I also rewrote my abstract for the third time--judith finally said it was ok. funny how I can write a 200-page dissertation without speaking to anyone but must have my hand held in order to write a satisfactory academese-dialect abstract. goes to show, perhaps, why I am not meant for academia in any sort of formal way.
I post the abstract for your amusement. if you like it, let me know and I will let you read the dissertation which is written in a completely different style thank the gods. I couldn't do this sort of thing indefinitely and there's nothing more indefinite than writing a dissertation.
oh and I made up the title in five minutes because it has to be printed on the abstract and I had to print the abstract today so judith and lyn could sign it. so far I haven't heard from lyn but I'm not sure if she was going to contact me today or tomorrow. michael will sign on thursday.
anxiety is rising a bit. just a bit.
The Question of Ethics for the Metonymically Restless, as posed by Gilles Deleuze, Emmanuel Levinas, and Gertrude Stein
Erik Martin Schneider
Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric
University of California, Berkeley
Professor Judith Butler, Co-Chair
Professor Lyn Hejinian, Co-Chair
This dissertation attempts to articulate a postmodern ethics according to the theories of Gilles Deleuze and Emmanuel Levinas, primarily. Although their sensibilities might seem opposed to one another, I argue that Deleuze's Logic of Sense and Levinas' "approach of the other" can be read as parallel iterations of that which inaugurates the possibility of both a distinction between self and other and of signification itself.
To concretely explain the paradoxical relations both writers set up between Western dichotomies such as inside/outside, language/experience, and subject/object, I utilize Francisco Varela's theory of autopoietic self-constitution of living organisms, reading it as a textual figure for the abyssal origins of the subject. This figure echoes Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen's observations about the Freudian unconscious: that it is not a "subject behind the subject" but is a paradoxical point of dis/identification with the other which renders identity itself undecidable and without discernable origin.
I also argue that Giorgio Agamben's writings create a counterpoint against the oft-disparaged "postmodern" sense of irresponsible free play; rather, they assert that postmodern theories themselves imply an ethics that eludes signification, as do Deleuze's event of sense and Levinas' approach of the other. Keeping in mind this unspeakability, I argue that metonymy makes an apt figure for characterizing both the Deleuzian event and the Levinasian approach, when imagined as an articulation which is the event of speaking and of appearing, but which is not reducible to what is said or that which appears. As such, metonymy functions as a literary trope for Levinasian "transcendence," which does not occur in any "realm" beyond appearances, but is the transcendence of appearance itself.
I conclude with a metonymic link to the work of Gertrude Stein, asking whether her poetics suggest an ethical “way” by which we might proceed without ironically reinstituting a moral code or foundation. I also conclude by asking a series of questions rather than providing answers, thus suggesting that ethical sense as Deleuze, and perhaps Agamben would have it, must be understood as the exclusive gesture of differentiation suspended upon its own potentiality: a metonymic ethics proceeding as questions rather than propositions.