Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pataphysics--Initial thoughts

"Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun"

--John Donne

I found this book interesting and frustrating at the same time. I will
gripe more about the particulars maybe tomorrow, but this email is
supposed to be as productive as possible.

Response to Becca:

Although suggestive, I'm not sure the four "stages" can be mapped onto
the tropes. I think essentially Bok is creating a very very short
re-hash of standard literary history in terms of pataphysics. He
references Foucault['s "Prose of the World" chapter in The Order of
Things and one can tell that he follows this kind of "episteme" way of
looking at history. What Bok somewhat pretentiously calls
"cyberogranismic phase," which sounds remarkably like "the postmodern"
or even the "posthuman" I think is talking about our 'current moment'.
Becca I think raised a great question as to how we are supposed to
respond to this situation. My guess aligns with John's that pataphysics
allows, as Bok put it, "the conceit to regain its status as a device of
poetic wisdom" (19).

Syzygy and Conceit

I agree with John that we need to look at syzygy and the idea of
conceits. Bok is attuned to Eliot and the Modernist's obsession with
the "metaphysical" poets, the most famous one being John Donne (see the
epigraph). The importance of syzygy I think comes from its mocking of
dualisms and holisms, which ends up producing laughter and pleasure
(jouissance). The equation of this with not this is not a "truth" of
the world--revealing that really all is One, but

"The absurdity of such extremes and their equation is laughable---but
this laughter is itself what negates dualism and affirms syzygy--a
joyful wisdom" (Bok 42).

Also, it seems that the conditions of syzgy are similar to the
conditions of our scholarship and academia: "differing from every other
thing in a system that values the norm of difference [syzygy] serves
the will to confuse" (40). We want to confuse things and mix things up,
but not in order to create a synthesis, but to laugh at the
psuedo-synthesis that we have created--to take pleasure in this act.

I think this gives us the right idea. What I want to call attention to
in Bok is the concept of "measure," as Ulmer was pretty insistent that
we were trying to find a "measure" for the accident. The idea of
"Ethernity" seems to frame the pataphysician as a type of demiurge, and
it seems that Prezi may be just the medium to do this:


"Ethernity is a state of maximum entropy--a nullified condition whose
potential goes unmeasured, unobserved, its eigenstate corresponding to
'the perplexity of man outside time and space, who has lost his
measuring rod and his tuning fork. Like the Maxwell Demon, the
pataphysician intervenes in such a void [. . .] sorting its randomly
distributed atoms into narrowly constructed forms--creating, in this
case, a spectroscape whose maesurements cause a fiat lux ex nihilio"
(Bok 35).

We are the pataphysician that must arrange the elements in the void of
Prezi. However, the difference is we cannot create something from
nothing--we have to have material to work with in order to place it
into the Prezi. Perhaps our own situation on the net has realized some
sort of material limits (measures) of what we can do and make--the free
reign of imagination and association is, as we have reminded ourselves
with our 'human need' we identified tied to embodiment. I have not read
Jarry, but I imagine that issue is that we don't get as much of the
limitations--the fact is that even our Prezi space is 'limited' despite
its visual rhetoric of infinity. In the network and in the EmerAgency
we are not solipsistic, perspectival pataphysicians, but a collective
subject which we are trying to undergo, experience, and ultimately
measure.

(Side note: As I was reading Pataphysics, I was frustrated and yet
intrigued by Bok's appropriation of scientific terminology and his
reduction of the values of science as well as his narrow reading of
Nietzsche as a "perspectivist." The "research" he did, with its breadth
but lack of depth read like a parody of theoretical discourse, except
that Bok doesn't seem to be aware of it in his prose. He goes about the
project seriously AS IF this is the way it is--maybe the joke's on me.
I suppose I could read his insertion of terms (without deciding he will
define them--assuming his audience is familiar with such things) as a
performance of the concept of clinamen--akin to disrupting the flow of
words with a tipo).

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