States - F! MD 5 3 9J .43 i 26 Ga The Phenomenological...

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Unformatted text preview: F! MD 5 3 9J .43 i 26 Ga The Phenomenological Attitude Bert O. States All thing);istggtbeyareiagfl‘fgfifilssaiéfllshfigfllfl.Ell?»' percipient. . . . But poetry defeats the curse which binds us to be stfi‘ujeaea to the accident of surrounding impressions. And whether it spreads its own figured curtain, or withdraws iife’s dark veil from before the scene of things, it equally creates for us a being within our being. it makes usthe inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaosf It reproduces the common universe of which we are portions and percipients, and it purges from our inward sight K the fiim of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our .being. It compels us to feel that which we perceive, and to imagine at that which we know. it creates anew the universe, after it has been ' annihilated in our minds by the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration.) wPercy Bysshe Shelley, A Defense of Poetry This passage becomes iess dated when you consider that it was written nearly a century before Victor Shklovsky’s attempt to align the method of criticism and the functiOn of art in the now famous concept of perceptual ”defamiliarization.”1 If anything, Shelley’s language is even more "phe- nomenological" than Shklovsky’s, but what we learn from Shelley is that aphenomenologicaLatfiMde_®ya1‘d the world (or what Husserl calls the “phenomenological standpoint”) does not depend on knowing the "sciw ence” of phenomenology. It is rather an ability to see through _”_t_heg__film of “""n'""‘"‘"“ “‘“w- familiarity” that blunts “the scene of things itsreiteration. Those in whom {IiiS"att'itude'"‘exists-toeSEcess,“ Shelley goes on, are called poets; but they might also be called critics. Indeed, they could be any "inhabi— tanrts” of the world who have a natural gift for the epochs", or the capacity tofput into perceptual brackets “the accident of surrounding impressions” and to see what phenomenoiogists call "the things themselvesi’fllSo right off, when we speak of criticism in the phenomenological mode, we are re; fe.rril.1g...lesstq,e..1relentiess_methodology or a deepphilosophical concern for theifiatuieof consciousness thantqtanfittiflide.thatmanifests itself with varyingfidegieesofpurity and onethat may come and go in a given exer~ ciseascritical, objectives change. Ii would be nice if we had a less preten— tious (or at least shorter) term for t}: is kind. of commentary, if only to avoid. hints of “scientific” aspiration, but the best I have been able to manage is neoiiripressiouism, and that opens even more embarrassing risks in an age that seems bent on exposing the myth of a reliable self. Nevertheless, phenomenological criticism. is a form of impressionv ism—or, as Maurice Natanson calls it, “methodological solipsism.”2 it is some comfort to add, howeyer, that the iifi—pfiessionists "Were'yery good painters of phenomena, in the strict sense of that word. In their own way crii THE PHENOMENOLOGICAL ATTiTUDli 2'7 they were painting a perceptual critique of the real world, much as the critic of theater might try to show that the world of a play is opaque, geo- metrical, primordial, dense, sparse, and so on. To close the circle, criticism derived from thephenomenologicai attitude is higlilylirirflgtic in its meth— odology. That owing to the nature of its projeEt, phenomenological crit- icierr—imlike phenomenology itselfqteiids t0 relynstig nglywon some yaria~ tion ofVltigareléessripi.iQ¥1t._0.1'fP¥'OQf" bliifilflevtaphonj)“ this account it is proh'ably the most per "rat fhrm of critical commentary and hence is a usefui coufitétfié‘IsfiEé‘ to theyincreasinglyimpersonal methodology in so much of today’s criticism. I M I am not impiying..r.t~ha't we should all run out and buy a pair of philosophers brackets; but if one were looking for an alternative to the {radical skepticism of deconstruction and postmodernisniw—its "uninhibited questioning of everything,” as Eugene Goodheart puts it3-~—one can find it mOSt readily in the Pilenfllglglggigal attitude that uninhibitedly accepts everything it sees. Indeed, the aim of phenomenological criticism seems to