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Tag Archives: Nicola Masciandaro

What if There was Only Poetry? What is the Referent of a Word?

Walking Between Spaces

As a happenstance some of the best thinking can sometimes be done in the footnotes, in the margins, and in the comments section it seems, where the constitutive effects of a text, refracted off of a number of diverse and unanticipated points, come to confluence themselves again, baring the traces of their brief travel. (For those who write without comments, without spaces, sad.) This is the secret to the bloggist form of intellectual cross-seeding and creative process. Epistolary reflection at an inspired rate.

Again, an interesting trail come from the side discussion over at The Whim, where Nicola responded to a comment of mine. He had written a poem, and I responded to the verse in verse, as somehow this seemed appropriate. And I mused, what if one could only comment upon poetry in poetry?:

…Sometimes I feel that this is the only response that should be permitted…in an aesthetic, or even epistemic sense.

What if we only spoke of poetry in verse?

Is there a reason why Parmenides who said there is no change wrote only in meter?

What did Plato lose when he took the meter out? (…and how did he smuggle it back in?)

Nicola, returned with a beautiful quote from Agamben), and then some thoughts about a possible utopian notion of language as poetry:

“Perhaps only a language in which the pure prose of philosophy would intervene at a certain point to break apart the verse of the poetic word, and in which the verse of poetry would intervene to bend the prose of philosophy into a ring, would be the true human language”  (Agamben)

The opening issue of Hot Gun! make a good poetic utopian pitch: “To achieve utopia, all language must be poetry . . . Poetry is the vocal mimesis of the experience of being in the world which gave rise to language. . . . Only once we have negated instrumental language, and brought ourselves back into the present, can we reintroduce result into mimetic language whereby the pleasure of telling you my feelings and of you understanding my desires in the present of action might be understood as a purpose. Poetry keeps language accurate but also does the opposite and slows it down to the point where language is itself and itself is the world” (Josh Stanley).

What an interesting proposal that language might best oscillate between the philosophical conceptual “intervention” with a kind of linear or spatial imposition, and then the returning bend back of poetic language itself. The ring composition of all truth. Do not the best philosophical works “rhyme”?

The Eutopia of Language

Instead of viewing this as a utopian project (which it is in a certain sense), perhaps as if often the case with utopias, we need only to realize that it is already the case. All language is poetry, (but simply does not know it). I have in mind Spinoza’s interesting recursive notion that any idea that is “in” the human mind (that composes the human mind), takes as its true object an extensional state of the body. The ideas I have of trees, Copernicus, newspaper print, chocolate cookie recipes, dust, Higgins Bosons are all ideas of various states of my body. In a certain oblique sense, the referent of the words I use, is “me” (or this compositional body). It is more than this though, for Spinoza. Any idea that we have is the expressed power of my body to act, and as such it is an affirmation of a certain degree of power of my body. Each time we “think” we affirm the flesh in one way or another, perhaps like a mainsail and jib that catches more or less wind with their ever fluctuating angles. In this sense, the words we speak, no matter their abstraction, come from the material dynamism of our bodies, are the poiesis of our bodies (and our bodies in combination with all others). They are poetry. Even the most instrumental language is instrumental in a different sense, in that it is expressive of powers far beyond its mere design.

If there is a utopian aspect of this, it is not that language must become poetic, but its very poetry must be recognized. A programmer may read a line of code and be moved. An archivist an inventory list and become stirred. Our language comes up and out of our bodies, but our bodies as they are precisely connected and materially joined to all others. If there is a philosophical/versed oscillation, perhaps this is only the one of our awareness.

Are not even the logic-chopping Analytic School stackings merely highly constrained quatrains without overt spatial imposition (I remember writing an entire novel chapter in Hexameter verse, yet letting it be “prose”) ? Is not the question of philosophy ever “From Whence Does it Come?” and the answer of poetry, “From here.” Is not each word a hiero-glyph under conditions self-traced and yet immanent to a horizon beyond any self that does not necessarily touch a community of things?

[addendum] Nicola ruminates that his desire for commentary is a desire for a space,

Of course something like this happens/is happening only through the wearing away of “poetry” and the practice the finding/possessing of other language as (always already) poetry. I am learning more and more how my desire for commentary is a desire for such a space, or as Agamben would gloss it a desire for language as mode of both understanding and possession/enjoyment.

While he seems to agree that other language is already poetic, I am unsure of this notion of a space of possession as an equivalent of enjoyment. I sense rather that commentary is (and my last post touched on this) the space of transmission and pollination. To understand is to transmit and be transmitted to, for the wave to have reached you. The space of this, in terms of commentary, seems to be not that of possession, for “enjoyment” is never held, but rather is more one of eddying, a folded-over zone, which may link to other such eddies elsewhere, a turbulence of continuities (or ratios, as Spinoza might have it).

It is not that instrumental or objective language should be eliminated, or even undermined, but rather when we see it, speak it, read it, we should do well to trace out and fill-up its full history of affective roots as a place and determination of its strength.

“Talk to me about the Ontology of Commentary” (Illumined)

Some Thoughts on the Glossator Roundtable

If any of you have simply put the radio on in order to structure the aural world about you, I suggest listening instead to this roundtable at the Glossator conference from this past April, hosted by Nicola over at The Whim. Each of three speakers was a favorite voice , and only one person seemed to be disappointingly repeating well-rehearsed positions from their past, not actively thinking with the possibility of learning something from those they spoke with or the subject matter itself. As such the genuine aura of the conference discussion really brought home how nice it is to have creative, bright minds come together. And playing at least the first hour of the discussion where voices rhythm with more alternation and variety, simply burgeons.

