Monday, February 20, 2006

Notes Towards Post-Modern Romance

Post-Modern Romance takes as its point of departure the Heideggerian observation that “I love you” is always a quotation. This is not to say that the Post-Modern romance is simply quotational or simply consists of quotations like a game of charades, which is not to say that some Post-Modern Romances do not consist entirely of games of charades.

As such, the Post-Modern Romance tends to favor such asymmetrical romances as Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt. Indeed, it cannot stop thinking about them. “Asymmetrical” here, in the sense of “asymmetrical warfare.” It favors a naive reading of the first half of the Phaedrus and its breakups tend to resemble those of Abelard et Heloise.

Whereas the Modernist Romance tends to favor identity over difference, is indeed about a putative myth of origins or reunion of a divided androgynous soul, the Post-Modern Romance is all about differences, irreconcilable disjunctions, incommensurability and seeing, as Levinas put it, infinity in the face of another, because, left to your own devices, you would never, ever pick this movie out on your own.

Following Deleuze and Guttari: Modernist Romances, dominated by a myth of origins, tend to be Oedipal; Post-Modernist Romances tend to be rhizomatic, that is, a little slutty.

Examples of Post-Modern Romance:

(a) being abducted
(b) receiving someone else’s correspondence
(c) translating something
(d) following a stranger
(e) dating someone with no common language
(f) dating someone who you are not sure is real
(g) dating someone you really despise
(h) falling asleep during a Jean Cocteau marathon
(i) deciding you really like Manhattan Clam Chowder

Post-Modern romances tend to resist closure, especially now that it is easy to move and take your phone number with you. Having had approximately no singular firm reason to have started, like many similar films and narratives, they only stop owing to a practical limit on time and resources (much like the pornographic narrative). Like the universe, they are prone to start up all over again simply because they become more likely than not.

Bataille planned a sequel to Histoire d’Oeil: this unthinkability is the essence of Post-Modern Romance.

Elements of the Post-Modern Romantic:

Naive attempts at cynicism.
Cynical attempts at naivete.

In Post-Modern Romance and ethics, there is no illusion of loving something or anything “in and of itself.” Post-Modern Romance cannot conceive of what this object is. Nor would a listing of all the reasons for loving something or someone be expected to be particularly satisfying. Indeed, nothing about the Post-Modernist Romance is satisfying in the traditional sense: it does not impart knowledge, nor does it have “signifying content”. It is, however, often cited as a reason to move [Note 1].

As such, the Post-Modern Romance tends to favor such asymmetrical romances as Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt. Indeed, it cannot stop thinking about them. Hannah Arendt, young, brilliant Jewish student. Martin Heidegger, famous, intimidating, beard smelling of pipe smoke and pickles.

Post-Modern Lovers:

Jean Genet
Special Agent Dr. Dana Scully
Enid from Ghost World
Bugs Bunny in drag
Jeffery Dahmer
William S. Burroughs
Samuel Beckett
The Narrator of La Carte Postale

Structure of the Post-Modern Romance:

The Post-Modern Romance is rarely linear in organization and then only in reverse order.
The Post-Modern Romance eschews the triangle for its Oedipality, but may form rhomboids of n sides, interpreting desire, however, as an effect of structure.

The Post-Modern Romance is synchronic. The absence of a larger narrative is part of its charm.

The Modernist Romance is Sassurian and operates on the model of Telecommunications and Cybernetics. The Post-Modern Romance operates on the hopelessly illocutionary model of the bottle Alice finds that says “drink me” (or a surreptitiously placed sign that says “kick me”).

Post-Modern Romance accepts the old adage Amor caecus est, but in the sense that Lacan writes that “God is unconscious” is the true form of atheism [Note 2]. Post-Modern Romance has an unromantic faith in blindness, viruses, signs, and believes in the great strength of evolution, making love in the dark.

Modern Romance is based on compatibility, or incompatibility. Post-Modern Romance is based on incommensurablity and conditions of signifying possibility.

Post-Modern Romance is not to be confused with Post-Modern Eroticism or Sexuality, though no hard distinctions can be made and it would be difficult to describe either of these without the other. Briefly put then, Post-Modern sexuality is anti-phallic and polymorphus. Which is not to say that it is anti-genital or that the penis does not appear. Indeed, there may be several, but the question of whose penis it is may never be clear: briefly not: “my penis” or “your penis” but (roughly): “(it) penises” in the sense of “it rains” or “il faut.”

Post-Modern sexuality tends to favor paraphillias because it finds them sweet and adorable, the more abstract, the better. It also favors sexual positions that allow the participants to watch television and give no priority to syntax.

In this regard, consider the distinction between drive (“impulse”) (Trieb) and instinct in Freud and the problematic history of its translation and the difficulty of explaining some purchases to your parents.

In short, the Post-Modern Romance tends to favor such asymmetrical romances as Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt. Indeed, it cannot stop thinking about them. Though the Post-Modern Romance begins with the awareness that not every question-sentence that can be created admits of a productive or pragmatically useful answer-sentence it does ask itself why a nice Jewish girl like Hannah Arendt couldn’t find a nice Jewish man, a really nice one like Emmanuel Levinas, instead of hooking up with a total Nazi like Heidegger.

In the Post-Modern Romance, the valentine can take the form of an activity or quiz:

Let us imagine the following case. I want to keep a diary about the recurrence of a certain sensation. To this end I associate it with the sign "Y" and write this sign in a calendar for every day on which I have the sensation. - I will remark first of all that a definition of the sign cannot be formulated. - but still I give myself a kind of ostensive definition.

How? Can I point to the sensation?
Not in the ordinary sense. But I speak, or write the sign down, and at the same time I concentrate my attention on the sensation.

But what is this ceremony for? for that is all it seems to be. A definition surely serves to establish the meaning of a sign.

- Well that is done precisely by the concentration of my attention; for in this way I impress upon myself the connection between the sign and the sensation.

But "I impress it on myself" can only mean: this process brings it about that I remember the connection right in the future. But in the present case I have no criterion of correctness. One would like to say: Whatever is going to seem right to me is right, and that only means that here we can't talk about 'right'.

Are the rules of the private language impressions of rules? - The balance on which impressions are weighed is not the impression of a balance.

"Well, I believe that this is the sensation Y again." - Perhaps you believe that you believe it!

Then did the man who made the entry in the calendar make a note of nothing whatever? - don't consider it a matter of course that a person is making a note of something when he makes a mark - say in a calendar. For a note has a function, and this "Y" so far has none. (One can talk to oneself. - If a person speaks when no one else is present, does that mean he is speaking to himself?)

Note 1: “What people accept as justification is shown by how they think and live,” (PI, 325).

Note 2: "La véritable formule de l'athéisme n'est pas que Dieu est mort; même en fondant l'origine de la fonction du père sur son meurtre, Freud protège le père. La véritable formule de l'athéisme est que Dieu est inconscient".