Saturday, August 29, 2020

Silence and Invisibility


this morning, preparing a lecture on Walter Benjamin's theses On the Concept of History I found myself considering the difficulty of reconciling phenomenological and social ways of conceiving time (memory / history:: mortality / the redeemed world). Yesterday I made slides comparing Marx's M-C-M' to Shannon and Weaver's communication model. It struck me a way to think this would be to supplement the critic's question (can I know what you're saying?) with the artist's question (can I tell you anything?) - and if Shannon and Weaver are right and senders and receivers are commensurable because they already share a medium/channel, then the artist's question is also 'can I tell you anything you don't already know? At this pint the questions of silence and invisibility come centre-stage. For ecocriticism, there has to be some mode of communion (though not communication, not, certainly, in the mathematical model) bonding humans together, and humans with the world. Though the biochemistry of life means we are already mediated by and mediating the world, in the past I've argued that technology - the mediating role of all technologies between world and humans – can become our route royal to reversing the alienation of humans from the world. The three horsemen of the contemporary apocalypse, pandemic, climate and economy, and their brother the kleptocratic class, may not support that hypothesis. They are not 'significant' in any ordinary sense: they don't make sense, they don't use signs that we can understand, and they are fatal. This mixes up the ancient distinction between the mortal individual and the social as the source of hope. Now we face  mortality as a social event. The temptation to acedia, Benjamin's word for fatalist descent into melancholy contemplation, has rarely seemed to tempting, not since 'midnight in the century' that preceded this one.

I have set myself to read Dussell when teaching finishes.

For now however, as a working title, Silence and Invisibility

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