be thereverse of the aim of deconstruction in that it seeks, as Mikel Dufrenne puts it, “the-being—at-the~end~of—oppositions in which idea and thing, subject and object, noesis and noeina, are dialectically united.”4 It is no contradiction of this claim to add that deconstructive philosophy is 111* timately connected with the phenomenological movement (especially with Heidegger and l-Iusserl) as to basic questions of being, meaning, and con— sciOusness. I am referring mainly to the practice of deconstruction as it de~ scends from philosophy into criticism—the species we encounter regularly in our journals (sometimes without a single mention of the D-word) where the aim is to show the paradox of presumed identity, the retreat of mean— ing before the finger of definition, 01' to demonstrate how a text “has al— ready dismantled itself” before the critic arrives.5 Phgngmgnglggical criti— cism, however, posits a stopping place, as it were, at the starting placeLngtw 'of atipossibiemeaniassias.etiaseiiessse.teeliagas metathesis direct encounter with _t_he art ohjegg A phenomenological approach offers a cri~ tique of what cosmological physics might cailfi’the first fourseconds” of the perceptual explosioth It is beside the point to claim that{ ' ‘ ' sh, seconds are always tainted by a lifetime 0 row cultural framehlt is only the moment _. ' j ‘ 7 i}: l"‘“"“““"""‘“‘“Tim‘s . ‘ _ ,. ...i_i___..,~H-»-r-r—----- f , hi; 1 k“; ":1 i" ‘ conditions the moment and what follows it are somebody else 3 busmess.) b ' L k “l. - v If .4 , . . u - _- _ “‘ 4‘1": \"" (I ‘II I I am not usmg the expressmn first four seconds in a strict du1a« ‘,\t+...t,h{, Mr“. V tional sense, as the physicist might speak, however literally or loosely, of c. at is the first four seconds of the "Big Bang.” Iintend it as referring to the "mo- ment"—:§Qgp_ or late—inwhich anobject or an image establishes i self in ouilrlfiéféeptionas something, as Shelley puts it, tliatu”cr_eateswfor us(a being Withiniggribgmgfl rind] “compels us to feel that which we perceiveffsuch 3 an experience is commonly deiayed or prevented by' all sorts of everyday . (jaw no sci-1’” significations that attend the appearance of any object or image. More- r? "ii-"sit Over, it is one thing to have such an experience (when one has it), another J to know what to do with it from an analytical standpoint. It turns out to be an immensely complex problem. \ 28 CRITICAL 'l‘l"ll£()lEY AND PERFORMANCE Adolf Reinach, for example, a student of Husserl, is said to have de~ voted an entire semester studying the ways in which one experiences a mailbox? This makes a nice joke on the philosopher, but there is more to a mailbox than meets the eye. No matter how much you fondle it, study it, turn it this way or that, or walk around it, a mailbox will always look you straight in the face, like a cat that wonft let you get behind it. Most people aren’t bothered by this problem, buéhe fact that you can never see all of a mailbox raises the imponderable question of. the frontality of ' everything in the world before the eye of consciousnessUfhiEls the form- dational problem of phenomenology. For this frontalclaal_i_ty_ofall experi- ence, as lflusserl says, is what keeps the world from being all me? if I couid see all sides ofl'a‘ mailbox at once, if I could perceive its interior, its com~ position, its angles and curves, its materiality, its field of world relation- ships, its functions, its vicissitudes, its history, and its deterioration in one grand cubistic glance, in what sense can it be said to be exterior to me, of the world rather than of myself? Such "vision" could only occur at what we may safely cal the “Divine Standpoint.