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La Négation

 | 
Stéphanie Bonnefille
, 
Sébastien Salbayre

Poétique et esthétique : de la négation au négatif

The Subject of Denegation The “Speaking” Subject “I Am Not”

Judith Roof

Résumé

Samuel Beckett’s play Not I enacts the process of negation by which subjects continually produce themselves

Texte intégral

1Saying “I am not” is a correct assessment—actually uncanny performance—of the status of the speaking subject. “I am not” plays out in performative fashion the processual contingency of the subject, who in speaking, enacts, reveals, and masks the discontinuities between the subject who says “I” and the signifier “I” the subject utters. This discontinuity between subject and signifier is less a fissure than a reiteration, less a separation than a spiraling, crackling cybernetic network strung among the fictions of the speaking subject, those to whom this fiction addresses its remarks, those others whom the subject imagines listening, and the intrasubjective dynamics of the “I” who purports to speak. The scene of the speaking subject negating its own existence whirls from the inter-subjective to the intra-subjective, from the scene of the other to that “other” scene where the moi, the unconscious ego object of the Other, indirectly shadows its alter ego “I,” the “je” who speaks, but which in speaking is exactly not what it purports–performs–itself to be. The subject is, in other words, exactly that fiction which cannot at any given time represent itself except in denying itself. It is not and in not being, is.

2But let us delve into this paradox wherein what is not comes to be in its notness. On one hand, the statement “I am not” reflexively claims that the referent to which the “I” refers does not exist, or at least does not exist except as/at the moment of its referential muster. On the other hand, “I” does exist as a referent, one produced performatively in the act of saying “I,” in claiming a connection, if only temporary, between voice and pronoun, between voice and a consciousness we sometimes call a subject. The contingent link between signifier “I” and the much more evasive signified instigates a cascade of existential assumptions—there is an “I,” that “I” has a referent, the referent “I” speaks, the referent “I” has the authority to deny. These assumptions end only with the negation of the referent, a negation that retroactively resignifies the subject “I” which becomes, then, an object of negation, obliterated, born to die. But which referent is negated? The signifier “I” or its referent? Or both? To which does the negation apply?

3It could be that the declaration “I am not” is only the illusion of a paradox, if the act of speaking the “I” is indeed understood also to produce the I, at least for the moment of its utterance. If “I” were never “I” in the first place, in this case “I” s relation to “I” is only a coincidence—a sort of accident of reference. Referential performativity—saying “I” produces I—then, obviates any paradox by splitting the subject, or subjects (by splitting the speaking from the grammatical subject) for example, or organizing a scattered and incoherent mass of fragments into the spectre of the signifiable. This flickering performativity produces the chatoyant ambiguity of two overlapping, simultaneous, grammatically identical, but completely different significations. This split, this oh-my-God-not-the-split-subject-again split is less, however, a split than a distribution, a retroactive rechanneling process which is finally anything but binary despite the circuit-breaking omnipresence of negation as a constant part of the process. The “I,” then, is neither fact nor history, but rather the sum over the histories as quantum physics would say. Or the I is the sum of narratives in Borges’ “Garden of the Forking Paths.”

4Declaring “I am not” sets out multiple simultaneous, alternative, coexistent, fractal-like tracks whose significance and reference oscillate in what would seem to be multiple dimensions and directions or frequencies. These frequencies are all variations of the relation of the subject to negation and the relation of negation to the production of the construction we refer to as the subject—all different wavelengths, so to speak. They coexist in the statement “I am not” rather chorally, as if one voice multiplied and reverberating with itself signals the fractal nature of the existential catalysis of negation. And so we may have all of the following:

51) The affirmative negation of the phrase “I am not”—that is that the sentence is a true declarative about the status of the subject “I.”

62) Assuming that the pronoun “I” refers to the speaker, negating the existence of the speaker produces the existence of that which it negates.

73) The negative “not” doubles the subject “I” where I equals not. This brings into question whether or not “I” is alive (i.e. a subject with consciousness) or an automaton (to be read “automanot”), a subject not alive to itself. This prepares the way for number 8, to follow.)

