Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fragment 199

In The Lover’s Discourse Barthes writes about irrational behavior, especially that prompted by love. For Barthes, irrationality stems from the image and the uncontrollable force of language produced by the image- this is the lover’s discourse. Under the signifier D for demons:

A specific force impels my language toward the harm I may do to myself: the motor system of discourse is the wheel out of gear: language snowballs, without any tactical thought of reality. I seek to harm myself, I expel myself from my paradise, busily provoking within myself the images (of jealousy, abandonment, humiliation) which can injure me; and I keep the wound open, I feed it with other images, until another wound appears and produces a diversion.

For Dostoevsky, irrationality was always self-harming, but only if self- harm is considered from the point of view of rationalism itself, from the dictum of never knowingly acting against your best self interest. And for Dostoevsky, too, this irrationalism erupts as an uncontrollable impulse towards language. Raskolnikov, in the Crystal Palace, blurts out his murder, but his interlocutor doesn’t believe him mainly on the grounds that if he was the murderer, he wouldn’t confess so brazenly to it. Think of all those characters who blurt out the wrong thing at the wrong moment, impelled by the language instinct to lacerate themselves, to make the situation worse, to assert their right to a capricious rejection of Paradise, the caprice of language itself. And think of all the demons in Brothers Karamazov, how Liza blurts out her love for Alyosha, and then prompted by her little demon, says that to be despised is good, expelling herself from her paradise.

Suddenly there are demons everywhere… BK 11.3

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