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Nightwood: Nightwood Stewart, Christine Anne 1996

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NIGHTWOOD: NIGHTWOOD by CHRISTINE ANNE STEWART B.A., The University of British Columbia, 1992 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of English) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA December 1995 © Christine Anne Stewart, 1995 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2788) ii Abstract The novel Nightwood (1936) stalks proximity through a textual realignment of written history, through a writing alive to its own contingencies and through an insistent rearticulation of its signifiers. It struggles to circumscribe into discourse that which has been foreclosed from signification. It releases language from the melancholic stupor of normative prose and initiates a wide-scale process of resignification. This thesis is an exploration of these textual acts, acts which push language beyond the confines of normalizing discourse into performative, structural and philosophical sites of investigation and reconstruction, toward the open production of new meaning. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Table of Contents iii Acknowledgments V Dedication vi INTRODUCTION 1 Prologue 12 Prolepsis 16 Apologia 18 Nightwood 19 Parti Predatory 20 Part II Melancholy 21 Part HI Language and Melancholy 26 Reiteration I 28 Reiteration II 29 Part IV Possibilities 30 PartV Drag 32 Thematic Drag 33 Structural Drag 35 Writing in Drag 37 Reiteration I 43 Part VI Metonym 44 Reiteration/Repetition 50 Semantic Punning 52 Aside 57 Part VII Metaphor 58 As If 62 Aside 66 Tautologies 67 Coda 68 La Scene Blanche 69 Part VIII Allegory 71 Aside 79 Coda 79 iv Part IX A Composition 8 0 Monsters 82 Monster 88 Monster Productions 91 Body 93 Addendum Sleep 98 Stopping 1 0 0 Epilogue 102 Notes 1 0 3 Works Cited 1 0 7 Works Consulted 1 1 0 V Acknowledgments To all those who have somehow written me here writing: Bob Laxdal, Catriona Strang, Dennis Stewart, Fenn Stewart, Haeden Stewart, Gerry Katz, Kathleen Allen, Karen Stewart, Jenny Lawn, John Lane, Lisa Robertson, Pat Stewart, Pam Cheslatta, Peter Quartermain, Susan Clark. For Lillian, Charlie and Olive 1 Introduction Nightwood:Nightwood Writing is the exiled genius of language. Twisted in its opposite consequences, the abstract of beautiful wrists. What age opens it to each floundering skin, what impatience leaves open the noise of thought capsizing, worn thin in risk, beyond entrenchment, beyond mimic, to lip. 2 Clamourous: I am endlessly talking of language, and here, in a confusion of genres, gravity, genders, and sense, I begin again. I've been laughing at myself for arriving so late into this furl of presentation; but the pleasures of linking its boundaries, dispersion and collisions keep me insistent, transcendent. My theatre scissors speak an orchestra through twenty mouths in one time. My instrument: graft, fragment, imagine, bears deposits, leaving its questions in perilous abeyance. Above all this gesture, this stubborn project occupies and jostles endlessly my posture from its hinges. Hatched, wrapped in its turbulence and assurance, abandoning dictum to its fate, I've come indirectly to this encounter, to this work of precarious abundance, to these pages, to this inventing. 3 Guides I am only invading flesh in a consequence. Neither waking nor blooming, but thin, dark, and under fire. Like the rest of my animals molten and distinct, this l iving furrow toy-shifts beneath the empire's bellow. These balms, these inward lips carry, bodied and reluctant, necessary refusals, details, glorious nipples, cold water, no storage, god and its stench. The body in its way is light drawn. It smacks of pattern. Its space a fictive reign over a chapped shadow. Chaffing, clearing, dying this structure de-rails the bent war borrow. Its heart is dissident. 4 Compass What happens, what fuzzy organ eviscerates this screen, what land is free of its taste. What window evidences its red bully flush, laugh and suck and kiss 5 Abstract II Sometimes it is absolute to imagine a story that is a small tear in a tiny fold so widely ashamed and invisible that one's epoch appears only like a tiny stitch in endless wooden cloth. God is composed and leveled. Flesh rots while it's still on their feet and eyes fall out of their sockets and hands raise against hands. Local altercations still enact an original event and begin by writing and repeating language in startling places and also by calling attention to this event and extending outward or going forth where the movement of extending is the lap of a different kind of startling place. This is not the surface of the hand but the concept of the wounded human animal, the wet and glittering wound, the material plague, the wind, the arrow, the storm and atom. Here are the mutilates and the imperils where angles are kindled and people weep through their eye-holes. Language is their fear, their exhaustion, their longing for melons and fruit and sufficient wounding. It is an organized scene of doubt apprehended in the identity of its stain. It is the vocabulary of punishment: Swallow me for I have the incontestable reality of an unfeeling of emptiness. The failure of disbelief is covered and hard stuff: I know that you are obstinate and that your eyebrows are of brass. 6 Abstract III Earlier a plague of frogs would have designed this passage, withholding a body, closing the ears, turning the shoulder; but this voice hovers on its neck and our lips bloom like fire. A massacre will always be followed by another in a cultural web of leaves and wholly reveal its fragile interventions. The verbal impunity of eternal life comes from eating the final sentences of eviction. It takes root in the separable categories of a body where necessity flowers its own texture. Here, absence is ladled with ambiguity. Lashes to lashes execute the body's position in abbreviated lines such as these: a scurrying category in the wilderness; eaten by people; burnt to fire; ground to powder; scattered to water. Visual centuries of hours have made this their central conduct. Erratic arms depict the neck. Just as a gate predictably allows us to enter into a field of vision, centuries strand from one another, created but homeless. Holes and nests are unthinkable and wet has a growing darkness about it. To have a body is to finally permit ... E. Scarry 7 Orientations Sometimes it's so absolute that the woven page seems tissued in an invisible shred of labour and agony. Opening and closing I will become plain and obliterated surface and even shouts of GRACE, G R A C E as early on as the image will only generate your complete indifference. 8 Argument All this is not to say body, but frail and persistent theme. Like a sentence everywhere. Or, you smell of wood and stone. And Shall will write in her hand, these startling places: Part shapes your mouth, glittering: Objectless. But it has no body, this narrative arrow, this half twine. It is before the stunned mind like beautiful sheep—all blue, all purple, all scarlet stuff. History bit. Rib. The integument flesh thinks its flush. tween luck & Rude lips. Luxurious absinthe mask of blur birds Pettish wax p each. 10 Instrument Nature languishes, and tears straight from the mouth of mouth's clatter. Its an old anarchical soul trick, crushed by the head its own metaphor. Severed by the vapours of its own body, lost between dusk and divulgation. Breath sucks from the principle of its situation. In the darkest hour, barely considered, bored with the heat, digging silent wide places, stacked with matter—there are no works of Voltaire (for I never intended these sly burned stitches) —but instead a love carnal, without cynical testicle or count lapse—but instead a head perfect, and a pore bigger like the anthropology of soft parts, like buttocks, breasts and flesh; like skull, snout and subject. 11 Coda The artifice is alive in its disintegration and life coils around it in imaginary gestures as if the view were embodied, as if the view were real. I could swallow its fiction to the extent of its flood, to the extent of its delicate deficiency. I could send it out of nothing except a voice. My artifice states against the background of its clamour. I imagine its taste, its full tilt as if fullness could muddle the representation of its alien. Its crystal precipitate is the precision of its swept-out dryness, of its lush pull: we are secretly alive, we are silently oceanic. 12 NIGHTWOOD: NIGHTWOOD Consider the rhetorical difficulty of circumscribing within symbolic discourse the limits of what is and what is not symbolizable. (Judith Butler, Bodies 190) Prologue Written on the brink of the twentieth century, written in the extremes of its own meaning Nightwood stalks proximity through a textual realignment of written history and through a writing alive to its own contingencies and to the revolutionary possibilities in the insistent rearticulation of its signifiers. It struggles with the rhetorical difficulty of circumscribing within symbolic discourse what is and is not symbolizable. Suppose not being eaten. Suppose the possibility of not being decorated, not bolted down by syntactical polyphagia but probable arms, leverage, legs, and sufficient feet already—a new textual geometry might pattern them, bring them to light on a page. The artist might construct the piece. The piece could be fabricated, but not yet built. The decision rests. Suppose writing against the predatory condition, suppose the system's rapacious pace is stilled by an aggressivity of form as form, by an insistence on and a redemption of history, of matter, of word. Nightwood is the blind inkling of its own clamour; this thesis tracks the instances of its revolutionary possibility. 13 How might the excluded return, not as psychosis or the figure of the psychotic within politics, but as that which has been rendered mute, foreclosed from the domain of political signification? (Butler, Bodies 189) In The New Science, Giambattista Vico argues that poetry, not prose, is the original, and "necessary mode of expression," and that its primary tropes—metaphor, metonym and allegory—are based on "a logic derived from the most particular and sensible ideas" (301,300). The loss of this notion of poetic language and a general reliance on the subdued manners of standardized prose to communicate matters of necessity is the result of certain social and cultural imperatives which demand that language represent a specific coherent and seamless 'real'.1 The presentation of this real demands a composure from language, and an invisibility to its sutures. It tends to drive the particular into the universal, and that which is sensible, as in that which is perceived by the senses, into the confines of the preconceived. It avidly dissuades its readers from textual interaction and places language within its melancholic hold. Only that which is considered a structural failure belies the inner workings of normative prose. Poetic language, on the other hand, purposefully and repeatedly calls attention to itself and its workings. It engages its readers structurally and lexically. It invites failure into its fold. And it is by virtue of this failure that poetic language can be engaged to undermine the presentation of the normative real. The novel, Nightwood, is both failure and poetry. Failure, because its seamed and visible prose fails to preserve the norm or to conceal the cultural imperatives in its inscription, and poetry because the unruly nature of its prose fully meets the terms of Vico's definition: originary, sensibly and particularly logical, necessary. Originary in that it evolves out of an alternative textual arena that is based on a defiance of convention's stupor and a confession of history's rot; sensibly and particularly logical because its objects—its signs and signifiers—are presented within a reinscribed textual space which loosens them from their traditional contexts so that they are sensed and made sensible within a dynamic of new relations; necessary 14 because the failure of the novel works to relieve language of the melancholic burden of the normative real and by doing so renders intelligibile that which has been foreclosed from the realm of signification. This thesis tracks the failure and poetry of Nightwood and investigates its renderings by tracing its rearticulations of metaphor, allegory and metonym and by investigating the role that melancholy plays in the inscription of conventional language use. This thesis explores how the text's scrutiny of the inner machinations of its tropes reveals a concealed plasticity to their limits and how textual utilization of this plasticity transfigures metaphor, metonym and allegory into performative, structural and philosophical sites of investigation and reconstruction. It also explores how this transformation releases melancholy's hold on language and initiates a wide-scale process of resignification. In the novel textual rearticulation begins with hyperbolic performances of traditional metaphoricities—based on unification and generalization—in which hidden cultural imperatives are exposed. This exposure marks the beginning of a structural and contextual disengagement from conventional metaphoric patterning. In turn, the disengagement creates textual space within which resignification occurs based on a metonymic system and whereby meaning is achieved through relationship, contiguity and proximity. In this process, the conventional use of allegory is also redeployed. Allegory is commonly considered a substitutive and illustrative trick, an empty sign which acts in accordance with a ritualistic necessity. But, the knowledge by which allegory is known and interpreted is the accomplishment of an institutionalized and concealed subjectivity. In Nightwood the subjectivity of conventional allegory is accentuated and exaggerated as a means of its erosion and disintegration This process produces a baroque evocation of allegory in which the visceral and inextricable entanglement of meaning with materiality, history and decay is expressed. This evocation carries with it the melancholia of the baroque vision, but Nightwood, intent on the expression of its own substance, disturbs that melancholia. Gazing into the disquieting guts of meaning the 1 5 text avoids the ennui inherent in the baroque sensibility. It locates paths of resistance within a system of allegory that expresses transience and decay. Nowhere in Nightwood does allegory express a profound and hidden theme. It acquires emphasis from the elemental world of the text. Its meaning is derived not by virtue of substitution, but by proximity. The "ecstasy [of the word and world] is preserved . . . [freed from the profound, ] secularized in the prosaic, as is necessary . . . " (Walter Benjamin, Origin of German Tragic Drama 234). The textual rearticulations of these tropes effect the evolution of a structural metonymy which provides a relative and open textual field, an alternative linguistic condition within which the particulate and contiguous natures of both signifier and signified reiterate in relational proximity. Loosening the tropes from the melancholic paralysis of the political and social systems they have served allows them to re-signify. The re-combination and the particulate re-accentuation of subjects and words that occur within this space allow for the possibility of at least the partial expression of that which has been excluded from the whole of the intelligible. This expression is discussed and explored in the final pages of this thesis. 16 Prolepsis A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably. (Wittgenstein) In response to the view that linguistic alterity is not a political act let alone an effective political act, I include this prolepsis.2 One never stands outside the metaphysical enclosure; one can only deconstruct it, show its ground to be undecidable. (Margaret Whitford 127) This thesis does not attempt to prove that poetic language is inherently politically mobilizing, nor does it suggest that we can somehow place ourselves (miraculously) outside of language and alter its sway, but rather that our shared systems of grammar reflect and linguistically enact our social systems of control and exclusion, and that, in the face of language systems which promote a non-sutured representation of reality, poetic language can be a resistant force. In Nightwood, the use of poetic language reveals that the very tropes and signifiers of which it is composed are what Butler calls "site[s] of a perpetual meconnaissance" and that these sites can only fail, structurally and lexically, to encompass the symbolic fields they have been set by convention to determine (Bodies 191; original emphasis). This failure is partly due to the fact that in order for these tropes to represent, within the normative system, a stable and consistent real they must be established as stable constructions. The establishment of stability is dependent upon the constant reiteration of these forms. Yet, paradoxically, reiteration can serve to jostle and undermine the very meaning it seeks to secure. As a result, the potential for destabilization in reiteration is a central and constructive factor in the production of new meanings, new subject positions and in political mobilization against the crippling ties of the norm. Linguistic resistance to normalizing language trends, based on the destabilizing potential in reiteration, can open language to the possibility of inscribing that which has been proscribed from representability. Because 17 the proscribed serves to define and preserve the articulated subject, any aspect of its inclusion will alter the existing social scenography. By virtue of the necessity of reiteration, even language writing the normative real contains its own loop-holes and its own access to alterity. Nightwood openly declares this instability through the hyper-conscious reiteration and hyperbolic imitation of conventional linguistic conditions. The text becomes a site of poetic interrogation which overtly challenges, disengages and redeploys the figurative and literal hold our normalizing linguistic systems have on us. It is in this way that poetic language can help to re-form the ways in which we think and see; it can help to re-write a world. It can move us toward the expression of what Chantal Mouffe refers to as "the not-yet-assimilable horizon of community" (qtd. in Butler, Bodies 193; original emphasis). The not-yet-assimilable horizon is crucial to the poetic project which is Nightwood. And that project is the open production of new meaning. 18 Apologia I am writing a manifesto—it is burly and thickset, blue and goatish. I would wish this on no one, this impossible densed heart. I would pause in the undead of cosmology, in the specular pause of materiality. We have choices and we have neither. We are sticking our fingers down its throat... This rising gorge of silence. (Lorraine Weir) 19 Nightwood From 1927 to its publication in 1936, Barnes wrote Nightwood against criticism and rejection. Publishers complained that it was not a novel but "all high spots and poetry," and that due to its perverse subject matter it would never be accepted (Plumb 150, 153). But, driven by need, and by the encouragement she received from friend and fellow writer Emily Coleman, Barnes managed to finish the novel in the autumn of 1935. In the spring and summer of that year Barnes worked full-time on Nightwood and her letters to Coleman express the extremes of her writing condition: May 5: [T]he whole damn floor is a mess of it, no table big enough to spread it all out on, so I crawl about on the floor... May 17: It lies here on the floor, and I circle around it like the murderess about the body, but do nothing. I seem to have no power only an awful despair. (Plumb 151). Taking to "one's heart the dark misery of the close nightmare, born and slain of the particular mind" (AW 137), Nightwood is the convulsive shudder of "the broken arc of two instincts, recoil and advance " (AW 65). Recoi l : Pulled from the torpor of melancholy, language is lurched back into the matted agony of itself, turned from lethargy and consumption, up-rooted, corporeal, staggered, scattered under its own weight. Advance: Writing, unabashed, into the site of writing. Writing, cathartic and voluptuous resting on the resplendent laurels of its own artifice. Writing, writing strident into the eye of its own exercise, its own collision. Writing, intersecting, indenting, positing its own matter, its own formative power into the world: "leaving hollows . . . to be warmed by others" (Clark Coolidge 181). 20 Predatory Predatory writing3 takes a stab at paradise, at the unmediated presence of the real, and expects to miss. Ravenous claims on an always unobtainable real are the conditions of its system. It exists as the endless expression of loss and insatiable longing. Its longing for an unapproachable real creates within it a sense of its own diminished potential and thus inflames its predatory nature. It eats the world's heart out so as to swallow what it cannot own. The predatory intent in language can set words scrabbling at a world's flesh in all genres. Conventional expository fiction of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, a descendant of Romantic angst and Victorian repression—what Ron Silliman refers to as "the genre of fictional realism—" is predatory language at its most unrelenting ( l l ) . 4 Silliman links the disembodiment of the word to the development of capitalism from the sixteenth century onward, whereby words became associated with, and perceived as, commodities. Communicating its favourite version of reality, capitalism obfuscated the connection of the word to the world. Selective tuning reinforces language's expository and narrative capabilities, restricting its more vagrant possibilities, lobotomizing its stacked and flushy stutter. Conditioned over the centuries for what Silliman calls the "illusion of reality in capitalistic thought" and constrained within a yoke of specific referentiality, the word increasingly became a transparent vehicle of limited means (10): It is the disappearance of the word that lies at the heart of the invention of the illusion of realism and the breakdown of gestural and poetic form. (Silliman 12) Popular fiction of the late Victorian era thus expressed the results of a four-hundred-year-old process of dismemberment within which words were severed from "any tangible connections to their human makers" (Silliman 8). 