Note to Self: Veil, Derrida’s (Almost ) Language Nihilism And Bernstein’s Language Poetry

If a speech could be purely present, unveiled, naked, offered up in person in its truth, without the detours of a signifier foreign to it, if at the limit an undeferred logos were possible, it would not seduce anyone. The boundary (between inside and outside, living and nonliving) separates not only speech from writing but also memory as an unveiling (re-)producing a presence from re-memoration as the mere repetition of a monument; truth as distinct from its sign, being as distinct from types.

The problem is that writing does not eclipse orality nor does the symbolic law supercede the amorphousness of the “semiotic,” any more than objectivity replaces subjectivity (or vice versa). We don’t return to anything – turning (tuning) is enough. The power of symbolic – of the ego or the alphabet – does not come in Faustian trade for the virtually Edenic space of undifferentiated connectivity. Moreover, this originary myth is literally delusional, for it leads us away from the concrete material situation of our connectivity through the alphabet, through aurality, through  the “symbolic.” Better than to speak of the preverbal, we might speak of the omniverbal. Rather than referring to the pre-symbolic, we might say asymbolic or heterosymbolic. Instead of projecting a preliterate stage we might say analphabetic or heteroliterate: for aren’t the petroglyphs and megaliths – those earliest human inscriptions made on or with rocks – already writing, already “symbolic.” As if the first human “babbling” were not already language, always social, a toll as well as a tool! We go “From amniotic fluid to / semiotic / fluidlessness,” where the semiotic is drenched in the symbolic and the symbolic absorbed within the semiotic. As Nick Piombino observes in his discussion of D. W. Winnicott inClose Listening, language is also a transitional object.

If “orality” or the “semiotic,” aurality or logic, are stages, they are stages not on a path toward or away from immanence or transcendence but rather stages for performance: modalities of reason; prisms notprisons. Or let me put this in a different way: Perhaps the first writing was not produced by humans but  rather recognized by humans. That is, it’s possible that the human inscriptions on the petroglyphs frame or acknowledge the glyphs already present on the rock face (Lock, 415-16). Then we might speak of the book of nature, which we read as we read geologic markers or the rings around a tree (“can’t see me!”).

The problem is being stuck in any one modality of language – not being able to move in, around, and about the precincts of language. I am not anti-symbolic any more than I am pro-“semiotic.” Rather I am interpolated in their folds, knowing one through the other, and hearing the echo of each in the next. This is what I mean to evoke by “a/orality” – sound language, language grounded in its embodiments: the Mime, the hymen, the virgin, the occult, the penetration and the envelope, the theater, the hymn, the “folds of a tissue,” the touch that transforms nothing, the “song, spurting out of a fusion of these disparate forms of pleasure.”


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