84) The fulcrum verb “am,” spurred by its negation, redistributes signification among the various possible fields of reference to which the verb itself—being—might refer: the existential, the epistemological, the contingent, and the accidental

95) The possibility of truncation as if the sentence beginning “I am not” had ended before the inclusion of another term—another part of a compound verb, an adjective—that would provide affirmative characterization of the subject “I,”—as in “I am not speaking” or “I am not long-winded and obscurantist”—which relieves the sentence of the necessity for retroactive equivocation between the subject and its negation and which implies the propulsion of the subject forward in self-production through confessive denial.

106) The production of humor through the contrary negation of an obvious truth or falsehood as in “I am... NOT!”

117) The inevitable parasitic irony occasioned by the communal coexistence of multiple alternatives.

128) The intrinsic uncanniness of the phrase “I am not” in which the end “not” returns to the opening “I,” not unlike the knot of castration, represented by the eye in Freud’s analysis of Hoffman’s story, “The Sandman.”

139) The positive identification or definition of the subject as literally “not,” where “not” functions as a name. This results in a meaning something like “Not is I.”

14And finally 10) “I am not” where the negative actually refers to a missing, but implied statement about the subject referent. “You are densely loquacious. I am not.”

15There will inevitably be more, not only because in keeping with the discourse of fractals, the chaos of fractals begets fractals ad infinitum, but also—actually two also’s—signifiers always beget other signifiers in so far as any signifier is always the signified for another signifier and negation itself functions as a potentially infinite operator or function. This latter point is algebraic and I will return to it (or not) later under the rubric of “Accident.”

16These frequencies, all moving metaphorically at least, at different speeds and through different vectors produce a conceptual cacophony that may, for the moment, be defined not as noise but as oscillations, whose waves, moving at different velocities, occasionally mesh into harmony and separate into discord and contradiction. If, for example, we track any two of these frequencies—say 1 and 8—the subject at issue can indeed be seen to oscillate between two extremes. Frequency 1 is occupied by the affirmative negation: “I am not” meaning that the “I” subject referent of the sentence does not exist. As you might have just experienced the brief frisson of objection as other meanings simultaneously assert themselves (which is of course my point), let us limit the meaning of “not” in this case to “not existing” literally. The speaking subject of the sentence being spoken does not exist. In a lacanian sense this sentence may strike us as true in so far as the “je” is a construction. In a derridean sense this may also be true if the sentence “I am not” was written in 1492, where today the subject referent probably really is no longer, producing a sentence that became true.

17Frequency 8 is a bit more complicated, but a crucial corollary of negation, especially in so far as negation may begin as an automatonic species of doubling. Negation represents the subject who is not alive. The “not-alive” is Freud’s starting point in his investigation of the phenomenon of the “uncanny” as he looks at the work of Jentsch, who believed that uncanny feelings arose from doubt about whether an “apparently animate being” is in fact alive or a mechanical process (and vice versa). The basic scenario or question of the uncanny, then, begins with a configuration such as we have in instance number one: the subject (the animate) is not (the inanimate) or vice versa in so far as negation might bring life to death or in so far as the sentence itself becomes reversible.

18In developing his theory of the uncanny, Freud deploys E.T.A. Hoffman’s story, “The Sandman,” in which the student Nathaniel cannot forget the death of his father. Nathaniel associates this death with a series of events that slide metonymically from the mother’s bedtime threat of the “sandman’s” visit—he who throws sand in children’s eyes—to the real or imagined threats to throw coals in eavesdropping Nathaniel’s eyes made by his father’s night visitor, lawyer Coppelius, to his father’s death in an explosion while being visited by Coppelius. This association between death and blinding continues as an itinerant optician named Coppola sells Nathaniel a spyglass through which Nathaniel sees the automatonic doll Olympia with whom he falls in love. The doll’s owner and the optician, the suspicious Coppola, who has also fashioned her eyes, battle over the doll and Coppola takes the doll’s eyes which he then throws at Nathaniel. As the target of the eyes’ trajectory, Nathaniel succumbs to a murderous madness. After a period of illness, Nathaniel seems to recover and goes with his fiancée to the top of a tower where Nathaniel again takes out his spyglass, again goes crazy, and tries to throw his fiancée off of the tower. Her brother rescues her, but the crazed Nathaniel, still atop the tower, espies the Lawyer Coppelius and throws himself off.

