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The Very Source-Code of Our Being

tommccarthy

An extract from Tom McCarthy’s new essay published in Scotland on Sunday:

…As Gabriel Josipovici has recently pointed out so lucidly, the real hero of the Oresteia is not an individual person, with their thoughts and fears and so on — but rather a house: its secrets, repetition cycles, shored-up traumas, playing out over generation after generation. This is as true of Faulkner as of Aeschylus: what we’re encountering in The Sound and the Fury is the drama of space and time, cached fetishes and unpardonable transgressions unfolding across landscapes that morph from the domestic to the public, navigating their boundaries, pockets, kinks….

Literature, in short, is not made up of ‘characters’: it understands that existence, whether individual or collective, is formed and unformed within networks of language and ceremony, spread across topographies whose axes, or gravitational force-fields, are law, pleasure and mortality, subject to the exigencies of topography itself. As such, it offers, at its deepest, neither commentary nor entertainment; rather, it is the very source-code of our being, index of its contingencies. Freud understands this too, of course, and directly articulates it more brilliantly and systematically than anyone before or since. Which is why psychoanalysis, and not psychology, can lay claim to an intense, perhaps even an incestuous, relationship with literature….

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In a video interview posted today on the Guardian‘s website (Comment is Free section) — part of a series commemorating “10 years of terror” — Tom McCarthy talks about Bernard Noël‘s Le Château de Cène (1969), which he describes as an “obscure pornographic allegory” of the war in Algeria. He goes on to say that “With the Abu Ghraib photos, you don’t need a Bernard Noël to do it. The soldiers themselves are enacting those scenes” — scenes that reveal “the poetic truth of the overall neoliberal military project”. He then draws a parallel with Sade‘s 100 Days of Sodom.

First posted: Friday, September 9th, 2011.

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  1. […] Literature, in short, is not made up of ‘characters’: it understands that existence, whether individual or collective, is formed and unformed within networks of language and ceremony, spread across topographies whose axes, or gravitational force-fields, are law, pleasure and mortality, subject to the exigencies of topography itself. As such, it offers, at its deepest, neither commentary nor entertainment; rather, it is the very source-code of our being, index of its contingencies. Freud understands this too, of course, and directly articulates it more brilliantly and systematically than anyone before or since. Which is why psychoanalysis, and not psychology, can lay claim to an intense, perhaps even an incestuous, relationship with literature. [Read More] […]