Posted by: Harold Knight | 11/07/2009

Vive la differends – or what happens when I color completely outside the lines

burton robe

The (man in the) robe

A memory—no, really a flash/back— déjà vu—an event happened long ago yet probably never happened. I approach an intersection (walking up the street from the left (perhaps from the South)) and reach the intersection of (at least) five streets and turn left. Left. Walk up (down) the street looking in shop windows. A corner bar. A novelty shop set back from the street like the storefronts of 50s Scottsbluff. A corner bookstore I cannot enter. What differends does it make? At the end of the street immediately before it drops off into nothing (see Bailey’s Café) I turn left again down the same street. I know this one. Boylston. Brookline, MA. Or is it Broadway. Scottsbluff. NE. Yes, the broad way again and I turn around and come up (why up?) the street retracing my steps past the bookstore, the door set in from the street, display cases in the windows left and right, old wooden door, mostly glass, but when I get inside it’s a horror shop. I run. Frightened. Back up the street past several bars back to the five corners. And the flash/back is over. Over? Did it ever begin? Images: real. Situation: not. A dream? Who came from New York to Scottsbluff and needed Broad Way to feel at home. After fifty years the old Midwest Theater is the West Nebraska Arts Center. Once the home of The Robe, and Richard Burton so broody handsome and Victor Mature so hot. And a few years later Ben Hur and Charlton Heston so overblown and that jaw of his like a prosthetic, so frightening then and no wonder he loved guns you could see it in that goddam chariot race if you were looking. Give my junior high school memory to Richard Burton and Victor Mature any day. I have to decide which of five streets to continue and then I’m back down at the bottom of the street and walking past the shops which have all changed except the bar. But I manage to walk by. Bye. Bye.

            The differends between modernism and postmodernism show up when the modernists,  who are connected to history, the body, and the conscious mind, and the postmodernists,  who provisionally attach themselves to a kind of utopian future anterior, the psyche, and the unconscious mind, decide, if they are modernists, that bodies are real and take precedence over the language that names them, or, if they are postmodernists, that language, image, and technology map and give name to what we call “reality”: our bodies, our beliefs, and even our selves.**

Are bodies real that walk down the same haunted street time and time again (or is it a dream I remember or my rich fantasy life) “connected to history, the body, and the conscious mind” or do “language, image, and technology map and give name to what we call “reality”: our bodies, our beliefs, and even our selves.” Language, image, technology (words I use, images from my past—real, dream, or imagined—computer under my fingers, the screen vibrating in my face and no doubt causing seizures by the minute) map (draw pictures of, overlay the truth of with symbols and simulacra) and give names to it (Broadway, the broad way, the b(roadway), the (bro)ad-way, or the Main Street). 

Let’s leave the worlds of Scottsbluff Midwest Theater Victor Vitanza Cynthia Haynes Lisa Coleman Richard Burton Victor Mature (by all means that charlatan Heston) and wander back to the year of my birth (Wittgenstein’s writing and my life are perhaps coterminous? and which of the roads at the five corners shall we take?).   

midwest theatera

The theater (in/of) my dreams

496. Grammar does not tell us how language must be constructed in order to fulfil its purpose, in order to have such-and-such an effect on human beings. It only describes and in no way explains the use of signs.
497. The rules of grammar may be called “arbitrary,” if, that is to mean that the aim of the grammar is nothing but that of the language. If someone says “If our language had not this grammar, it could not express these facts” –it should be asked what “
could” means here.
499. To say “This combination of words makes no sense” excludes it from the sphere of language and thereby bounds the domain of language. But when one draws a boundary it may be for various kinds of reason. . .the purpose may be to prevent someone from getting in or out…[it may] be part of a game and the players be supposed, say, to jump over the boundary; or it may shew where the property…ends …. So if I draw a boundary line that is not yet to say what I am drawing it for.
500.  When a sentence is called senseless, it is not as it were its sense that is senseless. But a combination of words is being excluded from the language, withdrawn from circulation.” ***

496. The use of grammar in my writ(ing) is confusing only because you expect a certain construction that will, in itself qua grammar, explain what effect I want the symbols I am using (the words, the squiggles on the screen) to have. My words describe, they do not explain.
497. “Could” is the operative word, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse, a horse.
499. What boundaries I draw with my words may well be my secret. Or, if I want you to play my game, I will have to ex(plain) the rules. Or you will have to in(vent) your own rules for my game, and we can work (toget)her (or (separate)ly) with/from the allowable parameters of the (bound)arie(s) I have drawn to decide what I drew them for (can one even draw bounds?).
500. When you call my writing “senseless”, it’s not what I mean that you call senseless. The boundaries I have drawn around my words do not, perhaps, have my desired effect because they only describe what I mean and do not explain to you what I mean.

The overlay of simulacra on my life begins with my walk down the street or my first seizure in second grade OR the seizure I’m having right now. Do my seizures seize my life, or does my brain seize my life and take it down streets it’s been down before but does not recognize, or do I seize my life away from my brain and let it go where it wants (needs) to go without my brain (thinking) to interfere. My seizures, in any event, “surround an area with a fence or a line or otherwise, the purpose may be to prevent someone from getting in or out; but it may also be part of a game” a game a game a game to which neither you nor I know the rules, and I can’t imagine why academics and rhetoricians and composition teachers [or even YOU] you could (what do we mean by “could”) imagine that “language, image, and technology map and give name to what we call “reality”: our bodies, our beliefs, and even our selves.” When there is no reality. All is differends, conflicts irresolvable “for lack of a rule of judgment applicable to both arguments.” ****

scotssbluff north

The (not so) broad way

When the academic rhetoricians have settled the question of “reality,” I want to know what they’ve found. And I don’t care if it’s modern, postmoderen, or post-postmodern.

**Coleman, Lisa, and Lorien Goodman. Introduction.
Enculturation 5.1 (Fall 2003): 
*** Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations, Third Ed. Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1958 (138-139).
**** Lyotard, Jean François. The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. Trans. George Van Den Abbeele. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1988. p. xi.


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