19Hoffman’s story presents us with a knot of eyes which are, as Freud will patiently explain, linked to another knot of the “I”, the oedipal complex and castration. Nathaniel’s ocular metonymies—the sandman, the threatening hot coals, the spyglass, the doll’s eyes—are all linked to his father’s death and his father’s death to the unconscious wish to be punished through the oedipal blinding which stands in front of castration. Freud, thus, demonstrates that Nathaniel’s anxieties around eyes–his madness in relation to the phallic spyglass—are anxieties arising from his fear of castration—the “not” figured here as the eye (I). The uncanny effect of the sentence “I am not,” then derives from the way the sentence evokes the castration complex in two ways: first, through the homology of “I” and “eye,” and second, through the erasure of the eye (I)—in the way the sentence itself enacts a castration. When we combine the enaction of castration with a reading of the sentence as a denial of subjective existence, the harmonic of uncanny castration echoes through the frequencies, linking the denial of the subject to the effects of castration as well as to castrating denial.

20And to show this reading was not simply a clever (or not so clever) play on words, we can accomplish this species of harmonics with any of the alternatives listed above, say randomly 2 and 6. If, as in 2, the sentence produces the subject by negating it, such production in turn provokes the comedy suggested by frequency 6's contrary negation of an obvious truth. These, too, not-so-coincidentally play out in the matrix between linguistics and psychoanalysis. The mechanism by which the subject in question is brought into existence through its negation occurs both through the linguistic implications of negation and the mechanisms of unrepression described by Freud as a way subjects acknowledge unconscious content, which he calls “negation.” As a function of language, employing negation requires the evocation (either expressed or implied) of the referent that is the object of negation. Negation, in other words, is a parasitic operation that can only function in relation to an implied positive assertion.

21In his work on dreams, Freud came to the conclusion that the unconscious is no judge. In other words, the unconscious operates in such a way that no negation can occur. The unconscious cannot say no. Contraries, if they are presented, can meld seamlessly into one another. Instead of negation, “what we find in the unconscious is ‘repression,’” Freud suggests briefly in the 1905 Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (217). Like dreams, jokes, Freud concludes, are a similar “sense in nonsense” where negation functions as a part of the structure through which repressed thoughts can be expressed without becoming conscious (9). The payoff of the joke, Freud hypothesizes, is in a saving of psychic expenditure. But what expenditure is that? What expenditure might “I am... NOT!” represent?

22Twenty years later, Freud developed his idea of the roles of negation in a brief colloquy titled, “Negation.” Observing that analysands deny the possibility of meanings they offer, Freud concludes that such negations are “the intellectual substitute for repression” (236). If, for example, a patient asserts that a figure in his dream is not his mother, such negation is an indication of the truth of what is being rejected or denied. “Negation,” Freud asserts, “is a way of taking cognizance of what is repressed” (235). He concludes that negation is the process whereby material that is alien to the ego (to the subject’s conscious sense of subjectivity), but nonetheless a part of the unconscious is expressed.

23So for Freud, no is yes. As a part of a joke, nonsense negation enables the expression of repressed material and motives. Recall, for example, the rage a decade ago in the United States for “Not” jokes, which consisted of an affirmative declaration followed by a resounding “Not,” something like—“Bush is a great leader. NOT!” Obviously, these jokes save the kind of mental expenditure it would take to produce a complex joke, but they also enable the expression of hostility through the simple negation of a declarative statement. Shouting “Not” after the assertion not only retroactively resignifies, but permits a certain catharsis based on the power of negation itself, on the ability to reverse, complicate, and have the illusion of obliterating with a single word. In providing a means for the expression of repressed hostility and desires, Freud concludes, jokes save the psychic expenditure otherwise necessary for continued repression and their pleasure comes from this savings. As Freud the psychic banker puts it “this yield of pleasure corresponds to the psychical expenditure that is saved” (145). The phrase “I am... Not!” as a joke, then, unrepresses unconscious knowledge about the fictional status of the subject.

