Tag Archives: citation

Citation, like the wind (via Goethe)

What follows is from a translation of Goethe’s Italian Journey [Princeton UP, 1989], an autobiographical account of his long-deferred voyage south.  Here he narrates an experience on the shores of Lake Garda in an entry dated September 12, 1786.

A door leads down to the courtyard from the room I am sitting in; I have moved my table in front of it and sketched the view with a few strokes.  Almost the whole length of the lake can be surveyed, only at the end, to the left, does it elude our eyes.  The shore, framed on both sides by hills and mountains, gleams with innumerable little settlements.

After midnight the wind blows from north to south, so whoever wants to go down the lake must travel at this time; for already a few hours before sunrise the air current turns and goes northward.  Now in the afternoon it is blowing toward me, cooling the hot sun quite delightfully.  At the same time my Volkmann [J.J. Volkmann’s Historical and Critical News of Italy (1770-1771) was Goethe’s principal guidebook on the journey] informs me that the lake was formerly called Benacus and quotes a verse from Virgil mentioning it: 

Fluctibus et fremitu resonans Benace marino.

 [O Benacus, resounding to the shore with roaring waves. – Georgica 2, 160]

This is the first Latin verse whose content has come to life before me, and which is as true at this moment, when the wind is growing ever stronger and the lake is casting higher waves against the landing place, as many centuries ago.  Many things have changed, but the wind still churns the lake, and the sight is still ennobled by a line of Virgil.  [28-29]

The force of the wind.  The force of citation.  Likewise unstoppable.

Hokusai, 'A Sudden Gust of Wind'

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Rifling my proto-blog

My WordPress dashboard indicates that, as of today, I have published 200 posts on Makurrah’s Blog since I moved over from Typepad in early January of this year.  While I like the look, the roundness of that number as a minor milestone, I also know that it is inaccurate, in that five of those 200 posts themselves contain multiple entries from an earlier blog, fledgling, that I migrated to WP in early 2010.  And although I don’t often return to that material, I am on occasion prompted to rifle my little proto-blog to retrieve a source or a citation.

I recall reading on one of the blogs-that-try-to-help-bloggers that I used to consult more than I do now that it was not only perfectly okay, but in fact a great idea, to re-blog one’s earlier posts as a way of calling attention to contributions or interventions that readers might have missed.  Since there aren’t many citations that remind me so forcefully about the crux of this blog’s project (and my work more generally), and since I am confident that I (if not all of my readers) will experience its re-reading as something akin to splashing cold water on my face, I will take my chances and reproduce here a post that was originally published on fledgling on 9/29/2009  under the title “Hectic Presumptions.”  Should you desire, you can find it on this blog by scrolling through “fledgling‘s archive, September 2009.”  Oh, and don’t miss the October (x2), November and December files.

09/29/2009  Hectic presumptions 

In the belief that thinking can proceed in part via stepping-stones of thought made accessible by those who have gone before, let me quote (as I have more than once) an account provided by my friend and mentor Werner Hamacher in an incisive essay entitled “Journals, Politics”:  

Many years ago – it might already be twenty – Max Horkheimer recommended a little experiment during a television interview. He suggested reading newspapers a few weeks or months after their publication. With this he bent over to pick up a stack of rather gray papers that lay next to his chair. I cannot recall his comments on this piece of advice. But one can imagine that the effect he had in mind was supposed to be both philosophical and political. Indeed, the effect of this small postponement on the reader, on his perception of time and on his attitude to news and published opinion, should be considerable. The reader of these old papers will notice that the imperatives, attractions and threats heralded in them reveal themselves as such only to the degree that they no longer directly affect him. The judgments that the newspapers imposed on him at another time can now be dismissed as hectic presumptions. In the future he will no longer so easily obey the regulations of the newspapers and their time…. Horkheimer’s is a piece of political advice that looks forward to the suspension of coercion and to its transformation for another way of life.  

Users, students and teachers of social media stand to gain, philosophically and politically, by conducting for themselves an analogous experiment that would introduce a small postponement in the hectic reverse chronology that governs these media, and exercises its own forms of coercion.  

Posted at 12:01 PM in Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

**********

Once more, a sense of re-loading, from plentiful ammunition, for my argument about the realist ideology that underpins many of the claims currently being made for the “real-time” Web.