@Moreover, if inside the mail- " box we should discover a letter written by God containing a definitive de— scription of all that a phenomenologist could possibly—4 eallym—want to know about a mailbox, we would be no better off, becaus ‘ language itself contains an even more virulent form of frontalityi/‘ly‘t this frontality we per- ceive one word or phrase at a time and the rest hides or slides into a “backside” along with the mailbox we are ignoring as we read the divine description of what a mailbox is. In one way or another this problem takes us to the base of all our con- cerns with the problematics of meaning: the central terms of our critical disc0ursempresence, representation, repetition, deferral, drflerence, aporia, sup“ plementation, referentiellty, indetermination—mcan be treated as variations on the principle of frontality. For frontality is not simply the perception of the surface facing us; it carries with it what Husserl calls the “apperceptionf’ of theurest of the object that is, in "a kind..of” way, ”co«pi'eseiit” even though are???"aerate"the: perceptually motivates something eEse beingthel‘e ' It is easy to see why phenomenologists are drawn to the theater meta- phor so often. In what other art form is the frontality of experience more amply demonstrated? In what other art form do we apperceive so much rotundity in what we merely perceive ("the vasty fields of France,” etc)? Before the world, Sartre says, we are as spectators at a play.g Moreover, theater is the paradigmatic place for the display of the drama of presence and absence; for theater, unlike the mailbox, produces its effect precisely through a deliberate collaboration between its frontside ("011" stage) and its backside (“off”) whereby anticipation is created through acts of en- trance and exit (the recoil of the world beyond), and finally between the frontside illusion (character and scene) and the backside reality (the actor, the unseen stage brace that r’props” up the illusion). Beyond all thisé the- atergoing in itself is a kind of bracketing, or epoclre', in which we willingly, if not involuntarily, suspend our belief in the empirical worldend attend / THE Pl-IENOMBNOLOGICAL A'i"l"l"l‘UDl£ 29 jihave de~ to a hag—reality already “reduced” by the premeditations and manipula- eriences a tions of a series of prior and present artists. As a consequence, phenome- is more to nology cannot look at a theater stage in the way that it looks at the simple hit} StUdY mailbox, which has no such illusionary pretentious (unless it is placed lee-l" iVaYS 100k on a stage). What is required, then, is still another suspension that does jd it- M05“? not cancel the first or throw us altogether out of the illusion into reality, {he‘lel‘see or throw reality altogether out of the illusion, but brackets what each lfifimy 0f would convey exclusively and retains as “co-present” both what we lithe foun‘ have consented to disbelieve (reality) and the belief we have temporarily allfixperi‘ "willed" in its place (the illusion). Merieau-Ponty suggests that the mod- gfii could ern Phenomeflgbfiif’flP enstrives—te—showliligw.ill? world becomes ,5 worldwf" the phenomenological critic strives to show how theater be- llidafion' comes theater—-that is, how theater throws up the pretense that it is an- im in one other kind of reality than the one constituting the ground on which its lilo 1119, Of pretense is baSed. We see this most clearly in stage scenery. If one looks at the stage set- ting in the spell of the epochs“, one sees that it is the means of creating the illusion that there is no scenery there but only a world, a reality (of sorts). CScenery comes into existence in order to deny that it exists-5&1 duplicity at the heart of carpentry. You may ask: isn’t this really a description of natu— ralistic scenery? What about stylized scenery? obvious scenery? scenery in which trees and chairs are played by actors? It really makes no differ- ence. Even in these forms, in calling attention to itself, in seeming to say, “I exist. I am nothing but scenery!” scenery is lying, or speaking with the . _ permission of the mimesis. Even in Brecht’s tacky world where scenery \f'” l"*- critical ' deliberately remains scenery ("built to last three hours”), it is nevertheless la, sup- fabricated in such a way that its fabrication constitutes the illusion. "It 1 ' must be clear that the play is taking place in a theater,” the designer may have said to the carpenters. “Make the scenery look like badly designed scenery.” Whereupon the carpenters labor skillfully to bring about this slapdash failure, this nondisguise of bad art, this backside become frontside, this absence become presence, of which the neWSpaper critic (with luck) will write, "Y’s settings are brilliantly conceived to produce the illusion that the play is taking place in a theater.” . Th epoche‘ (roughly synonymous with bracketing and reduction)» bears some resemblance to Michelangelo’s notion that the sculptor re~ leases the statue from the stone in which it is imprisoned. That is, in order to appear as an essence that has its "being within our being," as Shelley Says, the phenomenon must be released from its perceptual bondage in the "natural" world—~01; indeed, from its collaboration with other phe- nomena in the same theatrical illusion. Since the case of stage scenery is a relatively simple one, let us apply the idea to one of the most immaterial, yet fundamental, phenomena in the theater experience: our perceptiOn of character. Is it possible to isolate an entity called character, the behavioral essence that characters in a play are said to possess? Immediately, we are faced with a perceptual problem expressed most succinctly in Henry lames’s famous definition of character and incident: "What is character CRITICAL THEORY AND l’l-SRFORMANCE 30 _x‘\\3-—“ m if the;staggag‘allhtimesthgt never changes orgtuieastirever.violates an invis- x“ - i t-J .‘ ‘: b b .J-snéa‘S'V‘. *"v "7'1" but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?”11 So there is character, seemingly linked to incident (action) as indissolubly as Escher’s swimming fish are linked to the birds flying “through” them. And the problem is complicated still further by the fact that the character is being played by an actor who is not the character but who forms the entire perceptual ground from which any such essence as character can appear. So, it We are supposedly perceiving character as a persistent essence in individual behavior, in what way can we say that it is distinct from the person of the actor? How can we know it? How do we feel its being? Is its persistence not the simple persistence of, say, Olivier playing Othello? Fi- nally, there is the problem that any character: seems to undergo changes as the incidents lead to different moods and the display of different traits. As We say, character “develops.” So what is it in the character: phenomenon that persists? If character changes with every scene, or within single scenes, or even constantly, where do the eye and ear get the notion that something called character is iterating itseif, always being itself, in this chaos of different and differing phenomena in the stage world? l set up,_these resistances in the spirit of the epochs“ itself, for they are the kinds oiithings that must be chiseled away, or bracketed, before we \ can release the “figure” of character from the overall illusion and deter- mine that there is, indeed, an aspect of Othello that cannot be charged ex- ciusively to Olivier’s personal persistence and something that is phenom— enally distinct from incident and survives all changes and so-cailed development.) Othelio’s character is not my topic here, but, if one were pursuing an essense of Othello, it would be found through I-lusserl’s principle of co- presence. Or, to paraphrase another phenomenologist, thespresencehof one "sidgquf Othellowinagiven scene, and the absence of all_the other “sides” orare..oti{éiiai“t prey' satisfiesraggaf‘rtgsasjaési};that???id it Othello’s character accumulates ("changing” asit goes), it is accumulating according to an Othello "law" determined, in the first place, by Shakespeare’s sense of consistency in his creation and, in the second place, by Olivier’s inter- pretation of that consistency.“ s for Olivier lending his visible “weight” to Othello’s invisible character, this is obviously a strong factor: Othello’s character would be very different were John Gielgud playing him. But then Oiivier’s actor-character would be very different if he were playing Hamlet rather than Othello. Ingny’eventnflaereis an essence of Othello on ibiy“Eggurnspribedmfigldfloiffibehavroralpotentiality. (Othello, for example, would newer—like Iiamlehwiwoiideii'"li'éW'iong a man might lie in the earth ere he rot; nor would Othello “scan” his vengeance so scrupulously.) Othello is always a formation 0 0 presence and absence; his character is , _v__,h__ ,,..._......._......e.r_... never absent or present in the way thatoneof his traits (Say, anger) is pres- ent or absent. Othelio’s character mathsfilfisllfid to ausphmererevolving in space: it may reveal