christmas brain food.

I had a terrific Christmas. Once everyone is gone and there is no longer any pressure to be a "happy family," I realize that I am indeed part of a relatively happy family and enjoyed my day. The day itself always feels anticlimactic and emotionally draining. I really enjoyed seeing my Dad for the first time in a long time. He was really really nice which made me feel guilty about the prior post and my general bitterness. People surprise me, sometimes. My favourite presents: the Sartorialist book, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer - which I read in a few hours and want to read again - and the origami crane my sister made for me. Here is a portion of an essay I just wrote that I am incredibly pleased with. On Whitman and Heidegger's "Thinker as Poet" and of course I had to throw some Lacan in there:

Whitman's manic desire to consume and be consumed by everything - and his inability to achieve either - exemplifies Heidegger's quote: "Thinking’s saying would be stilled in its being only by becoming unable to say that which must remain unspoken" (Thinker as Poet). Part of the function of language is to play within and expose its own limitations. Language does not only function superficially as self-contained and transparent, but also in relation to this limit or its ability to expose this limit. Formal experimentation is one strategy of playing with and around the inability of language while simultaneously exposing the lack underlying what is made visible. The malleability of poetry in particular draws attention to this semiotic and material limit. That which visibly manifests itself is also the symptom of a residue, of something that cannot be expressed in language. For Heidegger, "What is spoken is never, and in no/language, what is said" (Thinker as Poet). A similar thought is expressed in Whitman: "Lack one lacks both, and the unseen is proved by the seen,/Till that becomes unseen and receives proof in its turn" (Whitman 22-23). Thus, what is said includes the content of the language as well as what is lacking in the language; Leaves of Grass performs this relation and the inability of language. This discourse reveals the limit of the language (what is lacking, what remains unspoken because it is untranslatable) in dialectical relation to the words used and the relationship to the speaker as creator and conduit of 'Being.' What is seen (the content communicated) emphasizes the absence of the unseen (that which necessarily underlies what is visibly and materially taking place). The inability of language to succinctly express experience and realize this desire results in a struggle with and against this limit; therefore, the subject matter of the poem is not only what is said but the issue at stake in saying or not saying, and the problems of language as a system of representation. This reality motivates Heidegger's statement that "such inability would bring thinking/face to face with its matter" (Thinker as Poet). Thinking is a process that struggles to explicate itself through saying; however, the subject of thought cannot be confronted directly, in language. The best and only strategy for negotiating this problematic is to play within the limits of the language itself in order to expose the contradiction inherent in the process of thought and its communication. Thus, Leaves of Grass succeeds because it communicates the vitality of life while sustaining the contradictions inherent in the process of channeling thought into language.

Lacan's distinction between the symbolic and the imaginary realms exposes the function and 'inability' of language within Whitman's poetry. The Lacanian reading reveals the misrecognition that occurs through linguistic expression. Whitman's desire is expressed in language that cannot grasp what he desires and how he desires. Explication of desire in language results in a hierarchical systematization of that desire which results in the subsequent annihilation of that desire. Desire fails when it is [mis]recognized, and thus the untranslatable essence of Whitman's experience - the component that underlies what is communicated - must remain unspoken in order to for the 'Being' of the poem to be realized. This process reveals that desire itself is structured; desire is not free of form. If, according to Lacan, "the unconscious is structured like a language," desire too is structured like a language, but is not a language and cannot be explicated via language. This desire "is without name - it is a word unsaid,/It is not in any dictionary, utterance, symbol" (Whitman 68). Whitman swings between a desire to consume and a desire to release (sensually but also within language and the construct of the poem) because he recognizes that desire is extinguished through explication. This is one reason why Whitman advises against "tak[ing] things at second or third hand...looking through the eyes of the dead...[and] feeding on the spectres in books" (Whitman 22). His attempts to mediate his desire through verse to the reader necessarily fails. This is the "paradox of desire at its purest: in order to sustain itself as desire, to articulate itself (in a song), a piece must be missing" (Zizek xviii).


  1. We enjoyed it Kristen.

    I will write you soon...enjoy your symptom for now ;)

  2. May I have the rest?

    I would like to play inside of it.