fjb, local currency: solo 1992-1998 (fayettenam)

the human hearts, civics (tight ship)

the human hearts on myspace

nothing painted blue, taste the flavor (shrimper)

info on older band and solo work; I have no idea who compiled the scarily complete discographies


[We left off at “Modernism maps this frustration of self-expression.”]

The ownership of certainty of observation – that what the poet sees and conveys to those other than him or herself is a constant – has been placed under pressure and found wanting.

The fallibility of perception has been too long recognized to be a plausible source of the modernist crisis. (Cf. the undergraduate mistake of reading Mediation 1 as though the Argument from Illusion succeeded in grounding methodological skepticism. And the more sophisticated one, arguably an inheritance of the Cartesian tradition, of taking certainty or infallibility to be necessary for knowledge. [Austin.]) I’m not inclined to saddle pre-modernist poets with the wholly uncritical conception of the self/word/world relation JK sometimes, but to the extent that some such view has been held, it surely survived the realization that, e.g., the surface curve even though it “looks flat” locally.

Is the primacy of place on the modality of vision significant, or casual? Also, I don’t understand what “The ownership of” adds to “the certainty of observation,” unless it’s a (probably unneeded emphasis on the subjective character of the experience out of which one builds (with cognitive help, on most accounts) one’s picture of the world.

Social and cultural upheaval on an unprecedented scale, the destruction of natural “resources” (the world itself is a large part of the problem), and death by mechanization have lead to obvious shifts in notions of what constitutes the “I,” or rather, what the “I” can validly express outside its own constructed empiricisms.

Now JK invokes, broadly, the kind of “historian’s Modernism” I thought absent from his earlier, “philosophical” formulations. So either I’m a very bad reader or there was something misleading about the “all along” tone of the previous paragraph. It would be too much to complain that JK doesn’t rehearse at length how the events and processes (let’s just call them “social processes”) named produce these shifts, but still: go in fear of the “obvious.” There is some sleight of hand at work in “notions of what constitutes the “I”,’; it’s surely correct that reflection on these social processes has led to new notions (theories, accounts) of self-consitution, but this leaves whether selves and their constitution themselves have changed entirely open.

I don’t want to go too far around the following road, but: What’s a fairly clear case in which social upheaval might lead someone to question whether his/her “I” was quite what he/she thought? A “displaced person” – a political refugee or exile in the most usual sense, or an immigrant motivated to follow the global flow of capital for the sake of individual economic opportunity – might have the requisite experiences. If, that is, this subject once believed that his or her native “place” (geographical and societal) and language (membership in a linguistic community) were essential attributes of his or identity. All this and more may be destabilized, quite radically. But to the extent that the exile integrates novel experience (even if painfully, with a sense of loss and injustice), wouldn’t this lead one away from the view that one’s sense of having a unified self was dependent on connection to the originating social context and toward the view that one’s remaining “who one is” depends on being a locus of experience and memory, so long as they can be “unified” (again, not necessarily happily) along Kantian lines. (Which the subject doesn’t have to conceive of in those terms.) If not, why not? In a phrase: Is a displaced person still a person?

[Does this have anything to do with why successful American immigrants, such as my grandfathers (especially on my father’s side), become “rugged individualists.”]

[I realize doing all of this as a metaphysical thought experiment borders on the offensive, especially in abstraction from accounts of such experiences. I’d be very happy to find an opposing account, on which disjoint experience leads to a sense of disassociation and fragmentation, is spelled out in some detail.]

[Strange, trival analogy: Lately, I’ve been feeling unhappy that technological and economic changes have made it more difficult for me to be one of the things I am or have been – an inveterate browser for used books and records, especially in small shops where “anything” might turn up. {“Record Store Day” is a rockist rear-guard action.} Does the loss of this “way of life” make me someone else, or just someone experiencing melancholy?]

If anything, it’s even less evident how environmental depredation leads to a crisis in the conception of “self.” The train of thought, perhaps, is this: An view of the person as an autonomous individual tends to lead one toward an “I-It” (Buber) relationship with nature, on which the latter is something to be used/used up (Heidegger) by me. Reflecting on the sum effects of relating to the nature in this way might lead us to reconsider whether the underlying conception of the self is any longer a practicable one to have. (But if this is for the sake of human survival, it’s still an instrumental relation: “sustainability” is ultimately for our (and “my”) sake.)

Whether “the mechanization of death” refers primarily to the technologization of war or the slow death of industrial work, I’ll leave it be.

To return: notions of what constistitutes the “I,” or rather, what the “I” can validly express outside its own constructed empiricisms.

Why this “rather”? The two formulations do seem quite different, so why even include the one that has to be taken back? What the self is (and how it comes to be) and what it can “validly” do are related but distinct questions; running them together clouds everything. I have to admit that my brain runs aground on “constructed empiricisms” (as on JK’s idiolectical use of “intentionalities”); there’s a very slight whisper of some kind of phenomenalist view of how experience is made to cohere. The thought, maybe, is that, given the “pressure” that has been placed on “certainty of observation” (according to the previous sentence), the subject (poet) can no longer be assured that, in reporting on experience, one is saying or communicating anything but one’s self-enclosed subjectivity. But isn’t it true that, in many of its guises, lyric subjectivity has never claimed to do anything more than that? "Self-expression" is not frustrated here, but something else.

It’s hard for me not to read JK’s account of the crisis as being brought about by selves seeming more, not less, self-constituted and autonomous, which is not, I think, what he takes himself to be saying, inasmuch as he’s attempting to describe Modernism.

This is, of course, a “culturo-centric” observation.

Of course; obviously. (I’m being snarky; I’ve used “of course” twice myself in these posts, though “obviously” not at all.) I guess this means that the Modernist crisis is not universal; it may not effect those in social contexts that have not been affected by the relevant upheavals. Tempting to read a mild romanticizing of the primitive into this; I’m not sure where one actually find these social contexts at present.