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‘what history teaches,’ part 6

The epigraph to the essay “Some Haunting,” dated 1994, cites the Joyce of Ulysses alluding to the Shakespeare of Hamlet:  “He is a ghost, a shadow now, the wind by Elsinore’s rocks or what you will, the sea’s voice, a voice heard only in the heart of him who is the substance of his shadow” (66).  The quotation opens Shurin’s evocation of his own ghosts (if they are his):

I’m no longer afraid these AIDS apparitions might be real (they’ve lost the advantage of surprise), but my subsequent clench at the gut or failing of the knees shows a terror more truculent than fear of the Impossible.  (The Impossible?  What, anymore, is that?)  These particular visitations – these “voices heard in the heart of him” – pursue.  They know my name, and my whole shaken body responds to their address….  The ghosts who walk in my city (my ghostly city) are cast as vividly as any childhood stored in a dipped madeleine – with that fleeting precision memory affords, and the rubbed-out edges it requires.  And they rise just as suddenly….  They flash and seize….  These visions are gone in the next shift of wind, of course….  Too late for me, who have been stuck by recognition, a madeleine-rush of memory that comes, alas, too frequently to be savored, but whose measure is too steady to be ignored.

I am haunted.  [66-67]**

The ghost, the shadow, the wind, the sea’s voice – always just gone – that pursue Shurin and address him by name again figure a demand made by the past on the present:  pay attention as if your life depended on it, recognize as your own concern what threatens to disappear irretrievably.  The sheer force of this demand disrupts the complacency of memory and amnesia alike.  As William Haver observes in the context of his own consideration of Unbound, “The ghost is the figure of what we can never quite forget altogether, but also of that which memory can never satisfactorily recover:  the figure of the impossibility of forgetting what we have forgotten.  The ghost is the figure of what disrupts every attempt at historiographical pacification” (unpublished ms., 12).  And the same claim might be made for citation:  for example, the citation of the past readable in a photograph of the author and his friends at the Gay Freedom Day celebration in Golden Gate Park in 1975.  Contemplating an image of the past twenty years later under the title “Shifting Paradise,” Shurin writes:

…one no longer knows the actual from the iconic – the icon becomes the actual!  Where physical distance blurs temporal distance refines.  This much has not shifted:  on a shelf a lucite frame encodes the past in a photo – unregenerate – as a paradise of pure loss.

But something has shifted:  the resonant image, gingerly holding its chemical colors against the fading power of sunlight, remains the same, but the very nature of paradise has changed.  Even while – eyes dewy – focused back on primal beauty, the unforeseen – HIV – transfigures sight, beholder and beheld.  “This sceptered isle,” Shakespeare’s Gaunt has said, “This fortress built by Nature for herself / Against infection.”  The magic island is flooded in a breakaway recursive tide; what did not hold – infected – returns to the image of origin.  (78)***

What follows this reflection on the fading photograph that cites a paradise now irretrievably lost is a parenthetical quotation from Gertrude Stein, the concluding lines of a remarkable poem with the hypothetical title “If I Told Him” (and the more assured subtitle “A Completed Portrait of Picasso”):  “Let me recite what history teaches.  History teaches” (78).  This history lesson, in the form of a citation that itself inscribes, or performs, citation, quoting itself as it unfolds, delivers not meaning, but what Unbound elsewhere terms “enactment” (35), demarcating the properly ethical dimension of its poetics and its historiography.

__________

** The haunting of the survivor is powerfully figured by John Greyson in “Overtaken,” Alphabet City 7 (“Social Insecurity”), 2000, 68-79.

*** In In the Event:  Reading Journalism, Reading Theory, I propose that “the photographic image takes place in the mode of a pledge:  Everything may be preserved for history.  But if what is preserved is in the process of disappearing, perhaps what is kept is only the promise”  (Stanford UP, 1999, 3).

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‘what history teaches,’ part 5

If City of Men takes citation to a provocative extreme, audaciously rewriting Whitman in his own words (Whitman was of course continually rewriting himself, for example in his ongoing revisions to Leaves of Grass), the citational gesture and its allegorical structure are also crucial to reading Unbound as a poetics and a historiography of AIDS.  In Shurin’s formulation of his project in “Inscribing AIDS:  A Reflexive Poetics” (1995), he proposes to

estrange and reconstitute Whitman’s Civil War vocabulary, pushing images of battle and comradely witness to a newly disoriented wailing point.  In “Human Immune” [1993], the speaking subject inhabits experience from simultaneous locations as if all persons of voice (first, second, and third) are equally at risk.  The poem proceeds formally via an epidemiological model:  each “stanza” inexorably increases in length by one line, an expanding vortex.  Hell is round, the motif…may bear Dante’s centripetal impasse, but also dimensionalizes AIDS from the personal to the historical:  the curve one rounds is also around one, surrounding, a world.  For the gay community, this circumnavigate descent can be read as the process of history itself disappearing.  [74]

In these terms, the history summoned in the culling and grafting, the estranging and reconstituting of citation is itself in the process of disappearing, prematurely, perhaps irrevocably.  “Inscribing AIDS” thus recalls the threat to historiography identified in Walter Benjamin’s fifth thesis On the Concept of History:  “The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again…. For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably.”  If the witness who reads the process of history itself disappearing is haunted by images of the past (and ghosts abound in Unbound), the text of his testimony is likewise haunted by prior texts that are themselves commemorated even as they are enlisted in a work of commemoration.

