The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1596  Tuesday, 12 August 2003

From:           Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 11 Aug 2003 15:33:34 -0400
Subject: 14.1483 Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1483 Re: Deconstruction

Sean wrote:

>I should think that this is not only Derrida's reading of Husserl. As
>you've described it, it seems influenced by Sartre and Heidegger, both
>of whom thought that "collective experience" was an evasion of the
>historicity of Dasein, or the authenticity of the cogito. Heidegger
>would probably call it the "everyday" or something like that, while
>Sartre would think of references to collective consciousness as bad
>faith, I should think.

>The movement beyond the solipsism of phenomenology (or at least, of a
>certain reading of early phenomenology) isn't, I think, towards
>collectivity, but towards responsibility, recognition of the Other. Your
>description of the audiences of Greek tragedy and football matches
>strikes me as rather frightening:

I'm not talking about a Jungian collective consciousness which is
altogether different. Sartre, horrified into a kind of solipsism by the
rise of fascism, still places his Roads to Freedom in the context of a
war that he describes as a collective European experience. Especially in
The Reprieve, he seems to me to describe a "state" of war that is
different from a "state" of peace and constitutes the phenomenological
field in which all pour-sois are obliged to exercise their separate free
wills. Husserl attempted at the end of his career to deal with his own
apparent solipsism in Cartesian Meditations which he was reworking when
he died.

Scary or not, I didn't make up the stuff about Greek tragedy, nor am I
advocating it for modern theater-going. I did manage to find extensive
discussion of "collective emotion" in the context of Greek religious
ritual in Jane Harrison's Themis which deals also with the origins of
tragic drama. She identifies Themis as the deified principle of
collective emotion and attributes democratic tendencies to the penchant
for depersonalizing group ecstasies.

The movement *has* been toward the Other through Levinas for example,
but restricting all experience to what goes on in one subject at a time,
whether in respect of a single Other or not, makes a great deal of
history hard to account for. Examples of mass hysterias, whether
primitive Saturnalias or contemporary sports, make visible what is
obscure in the experience of the everyday, that we don't occupy physical
space, but human "situations" that are not of our own construction. Even
the mundane everyday is a situation we derive in some degree from those
around us. Neither road out of solipsism, existentialist or
deconstructionist (both largely reactions against the depersonalizations
of fascism and Stalinism), account for them. Bad faith might account for
choosing to participate in wars and riots, but alone cannot account for
their palpable collectivity. Neither can these collective situations be
reduced to linguistic constructs.

Current debates about the situation in Iraq are not over what it should
be called, but whether it "is" or "is not" a guerilla war (where's
Clinton when you need him?). Top gun Bush carefully avoided stating that
the war was over because that would constitute a legal status that
imposes specific responsibilities on the "victor." In contrast to
legalism and the simple minded semantics of American political
discourse, there is a new wave of mass rape occurring in and around
Liberia that has little to do with what we decide to call it.

>Like the rebels in Sir Thomas More attacking foreigners, I suppose.

Yes, exactly, or the Roman mob tearing asunder the wrong Cinna.

>Yours, trying to keep his head,

So did Pentheus and Lycurgus.

Clifford Stetner

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