24But the case of negation is more complex than a simple savings. For Freud, the coexistence of contraries in the unconscious—their nonsense or absurdity much like the nonsense of the statement “I am not”—takes the place of a judgment of absurdity. In other words, the existence of nonsense substitutes for an acknowledgment of nonsense. In contrast, negation, according to Freud, is a faculty of the intellect which provides a judgment that enables the simultaneous admission and continued repression of unconscious material. The existence of nonsense in the unconscious is supplanted by negation as a mode of simultaneous unrepression/repression as the way unconscious material makes itself known. Like the joke, negation serves to express and obscure, but unlike the joke, negation puts the whole matter up front in its own terms. It stages its drama as a public act of revelation/concealment much as our famous protagonist Oedipus inadvertently (or not so) stages the dramatic inquest into his own crime. Negation, then, is actually a mode of transition, a manner of coming to consciousness, of solving the mystery, of evoking the intellect while putting off an acknowledgment of the truth of the content.

25In his extended analysis of Freud’s essay, “Negation,” French analyst Jean Hyppolite comments that for Freud negation serves as a signifier of the bifurcation of the affective (i.e. the contents of the unconscious) and intellectual (their conscious denial). Negation’s “true function,” Hyppolite continues, “is that of giving rise to intelligence and the very starting point of thought” (292).

26The harmonic affinity between “I am not” as a subjective denial (2) and “I am not” as a species of nonsense aimed toward the joke (6) is linked to the rise of the intellect—is linked to the production of the speaking subject itself—as an effect of this play of unrepression manifested by the joke and the suspicious insistence of the negation of unconscious material. But, as Lacan tells us, “it is very difficult to understand what negation means. If you look at it a bit closely, you realize in particular that there is a wide variety of negations that it is quite impossible to cover with the same concept. The negation of existence, for example, is not at all the same as the negation of totality” (Encore 34). In the sentence “I am not,” then, negation as suggested in frequency 4 distributes being through various fields of reference: the existential, the epistemological, the contingent, and the accidental. The first two—the existential and the epistemological–are those than seem to come most into play when we consider the subject of negation—the subject produced at least in part, through negation. The latter two seem more on the side of linguistics and the occasion of speech.

27So far in all of this, there are probably two significant observations about the subject of negation. First, negation is productive. As an operator—as a term that when added splits the frequencies of meaning endlessly—negation fruitfully multiplies away from certainty not into the realm of nothingness, zero, or le néant, but into a fractal exercise in proliferation, framing, reversal, implication, and accident–into a “heap. An impossible heap.” Second, the speaking subject, whom we might assume is enacted through affirmation, through something like a performative “I am” organized through Freud’s notion of Eros or uniting, is instead enacted through a series of negations in the form of selections, rejections, aufhebungs that produce a topography. This topography, which inscribes the ego as an inside to an alien or “not I” outside, oscillates between processes of alienation and separation.

28Let’s reduce, then, our infinitely complexifying sentence to these two basic processes—“I am not” as an enactment of alienation and “I am not” as a claim to separation. These processes exist, as do the joke and the mechanism of negation, within the flexive cybernetic economy that Freud sets out in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Their inter-referral makes it very difficult to pin the subject (and the subject of the sentence) down.