21 Melancholy Coincident with the rise of capitalism in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, was an increase in melancholy. Although melancholy had been recorded as a mental and physical illness since Ancient Greece, it became cause for concern in the new middle-class of England. In the midst of economic growth and potential this increasingly wealthy class experienced increased "madness, gloom and self murder," particularly among its educated young men (J. B. Bamborough xxiii). It was in response to this perceived crisis that the clergyman Richard Burton left the church to conduct a life-long study of melancholy (Bamborough xxiii). Being then as it is, a disease so grievous, so common, I know not wherein to doe a more generall service, and spend my time better, than to prescribe means how to prevent and cure so universall a malady, an Epidemicall disease, that so often crucifies the body and minde. (Burton 1:110) The Anatomy of Melancholy is florid and encyclopedic. It is a treatise on melancholy within which the relationship of melancholy to madness, genius, and language is explored: Guianerius had a patient could make Latine verses when the moon was combust, otherwise illiterate. (1:400) [S]urly, dull, sad, austere . . . proud, soft, sottish, and halfe mad . . . and yet of a deepe reach, excellent apprehension, judicious, wise and witty. (1:391) In the sixteenth century melancholy is a "cold and drie, thicke, blacke and sowre" humour (1:141). It is caused by a weak spleen, lost love, black wine, religious devotion, jealousy, gold, scoffs, solitude, bad air, good books, shell-fish, rationality, witches, poverty, Saturn, a hot liver, a cold stomach, 22 old age, and the "peretuall racke" of desire, etc. (1:280). Burton's work is largely concerned with the physical effects of melancholy and its possible cures: Their urine is most part pale, and low coloured . . . . and thence proceeds winde, palipitation of the heart, short breath, plenty of humidity in the stomacke, heavinesse of heart and heart ake, and intolerable stupidity and dulnesse of spirits. Their excrements or stoole hard, black to some and little. If the heart, braine, liver, splene, bee misaffected, as usually they are, many inconveniences proceed from them, many diseases accompany, as Incubus, Apoplexy, Epilepsie, Vertigo... (1: 383) In the baroque period that follows melancholy remains bodily centered but its victims exhibit an additional mental condition: the obsessive contemplation of the human condition, its frailty, imperfection and decay. This condition enhances the already present idea of the melancholic genius and persists until it is most fully incorporated into nineteenth-century romanticism and symbolism. During this period the relationship between melancholy and the body (urine, winde, humidity in the stomacke, etc.) is lost. The disease is understood as an artistic state of mental indulgence and insight Melancholy becomes a popular literary trope symbolizing the sensitive poet's futile (but noble) search for truth and beauty in a mutable world. As a result, melancholy is reduced to the sensual gloom of isolation. It becomes a metaphysical ache too refined for its sixteenth century symptoms: I have found a definition of the beautiful. It is something intense and sad, something a bit vague . . . a contradictory impression of ardor . . . and a desire for life with a bitterness which flows back . . . as if from a sense of deprivation and hopelessness. I do not pretend that joy cannot associate with Beauty, but I will maintain that joy is one of her most vulgar adornments, while Melancholy may be called her illustrious spouse, so that I can scarcely conceive a type of beauty which has nothing to do with sorrow. (Baudelaire qtd. in Max Pensky 151) 23 Within this framework, joy is relegated to the intestinal, and melancholy to beauty. The artist's search is linked to "deprivation and hopelessness," and language is set the task of possessing the unpossessable. By the early twentieth century melancholy catches Freud's interest. Like the Romantics, he curbs melancholy's material scope, keeps it from the corporeal, and turns it mind-ward. However, unlike the Romantics, he is fascinated with its mental origins and its victim's attraction to self-annihilation. In Freud's descriptions, melancholy loses its Romantic glamour. It becomes a crippling disease. Its victims, tedious and narcissistic (General Selection 129-130), suffer from dejection, an inability to love, narcissism, physical apathy, and self-hatred expressed in "self-revilings" and "a delusional expectation of punishment" (General Selection 125). In Freud's view, the melancholic turned from 'reality,' from the outside world, in an expression of psychosis, not genius. According to Freud, melancholy is the result of the ego's unconscious refusal to accept the loss of a loved one. In "Mourning and Melancholia," he claims that the ego's refusal to mourn is an attempt to deny its loss. This denial results in a process of phantasmagorical absorption in which the characteristics of the lost love are brought into the ego. This absorption is problematic because it is illusory and because it both denies and includes the ambivalent feelings in the relationship: its love and its hate. The denied and absorbed ambivalence persists unacknowledged within the ego and expresses itself in two ways: identification and self-loathing. Identification results because the ego now identifies itself with the lost object. Self-loathing occurs because the ego's denied ambivalent feelings toward the lost object turn inward (like a toe-nail). The ego's self-loathing is increased by its fight for mastery over what it cannot control (General Selection 138-39), and by its attempts to preserve the lost object "by devouring it" (131).5 These processes—the absorption of the lost other and the denial of grief—are meant to save love from annhilation but, in fact, create melancholy. In later work, Freud claims that the process of absorption subjugates a crucial psychological dynamic. This dynamic is the erotic-cathexis or 24 object-cathexis (The Ego 22). The erotic-cathexis is the responsive and infusing surge of libidinal energy that relationally intersects the ego and the world. In the melancholic, this libidinal confluence is replaced by a thickening and sadistic solitude of identification. Flux and ambivalence turn inward to narcissism, self-hatred and identity. Disavowal of loss, the denial of ambivalence, and the obsessive and phantasmagorical identification of the ego with the lost object mark the state of melancholy. Butler's recent extension of Freud's theory brings gender into the fray. She furthers Freud's theory of melancholy by exploring "the centrality of melancholia to gender" (Gender 57). Butler claims that the melancholic process of internalizing lost loves is crucial to gender formation because it is often the incest taboo that creates the loss of a love-object for the ego. However, the absorption pattern of identification and self-recrimination differs in this model according to the sex of the tabooed subject. In the case of heterosexual desire in a child for its parent, the object is disallowed, but not the etiquette of the desire. In the case of the same-sex desire of a child for its parent both the desire and the tabooed object require abnegation and so become absorbed into the ego by virtue of the internalizing strategies of melancholia (Gender 59). The identification of lost object, and, in the case of same-sex desire, the desire itself, become permanent, but subconscious, fixtures of identity in the ego and in the development of character (Gender 58). The lost object: father, mother, lover, and the denied desire are brought inside the ego. Here, melancholy is a drawing up, a drawing into, an inspiring (an in-breathing) of a double loss. Butler claims that the increased melancholic containment and disavowal of loss that occurs in the case of the tabooed homosexual relationship renders the spectacle of masculinity and femininity melancholic (Bodies 236). In fact, heterosexuality, within a North American context, is melancholic, because it is the denied, non-grieving preservation of the exclusion of same-sex love and this is exhibited through heightened feminine and masculine identification (236). Butler argues that, as a result, the most heterosexualized woman is a melancholic lesbian. Her hyper-25 feminized being is the mimetic manifestation of the woman whom she loved but was not allowed to love. Her heterosexuality is an expression of the desire she was forbidden to desire and the grief she was forbidden to grieve. The same is true of the highly heterosexualized man. What is most obviously danced as gender in our heterosexual culture—as feminization or masculinization— is the melancholic mark and press of the disavowal of homosexual desire, and loss, and grief. [Tjhe "truest" lesbian melancholic is the strictly straight woman, and the "truest" gay male melancholic is the strictly straight man. (235) Although Butler's theory extends melancholy from its historical background, it retains a similarity with the previously mentioned models; that is, melancholy's relationship with loss and the desire for possession of the unpossessable, that "perpetualle racke" of desire (Burton 280). The object of possession varies but a passive and infinite longing and its infinite impossibility remain. From at least the sixteenth century to the present, melancholy has rested, to some degree, on a site of phantasmic investment and failed expectation. Among its symptoms are its deadening effects: distance from the world, alienation from the self, depersonalization, sadness, heterosexuality. The lost and desired thing is often unnameable, always irretrievable, and always withheld. And yet, melancholy is the dialectic of illness and empowerment. Its madness can be interpreted as pathetic or inspired; its passivity is acedia (spiritual slothfulness) or a thoughtful withdrawal from a painful world. If melancholia has been understood, in part, as the subjective search for objective meaning it has also been defined by the impossibility of this search. To break from its narcissistic hold, from its paralysis, repression and propensity for self-annihilation, it is necessary to locate and activate melancholy's capacity for sight and to locate meaning in the meaninglessness it discerns. 26 /// Language and Melancholy Although the relationship of language to melancholy is present in Burton's work—wit or a sudden affinity for verse often attributed to its victims—the most obvious connection between language and melancholy is present in the Romantic model. The image of the poet feverishly writing verse between bouts of consumption and ennui places language firmly in melancholy's hold. But the fact that the rise in melancholy in the sixteenth century coincides with the rise of capitalism, and the disembodiment of the word, suggests that the relationship of language to melancholy is more complex. As capitalism utilizes language to further its gains and to reflect its own specific real, language becomes increasingly commodified. This increased commodification effaces what Silliman refers to as the "original connecting point to the human," that is, the materiality of the word: its existence as signifier (8). Language becomes increasingly transparent under the pressure of increased commodification. This transparency results in the failure of language to accommodate the very system which enforces its transparency. Because of this failure, language is sometimes defined as a meager imitation of the real, as a deferral of presence. But most often its failures are denied and condemned to haunt the borders of normative discourse. The losses that language suffers under the normative regime are compensated for in a process which is similar to what Freud calls absorption. Absorption involves the word's anxious phantasmagorical consumption of the object to which it refers. In language, this absorption or consumption occurs because the loss of materiality of the word renders the material world lost to the word. Anxious to deny its loss (the loss of its relationship to the physical world, the loss of its relativity to the world) language phantasmagorically absorbs, consumes the identity of the object to which it refers. This process of absorption includes the ambivalence that exists in the relationship between object and word (its consistencies, its 27 vagrancies). The absorbed ambivalence is denied but continues to exist within the word expressing itself in plaintive obsessive phantasmagorical identification and a linguistic self-loathing: identification, because the word must appear to adhere coherently to its object, and linguistic self-loathing, because coherence is impossible, as is all meaning, within this framework. In turn, the process of identification thoroughly subjugates the erotic-cathexis. In terms of language, an erotic-cathexis can be understood as the relational, frictional, intersecting and performative (surging and suffusing) site where language meets and means with the world. This libidinal surge is reduced and misrepresented in normative realism's linear identification of word with its object. In his work, Freud claims that the character of the melancholic ego forms out of its "abandoned object-cathexes" which contain the disavowed histories of its "object-choices" (The Ego 19). In normative language procedures, an erotic-cathexis of word with world, and the histories of its previous object-choices (its unruly etymologies), are ignored in language's anxiety to identify itself endlessly with a composed (no libidinal surges) word as a composed (unruffled) object. In this system, language insists endlessly that cat (the word) fully totalizes cat (the thing). The word claims, through absorption and consumption, to be the object it identifies with. Paradoxically, as a result of this, the very object which it claims is lost to it. This loss is internalized and disavowed. The word can never fully identify with the object it claims to claim. Because normative realism insists on comprehensively representing the world, the process of loss, phantasmagorical absorption, denial of loss and ambivalence becomes the only possible way to achieve signification. Normative realism is a legacy of loss, denial and consumption (products of a capitalist tradition). An acknowledgment of language's inability to encompass fully and eternally that which it represents is impossible in normative realism because to do so would be to admit infinite deferral, and to accept the intrinsic impossibility of meaning. The terrifying threat of meaninglessness, present in the overt libidinal sally of the word as word, perpetuates the repression and denial of language's failure to totalize and necessitates the disavowal of the loss. As a result, within a structure of normative realism, language is intrinsically melancholic and meaning rests on the trembling distinction of loss and disavowal. 28 Reiteration I The melancholia of normative realism arises from the fact that the very performance of the sign is determined by a system that disavows its ambivalence, its performative powers, its grief and loss. In language, the loss occurs on two levels. First, despite its promise, the attempts of normative realism to fully encompass a social field or to adequately represent any object of the world inevitably fail. This failure is necessarily inexpressible because this realism depends, for its real, on the illusion of accurate representation. Under these conditions, language's inability to conjure up an iterable world without mediation, loss or contradiction causes it to identify in an extreme and hyperbolic fashion with its lost object This system denies the presence of the word's complex and voluptuous relationship with the object and the sordid history of its previous object choices, thereby disallowing the expression of its losses and of its nomadic past. As a result, this realism must insist that it can contain the entire lost object/other within the word, and not only within the specific duration of a particular utterance. Anxious to preserve the lost object by virtue of its phantasmic incorporation (cat is cat), and frantic to disavow its grief and loss, this form of realism becomes increasingly plagued with psychosis. The second level on which loss occurs is in within the dimension of language's tangibility. The tangibility of language is restrained within this form of realism. The gestural qualities of the word which center language within itself as thing arid which acknowledge language as a site of production, within its site of production— the human— are necessarily denied because an attendance to the word's physicality would release its anarchical potentials and dissolve the hypotactic logic of normative writing into mutation and swerve. 2 9 Reiteration II The application of Butler and Freud's theory of melancholy to language makes it possible to understand that language strained most avidly to advance itself as a consistent and unmediated route to the real is the straightest and most melancholic language. Language frantically disavowing the elaborate ambivalence, and sedimentation of its past, and the explosive potential for bifurcation in its present—what we have been taught to recognize as standard expository no-nonsense prose—is actually language at it saddest. The forsaking of the potentiality of homosexuality, within the heterosexual matrix, is an exclusion that produces a standardized (heterosexual) field of acceptable objects and identifications and a non-standard, abnormal realm of the unacceptable. Standard normative prose and its system of identification are also based on the denial of ambivalence, multiplicity, the vagrant nature of desire and on the relegation of these forces, and their objects of association to the realm of the abject. This relegation of the non-standard to the realm of the unacceptable serves to further define the realm of the so-called norm. It does not, however, eradicate the presence of ambivalence, of disavowal, loss, history and gesturality in the word or in the world. 30 IV Possibilities The inevitable failure of signifiers to fully encompass that which they describe opens them to the possibility of resignification: Paradoxically, the failure o f . . . signifiers--"women" is the one that comes to mind—fully to describe the constituency they name is precisely what constitutes [them]... as sites of phantasmic investment and discursive articulation. It is what opens the signifier to new meanings and new possibilities for political resignification. It is this open-ended and performative function of the signifier that seems to me to be a radical democratic notion of futurity. (Butler, Bodies 191) To write outside melancholy would be to write beyond the realm of consumption and predation. In the early twentieth century many writers rejected the predictable onslaught of predatory normative realism and among them was Barnes. Barnes liked Burton's book, Anatomy of Melancholy (O' Neil 40), and Nightwood reflects its copia verborum. Grounded in a physicality of excess, Nightwood pulls melancholy from the metaphysical lull of the Romantics and the psychological realm of Freud's studies and back into a materiality that is resonant with Burton's text. Through a redeployment of melancholy and its relationship to language, the text challenges normative systems of meaning, the relationship of these systems to gender, race, and even identification itself. One of the ways in which these challenges take place is through the potentially de-stabilizing properties of textual and lexical drag. According to Butler, drag fiddles with, "the weakness in the norm" and divulges the failure of the normative regime to control or contain its ideal (Bodies 237). To understand how it is that drag can expose the melancholic standardized field and its proscribed outside in a hyperbolic performance of gendering and 31 identifying theatre, it is necessary to keep Freud and Butler's theories of melancholy in mind. 32 V Drag [D]rag exposes or allegorizes the mundane psychic and performative practices by which heterosexualized genders form themselves through the renunciation of the possibility of homosexuality. (Butler, Bodies 235; original emphasis) Exaggerated obsequiousness to the predacious command exposes the equally outlandish in the so-called norm. The compelling pull of drag, the visual attraction and distraction of its excess and overt performance, is manifest in Nightwood on both a thematic and contextual level. Thematically, cross-dressing is a powerful recurrent motif in the novel. Structurally the text performs in extreme and lavish identifications and dis-identifications. 33 Thematic Drag Drag is the parodic appropriation of the performative, transitive process by which gender is governed. It is not necessarily subversive but it can mimic and expose the normative imperative in which a subject, in order to remain a viable subject, is compelled to cite and recite a norm it can never fully approximate. For instance, as Butler argues, drag can bring into view "the mundane impersonations by which heterosexually ideal genders are performed and naturalized" {Bodies 231). Drag suggests that femininity and masculinity are neither aspects of choice nor of body parts, but a complex play of relations between materiality and power approbation and shame. The most powerful instance of thematic drag in Nightwood is when Nora surprises the Doctor, late one night, in his bedroom:6 The doctor's head, with its over-large black eyes, its full gun-metal cheeks and chin, was framed in the golden semi-circle of a wig with long pendent curls that touched his shoulders, and falling back against the pillow, turned up the shadowy interior of their cylinders. He was heavily rouged and his lashes painted. (AW 79) While the Doctor's attire is parodic it is also, as Nora understands, the "natural raiment of extremity,"(80). "What nation, what religion, what ghost, what dream, has not worn i t . . ." Nora asks (80). The gown is the dress of crisis and ritual. It admits itself as the performance of form and it exposes those who wear it as the performed. On the Doctor the gown expresses "the grave dilemma of his alchemy" (80). The suggested platitude—that the doctor is a "woman" trapped in a "man's" body-erodes in the word alchemy. Alchemy evokes both nature and artifice; chemistry and transmutation. The grave dilemma of the Doctor's alchemy is that "woman" and "man" are formal, social conditions and constraints that demand a denial of a subject's extreme mutability and of the impossibility of "proper" gendering. The Doctor's desire to be a 'real' woman is the means by which the norm is reiterated as the desire of those it subjects. 