Posts Tagged ‘history’

She the ghost; He the author

October 7, 2012

A little act of deconstruction seems urged by the previous post, by especially the following sentences: ‘we must detail the ghost herself … the author commits himself’. My ghost is feminine and my author is masculine. What, I wonder, prompted this?

Have I determined – and arbitrarily bestowed – these respective gender roles because they somehow must be complementary parts of a two-piece puzzle – sadly, I think not. Have I tried to use the standard genderisms of such objects – where the human (man, if you will) is, in the abstract, generally masculine – and where the immaterial object or inanimate object is gendered feminine, in the tradition of ships, animals, and so on, in cases where the gender is unknown or, more importantly, of no concern. Perhaps. And perhaps if this is the case am I simply perpetuating a crime of the patriarchy?

Why would the author, on a base level, be male, or masculine; would it be because of the greater proportion of canonical male authors in our perception of the history of literature – indeed, because the majority of history is written in masculine script – and, indeed, by forcing the feminine into the written word of history, d we not force them into a liminal space – for the written page is surely liminal – and so make them ghostly, thus working the present situation in reverse? Or is the act sufficiently phallic – I leave that to the more avant garde critical theorists – but we all know about the act of pricking at the pliant white page with our pens. But, of course, what is composition if not an inherently creative at, and that surely is not the primary domain of the male. And do we mean truly to assert that the author is male, or do we simply desire the noun itself to be a masculine one? Perhaps making a case for the continental preference for the sexual classification of their languages.

And what about the ghost? What makes her so feminine – and is it unfortunate that the attributes we give most commonly to the ghost – the things that make a ghost ghostly – will paint a rather unpleasant picture when applied to any actual human female? The ghost is a liminal figure, skirting the space between two world and not quite at home in either one of them. We never really see the ghost, it is vague, indistinct and hovers always just out of reach, out of accurate perception, and so we think a ghost is present but can never be really certain. It haunts us, and we fear it, and if we ignore it, it will force itself upon us. Perhaps this has some truth in the history of femininity, but cannot be something that should be perpetuated. I wonder how this exercise holds up when you look at the archetypal character of a ship (remember, Campbell, and Jung before him, tell us of the Belly of the Whale, of the Ark that the whale is just another manifestation of, and that these are all womb images – but one that must be destroyed for the hero – the HEro – to become a functioning member of society once more).

But to refer blandly to it the ghost and it the author seems to contravene the rules of engaging writing – seems totally devoid of character. It is perhaps the remnants of a poetic consciousness, that sees the rude vehicle of the author as the male poetic form engaging with the beautiful and imaginative physical, feminine world. And, if gender is nothing but a social construct, then the feminine gender of the ghost is not the same thing as equating the ghost with the female sex. But we have not, of course, quite done away with  gender yet – and does not Jung teach us that we work in binaries, that the male has his anima, the female her animus – that we engage with the world in a way that operates within the limits of a binary we can comprehend – where we render things that do not fit in (ghosts) in a way that we can understand.

I suspect, however, that even this investigation of my unconscious is not free from the crimes I claim to have previously committed.

the wino’s lament or: an open letter to the drinking-glass world

December 4, 2011

As Western civilisation crumbles Carthaginian around us; as we climb up the funeral pyres we’ve left for ourselves, to fall one final time upon our listless lover’s sword; & we look over to imperial Rome, but they too fiddle while it burns; as the Colossal Greek tumbles to an unstable continent, & shatters into myriad minute & worthless pieces. In medias res, we must step boldly back – we must take a long look back at our Socratic pre-school, our adolescent Dark Ages, & our Enlightened adulthood – & we must work out where we misstepped – & when we perceive it, we must ask ourselves, why – how did we let this happen? – we must ask ourselves, why is this wine glass such a ridiculous shape?

Of course we must look to wine: that Bacchanal beverage; amphoral ambrosia; Eucharal unction; and scholarly saviour. Can we not account to wine, all of our cultural faux pas? Yet is it not also that same inspiriting cordial to which we owe our cultural triumphs?