different sides or features as it turns, but it always re- mainsthesame sphere, it always continues around "the backside.” , K , _ I _ _ . ., ‘ ‘ . . . _ 'Wof} ad‘s '_'DN. nai 41‘ .has I has I 3 _' '- 'stre ten: .. of F clra - not: Res wet .mig self hav: . enoi ' .migl cism ' . --conc ' least 5am] the c _ --_usefl This i titude worth may r I : pend I It is m 'i‘l-lE PHENOMBNOLOGICAL A'i'TITUDE You may well ask what one can do with such information. Isn’t it fi~ naily rather obvious? Indeed it is. Pheno_n_i__ei:i__ol_r_)mgy, as Bruce Wilshire says, I'igwtllgsysteinatic attempt to unmask the obvious.”15 Like Sheiiey’s idea of poetry, plienoihenology-"is“an:effgigtjggreegvggwhat in our experience has been "annihiiated . . . byreiteration,” In order to gain a systematic idea‘of how theater-"affects us, We need (among other things) an aware- ness of character essence and the contribution of its persistence to the stream of radiCally changing events We call a plot. This is one of the basic tensions through which theater becomes theater. Still, it is only one kind of phenomenological problem. Another might involve an examination of character as a perceptuai locus of "hidden" cultural assumptions. It would be interesting, for example, to conduct a comparative phenome- nology of different kinds of character essense (Greek, Shakespearean, Restoration, “psychological,” naturalistic); or, to put it another way, what were playwrights in a given period making character of (what is its DNA?) that may have been beneath their own awareness? Such findings might serve very Well in the context of New Historical criticism, which it~ self involves a seeing of what absences may be co—present in artifacts we have heretofore regarded as things that are entirety present to the eye. Iwant to turn now to the question of how one recognizes a phenom— enological description. Earlier I said that the phenomenological attitude might be present in atmost any critical exercise. Reader-response criti- cism, for example, has a heavily phenomenological bent insofar as it is concerned with the transaction between consciousness and text. I detect it less often in semiotic discourse, but this may be a judgment based on my sampling of semiotic literature. In any case Umberto Eco’s description of the complementarity of semiotic and phenomenological practice offers a useful way of sorting the differences: A rereading . . . of Husserl’s discussions might induce us to state that semiotigvmegning is simply theusocialized codification of a percep- tual experience whiaa the piiéhoméfis‘iagtéaitfititiié should'restore teasLtiiiiispsgittaltste - - Pherieesselestisissmkes to rebuild frginwthefibegiigningfltile cor itions__ necessary for "t‘ii‘é’fissaas'tfit of cultural units which semio ‘ irread acce ts as data-“because com— municatioh"‘ffihct'ioiisLoiimthe basis st'iiiéhgrhe phenomenological epoché would therefore refer perception back to a stage where refer- ents are 31g lgngeg Eggfronted as explicitrmessages but as extremeiy ambiguous texts akin to aesthetic ones.” This is hardly a denial that semiotics may adopt the phenomenological at— titude for its own purposes. Indeed, Keir Elam argues that ”any semiotics} Worthy of the name . . . is eminently phenomenological, and the reverse][ may well also be true.”15 The degree of truth in this statement would de~l Pend on where one draws the line between semiotics and phenomenology. It is my sense that as long as Semiotics hplds the notion that all things (on a Stage, for example) can be fully treated as signs—that is, as transparent uI!::'lr\tf.x-(;-u~.(ia.rl C‘Li 7 l i‘ rat-"fie. WI \ Cl‘l'hc- 5V ‘ l W! W (i i CRITICAL THEORY AND E’ERFORMANCE 32 codes of socialized meaning—it cannot adopt the phenomenological atti- tude in any “eminent” way. Husserl is quite plain on this point: "The spa» 1K tial thing which we see is . . . perceived, we are consciously aware of it as ' given in its embodied form. we are not given an image or a sign in its place. we lily—SLR“ Sill-’fiiifllE COHSEiQUSDESSEf 5‘ Sign .Qriulimage for aipei‘“ , .53.