Monday, November 2, 2015

Writing as Counter-Experience: The Saturation of the Lacanian Real

Derrida concerned himself with the privileging of speech over writing, yet he did not have Jacques Lacan’s registers of the Real, Symbolic and Imaginary ready at hand to interrogate the problem of the distance between speech and writing, or more exactly the distance between the movements within the pre-linguistic faculty to the linguistic gestures of speech and writing. In his God is Unconscious, Tad DeLay has introduced a productive plasticity in the Lacanian registers that might illuminate the saturated phenomenon of the givenness of pre-linguistic activity that shape the counter-experience of speaking and writing.


…[A]nything conscious is Imaginary…The Imaginary fuses with reality qua reality in perception…[T]he Imaginary is what is artificially produced. (GiU, 8)


By ‘plasticity’ I do not suggest a deformation or disfigurement of the pre-linguistic---what is going on in the register of the Real, but an immediate, constituting givenness whose suppleness and flexibility gives rise to the mediate realm, which results in a movement into the imaginary (but symbolic, too, as the register of the unconscious) order. As Delay notes, “Lacan calls the Real that which is unassimilable, the impasse of formalization, a knocking at the door that wakes us up before we have gathered our wits to interpret the knocking as a visitor” (GiU, 19). If what is given, knocks itself into our perception, gives itself unconditionally, on its own sui generis, de novo terms, outside all constitution of a priori categories, or a constituting self, then not only is givenness within the register of the Real, but of the same cloth as the Real: better yet, givenness is the Real.

The experience of writing is a rather ordinary, banal experience. But what precisely is writing, whence does it come? We automatically link writing to language, but how does language enter the imaginary order of writing, of text? It is only in the pre-linguistic, pre-textual, pre-intertextual Real that the stirrings of language have their unconditional antecedents. Hence, the experience of the Real, of the givenness of language, emerges in the counter-experience of speaking and writing, which are the produced artifacts of what moves in the pre-linguistic space. This mode of production involves the biological vocalizations, 'speech,' (in this case, of humans) and other symbolic (an unfortunate term here) representations that point to referents.

When I say ‘speech’ I refer to the behavior that uses phonation to effect a sign system which communicates (that is, incompletely translates) the Real to the Imaginary. I do not ever mean to imply ‘a speech,’ something that might be read from a text. That would simply be a sonic rendering of writing. I am talking about the simple behavior of speech which is the extemporaneous speaker’s quagmire, the campaign manager’s nightmare. The very distance between the Real and the imaginary orders underscores the possibilities of lapsus linguae, the imprecision of meaning, the “let me tell you what I meant by that,” the inherent dyslexia of the traversal of the pre-linguistic, pre-textual into marriage of the speaker with her speech, which ironically is the basis of the privilege. When phonation marries its source to the voice of the speaker, an authorization has taken place that is completely absent from writing, which comes from no one knows (at least for sure).

The dyslexic noise, the interference of mediation, (nearly?) detaches the Real from the symbolic. The fall into mediation reflects the distance between thought (or pre-thought) and the word. The imprecision of writing and speech in the symbolic order underscores the saturation of Real imposed on the intuition of language. Because the givenness of this saturated phenomena overwhelms the apparatus of the imaginary order, our experience of the saturated phenomenon of the Real can only enter into the side of the imaginary as a counter-experience. The Real is always ‘there’ completely, unconditionally, of itself by itself in a manner that always saturates the intuition, which in turn thwarts intentionality, in this case, speech and writing. “That is not what I meant, not what I meant at all.”

Back in the days when Noam Chomsky was better known (at least to linguists) as a neo-grammarian than as a political gadfly, a transformational-generative grammar observed rules of engagement that tended to generate less dyslexic surface structures. The new grammar had a kind of certainty and predictability built into it that could not account for a slip of the tongue beyond phonemic discreteness (that language employs sound-bytes that sometimes float away from the larger sound-bytes with which they associate more or less tenaciously). The neo-grammarians were the last structuralists, the last bastion of modernity that could not accommodate the onslaught of post-structuralism inaugurated by Jacques Derrida, who, with Lacan before him (alas, Lacan remained steadfastly a structuralist, as many of his apologists do today), demonstrated that no sign, no sign-system is not already constructed, and therefore deconstructible. Writing and speech then, are deconstructible,  whereas givenness and the Real are undeconstructible.

If writing as such describes a general experience for those who write, then the experience of writing as a mere approximation of the experience of pre-thinking, the movements that lead to writing, would meet the criteria for both the banality and counter-experience of a saturated phenomenon. Of course, not every experience of the movements that lead to writing, and even speech are saturated. They are often not only banal, but quite routine. Some of the simplest performative speech acts testify to this simple objectness of some thoughts: “fill ‘er up with the regular, please;” “move out of the way;” “buy me this.” The connectivity between a Real need and an act that satisfies that need automatizes the relationship between what is immediate, and its mediate expression, even if that Real need itself might be a saturated phenomenon. The automaticity in such simple expressions avoids the interrogation of the need itself, and simply gets something immediate done via the mediate. Of course, such automaticity also begs the question of the experience of the movements within the Real itself.

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