THE ALIENATED “I”

29A lacanian reading of alienation would be this: “the subject is produced within the language that awaits him or her and is inscribed in the locus of the Other. The subject finds him or herself divided, dismembered between partial drives, and partial as there is always a loss” (Laurent 30). This loss comes through an exercise in judgment, the same judgment that represses and then masks its repression through negation. This judgment performs two tasks: either “it affirms or disaffirms,” so Freud says, “the possession by a thing or a particular attribute,” or “it asserts or disputes that a presentation has an existence in reality” (236). In other words, this judgment decides what is outside and what is inside the subject—“I should like to take this into myself and keep that out” as Freud paraphrases it (237). And it accomplishes this sorting through affirmation or negation, negation being the process of externalizing and ejecting. What this judgment/attribute of the subject is affirming or negating, however, is not so much things or traits that function like accessories, but an identification. “The subject, having no identity, has to identify with something” (30). This identification masks and summarizes or encapsulates the way the subject has already defined itself and has been defined within a signifying chain—“who is it?” as well as the ways the infant subject has served as the lost object of another—I am what she wants.”

30Since you can’t always get what you want and since the subject will always lose the job of being someone else’s object, the subject is inevitably left with the other question, “What am I now that I am not that for her?” and a tendency to test reality, since one’s first impression resulted in major loss. The loss of objective status produces the subject as divided from its initial identification, divided and partial in itself–the product, if you will, of a primary or founding negation. The subject is alienated and then spends its time working to recover what was lost through these processes of affirmation and negation. The good is that which seems to produce pleasure and satisfaction by refinding the lost in some way; the bad is now what is alien. The good is introjected, the bad expelled and so the ego is formed. The alienated subject is in a sense, the victim of the history that has produced it, the sum of the process of these I am’s and I am nots. Whoever, of course, I am.

31The inside/outside sorting is not enough, however, to account for the kinds of judgments the subject practices in negation. The subject not only refinds the good, it must also know that the good things are real. “Experience has shown the subject,” Freud observes, “that it is not only important whether a thing (an object of satisfaction for him) possesses the ‘good’ attribute and so deserves to be taken into his ego, but also whether it is there in the external world, so he can get hold of it whenever he needs it” (237). The subject, whose initial relation to the world was through perception, now needs corroboration for those perceptions. This reality-testing defines the working of the intellect as a discerning capacity–as that which sorts between the good and the bad, between the real and the unreal and between the objective and the subjective, a capacity that comes from the mishap of its first, ultimately failed identification, the alienating loss of its first union.

THE SUBJECT OF SEPARATION

32The alienated subject who sorts between “I am” and “I am not” engages, has engaged, and will engage another “I am not”—the “Not I” of separation from its primal union with the Other, whoever that other might be. This engagement with the “not I” of separation precedes through a premature identification with an imago “I:” an image of a separable being with which it identifies. The legendary mirror stage protosubject in its libidinal dynamism is caught by an image of a separable being, a state for which it is not yet physically ready, but which it mentally anticipates. The “symbolic matrix” of this mirror image precipitates, so Lacan says, “the I” in “a primordial form, before it is objectified in the dialectic of identification with the other, and before language restores to it, in the universal, its function as subject” (2).

33Like the alienated subject, the separated subject begins a topography that maps a relation to reality, again as between the inside and the outside, but also as a before and after, a history. All of this, Lacan points out, is still a fiction, the recognition of the imago a drama “whose internal thrust is precipitated from insufficiency to anticipation—and which manufactures for the subject, caught up in the lure of spatial identification, the succession of phantasies that extends from a fragmented body-image to a form of its totality that I shall call orthopedic—and lastly, to the assumption of the armour of an alienating identity, which will mark with its rigid structure the subject’s entire mental development” (4).

34The “I am not” of the alienated subject is rigid, just as the separated “Not I” is oneirically symbolized, as Lacan notes, by a fortress or a stadium structure. But which comes first? Alienation or separation? Is there a history to these ossifications, a way in which the nascent subject becomes the product of narrative even before it becomes a subject at all? Does separation—does the loss of a complete identification with the other—produce alienation or does alienation inaugurate the pretexts of separation? Or do both happen at the same time, the protosubject oscillating between “I am not” and “Not I,” sorting and negating to fortress the ramparts that will become its life’s work?