} cc V't’ion}"iffaf'course,uHuss 'l is not talkin v here about perception as it oc— c“ in the theater where we are confronted by images and signs. But in the theater somethingis also itself as well; we can always (if we choose) see an object on a stage as we see, say, a bird in a feeder, and, though the bird in the feeder may be a sign of spring, it is not the sign of a bird. More com— plexiy, however, in the theater we see an object in its “embodied form” as having a doubie aspect, one of which is significative, the other (like the bird) self-given; and when we treat one of these aspects to the exclusion of the otherwit doesn’t matter whichw—we are not taking a. phenomenologi» \ cal attitude toward what has been intentionally set before us on the stage. 3} At a play Dufrenne says, "ldp not posit the reai as real, because there is Nd” .4’ alsohthe unrealwhich this real designatesjl da‘hot posit the unreai as un- “(ijw 254' ‘31 real, because there is aiso'the'real which promotes and supports this un- Q writ/{79' realiffi’ these two faces of “3921-33? . . . . . 5,3 \- Still, in prmcrpie, Eiam is right. There 15 no reason that the phenom- enoiogicai and the semiotic attitudes cannot compatibiy blend into each other. Let me cite a passage from Patrice Pavis’s Languages of the Stage that will iiiustrate what I take to be a fusion of semiotic—~in this case, semio~ logicalw—and phenomenological interests. Here is Pavis explaining why the mime’s "universe of gesture is {only} contaminated” by the spoken word: w «i Jammy/.1 nu max-maze: mam When the body tries to say too much, and with too much wit, the body is “talkative,” overstated by an overly precise story and discourse. The mime should therefore be left alone, and[his only dialogue shouid be the one established between what he does and what he does not do between normative gestures and their poetic deviation: the compar son between two universes of differing coherence and modality, between our immobility and the limits of our body, and his movements and original mode of existence creates the diaiogue in the spectator. But this dialogue is only initiated—"with Amiel as with all mimes— when the body begins to unfoid, tears itself from inert matter and sketches in a narrative.18 The topic here is "the discourse of the mime" and how we “read” the se— quence of mime gestures. Hence we find words iike modality, gestural ner- retivity, framing, segmentetions of gesture, codification, and so on, which be» long to “the discourse” of semiotics and semiology. But it seems to me that descriptive methods of semiology and phenomenology are almost 22-“: m <'Q.m sumo-n THE I’l-IENOMENOLOGICAL ATTITUDE 33 iical atti— equally in evidence in this passage: discourse could easily be replaced by The SP?" presence or appearance, or, in Pavis’s own words, thel’foriginal mode of ex- "? 0f it as i istence’) of the mime—~the essence of the mime, to invoke the classical its glass. . phenomenological term. Here the body of the mime appears before me in or alpen l all of the economy and purity of gesture that results from the mime’s self- lhs it OC' = I deprivath of an audible voice. Through. Pavis’s description I sense ex- lut in the actiy wh’ the power of the rnime rests in the "dialogue between what he e} see an F does and What he does not do”——in brief, between what is present and e bird in What is absent. . are com— ' I suspect I knew all this already, and it is certainly "obvious" to me form" as now. The point is that I didn’t know I knew it, and there is all the value of (like the _ such a description. Wl‘la‘j-‘v.i.§..9l2YlQH$.ls $1.50.,Wllflli5, transparent and there’ lusion of fore unggefl—like a dead metaphor or, to invoke Brecht’s example, like the lenologi- - 55213? the Watch on your wrist. Andhthe peculiar effect of thephenoma he Stage- - noiogicai statement is thatof__discoveringsomething in the backyard of 2_ there is “somehow bypassed c wareness _f’Sight,” 61.163 U1“ ' Bachelard says, "says too many things at one time”1 mor h‘asgotmthere this un- '- withggipgingconsciously, processedas a .”datum” of experience. It is at [faces 0f ‘ once forgotten and remembered. I take the passage, then, to be (whatevef else it islan example of’phenomenoiogical reduction because it puts on ?h€l10m“ - hold all codes of communication, all referentiality in the content of the [Ito BaCh mime’s narrative, in order to “rebuild from the beginning,” as Eco says, ltage that the primordial form of the mime’s body. The mime has not yet become a 'x 3, semiow - "sign" or a “Cultural unit”; he or she is simply the realization of a certain ing why - potential in human expressiveness. 