her dead Achilles, “How many a maid would say, her arms wrapped around/ Her lover’s neck: I love you, oh so much/ That if I could I’d eat you up right here…”) The words have operated as driving lexical causes, an over-literalization of their effects. Maids say “I could eat you up,” and I have. And then, secondarily how, she wishes that language itself should have had in its contingent nature the coincidence of forms what would have enacted, or more enabled the con-fusion of the two words, Küsse and Bisse, brought about by the apparent impossibility of the sexual union of Achilles and Penthesilea.

But this is not enough. We have the enunication and the acts of Penthesilea, the character, but we have also the extraordinary construction of Kleist himself, as he performs the fusion of these two words Küsse and Bisse in the writing of his play. The first question is, Has Penthesilea herself successfully trangressed Lacan’s injunciton on language? Has Penthesilea used the signifier by embodying it? Her loss of sanity suggests that she does risk the abyss of psychosis that Lacan claims lies outside of the signifier, but to risk something is not to succumb to it (her love can be read as fulfilled, having been inscribed on the Body and the signfier, expressionally). But the second, and obscured question is, Has Kleist himself, through a more subtle oscillation of “masculine” and “feminine” effects, woven a syntagmatic solution to the injunction. He has made Küsse and Bisse rhyme, in the figure of Penthesilea, and the play. 

The rescue from the kinds of paralysizing foreclosures that Lacan enacts through rather neat configurations of logic (I have always loved his mathemes) is accomplished by “artists” through, I suspect, at least two kinds of “transcendence” of the signifier, that performed by Penthesilea, the living through one’s own signification processes, inscribing your meaning upon yourself; and, by that achieved by von Kleist the author, through the affective and representational construction of the scene of lexical possibility, through witness and testament.

I prefer as well an understanding that reads language and its possibilities more deeply in terms of both affective capacities and instrumentality, the logic of which is secondary to their possibilities (pace Lacan, et al). The above example really is a consideration in terms of the injunction itself. Because I suspect that the inscriptions of the signfier, the supposed Symbolic order, is parasitic to, or at least shadow to, the lived, affective affinities that make up body-to-body, moment-to-moment epistemologies (witnessings), the seeing-through others, the extremes of Kleist’s project only mark out the outer limit of affect freedoms even amid the supposed injunctions themselves, the body to body ties that bind us being regular transports of linguistic freedoms.

Strategies of Recursivity…the Nemian Lion

O pudor! hirsuti costis exuta leonis
Aspera texerunt vellera molle latus!

I re-came upon this notepad thought pattern, and the two lines of Ovid. There is a certain sense in which we “wear” our philosophies which bristle with affective and protective tensors of sense, constructed recursively, in self-reference, so as to make a coherence, a non-reductive circulation of near degree-zero effects. Perhaps this is why Spinoza’s Ethics  is so satisfying to those that have penetrated it, it exemplifies this fundamental recursion. It resists the eye, our interests, until it broken through (affectively) and is tried on, so to speak. Then the deadened hairs (propositions) start to waver, ripple, in a breeze, and their is a sense of a muscle-work below. Few philosophies manifest this internal, body-making perception so explicitly…but perhaps all have it.

Secondly, it is sometimes noted that ideologies are defeated from within (they are logics of the εἰδός)…from taking their proscriptions literally, too literally. The claw of the lion is the only thing that could cut its Nemian skin. One enters not only philosophical recursion, but all social self-defintion from within, as part of its surface.  The plane which is thought to divide groups, is the skin which allows their sym-phany.

There is a sense as well, that we want to drape our harshest won skins over the softest affects, to create the inconcordance which distinguishes the circulation of the affect of the Law from the indulgence that lay beneath, illicitly, as if the pleasure of the one could bled into (and also contra-distinguish) the pleasure of the other, Eros into Thanatos, and back. This indeed is one betrayal of the lion’s skin, where affective recipricosity is the coin of living exchange. Our philosophically coherent visions are meant for the lives they inhabit.


After Heracles slew the Nemean Lion, he faced the quandry of the fact that the skin was impenetrable. Nothing in the world could cut it. He solved the riddle by using the Lion’s own claw to incise the skin, and strip it from the ribs of the beast. Tautologies are such that they are self-defined. The elements that compose them are produced by their recursivity, and they define themselves. Heracles then wore his slain tautology as a mark of his status, impenetrable. There is no argument here.  

Tautologies have been long thought to be “empty”, simple circulations which tell us nothing about the world. But this is the point, the tautological are not so much as empty, but simply closed. They form bodies. Much as Heracles’ Nemean Lion, their very closure of skin are their strength. The circularity of references actually seem to define life. When Heracles slays the tautological, he drapes it across his body. It becomes the sign of his heroship. Rather than seeing through, beyond tautologies, one enters into them. They become vehicles. Rather than being self-defeating (un-provable, un-foundational), they are self-perpetuating, enduring.”

Dust…Beware Fantasies of Being

For tho’ he had vanished, tho’ entombed not,

Thin, as if the awe of a fugative, was the dust.

Lines 255 and 256 of the Antigone stand in the way of any purely immanent, plentitudnal reading of the world’s ontology. A thin layer of dust has made the body of Polynikes “disappear”. In order to understand this one must see this naturalistically. A dust storm has billowed up in the night. At dawn, the body which could not be buried has literally become invisibile in the thinnest of layers. This layer is a co-incidence of the contingent into Fate, caught up in imaginary relations: the imagination of Lack.

So invisible it was that Hölderlin, Heidegger’s “prophet of future Being”, refused to, or mis-translated it into absence, in a parentheses of negatives:

Nichts feierlichs. Es war kein Grabmal nicht.

Nur zarter Staub, wie wenn man das Verbot

Gescheut. (265-67).

A Poem Worth Remembering (subjunctive)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

But Also Worth Remembering

“According to Kipling in his autobiography Something of Myself, posthumously published in 1937, the poem was inspired by Dr Leander Starr Jameson, who in 1895 led a raid by British forces against the Boers in South Africa, subsequently called the Jameson Raid. This defeat increased the tensions that ultimately led to the Second Boer War. The British press, however, portrayed Jameson as a hero in the middle of the disaster, and the actual defeat as a British victory.”

Guattari’s Four Ontologies

For those who have never looked into the thought of Felix Guatarri, the nearly effaced thinker of the pair D & G, for which the name Deleuze can come to regularly stand, I post below a significant section from Gary Genosko’s admirable treatment of Guattari’s primary ideas, Felix Guattari: An Aberrant Introduction. The selection deals with the history of analytic concepts found in two cartographic, schematic grids, and their principle meanings. They are called the Four Functors, or functional domains, but I prefer to think of them, and call them The Four Ontologies, in part to indicate their necessary disjunction and modal differences, in part to necessitate their immanent reality. For those only familiar with the works of their joint authorship, you may find interesting familiar terms and concepts in new contexts. Enjoy. I read the book some time ago and the diagram still stays with me.

Guattari’s diagrams and tables of the four functors and the domains proper to each tell us a great deal about his attempts to overcome simple problems of doubling couplets (all sorts of reductive dualisms), of evoking logical or semiotic squares in a segmental quadrature of deterriotorialization (the four domains result from segmentation of the plane of consistency). In CS (cartographies schizoanalytiques, 41) Guattari wrote of the “two couples” that constituted the four categories – actual and virtual and possible and real -to which he added other couples – some familiar, like expression and content (Chs [Chaosmosis] 60) and some less familiar but with a broadly semiotic lineage. (See figures 5.1a and 5.1b.) By the time of Chs, Guattari saw the expression and content couple as a problem to be overcome because it was still too much stained by linguistics and automatic contraction that would restrict the openness of assemblages of enunciation (the detour became a dead end). His reference to the left and right hand sides of the figure further exacerbated the question of whether or not his Fourth term consituted an advance over the ingenious Threes discussed in the previous chapter since he kept adding couple upon couple. The Threes are still very much at work here. Guattari advanced by analogy with the important form-substance-matter distinction – which he profoundly modified to describe diagrammatic deterritorialization by means of sign-particles between form and matter (IM [L’Inconscient machinique] 224-5) – in relation to the Fours: just as substance is the manifestation of form in matter, existential Territories are the manifestation of incorporeal Universes and machinic Phylums in material Fluxes (CS 84, n. 1), given that substance is akin to Territory, Universes and Phylum are akin to form, and Fluxes are akin to matter (unformed). The abstract machines of the domain of Phylum are new coding of the a-signifying semiotics with a purchase on material fluxes (Flux), whereas the existential incarnation (Territory) of the incorporeal constellations (Universe) metamodel as virtual rather than actual the former relation.

