Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Clear and Present Grammar

May may be Mary. Mary may be at stake. Mary may Mabel Mabel may be fairly May Mary.
Grammar returned for instance.
Account for it.
Grammar. Spindles audacious a reading desk copies an obstacle to interesting him here.
Leaving a sentence.

Gertrude Stein
How to Write

Well, clearly, if everyone wrote like Gertrude Stein, deconstruction would not be necessary. Grammatology would never have been invented. There would be no logocentrism (logos would live at the periphery). The metaphysics of presence would hold no sway.

Writing would not make a différance.

Grammatology, as Derrida conceived it, is the science of writing, the study of significance through traces of différance and supplément. Grammatology is a reading, for instance. It may be Mary, however. Reading is at stake. It accounts for it. Grammatology, we might say, presumes a text and that a text has already been read and that the reading has already given the text a meaning, a more unitary meaning than necessary. It presumes a presumption of meaning. Reading reveals a supplement. It tells us that there is more to the text, but not outside it. It shows us what writing does.

Writing ordinarily represents. Ordinary writing represents. Representation writes order. Then there is deconstruction. Be open to it, but do not let Gertrude tell you "how to write". (She was being ironic.) Let others deconstruct what you have written. Let others expose your "dangerous supplements". Get in there and make the difference. Go.

Too many grammatologists fail precisely to acknowledge the danger of what they are doing. They are, in fact, a clear and present danger to "academic writing", writing that attempts to represent. They are utopians who would (they mistakenly think) prefer to live in an always already deconstructed world (they have made too much of Rilke's lament over an "interpreted world"). They would prefer to live without clarity and presence. Without metaphysics, if you will. So they think.

Someone has to write in the ordinary way. Someone has to say that this is the case, damn you, and this. Then others can come along and say that there is so much more to it than we think. I hope it is clear that I respect their work too. I think deconstruction is necessary—or almost necessary. Perhaps it is precisely never quite necessary but always already happening anyway. I am not against grammatology; I am for grammar. I am for writing.

I presume the botanist is not against plant life. The geologist has no objection to stones. Nor does the gardner fear the botanist, nor the quarrier the geologist. Plants grow. Stones lie there. In any case. Indifferent. We write. How Mary.


Presskorn said...

Great post. Spot on!

But a minor detail: "Writing would not make a differánce"... Is that hypothetical true? Isn't it rather the case that differánce is more exhibited in Gertrude Stein? Isn't differánce, as you say, "always already happening anyway"?

(And yes, I know it's ironic that I'm hereby, as it were, guarding Derrida's concept of "Differánce" in a 'non-differential' manner.)

Thomas said...

Stein's writing exhibits (or rather "plays on") differánce only by contrast to other, logocentric, forms of writing. Without logocentrism, no differánce (because no supplément), I would argue. But you are right that another way of saying it is that there would be "pure" differánce (because no supplément to the logos, "the account", as it were).

For all its charm, if everyone wrote like Stein we would ultimately be doing away with writing. (And then surely of differánce!) This is partly a crique of Stein (and Joyce), of course. Wyndham Lewis described her writing as "faux-naif prattle", "baby talk", and in an important sense it is. Someone has to write like an adult.

Anonymous said...

I'm quite sure it's différance and not differánce.

Thomas said...

Thanks; fixed it. I wish I could say there was a clever joke in that mistake.