34 God, I never asked better than to boil some good man's potatoes and toss up a child for him every nine months by the calendar. Is it my fault that my only fireside is the outhouse? (AW 91) However, the denormalization of sex or gender through drag does not automatically ensure freedom from their constraints. As Butler writes "[d]rag is a site of a certain ambivalence" which "reflects the more general situation of being implicated in the very regimes of power by which one is constituted, and against which one fights" (Bodies 125). In Nora's dream her grandmother appears in men's clothing, and an initially absurd image turns sinister: [T]he grandmother who, for some unknown reason, was dressed as a man, wearing a billycock and a corked mustache, ridiculous and plump in tight trousers and a red waistcoat, her arms spread saying with a leer of love, "My little sweetheart!"- (AW 63) The grandmother's leer infects the expression of love with a threatening sexuality. The grandmother is no longer only ridiculous and surprising. She is dangerous. Apart from recent biographical studies that suggest that Barnes was sexually abused as a child by her grandmother, the leer, the billycock, and the bulging body in its male drag suggest that to dress the part is to act the part. Nora's grandmother assumes 'normal' exploitive and abusive male behaviour along with her male drag. For the Doctor this also holds true except the role is reversed. His desire to be a woman implicitly contains the desire to be exploited and abjected. He models his female self after the most banal and pervasive male fantasy: the blonde, who comes equipped to satisfy the reproductive command: [A]m I to blame if I have turned up this time as I shouldn't have been, when it was a high soprano I wanted and deep corn curls to my bum, with a womb as big as the king's kettle . . . (AW 91) In drag, the Doctor fantasizes about occupying a position of sanctified abjection. In a phallogocentric framework, women are afforded 35 this position because of their biological usefulness. As a homosexual and a transvestite the Doctor can only occupy a position of complete absentia where his worth to the heterosexual cause is that of providing the abjected other against which the norm is ratified. Despite drag's potential to denaturalize normative gender practices, it can also serve to confirm rather than displace those practices. The solitary condition of the Doctor's life confirms the high price that is paid for crossing the naturalized boundaries of sex and gender. That price, as well as the fear it engenders helps to stabilize gendering systems. However, the price itself also suggests an anxiety, a fissure in the very systems which make such a cost intrinsic to their maintenance. Structural Drag It may seem, however, that there is a difference between the embodying or performing of gender norms and the performative use of discourse. Are these two different senses of "performativity," or do they converge as modes of citationality in which the compulsory character of certain social imperatives becomes subject to a more promising deregulation? (Butler, Bodies 231) [AJttack language at its point of silence and demand speech from it. (Steve Mc Caffery) The word, ungrieved, ungestured, as a narrow conduit of pre-dated, pre-determined meaning (of convention's reality) necessarily subsists in a languor of melancholy. Language withheld from itself reiterates endlessly its own afflicted, obsessive, and irreconcilable removal from the world. The task has always been to create language systems within which the word is a site of rearticulation that cannot be predetermined, that continually express loss, the combusting gesture of its presence, and the precipitates of its abandoned erotic-cathexes and its history of past object-choices. The word as a site of rearticulation, as a never fully descriptive site of contestation will permit previously inarticulated constituencies to form. 36 Its failure to totalize a social field, to fully represent, becomes the condition of its efficacy, the locus of its possibilities. Writing, initiated as an unstable site and as interrogative tool of that which it necessarily excludes in its drive towards intelligibility, can preceed and simultaneously exceed the representational limits that confine it. words will always escape into their own mystery (Susan Howe) 37 Writing in Drag In the first years of the twentieth century many women wrote against the tyranny of the predominant fictional realism.7 Virginia Woolf, in particular, focused on the presence of loss and melancholy in language. In her writing, she wrote against the fictional realism of her time to locate another real: the thought thinking, the mind seeing, the heart feeling. She often found words lacking in this task: Words fluttered sideways and struck the object inches too low. (Woolf 240) The object and the word are mutable and moving. The mechanics of normative realism render the world unattainable, ineffable. To want something (anything) is to want nothing or everything, "for nothing [is] simply one thing" (Woolf 251). Within a system that insists on totalization, predation and possession, desire itself is the expression of emptiness. To bring to words a role language cannot play is to insist on the insufficiency of words to imitate; and it is to discover that within this framework the very nature of language is insufficiency, melancholy, and loss: To want and not to have... a hollowness, a strain. And then to want and not to have—to want and want—how that wrung the heart, and wrung it again and again! (Woolf 241) Following Butler's theory on drag and heterosexual melancholy and applying it to normative prose suggests that Woolf s work initiates one of the ways in which language can be released from its melancholic weight and the signifier freed from its over-burden of signification. The acting out of the repressed grief and loss in realism can bring about a further incorporation of language into the physical and phenomenological world that it is said to represent. It can express the unexpressed grief of the failure of language-as a system of deferral-and it can lead to the expression of the repressed gesturality of the word, that is, language's intrinsic link to itself, to the human, and its proximal relation to the world. 38 While Woolf s writing leads to the expression of the repressed gesturality in language by exposing the failure of normative language practices to legislate their own ideals, Nightwood centers on that gesturality. Nightwood performs the normative in language as operatic, as camp, and reveals the vagrancy of language's past, and the unobtainable desire in its present. Once shaken, language spills, and meaning—within the realm of normative predatory realism—is divulged as resting precariously on a complex system of disavowal. By virtue of a hyperbolic excess that strains the notion of representation and verges the evocation of something other, the text of Nightwood wears, like the Doctor, the "raiment of extremity" (AW 80). It expresses itself as form and its characters as the performed. As a result of this avowal of the performativity of discourse and identification, the norm never manifests itself in the novel. It maintains a phantasmagorical exophoric state. The norm is expressed only in relief by virtue of its mimicry. What is represented is the realm of the abnormal and the unacceptable. Molded on exaggerated patterns of normative realism, Nightwood exposes the theatre of the norm and in doing so writes into intelligibility and presence the abject, against which the norm is determined. Nightwood is a text in drag. The novel's first paragraph is a descriptive scene-setting paragraph typical of the conventional novel taken over the top: Early in 1880, in spite of a well-founded suspicion as to the advisability of perpetuating the race which has the sanction of the Lord and the disapproval of the people, Hedvig Volkbein~a Viennese woman of great strength and military beauty, lying upon a canopied bed of a rich spectacular crimson, the valance stamped with the bifurcated wings of the House of Hapsburg, the feather coverlet an envelope of satin on which, in massive and tarnished gold threads, stood the Volkbein arms—gave birth, at the age of forty-five, to an only child, a son, seven days after her physician predicted that she would be taken. (AW 1) The text releases what Weir calls the "the operatic potential of the word."8 Nightwood is a spectacle of excess and over-dress. 39 The lady was a sumptuous Florentine with bright sly eyes and overt mouth. Great puffed and pearled sleeves rose to the prick-eared pointings of the stiff lace about the head, conical and braided. The deep accumulation of dress fell about her in groined shadows; the train, rambling through a vista of primitive trees, was carpet thick. She seemed to be expecting a bird. (AW 6) It loops in an audacious and ironic over-drive that drapes in the voluptuous hollowings of its own folds: The long rococo halls, giddy with plush and whorled designs in gold, were peopled with Roman fragments, white and disassociated; a runner's leg, the chilly half-turned head of a matron stricken at the bosom, the blind bold sockets of the eyes given a pupil by every shifting shadow so that what they looked upon was an act of the sun. The great salon was of walnut Over the fireplace hung impressive copies of the Medici shield and, beside them, the Austrian bird. (AW 5) Words pile up on words and evoke a claustrophobic ramble of image and intent. Narrative progression is slowed to a relative stand-still amidst dense passages of detail and entanglement. The reader, rather than being caught inexorably in an invisibly proceeding narrative flow, is held by the tangible density of entwined words. A readerly suspension occurs that is not the suspension of disbelief, but rather the suspension of belief. That is, that while the text evokes compelling visual images, its excess and eccentricity is so great that the reader is repeatedly dragged from those visual, exophoric imaginings back into the actual intestinal workings of the text. This encourages the reader to re-read the text and to re-engage with the text on a structural level and so reiterate the text's already shaky promise of stable intent. The melancholic placement of language in an illusionary stationary site of meaning is loosened. The dense and theatrical nature of the word expresses through mimicry and by virtue of its insistent strangeness, the quotidian and melancholic performance of normative prose by which the conventional practice of realism is naturalized. Common textual occurrences like description are taken to such a degree that the text's extreme tract threatens to unwrite itself. Rather than being an exercise in 40 identification, description becomes something closer to a series of dense lexical implosions: Confronted with nothing worse than a general in creaking leather and with the slight repercussion of movement common to military men, who seem to breathe from the inside out, smelling of gunpowder and horse flesh, lethargic yet prepared for participation in a war not yet scheduled (a type of which Hedvig had been very fond), Guido had shaken with an unseen trembling. (AW 4) Although excess occurs throughout the text it does so most aggressively within the Doctor's conversation. His language structurally and lexically exposes the psychic and performative practices by which the predatory norm forms itself. His endless, digressive, hyperbolic, chaotic speaking is a public avowal of loss and a revealing of the systematic machinery behind the vast illusion of sanitation, sanity and normative reason. In the chapter "Watchman, What of The Night?," after Nora has found him in bed, in drag, he removes his blonde wig, covers his nightgown with thick and dirty sheets, and speaks to Nora about his favourite topic: the night. The Doctor's spectacular speaking of the night is a dense theatrical disclosure of the submerged: Have you ever thought of the night?... .Well, I, Dr. Matthew-Mi ghty-grain-of-sal t-Dante-O' Connor, will tell you how the day and night are related by their division. The very constitution of twilight is a fabulous reconstruction of fear, fear bottom-up and wrong side up. Every day is thought upon and calculated, but the night is not premeditated. (AW 80) While the Doctor's dress mimics that which is most obviously performed as gender, the sign and symptom of the pervasive disavowal of loss, his verbal excess mimics that which is most obviously performed as normative language. In the following passage the Doctor tells Nora of the evening he spent with Jenny and Robin. In a particularly digressive passage he describes his own inner anarchy, his own 'madness' on a philosophical, historical and visceral level: . . . and I went mad, I'm like that. What an autopsy I'll make, with everything all which ways in my bowels! A kidney and a shoe cast of the Roman races; a liver and a long-spent whisper, a gall and a wrack of scolds from Milano, and my heart that will be weeping still when they find my eyes cold, not to mention a thought of Cellini in my crib of bones, thinking how he must have suffered when he knew he could not tell it for ever—(beauty's name spreads too thick); And the lining of my belly, flocked with the locks cut off love in odd places that I've come on, a bird's nest to lay my lost eggs in, and my people as good as they come, as long as they've been coming, down the grim path of "We know not" to "We can't guess why." (AW 101) The nonsensical nature of this passage is a hyperbolic mime of normative sense.9 The wild and assorted anarchy of the Doctor's physical interior is framed against the rational and empirical basis on which the validity of the autopsy is formed. This description links the intestinal with history, geography, emotion, nomenclature, and speech ("a long-spent whisper"). It drags the flesh into line with history and discourse and reflects the power of discourse to materially posit the effects of its expression. It also expresses the visceral and formative powers of loss. That the lining of the Doctor's belly is flocked with locks cut off love in odd places, and a bird's nest to lay his lost eggs in, suggests that not only our psychology is molded by grief and absence.10 Here, through the absurd, language seeks refuge from the insupportable oppression of the norm. The outrageous becomes the possible, the alternative, the impossible possibility of language's ambivalence. Why? Because you are sitting there with your own meditation and a legend (which is nipping the fruit as the wren bites), and mingling them both with the Holy Spoon, which is that story; or you can get yourself into the confessional, where in sonorous prose, lacking contrition (if you must) you can speak of the condition of the knotty, tangled soul and be answered in Gothic echoes, mutual and instantaneous—one saying hail to your farewell. (AW 21) 42 Nightwood rejects the insisted direction of normative prose, takes language past the mark, tilts its predicted destination and lets go: She had a hat on her as big as the top of a table, and everything on it but running water. . . (AW 27) Nightwood evades the expected: the kitchen sink. The container remains unnamed. The cemented historic gaze loosens and rivets: The doctor grinned, biting his teeth. (AW 27) Words miss their intended meat, teeth greet teeth. Words drift, collide and land inches too low in an intentional redress, in an intentional polyphonal and non-predatorial language play. In the cafe with the Doctor, Frau Mann (her name, a bipolar field: woman/man) speaks in a 'warm voice' (27). Within this textual environment there is texture and Frau Mann's voice bears the literality of its adjective. Warm no longer bears the metaphorical load of congeniality or affection; Frau Mann's voice increases in temperature and supports the warm matter of its breadth. Words revive and startle us into somewhere else. 4 3 Reiteration I Baudelaire's image of beauty: something vague and sad, a desire stilled by a sense of poignant deprival and hopelessness—expresses Romantic melancholy. Melancholy in this model becomes aligned solely with the traditional transcendental realm of the metaphysical, the space of beauty and the sublime. Sorrow is linked with beauty and the body gets the boot from melancholy's bed. The male artists bears the metaphysical, existential progeny out of his melancholic angsL Creation loses its materiality, its entanglement; and joy gets lumped in with the bowels. While the central image in baroque melancholy was the body (albeit the body as corpse), Romantic ideology turned melancholy almost completely incorporeal. Nightwood retrieves the bodily in melancholy and avoids the Romantic paradigm within which an encounter with an object is necessarily translated into its (traditionally) transcendent other. Nightwood erodes the dominion of melancholy by its transmutation. Hurling into the heart of signification to reveal the relationship between identification and hopelessness, between definition and ruin, Nightwood redefines what it means to mean. 44 VI Metonym It is this metonymic excess in every mime, indeed, in every metaphorical substitution, that is understood to disrupt the seamless repetition of the phallogocentric norm. (Butler, Bodies 48) Unlike metaphor which involves similarity, metonymy relies on contiguity and on only one conceptual domain. Via metonymy it is possible to refer to one entity in a schema by referring to another in the same schema, or, one entity in a schema can be taken as standing for another entity (within that schema) or for the schema as a whole. It is a system by which things are understood and derive meaning from the exposure of their singularities and the dynamic of their relationships. According to Hejinian, "metonym moves attention from thing to thing; its principle is combination rather than selection . . . [and] [c]ompared to metaphor, which depends on code, metonym preserves context, foregrounds interrelationships" (38); Because metonym is determined by virtue of relationship rather than by a prescribed frame of reference within which similarity is highlighted, it can be a less restrictive and a more investigative form than metaphor. . [T]he radical democratic reformation of ideology (still and always itself ideological) consists in the demand that... signifiers be perceptually rearticulated in relation to one another. (Butler, Bodies 193) Following Jakobson's studies on metaphor and metonym, Whitford marks the following distinctions: [RJelations of contiguity become a form of displacement (metonymy) or condensation (synecdoche), while relations of similarity [metaphor] become identification and symbol. (Whitford 178). 45 In order to move from the figurative use of metonym to the implementation of a metonymic structure it is useful to think of metonymy, as Hejinian does, as something "intervalic, incremental—[and] measured" (39); that is, that metonymy is concerned with the relationships between distinct and specified objects. Because metonymy means through its connective links it is able to maintain the particularity of the objects with which it is concerned. Vico writes that the first poets, unable to abstract their observations, gave names to things "from the most particular and sensible ideas" and that this was is the source of metonym and synecdoche (a form of metonym in which the part stands for the whole) (300).11 Paying attention to the particular and to that which is sensibly perceived, metonymy highlights both the objects concerned and the space between them by creating relationships of contiguity. Jakobson claims that the connections themselves become objects in their own right (312). Metonymy's concern with distinct objects and their connectives is, as Hejinian states, both intervalic and incremental. That is, metonym is accumulative (not amalgamative) and a facilitator of space. Although metaphoric constructions can be considered to create space, metaphoric space is quite different in nature. Whitford's discussion of Jakobson's understanding of metaphor and metonym helps to explain this: Jakobson mapped the axis of substitution/selection onto metaphor, and the axis of combination onto metonymy. He also pointed out . . . that whereas the axis of substitution is depended on the code (i.e. the complete linguistic system as a whole), and limited by certain constraints or rules governing the type of word which can be substituted, the axis of combination is related to context: although more constraints remain (word order for example), it gives the possibility of limitless and open-ended combinations. The stock of words which can be selected from the code, although large is finite; the stock of possible sentences is more or less infinite. Substitutions [metaphor], then, are finite; they draw upon the available lexical stock.... Combinations [metonym], on the other hand, are infinite. (Whitford 178) 46 Through Jakobson, Whitford points out the important distinction between metaphoric substitution and metonymic combination. It is this distinction that determines the difference between conventional metaphoric space and metonymic space. While metonymic space is framed by a metonymic construction (language) the space is not (as in metaphor) determined entirely by the language of the metonym. The centrality of combination to the metonym causes it to be determined by proximity and context. This disallows an easy, predetermined interpretation.12 Metonymic space is a less determined space. It allows the separateness of its parts to be maintained and it provides an effective 'way out' of the confines of conventional language use. For Hejinian, metonymy is the principal trope in a poetic project of inquiry, which is dedicated to a re-seeing of the world (38). [Cjonditions are incomprehensible without the use of analytical conceptual structures, but an initial, essential recognition of difference—of strangeness—develops only with attention to single objects while others are temporarily held in abeyance. (Hejinian 43) In Nightwood, a recognition of difference or the cognition of change requires a shift in thinking; a temporary movement away from metaphoricity and a critique of its methods. As Kittay states, metonyms are "shifts of meaning" and it is this movement within the metonymic construction that signals a presence of space, and the room to move (295). Nightwood dismantles conventional metaphorical systems in order to accommodate "shifts of meaning." Initial hyperbolic mimicry of heavily metaphorized conventional prose works toward the deconstruction of metaphoric systems so that a metonymic expanse can occur wherein language is re-worked. This progression becomes most clear in the final chapter of Nightwood, where conventional metaphorical structuring and its implicit ontological baggage are replaced by a radical metonymical structure that allows the expression of the unpredictable and the proscribed. The development of this structure for the expression of the unexpressed involves a large-scale structural and thematic clearance. On a 47 thematic level this restructuring culminates in the final chapter of Nightwood when all the men in the novel—fathers, sons, doctors, transvestites etc.