Summary of why I can’t write a summary of my year’s reading.

1) Calendrical depression: at the end of the old year one can observe, in the microcosm of academic and para-academic social networks, a flurry of blog posts, tweets, etc. summing up the year’s reading and/or writing. Retrospective balance-sheets of a microcosmic god.

(Reading: REVENANT GUN by Yoon Ha Lee, final instalment in the MACHINERIES OF EMPIRE trilogy, featuring calendrical control, divergence, warfare, and liberation).

2) Modal tension – despite maintaining a philosophical blog for over eight years I have never been able to write this sort of lectographic balance sheet (negative extrinsic root modality), although I feel an imperative to do so (positive intrinsic deontic modality).

(Reading: THE JEWEL-HINGED JAW by Samuel Delany, on how degrees of subjunctivity or modality characterise different genres).

3) Modal anamnesis – I feel that I should be able to (dynamic deontic modality), that I could be able (uncertain epistemic modality), that one year I will be able to (predictive epistemic modality), that I will do it (extrinsic epistemic + intrinsic deontic modalities), etc. This anamnesis cannot, and should not, be (only) a process of modeling the real but a process of modalising.

(Reading: « Some Informal Remarks Toward the Modular Calculus », by Samuel Delany. I propose to construe « modular » as a synthesis of modal and model. Most commentators get tangled up in explaining the relation between semiosis and models, without making the connection with Delany’s remarks on degrees of subjunctivity. Semiosis modalises).

4) Ineluctable protean modalities – James Joyce speaks of the « ineluctable modality of the visible » (ULYSSES page 45, beginning of the « Proteus » chapter). To envisage a balance sheet for the past year requires an encounter with the protean waves of life’s modalities (the « visible »).

(Reading: MYTHIC WORLDS, MODERN WORDS by Joseph Campbell. Campbell analyses the passage from spatio-temporal forms through modal protean waves to transformative processes of subjectivation in Joyce’s works).

5) The sayable is not the visible – Joyce speaks of the semiotic modalities of the visible by means of Stephen Dedalus, one of his principal conceptual characters in two of his theory-fictions (PORTRAIT, ULYSSES). Thus naive empiricism, the reductive coincidence or the one-to-one correspondence of saying and seeing, is avoided.

(Reading: FOUCAULT by Gilles Deleuze. This is a far superior to WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY? by Deleuze and Guattari. Deleuze talks about the non-coincidence of the seeable and the sayable, the ocean of forces and intensities, and the lines of subjectivation).

6) Epistemological obstacle – the typical balance sheet blog post conflates the author and their current conceptual persona. Saying and seeing are separated even further by being confused. We do not see what they say, nor do they see themselves.

(Reading: MEMORIES, DREAMS, AND REFLECTIONS, by Carl Jung. On the necessity of mythic images for seeing and saying, and for self-writing).

7) Academic materialism: It is amusing to see a Marxist, or other « critical », intellectual give a balance sheet of 60 books read. Like a lot of people I have a full time day job and so not much time for reading and writing.

(Reading: LOGICS OF WORLDS by Alain Badiou. Working bodies and academic language games, their convergence or divergence, do not exhaust all the possibilities. Encounters with infinite intensities in love, science, art, and politics subjectivate us more creatively).

8) Protean waves of intensity – despite not reading that much, I can’t remember what I read during the year, forgetting books unless I post a review, or unable to situate a book in time, unless I can find it on my blog. All I can recall are a few moments of particular intensity.

(Reading: LIBIDINAL ECONOMY by Jean-François Lyotard, on the openness to epiphanies and the positive power of forgetting).

9) Modal reductionism – the quantified reading list projects the author as a technically efficient (impressive) reading machine. The modalities of seeing and saying are reduced, there is no sense of struggle, and even less of transformation. Dull empiricism (I should, I could, I did) with no sense of modes or of individuation.

(Reading: AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE, by Bruno Latour for other modes of eistence than the indicative-referential mode, and DANS LA DISRUPTION Comment ne pas devenir fou? by Bernard Stiegler, forthcoming in English as « The Age of Disruption: Technology and Madness in Computational Capitalism », for reading and individuation).

10) Immanent Reading – I have been writing here about the ritual of annual balance sheets, posted on social networks, summarising a year’s readings. To understand this genre I have been yoking together Deleuze’s FOUCAULT and Joyce’s ULYSSES. So these would have to be on my list.

(Reading: L’IMMANENCE DES VÉRITÉS by Alain Badiou. I re-read FOUCAULT in 2018 to help me understand Badiou’s ontology of infinity, and I have been re-reading ULYSSES for the last two weeks, to help me understand Badiou’s philosophy of love).

So I have managed to talk about some of my reading and re-reading by explaining why I can’t really do a proper balance sheet.

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Un commentaire pour MODALITY, SEMIOSIS AND LECTO-AMNESIA: the impossible summary

  1. cat gif dit :

    Foucault (the book) is under-appreciated. Clarified for me how Foucault’s epistemic projects were « actually » ontological projects; that Foucault was often responding to Heidegger (or maybe more broadly, phenomenology) in his work without explicitly referencing him.

    Delueze’s interpretation of Foucault also lent credence to a notion I had become relatively convinced of by the time I read the book. Namely that for modernity the epistemological and ontological are one and the same; that the development of modernity is expressed in successive boundary-collapses between those domains. This, by the way, is a matter of lived experience and not merely a « conceptual » issue.

    Aimé par 1 personne


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