This year 2018 will be year of reading. With preparatory literature review for thesis at hand, I am expecting a flood of literature this year. Last year was a slow year for me. I was not rigorous with my reading, although I finished close readings of two books Virilio’s The Open Sky and Giorgio Agamben’s The Open: Man and Animal for a withdrawn article in supposed book publication deal for Edinburgh University Press. I wish I had more time for reading. This section will regularly feature some of my surveys of literature (books/manuscripts/journals), most of which are related to my thesis or studies.
Let me start by announcing a recent book purchase I made just this month from BLINK.PH. The online bookstore BLINK.PH was on clearance sale last January the 1st of 2018 and I made it a point to start a year with a decent book purchase. In my five-day New Year vacation at Bicol, I failed to visit our local bookstore at Sorsogon City, so I had to make sure I buy online.
book grabs from BLINK.PH’s 2018 Clearance Sale
BOOK-TOOLS: On Deleuzo-Guattarian Literature
Somewhere in A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari insisted that a book is a tool. We may never understand fully what they meant by that, but the passage come from the first page of Chapter 1: Rhizome, which says:
‘A book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed matters, and very different dates and speeds. To attribute the book to a subject is to overlook this working of matters, and the exteriority of their relations. It is to fabricate a beneficent God to explain geological movements. In a book, as in all things, there are lines of articulation or segmentarity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization and destratification.’ (p. 3, A Thousand Plateaus)
By tool, Deleuze and Guattari is posturing that each book is generally a multiplicity and it is necessarily structured in a such a way that it generates a temporal deviation from the structure of reality. It is, in this sense, a machine for a book opens the open. It acts as a differential machine of the world in the same way how film works to open time from its surrendered status of completion. Time in both book-form and film-form neither announces its completion. A book always approaches a defamaliarized state. Or, in simpler terms, a book in itself is neither complete nor gives one a sense of complete determination. It functions as a tool because it unhinges various determinations of reality and reformulates them in various ways.
To think of books as tools, one must carry out a necessary ontological step of rethinking the act of reading. The act of reading, for a long time, has been related to a branch of philosophy called epistemology – or the branch of knowledge or knowing – that specializes on various ways of knowing the world. Reading is a method of knowing the world. To read in order to know: this mantra solidifies the Platonic metaphor of the sun which romanticizes the epistemological idea of knowledge as illumination, meaning, knowledge can only be rendered intelligible only if it comes from goodness. Goodness here should not taken literally. ‘Goodness’ veils the transparent conditions of the institutional morality. In Deleuze and Guattari’s innovative reversal of this Platonic form of epistemology, knowledge is reinterpreted as a machinic assemblage, which constitute the very act of knowing as connected to the generation of knowledge. In a machinic assemblage, all else is connected by disjunctive synthesis.
A book is an assemblage of this kind, and as such is unattributable. It is a multiplicity-but we don’t know yet what the multiple entails when it is no longer attributed, that is, after it has been elevated to the status of a substantive. (p. 4, A Thousand Plateaus)
The tool-like capacity of the book-assemblage lies it its unattributable multiplicity. The book’s content holds enough potential to reformalize the structure of reality.
Part 1. Eagleton, Jameson, Cavell
Terry Eagleton’s The Task of a Critic is an essential book to my thesis. My thesis on Lav Diaz will proceed as a critique of long duration, and any resource that has the words critic, criticism, critique is assemblagically connected to my critical posturing towards Lav Diaz. I am not very familiar with Eagleton’s works, except for an interesting essay in Ghostly Demarcations: A Symposium on Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx titled ‘Marxism Without Marxism’. Eagleton’s scathing critique of Derrida’s Specters of Marx is quite a satisfying read. It shows Eagleton’s clear commitment to a type of ‘sober’ vanguard Marxism that I am aligned with except, of course, that I come from the context surrounding material productions of postcolonial Philippine culture. Eagleton’s commentary on Derrida’s book goes like this:
Derrida has now taken Marxism on board, or at least dragged it halfway up the gangplank, because he is properly enraged by liberal-capitalist complacency, but there is also something unavoidably opportunist about his political pact, which wants to exploit Marxism as critique, dissent, conveniently belabouring instrument, but is far less willing to engage with its positivity. What he wants, in effect, is a Marxism without Marxism, which is to say a Marxism on his own coolly appropriative terms.
(p. 86, Ghostly Demarcations)
Like his essay on Specters of Marx, the critical school that Eagleton subscribe to is unforgiving. Yet, among Anglo-Western theorists, Eagleton has a sustained genealogical and reflexive relationship with the idea of criticism. His book The Function of Criticism offers a genealogical study of the European literary criticism. The analysis of historical punctum of critique and criticism is highly important in Marxist studies, in particular, on determining the force and impulse of crisis in relation to critical activity such as writing criticism.
The Task of the Critic offers a similar approach as an assembly of dialogical encounters between Eagleton and Matthew Beaumont. While The Task of Critic is written under the semantic worldview of the literary theory and criticism, Eagleton’s insights is equally applicable to any field including film theory and criticism. Perhaps along the way, in reading Eagleton’s tool-kit book, one will learn to become what he wants us to become: to be modern critics who struggle against the bourgeois state.
Fredric Jameson’s Fables of Aggression: Wyndham Lewis, The Modernist as Fascist is one of those books that you cannot just put down. This is a literary critique of Wyndham Lewis’ works. Wyndham Lewis is one of the least known modernist writers in the era when James Joyce and Virginia Woolf conditioned the literary production of the era. Jameson’s book offers a critical outlook of the life and work of Lewis by ‘draw[ing] on the methods of narrative analysis and semiotics, psychoanalysis, and ideological analysis to construct a dynamic model of the contradictions from which Lewis’s incomparable narrative corpus is generated, and of which it offers so many varying symbolic resolutions.’ Jameson’s critical program is conditionally what I intend to deploy for my thesis. However, my study will focus on the critique of cinematic temporality in the cinema of Lav Diaz. This book might come in handy in finding a strategy of unpacking the contradictions in Lav Diaz’s cinema.
Another book of interest is Stanley Cavell’s Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life. Stanley Cavell is one of the proponents of film-philosophy. His landmark work The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film elucidates a brand of film-philosophical reflection that activates the link between filmic experience with philosophical memory. In a way, what Cavell refers to as an ontology of film is basically linked to a type of experiential ontology spread in the backdrop of the question of modernism. In Cities of Words, Cavell develops a different kind of film-philosophical reflection. In this book, he tries to uncover the link of cinema and philosophy by reading side-by-side philosophers and film. Cavell’s book generally argues that films can create ideal forms of justice, in particular, it can create an image of a Just City.
Cavell’s book can be an important resource to film-philosophical inflected-research as it provides a methodological tool in crossing between film and philosophy.