—have been cleared away; and with them the constant weighty reiterations (albeit often non-traditional reiterations) of white western phallogocentric historical discourse. The only characters that remain are the women: Nora, Robin and Jenny. By the last page of the last chapter only Robin, a dog and a few objects remain. This is not to suggest that history and its effects disappear but that they are no longer wholly recognizable: they have been defamiliarized. For example, it is explained in the last chapter that because Robin has taken the Catholic vow she goes to church. However, Robin goes to church "as one renouncing something" (AW 167). To renounce is to disclaim, to forsake a previously acknowledged relationship and having taken up the vow it is possible that Robin's renouncement is a classic religious renunciation of worldly affairs, but Robin's prayer belies this reading. Robin stands before the altar holding her hands before her face, as if in prayer, but her mind is fixed "in an unthinking stop as one who hears of death suddenly" and her teeth are pressed into the flesh of her palms (AW 167). This recalls an earlier image of Robin awakening on the bed: "we feel that we could eat her, she who is eaten death returning, for only then do we put our faces close to the blood on the lips of our forefathers" (AW 37). Images of consumption and communion are echoed within the gesture of Robin's prayer. In order for her to understand herself as loss, as sacrifice: the blood on the lips of her forefathers, she presses her own teeth into her own hand. The eaten are those whose annihilation feeds and fattens the phallogocentric norm: the forefathers. If the eaten eat or at least taste that which is eaten there are two possible consequences. One, is full consumption, full renunciation resulting in self-annihilation: the completion of the melancholic project where the fixed place of the unthinking stop is not only the moment when one hears of death but the moment before the certainty of one's death. The other possibility is that the act of pressing one's teeth against one's own hand is the acknowledgment of one's metonymic position to oneself. That is, that the unthinking stop of one who hears of death suddenly is the space within which one begins to matter, not only as the consumed by which the norm defines itself, but as an intelligible subject who will in turn consume. The death in this instance can be that 48 which accompanies the evolvement of a self-critical dimension that occurs when one rests within a metaphysics of metonymy. Or, as Thoreau writes, when "we may be beside ourselves in a sane self" (144).13 The evolving metonymic potential of the text also takes place on a temporal and spatial level within the context of the final chapter. For example, in the first sentence Robin's claim to Jenny that a hotel "was 'good enough'" can be read as a rejection of the paradigmatic time present in the bucolic Romanticism of Jenny's previous suggestion that "they should make their home in the country" (167). Paradigmatic time is rejected in favour of the syntagmatic linear time present in "hotel."That is, home is a paradigm and hotel is a metonymic structure: small square rooms joined in a contiguous relationship; intervalic chunks where human life checks in and out. Implicit in this evocation of the hotel is the linearity of Christian time in which, without redemption (traditionally transcendental signifiers), the world of materiality leads, step by step, to death. Also present, however, in this evocation is the suggestion that the anti-Romantic linearity indicates a possible way out of present and repressive systems of meaning and the form and proceeding acceleration of the text suggests that something 'other' is taking place. Nora bent forward, listening; she began to shiver. After a moment she got up, unlocking the doors and windows. Then she sat down, her hands on her knees, but she couldn't wait. She went out. The night was well advanced. She could see nothing. She began walking towards the hill. (AW 169) In the passage above the sentences rest in hyper-attenuated suspension. Each one is held momentarily in abeyance as the reader moves in measured beats from sentence to sentence. Each sentence is a contained lexical and material unit that occurs in a linear chronological order. The resulting textual linearity, however, is permeated by intervals of free space in which the text is accelerated and wholly unpredictable: "She began to run, cursing and crying, and blindly, without warning, plunged into the jamb of the chapel door" (NW 169). As Hejinian writes "metonymic thinking moves more rapidly and less predictably than metaphors permit. . . ." (39). 49 Following this passage is an amassing of detail. Outside referents, that is, metaphorical relationships by which these objects have been historically given meaning, dim in the onslaught of detail. Religious iconography is framed on a less than traditional level. The altar is "contrived"; before the image of Madonna lie flowers and toys, and standing before them, a woman in the clothes of a boy: On a contrived altar, before a Madonna, two candles were burning. Their light fell 1 4 across the floor and the dusty benches. Before the image lay flowers and toys. Standing before them in her boy's trousers was Robin. Her pose, startled and broken, was caught at the point where her hand had reached almost to the shoulder... (169) The metonymic representation of Robin here importantly presents her as an object within a field of other objects. The metonymic figure "[h]er pose" is a representation of Robin by her physical body. Robin's physical stance stands for Robin. It is emphasized and particularized. "Her pose" is "broken" and caught." "Her hand" is followed by "the shoulder." The use of the definite article the to introduce Robin's shoulder is a further development in the textual production of Robin as metonymical figure. Robin is a thing, a physical and particular object made up of other particular objects all of which exist in and of the world. Here on the page is altar, hand, shoulder, Robin: object next to object. When Nora plunges into the door jam it is "her body" that strikes the wood of the door. Nora has become Nora's body and Robin "going down" towards the dog is never referred to as Robin again (169). Robin is now "she" on all fours: knees; veins; ears; arms. The separate elements of a phenomena are most clearly placed in relation to one another . . . all clearly circumscribed and delicately differentiated in meaning, delimit persons, things, and portions of incidents in respect to one another, and at the same time bring them together in a continuous ever flexible connection; like the separate phenomena themselves, their relationships—their temporal, local, causal, final, consecutive, comparative, concessive, antithetical, and conditional 50 limitations—are brought to light in perfect fullness; so that a continuous rhythmic procession of phenomena passes by, and never is there a form left fragmentary or half-illuminated, never a lacuna, never a gap, never a glimpse of unplumbed depths. (Auerbach 6) [AJllowing our eyes to open slowly in an exercise of precision. (Bros sard) [A]nd at the moment that Nora's body struck the wood, Robin began going down. Sliding down she went; down, her hair swinging, her arms held out, and the dog stood there, rearing back, his forelegs slanting; his paws trembling under the trembling of his rump, his hackle standing; his mouth open, his tongue slung sideways over his sharp bright teeth; whining and waiting. And down she went, until her head swung against his; on all fours now, dragging her knees. The veins stood out in her neck, under her ears, swelled in her arms, and wide and throbbing rose up on her fingers as she moved forward. (NW 169) Increased metonymic structuring clears further textual space for the last words of Nightwood. It is the foregrounding of a local and temporal present. It is in order for a text to inscribe into the world experience that has been denied expression. It is necessary. Reiteration/Repetition In the last four pages of Nightwood, the word head appears thirteen times. This reiteration creates two conflicting effects. On one hand, the textual use of head, head, head etc. creates a concrete sense of headness. It calls into being the lexical plane of headness: "head-long," "head turned," "head-on" and the word exists as thing. Conversely it also points to the word head as an unstable referent because it is displayed in separate intervals and different contexts within which the word is held in abeyance and reviewed. Objectifying the word and emphasizing its transient, mutable and context driven condition signals the potential of its performative power. That is, that through the expression of its materiality, of its signifier-ness 51 and of the transience of its signification, the word evokes its own plasticity and so expresses the perpetual possibility of its future reiteration, and future significations. The expression of the word as simultaneously concrete, unstable and performative forms out of its repetition and effects the continuing sense of literality in the text. Each word is read within the frame of its reiteration --'The veins stood out in her neck, under her ears, swelled in her arms, and wide and throbbing rose up on her fingers as she moved forward" (169). Each word means within with the transience of its condition, the historicity of its materiality, and the possibilities of its futures. This is a realism of alterity. To metonymize is to evoke matter, to evoke matter is to evoke a sedimented history of social, sexual hierarchies and erasures. To evoke matter is to evoke language as a sign, to express the interiorized and repressed radical other of the linguistic. The sign matter of the word is a site of "an inchoate drama" (Butler, Bodies 49). The necessary violence of reiteration on the totalizing norm is based on the acknowledgment of the performative and formative power of discourse. Nightwood is structured to avow and encourage the uncontrollability of its signifiers, and this, I would suggest, is a political and intentional act.1 5 52 Semantic Punning Engaging language as a medium for the perceiving of perception, for the discovery, assertion and even production of one's own particular reality is the linguistic challenge crucial to the formation of new subject positions. Another technique with which Nightwood challenges and explores the limits and possibilities of language is word-play. The word-play in the final chapter literalizes subtextual invocations of conventional expressions: a technique of semantic punning. For example, the text literalizes the expression of 'coming to a head' by incorporating (through repetition) the extensive lexical plane concerning heads (as mentioned above). On a language level this connection between the head in the conventional expression and the repeated presentation of the heads of Robin and the dog is metonymic. Similarly the phrase knocking-on-wood, is suggested throughout the last pages of the book. The act of knocking-on-wood is done to prevent something one has said from becoming a reality. Like "death that cannot form until the shocked tongue has given its permission," language has the power to create reality (NW 167). Or vice versa; that is, that language stands in a metonymic relationship to reality; and reality in a metonymic relationship to language. Each is an integral part of the other and definable only within the context of the other. The text demonstrates this. Jenny's condemnation of Robin's "sensuous communion with unclean spirits" puts Jenny's "wickedness into words." This results in Jenny having "struck herself down" (168). Nora's "cursing and crying" ends as she plunges "into the door jamb" and it is Nora's body striking against wood that sends Robin down to the floor and to the dog (169). Both Jenny and Nora are "struck" down, silenced and absented from the text. But the striking, the silence and the absence have peculiar resonance. Jenny has "struck herself down" and the echoing of the word struck gives Nora's unpredictable collision a suggestion of intent: of motive power. Striking themselves down, Jenny and Nora prevent the words they speak from becoming a reality. If the language Jenny and Nora speak effectively silences and absents them as women and lesbians, if, in fact, Nora and Jenny have been perpetually silenced in speech anyway, then than what does a cessation of that speech mean? If speaking is silence then does not 53 -speaking speak? Does it produce a space where Robin is "moved out of death's way" as successive women knock wood and word and themselves down leaving Robin (who rarely speaks) room for something else? Within this room, in the scene in the church, a certain verisimilitude is restored. Objects are pried from previous ideologies. The distinction between words and things becomes indistinguishable. Experience is direct and sensuous contact. Robin is not 'possessed' so much as 'dispossessed.' She is dispossessed of systems of silence and annihilation. She barks. 1 6 T o understand what is metaphorical, we must begin with what is not metaphorical. In brief, to the extent that a concept is understood and structured on its own terms—without making use of structure imported from a completely different conceptual domain—we w i l l say that it is not metaphorical . . . . Consider dogs, for example . . . part of our conceptualization of a dog is non-metaphorical: the four legs, wagging tale, cold wet black nose (Lakoff and Turner, 57) It is interesting that while writers like Barnes and Hejinian view this metonymically derived space as a liberating tool for circumventing the fixed structures of language it is viewed as threatening by others. In Rhetoric and Death Ronald Schleifer quotes George Steiner's work on Modernism and empathizes with Steiner over the "crisis of sense" (1). [T]he "crisis of the word and meaning" in the twentieth cen tu ry . . . [has] disrupted traditional Western apprehensions of the possibilities of transcendental significance in experience—significance, most specifically, in relation to God and to dea th . . . . That crisis, he argues, is the unprecedented transformation of the fecund confrontation of intelligence with "the facticity of death, a facticity wholly resistant to reason, to metaphor.. ."(1-2) Both Schleifer and Steiner consider Modernism a kind of metonymic chaos which expresses the death of God, patrimony and the metaphor. [Discourse is inhabited or haunted, metonymically, by nonsense as well as by 54 meaning, that beyond all the eloquence of language is the "flash of insight" Marlow gets in Heart of Darkness, as an understanding that, in the world in which he finds himself, neither speech nor silence makes much difference. (8) Schleifer's and Steiner's nostalgia for metaphor and reason, and their disapproval of the metaphysics of "radical metonymy" in Modernism (2), suggests that if one's interests are being served by existing structures, "hierarchized, definitional value-gradients" might be desired constructs. But, while Schleifer defines the Modernist penchant for metonymy as unintelligible howl in an endless dark, Barnes figuratively and intelligibly HOWLS. Hejinian explains how metonymic structures represent aspects of the world that Steiner's so-called rational structures viciously suppress: [T]he return to metonymy, to the concrete fragment of nature,... is a return to tangible simplicity, to the convention-free. (Warburton qtd. in Stafford, qtd. in Hejinian 42) Similarly to Hejinian, the seventeenth century language philosopher Vico felt that the practice of metaphorization was one that obscured observation. To metaphorize, he felt, was to insistently place oneself figuratively and obtrusively in front of the world and so block it from view: [I]n all languages the greater part of the expressions relating to inanimate things are formed by metaphor... the eyes of needles and of potatoes; mouth for any opening; the lip of a cup or a pitcher; the teeth of a rake.. . . All of which is a consequence of our axiom that man in his ignorance makes himself the rule of the universe, for in the examples cited he has made of himself an entire world. . . . [T]his imaginative metaphysics shows that man becomes all things by not understanding them (homo non intettigendo fit omnia). (300) Vico claims (albeit metaphorically) that it was metonymy that "drew a cloak of learning over. . . prevailing ignorance" (299), and that the presence of metonymy signifies "[a] poverty of expression" in language (301); that is, that metonymy emerges when expressive needs exceed the current capacity of language. 55 But, what can be said about the last events in Nightwood ? Looking at the ending from a perspective of language is problematic in a sense because Nightwood closes with a bark. However, Lakoff and Johnson's speculations about the origin of metaphor in language could suggest a direction that a description of the last pages might take. They claim that language is largely metaphorical because our conceptual system is fundamentally metaphorical and that this system correlates to our bodily experiences in the world (3). According to Lakoff and Johnson, one of our initial and most basic experiences is that of ourselves as entities, as containers with an inside and an out, separate from the rest of the world, and that we project these conceptualized boundaries upon the world and the things we find there (58). As a result, this metaphorical ontology manifests itself in language (58). In the last chapter of Nightwood, the novel culminates its movement through a negation of metaphoricities in a movement into and through metonymy. Is this movement a post-metaphorical textual evocation of a metonymical re-emergence of being: a predominantly metonymical state of conceptualization, within which presence is not containership but a cognizance of proximity or next-to-ness? Is Nightwood a linguistic challenge to traditional notions of being? If, as Vico claims, in metaphorizing we become all things by not understanding them and so lose the world, is Nightwood a metonymical textual re-structuring, where words are bared-ringing and singular to themselves and to their contexts—an attempt to locate that world? For a woman, lesbian, writer, etc. living inside a language that is disjunctive with experience, a movement toward a language state relatively free of past metaphoric over-burden might be a first step to re-word a world or to write the unwritten. A second step might be the evocation of a metonymical instance. Such a moment might be very much like the description of Robin and the dog in which language and its contents "metonymize." To "metonymize" is not to experience the self or language as separate and apart from the world, it is to experience that experience constitutes language, things and their relations, and that language constitutes 56 experience, things and their relations. The movement from Hedvig and Guido Volkbein to Robin's final 'descent' is a textual movement through and a negation of traditional metaphoricities, a movement into and through metonymy to a moment that is a metonymic analogue to the metaphoric conceptualizing described by Lakoff and Johnson. 57 Aside In Schleifer's view the metonymy of Modernism is a structure of death because it expresses the end of patrimony and the end of meaning. In Nightwood, patrimonial meaning is death, and annihilation for the formation of and rearticulation of new and emergent subject positions. The text constitutes the world f and] there are worlds yet to be constituted. (Peter Quartermain) 58 VII Metaphor The intellect has not been arranged for the understanding of becoming. It endeavours to prove universal rigidity . . . (Nietzsche) In general, a metaphor consists of a vehicle and tenor. The vehicle is the language image through which the tenor is understood. The tenor is the sense of the language image (Kittay 16). For example, in the metaphor, the river snakes , the vehicle is the snake arid the tenor, the curving of the river. The act of metaphorizing involves the act of carrying across: one thing is described as if it were something else. According to Lakoff and Turner, metaphor consists of one schematic structure being mapped onto an already existing schematic structure so that the logic of the existing structure is mapped over by the logic of the imposed other (103). According,to Aristotle, similarity is the basis of metaphoric transference and its value lies in its analogous nature which allows us to infer the universal from the particular. This allows metaphor to be the basis of classification and selection (Aristotle qtd. in Kittay 3). Kittay refers to the metaphor as the linguistic realization of unity and she praises its ability to lump variance into homogeneity: [I]t is the linguistic means by which we bring together and fuse into a unity diverse thoughts .. .