However, Guattari use the example of two options of Freudian cartography as they concerned libido and the unconscious to demonstrate the core features of Figure 5.1a. On the left side, libido either pursues a deterritorialized option toward abstract matters of the possible (Phylum), or is reterritorialized into the psychogenetic stages and dualisms (Eros -Thanatos) of stratified Fluxes; on the right side, the unconscious explores deterritorialized lines of alterity that are both original and unheard-of (Universes) or takes refuge in the Territories of the repressed according to various reterritorializing maps of the mind that Freud developed over the course of his career, most pertinently, between the dream book and the “The Unconsious”, “Ego and the Id”, and “New Introductory Lecture 31”. (CS 44-7; Chs 62). Guattari was also, like Freud, mapping the unconscious. Without being reductionistic, Guattari’s cartography of the schizophrenic unconscious is situated against but in the tradition of  the Freudian metapsychology of diagramming the psychical topography and the two systems (Cs. [Pcs.] Ucs.), description of their characteristics, communications, conflicts, classifications (of instincts), and emergence of the Ego-Id-Superego – the three regions – or indeed, the Lacanian tripartite Real-Imaginary-Symbolic. Guattari took great pains to decentre his cartography from the linguistic signifier, from the many psychoanalytics dualisms (primary-secondary process); to render the domains contingent and evolutionary is relation to technology, art and science, and avoid reductive prototypes of subjectivity (CS 32ff). Whether or not he was successful will need to be carefully considered.
What is the Fourth Term anyway?  How many is an open Three? The diagramming of the transversal relations between heterogenous domains: material and energetic Fluxes (F); an abstract machinic Phylum (P); existential Territories (T); leaves incorporeal Universes (U) that escape the coordinates of F, P, and T (CS 74). The  Fourth term is the virtual possible and, together with the actual possible, these envelop the actual real and virtual real. Guattari linked both powerlessness and unreachable foundations with Twos; pyramidal dialectical trees with Threes, and the generation of non-prioritized, proliferating trans-entity interactions that respected the principle of autopoesis with Fours…
…Guattari’s model of the unconscious had three types of energetico-semiotic quantic configurations describing interentity relationship: non-separability, or synchronic compossibility (intrinsic reference); separability or diachronic complementarity involving time and becoming (extrinsic reference); and quanitification operating between non-separability and separability, but not subordinate to them (non-separability being the semiotic superstructure of separability; quantification being the pragmatic superstructure of separability). Each had their own tensors (although Lyotard used this concept to describe a singular point of libidnal intensity such as Dora’s throat against the semoitic nihilism that a sign stands for something for someone, this extra-semiotic element produced libidnal intensity through force and singularity, like a proper name, as opposed to signifying meaning through differentiation; 1993: 54-6) and because Guattari was concerned with describing inter-entity relations by means of this mathematically derived concept, it may be thought of as a generalized vector of such relations. These relations, about which more will be shortly, are constrained by those between the levels of the unconscious that Guattari presented (it is evident from Figure 5.1a that there are NOT, for example, direct connections between Fluxes and Universes and Territories and Phylums, but Guattari invented indirect links by means of synapses). So, in the first instance, one of the tensors of non-separability is Expression and Content (extrinsic reference of deterriotorialization) and the other is System and Structure (intrinsic reference of deterritorialization). Both concern deterritorialization and this axis occupies the place of both possible and real in Figure 5.1a (where possible was, infinite, irreversible, deterritorialization, far from equalibrium, shall be; and where the real was finite, reversible deterritorialization close to equalibrium shall be (CS 86)). The tensors of separation are semiotic (engendering laterally, from their point of origin, sites of entities of meaning – hence largely Territorial functions functions) and the surplus value of possibility, which  relays the site of entities of meaning and transfers them, via synapes of effect – situated  between Fluxes and Phylums – and affect – situated between Territories and Universes – to pragmatic effects and subjective affects. The tensors of quantification are synaptic: they are, as suggested, relays for the transfer of the surplus value of possibility toward the sites of entities polarized as either systematic or structural. As I indicated in Figure 5.1a, each domain has a figure in which entities are situated: Fluxes=Complexions; Phylums=Rhizomes; Territories=Cut outs; Universes=Constellations. Although Guattari preferred to diagram the domains as four parallel sub-ensembles in a topological space in order to give some depth to an otherwise two-dimensional diagram such as Figure 5.1a and its variations, the latter were commonly used.
As for the metamodel’s contraints, there are restrictions on direct tensorial relations that I have already mentioned (but which the synaptics mediate); tensorial relations are subject to dyssynchrony;and the levels, corresponding to the three configurations governing inter-entity relations but based upon order of presupposition: Level 1 has no presuppositions; Level 2 presupposes Level 1 (semiotic); Level 3 presupposes Levels 1 and 2 (pragmatic and subjective). Guattari’s work is not very far removed in spirit from what Freud and Lacan did in their diagnosis and algorithms. Freud even went so far as to compensate for weakness in his diagrams, asking his audiences to make mental corrections. Constraints include how the id relates to the external world only via the ego, the specification of certain types of entities (cathetic intensities that are mobile or not), and topographic relations of semiological algorithms defined by two cumbersome structures (metaphor and metonymy), etc. Despite Guattari’s warnings abou the profound modification of psychoanalysis, he continually introduced codings that suggested precisely the diminishment of such modifications. For example, the fourfold segmentation of domains on the plane of consistency is based on two arguments:
      1. for discursivity, an ontological argument: if there is a given (donne/), there is a giving (donnant);
            – unity, discontinuous divisions of Territories and constellations of Universes (giving);
            – plural, continuous, fusional complexions of Fluxes and rhizomes of Phylums (given);
      2. for deterritorialization, a cosmological argument: two domains of intrinsic reference without immediate intersection yield a GIVEN corresponding to an intrinsic, systematic reference and a GIVING corresponding to an intrinsic structural reference;
            -finite, reversable, deterritorialization referenced around a point of equilibrium;
            -infinite, irreversable deterritorialization referenced far from a point of equilibrium
The problem is that giving-given corresponds to expression-content as does structure-system, on top of which Guattari develops his division of the unconscious into three levels reflecting the later topography of Freud’s ego-id-super-ego model, a primary, secondary, and tertiary unconsciousness, each with their own tensors. Remember the pairings that pile up in the two-dimensional Figures 5.1a and 5.1b, with their expansions, are worked by processual cycles (Figure 5.2 [not included here]) which seem to lack real depth. Guattari struggled with representing the four domains (CS 80).
      Level 1. Primary Unconscious
      Level of Intrinsic Reference: Systems and Structures
      Reversible Tensors:
      (a)   systematic referent, on the side of the given between sites of entities of Flux and those of Phylums (left side of Figure 5.1a) (i.e., systems that articulate material and energetic Fluxes on abstract machinic rhizomes);
      (b)   structural referent, on the side of giving, between between sites of Territorial entities and incorporeal Universes (right side of Figure 5.1a) (i.e., a musical structure that crystalizes rhythms, melodies of incorporeal Universes; a biscuit that conjures an incorporeal Universe of another time and place but, through globalization, becomes available everywhere, leads to the Universe’s implosion, and the existential Territories of subjectivity become ambivalent about their own taste)
SUMMARY: F=complexion; P=rhizome; T=cut out; U=constellation.
      Level 2. Secondary Unconscious
      Level of Extrinsic Reference: Semiotic Tensors
      Irreversible Tensors of:
      (a) persistence, vectorized from Systems to Structures (from given to giving):
            – sensible tensors virtualizing sensible contents within existential Territories (i.e., cutting out from diverse Fluxes a refrain of territorialization in an ethological assemblage, as in the Stagemaker’s upturned leaves on its display ground selected from the Flux of leaves);
            – noematic tensors virtualizing the noematic contents within Universes (i.e., smile of the Cheshire cat, unlocalizable as a point in space);
      (b) tensors of transistency, vectorized from structures to systems (giving to given):
            – diagrammatic tensors actualizing diagrams in Fluxes (i.e., a machine-readable magnetic strip of a bank card that, in conjunction with a personal identification number, provides access to an account);
            – machinic tensors actualizing abstract propositional expressions of rhizomic Phylums (i.e., the incorporeal faciality of Christ projected on machinic capitalist Phylums, already traversing spaces before being deployed; already always there).
SUMMARY: F-T=sensible; T-F=Diagrammatic; P-U-noematic; U-P-machinic.
      Level 3. Tertiary Unconscious
      Persistence and Transistency: Pragmatic (between F and P) and Subjective (between T and U) Synapes
      (adjusting the three configurations of non-separation, separation and quantification in different ways on earlier Levels: on L1, in the presentifcation of the backwards-looking potentialities of Systems and Structures; on L2, forward looking surplus value of possibility of semiotic concatenations)
      (a) Bivalent synapes result from the conjunction of two afferent tensors of consistency – F and P – effect of extrinsic coding (i.e., perception without foundation, hallucination) and T and U – affect of extrinsic ordination (i.e., a “real impression” of a dream).
      (b) Trivalent synapes result from the conjunction of two afferent tensors and one efferent tensor resulting in:
            — Consistency F – closed systems effect (i.e., closed cybernetic loop);
            — Consistency P – open systemic effect (i.e., micro-social systems upon which family therapy strives to intervene);
            — Consistency T – closed structural affect (i.e., function of the mature Freudian topography);
            — Consistency U – open structural affect (i.e., becoming vegetable, child, animal).
      (c) Tetravalent synapes either associate effects of extrinsic coding (consistency F and P) with open and closed systemic synapes or affects of extrinsic ordination (consistency T and U) with open and closed structural synapes:
            – pragmatic synapse (between F and P): an affect is virtualized when an assemblage is polarized by a relation of persistence emanating from pragmatic to subjective;
            – subjective synapse (between T and U): an effect is actualized when an assemblage is polarized by a relation of transistence emanating from subjective to pragmatic (hence, a play of virtual persistence implosion and actual transistence expansion without destroying the two poles of effect and affect).
SUMMARY: F-P=open systemic effect; P-Fclosed system effect; T-U-open structural affect; U-T=closed stuctural affect. (Note: summary based on correction to Table 3, CS 91); see also the tensors and entities mapped in CS 83.)

