Sacrifice of Language

After years of anti-linguistic realism, where sentences shattered into numbers and were ripped apart by the violence of images, perhaps the focus of research can move back onto language and its own self-destruction. This new linguistic turn is unrelated to meaning, and strictly concerns the unconscious composition of symbolic form, where the determination of categories are at stake in the election of the matheme. This still concerns the destruction of language, but now it becomes the violence language does to itself, and not the violence that befalls it from outside. The unconscious is a “system” in the sense of a supple and highly mediated system, such as the scholastic principle of sufficient reason, or other late-medieval ideas like the haeccity of the Franciscans. What is crucial about these concepts is a neutrality that cuts against grammar, and refuses the laws of excluded middles. This immanence reverses the imperatives of Aristotelian logic, and the aporiac bifurcation of code generates original distinctions. This is the event of the papal revolutions of 1100-1200′s, the sanctioning of Franciscan heresy, and the foundation of Renaissance culture. This genetic zone resists the aesthetic with its own aestheticization, which is a secret perversion of categories, and this categorical perversity is linked with the impossible experience of unconscious time.

To apprehend the broken bones of language, and to move beyond deconstruction towards a positive modernity through a deep perversion of positivity itself. This is a proposal for some turns that remain to be taken, most importantly to tie language to its own sacrificial violence, which means to bring the violence of language to bear upon language itself, or else to infect language with the passionate idea of its own automated masochism, like Ezra Pound banging his head in the Pisan cell, or de Sade searching the Bastille for his lost manuscript. Let’s send discourse on a suicide mission into the middle of sacrifice, and let language die in a way that reveals the idea of sacrifice itself as a house of being. Language must be forced to registers its own violence both violently and non-violently, and this registration is the substitution of substitution for sacrifice, which replaces it with work, sex, gift, play, and their confluence in subtle mourning. This is connoisseurship in the performance of civilization’s own self-sacrifice.

Begin this ceremony with rudimentary forms of the signifier – syllable, stroke, letter, character, word, sentence and verse. The signifier is the husk of language, and that finite material is composted in order to release the secrets of love. Anything conscious is only the aesthetic dirt of language that conceals the glimmering kernel of noesis of expression that gathers in impotent deadlocks – the Erotic power to move beyond the deadlock, and towards another deadlock. The deadlock emerges precisely at the edge of the materiality of the signifier, or in the abstract form of its material differentiation, which is radically obscure and insignificant. To move the unconscious is to move the material of the signifier, which is the arbitrary bureaucracy of grammatical discrimination. Bureaucracy represents the subject as dead and opposed to the predicate-event which usurps all its power as a negative judgment. The falseness of grammar becomes most obvious when we apply language to nature, like when we say “lightning flashes” as if there were this subject called lightening which performs this action of flashing, or when we say “it rains” and then consider the identity of this “it”. The expression of signifiers imposes (by their materiality) a Procrustrean analysis where part is frozen and fixated (the subjected) and opposed to the action it supposedly does (the predicate). This analysis falsifies nature, and so there is a contradiction between two materials – the material of nature, and the material of language. Grammar is originally a self-sacrifice programmed according to the western metaphysics of the transcendent other. To pervert this sacrifice we switch towards an immanent semiotics, like the block haeccity of Chinese characters, which can move beyond impasses in Western symbolic regimes, and into the impasses of further mediation with other civilizations, and the geographic transcription of literature.

To initiate an immanent theory of language, the key is how to centralize the verb as a point of haeccitic intensity or rupture, and how to plot the course of its passage towards the next deadlock. Instead of the analysis of the subject and its predication, we insist that the verb alone is the centre of linguistic impotence, and that the stifled power of language is an elemental force that works in the verb. This makes a tableau of force and language, and projects a spectrum of aporias, where verbs are mated so to lose the finitude of their signifier-bodies and withdraw into their esoteric potential. Linguists analyze the schematics of this potential as “verb themes”, which are schemas of how words can be arranged around verbs to form complete thoughts, and so verbs can be classified on the basis of abstract similarities. This is the analysis of the shadows of power cast grammatically. School children are taught that a sentence must express a complete thought, and so they are asked to begin an ideation of noetic completeness, and to understand what it means to make sense. The conditions of the verb’s theme are positive when it attains some noetic quota of sense at stake in grammatical judgment. Every verb has particular demands to be satisfied, and institutional power is based in this singularity. These are not the demands of the signifier, because the signifier is material and makes no demands itself, but rather they are the demands attributed to the signifier through its anxious subjectification, which takes hold through the abstract finitude of the material of language.

This shadow of power can be traced through a didactic grammar lesson proceeding by negative example, in order to assemble the conditions for noesis. For example, someone can’t just “put”, because that statement is short on the symbolic requirements for putting. You have to put something specific, such as your umbrella. But even putting your umbrella doesn’t fly because you also must say where, like in the basement. The symbolic composition of a situation is completed according to the particular form of the verb. Where the situation measures up to the verb, then there is a fulfillment, and symbolic representation attains sufficient reason or haeccitic fullness.

Linguistics distinguish verbs thematically, where the most important distinction is transitivity. Intransitive verbs have no object, because a flower doesn’t bloom something else. The concept of transitivity is an important flash-point for the politics of language, especial when there are questions of unaccounted immaterial labor. The concept of transitivity distinguishes actions with and without objects, and this distinction passes far beyond the grammatical. Medieval scholars classified the arts on this basis so there were the transitive arts that produced objects (crafts, trades, fine arts), and then there were intransitive arts (liberal arts that cultivated the practitioner but produced nothing). This problematic of transitivity is where we encounter the problematic cultural ambitions shared by fascism and literary modernism, and this defines a symbolic deadlock where our epoch remains caught.

The anxious relation of action and objects is a hermeneutic frontier that leads to the impossible encounter with unconscious time, which is a wild other language that goes unspoken.  In order to begin a tableau of the political deadlock of modern language, consider Ezra Pound’s early translation of the Old English poem Seafarer, which established the nautical meter for several famous Cantos. The original poem is wisdom literature from the 1000′s, where an old seafarer reminisces of the desolate hardships (anxiety, cold-wetness, solitude) of sea-life, but then shifts to the miseries of land-life, and finally yearns again for the sea. The perils of the ocean are the trials of a Christian who never abandons belief, and the poem rocks nautically from mourning to hope. But Pound eliminated anything religious from his translation, and that suppression of tradition may be connected with the antisemitism for which he apologized profusely when he renounced all his writing to Alan Ginsburg. This was the critical admission that it was impossible for him to assemble the symbolic conditions of “writing a book”, that was an act he was unable to complete. Other poets like Rimbaud and Flaubert made similar renunciations, and perhaps literature today begins with this scene of the poet’s despair, this cry that the noetic quota won’t be fulfilled, the hopeless voice of prophecy nullified, and then the quietly weeping hope that another day may return through this very wound of symbolic insufficiency. There is a redemptive conversion of writing to the intransitive, which is the revelation that nothing is written in the same way that nothing is bloomed.

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