It is wine that ruined Agave & Elpenor; yet it must also be the wine that fortified Noah, who would otherwise have sunk beneath his impossible task. Around a cup of wine Socrates led the Symposium; and undoubtedly the Romans too made their greatest decisions over litres of the stuff at banquets, only to linger later (& somewhat inaccurately) in the corridors of vomitoriums; and then as Rome staggered & fell away, it nonetheless left us the Catholic Church, its only stable social system, & refined wine-making, its only unstable one. It must have been the wine in his perfidious veins, that Judas jealously obeyed; yet again, it was the wine leading him later across the Garden, to engage the Nazarene in one final fumbling embrace; and its effect on that sober Son did naught but make him cross! – as all those sober souls must feel as the recipient of some inebriate’s insincere affections. But if we betrayed our God by the grape, do we not make amends for that as we weekly transubstantiate – or consubstantiate, let us not quibble over the precise spiritual presence! – that substance on his behalf? And without wine – what about literature? what about rock & roll? what would have loosened the parched tongues of our most prized writers? And are not these writers mirrors to society? And without wine, then, we would not know how to see our shame, nor our success. And so, we drink! and therefore we are.

But, back to the point. There is no need for us to continue the farce of that ridiculous glass. Its first fault: it is an unpleasant little thing to look at, as it stands amongst its more cultivated brethren on the dining table: the knife, honed to perfection; the fork, perhaps a prong too many, but no worry, because sometimes those final peas prove difficult to despatch; the salt & the pepper grinders stood nobly to attention, in their capstan headgear, easily persuaded into horizontal revolution by some marshalling hand; even those sombre & sacerdotal candlesticks, whose selfless immolation is a guiding light. Within this scene those glasses have insinuated themselves – and they are not a pretty sight. Their bulbous heads, scalped & hollow, bob, bloated by their own self-importance & half-empty of substance, upon the pricking point of its needling little figure – creating an image of a most unnatural anatomy, shared only with the flower, whose colour & winter acts of self-effacement distinguish it from the colourless & acetic severity of the wine glass – all of which, in an aesthetic catastrophe, adopts the inelegant poise of the sciapod, culminating, as it does, in a base that seems to ooze roundly away from that emaciated trunk – consequently giving the not undesirable impression that the entire upper-portion of this wretched object will continue to melt downwards into the crystalline pool, that primordial puddle, from which it has been raised, which pool will subsequently spread increasingly outwards until it wears the rather more welcome figure of the dinner plate.

Its second fault, stemming directly from this first fault: it is an inherently unbalanced individual. Stoic as it is upon that little wisp, when half-full, the faceless weight of its skull gives to it a top-heavy composure. Indeed, such is the wine glass’ continued contempt for good taste, this particular pose seems set up solely for mimicry & mockery, reflecting badly those who come to drink from its waters; the downward-toppling of the floor-bound tippler stands (precariously) in direct contrast with his assertions of feeling a remarkable light-headedness – in downing the liquor, they seem to force everything else into an upward trajectory – & instead of being buoyed lightly along on fortified feet, the boys bounce badly upon their mortified brains – struck by a wayward hand, the tumblers both spill their sanguinary waters, their dampened spirits. And do not be taken in by this mephitic mockery, posing as the writer’s social mirror: pressed by the wine, the writer works & we see that artistic reflection of the wider world; yet when the wine solely assumes the role of reflection, & we peer into the prophetic waters within the crystal, we see only ourselves reflected in that rosy-red face on the waters – we witness only our own horrible truths.

Yet it is a simple solution that requires a simple solution; & indeed, upon its proposal, the second fault will faultlessly second it: principally, it is that the tumblers use tumblers. Simple, securely flat-bottomed & level-headed – the paraphernalia will complement the bacchanalia: bacchus & bacchae will sit in comfortable correspondence – free from the cruel austerity of those swollen-headed flutes.

Again, we look to those continental gauls, whose youthful introduction to wine has necessitated the adoption of this more formidable flasquet, & whose existential exegeses are second to none – & are we to put this down to mere coincidence?:

j.