3. spoken ' Roland Barthes’s project in M'ythologz'es is to write a seiniology of the bourgeois world by analyzing the language of its myths. Edyth is a “pure ideographic system” that steals its meanings from one or .e:: of significa- tion and plants them surreptitiously in anotherfil‘he delicacy of Barthes’s semiologicai problem in these essays—tracing a' myth back to its origins in a "first language”——requi res that the invisible be made visible, since the myth (plastic, steak and chips, ornamental cooking) is exactly what we cannot see because we are too busy living it. Here is where he calls upon the phenomenological ey . Barthes has always been a closet phenomenol— ogist.20 He cannot resist the lure of the “absolute,” the pursuit of the essence of the culturally disguised thing, until he corners it and it turns and faces him openl Here he is~—semiologist, phenomenologist (who could possibly sort ut the voices?)——tracking the essence of Greta Garbo’s face in order to tell us why we have "deified" it: It is indeed an admirable face—object. In Queen Christina, . . . the make-up has the snowy thickness of a mask: it is not a painted face, but one set in plaster, protected by the surface of the colour, not by its lineaments. Amid all this snow at once fragile and compact, the eyes alone, black like strange soft flesh, but not in the least expres- sive, are two faintly tremuious wounds. In spite of its extreme beauty, this face, not drawn but sculpted in sornething smooth and \ 34 v CRiTICAL THEORY AND PERFORMANCE a“ '\ friable, that is, at once perfect and ephemeral, comes to resemble the -: flour—white complexion of Chariie Chaplin, the dark vegetation of . his eyes, his totem—like countenance.21 For me the most striking image in this passage is "the dark vegetation of his eyes.” This is its punctual, as Barthes wouid say, or theelement ’fwhich rises from the scenefshoots out of it like an arrow, andpierces mef’zz (just as the puntcum of the Pavis passage is: “the body begins to unfoid, tears itself from inert matter and sketches in a narrative”). Who has ever thought of Chaplin’s eyes in this way, yet who does not instantly see "the connection”? Who does not a moment later see the connection between Chaplin and Garbo as this dark vegetation drains, like intertextual makeup, out of Chapiin’s face into hers and thence into the whole granu— lar black white world of “early” film? But for a split second, before the image begins giving in to these significations, one sees only something ab- soluteiy new, and the response, as Baudelaire might say, is instantaneous laughter in the soul. For on one of its levels this is a kind of pure joke, an adventure in grotesque. And what is grotesque but the creation of a new phenomenon, something without a history of signification or, rather {in .\ this case), something with two histories—“eyes and vegetationmethat have 25“ been fused and abbreviated in a bridge of recognition, something both ar- bitrary and right: arbitrary because it is an. unanticipated confusion of 3,2..1'eaimslright because the old Chaplin eyes that one has always overseen in the ensemble of the famous face suddeniy shoot out of the scene and ‘ \. .x Fascinate- w, . new 5,. if? waif-i 7 To claim‘these felicities of expression as the property of phenomenology “v would be rather like claiming that a bird was yours because it flew into your feeder. If anything, phenomenology and semiology borrow them from the poet and the artist, and this is really the sense of my discussion. The larger frame of Shelley's remark that poets possess a certain attitude "in excess” is that poets are those who are able to observe “a certain rhythm and order {in} natural objects,” or "I that] reiation subsisting, first between existence and perception, and secondly between perception and expression.” The poet’s language, therefore, is "vitaliy metaphorical [in that] it marks the before unapprehended reiations of things and perpetu« ates their apprehensionj) This sentiment can be found over and over in the iiterature of phenomenology. Consider the simple