a more formal introduction

one of the reasons i started this blog is that i am in a masters program that will require me to write a thesis and i don’t know what my thesis is going to be about. i do my best thinking through writing and i have a lot of thinking to do in the next 8 months to come up with a publishable thesis, and hopefully some other published pieces along the way. likely essays. 

for that reason, a lot of what i post here will be reflections of class readings and whatever i find time to read on my own during these rushed, nine week quarters. everything i read now comes highly recommended, from trusted book-loving friends, favorite writers, or random conversations with the bookish folks i encounter in my daily life. so i usually find something useful or interesting in everything i read. 

the only class i’ve had assignments for thus far, since classes start fully this week, is an introduction to interpretive theory, which is essentially what it sounds like. the required texts are Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, and we’ve already covered Locke (as I wrote last week), Donna Haraway’s A Manifesto for Cyborgs, and the Freud book in the first two weeks. on the side, i’ve been chipping away at Deleuze and Gauttari’s A Thousand Plateaus. so here are some thoughts on that. 

there aren’t really any new jokes to be made about Freud the person and the way it manifests itself through his overly incestuous and perhaps overly sexual view of human nature, BUT there are relatively few comments made on how funny his prose is at times. in one passage describing the necessity of foot odor to complete the taboo at the heart of foot (feet?) fetishes, he describes the sole subjects (lol) as “evil-smelling”. later, introducing the final stage of infantile sexual development, he introduced the genital zone as being “destined to great things in the future.” 

there were some gems, maybe more appropriately described as needles in haystacks to match the phallic tone of the source text, that i think could prove useful to whatever final project i end up submitting here. his concept of fetishism, for example, seems particularly apt for evaluating current american legislative and common law trends. a fetish, to Freud, is when the normal sexual aim (for Freud, always penetrative male-female sex), is abandoned for a sexual object that would normally just be one of the necessary conditions for reaching that ultimate sexual aim (p. 20 of the Basic Books Definitive Edition). in other words, when the means completely obscure the ends and become the sole object of desire. 

he concedes that even “normal” (again, straight, cis individuals) have some degree of fetishism inherent to the human mating ritual, as evidenced by the way one becomes entranced with the eyes, hair, or body (sexual objects, to Freud) of a person who they eventually want to fuck. taking this essential logic outside the realm of courtship and sexuality greatly increases its interpretive value; we go for the objects (means) to which we are already attracted to when faced with problems as individuals and as communities. it only reaches pathology when the means no longer bear any relation to the ends and yet remain the sole fixation. 

we like rules. along with a strong social drive, i would argue it’s one of the sole conditions i would attribute to humanity, when i am willing to recognize humans as a subset of animals or beings generally. we react to tangible issues like “crime”, inequity, and even public conduct with laws, rules, regulations at various levels. some are written and allow the state to kill you for being convicted of violating it, others are “unwritten” and, at worst, could earn you the cold shoulder at a family gathering. David Graeber writes fantastically about this impulse in A Utopia of Rules, and even, as an avowed anarchist, comes to defend the necessity of agreements between persons as a precondition of society. 

our devotion to rules becomes pathological or “fetishistic”, as i would argue it currently is in the united states, when there is no longer a relation to the laws we enact and the purported goal of the law. we continue to recreate and reimplement versions of the 1994 crime bill, originally proposed by joe biden, which rely on continued funding of the police with the goal of increased community engagement. the problem is that community policing has been proven not to work, and we’ve known that for at least 16 years now. we just like rules, police, and ignoring the established connections between material equality and crime. 

while i will likely study the law in some capacity while i’m here because of my educational background to this point, our obsession with rules goes well beyond legislation, school rules, or even social guidelines. those with power in academic and scientific institutions exert a pressure on students to submit their writing and use of language to needlessly dialectical or dualistic thought. one must choose between departments, contribute to some pre-existing debate for which the responses are necessarily limited by the terms of engagement with that field – everything needs to be identifiable as “this” or “that”

