Monday, April 21, 2014

Jameson, the Symbolic, & the Real

Since a lot of people seem to have touched on Hardt and Negri, I'll go in a different direction. I found myself thinking of Agamben at different moments while reading for this week. 

I think I may have mentioned this before, and I don't know why I'm apparently hung up on it, but Agamben's cyclical terror/rhetoric (real/symbolic) binary comes to my mind again here. It seems similar to Jameson's cyclical characterization of the stages of capitalism, and Agamben's evaluation of the postmodern shift in focus from content to form seems to resonate with Jameson's emphasis on how postmodernism has shifted away from the strategies of content interpretation. The way in which the sort of möbius-strip relationship between the real and the symbolic seems focused on synthesizing itself while failing to do so for Agamben coincides with Jameson’s apparent interest in unsynthesizable binaries.    

Agambenian types of ideas seem to emerge at different points. In "Towards Dialectical Criticism," these ideas resonate in a quote that Jameson works with: "In literature and art there was a crisis similar to that which occurred in morals after the Reign of Terror ... Their attention was entirely engrossed in ... forms" (316). His comparison of working with texts to that of clearing away the extraneous material in the cutting of a statue also brings form to mind. In “On Interpretation,” he mentions that “it would be desirable for those who celebrate the discovery of the Symbolic to reflect on the historical conditions of possibility of this new ... modern ... sense of the linguistic, semiotic, textual construction of reality” (63). Then, the way that the "real world" seems to have become overrun with culture, seems to have flipped the real into its opposite ("Finance Capital" 265). More pointedly, in "Historicism in The Shining," he writes of the pastiche as "confusing content with form" (84). These are, of course, just a few examples. And this notion of "pastiche" can be found in Agamben's writing on culture and history (and the community?), I believe. 

So I'm wondering where these connections might be coming from or what they may mean.

Another part that I found interesting was Jameson’s reference to Burke’s point that “a symbolic act is on the one hand affirmed as a genuine act, albeit on the symbolic level, while on the other it is registered as an act which is ‘merely’ symbolic, its resolutions imaginary ones that leave the real untouched”—because it puts so well the way that literary dreams tend to be treated in hermeneutic operations.

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