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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: Deconstruction
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1473  Monday, 21 July 2003

[1]     From:   Sally Drumm <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Jul 2003 13:33:55 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1467 Re: Deconstruction

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Jul 2003 12:36:02 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1467 Re: Deconstruction [Will S?]

[3]     From:   Keith Hopkins <
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        Date:   Saturday, 19 Jul 2003 00:11:23 +0100
        Subj:   Deconstruction

[4]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Saturday, 19 Jul 2003 10:13:02 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1467 Re: Deconstruction


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sally Drumm <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Jul 2003 13:33:55 -0400
Subject: 14.1467 Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1467 Re: Deconstruction

>David Schalkwyk writes:

>Perhaps one cannot generalise about Deconstruction as such.  I'm even
>loathe to generalise about Derrida, since I have read him only from
>particular philosophical perspectives.

I agree; agreement returns me to Saussure: "Language never errs, it just
takes a different viewpoint" (p. 5, "Course in General Linguistics").
All the ways we experience language are different viewpoints, different
points of departure in the same course.  Acceptance follows repetition.
I can't help but apply van Gennup's Trinity of Rites of Passage to
Language...separation, liminality, incorporation.  Perhaps
Deconstruction flutters in the liminality phase of rites of passage for
Theory.  If there is a Trinity of Language, could it be Perception,
Thought, Word?  What would experience be without someone to witness the
ooh's and ahh's, the chuckles and tears, the clunky and graceful
thoughts that make sense only when shared? Without an other, is only a
state of liminality (thought) possible for language?  Is language
possible without an other?  In going into that labyrinthine coil,
argument is lost.  Derrida's proffered map is as well suited for the
journey as any other.  "So well thy words become thee as thy wounds;
They smack of honour both: Go get him surgeons" ("Macbeth," I.ii.44).
Wonder how many lines from Shakespeare we could use to deconstruct
Deconstruction?

Sincerely,
Sally Drumm

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Jul 2003 12:36:02 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1467 Re: Deconstruction [Will S?]
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1467 Re: Deconstruction [Will S?]

David Schalkwyk writes, "It seems to me that much of the discussion is
based on a confusion about Deconstruction's relation to language and
experience."

Plato, anyone?  Shall we come out of the cave of ignorance and see the
tree in the forest, and the sun setting on the ocean?  The next thing
you know Castaneda's anthropology thesis will be invoked, that what we
see in the world is only "a description of reality" and that the
viewpoints posited are sorcery, and that that ghost in Hamlet the play
was invoked by the guards on the castle wall and Hamlet was a victim of
sorcerers and what he saw was really only "a description of reality"!

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Keith Hopkins <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Jul 2003 00:11:23 +0100
Subject:        Deconstruction

It is often said that the early and later Wittgenstein do not coalesce
and in fact are in conflict, but I wonder if this is the case.   Putting
it very crudely and not doing justice to the magnificent rigour of
Wittgenstein's propositional logic in TLP, his view in this great early
work seems to be that language is a picture of reality but he does not
venture into the dangerous waters of asking what the picture or the
reality might be or is. To be is to act. We are used to the idea that
Shakespeare and the Metaphysicals held the mirror up to nature, but very
few of us asks the question,  what is this mirror that is referred to,
or the nature in question.   The trouble with language I think as
Wittgenstein saw it, at least in his earlier incarnation is that is full
of names of things  which when analysed really mean nothing, and that
language had more to do with an activity i.e. it was more a verb that a
noun. There are not really thoughts, only thinking. There is not
something said, only speaking. Language or reality is about something in
the present that is active and that in some mysterious way we are
involved in, and indeed are at one with all other human thinkers or
sayers.    There is really a very strong mystical element in
Wittgenstein that beyond the logician we see the prophet even the
priest.

The later Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations looked at
language as a game, i.e.  as being a pretty much activity governed by a
certain set of rules which rearranged the way in which humans express
themselves but had no existential  reality or semantic bedrock.    I
think the two parts of Wittgenstein can be reconciled by thinking of
language as a depiction  of human minds in action who are engaging in a
formal process of rule governed communication.   I think W. was trying
to get away from the idea desperately of words being or representing
things because this as a wrong turning in Western culture which began
with Kant, and this whole idea of only knowing what we get through the
senses and there being some vast other ultimately  unknowable world
outside our own experience.  Wittgenstein would say I think, that there
is no inner or outer, but essentially only a oneness , meaning we are
all part of a continuum  of thinking, saying human beings, what German
idealism called, Einfuhlung.

He literally loathed the pragmatism of Locke, and the Tabula rasa
idea,  not that he thought that we  had innate ideas, almost certainly
'W' did not think this, but because Lockes theory was basically that
external bodies  produce ideas in us by acting upon us without
explaining  how any of this arises or indeed what any of it means.
Turning to Shakespeare, it is certainly true is it not, that we get a
picture of something in the Sonnets and that there is a game playing
process going on, pretty much in the way 'W' describes.    Like any
great artist, though even more so with a staggering genius like
Shakespeare, we enter into his world and we cannot take from it or bring
into it some extraneous criteria.    We are in a sense in the Sonnets
the person addressed and a part of the continuum of emotion and thought
that the poet has created.

