Michel Foucault

Continuous history is the indispensable correlative of the founding function of the subject: the guarantee that everything has eluded him may be restored him; the certainty that time will disperse nothing without restoring it in a reconstituted unity; the promise that one day the subject — in the form of historical consciousness — will once again be able to appropriate, bring back under his sway, all those things that are kept at a distance by difference, and find in them what might be called his abode…

But to seek in this great accumulation of the already-said the text that resembles “in advance” a later text, to ransack history in order to rediscover the play of anticipations and echoes, to go right back to the first seeds or to go forward to the last traces, revealing in a work its fidelity to tradition or its irreducible uniqueness, to raise or lower its stock of originality, or say that the grammarians of Port-Royal invented nothing, to discover that Cuvier had more predecessors than one thought, these are harmless enough amusements for historians who refuse to grow up.

The Archaeology of Knowledge (London, 1972), pp. 12, 144.

I really do seem to be starting all over, as I have spent large parts of the day reading criticism and theory from when I was in college or before, apparently to figure out how I learned what I learned. There is much that was done in the eighties that I did not have or take the time to truly understand, and that nonetheless formed my logic. Rereading is like going back into family memories and finding out “what really happened” or “what the actual meaning of that event really was.” It is almost womb-like. And Marianne Hirsch, whom I rediscovered for the sake of her first book which is interesting to me now, has developed a useful concept, postmemory, of which I would have known had I not been distracted.

The Eagleton article referenced in my ancient abstract seems very dated and not entirely interesting, except for these amusing quotations from Foucault. I do not need the “cognitive/emotive” distinction to describe the dissonant levels of meaning in the text I am studying. I think the actual reason I referenced the article (“Ideology, Fiction, Narrative”) was its title which suggests the interrelation and perhaps interdependence of these three elements; it was not as well accepted at the time I wrote the abstract as now that the novel in question is a heavily ideological intervention — in national discourse, if you will, and also in the construction of the kind of Man I really wish were “like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea” (Foucault).

I do not know how well this will ultimately work as a hook but I am nonetheless fixated on the idea that the Nájera quotation used on a frontispiece to one edition of María, which functions like DeFoe’s insistence in the preface to Moll Flanders that it is a not a “lewd” book, is off base to say the least. It may be time not to “just write” but to “just-write” (e.e. cummings, “in just-spring”), i.e. use this to read-and-seriously-write but without locking myself in when what I still need to do is work more closely on McPhee-style structuring.

I fear throwing myself into this text but then again if I make it a microcosm of everything I have been thinking about, it might work. It is one of my two starting points and these do delineate a reasonable period, 1867-1930, the period about which I once had a a chapter title for in a book outline I wrote just for fun: “In the Belly of the Cannibal.” This was during my most creative, most intellectually acute period. My mind was like the proverbial steel trap and there has to be something to the ideas I had then.



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Filed under Bibliography, News, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

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