Recon Club – Austin’s Lectures

I have limited myself to write these blog posts focusing on one text through one day (see my previous post), and the day I had time for it this time was while sitting on a train without my computer at hand, so under here you can find links to my handwritten notes. I tried to make them as understandable as possible.

I found Austin’s book How To Do Things With Words systematical, but a bit too general. However I couldn’t point my finger to why it felt so, until I started glancing through Limited Inc and saw Derrida problematize “communication” as such, and then the whole language theory of Austin seemed a little too simplified in it’s view of reality, a bit like in the Dilbert comic strip over. But it can’t be underestimated however that Austin makes some very good points in the same way that Dilbert in Scott Adams’s cartoon does it, dry and witty, with Derrida’s self counscious problematizating viewpoint on the other side of the table. One thing I really found interesting in the pages I read quckly through in Limited Inc (I will not anticipate the course of events, I am going to read the whole text in that book later and make an entiteled one day-blog post about it, this is just an important digression) was something Derrida wrote in his opening remarks about the concept of “communication”:

Screen drop from Limited Inc on Google Books.

Screen drop from Limited Inc on Google Books.

When reading this I came to think about an example in which communication functions somewhat in this way. I thought about my fascination for jewish culture, which takes place in an indirect manner. It’s not like I’m celebrating jewish passover or travel to Israel once a year, nor that I read lots of jewish literature or books concentrating on judaism and jews’s position in world history or contemporary affairs. It’s more like I have a intuition on some characterizations of jewhish individuals; for instance I can like a film written and / or directed by a jew but with non-jews in the main roles, like the film 2001: A Space Oddysey. On the other hand I can like films written and directed by non-jews, but with a jew in one of the leading roles, which is the case with the film The Thin Red Line from 1998. Sean Penn, whom’s father was jewish, plays Edward Welsh. One get an impression of Welsh’s character in these lines from the film:

First Sgt. Edward Welsh: Hey Witt, who you making trouble for today?
Private Witt: What do you mean?
First Sgt. Edward Welsh: Well, isn’t that what you like to do? Turn left when they say go right. Why are you such a trouble maker Witt?
Private Witt: You care about me? Don’t ya Sergeant? I always felt like you did. One day I come up and talk to ya. Then the next day it’s like we never even met. Lonely house now, you ever get lonely?
First Sgt. Edward Welsh: Only around people.
Private Witt: Only around people.
First Sgt. Edward Welsh: You still believin in the beautiful light are ya? How do you do that? You’re a magician to me.
Private Witt: I still see a spark in you.

film animated GIF

It’s probably this spark, which some people have called “this inner drive” (“this inner drive comes not from the years of education or any other sort of conditional factors, but because of the inner spark within each Jew” (http://bit.ly/1JBAn08)) I see too, weather it’s in a grandious work of art as with Kubrick’s 2001: A Space oddysey, which Arthur C. Clarke described in this way in the process of making it: “a work of art which would arouse the emotions of wonder, awe … even, if appropriate, terror”, or it is the self assure brave (maybe necessary) cheeky character of first Sgt. Edwar Welsh. This is more like “a passage or opening”, to use Derrida’s formulation, and not something one can communicate in clear words. I’m sure you can provide plenty of other examples yourself which describes similar phenomena; with film, literature, relations and experiences from the shock value of extraordinary events to the repetitative atmospere of everyday life, which can be about anything; religion, emotions, memory, death. In my case it seems to derive from a fascination on jews (by the way I’m not jewish myself, I sometimes compare my situation to Kramer’s in Seinfeld who neither is jewish by birthright, but has adopted their culture because “I agree with the concepts and the religious beliefs of Judaism and I’ve adopted Judaism as my religion,” in my case: change “agree” with “am curious about”, “Judaism” to “jews in arts and culture” and “religion” to “muse”).

Next post will be about Derrida’s text «Signature Event Context» and published sometime during September.
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The Religious Blue Tint of Realism

In fantasy books by C. S. Lewis and Neil Gaiman I sense a style of realism that might occur as a result of their religious faith or backgrounds. Gaiman has stated in interviews that he loved to read Lewis as a child and that the Narnia chronicles inspired him as an author. Lewis was a christian and wrote a lot of books on christianity before he published the novels. Gaiman grew up in a jewish scientology family. Descriptions in the tradition of judean-christian world views tend to be offering a strong sense of realism, because their authors had the impression that they were writing nothing but the truth itself, and not mythology or fiction. Erich Auerbach has written about this. He had to draw the lines of a literary tradition because the nazis claimed that christianity was totally independent from judaism.