After all, even though the Sonnets were private, what was the intention
of the author in writing them?  There is no doubt they are born of some
terrible and searing emotional turbulence that Shakespeare himself
experienced or was able to imagine.    We become a part of that
experience when we read them.    Not only are they the most radiantly
beautiful lines ever penned in English, they are also profound
metaphysical linguistic and existential meditations that are not past or
present, but exist now in an active sense and which we partake of when
we read them.     It is like his play, 'Julius Caesar' .  Not only is
this one of the finest products of the Western mind, it is not
describing an historical event, it is no less conjuring up the spirit of
the long dead Caesar and making him live again, breathing, talking,
walking in front of our eyes.

The assassination is played over and over and over again, down
successive ages in an act  of perpetual reminiscence.

It is continually existing in the 'here and now' as Cassius refers to.
Great art can only really describe by saying, this is how things are or
happen and by creating an ever present and living memorial to what has
past and yet what is still ever present.    Shakespeare creates living
pictures which we are not spectators of, but participants in, in a way
that is unimaginably moving.     Wittgenstein provides some fruitful and
useful tools for tracking what is actually happening when we read a
Shakespeare poem or even more when we see one of his plays.  Shakespeare
is the master magician, indeed the master of masters of all great art
and unpalatable as it may be to all us rational souls, we have to own I
think, that there is a profound mystery and magic even in what
Shakespeare is doing, which makes theories of philosophical or Kantean
reality, utterly otiose and totally unhelpful in describing what is
going on in a Shakespeare play.     Indeed we can turn the whole thing
on its head and say that so powerful is the sense of illusion in
Shakespeare that it appears more real than what we take to be reality in
the everyday world, ie.  a fairy queen falling in love with an ass is
impossible from every angle, and yet more real to us and powerful than
cars, cities, etc.    It is a bit like the quote from Gibbon, when I
think paraphrasing Virgil, he says, 'but the spirit sends visions which
are false in the cold light of the morning'. Meaning that if dreams are
false in the morning, which we would all accept I think, then logically
they must be true when we are asleep or during the night.   It is
precisely this sort of word play that Wittgenstein had in mind when he
thought about art and Shakespeare, and it strikes us as true in some
indefinable and intuitive sense that traditional philosophy and logic
can make no sense of.

Wittgenstein gives an example of hikers who are lost on a mountain and
triumphantly declare, we are here!  but here doesn't mean anything,
because they don't know where they are, and therefore the statement
seems to have no meaning, because it does not relate to anything.

Shakespeare's language and plays, I think would yield up more of their
secrets if we abandoned the mirror of nature theory and looked more in
terms of them being transparent acts that we do not observe as an
audience but are intimately connected with and which are recreated
continually anew.

Keith Hopkins
London.  18/7/03

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Jul 2003 10:13:02 -0400
Subject: 14.1467 Re: Deconstruction
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1467 Re: Deconstruction

>What Derrida
>does say is that the structure of our experience of the world and the
>structure of the linguistic sign share certain essential
>characteristics, notably repeatability across time. (Wittgenstein makes
>the same point about language when he says that a word is not for use on
>only one occasion.) Such repeatability involves difference (because each
>occasion of repetition is different from the previous one) and deferral
>(because such repetition does not end in a final product or stasis).
>This structural similarity does not mean that words and things or words
>and experience are the same things, or that the one can be reduced to
>the other.  What it does mean is that we cannot take an empiricist
>stance on either words or things: words do not simply reflect things;
>nor does the world simply impress itself upon the mind.  In that sense,
>then, there is no *Empiricist* reality.
>
>David Schalkwyk

My problem with Derrida's position against Husserl is that it seems to
limit phenomenology to the individual consciousness. This creates a
false dichotomy of terms that excludes any aspect of "collective
experience." While deconstruction acknowledges langue as a structure
external and prior to the individual, experience is described always as
internal and solipsistic. The audience of a play, however, is, on the
one hand, a  number of individuals each experiencing the performance in
a private and unique form, but on the other, it is a collectivity who
participate in a collective response. The audiences of Greek tragedy, I
read somewhere, fell to weeping and wailing spontaneously and
simultaneously, and we have all witnessed people, whether in a riot or a
football game, being "caught up in the excitement of the moment." It's
possible to question the ontology of solipsistic experience as
Wittgenstein did, but not of "mass hysteria," "popular delusions,"
"states of panic." Such collective responses reify a collective
experience which may participate in Derridean differance (iterability
and syntax), but, unlike language, is not defined by it.  A single note
is not music apart from its syntactical variation from the notes that
precede and follow, but a riot is a riot regardless of the prior
experience of the separate individuals who comprise it. Only after the
fact can language call it lawlessness or rebellion.

Clifford Stetner
CUNY

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