The End of the Subject is Not the End of Me

There is no such thing as postmodern— at least not from the perspective of postmodernity. The will to take different things, group them together, and assign them one identity is precisely the will postmodernity critiques.

Postmodernity — whatever that is — is often accredited with undoing truth and the subject. But this is a simplistic reduction. Just as there are individual thinkers with individual world views — Deleuze is not Derrida is not Foucault is not de Certeau is not Guattari — there are different ways of constructing the individual.

Which is to say, just because one might suggest that there is no subject per se — that is, a subject that is self-identical, univocal, and metaphysical (an invisible Being) — does not mean that one is suggesting that there is no form, no identity at all. That would be silly.

The question is not whether there is a subject or not but in what ways can we conceive of the individual.

For instance, why not an individual that is always becoming? Becoming is not the eradication of borders; it's the putting on motion of borders. To consider the individual as a becoming rather than a being is to move the individual from geometry to calculus, from stasis to motion.

A becoming, then, is stipulated, a shaping, a trajectory: I go like this. Like what? Like this.

Let's begin, then, by considering the individual a differential equation: limited but infinite.

And why not networked? Just because I am made of different things, just because I am intersected by threads from elsewhere, doesn't mean I am not singular? I am this node.

Yet I am not just not a node. I am a productive cog: I make sense of these diverse threads in this way. Because I am a thread, too — a shaping of this world, an ever-moving zone of the cosmos, at once constitutive and constituent.

So just because I am not a fixed Being doesn't mean I am not me: I am this becoming node, this inflection of the cosmos.


Unknown said...

This is interesting. I always had a hard time with the term postmodern, because I was never really sure why all these particular thinkers were grouped together; who was postmodern and who wasn't also seemed to change depending on who you asked.

Your description of it reminds me a bit of the term "Gnosticism." It's like this catch-all phrase for anyone in a certain period of early Christianity who wasn't Orthodox, but the various Gnostic Scriptures are staggeringly different from one another, espousing remarkably varied interpretations of the major theological issues of the time.

Lauren said...

My god, that movie...I grew up watching Sleeper. It's actually an amazing movie to watch as a kid, or at least I thought it was. Just so wonderfully absurd- the giant pieces of fruit, Woody Allen doing a Blanche duBois impression, the orb...I need to watch this again.

Jim H. said...

Terrific post. Glad to be alerted to your blog (by BDR). I posted a response over at my own place, a quote from my novel right on point. Wisdom of the West

I look forward to reading around in the archives here to see if there are any further points of convergence.

Jim H.

dustygravel said...

"There is no such thing as postmodern— at least not from the perspective of postmodernity."

I agree whole Heartedly only
I love the word postmodern. It sounds great, man. Its always after whats happened but never any further along in any direction, its beyond the modern age but some how vary different from postapocalyptic, which is the destruction of the modern age. I guess it makes me try to think of something out side of progress and decline.

So I was thinking... couldn't postmodern also be an individual thing made up of a multiplicity of other things. And if so what then would be the limit of postmodernism?

"Postmodernism, when i hear it I feel like I'm floating in space for a thousand years."

dustygravel said...

Oh man–sorry, I don't think I was sober minded enough to state the postmodern.

This is it, the postmodern is that feeling you get when you're stopped at a traffic light next to a moving amtrak, as you watch it move forward you feel like you're moving backwards when in fact you're not. That's the postmodern.

Daniel Coffeen said...

@ Dusty: I'm with you....I once taught a class called The Postpostmodern. I love that title...an infinite and always already after that somehow folds back into a present. A stutter, a moving along the surface.

@ Jim H: Wow! Love it. It IS uncanny, methinks.....

drwatson said...

I had a wonderful reading list for a class called Postmodern and Contemporary American Fiction: After the Material turn.

We read Georges Perec (obviously not an american) Negarastani (same)David Foster Wallace, Mark Z Danielewski (House of Leaves is the coolest novel I've read in years.) Bruno Latour, and several others. That class gave me a good perspective on the new philosophical approaches to studying the world of objects. Not sure if anybodies been reading these guys, but it made since as a move after "postmodernism."

Also been reading some of the guys that call themselves Speculative Realists - Graham Harman in particular. He's been wonderful at complicating Heidegger for me.

Just making plugs, no real point.

dustygravel said...

@drwatson:: "been wonderful at complicating Heidegger"

I love that, as if Heidegger isn't
complicated enough but that its wonderful to make him more complicated, beautiful. I'm goin to check out this Graham Harman guy.

@Coffeen:: The Postpostmodern, man I wish I was there for that.

(I think about this part of the blog)
"doesn't mean I am not singular? I am this node.

Yet I am not just not a node. I am a productive cog"

This is so complicated, the negatives swirl in my mind tell I'm exhausted. I am a node, I am me a singular sole.
I am not only a node, because a node is every thing that plugs into it, and I am not a node because unlike a node I make sense of what comes into me, the active component. Ok still swirling but I think I got it.

I am an ever-moving zone of the cosmos.

Daniel Coffeen said...

@ Dr: Perec! He's in my canon. Species of Spaces is one of the great treats in the world. And intrigued by your passion for House of Leaves.

drwatson said...

@Coffeen - Next time you're in a book store just pick up House of Leaves and flip through it. I'd be surprised if you don't walk out with it. The object, the book itself, is part of the experience of reading. Some pages only have one word, some times you have to flip the book upside down to read it. But it never pushes to the point where it's unreadable.

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