35The negations and affirmations of the subject produce the subject in its own dialectic of inside and outside, its own busy sorting membrane. But the subject is neither alone nor isolated, nor does it only sort its own figurative laundry. The loss of the other significantly leaves the subject flailing in a rich sea of signifiers, none of which can make up for its loss, but all of which potentially chain in substitution for it. Hence the subject’s affirmings and negations are made primarily in relation to signifiers as the subject throbs between “I am not” and “Not I” as it inserts itself and is inserted into a signifying chain, a symbolic over which it, finally, has no choice at all.

AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT WHERE IS THE SUBJECT?

36The subject, then, in whom language has rapidly taken the place of things, the subject who must test to see if its perceptions and selected signifiers have any relation at all to reality, is always a speaking subject, even before it can speak. As it oscillates between yes and no, between “I am not” and “Not I,” its wave form approximates the subject as a locus from which speech issues. Its speech becomes the set of trails that lead, we imagine, to a consciousness, but more likely to a vanishing point beyond which we cannot know. The speaking subject is the constant accident of its own reference that gathers its oscillations into the projected fiction whose return via the other certifies both. The subject is like light, its fortress a quantum particle, its oscillations a wave, its presence an accident, the precipitations of energy elsewhere, its effect enlightenment, its sound a buzzing of generating signifiers, spilling, spitting, glaring in production.

37And so Beckett’s play, not-so-coincidentally titled Not I, the “Not I” of separation, the subject of perpetual alienation, the drama of the production of the subject through negation, not hysterical at all, but a production of a Klieg light subject as the ray of light came and went came and went such as the moon might cast going in and out of cloud. Mouth, oracular orifice, performing self-alienation as an effect of history. “... yet in the ordinary way not felt at all so intent one is on what one is saying the whole being hanging on its words” the mystique of Mouth, intense of voice, mounting to its everlasting murmur, a density of words, phrases, spilling like a flood from a dam long broken, speech, locution, pre-climactic screams, the history parsed and parceled, strangled at its birth, each contraction a strangling, but the voice sallies forth, carrying with it the thing detached, the cry without the baby, the feeling without the fact.

38And so Mouth the subject ever in the process of its denial, its quintessential negation, compelled to tell, tell, tell itself to become itself in its own negation, the performance of its refusal becoming the narrative of its enduring ejection “out out tiny little thing before its time.” Mouth is no self, no matter what history we gleaners of meaning looking aimlessly for cowslips to make into a ball, no matter what ball we make, Mouth is a subject with no subject, a subject in negation of itself, a subject forming itself in the process of its own distanciation, in its own disintrication through/from the words that spew, dance, narrate into patterns despite the Mouth that would if it could negate all but in its negation even in no sound of any kind all silent as the grave forming the thing which it avoids.

39And narrating the history which it evades, history, his story, no idea what she’s saying imagine no idea what she’s saying and can’t stop... And history, the illusion of a time existing and existed, held over, ever in its telling removing itself from itself, distanced in its recounting, speech not recalling but exiling a history that no more makes she than our hearing it makes us in relation to her, channeled through the listener, the conductor of time and words, guiding, signaling a crescendo that can never come, interrogating the I of she who is never I, who instead ignores, negates, and denies emphasis producing the passion of being in the moment of its repudiation not repudiation but obliqueness, displacement, the ever evocation of SHE whoever she is not now not then perhaps winter always winter some strange reason.

40Telling is a mode of distancing—of alienation—of detaching the story from the subject who already exists as a teller, of showing simultaneously the ways the subject is and isn’t, always split and wildly oscillating, teller and told, the one not the other, and how the subject is constantly and reluctantly produced, dragged out kicking, not in the history it tells or via the telling of history, fragmented as that might be in this case, but in the split itself, a split maintained assiduously throughout in Mouth’s displacements, in the misalignment of audience and listener.