(6) The metaphor acting as the linguistic means by which one previously inarticulated domain is understood in the terms of an already articulated domain organizes the undetermined within the confines of the already determined. This process of mapping accommodates experience. It adapts the not-yet-known to the known and restricts the present within specific prescribed forms of the past. Utilized within this framework, the metaphor becomes history's effort to escape the vagrant compulsions of meaning and 59 to preclude the possibility of a future alterity for its signifiers. However, despite metaphor's reputation for homogenizing the particular into the universal and promoting specific linguistic and political interests, a closer look at its inner machinations suggests that this understanding of metaphor is one which ignores its inner workings and that metaphor actually relies on its failure to unify and accommodate in order to signify. Metaphor means by virtue of transference and behind history's use of it as a tool of unification lies the destabilizing force of its transience. A metaphor can only signify by virtue of a tacitly understood as if. It means only within the realm of semblance. A metaphor can never be literally true. If it is true it becomes a tautology. As a result, that which is named and that which names must disappear in order to reappear. For example, for its meaning, the metaphor, the lip of a cup, depends upon the immersion of the cup into the framework of the body and specifically the framework of the mouth. Conversely the construct of the mouth must be submerged into the construct of cup. The metaphor the lip of the cup literally means that it is as if the cup were a body and as if its rim were its lip. Metaphor1 s ability to unify and classify perception and experience depends on the collective denial of its literal impossibility. This is what Vico calls "an imaginative metaphysics" by which we become all things by not understanding them (300). The disquiet of the tacitly understood as if and the anxiety created in the comprehension-as-consumption model is collectively subjugated when metaphor is set to accomplish the task to which it is habitually set. However, regardless of its task, the metaphor continues to operate on a principle of disintegration—not solidification, for meaning. The literality of the observed object gives way to the transient as if in order for the imported framework to be put into play. Understood in this way the metaphor expresses a perpetual leap into meaning which—by virtue of its implicit as if —can only fail. 1 7 And it is by this failure that the metaphor can continue to express possible future meanings and future collectivities of agreement. Utilized as a structure that constantly avows its audacious leaps, the unstable and social nature of its meaning, metaphor becomes what Butler calls a "discursive occasion for 60 hope"(219). That is to say, that the discernment of the arbitrary nature or the implicit failure of metaphorical meaning is not the occasion for linguistic nihilism but is instead a generative loss of certainty within which new meaning and new communities can evolve. . . . sometimes it is precisely the sense of futurity opened up by the signifier as a site of rearticulations that is the discursive occasion for hope. (Bodies 219) This loss of certainty also emphasizes the metaphoric and arbitrary nature of knowledge and shows how the preservation of metaphors as sealed and stabilizing entities can serve to promote particular institutions of knowledge and power. To know is to work with one's favourite metaphors. (Nietzsche) Loosening knowledge from its seamless height sends it into something more like language's thinking and so evokes promising shifts of meaning as thought. In Nightwood the historic concept of the metaphor as a machine of unification arid preservation is revealed as flawed. As textual strategies that draw attention to difference, strangeness and singularity are put into place, the metaphor's submerged as if is brought to the text's surface so that textual re-gatherings can emerge. This textual re-gathering gains momentum throughout the text until the final chapter where metaphoricity collapses in on itself by virtue of the recognition of its transience, and the relational and conditional as if of its definition. However, this process of metaphoric deconstruction begins on the first page of the first chapter, "Bow Down." Literary metaphoric convention is purposefully over-determined. Early in 1880, in spite of a well-founded suspicion as to the advisability of perpetuating that race that has the sanction of the Lord and the disapproval of the people, Hedvig Volkbein—a Viennese woman of great strength and military beauty, lying upon a canopied bed of a rich spectacular crimson, 61 the valance stamped with the bifurcated wings of the House of Hapsburg, the feather coverlet an envelope of satin on which, in massive and tarnished gold threads, stood the Volkbein arms—gave birth, at the age of forty-five, to an only child, a son, seven days after her physician predicted she would be taken. (1) The above sentence (the first in the book) is structurally heavily metaphorized. The structure is digressive, the chain of associations broken by embedded narratives that serve to embellish and disjoint the syntagmatic chain of the straight metonymic narrative, a narrative that can be reduced to the statement that in 1880 Hedvig Volkbein gave birth to one male child. The syntactic regularity of subject-verb-object placement is dismantled through excess. Words stand for others: "that race..." = the Jews. Emblematic things—bifurcated wings, House of Hapsburg, Volkbein arms— although not metaphors in themselves, signify through a metaphoric structure in which one thing stands for another. Meaning is determined by highly specialized codes and imposed mapping systems, not through connective relationships of contiguity. Nothing is what it is, and the excess of symbolic systems, dependent on religious and social code for meaning, signals to the reader an already present state of decay. Just as "certain flowers brought to a pitch of florid ecstasy no sooner attain their specific type than they fall into its decay," Barnes' text over-ripens with conventions of signification (2). The excess of specialized meaning alerts the reader to a potency that falls, through its own obesity, into decline. 62 Aslf The continuing process of decay is accelerated by the text's repeated use of the construction of as if, the very construction on which the meaning of the metaphor tacitly hangs. It is possible that Barnes was influenced by the philosopher Hans Vaihinger who wrote in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century about the ways in which language stakes a world. But whether or not Barnes read Vaihinger's book, The Philosophy of As If, a look at his work is helpful to understand the impact of the excessive use of as if in Nightwood. Vaihinger applied logic and analysis to English and located etiquette in its linguistics rather than the absolute. Reading fiction in the dynamic of fact, he located language's fashioned crossings at the root of belief. For Vaihinger these crossing were demonstrated in the construction of as if. In his book, he explains the as if as a linguistic manifestation of "appearance," of the consciously false (xii). Prying the secret life of its own artifice, as if lays bare that all knowledge is comparison and all meaning fiction (xii). Rejecting the claim that his theory could be classed as skepticism, Vaihinger claims that his theory of "As i f is closer to Relativism in so far as it grants dignity to concepts and denies all absolute in points of reference (xiii). In Vaihinger's philosophical view there is no world, only phenomena that press themselves upon our senses. We perceive their changes: all else is fiction. The concept of the world is a tool which we use to navigate ourselves through phenomena. Within this model the mind is not merely appropriative, that is mimetic and representational, it is performative, that is, as Vaihinger writes, it is "assimilative and constructive . . . it creates its organs" (2; original emphasis). These organs, these constructions, are what Vaihinger calls Science Fictions, and they are distinguished by their as if nature. In order to explain the nature of these constructions, Vaihinger tracks the stages of the development of ideas. He claims that ideas which are regarded as expressions of reality are dogmas and those which are not are considered hypothesis or fiction. Psychologically the construction of the hypothesis creates a tension within the mind which Vaihinger describes as "exceedingly disagreeable"(125). Because the mind yearns for equilibrium 63 it has the tendency to bring the content of a proposition into a resolved and continuous state. The hypothesis, however, refuses the mind's yearning for a harmonious adjustment of a given statement because it is only provisionally accepted by the psyche, whereas an idea that has been accepted as dogma has a stable equilibrium within the psyche. The instability instilled by the hypothesis and the discomfort it produces causes the need for constant reiterations. A fiction, however, creates even greater tension within the psyche than the hypothesis. Unlike the hypothesis which can be verified by further experience, a fiction is never verifiable. A fiction is a proposition which insists that we assume something that we know is not the case at all. It is a proposition that we are to regard as if it were true for the sake of its usefulness (126). We are asked to assume something . . .we are to regard it as if it were such and such. This means that a conceptual form has been completely included among the others, for it serves in the determination of reality. And yet the psyche is expected during the very process of application to burden itself with the fact that this ideational form is only subjective. (126). As an example of a fiction, Vaihinger cites the famous syllogism: M--P--Man is mortal. ST-M--Socartes is a man. S--P--Socartes is mortal. And dismembers it. The primary fiction in this construct is the concept of "man" in general. According to Vaihinger 'in general' is a "pure piece of imagination" (121). From the innumerable men whom we observe there gradually emerges a general picture, a type, a scheme, in which the most general "characteristics" of these similar phenomenon are fused. This picture is an ideational construct for in reality only particular men exist. This construct is known as the general concept "man." Since such a construct does not exist, the proposition, "man is mortal"--logically considered—is false, for only 64 individual men are mortal... reality gives us no "man" as such. (121-2) To generalize is to fictionalize. To fictionalize is to soothe the agitated psyche, to offer relief from the tension in thought caused by a world full of contradictory sensations (12). We can only say that objective phenomenon can be regarded as if they behaved in such and such a way, and there is absolutely no justification for assuming any dogmatic attitude and changing the "as i f into a "that." (31) [B]y our concepts, we are always assigning limits of which nature knows nothing. (Engels qtd. in Vaihinger 31) As creates an equation of the two terms, a comparison is made or demanded. If is the conditional phrase that adds a secondary thought to the primary one of comparison and equation. This secondary thought affirms the condition as unreal or impossible. The necessary connection of the consequence with the condition is definitely expressed, though, at the same time, the possibility of the condition being fulfilled is expressly negated. As a result, the main clause, whose validity is bound up with the condition and which necessarily follows from it, is seen to contain something unreal. Therefore, while its possibilities are being posited as real, its condition and its consequences are simultaneously denied. In Nightwood, the repetition of as if weaves a structure of anxiety into the text within which an already strained construal contains its own perturbation. The way she said "dinner" and the way she said "champagne" gave meat and liquid their exact difference, as if by having surmounted two mediums, earth and air, her talent, running forward, achieved all others. (AW 14, my emphasis) In the reader, the psyche strains to support the insupportable. While as if prepares the psyche for the absorption of an introduced concept it 65 simultaneously sets up its integral uncertainty. Placed within an already extreme text, the as if exposes the underlying conditionally of the notion of similarity and thus of metaphoric meaning. In fact, it expresses the idea that all meaning dangles on the thin edge of a stated or unstated as if, and that our systems of meaning and their embellishments are not the visitations of nature. . ..as if the whole fabric of magic had begun to decompose, as if the mechanics of machinations were indeed out of control and were simplifying themselves back to their origin . . . (AW 36; added emphasis). The insistent use of as if is a method of foreclosure that admits its historical production, its fissures, and impossible possibilities: Her fingers would go forward, hesitate, tremble, as if they had found a face in the dark. When her hand finally came to rest, the palm closed; it was as if she had stopped a crying mouth. (AW 42; added emphasis) In effect, as if lays metaphor bare as history's shimmer. It reveals word-pattem as method, and fiction as real. It claims language as posture, position, deferral and spill. 1 8 66 Aside As if: As the case would be if; as though. Passing the dogmatic back into the symbol; passing the symbol back into the signifier. Fictions are indispensable to thought and life. The admitted if in as if: an admission of the abundant imagined. 67 Tautologies Another linguistic process which pushes the metaphor toward disintegration is the literalization of the metaphor, the tautology: Jenny could do nothing with her; it was as if the motive power which had directed Robin's life, her day as well as her night, had been crippled. (AW 167) As mentioned above, a metaphor consists of a vehicle and tenor. The vehicle is the language image through which the tenor is understood and the tenor is the sense of the language image. A metaphor cannot be literally true. If it is true it becomes a tautology. The suggested simile: Robin is like a person with crippled motive power is a variety of the metaphoric structure. The tenor of this simile is psychological malaise. The vehicle of the simile is crippled motive power. Crippled motive power is a metaphor. The vehicle of the metaphor crippled motive power is a crippled person. The tenor of the metaphor is impaired motive power. Thus the simile suggests that Robin, a psychologically crippled person, is a psychologically crippled person. It might be possible to read crippled motive power as physically crippled, so that the metaphor can be read in a straight-forward fashion and physical crippled-ness is used to express mental crippled-ness, but the term motive power suggests that it should be read as a psychological state.19 This drives the metaphor into the psychological realm. The following similes are similarly tautological: [A]s one who hears of death suddenly; death that cannot form until the shocked tongue has given its permission. (167) Death, which shocks theJongue into silence, cannot be death until the shocked tongue (which cannot speak) has spoken. Moving like a housewife come to set disorder straight in an unknown house, she came forward with a lighted taper... (167) 68 The familiarity of "housewife" is set within the perimeters of the "unknown." Is a housewife in an unknown house a housewife? Which house defines the wife? fT]he silence she had caused by her coming was broken again by insect and bird flowing back over her intrusion, which was forgotten in her fixed stillness, obliterating her as a drop of water is made anonymous by the pond in which it has fallen. (168) This simile/metaphor is also partly tautological in that the tenor of the simile (as a drop of water...) is a metaphor (flowing back over her . . . ) whose vehicle is the simile itself: water is like water. Its logical circularity introduces elements of meaninglessness and literality. Language is pared down and left standing, like Robin, in a "desperate anonymity" (168). This anonymity is accentuated by both the fading distinction between words and objects and the fading certainty of the code and its symbolic system. Coda Tautologies write time into suspension. Tautochronus. Sentences collapse acceleration into themselves. Walls build in the mind's duration. Sentences live in their own breach: hesitate & obsessive. Language admits contribution to barrier. It speaks, out loud, over and over again: I am this: limit and slip. 69 La Scene Blanche Nightwood ends in sparse and intentionally non-metaphorized text. Yetj it is precisely within this sparse environment that it becomes possible to re-metaphorize. I am suggesting that the novel leaves off at a point just prior to the metaphoric linguistic possibility it has configured. The process of metaphorical disintegration that occurs in Nightwood brings metaphor to what Hannah Arendt calls its "original sense";20 that is, to metapherein 2 1 which is to literally transfer. That is, where metaphor is a sensually perceived connection which depends, for its meaning, on an immediate context (13). This context-driven space, one in which meaning is derived by virtue of sensually perceived relations, is metonymic. To understand what it would mean to take up this metonymic space of Nightwood and re-metaphorize within it and beyond, it is necessary to look at Nicole Brossard's text Picture Theory. Brossard's Picture Theory is, in part, a textual response to Nightwood. It is "La scene blanche" (40). It is the night of Nightwood written into clear and deriving light "par de successifs bras de femmes " (Brossard 72). It is the white scene, the white page, where metaphors are derived in a relational and generative linguistic reality, where women, textually intelligible, write women (beside themselves in a sane way). This process is one in which the metaphor achieves significance by virtue of its immediate and metonymically derived proximities and not solely from exophoric pre-determined contexts. This process also recognizes the communal nature of the metaphor and that the very impossibility of metaphoric transference supplies the collective possibility of its meaning. It is as if Nightwood, through linguistic deconstruction and reconfiguration, becomes the vehicle which, pulled out of the conventional pattern of tenor and vehicle and placed in a metonymical arena, awaits its tenor. That is, as if the snake were to await the river and thereby foreground a local and exclusive (for the moment) present: 70 . . . c'est une sensation qui ne s'oublie pas dans la representation de l'espace lorsque 1' idee voit le jour cingle au cerveau les metaphores la ou le eoeur y est s'enflamment sous l'effet d'une lumiere cohdrente la cendre (Brossard, Picture Theory 218) Nietzsche is wrong. Art does not rest upon "the primitive longing for illusion" art is the longing, the desire: its unveiling, its endless making (Nietzsche qtd. in Vaihinger 343 ). 71 VIII Allegory Allegory is in the realm of thought what ruins are in the realm of things. (Walter Benjamin) Historically, the philosophical view of allegory was that it is a figurative use of language through which the material world expresses meaning. The notion that being is meaning goes back at least as far as the Egyptian hieroglyph, Greek myth and Christian symbolism. But the idea that there is nothing arbitrary between the sign and its referent was disrupted in the seventeenth century with the accumulation of a mass of conflicting imagery from both Christian and pagan sources. Consistent allegorical patterns of meaning drowned in excess. An object could signify virtue as easily as vice. It could signify anything or nothing. The baroque solution to this dilemma was to present the copious stuff of the world as a generic symbol of materiality and decay, which, through antithesis, suggested its opposite: heavenly redemption. Walter Benjamin's interest in baroque drama and its emphasis oh allegory grew out of the relevance of this art to the philosophical problem of meaninglessness. In his essay on baroque drama, "Allegory and Trauerspiel," Benjamin dismisses the classical conception of allegory as one which reduces allegory to a trick of didactic substitution. He argues that allegory is a necessary form of expression, like speech or writing, in which the objective world is imposed on a subject as a cognitive imperative (Origin 162). Conventional allegory is always didactic. It represents the already known. Incapable of representing itself, the allegorical sign exists solely as a transparent vehicle of specific means. In Benjamin's understanding of allegory the sign loses its simple didactic aspect and regains its materiality. According to Susan Buck-Morss it was the baroque poets who demonstrated to Benjamin that the excess of material in his own time could 72 be redeemed through allegorization (164). Benjamin saw a correlative in the religious dialectic of the baroque allegory—the simultaneous elevation and devaluation of the profane—and allegory's formal dialectic of convention and expression. Each contained inherently contradictory aspects in which the present must always express itself in defiance of time and history must always deem its ruin inescapable. P]n allegory the observer is confronted with the fades hippocratica of history as a petrified, primordial landscape. Everything about history that, from the beginning, has been untimely, sorrowful, unsuccessful, is expressed in a face—or rather in a death's head. And although such a thing lacks all symbolic freedom of expression, all classical proportion, all humanity—nevertheless, this is the form in which man's subjection to nature is most obvious and it significantly gives rise not only to the enigmatic question of the nature of human existence as such, but also of the biographical historicity of the individual. This is the heart of the allegorical way of seeing, of the baroque, secular explanation of history as the Passion of the world; its importance resides solely in the stations of its decline. (Origin 166) Yet despite Benjamin's ostensible defense of baroque allegorical practice, Buck-Morss convincingly argues that Benjamin's essay "Allegory and Trauerspiel" is also an implicit critique of what he considered the baroque period's abandonment of the material world (174). Although Benjamin valued the baroque attempt to redeem the material world he considered its apotheosis of materiality a betrayal of nature, and a retreat to the spirit (Buck-Morss 175). Because of this betrayal baroque allegorical representation was saturated in melancholy and obsessive subjectivity. In Benjamin's view, melancholic subjectivity was death to political activism. Only the understanding and acceptance of ruin and decay could be politically instructive. As Buck-Morss writes: The debris of industrial culture teaches us not the necessity of submitting to historical catastrophe, but the fragility of the social order that tells us that this catastrophe is necessary. The crumbling of the monuments that were built to signify the immortality of civilization becomes proof, rather, 73 of its transiency. And the fleetingness of temporal power does not cause sadness; it informs political practice. (170) Located in the "stations of decline" (Origins 166), only allegory can teach the artist "invention" (171). The poet, the artist, must reject the totalizing conception of classical metaphysical transcendence and remain focused on the material: the fragmentary, transitory object. According to Buck-Morss, Benjamin found a solution to the baroque devaluation of the material present in the Kabbalist tradition (230). Kabbalism avoids the split between matter and the spirit by rejecting the idea that transcendence is anti-material. Transience and decay are considered attributes of God. The Kabalistic tradition also shares Benjamin's interest in antiquity where history's objects are of interest within the conditions of the present, not as a means to preserve truth. Objects are not empty signifiers of the traditionally transcendent, and within the Kabalistic context, Benjamin was able to ratify his own thinking on the material world and its decay. Within Benjamin's model, the allegorist becomes both thinker and collector (Buck-Morss 241). Collector, because the object is loved, not violated; thinker, because the object is thought within new contexts and charged with new meaning. This allegorist gathers and reiterates the images, objects and fragments of history to reveal them as charged and performative sites of unstable energy, as encyclopedias of the past, and as awakening elements of a present real. This illumination, this reiteration of history and of the acceptance of decay allows every second a narrow opening through which new meaning is able to enter. The possibilities for change are infinite. Allegory is no longer mere substitution, a prescribed known. It is, as Hullot-Kentor writes, "the collapse of meaning into nature" and, I would add, the collapse of nature into meaning (xix). That is, that meaning is transformed into an expression of materiality, and materiality transformed into an expression of transience, performativity and alterity. It is in this way that allegorization becomes a site of apprehension in every sense of the word. The new allegorist apprehends the presupposed object, holds it up to new light and new meaning. 