Spatial Voice: Wuthering Heights and Speakings from the Heart of a Topos

[I have been discussing and thinking-about some of Eliminative Culinarism’s analysis of Deleuze in terms of hauntology, her/his notion that in the self-affirmation of a line of flight produces a fundamental negative-determination, a negative-binding against the ground of the undetermined, which results in the haunting by the Dead (if I summarize it correctly). It lead me to post this short paper I wrote on the constructive strategies of the gothic imagination, the way that ruins can be architecturally (or narratively) built to as to invoke the ghost, and give it a place to circulate. It is my sense that this active strategy is one that Deleuze might be said to engage in, at times, in the quest for a permanent vitality of Being]

Piranesi and Bronte: Gothic Constructed Haunting,  a move toward eternity  

Giovanni Piranesi. Title Plate, Prima Parte; State IV.

 This is a pragmatic study of the narrative strategies employed by Emily Brontë in her opening scenes of Wuthering Heights. I say pragmatic because it seeks to examine the constitutive effects brought about through her treatment of two classes of figurative language, those of “space” and those of “sound”, with the aim of showing how Brontë in the her initial three chapters constructed a signifying machine, that is, a juxtaposition of readerly effects, such that allowed her to present an unpresentable: a space that speaks.

In the narrative that begins with Lockwood’s initialization of his recount, the first three chapters of the book, Emily Brontë performs a detonation. It is an explosion (or, as one might decide, an implosion) of effects whose ramifications seem to echo throughout the novel, yet it is a detonation that is constructed through a careful and tensioned balance of two aspects of descriptive fiction. Brontë presents the interior of her fiction from the start. She invites us in, to the core, and tempts us to look straight into the heart of its concerns, both in terms of theme and object. Narratively, the acceptance of such an invitation is performed by our proxy, Mr. Lockwood, and is both facilitated and resisted by Brontë’s proxy, Mr. Heathcliff.  That the invitation to witness is located in a specified and physical space, the estate of Wuthering Heights, is central to Brontë’s project; for Brontë’s game is a game of trying to depict the impossible object, the presence of an absence.

 But Brontë’s means of presentation are complex. By shifting alternately between cloakings and revelations on two axes, that of signifying sound and that of space, in these introductory pages she establishes a tensioned dialectic that not only works to show what cannot be shown, but does so in a dynamic and experiential way. She takes advantage of an inherent desire in the reader to locate herself, narratively and mimetically-to know what is happening, and where it is happening; through an opening mixture of narrative perspectives (in terms of both voice and tense), juxtaposed with descriptions of an architectural space and scene designed to defy any strict experience of locatability, she both frustrates the reader, and lays the reader prone to a heightening of certain cues as a result of the obscurity itself. The effect perhaps can be compared to the effect of fog upon the moors in low light. One’s ears prick up for sounds. One’s eyes narrow to shapes and things. And not coincidentally, one stands a bit closer to one’s companion.

We are given our companion from the very first word, “I” (1). Immediately he belongs to us. On him we can lean as we become confused, and his confusion and desire to know represents ours within the story. This is a significant move on Brontë’s part because Lockwood’s experience of the Heights will inscribe the reality of his own disorientation upon the reader, and will also dramatically present that disorientation as real. As the reader struggles to know and grasps hold of Lockwood’s subjectivity, Lockwood’s own fear becomes our own. This is a now-classic effect of Gothic production. As two walk together in the necropolis, the grasping of the reassuring sleeve of another only guarantees the reality of the fear itself, when we realize that she too, our companion, is frightened. As we shall see, by presenting an unsure mimetic space the solidity of our bond to Lockwood is enforced, and thus the very reality of atmospheric effects that confuse. In the third chapter, this will come to its crescendo in the ontology of Cathy’s hand at the window, which arrives at a point of extreme disorientation of sense for Lockwood, yet thus will serve as perhaps the most real moment of the novel.  

But let us back up, and take the view at novel’s opening that Lockwood is entering a kind of museum, for that is the consequential effect his experience will have on readers. He will come to read the place as a record and a preservation of things that have occurred, and in a certain sense, a place in which time is meant to have stood still, having a reminiscent quality. It will be revealed as a place where things have happened, but also where things metaphysically can happen. The persons, the phenomena, and the artifacts he encounters are only backwards-leaning indexes for learning what has been. The Heights is an archive. But it is a curious sort of museum, for it will prove to be haunted. Yet, its haunting is not the pedestrian sort, that of merely a ghost, its location, and its story- Brontë is too sublime for that. Rather, the haunting is a broad superimposition of past-time upon present-time, such that the reader can at the novel’s start affectively feel the strain of that juxtaposition-the combination of a lack of orientation, the suffusion of sensorial presences, the terror (and desire) of proximity-which one will come to understand at the novel’s close to be those of Heathcliff’s own. Through this introduction the reader is exposed to the very state that will be explained by the story itself; and in this way one is given an affective anchor point for understanding the character of Heathcliff and the unfolding of narrated events. And Brontë’s accomplishment becomes more than this affective anchoring, for it will involve the condensation of a literal presence, as at each narrative turn of the novel when action is to be explained or anticipated, the reader comes to have within her interpretative disposal the metonymic icy hand at the broken glass in Lockwood’s “dream”.

