|February 9, 2012|
Geoffrey Bennington’s Not Half No End, a volume of essays all written, with the exception of one, after Jacques Derrida‘s death in October 2004, is “profoundly marked” by this death and attempts “to go on thinking in its wake” (xi). Despite the difficulty, indeed the impossibility, of being able to go on, the chapters of this very fine book display with dexterity, finesse, and expertise why Bennington has been recognized as one of the foremost interpreters and expositors of Derrida’s thought.
As the introduction tells us, the first half of the title of the book — preferably to be pronounced with a glottal stop as “Noʔ’alf!” (think of The Two Ronnies, for those who might be familiar with Ronnie Barker’s accent on the British show of the 1980s) — exploits the ambiguity of the British English colloquial expression which functions as an intensifier, to stress that, in one of its senses, one is really in mourning — not half! (xiii). In fact, the two parts of the book’s title — “Not Half” and “No End” — both allude to melancholia or demi-deuil, half-mourning, a notion invoked by Derrida in the mid-1970s . This demi-deuil would not be Freud’s pathological melancholia, but a structurally endless state, “the only possible mourning” (xii). As is well known, for Freud, mourning has a limited duration and successfully deals with loss and grief while melancholia is a deficient or incomplete way of dealing with it. To recover from loss, mourning has to be gotten over.
This might explain calls from certain quarters — unhappy with all the alleged “pathos” associated with what has been written since Derrida’s passing away and bored with the “tedium” of text after text by Derrida scholars, astute readers, interpreters, friends, and admirers trying to cope with the loss of a thinker who will turn out to have been one of the greatest of the twentieth century — to bring it all to an end, to be done with mourning. Let’s be done with the “suffocating trend toward mourning . . . close-circuit canonization” and move on to more important matters, they say. Let’s get over mourning. What these naïve and hasty calls seem to mistake is to take mourning for a simple affect and forget that it is structurally always unfinished and incomplete. What these calls conceal is the abiding hostility harbored by many in the academic world toward Derrida and what he stood for. What they also reveal is the strange, secret desire to be included, to be part of a group of “insiders” who would be seen as legitimately eulogizing him.
Bennington’s book, unapologetic and militant — militant in the manner of Derrida in Specters of Marx – in its admiration and esteem for Derrida’s work, would serve as, if I could say this, an antidote to these calls, explaining over a number of lucid, inventive, and trenchant essays why mourning is not something that can be gotten over. The only possible response seems to be an “originary melancholia,” which Bennington details in several chapters, for example in “Half-Life.”
Merleau-Ponty’s Child Psychology
As much as death signals the end of the self, birth is just as mysterious. Both extend out to infinity and signal the brevity and contingency of our lives. As mysterious are those first few years of life that one does not have access to as an adult, I know I existed before my earliest memories. I know I interacted with others, I learned to walk and talk. I was willful from my parent’s tales.
William Pope.L: Reader Friendly
William Pope.L is famous for (among other things) carrying a business card that identifies him as “The Friendliest Black Artist in America.” It’s a clever gag because it makes itself true, in a way, every time it draws people closer. The card must be especially useful when Pope.L does business with people who dread Black men or Black artists.
10 Things the NSA Has Seen Me Do
One winter in my early twenties myself and some good friends — a merging of art, music and literary ladies of New York, full-grown girls aspiring to be women — got together, had a lovely dinner, some wine and delightful chat. Then we decided to spend an hour practicing “Teach Me How To Dougie”. NSA — can you teach me how to Dougie? You know why? “Because all my bitches love me.”
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Many scholars have noted the broad resemblances between this Cynic gesture, on the one hand, and, on the other, the various universalist, and therefore necessarily transnational, religious movements that appeared in the so-called Axial Age, not least Buddhism and Christianity. Both sought to establish the global validity of their central truth claims, and in so doing to break the historical link to a given culture.
A French boy named G. that I’ve been spending time with here calls me Helen of Troy. Then, the strongest woman he’s ever met. Then, a knight (not a damsel) in distress. He says I am waiting to stake my sword into a rock.