74 To call a presupposition into question is not the same as doing away with it; rather, it is to free it from its metaphysical lodgings in order to understand what political interests were secured in and by that metaphysical placing, and thereby permit the term to occupy and to serve very different political aims. (Butler, Bodies 30) Nightwood begins with conventional allegory. With the exception of Robin, all the characters are presented as representations of specific social phenomena.22 Nora represents America: naive, puritanical and oppressive. She was known instantly as a Westerner. Looking at her, foreigners remembered stories they had heard of covered wagons; animals going down to drink; children's heads, just as far as the eyes, looking in fright out of small windows, where in the dark another race crouched in ambush; with heavy hems the women becoming large, flattening the fields where they walked; God so ponderous in their minds that they could stamp out the world with him in seven days. (AW 50-51) Felix represents the last and obsequious vestiges of a social order which upholds the aristocracy of old Europe. His son Guido represents old Europe's inbred and caved-in spirituality and Jenny, the vacuous and rapacious greed of a capitalistic modernity. She was one of the most unimportantly wicked women of her time—because she could not let her time alone, and yet could never be a part of it. She wanted to be the reason for everything and so was the cause of nothing. She had the fluency of tongue and action meted out by divine providence to those who cannot think for themselves. She was the master of the over-sweet phrase, the over-tight embrace. (AW 67-68) The Doctor represents the analytical anxiety and self-conscious narcissism of Western thought. He is the "Watchman," or as Marcel Henaff writes "an eye without an eyelid, exhausted with seeing and being seen" (qtd. in Jean-Luc Nancy 196). 75 . . . I went into a lather of misery watching them, and thinking of you, and how in the end you' 11 all be locked together, like the poor beasts that get their antlers mixed and are found dead that way, their heads fattened with a knowledge of each other they never wanted, having had to contemplate each other, head-on and eye to eye, until death . . . (AW 100) The Doctor marks the conventional, allegorical relationship between an illustrative image and its abstract meaning. However, he also parodically represents the Freudian paradigm.23 He is both doctor and patient, both the discerner of illness and the diseased. This allegorical tautology provides a transitional and deconstructive link in the text's gradual erosion of conventional allegory. The erosion project is carried to completion in the scene where Felix watches the Doctor, unaware that he is observed, walking toward him: The Baron was shocked to observe, in the few seconds before the doctor saw him, that he seemed old, older than his fifty odd years would account for. He moved slowly as if he were dragging water; his knees, which one seldom noticed, because he was usually seated, sagged. His dark shaved chin was lowered as if in a melancholy that had no beginning or end. (AW 110) The Doctor moves as if he were dragging water. Unconscious of his observer he expresses melancholy, physical vulnerability, decay. This moment lends materiality to the object in view. It reveals the antinomies of the allegory, its dialectic of convention and expression, of meaning and its decay. The Doctor is the collected sum of the insanity of Western analytical thought. That is, he represents both its institution, its absurdities and its victims. The Doctor cannot signify as an empty sign. The object is redeemed in the avowal of its ruin. The object allegorizes itself and the uninhabitability of conventional signification, of the norm, and of abjection. Hope and meaning lie somewhere in the undiscriminating and inevitable encroachment of ruin. Textual excess also moves toward the erosion of conventional allegorical representation in the text. For example, in the Doctor's lengthy 76 description of the night, he constructs an allegory using the night to represent the unspeakable and unspoken. From its onset the allegory defies convention. The text is a verbal deluge paradoxically concerned with that which is unspoken. The Doctor speaks for a total of fourteen pages on varying aspects of the night/ the unspeakable. His verbal excess causes the allegory to mutate under its own weight. For example, in the fourteen pages he speaks of the girls "who turn the day into night" (AW 94). He speaks of girls who are young, drug addicts, drunken and lovers. He speaks of their misery and the "terrible longing of the body" to be "flat with the floor, lost lower than burial, utterly blotted out and erased so that no stain of her could ache upon the wood.. ." (95). He recites "the terrible excommunication" that the girls "in the toilets at night" cry in "that secret confessional" (95). Look for the girls also in the toilets at night, and you will find them kneeling in that great terrible secret confessional crying between tongues, the terrible excommunication: May you be damned to hell! May you die standing upright! May you be damned upward! May this be damned, terrible and damned spot! May it wither into the grin of the dead, may this draw back, low riding mouth in an empty snarl of the groin! May this be your torment, may this be your damnation! God damned me before you, and after me you shall be damned, kneeling and standing away till we vanish! For what do you know of me, man's meat? I'm an angel on all fours, with a child's feet behind me, seeking my people that have never been made, going down face foremost, drinking the waters of night at the water hole of the damned, and I go into the waters, up to my heart, the terrible waters! What do you know of me? (95) What is traditionally considered a barely speakable gay male practice, is turned, and written here as female: the use of public toilets as a place for sexual exchange. This description writes women as sites of conflicting, complex, and disturbing social interactions. Withering vulvas, cunnilingus, women's rage, women's protests against their oppression, women's protest against their lack of identification, female ejaculation, homophobia, and 77 female misogyny are all places of profound uninteh^ibijf^y, today, sixty years after they were written. In Jhe text these historically unspeakable irnages are written in abundance. The allegorization of the night as a site of loss and abjection re-writes itself by inscribing that which is unwritten. \ \ creates a presence where it sought to define absence. TJie unintelligible becomes intelligible. Women manifest by virtue of their curs,e. The attention of the text to materiality, to fragmentation, reiteration and decay sets up a relational, and hence, non-conventional allegorical framework. In Nora's dream, she dreams of her grandmother in two contrasting images. The first image is "rebuilt" by the "architecture of dream" and appears in "a long gown of soft folds and chin lace" (AW 63). This grandmother does not match Nora's memory and is described as not entirely recalled (63). The second image is from a vividly recalled childhood memory, the grandmother who, when surprised by Nora one day at the corner of the house, is found dressed in a corked mustache and men's clothes. Plump and obscene, her arms spread, her face leers with love. That the first and more traditional grandmother is not the clearly recalled grandmother suggests that a collapse in convention and its normalizing signification has occurred. That which has been foreclosed from the realm of intelligibility—the grandmother in drag, the avowal of loss, the uncontrollable signifier expressed in its uncontrollability—is present. The conventionally depicted grandmother, that which has been established as the intelligible norm by phallogocentric discourse, fails to fully signify. Through the reiteration of the grandmother in the dream, the normative image loosens and erodes and the recalled image of the grandmother in drag, becomes the allegorization of the incorporative fantasy of melancholy and the collapse of melancholic symbolization (meaning based on disavowal). The signifier expresses materiality, the injurious and abjecting effects of definition, and the decay of that definition into a 78 transcendence. Meaning is "shown to be precisely its transience" (Adorno qtd. in Hullot-Kentor xix). The Doctor5 s drag can also be read as an allegorization of melancholy: The doctor's head with its over-large black eyes, its full gun-metal cheeks and chin, was framed in the golden semi-circle of a wig with long pendent curls that touched his shoulders, and falling back against the pillow, turned up the shadowy interior of their cylinders. He was heavily rouged and his lashes painted. (AW 79) She thought: "He dresses to lie beside himself . . . (AW 80) His drag is the mark of a signifier, a signifier in full avowal of the complex sedimentary nature of meaning and the minute duration of its presence. The Doctor is a site of relation: a non-summarizable relation that is a dense culmination of social and historical intersections. [W]e are in the world unselfconsciously as pure production and flow—existence—and that at the same time we front ourselves as spectators of our existence. (Bernstein 175) 79 Aside The state of being beside oneself occurs through the acknowledgment of our positions of proximity. We cannot know in a comprehensive totalizing sense. How can we experience next-to-ness in the melancholy of predatory realism? Only a system that handcuffs ambivalence will define this state as insanity. Coda In Nightwood the anti-conventional process of allegorization, the collapse of signification into the signifier redeems matter and its inexorable and entangled relations to time, history and discourse. (Our relationship to the world is metonymical). 80 IX A Composition A Composition: Falling, the darkness is the not knowing, the fear and sometime loathing. The substantiation of the absented, the erased and the devoured. What half-formed, half-eaten, half-monster will we find? There was lost between dawn and dusk, between Boulogne and Vincennes, a girl between two ages who was between two sizes, her hair between brown and blonde, her eyes between kind and haggard. Let whoever finds her leave her between here and there and inform the Doctor, who lives between a marshal and a physician. Signed in Paris, between this and that, by Pierrot between drinks. (Anonymous seventeenth century text) The very gaps in meaning which normative signification attempts to deny are composed of the desire for and the impossibility of its fulfillment. In Nightwood, particularly in its final pages, these gaps collapse into each other, the boundary between what is human and the world of things becomes blurred. The acknowledgment of the unlimited presence available in language, its vagrancy and its potential for transience manifest out of their collision. The novel's darkness, its depiction of the characters caught in their acts of ceaseless and unfulfilled longing, is more than the reiteration of self-lacerated desire for the pre-linguistic thing. The darkness in the novel is beyond the paralysis of melancholy. It is the darkness of the inarticulated caught in the act of articulation, in the terror of looking at itself, in the terror of speaking the yet-unspoken present of an unsaid self which is both nothing and something. 81 I could not see far out upon the ocean, owing to the darkness of the night; and from my lofty perch the sea looked like a great, black gulf, hemmed in, all round, by beetling black cliffs. I seemed all alone; treading the midnight clouds; and every second, expected to find myself—falling—falling—falling, as I have felt when the nightmare has been on me. ( Herman Melville) 82 Monsters What is a monster? A being whose duration is incompatible with the existing order. (Diderot) Two heads, a one-eyed child. An aberration in the process of normal development or growth. A disturbance of balance. The nature of individual influences, as manifested when one has been exerted in excess, to the exclusion or suppression of the countervailing factors. Gorgons, hydras and chimeras dire. There was a constant tendency to visualize the creatures of belief as human and yet as more than human, as animal and yet as more than animal. (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics 1912) monster, n. & a. 1. Mis-shapen animal or plant, abortion; imaginary animal compounded of incongruous elements, e.g. centaur, sphinx, griffin; inhumanely wicked person, inhuman example of (cruelty etc.); animal, thing, of huge size. 2. adj. Huge. [f. OF monstre f. L monstrum portent, monster (monere warn)] monstrance, n. (R. C. Ch.). Open or transparent vessel of gold or silver in which the host is exposed. [OF, f. med. L monstrantia (monstrare show, see-ANCE)] monstrosity, n. Monstrousness; abortion, imaginary monster, outrageous thing, [f. L L monstrositas (as foil., see -ty)] monstrous, a. & adv. 1. Abnormally formed, of the nature of a monster; huge; outrageously wrong or absurd; atrocious. 2. adv. (arch). Extremely, as ~ good friends. Hence ~ L Y adv., ~ NESS n. (f. OF monstreux f. L L monstrosus (MONSTER, -OUS.)] 2 4 83 The challenge is rather to imagine the norm as monstrous without undoing monstrosity's own specificity, its own excessive supplementarity. (Huet 90) Acknowledging the monstrousness of the normalizing order does not negate the necessity of boundaries in any evolving discourse of the as-of-yet-unexpressed. The necessity of the outside to form an intelligible inside argues against the ideal of absolute inclusion but posits new and always transgressible boundaries. Monstrous writing dents shape onto the corium of a mind's eye. [EJye monsters, ear monsters, nose monsters ... monsters of super-foetation, monsters of deficiency ... monsters of imagination, stomach monsters, memory monsters. (Diderot) For Barnes, writing might have meant writing monsters out of a self. It lies here on the floor and I circle around it like a murderess about the body, but do nothing, I seem to have no power only an awful despair. (Barnes qtd. in Plumb 151) Language is a monster Dream of entering my workroom here in a dim light and see what I first think is a standing ghost personage where my desk is placed, but looking closer I suddenly see a fiery black horse leaping at me and no doubt about its intent to kill. I wake up yelling before it reaches me. (Clark Coolidge 178) It is the monstrosity of imagination that love dreams, that terrifies the dreamer. The once-written is never owned and will only escape endlessly into reiterations, into the dark and limitless limits of itself. The convulsive inner tension of my mind clawing/grasping at the words, as if vast jaws with massed force again and again closed on nothing. (Coolidge 179) IVtettsters: 84 / saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs. (Shelle) When the lost and improper referent speaks. (Butler, Bodies 218) Nightwood is a monstrous text and writes itself so by bringing our attentions to the lost and improper referents, by bringing our attentions to words and their systems of tradition and positing them as plastic artifacts of history, gender and truth. Nightwood gorges language's fictional voice. Nightwood heaves its weight, its textual body and languages its own corpus, its own gorged bellow, ridge-glare, droplet and muck: When the streets were gall high with things you wouldn't have done for a dare's sake, and the way it was then; with the pheasant's necks and the goslings' beaks dangling against the hocks of the gallants, and not a pavement in the place, and everything gutters for miles and miles, and a stench to it that plucked you by the nostrils and you were twenty leagues out! The criers telling the price of wine to such an effect that the dawn saw good clerks full of piss and vinegar, and blood-letting in side streets where some wild princess in a night-shift of velvet howled under a leech; not to mention the palaces of Nymphenburg echoing back to Vienna with the night trip of late kings letting water into plush cans and fine wood-work! (AW 81-82) It writes abjection. It stains the practice of prose and strains it beyond the endurance of its norms, beyond its forcible production and exclusive traditions—with its own oppressions, possibilities and word-matter. The following passage describes Felix's father, Guido. It is monstrous text: He had been small, rotund, and haughtily timid, his stomach protruding slightly in an upward jutting slope that brought into prominence the buttons of his waistcoat and trousers, marking the exact centre of his body with the obstetric line seen on fruits-the inevitable arc produced 85 by heavy rounds of burgundy, schlagsahne and beer. The autumn, binding him about, as no other season, with racial memories, a season of longing and horror, he had called his weather. Then walking in the Prater he had been seen carrying in a conspicuously clenched fist the exquisite handkerchief of yellow and black linen that cried aloud of the ordinance of 1468, issued by one Pietro Barbo, demanding that, with a rope about its neck, Guido's race should run the Corso for the amusement of the Christian populace, while ladies of noble birth, sitting on spines too refined for rest, arose from their seats, and, with the red-gowned cardinals artd the Monsignori, applauded with that cold yet hysterical abandon of a people that is at once unjust and happy, the very Pope himself shaken down from his hold on heaven with the laughter of a man who forgoes his angels so that he may recapture the beast. This memory and the handkerchief that accompanied it had wrought in Guido (as certain flowers brought to a pitch of florid ecstasy no sooner attain their specific type than they fall into its decay) the sum total of what is the Jew. He walked, hot, incautious and damned, his eyelids quivering over the thick eyeballs, black with the pain of a participation that, four centuries later, made him a victim, as he felt the echo in his own throat of that cry running the Piazza Montanara long ago, "Roba vecchia!"