Summer reading

I am due back in Sydney in less than a week and I start teaching summer school the day after I return. Most of my summer reading has involved getting up to speed on readings for the course. The course reader has been printed incorrectly, so there are various missing pages in a few readings (including three readings where every second page is missing!!!!!).

I have almost finally finished Eve Sedgewick‘s Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. I read the first couple of chapters for my diss to understand the homosocial relations in modified-car culture. The rest appeared, and has turned out to be, extremely hard going. I thought I’d better read the whole book if it was going to be a core text in the unit. Other work on modified-car culture and gender examined how the culture basically became the domain of men, however, this is not enough to account for how it is masculine. Combined with some of Sedgwick’s work with Silvan Tomkins notion of affect I began moving towards an anti-psychoanalytic conception of gender to help understand the intersection of gender and enthusiasm. The central concept is the ‘challenge’, which I define as a rearticulation of the contingency at the heart of a problem. Other ways to talk about similar contingencies is in terms of ‘risk’ or ‘risk taking’ and virility or the capacity to act (enter Spinoza). Instead of a ‘relational’ conception of gender, I was trying to figure out something like a ‘processual’ conception. Could the masculine dimensions of the enthusiasm of modified-car culture be defined in terms of the way contingencies are processed? The affective consistency in the passage from the virtual to the actual…

I have almost finished Deleuze’s book on Nietszche. It is a very impressive little book! I have read barely any Nietszche so I don’t know how much of a ‘buggery’ Deleuze’s argument is. Reading the ‘primary’ works that Deleuze draws on, not only with this book, but in general, is a serious amount of work. I also finished reading Kant’s Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime to properly understand the brief mention of his notion of enthusiasm.Howard Caygill’s Kant Dictionary was instrumental as a quick reference guide when delving into Kant’s texts. It lead me back to Lyotard’s Differend for my dissertation. (I read a lot of Lyotard as an undergraduate!) I rad a couple of paperbacks my mum bought me for Christmas; she knows I will finish them in a day so then she can read them, lol.

Lastly, I have begun reading Alain Badiou’s Being and Event. It is remarkable how similar his conception of the ‘situation’ is to how I imagine Deleuze’s notion of the event. Plus, if Deleuze was seeking to understand the nonhuman or alien of the human in the human, then Badiou’s philosophy of the ‘one’ seems to smuggle in an assumed anti-human phenomenology of human ontology. Is there one ‘one’? For Deleuze there were both virtual and actual multiplicities…

4 replies on “Summer reading”

  1. You thinking about ethnicity in relation to this stuff? Could be really interesting – esp if you’re going to start thinking about the intersections of class, gender and ethnicity…

  2. No ethnicity yet! Hmmm…

    Deleuze’s work is really useful for coming to terms with how different expectations extend beyond the calculus of probability of the classic rational subject. So, for example, expectations of behaviour are part of the behaviour expected and performed within situations as part of the situations. As the expected behaviour happens the happening has a certain affective consistency that gives the situation a social timbre. Sedgwick’s stuff is good for realising that the expectations of hetrosexual relations involve homosocial bonds.

    The Deleuzian point, as I see it, would be that there is a multitude of bonds beyond the homosocial that produce and are formed within a given situation. In other words, Sedgwick’s work is a good start. The expectations serve as a kind of incorporeal infrastructure of situations. Masculinity would therefore be an expression of both the affective consistency of the processual dimension of situations and the reach (beyond the subconscious) of expectations as they programme congruent networks and relays of many different human and nonhuman relations.

    Ethnicity would therefore enter the equation in terms of the appreciated affective consistencies of situations and the specific cascading architecture of expectations that programme human and nonhuman relations.

    I have thought about class in terms of ‘opportunity’, as another way to think about the inherited capacity to rearticulate contingencies. Privileged neoliberal subjects have a greater capacity to rearticulate contingency into opportunity than do those of lesser privilege. I think I made some comment about this on Mel Gregg’s blog with regards to John Howard’s final speech on election night. He talked about producing a nation of opportunity, which I completely agree with, but of course he did not address the privileged relations and distributions of capacity for translating contingency. In a similar way others have talked about an assymetrical distribution of risk, so the lower classes live lives than involve much more risk. I would counter and say it is not a question of eradicating risk for the lifestyles of the poor and disenfranchised, but of increasing their capacity to act by giving them tools and coping mechanisms for affirming contingency.

    This is all happening on the level of the subject, instead of a societal phenomenon as the case with the social welfare state or the ‘new deal’. In terms of class I am actually extending negri and hardt’s point in empire about the passage from the virtual (ie contingency + incorporeal infrastructure) to the actual (‘opportunity’, ‘risk’, ‘challenge’, etc.).

    The repressed or disenchfranchised — across gender, ethnic, and class-based lines — do not seem to have the capacity to affirm contingency in such a way that is positive, and return to the expectations that precipitate the contingency (ie ‘problem’, ‘risk’, etc) in the first place. I call this ‘struggle’; the networks of relations are returned in such a way as to repeat the situation without any difference, rather than affirming and repeating the differentiating mechanism that produces new situations and which produces the real opportunity for new affirmations and so on.

  3. Nietzsche is great value. You should definitely read him. I recommend The Genealogy of Morals, which is a relatively “straight” book, and Beyond Good and Evil. You might also be interested in reading Derrida’s Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles as a point of comparison for Deleuze’s Nietzsche.

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