Sunday, January 13, 2008

Happy Ending

One of our presenters fell ill at the conference, so I was asked to give my paper from Wales in stead.

Jason asked a question that I answered a little differently than I would now. He wanted to know if I thought the term "Minimalism" was useful or valid, given my different take on the repertory. I said that it's a mistake to use the term, but that we can always only make mistakes, and that we ought to make them strategically and scrupulously.

I'd like to expand that a little. In A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, Spivak launches a lengthy and convoluted critique of Jameson's Postmodernism, dealing (in)directly with many of the issues I approach in my paper. She talks about the decentered subject (which can never be dead, according to her), arriving at several contradictory conclusions which will require much more study to understand. One interesting thing she brought up that I think I finally do understand is Derrida's graphamatics (which I'm spelling wrong, I think, but I can't find my book right now). The graphamatic is apparently the necessity of assuming a coherent, unified origin for the subject (the I). As I understand it, the actual coherence or unification of the origin of the subject is both irrevocably forgotten and effectively irrelevant. However, in order to begin thinking or theorizing the subject at all, the origins need to be finessed in this graphamatic fashion. This move, which Spivak says can never be endorsed by deconstruction, is the necessary first move: it is the mistake. I think graphamatics can extend well beyond the subject, and into subjects as the term is used more colloquially. In this case, I think it's a useful invocation for the establishment of genres and stylistic schools. We cannot think Minimalism without assuming that it has come into being as a coherent body of work, but thinking it will show that assumption both to be false and necessary.

I still will need to work out exactly what it means, from this deconstructive vantage, for the subject to be decentered. I find it very alluring that at one point Spivak says the subject is always centered, but unfortunately she says later that this is not the case. More reading is in store, and this time it's going to be the same turf over again.

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