Blue tint: "In the tranquil fields and meadows of long-ago England, there is a small hamlet that has stood on a jut of granite for 600 years. Just to the east stands a high stone wall, for which the village is named. Here, in the hamlet of Wall, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. And here, one crisp October eve, Tristran makes his love a promise -- an impetuous vow that will send him through the only breach in the wall, across the pasture... and into the most exhilarating adventure of his life." Neil Gaiman, "Stardust"

Blue tint: “In the tranquil fields and meadows of long-ago England, there is a small hamlet that has stood on a jut of granite for 600 years. Just to the east stands a high stone wall, for which the village is named. Here, in the hamlet of Wall, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester. And here, one crisp October eve, Tristran makes his love a promise — an impetuous vow that will send him through the only breach in the wall, across the pasture… and into the most exhilarating adventure of his life.” Neil Gaiman, “Stardust”

Green tint: "Night was falling now, and as I recalled what Akeley had written me about those earlier nights I shuddered to think there would be no moon. Nor did I like the way the farmhouse nestled in the lee of that colossal forested slope leading up to the Dark Mountain’s unvisited crest. With Akeley’s permission I lighted a small oil lamp, turned it low, and set it on a distant bookcase beside the ghostly bust of Milton; but afterward I was sorry I had done so, for it made my host’s strained, immobile face and listless hands look damnably abnormal and corpselike. He seemed half-incapable of motion, though I saw him nod stiffly once in a while." H. P. Lovecraft, "The Whisperer in Darkness"

Green tint: “Night was falling now, and as I recalled what Akeley had written me about those earlier nights I shuddered to think there would be no moon. Nor did I like the way the farmhouse nestled in the lee of that colossal forested slope leading up to the Dark Mountain’s unvisited crest. With Akeley’s permission I lighted a small oil lamp, turned it low, and set it on a distant bookcase beside the ghostly bust of Milton; but afterward I was sorry I had done so, for it made my host’s strained, immobile face and listless hands look damnably abnormal and corpselike. He seemed half-incapable of motion, though I saw him nod stiffly once in a while.” H. P. Lovecraft, “The Whisperer in Darkness”

What Can be Deconstructed?

Everything! There’s no limits.

Rothko
Rothko painting from http://www.wikiart.org/en/mark-rothko/no-5-no-22

Or: It makes sense for some central philosophical texts only, from the western tradition.
Derrida has said both in interviews. I go with the first quote.
I heard someone say: Derrida, you know, he can’t even tell a story, he can only look at a metaphor from every viewpoint, inside/out, etc, until there’s no meaning left, mixing every color into a black pattern.
Someone else said: in the greek tradition one likes to imagine concepts from words, for example traditional metaphors; “my love is a rose”, and then you picture yourself a pretty woman. The jewish tradition doesn’t think images, but rather function, so that’s why Salomon could talk about his loves neck as a watchtower. That’s not a funny joke about a strange looking girl, but a guarding women. Maybe this could be a link to understand the concepts about deconstruction.

Here’s a clip showing some of Derrida’s ideas:

Faith In Words

»Show me the place where the Word became a man«

Leonard Cohen

On Tablet Magazine’s facebook-page there’s been some discussion after the publishing of the article Teaching My Son About Judaism – and Atheism. I  note that the author is proud over her son’s development from what she calls »obsession with Jesus« to atheism. The article ends with her son stating that he doesn’t believe in anything because he has asked his jewish teacher how one could know for sure that the Red Sea parted. The teacher replied to him that one doesn’t need evidence, only faith. The little boy than said »I need evidence«.

Some of the comments on Facebook claims that one can not both be jewish and atheist, other says the same about judaism and belief in Jesus. I don’t have time to dive into every aspect of this, I just quote my comment here, adding that science also requires belief, not in a religious understanding of the Word – »the Word became a man« – but in the sense that one must have trust in the people who researches for evidence, and what is that if not a religious understanding of the word (without capital letter):

»Erich Auerbach proved that christianity and judaism was linked together in the mimetic writing style unique for the time, the stories in the Torah can be read both literal and as parables of the stories in the gospel. Before the law stands a gatekeeper (Kafka), but the gatekeeper didn’t make the law. The word became a man, but man did not become the word«

Source for Tablet article: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/171223/teaching-son-judaism-and-atheism/2

(Source for linked page: Hacohen, M.H. Typology and the Holocaust: Erich Auerbach and Judeo-Christian Europe. Religions 20123, 600-645.)