So how does a writer present past-time as superimposed upon present-time such as the case of someone in the grips of nostalgia? An effective strategy, if one is not to engage in stream of consciousness writing, would be to establish a reference point which grounds the differences. This is the Heights. It is the place. The thing that does not change. It is the surety upon which all other distinctions are both projected, and then collapsed. I will call this the topos to indicate an abstract spatial limit at which mimetic description aims when presenting synchrony in terms of scene-it is the representation and experience of permanence. And Wuthering Heights is given in terms of physical permanence from the start. Firstly it is symbolized by its master, Heathcliff, as he resists Lockwood’s entrance: “‘if I could hinder it-walk in!’…the ‘walk in’ was uttered with closed teeth.” Then, it is made clear in the fortified description of the building: “Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times…,” so “Happily [endnote, 1], the architect had the foresight to build it strong” (1,2). Not only are the issues of transgression and border thus put forth initially, but decidedly the estate itself is not egressed without admittance. It is gated, and as all haunted spaces, recursively closed.

The reader’s experience though is conditioned by the perspective of the narrator, and almost immediately the topos will be dissolved into topoi-angles of perception, objects of isolated coherence, such that the reader while within the estate will be forced to  engage in a kind of spatial grasping. The heuristics of space-that is the desire to picture where one is and where events will be coming from-will struggle with a hermeneutics of signs-that is the need to know meaningfully what is happening. It is no coincidence that before entrance we are presented with an architectural glyph of a sort, which condenses both modes, the spatial and the signifying:

Before passing the threshold, I paused to admire a quantity of grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principle door; above which a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys, I detected the date ‘1500’ and the name ‘Hareton Earnshaw.’ (2)

In a single artifact one both knows where one stands spatially (before the door), and is given textual cues to temporal order (a date and genealogical name). Significantly, these two dimensions will be con-fused with the domain of the house.

Lockwood is “inspecting the penetralium” and “one step” brings him into the family room without the transition of a lobby (2). While a figure of liminality is certainly in play, so is the author’s strategy of giving the reader spatial points of reference that are not systematically linked either to an overarching view of scene, nor to action itself. Spatial locatability becomes almost haphazard; a reader is forced take hold of a flotsam of spatial cues in a current of narration. In terms of awareness, one is locked in the penetrailium until in freeze-frame fashion, a single step is taken (though before an expansive space, one is closeted from it in terms of description, so that it feels impending and chasmic). Then suddenly a reader is exposed to a room without compass. Remarkably, it is a room that literally forces the performance of its own space from out of its presence: “They call it here ‘the house’ preeminently. It includes kitchen and parlour, generally; but I believe at Wuthering Heights the kitchen is forced to retreat altogether into another quarter” (2,3) [endnote 2]. The consequence of this imposed retreat of the articulation of the space itself (the separation of kitchen in its activities from “kitchen” proper) is immediately felt, as centrifugal forces seem to throw out voices and sounds of production from this center of the house, “…at least I distinguished a chatter of tongues and a clatter of utensils, deep within [endnote 3]” (3), setting up a dichotomy of interpretive strategies, inhabited space versus indicative sounds, locatability versus meaning, as an exiled voice will haunt its spatial core, disembodied.

The islanding of topoi-discrete, independent spatial relations-fills the text. We are given pewter dishes, silver jugs, tankards, rows upon rows, a vast oak dresser, a frame of wood, oatcakes, legs of beef, mutton, ham (all concealed), a chimney, old guns, horse pistols, a smooth white floor, chairs which are like primitive structures (whose color unnaturally to comes to awareness only at the end), and an arch (3), without any place to put them. The space is thoroughly fragmented. The tunneling of vision, particularized in such a narrow way upon objects without their connection to a wider view, renders the kind perception one has when in fear or extreme agitation. Things one might ordinarily notice first, are here noticed last. A huge pointer bitch [endnote 4] with squealing puppies is somehow made far less present than oakcakes, provoking a sense of spatial uncertainty (3). One does not know where one stands, or what will happen next-rather one drifts like the clattering of tongues and pans, without rest.

This narrative un-surety, though momentarily given relief in the figure and comment upon Healthcliff, once again is displaced by flashback in time-which is a flashback within an already past tense discourse, past nested within past-as Mr. Lockwood retells of his time at the sea, and his difficulties with love. It is notable that here too the issue of hermeneutics comes again, as the ability to read has consequences on the action, as Lockwood speaks of his facial expressions of love: “……if looks have language, the merest idiot might have guessed” (4). Yet the girl’s accurate interpretation of Lockwood’s “looks” tellingly then has the consequence of a spatial withdrawal from their meaning, “I…shrunk icily into myself, like a snail” (4). The severing of the indicative form from the spatially assured body is made the problematic of Lockwood himself, and it is just this disjunction in which the Heights is atmospherically depicted.

We see the same question of interpretability when returning to the present-past, as Lockwood attempts to communicate without communicating to the huge bitch-mother herself, who is lurking, (a pair sheepdogs have mysteriously come forth like apparitions to join her, having not been noticed before, confirming our unmastering of spatial facts): “Not anxious to come in contact with the fangs, I sat still; but not imagining that they would scarcely understand tacit insults, I unfortunately indulged in winking and making faces at the trio”(4). Much as in the case with his sea-side love, the result of accomplished communication is a proximate invasion. Lockwood seeks to impose a table, to configure separation, but in fact the space itself seems to erupt with animate forces, as if pregnant with them: “Half-a-dozen, four-footed friends…issued from hidden dens to the common center” (5). The centrifugal has become a gravitational collapse. But the invasion of “fiends,” a “tempest” of “yelping” is then suddenly quelled by a female “inhabitant” of the kitchen deep within, “who used that weapon, and her tongue, to such a purpose, that the storm subsided magically” (5).  Unlocatable forces of language, sound and sense which haunt a fragmentedly depicted space are here cast in terms of power, magic, femininity and possession [endnote 5]. The space of the Wuthering Heights house is presented as brimming with effects from which one cannot occlude oneself. Not negligible is that the occasion of the eruption animals was conditioned by master Heathcliff’s disappearance in a series of spatially confused reversals, oriented around the indiscerniblity of voice: “Joseph mumbled indistinctly in the depths of the cellar, but gave no intimation of ascending; so his master dived down to him, leaving me vis-à-vis…” (4). There is almost an M.C. Escher-like impression of linked ups and downs, rooms on rooms, with no reasonable perspective point, creating only a series of interlinking effects and events which fold in upon themselves.

Yet Heathcliff is at home in this atmospheric, and even his speech is given the linguistic motif of near-inarticulation, as he speaks with “…the laconic style of chipping off his pronouns and auxiliary verbs” (6) in something closer to a mumble [endnote 6]. He is of  the substance of this house. Thus, as the second chapter starts-upon Lockwood’s return to the Heights as once again we get the spatial clues of inside and outside, “Heathcliff’s gate,” “Joseph projects his head from a round window” (6,7)-the reader is satisfied with treating the figure of Heathcliff with a certain kind of transference. The mysteries of the space, the disorientations of the first visit, now are projected suitably on Heathcliff the figure. The narrative problem of his mystery can now be taken up. And this narrative will in turn ground the opening scene’s subliminal textual effects. This transference is insured by a transformation of the space. Far from the fractured, aurally haunted realm of the first chapter, it is now a “huge, warm, cheerful apartment”… “It glowed delightfully in the radiance of an immense fire” (7). This is a scene that is spatially coherent and reassuring in that it can be mimetically pictured from an ideal distance. The fire is near a table, which is only “laid for a plentiful meal” (7), and not populated with endless objects. Lockwood can now be located. He is motioned to sit by a woman. And the aural, haunting voice is suppressed, “She looked at me, leaning back in her chair, and remained motionless and mute” (7). Narratively, we are given in this visit what we were deprived of in the first visit: spatial orientation, a series of actions whose causes seem to flow from circumstances, two traditional descriptions of a character’s physical appearance-Catharine’s and Heathcliff’s [endnote 7] -lasting dialogue, and the luxury of a narrator reflecting upon circumstances at length, giving context. This scene works as an explication of the effects of the first scene, and we are invited to follow Lockwood’s curiosity of the characters.