The speakers are: Ulrich Gumbrecht, David Greetham, Jesús Velasco, and Avital Ronell, and they loosely organize their comments upon Nicola’s questions on the Future of Commentary, of which there are five:

1. What is the sense of asking the question of the future of commentary?

2. What are the hermeneutics of commentary?

3. What is the ethical potentiality of Commentary?

4. What is the ontology of commentary?

5. What is the pleasure (ludi) and pain (labor) of commentary?

Aside from the almost certain conflict of interest in four professional Commentators discussing the importance and (ontological, political) necessity of commentary, there is a pleasure in hearing these perspectives. (I most enjoyed the reference to slides which illustrated different marginal or commentary spaces, forcing me to imagine my way through.)

The Mp3 file of the roundtable is here, originally found over at wrætlic: the notebooks of egil on the trammes of tresoun where Dan offers a paper from the conference “Affects and Their Gravities: Commentary as a Capacity of Care”

In addition, as a modest though not inconsiderable sidenote, it was so pleasant to hear an erudite voice – I think it was David Greetham’s – say the line: “”…,or to turn it around….I don’t say ‘dialectically’ because I don’t ever know what that means…”.  Thank God someone can disrobe such an abused and mystifying word in a conference context in such a light manner, and without commentary.

Too Much Binary, Not Enough World

As to commentary itself, I could not help but think as I listened to these compelling speakers, that they had a wrong, or let us say, over-determined sense of what Commentary was. Focused on the primary binary of Text/gloss, and no doubt filled with their decades of bodily engagement with commentary and text, eyes moving backward and forth, commentary quite often took on the graft of the Being/non-Being, Presence/Absence, Text/Margin dynamic, in which we struggle to “sharpen” just what the relationship between that which fills the empty space and that which dominates the centrality of vision, seemingly so we can escort it successfully into the future (where it can be maintained as an object for our disciplined and professional examination).

What came to mind as each thinker sought to corral commentary was the defiant example of Lindisfarne Illuminative Manuscript, which I have written upon here.

The illuminative script of the anonymous monk seems to have fulfilled yet exceed nearly all of the provisos and descriptions offered by the various thinkers (or at least presents an adjunct exemplification which complexifies their categories). This immanent scripting, which lay not in the margins, but is woven of semiotic, iconographic, syntactic, conceptual and historic elements in commentary, directs our vision to an underpinning of what commentary COULD be. That is, commentary, aside from the binaries of Presence/Absence (fill), may be best seen as out-growth, or over-growth, or even a seeding. It flows out from the text, from its very form and reproduction. And then, is it not, that commentary cannot be severed from its text, any more than the scholia of Spinoza’s Ethics can be cut off from the propositions and proofs, without a certain amputation?

When you look at the Lindisfarne illuminations and view them as commentary, perhaps even taking them as models of what commentary is, I think we come up with a different sense of both the great wealth of possible commentary forms, but also its coming future. One should not think of  or look to the blank space (which invites the binary), but to the nexus shore, the touching ground where text and gloss brush up onto each other, making any strict delineation between the two impossible, or unwanted. To read the commentary is to feel the affective connection, the unfolding of the truth of a practiced mutuality. The very materiality of a text, its re/production, already presumes a certain thickness of continuity, even to a word scribbled in the margin.

I would go a bit further, if we are to insist that there is a binary operant here. At most, text works as mimetic (objective) product, and what we read as commentary as deitic screen, to the degree that we experience a certain sourcing of the former to the latter, a causal effect to which we too can be joined. In this sense, the object and the ostensive finger are always intimate to each other, and cannot be divorced. 


Alternately, think of a text as a garden, and its commentary the diversity of weeds, border bushes, pollinators both organized and summoned by the plot of land. Flora and fauna and realm both support and direct our vision to the effect.

Masciandaro’s Splendoring

Medievalist Nicola Masciandaro’s eclectic and thought-provoking weblog, The Whim, has a recent entry on the concept of “Splendering”, or Spectacular intimacy. His entry calls to mind both my thoughts on Plotinus’s analogies of light The Cone of Plotinus: Ontologies of Profusion and Particularization, as he tells us to look-with, sunorãn, the light, and not at the things lit, and also my current attempts in establishing a Spinozist/Davidsonian epistemological modeling of a panpsychist world: the way in which we necessarily, logically, biologically, turn to others to view the world. How can one resist evocations of Dante as guide? 

SPECTACULAR INTIMACY, or, the brightness of light becoming itself. Splendor is not a quality, but the condition of the overcoming of quality. It is not something seen, but the visible approach of the place where seeing becomes the seen. “In this state of absorbed contemplation there is no longer question of holding an object: the vision is continuous so that seeing and seen are one thing; object and act of vision have become identical; of all that until then filled the eye no memory remains. . . . the vision floods the eyes with light, but it is not a light showing some other object, the light is itself the vision.” Syntactically, the line temporalizes splendor, traces the becoming substantial of the relation between seeing and seen as a time delay within their distinction. Suspended in this light-filled air, can I say what splendor is? Luckily Dante, being one who breathes love back into philology (the exhale of his taking note when love inspires), is here to help.[iii]Commenting on the descent of divine power as sight (In lei discende la virtù divina / sì come face in angelo, che ‘l vede), he explains splendor via Avicenna as not only reflected light, but the visible/visual becoming of a thing toward the virtue shining on it. Seeing is not simply splendor’s external measuring tool, but the very efficiency of its cause. To see someone’s splendor, to experience how she shines, is to witness her becoming like what she sees and thus belong by parallel process to her being. (the rest, including footnotes…)

I have just begun looking at the blog, but look forward to future posts there.