Donna Haraway names some of the more pernicious, prevalent dualisms in her academic field(s) as well as her own life, “male/female, civilized/primitive, reality/appearance, whole/part, agent/resource, maker/made, active/passive, right/wrong, truth/illusion, total/partial, God/man.” in  my own experience reading contemporary legal and literary criticism, i’ve encountered obsessions with the distinctions between state/national, fiction/nonfiction, criticism/memoir, and some that unfortunately persist from the Haraway era, particularly male/female.

her manifesto proposes a way of thinking that dissolves these dualisms and encourages us to embrace the parts of us that may not be strictly considered human, “It is not clear what is mind and what is body in machines that resolve into coding practices…Why should our bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin” she writes. this shouldn’t scare us, Haraway argues, and it’s the kind of thinking that she believed the 1980’s feminist movment lacked since it had been dominated by upper class white women to that point(really the whole essay is a dig at Catharine MacKinnon, who I had to read for law school [mostly uncritically] as the basis of a lot of our modern “prorgressive” legal ideology). “Perhaps, ironically, we can learn from our fusions with animals and machines how not to be Man, the embodiment of Western logos,” she writes. 

while i’m still very early in the text, Deleuze and Guattari appeared to envision a similar route to liberation as Haraway did when they coauthored A Thousand Plateaus in 1980. “Each time, mental corrections are necessary to undo the dualisms we had no wish to construct, but through which we pass,” they write in the introductory chapter. in rejecting Freud’s psychoanalysis, they propose schizoanalysis, a method that avoids the impositions of preformed stages of development or thought upon the subject, instead, taking the dreams and words at face value. they also attempt to recreate this “schizoaffective” line of analysis, less reliant on dualisms and more emblematic of the nuance of lived, real life, through their “rhizomatic” writing, in which “Writing has nothing to do with signifying, it has to do with surveying, mapping, even realms that are yet to come.”

this helps resolve, for me, the primary issue of using Freud’s thought at all, since it’s founded on such a rotten, “perverse” view of humanity, itself an outgrowth of the good/evil dualistic thinking underlying “serious” Western thought. the phrase one encounters repeatedly in the text, “disgust, shame, and morality”, which he tries to reframe as a positive force in creating “civilized” or “normal” sexual beings, is the precarious balance one must reach to avoid sexual aberrations or “inversion” (homosexuality). though he genuinely tried to be progressive and humanizing, framing the impulse to have sex with one’s mother as completely natural and therefore not shameful, it’s clear why this line of thinking became the predominant view of the governing bodies that emerged following the “enlightenment” and waning influence of organized religions. it retains the core thesis – that man is naturally bad and therefore must be governed (by us). 

while we’ve dispensed with Freud’s literal claim that our bad impulses arise from the desire to fuck our moms, we’ve largely retained the idea that humans need governance to avoid our evil, inner selves. catholic or not, most people seem to think we need a rigid system of rules and oversight to regulate the inner pervert, whether or not they have considered what that necessarily implies about themselves. it’s not limited to the blue lives matter crowd or TERFs who deny the existence of anything other than biological males/females or good guys/bad guys, but also progressive academics who cling to the old dualisms too hard when thoerizing “solutions” to modern problems – marxism/socialism, academic/creative writing, poetry/prose, etc. 

though i doubt to ever recreate the rhizomatic of Deleuze and Gauttari, i do hope to continue to approach and utilize dualism with the utmost suspicion to try to write in a way that reflects a reality that is far more nuanced than any dualism could admit. i never want to find myself limited to two possibilities or meanings in my writing; it’s counter productive, and arbitrarily imposed. we are not inhabitants of the garden of eden before the fall, nor are we the Freudian perverts that emerged from the original sin of being people. we just are. whenever you’re given two options – good/bad, legal/illegal, man/machine, same/opposite, art/not art – whatever it may be, try to find a third option. or a fourth, or a fifth. catch up to what Haraway, Deleuze, and Gauttari have been saying since the 80’s. this is a blog. just that. 

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