The third chapter, which follows on the heels of such reader reassurance – even the dogs were more “bent on stretching their paws” (14) than mauling-  will bring the two strategies of the first two chapters together. In this chapter the possessed state of space will be joined to a more straightforward narrative form so that Brontë can present an event which cannot be depicted, but whose existence shall ballast the entirety of novel. The primary approach for Brontë will be the portrayal of spaces. Already the reader is conditioned to read strict spaces as possibly disjoined from their articulation. As Lockwood confronts the room in which he is to sleep, having been waylaid by the weather, once again the topos is divided into topoi, that is spatial relations within which we cannot immediately find our place:

Too stupefied to be curious myself, I fastened the door and glanced round for the bed. The whole furniture consisted of a chair, clothes press, and a large oak case, with squares cut out near the top, resembling coach windows. Having approached this structure, I looked inside, and perceived it to a singular sort of old fashioned couch…In fact it formed a little closet, and the ledge of a window, which it enclosed, served as a table. (15)

Notice how the space consolidates itself into smaller and smaller portions, but with each consolidation there is a resulting and subtle disorientation. A bed among other pieces, becomes an oak case with cut-out squares, becomes a couch, becomes a closet, becomes a window, becomes a table. The smaller the space, the more infinite its capacities. It is insular and multiple.

And Lockwood takes refuge within the folds of space: “I slid back the paneled sides, got in with my light, pulled them together again, and felt secure against the vigilance of Heathcliff, and everyone else” (15). The very security of the space denies one locatablity, both from the outside and the inside, as a child might secure herself without awareness. A reader knows that one is in the oak case, but does not know how one is in the oak case. It is like a coach (15), moving somewhere; something is happening, but still fixed. In this oak case Brontë is presenting the heart-space of the novel. And in a certain regard, the nested narratives of Wuthering Heights are organized around Lockwood’s experience here. Here, in the most dramatized way, past-time and present-time will be superimposed.

Once within, the heuristics of orientation-a ledge, a candle, a pile of books, a corner (15)-give way to hermeneutics of interpretation,

…but a name repeated in all kinds of characters, large and small…(15).

…when a glare of white letters started from the dark.

Some were detached sentences.

…to decipher her faded hieroglyphics (16).

Much in the way the glyph and inscription at the threshold of the Heights condensed space and articulation into a single form, here also Cathy’s handwriting brings the two together, indicating a new threshold. And the effects are powerful. A narration that has been entrenched in the past tense, even featuring its own, internal flashback, now is put into the present tense (the only time in the novel). Here, in the interval of the oaken bed, the present tense literally is overlayed upon past tense [endnote 8], “An awful Sunday!…”. Like a river’s current that eddies back against its downstream, it is the real articulation of symbolic nostalgia, the re-living of the present in recollection. And Cathy indicates the passion contained in this very space, “We made ourselves as snug as our means allowed in the arch of the dresser. I had just fashioned our pinafores together, and hung them up for a curtain, when in comes Joseph” (17).

The erotic overtones are clear as the description follows “…and there they were, like two babies, kissing and talking nonsense by the hour…”, and that their lying together involved the removal of some of their own clothes. Further, this intimacy of Cathy and Heathcliff is interrupted by the figure of moral rebuke, Joseph, suggesting censorship, and then further interrupted by the violence of Hindley who seized them in a way that neither one is distinguished from the other, making them interchangeable: “one of us by the collar, and the other by the arm”; they then spatially separate themselves remaining descriptively indistinct, “…we each sought a separate nook to await his advent” (17).  But they are resolute to union, Cathy writing of Heathcliff’s suggestion that they “scamper on the moors” and be rejoined there. Yet most significantly it is at this point in the text that we encounter a literal blank space in the narrative, a gap. It is here, signified in the text as a series of dots following “we cannot be damper or colder, in the rain than we are here”-here, at a gap in the marginal diary entry, in the book, that is in oak bed, which is in the shutoff room, which is in Wuthering Heights, which is surrounded by the moors-here, nested is the unrepresentable, presented as a blank. Their intimacy is a space in the text. A repressed moment [endnote 9].

“I suppose Catherine fulfilled her project” Lockwood rightly speaks of the space, interpreting it, “…for the next sentence took up another subject” (18). Here, within the magic of the oak bed where Heathcliff and Cathy had lain as children, the space speaks. And then in a doubled-fold only a paragraph later, we encounter another blank space, this time one that breaks from the present tense text of Cathy’s hand in the margin [marked in this text by a series of six asterisks], back to the official text of book, only to shift to a dream-time told once more in the past tense. This gap in the text is not the repression of the unspeakable, but the threshold of past and present to be fused and inhabited, Lockwood’s and our experiential entrance into this collapse. Notably Lockwood quite explicitly puts his transition in terms of spatial disorientation: “I began to dream, almost before I ceased to be sensible of my locality” (18) [endnote 10].

Cathy presents herself in a mix of spatial and aural effects. There is “Merely the branch of a fir-tree that touched my lattice, as the blast wailed by” (20), which is both a figure in space and an inarticulation. Transgressively, Lockwood breaks his hand through the glass, and extends his arm (20), and Cathy sobs with melancholy (21). Lockwood piles up books in a pyramid structure in order to reestablish spatial integrity, to keep the embodied voice out. “Thereat began a feeble scratching outside, and the pile of books moved as if thrust forward” (21). And Lockwood tries to move but finds himself paralyzed. His fixedness causes him to yell. The interplay of space and sound is confused, and Heathcliff’s accents invade the space. After a hysterical description of Cathy as a supernatural being, one is finally given as an simplified explanation of events, that the reading of Catherine’s name over and over had personified the name itself, like the incantation of spell; the “shelter of the bed” receives Heathcliff’s body as it falls (23). We are told that “time stagnates here” (23), explicitly laying forth the synchronic nature of the Wuthering Heights estate.

At this point in the story we have already encountered the figurative core of the novel-first in the spectral introduction of the family room of the house in the first chapter (a fragmented space that imposes narrative non-locatablity enriched by voices and languages that pose problems of interpretation) and then metonymically in the oak case of the third chapter, which holds the record of Heathcliff and Catherine’s intimacy, both as an invading ghost, and as a present tense text held as a marginal diary entry. The rest of the novel can be read as the explication of the meaning of these events, as if their unrepresentable character can be stretched out and revealed through Nelly’s narrative. The un-speakable, exiled female voice is given a domesticated form in Nelly, and it shows itself in a rightful, digestible narrative structure. But in nearly a pyrotechnical sense, Brontë has succeeded in establishing at the very beginning, a condensation for the reader which echoes throughout the long unfolding of events. Through Cathy’s appearance she detonates, and has already detonated, in sound and voice the very space of remembrance. And we too, like Heathcliff who is consumed with what has already happened, are forever oriented towards not only the ghoulish appearance of Cathy, but also towards the lingering initial encounter with the house itself which preceded her.

This leads one to an interesting spatial question, one that I can only call architectural. It presents itself at the end, long after one may have consciously forgotten one’s very first experience of the Heights. As Heathcliff ponders whether he should ruin the potential future relationship between Catherine and Hareton, he confesses,

It is a poor conclusion, is it not…An absurd termination to my violent exertions? I get levers and mattocks to demolish the two houses, and train myself to be capable of working like Heracles, and when everything is ready, and in my power, I find the will to lift a slate off either roof has vanished… (277).

