Friday, March 28, 2008

Shadow Stabbing#7: The Autre

"He moves his words like a prizefighter."

Pugilism is the sport of boxing. The Latin can be traced back to the Greek "pug", meaning fist. The Romans had something called a "pugillary" (pugillaris), which was a kind writing tablet (you held it in your hand, your fist). Norman Mailer compared writing with boxing and, characteristically, himself with Muhammad Ali. Irving Layton once wrote a poem called "Poetry as the Fine Art of Pugilism". Boxing and writing: things we do with our hands.

In this week's video I'm trying to bring out the force of representation—its "symbolic violence". But it's a pretty tame film, don't worry. I have found that there is a tension in postmodern writing between its hard-boiled awareness of the violence of writing and the compassionate vulnerability of its concern for "the Other". It's more than just the plea for a fair fight. It is about respecting the very real struggle over the significance of a text.

I'm still spending a disproportionate amount of time on the technical aspects of film making. I'm once again prouder of the audio-visual effects in this video than the intellectual content. I need to find a better way of planning what I'm going to say, without falling back on a scripted performance. I've now done seven; I have got nine more to go to finish out the first "season". Comments and suggestions are welcome. And do feel free to rate these videos on YouTube.

Next week, inspired by this post at (especially Teppo's first comment), I'm going to talk about how doctoral schools can support the efforts of PhD students to become good writers. I have some experience in that area. Until then, keep searching ... and keep your fists up!

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