Alex Wilkinson is a Teaching Fellow in the History Department, Lancaster University.
Article first published online: 17 SEP 2013
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Journal of Historical Sociology
How to Cite
Wilkinson, A. (2013), All Things Thrown and Wonderful, All Memories Great and Small . Journal of Historical Sociology. doi: 10.1111/johs.12040
Despite its transversal potential, time has had a tendency to take on a tautological totality in historical discourse. I found myself standing on the display shelf of a shop, seemingly selling a bewildering, but limited, array of stock, some time after I took the photograph. It was as if I had emerged as a ghost in my own haunting of a place. Even in this relatively banal image, a magic interplay of the total and partial takes place, between the various surfaces of the glass, the corrugated iron shutters and, say, the orange toy motorbike seat that is strangling me. I guess – and is this, this this of the guess, not already a gamble? as in the etymology of guess in the Low Country gessen, to appraise or take aim at, to shoot for, a quality – a guess at, or of, the embarrassment that I would wish to declare, to open as a kind of reprieve; in that I am simply embarrassed, I wish and fear, and then hope for my embarrassment, for a force of its own, to give over a stutter to the world for the emulsion in the negative, of the image retained here, for you and all, a kind of nudity so very bare, that it bears not seeing at all, to judge. “There is yet another reason why my reading might be incomplete: although I have no intention to illustrate a new method, I have attempted to produce, often embarrassing myself in the process, the problems of critical reading.” (My emphasis: “souvent en nous y embarrassant”.) So said Jacques Derrida, at the commencement of his peculiar history (for he says this too, of its first part: “certain significant historical moments”) of technique and writing, Of Grammatology. It was a play on the root of embarrasser, to block, from the Latin embarrass, for “obstacle”. There are numerous conceptions of the becoming of writing in Derrida, but his insistence on the uneasy friction (and the often heated concepts, such as cindres, for this friction) of its in-between in the spatiotemporal consistency of (re)beginnings and initiations, is a permanent feature of what he means by différance. Embarrassment here is not any simple admittance of fault and fault lines that have settled in a supposedly perfect surface of academic becoming (of the numerous, “evident”, errors; grammatical or portentous without rigour). Rather, it (re)presents a mode of being with the world and for it, to give forth through a necessary stumbling and tripping; a falling toward the tomb as Derrida once said. Embarrassment can then come to stand not simply for a felt inadequacy, but a forceful conception of what is both hindered and let through in the inscription of a past always in passing across the distributed surface of a time. To emphasise that I wrote this piece in eight hours is not at all an attempt to indicate any virtuosity, but an attempt to move toward the wall, the blockage, and let through, in the back alley of a thoroughly modern situé, a meaning that cannot be hunkered down and caught in a web of signs responding to a political ontology of a desire to historicise according to any stable notion of the gathered. For our concepts to have any force at all, then, we must absolutely insist on their impossibility, at all moments, to transport anything at all. I thus, in the fragile and temporary album above, try to situate myself in-between everything and nothing to consider the somethings that the passing of the past seem to call forth. I would like to thank Yoke-Sum Wong and the external reviewer for their urging to offer this, I hope, slightly more open leaf for which the reader can make an entrance into the rabbit hole. These mausolea (endnotes) are zones of magnetism, force fields, where history contracts itself. Like the rhizome, they offer routes with trick passageways into a perilously fragile sculptural monument to a chance archive, geologically worn from a catastrophic genesis of a potential both visible and invisible at its moment of emergence. I thus could not significantly change the original text (see endnote v) and rather endeavoured upon this more conventional building project, which, as opposed to the incomplete ruin of the topos above, provides a kind of graffiti-commentary spray painting signatures on to some tattered foundational stones. They serve, if nothing else, to preserve the fragility of all writings' becoming, its openness to chance, accident and experiment, and as a reminder, if it were still needed, to the problem facing historical study: that is, not the reality of the past or present as a dialectical becoming, but the passing of the past and the past of passing, a sort of form to something – as Benjamin might say – between redemption, becoming, destruction and the sublime. I provide in these notes, then, some of my influences which, without, I hope, reducing the float of the text itself, provide (partial) access to my desiring subconscious. Where the “original” footnotes offer a full and complete reference I have not repeated it here. See The Thought of the Outside”, in James D. Faubion eds, Essential Works of Foucault: 1954–1984, volume 2: Aesthetics, (London: Penguin, 2000), pp. 147–169 ; Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Raymond Roussel, Charles Ruas trans., (London: Athlone, 1987). For further on the insertion of the “I” see , A Lover's Discourse, Richard Howard (trans.), (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978). For a comparative to the forgetting of the present, see the forgetting of death: , Death: an essay on finitude, John Llewelyn (trans.), (London: Athlone, 1996). See also two books encountered subsequent to this article's becoming: , I Swear I Saw This: drawings in fieldwork notebooks, namely my own (Chicago and London: Chicago University Press, 2011); and , Edgelands, (London: Jonathon Cape, 2011). Together with Gail Scott (see endnotes vi/ix) they are two works that have encouraged me of the import of this enterprise. For the above see , Of Grammatology, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (trans.) (Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 1997); Glas, John P. Leavey and Richard Rand (trans.), (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987). I would like to express my utmost thanks to the postgraduate community in the Department of History at Lancaster University who listened, sympathetically, to a version of the paper, and to Derek Sayer, Yoke-Sum Wong, Dariusz Gafijczuk and John Strachan for their constant support in the preparation of my work over the past four years., “
I must thank Kathleen Stewart, Allen Shelton and Haruki Murakami, who while each in this text through fleeting quotations, provided my route into the rhizome and the burrow like no others, and revealed to me some wings to go on flight with. And, of course, Derek Sayer, without whom there may have been no possibility of routes at all. If I have become-Icarus, it is my fault.
They talk of this in many places. See Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, (London and New York: Continuum, 2004); and , Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, Dana Polan trans., (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1986). For Deleuze alone also see , The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, Tom Conley trans. (London: The Athlone Press, 1993).and ,
Pirouettes on a Postage Stamp.,
- Article first published online: 17 SEP 2013
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