Monday, July 19, 2010

on a method of evocation

I’m developing a vocabulary for attempting to evoke sensation. The terms I’ve started to deploy include erotic, flesh, commingling, intermingling, foreign bodies, rhythm, vibration, thickness. I’m hoping to avoid making these the terms of analysis of sensation, but instead to have them remain primarily evocative words. Obviously that’s not entirely possible. Flesh and foreign bodies are directly borrowed from Merleau-Ponty and Lingis, respectively, and for any reader of theirs, they would resonate with their own use of the terms. I definitely play upon that.

But more to the point, repeating the words in multiple evocations develops their sense within my discourse, in ways that I don’t think I can or should claim to control entirely. They’re turning into something like an ontological vocabulary for me, which is fine, as long as it’s understood that this is in the way of Merleau-Ponty’s indirect ontology. They do not address being directly or unequivocally. They do not capture any kind of essence (as though an essence was the kind of thing that could be captured by any language; as though sensation had an essence in any traditional metaphysical sense). I don’t believe in capturing essences, and I don’t believe that language speaks Being.

I tell myself this is phenomenological. The precise way it is could be a lot clearer. After all, the most basic steps in phenomenological method are the reduction and description. Have I made a phenomenological reduction? To some extent I have set aside presuppositions about what is proper to erotic sensation, since I’m including eating peaches. I do have something in mind when I say “erotic,” though – and although I’ve arrived at that based on evocations, if it’s become almost a category, then I have to admit the presupposition of this category’s integrity, perspicacity, scope, etc. There is “something” I consider erotic. I haven’t named it pretending to be able to be unequivocal, but there still is this “something.”

The evocation of the “something,” the words that evoke it, and the somewhat hazy presupposition, have a way of cycling around one another, habituating to one another in my vocabulary exercises. I think that can’t be helped. No description is pure, final, or a capture. No understanding is total. No reflection or reduction is without its prereflective, its irreducible.

I avoid calling what I’m writing description, because to me, description names a kind of naming, stating how some experience feels. In the phenomenological tradition, especially from Husserl, description has been said to lead to die Sache selbst, the ends of our conscious acts, that “something” of which consciousness is always consciousness of. I am not sure that the erotic, that sensation, is at the end of our acts, or is a something in this sense - one that strikes many commentators as objectifying the ends of our conscious acts. My attempt is to evoke how something becomes perceived or experienced: we do not experience “the erotic,” but we experience something “erotically.” I'm pursuing the adverbial dimension, rather than the nominal, if you'll excuse the expression. (This is another way this is indirect.)

I’m going this route because I’ve read so many accounts of flesh as “openness,” or “intercorporeality” and so on, and to me, these are not evocative of how it is, and to what, sensation is open.

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