Wednesday, January 7, 2009

here is something i wrote at one time, since i am unable to write now, because i am a drone who works 12-hour days and has the flu. i think this is three years ago? and about CONFESSION, which, I LOVE, because i'm NOT CATHOLIC, probably.

[In my effort to understand de Man I feel the need to follow, to the best of my ability, de Man’s instruction, and so I will closely read de Man’s essay while also operating upon my chosen confessional text. At least, this is the plan. As per the order of de Man’s essay I must now orient you, my reader, with my chosen text here:]
What does it mean to confess? According to de Man above “[t]o confess is to overcome guilt and shame in the name of truth….” What is key here, I think, is the word overcome, there must be a deliberate effort made on the part of the confessor to defeat guilt and shame. The achievement of this defeat over guilt and shame is the reinstitution of “the economy of ethical balance” and the cleansing of the slate, so to speak, of “the atmosphere of a truth that does not hesitate to reveal the crime in all its horror” (279). Having determined the meaning of to confess, I see a division in autobiography, that confession is not synonymous with autobiography, but can be contained within autobiography, as not every autobiography can be said to achieve this “economy of ethical balance.” I am tempted, however, to state that every autobiography pretends to achieve this state, or wishes to achieve this state, as the writing of one’s history gives the reader of the history a specific presentation, one that seems to claim, by the mere name: autobiography, a perspective that is just: the writing of one’s own history. Now I will pause to identify a text:
Among the many possible Orestes A. Brownsons there could have been : the Unitarian, the Transcendentalist, and the Catholic [not to mention the politician, the man, the father, etc], only one chose to write The Spirit-Rapper, An Autobiography in 1854. In 1854 Brownson was a converted Catholic. [This is not necessary information. I will start again:]
Brownson’s The Spirit-Rapper, An Autobiography is a written account of a man’s life spent sacrificing God for Science. In fact, he substitutes God for Science. In this autobiography our narrator becomes involved in the practice of animal magnetism, or mesmerism, as a means to achieving his deep desired goal of understanding the nature of all things. He is offered these answers, and the power these answers seemingly contain, by his table, which he has mesmerized and which has learned to communicate with him through rapping on the floor in a sort of Morse code:
I held a long dialogue with the table, which, however, I shall not record. I ascertained the origin of the raps, how to produce them, and how to read them. But this was but a trifle. I would have the power visible to my eyes, submissive to my orders, and speak to me in plain and intelligible language, properly so called. I obtained a promise that this should come in due time, but that for the present I must suffer the force to remain invisible, and be content with a language of mere arbitrary signs. (Brownson 41)
Here I must pause in order to determine meaning. Brownson uses several words I want to discuss: dialogue, table, record, read, language, and the term ‘arbitrary signs’.

1. dialogue, table, record, read, language and ‘arbitrary signs.’
Each of these words reference communication and, in particular, writing. I find this interesting as the word ‘record’ is used by Brownson/narrator/text in situations that make each instance a written account: a record of an event, and in each situation the event is a not-event: something that is left out, left behind, unworthy of mention, and yet, mentioned all the same and marked as unmentionable. OR, is it that what is conveyed by the table to the narrator is so worthy that it is marked secret and purposefully withheld? What does this marking of absence represent?
Amongst a slew of words all relating to communication as an activity that is present, that is taking place, that is action, what is actually communicated/said/written is that it is considered un/markable, YET, remarkable, as the fact is the speaker does make mention, take notice, of this communicative act. There is set in motion, then, the idea that in order for something to be made record of, it must be worthy: a value inherited byway of ‘record,’ also, if too worthy, kept secret. It is good, I think, to notice that the event that is not recorded is also considered and called : “a trifle.”
a. dialogue: “I held a long dialogue with the table which, however, I shall not record.”
In order for this dialogue to take place, to be an event, there must be an understanding: a comprehension, on the part of the writer/recorder of events/biography and the table. A dialogue is an exchange of thoughts between two, usually persons, in this instance a table and a person, and in this instance an unrecorded conversation.
Is it possible that the unrecording of this dialogue is and unmaking of this dialogue? This dialogue leads the narrator directly into his criminal life, and this autobiography, being a deathbed confession as we shall see, is dependent upon this dialogue. And yet we receive no record, no account for this exchange. For what reason is this dialogue unrecorded? Is it unrecordable? Is it secret? What difference is there between and unrecorded dialogue and a secret? Truly for a confession to take place one must be held accountable, at least by oneself. Is this the beginning of the unconfession ? An erasure of the true confession? An unwillingness to fully confess?

b. table:
Is the table a substitution? For Rousseau there was a ribbon. Does this table stand for something other than a table?
The table in this instance is not a table but a mesmerized table: a table under a spell, a table that has an essence that is beyond that of a table. The word table also elicits exchange (mathematics), tablet, time, and at the time of the original writing:
A tablet bearing or intended for an inscription or device: as the stone tablets on which the ten commandments were inscribed, a memorial tablet fixed in a wall, a votive tablet, a notice-board, etc. arch. (OED)

This word is weighted in light of the word ‘record’ as it is a place upon which an action/communication can take place. It is then refused its place, at least in the remarking of the place.
c. record (see above and below)
1. Law. a. The fact or attribute of being, or of having been, committed to writing as authentic evidence of a matter having legal importance, spec. as evidence of the proceedings or verdict of a court of justice; evidence which is thus preserved, and may be appealed to in case of dispute. Chiefly in phrases of (common in 15-16th c.), {dag}in, by, on, or upon record. I. {dag}1. trans. a. To get by heart, to commit to memory, to go over in one's mind. b. To repeat or say over as a lesson, to recite. Obs. (OED).
d. read: “I ascertained the origin of the raps, how to produce them, and how to read them.”
The order of this process is curious to me. This is to say that in order to read one must discover the origin of the sign(s) and how they function first. [Maybe this is true.] Is the table a book? Truly, though, is reading both taking place and not taking place? There is not a way for the reader to know whether or not the reading is accurate. All responsibility lay in the reader for the making of sense, in this particular situation. The table is not going to disagree, the table is not going to say, “No, that isn’t what I’m saying at all.’ Even if the table were to do so, it would be impossible for the reader to comprehend his/her own misunderstanding, because of the reader’s failure to comprehend in the first place.
This is an interesting scene because it brings to the foreground, in light of our discussion regarding confession and responsibility, the unconfession I began to process earlier. If the confession-maker does not find all of the particulars of his/her own confession re/markable, is it then a failure to comprehend on the part of the confession-maker? And is this failure to comprehend then also a failure to confess?

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