Under the reading I propose-that Brontë in her first three chapters sets forth a fundamental antagonism between a space and its articulation-one must ask, if it indeed was Heathcliff’s machination to demolish the two houses, is this project expressive of Brontë’s own narrative intentions? For there is a sense in which the fragmentations and disembodied articulations of the first chapters of the book act as if a ruins of an orchestrated demolition of perception itself. That Brontë forces a reader to lock onto her narrator due to disorientations, and through that community to experience the terror of Cathy’s ghost first hand, speaks something to a kind of purposive disintegration. At the third chapter’s end, as Lockwood attempts to recover from his experiences of Cathy’s presence and is confined to “steps and passages” or  “descends cautiously to the lower regions” or moves to “two benches shaped in sections of a circle, nearly enclosing the hearth,” (24) coupled with Hareton’s “sotto voce of curses directed against “objects”, how much of Brontë’s depiction is of a space that has been already demolished, or at least broken? Can we ask, has Heathcliff-and therefore Brontë -all along been working on a demolition that we as readers experience viscerally in the first chapter, and whose products are brought forth in the third?

Clearly Heathcliff as been working to destroy both houses, the Heights and the Grange, at least in terms of lineage. But if his project is Brontë’s own, what would it mean to actively construct a demolition? It is that Brontë textually presented just such a demolition in the first and third chapters of her book. She exposed the reader to the bracing ventilation of a space that is inhabited and possessed by internal disjunction, so that its articulation, its meaning, does not coincide with its body. After a narrative interlude of the second chapter, wherein we are invited to transfer that disjunction upon the mystery of Heathcliff as a character (a mystery which will largely make up the substance of the rest of the novel narration), in the third chapter we are given the reason behind such a demolition that Brontë had just presented, and that Heathcliff in terms of plot has worked to bring about. As a subjectivity, Heathcliff is destroying to remember. He is constructing a ruins, that is, the kind of space which will allow the superimposition of past-time and present-time. The object-filled, voice-haunted realm of the family room, a museum-like, stale synchrony where time pools, is a willful construction of a kind of space, a fragmentation of topos into topoi within which an inarticulate presence floats. Cathy’s appearance in the third chapter is a manifested product of the kind of space that Heathcliff as a character has been attempting to make, and which Brontë as his author presents. The oak case is an apparition machine. The handwritten hieroglyphics in the margins of a book summon a presence around a recognized printed text, just as the marginality of Brontë’s novel’s beginning summons a presence around an official narration of a story. And the gap of a white space in Cathy’s handwritten text marks the unspeakable yet confirmed.

Rovine d’antichi Edifizj, Plate IV of First Edition Etching; State II

Solely as an illumination of what the motivations and strategies of anti-architects such as Heathcliff-the-character or Brontë-the-author might be, I invite comparison to the etchings of Italian eighteenth century architect Giovanni Piranesi. For in his work, which would heavily influence Gothic conceptions all across the continent some fifty years before Brontë, I find the precise strategy of building something that is purposively broken in order to superimpose past-time upon the present. Piranesi, whose ambition was to capture the magnificence of Rome, a lost and impossible age, did not do so through recreations of an imagined Rome, but through the fantastic production of invented ruins themselves. Through Piranesi one understands that by depicting the demolition of a perfection, one paradoxically preserves its ideal state in a kind of powerful nostalgia. Piranesi accomplished this by illustrating non-existent ruins with tremendous detail and atmosphere. And I suggest that Brontë was doing something of the same in her first and third chapters.

In Piranesi’s exterior etching Rovine d’antichi Edifizj (above) [endnote 11], one can see three components central to Brontë’s beginning: the purposely depicted fragmentation of huge space, the hieroglyphic-like broken entablatures and lettering creating a hermeneutical problem, and the figure of a guide upon whose location and gestures we rely for our participation and clues for meaning. Also prominent is a kind of looming dominance of the past. The space practically radiates with a presence, a topos that defies the fragmentation that is depicted. It is my reading that Brontë performs an equal demolition of constructive, orienting space to invoke just this sense of permanence and inhabitation.

Title Plate Carceri, Plate I of Second Edition Etching, engraving, sulphur tint or open bite; State VIII 

If one looks to the Title Plate Carceri (above), one sees in Piranesi’s interior the architectural layering of space in a tensioned geometry as staircases and balustrades, and frameworks collide. The room depicted is filled with topoi, local spatial relations that somehow resist a composite picture. Instead the eye travels infinitely over pathways. And centralized in the composition of what could be called an apparatus of spatial effects, lies a hermeneutical text carved into the surface itself. The space “speaks” in a shattered, yet resonant way: claustrophobic, yet still expansive; complete, yet recursive. This is exactly the strategic form of the central family room which Brontë fills with foods, objects, furniture, stairways, cellar ladders, mute figures. It is a non-mimetically coherent presenc-ing, as if marginality can both intrude and compose.

Using Piranesi as an indicative template of Gothic reconstructions through demolition and tensioned spatial relations, I propose that the Wuthering Heights that we encounter in the first chapter, as Brontë has written it, as we read it, is meant to be taken to be as Heathcliff, through all his machinations, has constructed it. It and the Grange has fallen into ruins by Heathcliff’s device. And the purpose of those ruins, from the perspective of Heathcliff-the-character is to both preserve a lost and perfect intimacy, but also to generate a haunting by Cathy’s ghost [endnote 12], which we experience in the metonymic space of the oak bed closet. By breaking the two houses Heathcliff aims to produce a ghost machine, the inhabitation of his love such that Cathy circulates in all things. In the way that actual ruins are both opened to the outside, yet unaccountably insulated from the outside by their very broken nature, so is Wuthering Heights both open to the moors upon which Cathy and Heathcliff played as a children, and also an entombment from which all else is excluded.

It is enough to recall the descriptions of the gravesite at the margins of the kirkyard.  Here, in the end, is where we at last find Heathcliff. His splintering of the house lines has been set to be healed by an implied Catherine and Hareton love in which he no longer interferes. Firstly, the site has been described as an inter-space, a marginality impinged upon by nature,

The place of Catherine’s internment, to the surprise of the villagers, was neither in the chapel, under the carved monument of the Lintons, nor yet by the tombs of her own relations, outside. It was dug on a green slope in a corner of the kirkyard, where the wall is so low that heath and bilberry plants have climbed over it from the moor; and peat mold almost buries it. Her husband lies in the same spot now. (145)

and then at the foot of decaying church:

When beneath its walls I perceived decay that had made progress, even in seven months: many a window showed black gaps deprived of glass; and slates jutting off, here and there, beyond the right line of the roof, to be gradually worked off in the coming autumn storms.

I sought, and soon discovered, the three headstones on the slope next the moor: the middle one grey, and half buried in the heath; Edgar Linton’s only harmonized by the turf, and moss creeping up its foot; Heathcliff’s still bare. (290).

We know, despite the encroachment of the world, that Heathcliff has arranged for his coffin and Cathy’s be exposed to each other, side by side, beneath the earth. In this same way Brontë had already in the first chapters textually buried Heathcliff and Cathy side by side in the hermetic space of the oak bed closet, and within that in the telling gap in Cathy’s handwriting at the margins. And what she entombed, as a writer she exhumed for our pleasure.


Appendix A:

Languaged and Spatial Reading of the First Three Chapters, presented in temporal sequence.