statement that the phenomenological attitude “is admittedly a difficult process to describe, so Husserl used many different metaphors"EL—beginning, incidentally, with the three key metaphors (bracketing, reduction, and the spectra“) that form the basis of phenomenologicai method. Or again: what usually happens is that the [phenomenoiogist] will proiect a single imaginative variant, but one that is strategic, crucial, and usu- ally coiorfui, one that brings out a certain necessity in the thing we wish to examine. It is not easy to capture the right imaginative vari- ant, to pick out the dramatic, viyid example that shows a necessity; We need fantasy to do so Thus’ we need imagination to be good at philosophical analysis.24 . resemble the vegetation of of our interests here the term phenomenological can be vegetation of meat fiwhich game?” (just unfold, tears the has ever antly see “the ition between intertextual iiiihole granu~ :d, before the ething ab- ‘ tantaneous n View thought of as pertaining not to a subfieid of philosophy 01— a sciemific movement but, instead, to tiiernode of thought- alld Fayre-SEED“ the mind naturally adoptiwhsn questisssrcljitiag' to. ouréyvareness of being and agp‘éaraacegngr. Thus defined, the mission of any form of 13113101119110- 1 “Mum” as” is to describe what Cezanne called "the worid’sinstant,” logical criti is perceptually “apprehended” as carrying, or leading to, an intuition abOut'What it is and What it'is’doing before our eyes. Thus'phenomenology iS‘fé‘fEEdftli‘rougli the sheer poverty of scientific language in the face of sub~ jective experience, to say (to itself and to its reader), “It is like this: the eyes are [like] dark vegetation,” or "The mime’s body tears itself from inert mat- ter.” For there is no other way to trap an essence iir’ffi‘orfitjal” expression, since essence is not a kiird"of‘i'nf““"‘ “'a'ti'on'or sweet" of matter (like valence or specific gravity) but, ijather‘,__a,;,_i between consciOusness and the thickness of existencefiomething that Keeps on goingaround the back but is aiso'lier'e'as'well. In the phenomenological sense ,e’Sseilce, one may say, is founded in a personification through which the world is invested with a human consciousness: perception and objectbecorne synonymous. Thus the impulse toward mimesis‘ih— phenomenological commentary, so notice— able in Heidegger, I‘lusserl, Merleau—Ponty, Sartre, and Bachelard, would seem to be an attempt to forestall the retreat of the object into signification (understood as its infinite cultural referentiality), to arrest it in a radical de— famiiiarization that names without defining and pictures without limiting. The essence is at once caught and freed, as it is in experience itself. NOTES 1. See Victor Shklovsky, "Art as Technique,” in Russian Forrrmlist Criticism: FORT Essays, trans. Lee T. Lemon and Marion I. Reis (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965), 3—24. Robert Scholes calls attention to the similarity between the Shel- iey passage and Sliklovsky’s concept of defamiliarization in Structumlisiii in Liter- ature: Ari Introduction (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 174—75. Scholes is interested in the structuralist parallel between Shelley and Shkiovsky, whereas my own interest is strictly phenomenoiogical, though I trust it is apparent that I have no desire to label either Shelley or Shklovsky as phenomenologists. 2. Maurice Natanson, “Soiipsism and Sociality,” New Literary History 5 (1974): 243. 3. Eugene Goodheart, The Failure of Criticism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978), 14. 4. Mikel Dufrenne, The Pl‘iciiomenology of Aesthetic Experience, trans. Edward S. Casey, Albert A. Anderson, Wiilis Domingo, and Leon Jacobson (Evanston, lli.: Northwestern University Press, 1973), xlix. by which we mean not simply a paintable instant but ahso any i stantthat THE I’l‘lENOMENOlDGICAL A'I‘TITUDE 35 ...
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This note was uploaded on 11/23/2009 for the course THEATER R1A taught by Professor Steen during the Fall '08 term at Berkeley.

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States - F! MD 5 3 9J .43 i 26 Ga The Phenomenological...

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