--the degradation by which his people had survived. (AW 1-2) The quotation deals with the Christian abjection of Jews. It exposes the racism, oppression and cruelty that built the Papal empire, nobility, Christianity. It expresses the desperate participation of the oppressed in their own oppression. With the "echo in his own throat of that cry," Roba vecchia: "old stuff," Guido cries his own ruin. The description of Guido's physical appearance stresses the tidy boundaries of the normative body's surface. He is round, and fruit-like, rendered by "heavy rounds" of cream and liquor and rich words of the appetite. The description of Guido's body is like a description of his oppression: compelling and obscene. This text has the allure of the forbidden. We are looking at that which has always been hidden from us. 86 Robin too is monstrous. She is written without history. She is an American and like America she has no past. She begins "[o]n a bed, surrounded by a confusion of potted plants, exotic palms and cut flowers, faintly over-sung by the notes of unseen birds . . . " (34). She resembles what Butler calls a presentist conceit: "one who arrives into the world, in discourse, without a history..." (Bodies 228). Yet she is not She is posited awkwardly within what Butler calls the "specular scenography of the phallic inscription" in that she is both part of the scenography and that which cannot be rendered intelligible within its framework (Bodies 52). Her part in the scenography is based on her participation in a generic history, one that affords her with a history in that she is "the infected carrier of the past... "(AW 37). She is the consumed absent on which that which matters and is intelligible (phallogocentrism) sustains itself. What gives meaning is the loss of her existence. It feeds the phallogocentric discourse. Robin matters within the phallogocentric scenography only as a mythologized beast which, like the unicorn, signifies its own mythology. Within the phallogocentric model, Robin, like the material world within the baroque system of allegory, can only mean within a melancholic system of inversion. She is accredited with existence inside the phallogocentric discourse only by virtue of being erased from centrality. She is the copious meaningless material which signifies its opposite: redemption, the phallogocentric body. Her lack of identification is the result of the absence of the metaphysical in Robin, and of her dense materiality. However, the text inverts the inversion and Robin's materiality is accentuated by her lack of identification. She achieves a presence within an absence. She "outside the 'human type'—a wild thing caught in a woman's skin, monstrously alone... " (146). She is something caught inside the nothing of woman. She is the monstrousness, the magnitude of an extreme materiality. Her body exhales the perfume of "earth-flesh, fungi" (34). Her flesh is "the texture of plant life" (34). No other character is written into such particular and sensuous matter. The other characters are monsters of racial, social and gendered memories which they will not transcend. Within the text they are identified 87 and subject to abjection within the containment of that identification. Their only entry into society is as deviations. Jenny and Nora, because of their financial security, are able to provide gathering places for others who, like themselves, live outside the norm: "poets, radicals, beggars, artists . . . " (50). Financial autonomy allows the two women to act as a catalyst for Robin's resistance of the boundaries that render her unspeakable. By the end of the novel Robin only moves between the places that the two woman provide for her. It is in their arms, "the successive arms of women" that she is "moved out of death's way" (64). On the structural and literal level, Robin is also held out of death's way by her relatively unwritten status. Although textual excess situates the generative element of uncontrollability it also pushes language beyond its durability. Words and meanings give way under florid layers of detail. The characters of Nora, Jenny, the Doctor, Felix and Guido are described in a fever-pitch. The textual mode of description for these characters is the devouring capacity of normative prose sent into over-drive through hyperbole and mimicry. These characters are written (as if) to death. As signifiers, they are damaged beyond repair in excessive signification. Robin occupies much less textual space. She is not known by the text in the way that the other characters are, and she is not eradicated. In the final pages of Nightwood , only Robin and an odd assortment of objects remain within a textual environment that is a transitional, transcendent space, wherein, as Nancy writes "[e]xistence does not presuppose itself and does not presuppose anything: it is posited, imposed, laid down, exposed (200). Then she began to bark also, crawling after him—barking in a fit of laughter, obscene and touching. The dog began to cry then, running with her, head-on with her head, as if to circumvent her; soft and slow his feet went padding. He ran this way and that, low down in his throat crying, and she grinning and crying with him; crying in shorter and shorter spaces, moving head to head, until she gave up, lying out, her hands beside her, her face turned and weeping; and the dog too gave up then, and lay down, his eyes bloodshot, his head flat along her knees. (AW 170) 88 Monster A woman is monstrous. The female is as it were a deformed male . . . (Aristotle qtd. in Huet 3) According to Aristotle in the Generation of Animals, the monster occurs in two forms: the female and the deformed. Monsters are the repression of paternity. They are born out of the anarchistic power of the female imagination which has the power to deform the unborn (Huet 19). Monsters are exceptions to the Aristotelian doctrine 'like equals like,' and are deviations from the central model: the male. Although a women's usefulness is hindered by her production of monsters, her ability to produce the norm, the male, defines her as a useful monster Anyone who does not take after his parents is really in a way a monstrosity, since in these cases Nature has strayed from the generic type. The first beginning of this deviation is when a female is formed instead of a male, though this is indeed a necessity required by Nature, since the race of creatures which are separated into male and female has got to be kept in being;... (Aristotle qtd. in Huet 3) From an Aristotelian view, Robin is monstrous. She is female and although she produces a male child—he is mentally deficient and sickly. Her obsession with the Catholic church, and "women in history"—Louise de la Valliere, Catherine of Russia, Madame de Maintenon, Catherine de' Medici (AW 47)— determines Guido's spiritual obsessiveness, his passion for the Virgin Mary, and his love for "women of history" (AW 120). Instead of reproducing the father's image, as nature commands, the monstrous child bore witness to the violent desires that moved the mother at the time of conception or during pregnancy. The resulting offspring carried the marks of her whims and fancy rather then the recognizable features of its legitimate genitor. (Huet 1) 89 Guido is barely a body at all. He is the monstrous product of a monstrous woman's search for a monstrous subjecthood He is the product of Robin's desire for a salvation she is not human enough to attain. Guido will die young and Robin lives contained by a past that is about her like a web (AW 119). She is not afraid of the memory of the "disorder" of history and so cannot retell the lie of its order (AW 118). She strayed into the rue Picpus, into the gardens of the convent of L'Adoration Perpetuelle. She talked to the nuns and they, feeling that they were looking at someone who would never be able to ask for, or receive, mercy, blessed her in their hearts and gave her a sprig of rose from the bush.... Robin smiled, taking the spray, and looked down at the tomb of Lafayette and thought her unpeopled thoughts. (46) Robin is incapable of offering herself to society and its institutions—to the church, to God—because there is no framework within which she can define the offering. She does not'exist'and cannot be offered. She is soulless. She is ambiguous: as easily drawn to the sordid and as she is to the sacred. She is androgynous: "a tall girl with the body of a boy" (46). She is incapable of prayer: Kneeling in the chapel, which was never without a nun going over her beads, Robin trying to bring her mind to this abrupt necessity, found herself worrying about her height. Was she still growing? (46) She dreams that she is becoming immense, that her arms and legs extend to infinity. (Diderot) She does not play by the rules because she cannot conceive of the game: She prayed, and her prayer was monstrous because in it there was no margin left for damnation or forgiveness, for praise or for blame—those who cannot conceive a bargain cannot be saved or damned. (AW 47) 90 Her body is large (46). Her walk is the "ample gait of the nightwateh": "slightly headlong and sideways; slow, clumsy and yet graceful..." (AW 41). She has the form of a beast: She closed her eyes, and Felix, who had been looking into them intently because of their mysterious and shocking blue, found himself seeing them still faintly clear and timeless behind the lids—the long unqualified range in the iris of wild beasts who have not tamed the focus down to meet the human eye. (AW 37) Her material is animal, not mastered; only held at bay. [T]he causes of monstrosities [occur]... when the movements (that came from the male) relapse and the material (that came from the female) does not get mastered, what remains is that which is most 'general,'and this is the (merely)'animal.' (Aristotle qtd. in Huet 4) 9 1 Monster Productions According to Aristotle the female creative imagination is the genitor of the monstrous creation. This format was co-opted and re-formatted by the male Romantic artist. Within the Romantic model the male artist was the genitor, his material female, and his art, the child/monster of his creation. The semen is to the generation what the sculpture is to the marble; the male semen is the sculptor who gives a shape, the female liquor is the marble or matter, and the sculpture is the fetus or the product of generation. (Dubuisson qtd. in Huet 7) Female matter was molded by men for their mastery and fantasy. You address me to yourself, but I am nothing but this address, this fearful apprehension, this is civilization in a subtle sense and not a mutual reflection. I would be a sudden sentence, shaped but not entire, backing into the edges of continuum. (Christine Stewart) To think an unbearable alterity is to dismantle this model and in Nightwood such alterity is thought. Sculpture, matter and generation are thought thinking by women: On a bed, surrounded by a confusion of potted plants, exotic palms and cut flowers, faintly over-sung by the notes of unseen birds, which seemed to have been forgotten—left without the usual silencing cover, which, like cloaks on funeral urns, are cast over their cages at night by good housewives—half flung off the support of the cushions from which, in moment of threatened consciousness she had turned her head, lay the young woman, heavy and disheveled. Her legs, in white flannel trousers, were spread as in a dance, the thick-lacquered pumps looking too lively for the arrested step. Her hands, long and beautiful, lay on either side of her face. The perfume that her body exhaled was of the quality of that earth-flesh, fungi, which 92 smells of captured dampness and yet is so dry, overcast with the odour of oil of amber, which is an inner malady of the sea, making her seem as if she had invaded a sleep incautious and entire. Her flesh was the texture of plant life, and beneath it one sensed a frame, broad, porous and sleep-worn, as if sleep were a decay fishing her beneath the visible surface. (AW 34) [WJomen can only be thought by themselves. ( Brossard) This is not to suggest that language expresses the freedom of unencumbered choice and will. Language is, as Butler writes, a "complex and constitutive history of discourse and power which composes the invariably ambivalent resources through which . . . agency is forged and re-worked" (Bodies 228). But because language contains the constituted history of discourse and power, it also contains, by virtue of those boundaries, the unsaid and the possibility of the expression of the not-yet-said. If language means by what it proscribes, that which is disavowed and the possibilities of its presence are contained within its proscriptions. Robin exists within a palimpsest of histories which signify by disavowing her existence. She is the ground on which their presence figures. But it is that history which grounds in the final chapter when Robin circles back to the church and figures an alternative subjectivity.25 The location of Robin's subjecthood in the final chapter occurs metonymically, in relation to the objects she encounters: dog, candle, doll, church, door. Robin is re-posited, re-articulated. With her "hands on the shudder of a past" she is written into an extreme profane textual present. This is transcendence, but not in its traditional sense. This is a transiting, a sideways stepping over, in excess, in ruin, to a new composition. I want everything to eome together. And then I want it all to go away, leaving behind one thing that was never in the pile to begin with. (Coolidge 175) 93 Body This is not to say that the materiality of bodies is simply and only a linguistic effect which is reducible to a set of signifiers. Such a distinction overlooks the materiality of the signifier itself. Such an account also fails to understand materiality as that which is bound up with signification from the start; to think through the indissolubility of materiality and signification is no easy matter; To posit by way of language a materiality outside of language is still to posit that materiality, and the materiality so posited will retain that positing as its constitutive condition. (Bodies 30) We were created that the earth might be made sensible of her inhuman taste; and love that the body might be so dear that even the earth should roar with it. (Djuna Barnes) According to Pensky, the baroque conception of melancholy treads "the extreme limit of allegorical reflection" (180). Placing the corpse as it centre, it encodes redemption into the most physical and the most profane images. Nightwood also treads an extreme limit, but at its center is the corpus: a body, a collection of writings, a positing site. This corpus is not the corpse, nor is it the body as an absolute and essentialist site of origin and articulation. When we consider that the very concept of matter preserves and recirculates a violation, and then evoke that very concept in the service of a compensation for violation, we run the risk of reproducing the very injury for which we seek redress. (Bodies 54) This is a corpus, a body, a writing which is intrinsically inseparable from the act of its reiteration: the act which informs the very body it performs. This body no longer has any members, if members are the functional parts of a whole. Here each part is the whole, and there is never 94 any whole. Nothing ever becomes the sum or the system of the corpus . . . (Nancy 203) All things present—in the text's final lexical and contextual corpus-are present in moments of singularity. Unification and totality loosen. The particular is highlighted and held in abeyance in order that the textual space be re-defined and that the world of objects with which it concerns itself be allowed to achieve, not subjection, or abjection, or wounding, but a relative presence. Coming neither before nor after (for this is not the myth of origin, or even the location of the real) the corpse becomes the corpus, and, as in the Kabbalist tradition, God-head or transcendence is inexorably present in its particular matter. An accentuation of particularities, of newly meant matters, ignites possibilities of transcendence because the textual body contains, openly expresses, and acknowledges, its present possibilities and past object-cathexes. In the exposure of a textual matter's moment of singularity, its limits, its history, the temporary coherence and the immanent decay of its position, it avows the indeterminacy of its future. The boundaries with which it proclaims its present meaning are written as fluid, as permeable. This corpus offers its own transcendence because it is in transit. It is the experience, the weight of itself at the moment of its present It is, as Nancy writes, "a corpus of points, traces, grams, skins, folds, grains" (203). The traditional body is a metaphor. To dismantle this metaphor is to metonymize the body: There is no whole, no totality of the body—but its absolute separation and sharing out \partage]. There is no such thing as the body. Instead there are patient and fervent recitations of numerous corpuses. Ribs, skulls, pelvises, irritations, shells, diamonds, drops, foams, mosses, excavations, fingernails, moons, minerals, acids, feathers, thoughts, claws, slates, pollens, sweat, shoulders, domes, suns, anuses, eyelashes, dribbles, liqueurs, slits, blocks, slicing, squeezing, removing, bellowing, smashing, burrowing, spoiling, piling up, sliding, exhaling, leaving, flowing—(Nancy 207) 95 To metonymize the body is to remove it from the presupposition of knowledge. If the body shared is the body posited in language then knowledge belongs within the constraints of the normative definable real. Knowledge cannot know "the presence of flesh within thought..." (Weir 346-47). Only when language is openly thinking its own matter does it becomes possible to write, as Nancy does, "[that] the body thinks and also, consequently, that thought is itself a body" (201). The philosophical objection to what philosophy calls "body" presupposes the determination of something like an authority of "immediate knowledge"~a contradiction in terms, which inevitably becomes "mediated" (as "sensation," "perception," synaesthesia, and as immense reconstitutions of a presupposed "representation"). But what if one could presuppose nothing of the kind. What if the body was simply there, given, abandoned, without presuppositions, simply posited, weighed, weighty? (Nancy 199-200) The body becomes "the experience of its own weight," "a matter of thought" (Nancy 200, 201), not a pre-ontological presence, but a performative site of sense and sensing. If the body signified as prior to signification is an effect of signification, then the mimetic or representational status of language, which claims that signs follow bodies as their necessary mirrors, is not mimetic at all. On the contrary, it is productive, constitutive, one might even argue performative inasmuch as this signifying act delimits and contours the body that it then claims to find prior to any and all signification. (Butler, Bodies 30) The phallogocentric process of signification wounds the body. The unshared body is an "[i]njury, the wound, [that] closes the body, [and] gives it the function of a sign" (Nancy 205). 96 The wound of signification is "the infected carrier of the past" (AW 37). The woman who presents herself to the spectator as a "picture" forever arranged is, for the contemplative mind, the chief est danger. Sometimes one meets a woman who is a beast turning human. Such a person's every movement will reduce to an image of a forgotten experience; a mirage of an eternal wedding cast on the racial memory; as insupportable a joy as would be the vision of the eland coming down an isle of trees, chapleted with orange blossoms and bridal veil, a hoof raised in the economy of fear, stepping in the trepidation of flesh that will become myth; as the unicorn is neither man nor beast deprived but human hunger pressing its breast to its prey. Such a woman is the infected carrier of the past: before her the structure of our head and jaws ache—we feel that we could eat her, she who is eaten death returning, for only then do we put our faces close to the blood on the lips of our forefathers. (AW 37) Robin is the signified and the wounded. The forefathers—on whose lips her blood lies—speak the wound/sign, the signification. This is the blood of our bodies, wounded out of being bodies by the phallogocentric body of rationality and reason. But in Nightwood the project of writing the body textually, tactfully, with sense (tactus), with touch (tangere), begins. The writing of the body begins to be written to express the experience of its own weight, and not only for the exposure of systems of knowledge and oppression. It is for a beginning, without end, that Robin is "moved out of death's way by the successive arms of women" (AW 64). Because Robin is "outside the human type," she is outside of the phallogocentric definition woman (146). She is something dormant that moves into a metonymic materiality thought and mattered by women. But the re-materializing of those dematerialized by the phallogocentric body is not only relegated to women in Nightwood .26 There are other proscribed bodies, literally and figuratively inscribed with 97 inscriptions of exclusion, with the symbols and text—the metaphor, allegory and symbolization—of a history foreign but formative of whom it etches: Now I am thinking of Nikka, the nigger who used to fight the bear in the Cirque de Paris. There he was, crouching ail over the arena without a stitch on, except an ill-concealed loin-cloth all abulge as if with a deep-sea catch, tattooed from head to heel with all the ameublement of depravity. Garlanded with rosebuds and hackwork of the devil—was he a sight to see! Though he couldn't have done a thing (and I know what I'm talking about in spite of all that has been said about the black boys) if you had stood him in a gig-mill for a week, though (its said) at a stretch it spelled Desdemona. Well then, over his belly was an angle from Chartres; on each buttock, half public, half private, a quotation from the book of magic, a confirmation of the Jansenist theory . . . (AW 15-16) This arbitrary representation of Europe's past, and the isolation of its parts, etched into the skin of Nikka, defined by the Doctor as "barbarity" and Nikka as "beauty," ridicules and diminishes the monolithic significance that these symbols and words have accrued throughout history (17). Nikka's body is wounded by this signification,27 but through its partitioned reiteration, his body, as text, re-signifies these histories and locates beauty in the very discourses which have sought his repudiation. These bodily entries—the swerve of a red flush, the body, the corpus—a gleaned list, pushes against past surfaces, makes space for alterity The unwritten comes to be written and re-written, not in rhetoric to move the reader but in rhetoric that moves the word that moves the reading. We are writing the beloved. fT]o write continually in order to rejoin the beloved. This is because writing here is a derivative of touching . . . (de Fontenay 136) 98 Addendum Sleep Language that sleeps is monstrous, language that does not grasp at the concrete totality of determinations. (Nancy) About her head there was an effulgence as of phosphorescence glowing about the circumference of a body of water—as if her life lay through her in ungainly luminous deteriorations—the troubling structure of the born somnambule.... (AW 34-35) According to Nancy, in the development of the subject, sleep exists at the level of "the abstract universality of representation" and does not achieve determination (14). It is a state of hypnosis, a soul immersed in "the stupor of the life of feeling" (17), and the only visible form of the invisible state of gestation . . . (23). Presence is suspended. Her flesh was the texture of plant life, and beneath it one sensed a frame, broad, porous and sleep-worn, as if sleep were a decay fishing her beneath the visible surface. (AW 34) Robin is the somnambule. She sleeps because there is no place for the symbolization of an alterity within which she could awaken. She "is a body offered up to existence within others" (Nancy 23). This is not to say that the sleeper does not exist, but that the sleeper exists in the subjective consciousness of others. The sleeping subject does not present or represent anything. Robin is the offering of another's representation. 9 9 [PJeople with no names with which to deny them. Their very lack of identity makes them ourselves. (AW 88) Through her lack of identity, Robin is taken up by others. Nora: "She is myself (AW 127). Yet sleep affords her an immunity: Sleep, symmetrical, is the past of indifference without identity. (Nancy 13) Sleep saves her from being entirely devoured. She is somewhere else. Possibly that one only who shall sleep three generations will come up uninjured out of that unpeopled annihilation. (AW 88) The sleeper is the proprietor of an unknown land. (AW 87) In the last chapter Robin wakes, and "circles round to herself."28 History and knowledge lose their footing (and the dog too for, as de Fontenay writes, "a dog . . . knows by heart the imperative to which every exigency of society and thought must submit," and here, in the church, at the book's end, there are no imperatives [170-171]). Writing emerges, designed to examine the relationship between words and things. Old methods are laid out incrementally, to be re-viewed in a new light. The boundaries between the human, the things of the world, and the word blur. Clauses shorten, cusp and fugue. Irony loosens. Robin wakes and is herself the writing as gestural, as postural (style singing itself style), as a tool for perception: for the perception of language itself and the things of its world, "a sort of first position in attention" (AW 134). 