‘It is a poor conclusion, is it not…An absurd termination to my violent exertions? I get levers and mattocks to demolish the two houses, and train myself to be capable of working like Heracles, and when everything is ready, and in my power, I find the will to lift a slate off either roof has vanished…” – Healthcliff


Languaged Effects:aural, voiced, printed, and indicative Spatial constructions:architectural and positioned
  ‘…if I could hinder it-walk in!‘ (1)
  The ‘walk-in’ was uttered with closed teeth. (1)
  Descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station was exposed in stormy weather (2).
  pure, bracing ventilation they must have (2)
  grotesque carving lavished the front, and especially about the principle door…crumbling griffons, and shameless little boys. (2)
  Inspecting the penetralium (2).
  without introductory lobby or passage (2).
…at least I distinguished a chatter of tongues and a clatter of utensils, deep within (3).  
…if looks have language, the merest idiot might have guessed (4)  
…not imagining they would scarcely understand tacit insults, I unfortunately indulged in winking…(4)  
and used that weapon, and her tongue, to such a purpose, that the storm subsided magically (5)  
…the laconic style of chipping off his pronouns and auxiliary verbs (6).  
  …arrived at Heathcliff’s gate just in time to escape the first feather flakes (6).
  Joseph projected his head from a round window of the barn(7).
Joseph’s speech (7)  
Catherine mute (7)  
…a look of hatred unless he has a most perverse set of facial muscles what will not, like those of other people, interpret the language of the soul (10).  
  a large oak case, with squares cut out near the top, resembling coach windows. Having approached this structure, I looked inside (15).
…but a name repeated in all kinds of characters, large and small…(15).  
…when a glare of white letters started from the dark (16).  
Some were detached sentences (16).  
…to decipher her faded hieroglyphics (16).  
  ‘We made ourselves as snug as our means allowed in the arch of the dresser’ (17).
He tears down my handywork, boxes my ears, and croaks-(17) He tears down my handywork, boxes my ears, and croaks-(17)
  …he compelled us to square our positions that we might receive from the far-off fire a dull ray. (17)
  …we each sought a separate nook to await his advent (17).
  …and pushed the house-door ajar to give me light (18)
  I ceased to be sensible of my locality (18).
He had a private manner of interpreting the phrase (19).  
Merely the branch of a fir-tree that touched my lattice, as the blast wailed by (20). Merely the branch of a fir-tree that touched my lattice, as the blast wailed by (20).
  …knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out (20).
a melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in-let me in!'(21) …a melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in-let me in!‘(21)
  …hurriedly piled the books up in a pyramid against it, and stopped my ears to exclude the lamentable prayer (21). (21)
…for I knew Heathcliff’s accents (21).  
…it would have revealed my knowledge of their written, as well as their printed, contents (23).  
…in spelling over the name scratched on that window ledge. A monotonous occupation , calculated to set me asleep. (23)  
‘God he’s mad to speak so!’ (23)  
I didn’t know whether to resent this language…(23)  
…but reading it over often produced an impression which personified itself (23)  
  Heathcliff gradually fell back into the shelter of the bed, as I spoke, finally sitting down almost concealed behind it. (23)
  ‘Time stagnates here…’ (23)
  ‘Keep out of the yard, though, the dogs are unchained; and the house-Juno mounts sentinel there, and-nay, you can only ramble about the steps and passages. (23).
  I descended cautiously to the lower regions, and landed in the back kitchen (24).
  Two benches, shaped in sections of a circle, nearly enclosed the hearth (24).
  …shuffled down a wooden ladder, that vanished in the roof, through a trap (24).
Hareton Earnshaw was performing his orisons sotto voce, in a series of curses directed against every object he touched. (24).  
intimating by an inarticulate sound that there was a place where I must go, if I changed my locality (25). Intimating by an inarticulate sound that there was a place where I must go, if I changed my locality (25).
  …playing the part of a statue the remainder of my stay (26).
  blotted out from the chart which my yesterday’s walk left pictured in my mind (26).
…swell and falls not indicating corresponding rises and depressions in the ground. (26).  
…all traces of their existence had vanished: and my companion found it necessary to warn me frequently to steer right or left. (26)  
…there were no signs of his coming (30).  
…her tongue always going-singing, laughing, and plaguing everyone who would not do the same (35).  
A high wind blustered round the house, and roared in the chimney (36)  
…she said she would sing him to sleep. She began singing very low, till his fingers dropped from hers, and his head sank on his breast. (36).  
I joined my wail to theirs, loud and bitter (36).  
  I ran to the children’s room; their door was ajar (36).
The little souls were comforting each other with better thoughts…in their innocent talk (37).  



End Notes

1. Not a negligible word, “happily,” which marks the pleasure and intent of preserving this state of being, one which we will discover Heathcliff to be the architect of its ends. The building of the estate and the building of the events are both engineered to contain a scene.

2. The tension between a space and its articulation is expressed in this passage. The family room as one of many topoi “includes the kitchen,” in terms of a blueprint scheme, but Wuthering Heights as a topos, that is as a spatial synchrony that knows no diachrony, forces the articulation of the kitchen, its meaningful duties, to retreat from this center. The space and its speaking are thus unsettled and disjoined.

3. A mark of the recursion of this space is that this central room exiles articulations to a realm “deep within”, as that which is thrown out, only buries it closer to the heart.

4. The bitch pointer surely is figure of female articulation whose very immediate non-locatability, bestial nature, and her brood’s non-languaged squealing indicate the presence of what cannot be strictly revealed.

5. “The herd of possessed swine,” most likely refers to the cast-out demon called “Legion” by Jesus thrown into a herd of swine that ran over a bank and drown in the sea. “My name is Legion, for we are many” Mark 5:9; but could have associations with female power and magic in reference to Circe and her transformation of Odysseus’ shipmates (The Odyssey, book 10).

6. The speech of Joseph of course will embody this aural, mumbling presence of the house, taken to its limit, shown in print with near hieroglyphic solidity as Brontë represents it phonetically in the text. It is worthy of observation that Joseph will take a greater role as a speaker, nearly as surrogate, immediately after Heathcliff flees the house (70). In fact it is Joseph announces his departure.

7. Heathcliff though is still marked by the motif of articulation and interpretation in this passage, as he looks at Catherine with “…a look of hatred unless he has a most perverse set of facial muscles what will not, like those of other people, interpret the language of the soul” (10). It sits like a symptom at the surface of a now apparently domesticated space.

8. Within Lockwood’s past tense retelling Cathy’s present tense first person (itself containing past tense narrative) breaks through. This foreshadows her material intrusion as a ghost.

9. That which  is represented as repressed in this kernel of nested blank space, Cathy and Heathcliff’s union upon the exterior, most encompassing and marginal element, the moors, is characteristic of recursive, möbius-like space. The most internal is external. It can be argued that this spatial trait also presents itself temporally, wherein a repressed “past”-depicted in a scene-is pre-posited to foreground the meanings of the present and a future, looping back to the “moment”. Brontë is doing just such a pre-positing in this sacred space of the oak bed.

10. One can say that the narrative of the dream is both absurd in content and plainly told. It allows one to feel the repetitions and violence of moral instruction placed upon the children of the house, and places with the sacred space of the oaken case not just the intimacy of two souls, but also the discourse of rebuke, against which they contend. Their story is literally marginalized in their own space, and the length of the dream works to crowd out Cathy’s own testament.  

11. Or Title Plate, Prima Parte, State IV, cover

12. ‘Come in! come in!’ he sobbed. ‘Cathy, do come. Oh do-once more! Oh! My heart’s darling! hear me this time, Catherine, at last!'” (24); “..,he did not proceed to his ordinary chamber, but turned into that with the panelled bed” (283).

Works Cited

Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. 1850. Barnes and Noble paperback edition. Barnes and Noble Inc, 1993.

Piranesi, Giovanni. Piranesi: Early Architectural Fantasies: A Catalogue Raísonné of the Etchings. Ed Andrew Robison. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1986.

Keller’s “Water” and Anarchic Hand Syndrome

The Mystery of Language

Above is the pump at which Helen Keller learned her first word, “water” (signed). The account of which is here:

Helen had until now not yet fully understood the meaning of words. When Anne led her to the water pump on 5 April 1887, all that was about to change.

As Anne pumped the water over Helen’s hand , Anne spelled out the word water in the girl’s free hand. Something about this explained the meaning of words within Helen, and Anne could immediately see in her face that she finally understood.

Helen later recounted the incident:

“We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honey-suckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten, a thrill of returning thought, and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.”

 Anarchic Hand Syndrome

There has been some debate over at Methods of Projection which followed after my recent response which I posted here as: What the Right Hand Giveth… . Much of the discussion was been over whether Anarchic Hand Syndrome constitutes a counterfactual example for the absurdity Wittgenstein proposed when imagining whether my right hand can give my left hand money.