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fledgling’s archive, september 2009

09/30/2009 Red-letter day 

  

Perhaps this will go down as a red-letter day of some sort: I just noted my fledgling blog’s first batch of visitors arriving via Google. And it showed up on my own search. Now I really must make these posts presentable.  

For the moment, though, I just want to (red) flag a matter for future consideration: the ascendancy of the term ‘friend’ in the context of social media. It is an easy thing to overlook, or simply take for granted, but given the richness and variability of the writing on friendship in the history of philosophy, this certainly warrants further scrutiny.  

Posted at 05:00 PM in Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (4)    

 

09/29/2009  Hectic presumptions 

In the belief – a wager, certainly – that thinking can proceed in part via stepping-stones of thought made accessible by those who have gone before (even just before), let me cite (as I have more than once) an account provided by my friend and mentor Werner Hamacher in an incisive essay entitled “Journals, Politics”:  

Many years ago – it might already be twenty – Max Horkheimer recommended a little experiment during a television interview. He suggested reading newspapers a few weeks or months after their publication. With this he bent over to pick up a stack of rather gray papers that lay next to his chair. I cannot recall his comments on this piece of advice. But one can imagine that the effect he had in mind was supposed to be both philosophical and political. Indeed, the effect of this small postponement on the reader, on his perception of time and on his attitude to news and published opinion, should be considerable. The reader of these old papers will notice that the imperatives, attractions and threats heralded in them reveal themselves as such only to the degree that they no longer directly affect him. The judgments that the newspapers imposed on him at another time can now be dismissed as hectic presumptions. In the future he will no longer so easily obey the regulations of the newspapers and their time…. Horkheimer’s is a piece of political advice that looks forward to the suspension of coercion and to its transformation for another way of life.  

Users, students and teachers of social media stand to gain, philosophically and politically, by conducting for themselves an analogous experiment that would introduce a small postponement in the hectic reverse chronology and “real-time” updates that govern these media, and exercises their own forms of coercion.  

Posted at 12:01 PM in Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/28/2009  ‘The pulse of the planet.’ Perhaps.

  

 Twitter’s coveted prize is its real-time search engine and its global collection of users. What Twitter has done is add a new and important variable into the dissemination of information equation [Man this is badly written – Ed.]. When the user experience is centred around receiving information, they want that information to be relevant, and that’s what search engines are good for. But Twitter’s contribution is to introduce the variable of Time into the equation. With the integration of Twitter’s engine and its users, who provide a stream of real-time data, consumers will get answers to their queries that are relevant – Now. That’s why, as Twitter positioned it, they’re going to have the “pulse of the planet.”  

http://www.searchfuel.com/2009/07/twitter-will-be-the-pulse-of-the-planet/comment    

Posted at 12:13 PM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

09/25/2009  Pray for – make that on – the newspapers

  

In my last post I touched in a preliminary way on the materiality (and hence biodegradability) of newspapers over against the virtuality (and reverse chronology) of Twitter.  From the first, this blog has been dedicated to thinking through the temporal and material aspects of these media as instruments of historiography in our time.  

As it happens, the materiality of newspapers made them serviceable on at least one recent occasion, duly reported by Robin Wright for Time.com on July 27, 2009 under the title “Iran’s Protesters: Phase 2 of their Feisty Campaign”:  

‘The new cameraderie of resistance was visible at the July 17 [2009] prayer sermon given by former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at TehranUniversity. Non-religious Iranians turned up for political reasons. The devout showed them how to carry out the rituals, with strangers handing out newspapers as substitute prayer mats for overflow crowds.’  