41No one ever says the phrase that titles the play, that haunts and hovers like the mouth 10 feet above rather than 6 feet under, always on the tip of someone’s tongue. The absence of the ubiquitous title, like the presence of the absent subject performs the mechanics of the alienation of the subject from itself. The title evoked in its absence models the ways the subject is evoked not as a subject but as a perpetual split, for the subject is its denials and displacements. What is important here is not that the subject is evoked and hence made present despite itself, though I’m never sure what is present and if that is a subject (even if turned inside out) then we are indeed an optimistic civilization, but rather the torquing of its evocation, the jazz of its haunting, the tensile strategy of its evasiveness which is more likely the subject after all. The play brings the notion of the subject into question as a performance of its own doubts, the removal from its own illusion of certainty, showing how the speaking “I’, the lacanian “je” plays in quadrated ecstasy (in a saintly sort of way) with the spoken I, the “ego”, both of which persist only in relation to the Other, both big and little “a,” the culture which gives the words and the Culture which gives the Word, the culture that demands what the subject will not say.

42This is of course not to prove that Beckett is a lacanian or that Lacan is right just look at Beckett, but rather to prod an insight common to them both: that the subject is a dynamic, always already a drama, always coming into being and never there. The tension between coming and going (another Beckett play), between coming and not arriving (another Beckett play), between the potential and a kinetic, between what and where (another Beckett play), between yes and the resounding nos somehow always already past (another Beckett play), between the present and a kind of future imperfect in which the subject on the point of coming into being fades away performs the tension of an existence never quite sure of itself as itself already theatrical.

43But let’s look into this more deeply. She says What? Not That? Nothing to do with that? Nothing she could tell? All right nothing she could tell try something else think of something else nothing she could tell, but for what? To get to what? To satisfy what? The court who demands she speak? Where she standing her mouth half open as usual sorts around for it, that telling will not suffice nor thinking either.

44This nothing she nothing can do what they whoever they are want her to do, tell, think, nothing hit on it in the end keep on long enough keeping on is presence and distance, both at once, presence/distance theatre staging this compelling as already an effect a demand of itself in itself.

45It is the drama of the subject in all its existential accident, speech puzzle spilling and wanting and light like moonlight but probably not. The subject oscillating, spinning through no no no, drawing something out over and over pouring it out steady stream never suffices is never the thing they want whoever they are keep drawing telling the voice is all that’s left the voice split at the moment it thunders no buzzing all buzzing flickering away like mad.

46Sound is the thing half the vowels wrong maybe not sound but a rhythm, torrents of words caught with their hems in the door words which sound like refugees in the rain covering their heads expelling from one warehouse to another out once never in again but hiding among themselves irrepressible fleeting faces enough almost for memory.

47Perhaps she should imagine herself Demeter Persephone tagteam filations metering flow but the thing is not in any who or even story mooring spouting with a tap trauma is it or rape all that early April morning light? Well she could not scream could not utter a sound nonetheless it was she really a female subject whatever that is exuding the pain of her voiceless voice tender mercies. But the she is not all nor is it maybe even a she the voice streaming joy and resignation in the thing which reflects back what is never there the empty mirror streaming away like mad chasing the rays fleeing always fleeing catching the heels as they kick out of sight catching the kick as the heels disappear.

48Thirteen minutes of timid expostulation shouted somehow all tonal gesture some softer building it is the words that reveal in a flash the shadow of whatever might have been standing there a moment ago or maybe just the sound the buzzing. Like she compelled to utter standing there mouth half open hiked on a ladder the words hers whoever that might be issuing urged by the light that commands something anything even words lost find some in their place even going gone when she can’t go on going on finding the steady stream again pick up pick it up again sooner or later a capella not cacophony.

49The subject she was of the world of this the world of the inside out the private made public the public private the fortress and its elisions, the ego jar glass and fragile, the subject the moment of its cracking, the words not barbed but rounded, sliding jelled pearls percussive over the edges and through the air filtrate like ashes falling, the subject of I am not. She!

Auteur

The author of four books on issues of narrative, sexuality, and contemporary crises of representation: Come as You are: Narrative and Sexuality, Reproductions of Reproduction: Imaging Symbolic Change, All about Thelma and Eve: Sidekicks and Third Wheels and Understanding Fiction. She is Professor of English at Michigan State University

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2006

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