This is the Wittgenstein illustration:

Why can’t my right hand give my left hand money? — My right hand can put it into my left hand. My right hand can write a deed of gift and my left hand a receipt — But the further practical consequences would not be those of a gift. When the left had has taken the money from the right, etc., we shall ask: “Well, and what of it? ” And the same could be asked if a person had given himself a private defintion of a word: I mean, if he has said the word to himself and at the same time has directed himself to a sensation

PI section 268

And this is an article detailing some of the aspects of the syndrome, in which a woman is described as combating the rude behavior of her own hand: “The Anarchic Hand” by Sergio Della Sala. The conversation has gone back and forth, and I believe that at minimum we have established conditions under which it is not inconsequential to say that one’s own hand is acting with intentions of its own, and thus that Wittgenstein appeal to absurdity is at least in some sense constrained.

But really, aside from being able to detect the possibility of coherence where Wittgenstein can only see absurdity – that is, the ability to see an answer to “Well, and what of it?” – the closer question is, even if there are circumstances which MAY arise which indeed would support the meaningfulness of my right hand giving my left hand a gift of money, does this rarity have anything to do with Wittgenstein’s larger point, that the apparent absurdity of the former supports the apparent absurdity, or really, inconsequentialness of the latter (a person who gives himself a private definition of a word, and directs himself to a sensation). It amounts to nothing. It is mere gears turning emptily.

The first that is to be done in regards to the larger point is that if indeed there is a logical connection between Wittgenstein’s illustration and his private language argument, then it would seem that even his iron-clad PL argument is condition-dependent. There may indeed arise (or even may have already arisen) occasions where in it could make sense to say that one has given oneself a private definition of a word (directed to a sensation). (If there is no logical connection between the illustration and the argument, then perhaps we can say that his illustration was poorly chosen, or non-substantive, something with rhetorical flair.)

But let us think about it. What would make substantive the attribution of agency to one’s own body part, as in the case of AHS, is a certain kind of differential. The explanatory behavior of one’s current experiences do not map up with those required for a body part. What I am experiencing and doing is not what that hand, MY hand, is doing. Is there such a differential possible with the self-definition of words, in particular how they might refer to sensations? One can imagine that there might be. There can be a valence to conscious description (and one need not be a Malebranchean for it to be so).

If I have a sensation at time T1, and thus name it at T2, is this an entirely circular, empty operation? Are there not two maps, one experienced (the ground) and one reflective (mapping) which are placed in reference to each other? If at time T3 I have a sensation which I deem to be the same as T1, and recall the name of T2, summoning it again at T4, why is this an empty relation (like checking multiple copies of the same edition of a newpaper Wittgenstein wants to say)? Surely it is recursive, but its very recursivity helps define its coherence. That is, my reflective coordination of repetitions of experiences with a causal understanding of the world, helps me, privately, as a organism, to orient myself in the world. One can say that one is “naming” sensations (if one wants to fantasize about languages in a thought experiment), or one can simply say that one is recognizing them. The point would be that there is a fundamental coherence established through the recognition of past states and understanding them to be caused by events in the world. Such internal checking of experienced regularities (patterns) against regularities in the world (patterns) which may cause them, makes up a great deal of our mental life. Of course, whether these differential mental events amount to language, private or otherwise, all depends on how you want to define language (and many would like to restrict the definition of language a great deal so as to make “mental content” something that one can philosophize about).

The “Returning” Thought

Did Helen Keller have a “word” for water before she learned her first word, the word “water”? It seems she experienced that she had the “thought”, as she says that when she learned the word, as water was rushing over her one hand and her teacher signing into her other hand, she had the experience of a RETURNING thought, something she had forgotten:

“Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten, a thrill of returning thought, and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me”

Was it returning from where it could not have been? What it a trick of her mind, prepositing the illusion of a past presence. Or did Helen Keller not know that thought is impossible for those without language, according to some rather rigorous philosphers? What is the status of Helen Keller’s returning thought?

Was this differential between the past thought and the new thought, coalesed around the living experience of water on her hand, and grafted onto a word, a differential any way related to the differential a woman with anarchic hand syndrome experiences when her hand acts without her intention, only then subsumed in a larger, wider circle, in which her her body is uniquely divided? Is private a fluxuating state or ascrption, something that describes a relative recursivity that is also open to the world, something akin to the autopoietic distinction between organizational closure and operational openness? Can consciousness itself assume an organizational  closure of reflection (mapping) upon events, mental events, to which it is open? Would the woman who experiences anarchic hand syndrome be organizationally and kinesthetically closed as to her experiences of her arm, but in terms of her conscious judments of intentions have a map (judgments) of her body’s actions which does not exactly overlay it? For some intents and purposes, that is my arm and hand. For others it certainly is not. A vector divides the organizational loop.

I suspect that something of this rift also runs through Wittgenstein’s prohibition of a private language (though it is an argument that I take as significant for what it says about justification and public discourse through criteria sharing). Much as his illustration of the privacy of hand shows itself to be quite a bit more context dependent, and historically contingent, than the impression of a logical absurdity he tried to suggest, so too, privacy and self-mapping involve differentials of self and selves which are not simply reducible to grammar.


Big Dog: Our Selves

Witness (and I do mean witness…behold) the latest robotic lifeform, Big Dog.

What I am most interested in are my (and others) instictive ethics responses to this display. Watch the quadruped climb with jutting rhythm up the hill, making almost a prance of it, watch it recover elegantly from a sidelong kick, and wince as it stumbles upon the ice. It is large like a mammal we would identify with (it struggles within the same range of physics that we do). It headlessly searches. (Be aware of how the camera also constructs our response, as it rises from the lowground into our now accustomed docu-camera view of the Real.)

I am interested in how our bodily foundations of ethics and rationality come from how we view other things to be as ourselves (a primary Spinozian thesis…the imitations of the affects: E3p27, If we imagine a thing like us, toward which we have had no affect, to be affected with some affect, we are thereby affected with a like affect.). I recall Wittgenstein’s gnomic advisement about the difference between the capacities for pain between that of a fly and that of a stone:

Look at a stone and imagine it having sensations.-One says to oneself: How could one so much as get the idea of ascribing a sensation to a thing?…And now look at a wriggling fly and at once these difficulties vanish and pain seems to get a foothold here…(PI 284)

Now, the composite of behaviors from a thing we are most predisposed to think of as being closer to a stone than a fly suddenly, ephiphanically (and my wince is epiphanic), “get a foothold here”. We can conceptually separate out ourselves from the imitations of our actions, but then we get to an interesting ethical divide. Our predecessors are admonished by history for not being able to perceive how the Black, the Jew, the Muslim, the Indian, the poor, the woman, the animal, the child was “just like us”, bled and winced as we did. Some elements of the soul (aspects of mentality) were denied certain classes. The operated like “us”, but internally their experiences were at variance, only dimly similiar.

I want to ask, what are the ethics of our witness ?

I want to ask, what are the ethics of our dismissal of mechanism as mechanism?

Deleuze and Guattari’s idea of the Abstract Machine in the confluence of this witness I think takes “foothold” as well. When concrete machines sympathize, the abstract machine seems to show through:

We define the abstract machine as the aspect or moment at which nothing but functions and matters remain. A diagram has neither substance nor form, neither content nor expression. Substance is a formed matter, and matter is a substance that is unformed either physically or semiotically. Whereas expression and content have distinct forms, are really distinct from each other, function has only ‘traits’ of content and expression between which it establishes a connection: it is no longer even possible to tell whether it is a particle or a sign. A matter-content having only degrees of intensity, resistance, conductivity, heating, stretching, speed or tardiness; and a function expression having only ‘tensors,’ as in a system of mathematical, or musical, writing. Writing now functions on the same level as the real, and the real materially writes.

a thousand plateaus

[quote courtesy of Fractal Ontology, whose recent post reminded me of the text]