100 Stopping In order to write language into an actively revolutionary position where new meanings and subjectivities are able to evolve, Nightwood undermines traditional metaphoric and allegorical usages by loosening melancholy's hold and introducing metonymy on a structural level. Language is what Butler calls "refunctioned" so that it can endlessly avow the unwieldy clamour of its nomadic history and claim the curves in its present locale and the possibilities of its future (Bodies 223). This fleshing-out or 'mattering' of the word allows it to express itself as a continuous chain of illumination, adaptation and form, to acknowledge the extent of its limit, the pressures of its past and the vastness of its expanse. It acknowledges also that there is no composure in language, that there is only composure in the methodology within which language is placed, subdued and directed. To locate the brink of a methodology evokes the possibilities of language pushed outside of its present composition. This shift thrusts language past its set brink, and it becomes momentarily transient, in transit, unsettled. It transcends—not up, but over, by virtue of its re-iteration—the confines of its previous compositional order. This transcendence is inevitably stilled in the onset of its new location within yet another methodology where new meaning clusters and new boundaries are set. Yet these new borderlines continue to press into an always present transcending arena of not-yet-articulated possibilities. The reader of Nightwood is initially introduced to the audacious surety of the classical, traditional linguistic sack and its claims to knowledge, truth, and power, and its list of those abjected in the great advance toward normalization and meaning. But the nature of this introduction renders the tradition ridiculous and obscene. The text shifts its reader with the extravagant display of language's ambivalence and the mercurial nature of intent. Language is unearthed from convention's clasp, ruptured and spilled. Partly what is disclosed in this process is the melancholic nature of conventional realism and the obsessive limits that border normative predatory representation. This is where language must insist on its location and function as a site of perpetual loss, as an exercise in the constant deferral of presence. Within 101 this system language carries a bleak, mediated, never-up-to-scratch reflection of a supposedly more vital real. Within this method language performs as a container, through which a meager imitation of any 'real' is transported and supposedly gleaned. Within this methodology, language is never of the world, and experience never of the word. Presence is an infinitely ineffable phantom of impossibility. The world— out there—can never be in (writing) here. Within this system transcendence, or transientnesss—the ability to move beyond proscribed boundaries— is presented as unavailable to us. Everything is lost to us. Yet through repetition and the artful reiteration of textual forms, through the necessary, particulate, and the sensible logic of poetic language, Nightwood evokes rupture and revealment. It evokes the failure of its own prose to fend off the evidence of its artifice and exposes the usually transparent theatrical practices by which normative language proceeds. It risks and locates itself as monstrous in the requisite violence and poetic lurchings of its act. It writes itself transient, originary, metonymic and sensible in a present composition of necessity. [I]f there is a violence necessary to the language of politics, then the risk of that violation might well be followed by another in which we begin, without ending, without mastering, to own—and yet never fully to own—the exclusions by which we proceed. (Bodies 53) Epilogue I, thick-blooded mother, rotten burden of the earth, wish to declare what I am, and what can be accomplished through me. I am the black bile, first found in Latin, but now in German, but without being taught. Through madness I can write verses almost as good as one who allows himself to be inspired by wise Phoebus, the father of all art I fear only that the world might be distrustful of me lest I should want in some way to penetrate the spirit of hell. Otherwise, I could before the day, foretell what has not yet come to pass. Meanwhile I remain ever a poetess, singing of my own condition and what I am. This glory I owe to my noble blood, and when the heavenly spirit moves me I swiftly enflame hearts like a god; they are then beside themselves, and seek a path which transcends the earthly. If anyone has seen anything from the hands of the Sibyls then this was brought about by me. (Andreas Tscherning) 103 Notes 1 Standardized prose conceals within its folds its use of metaphor, allegory and metonym so as not to incite an awareness of word and form. 2This Prolepsis is for Jenny Lawn who continually challenges my thinking about language. 3Thanks to Peter Quart ermain who provided me with this term: "Could one say predatory, perhaps?"(Peter Quartermain in conversation, Spring 1995). 4Better- -in case I advance against the lure of my own projection-to state now that realism might take many forms in writing. For example, William James considered that Gertrude Stein's work was "a fine . . . kind of realism" (Letter to Gertrude Stein qtd. in Hejinian 128). The realism towards which I gesture and to which Silliman refers is that of hypotactic, self-appointed, normative prose, that claims to define and totalize a social field, as if comprising its whole (total: complete; totus: entire; comprise: include, comprehend, and especially condense). This representation insists that it is holistic and so confuses itself with the complete, disavowing its own certainty that this is impossible. Such writing hides from and conceals the evidence of its disidenufications, its poor sanitation, and its limitless sedimentary complexity. The expectation of full representation and full recognition banishes the dis-ease of certain failure underground where it swells into linguistic narcissism, psychosis, and horror. It leads to lexical anxiety, and endless recrimination over language's inevitable failure to reflect the real that it promised. 5In his essay "The Ego and the Super Ego," Freud refers to this process as cannabalistic and makes a parallel between the replacement of the object-choice by identification and the beliefs of some recorded forms of cannibalism where it is assumed that the attributes of the consumed part: heart, brain etc., will be absorbed by the consumer and that this parallel can be taken to the usages of Holy Communion (The Ego 19). ^Throughout Nightwood clothing is worn as a disconcerting spectacular statement of parody, longing and loss. For the most part this remains unacknowledged by the characters. Only the Doctor consciously dresses in drag and openly acknowledges his habits of dress. He also openly grieves his absence from the norm and from what is deemed intelligible. As a result he continually risks having to acknowledge the slow but painful process of his annihilation. The other characters are unaware of their assumptions of identity, but their habits of dress deserve mention. Robin's attire changes in her search for subjecthood. Early in the novel she dresses in old heavy silks (42). Her skirts are from a past she is both composed of and excised from. She wears them in an effort to inhabit that absence. But she cannot. Later, crossing the boundaries of identification, she will dress in "boy's trousers" and bare her teeth like an animal (168-9). Felix also dresses to define himself within a culture which denies him everything but abjection. Attempting to locate himself within the fading vestiges of Old Europe, Felix wears the genetically appropriate. His uncertainty, his ineffectual affectations render him absurd "tailored in part for the evening and in part for the day" (NW 8). Jewish but not Jewish; Christian but not Christian, Felix remains visibly invisible: When Felix's name was mentioned, three or more persons would swear to having seen him the week before in three countries simultaneously. (AW 7) The characters' appropriative and excessive manner of dress express the strategies of abjection that constrain them, that refuse them definition, and yet through that refusal define them as unintelligible. These strategies are not always gender-based and the 104 character's 'cross-dressings' express the melancholy of other hegemonies of oppression such as racism, and classism, etc. 7 Gertrude Stein, Kay Boyle, Jane Bowles, Mina Loy, etc. ^Lorraine Weir in conversation, April 1993. lc^To a large extent the Doctor's role in the text is the literal and insistent expression of internalized and unexpressed loss and grief. The Doctor's audience persistently proscribes the expression of its own sadness and so he must face annihilation in the voicing of it. In his final chapter, "Go Down Matthew," the Doctor states "I talk too much because I've been made so miserable by what you are keeping hushed" (AW 162-163). What society keeps hushed is the very loss against which, among many hegemonic imperatives, the heterosexual imperative is formed and within which the Doctor is abjected. His railing against and his insistent expression of the loss only serves to send him further into abjection. His persistent speech exposes a carefully guarded and persistent cultural silence. The importance of the preservation of that silence necessitates the contempt that destroys the doctor in his last scene. His voice is diminished. He is called "the Squatting Beast, coming out at night" by someone in the bar (AW 163), and his humiliation serves to confirm the sanctity and legitimacy of the norm: He came down upon the table with all his weight, his arms spread, his head between them, his eyes wide open and crying, staring along the table where the ash blew and fluttered with his gasping breath. "For Christ's sweet sake!" he said, and his voice was a whisper. (AW 165) 1 1 Vico also writes that synecdoche later developed into metaphor as the particulars were "elevated into universals" (300). 1 2 A literal example of this would be exploration journals. Many journals would have been composed incrementally on the ship's log. If the entry for July eighth, reads "strong winds" and for July ninth 'land sighted," between those two entries lies area of relatively free and imaginative space. sane' the final chapter is might be arguable; but if one renounces the phallogocentric metaphoric system of meaning and accepts a relational reality of next-to-ness then the definition of madness becomes (utterly) ambiguous. 1 4 In this passage there are several of what Lakoff and Turner call "dead metaphors" (127). For example, the phrases "their light fell," "her pose . . . caught," 'Ms hackles standing," are dead metaphors in that they are expressions that have entered literal language to such an extent that they are no longer considered true metaphors (169-170 AW). It could be argued that the presence of "dead metaphors" at this point in the text is problematic; but my interest lies in the text's evolution away from metaphoricity on a structural level. 1 5The question of authenticity is deeply rooted in the notion of intention and in recent years much has been written about Barnes' intent in Nightwood, particularly concerning her representations of women. She has been charged by some critics with misogyny and homophobia However, the actual loosening of the signifiers from melancholic representation renders these accusations unanswerable. The production of meaning in Nightwood surpasses authorial intent. ^Barking suggests another 'semantic pun.' Going to the dogs is another literalized conventional expression in the text. Robin literally goes (down) to the dog. Past 1 0 5 ontologies dismantle and the dog and Robin exist on equal planes. Here, going to church entails not ascent to a traditional transcendence, to God, to metaphor, but a transiting over to metonym, to a materiality, to the dog (God to dog; god-head to dog-head). l7Thanks to Susan Clark for this idea (leaping metaphors) and for being so persistent in her defense of metaphor. This notion of the metaphoric leap is also resonant with Benjamin's idea of 'the angel of history': "basically a melancholy figure, wrecked by the immanence of history, because the latter can only be overcome by a leap that does not save the past of history in an 'eternal image,' but rather in a leap leading out of the historical continuum into the 'time of now,' whether the latter is revolutionary or messianic" (Scholem, "Walter Benjamin and his Angel" qtd. in Pensky 17) 1 8 I want to preface the following etymological footnote with this comment on the notion and purpose of etymological word study. I agree with Brossard that the practice of etymology is problematic to any feminist project (or any linguistic attempt to move beyond the constraints of existing and oppressive hegemonies): At the origin of words is Man's subjectivity, and as far as we have learned to consume words we have consumed them with their root (Brossard, 'Interview" 129). It is interesting that Butler bases her argument against feminist essentialism on an etymological study that reveals a phallogocentric subjectivity behind the concept of matter itself. On the one hand Butler's example proves Brossard's point, but on the other hand Butler uses the problematic notion of origin, and the notion of the linear progressions of language through time—on which all etymologies are built—to prove her argument. However, despite the inherent problems in dictionaries, their etymological traces are not only phallogocentric catalogues demarcating the supremacy of their linguistic lineage. They are also evidence of the inability of any lineage to keeps its descendants under wraps. Etymological studies offer us mappings of language's entangled and often wildly nomadic relationship to time and place. Etymological tracings—within limits-reveal the irreducible nature of language in the face of time and reiteration, and even the inability of the phallogocentric linguistic empire to curb the liability of its existence. And so, with that said, I offer the following etymological trace of as if: The recorded histories of as and if lend to their meanings further destabilization. In the OED, under its primary definition as is defined as "a worn-down form of all-sp, OE. all-swd . ' wholly so, quite so, just so'." In its demonstrative form it has remained disyllabic as also, but in its relative and antecedent uses it has been phonetically weakened. This phonetic weakening began with its use in the relative sense. In addition to its primary definition as is also a Roman copper coin which originally weighed twelve ounces. It was reduced after the first Punic war to two ounces, after the second Punic war to one ounce and by the Lex Papira (BC. 191) it was reduced to half an ounce (OED). In Pliny the Elder's Natural History it is recorded that the as was stamped with the two faces of Janus after its first reduction (292). Janus was the Roman god of doors and beginnings. He was regarded as the doorkeeper of heaven, as the guardian of doors and gates and of the beginnings of all things. He was represented as having two faces, with each one facing in the opposite direction (Tripp 328). During the time of the Roman Empire, coins were used as a means of distributing propaganda throughout its colonies. To the different cultures which had been overtaken by Roman rule, these coins, and their inscriptions, represented the imported values-systems of a foreign and enforced reality. This reality bore little resemblance to the annexed culture's 'real' except in-so-far as it was capable of their oppression. The Roman coin, the as, would have been a literal representation of an enforced ay if. Its later reduction in size, from its literal value to its symbolic half ounce, would have given the as an as if status even within the center of Rome. The history of if is that of a conjunction or a noun referring to a condition or supposition deriving from Old English gif and German ob meaning whether and Old 106 High German, iba, condition, stipulation, doubt, ON. if doubt, hesitation. Sw. jaf. exception, challenge. i^There is another pun at work here in that the word motive 'drives' effectively into the word terminals suggesting a movement towards terminus, suggesting trains and locomotives, suggesting loco motives (power vehicles of de-railment). 2 0 I read Arendt's term original sense as meaning sense which is derived through the act of sensing. It is in accordance with Vico's notion of the sensible (see pg. 13 of this text). ^metapherein: incremental origination: a series of horizontal combustions. 2 2 In Nightwood Robin never fully engages in any aspect of society. She is a material representation of the absented. She is an allegory of the beast that feeds the phallogocentric horde. However, while the other characters signify the very norm that abjects them, Robin signifies the an absence out which she moves into a profound materiality by virtue of the ruin of those around her. 2 3Jody Castricano in conversation, March 1993. 240: E. D. 1981 ed. 25Thanks to Kathleen Allen for this idea, for all her ideas and abundant e-mails which accompanied me throughout the writing of this thesis. 2 6Buder criticizes lrigaray's contention that only the feminine haunts the linguistic borders of the centrality from which it has been excluded (Bodies 49). For Irigaray only the feminine appears in catachresis. Butler argues for a greater inclusivity. In Nightwood, this inclusivity is achieved and surpassed Religious and ethnic minorities, homosexual men, children and animals, even the novel's structures and extravagances are social improprieties of the phallogocentric norm. Nightwood is a catachresis, monstrous and haunting. 2 7Nikka is also wounded by virtue of the text's signification of him. This double wounding and its subsequent partitioned reiteration creates a dissonance within which the text exceeds again its own boundaries. ^Kathleen Allen in correspondence, April 1995. 107 Work Cited Auerbach, Finch. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1953. Adorno, Theodor. Kierkegaard: Construction of The Aesthetic. Trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor. Theory and History of Literature, Volume 61. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota P, 1989. Arendt, Hannah. Introduction. Uluminations. By Walter Benjamin. Trans. Helen and Kurt Wolff. New York: Harcourt, World and Brace, 1968. Aristotle. Generation of Animals. Trans. A. L. Peck. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1963. Bamborough, J. B. Introduction. The Anatomy Of Melancholy. By Richard Burton. Volume I, Ed. Thomas Faulkner, Nicolas K. Kiessling, Rhonda L. Blair. 3 vols. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1989. Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood New York: New Directions, 1937. Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Trans. Helen and Kurt Wolff. New York: Harcourt, 1968. —. The Origin of German Tragic Drama. Trans. John Osborne. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1977. Bernstein, Charles. Content's Dream: Essays 1975-1984. Los Angeles: Sun and Moon, 1986. Brossard, Nicole. Aerial Letter. Trans. Marlene Wildeman. Toronto: Women's P, 1988. —. "Interview with Nicole Brossard," with Louise Cotnoir, Lise Guevremont, Claude Beausoleil, and Hughes Corriveau, Canadian Fiction Magazine, 47 (1983), 131; Trans. Louise von Flotow-Evans from La nouvelle barre du jour, 118/19 (novembre 1982), 177-201. —. Picture Theory. Montreal: Editions Nouvelle Optique, 1982. Burton, Robert. The Anatomy Of Melancholy . Volume I, II, III. Eds. Thomas Faulkner, Nicolas K. Kiessling, Rhonda L. Blair. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1989. 108 Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: on the discursive limits of "sex". London: Routledge, 1993. —. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, 1990. Coolidge, Clark. "From Note Books (1976-1982)." Code of Signals, Recent Writings in Poetics. Ed. Michael Palmer. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1983. Fontenay, de Elisabeth. Diderot: Reason and Resonance. Trans. Jeffrey Mehlman. New York: George Braziller, 1982. Freud, Sigmund. A General Introduction To Psycho-Analysis. Trans. Joan Riviere. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1935. —. The Ego and the Id. Ed. James Strachey. Trans. Joan Riviere. New York: W. W. Norton, 1960. Hastings, James. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. 1912 ed. Hejinian, Lyn. "Strangeness," Poetics Journal No. 8. (1989). 32-45 —. "Two Stein Talks." Temblor 3(1986): 128-139. Howe, Susan. The Birth-mark, unsettling the wilderness in American History. Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 1993. Huet, Marie-Helene. Monstrous Imagination. Cambridge: Harvard U P, 1993. Hullot-Kentor, R. Foreword. Kierkegaard, Construction of the Aesthetic. By Theodor Adorao. Trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor. Theory and History of Literature, Volume 61. Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota P, 1989. Jakobson, Roman. Language In Literature. Eds. Krystyna Pomorska and Stephen Rudy. Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap P of Harvard UP, 1987. Lakoff, George and Johnson, Mark. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1980. Lakoff, George and Turner, Mark. More Than Coot Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989. McCaffery Steve. North of Intention. Toronto: Nightwood Editions, 1986. Melville, Herman. 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The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York: Oxford UP, 1985. Schleifer, Ronald. Rhetoric and Death: The Language of Modernism and Post-Modern Discourse Theory. Urban: U of Illinois P, 1990. Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus. Ed. M.K. Joseph. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990. Silliman, Ronald. THE NEW SENTENCE. New York: Roof, 1987. Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Connecticut: Grolier, n.d. Tripp, Edward. The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology. New York: Meridian, 1970. Tscherning, Andreas. 'Melancholey Redet selber.' The Origin of German Tragic Drama. By Walter Benjamin. Trans. John Osborne. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1977. 147-48. Vaihinger, Hans. The Philosophy of 'As if:' A System of the Theoretical, Practical and Reiligious Fictions of Mankind. Trans. C. K. Ogden. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968. Vico, Giambattista. The New Science Of Giambattista Vico. Critical Theory Since Plato. Ed. Hazard Adams. 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