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1912941,00.html

Posted at 05:13 PM in Current Affairs, Religion, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/25/2009  #IranElection

  

I released my first innocuous tweets in April and May. But in June the stakes changed for me (and so many others) with the advent of the Iranian election and its harsh aftermath. To be part of a virtual social network during the unfolding of these events – and their extraordinary chronicling by other participants – could not but galvanize. One of my several “favorite” tweets from this period was authored by @somegirl604 and posted at 12:02 PM on June 20th:  

show a newspaper from the day in films & pictures to verify date VERY IMPORTANT 4 CNN BBC etc #GR88 #IranElection RT  

At the time, after first saving it to favorites – rescuing it from the obscurity all but guaranteed by the hectic reverse-chronological feed –  I replied directly in succinct tweetspeak: “Great practical advice that also speaks volumes about this historical moment.”  I will likely revert to her formulation more than once in the work to come. (By the way, @somegirl604, have you found a job yet?  Thanks again and best wishes.)  

Posted at 12:11 PM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/23/2009  ‘I tweet, therefore I am.’

It was a journalist’s post-Cartesian musing about Twitter and mortality that propelled me from the relative safety of theoretical interest and observation into the riskier business of practice. In late March, 2009, The Globe and Mail ran a feature by Ian Brown under the title ‘Give Me Twitter or Give me Death’ (March 28, 2009, F1, F4). Zeroing in on what he termed the Twitter dictum – ‘What are you doing?’ – Brown sought to align questions of temporality, language, technology and mortality:  

‘…the discipline of compression is part of Twitter’s charm. Brevity and the management of candour are essential. One must, as Mark Twain advised, “eschew surplusage.”‘  

Or again,  

‘The lure of Twitter is the lure of Right Now. There is no death in the moment of Right Now: There is only where/what/why/who I am. If you are tweeting or tweeted, you are not dead, yet.’ 

While such conceptual claims resonated with my own thinking to date, I was struck by Brown’s readiness to take a further, very practical step: to seek in these terms to initiate a discussion about Twitter on Twitter. And so he did, generating a lively response:  

‘People had a lot to say, it was more like tossing firecrackers than writing…. It was exhausting, like climbing into a dryer for a ride.’  

He also reproduced, among others, a response from participant ‘gordonr’: ‘Twitter is phatic communication: I exist, you exist, the channel is open, the network if flowing.’  

Then and there, I signed up.  

Posted at 11:31 AM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

09/21/2009  George Clooney and I have something in common  

This post’s sole mission is to reproduce a remark by George Clooney that a) made me laugh and b) is tangentially related to this blog project.  In town last week for TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival, Clooney was asked by a reporter why he wasn’t active on Facebook.  According to multiple sources including The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s, he responded that he “would rather have a prostate exam on live television by a guy with very cold hands than have a Facebook page.”  

 As far as I can tell, he had nothing to say about Twitter, to which I will return shortly.  

George_Clooney_9  

Posted at 02:54 PM in Current Affairs, Film, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  log   

 

09/20/2009  Prelude to Twitter 

With zero readership at this stage, I can probably risk an autobiographical start without fear of losing anyone.  Suffice it to say that I have a longstanding investment in matters of language, literature, aesthetics, media, technology and history, in their various permutations.  So I was of course aware of the advent of new social media, even while I kept a certain critical distance in terms of my own practices (I’m still wary of Facebook, truth be told, and monitor it vicariously through my daughters’ accounts).My initial interest in Twitter stemmed from two decades of reading, teaching and writing about literature, and was more formal than material:  What sort of writing could and would emerge within the constraints of 140 characters? This was a version of questions I had considered in the past, for example with regard to the sonnet as form.  I was intrigued, but not yet hooked.  Then, in March 2009, I came across a feature article in my local newspaper, The Globe and Mail, that altered my thinking and impelled me to register and begin tentatively to tweet.  More about that article and its transformative effects in my next post.  

 Posted at 01:40 PM in Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)  

 

09/19/2009  Fledgling foray  

Let me begin, as I often do and will, by citing someone else:  in this case my old friend and colleague David Bromwich, who offers succinct advice to fellow bloggers, novice or expert:  “A good post is a single thought or observation or anecdote, clearly expressed and directly conveyed.  An essay may cover several topics; a post easily grows tiresome if it aims for more than one” (The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging, 91).   I cleave to this counsel as I ask myself whether cyberspace (to say nothing of any number of situations on the ground) needs another mind brooding in public about the impact of so-called “social media” – and Twitter in particular – on the history and historiography of our time.  My wager is that while my two cents will likely drop unnoticed, they won’t do any damage as they fall.  So I will undertake at least to chronicle my own involvement, practical and theoretical, with Twitter as an example whose value remains to be determined.   

BluebirdFledgling_052308   

Posted at 11:10 AM in Books, Current Affairs, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)     

 

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