June 2012

Chapter Two: Pathos (Allegories of Emotion):

Terada’s main focus in this chapter is de Man’s reading of other people. This analysis gets meta, very quickly, as it becomes Terada reading de Man’s reading of Rousseau, or other people’s reading of de Man’s reading of Rousseau…

She points out how de Man’s explores texts with real emotions, not fictive ones (such as in fiction novels or plays). For de Man, emotions are illusions that hide behind rhetoric. As Terada explains, “de Man is indeed skeptical about emotions in that he questions our motives for representing them and even having them: we use emotions, he argues, to mitigate epistemological uncertainties” (49). Emotions take the place of thought when we don’t know what to think. This analysis of de Man’s fully acknowledges the power of emotions; he does not doubt emotions. He wants to examine them, so he creates a theory of emotions and tests it against different readings.

Terada wants to use de Man because he is known for a detached prose and for being skeptical of emotions, which makes him a good case study. De Man defines passion as belonging to a system not to a subject; and while emotions are interpretative (are understood in language), they still fail to prove subjectivity.

Terada reads de Man’s idea of passion as being rhetorical as well. By examining representations of passion, we can see how passion regulates analogies. In de Man’s reading of Rousseau, love links inside and outside, where lover’s exchange identities and where love crosses over between two people: “lovers believe that their emotions leads them from outer traits to inner states and back” (50). Love helps us feel what others feel. De Man goes on to suggest that “one’s own emotion comes to be known in the first place only through connection with and confirmation from others” (51), which reminds me of Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters when the protagonist says that you can’t have a breakdown by yourself–that you need an audience to express emotions.

This passage confused me. We can only know emotions through others? Is there no other way to know emotions?

This view of emotions, as Terada points out, leads to the expressive hypothesis–that emotions prove subjectivity because a there needs to be a subject to feel anything and interpret that feeling. A closer analysis reveals how this interpretation actually undermines the expressive hypothesis.

Terada looks at de Man’s ambiguity: he says that emotions arise when we are uncertain so that emotions end uncertainty. Terada goes on to read de Man’s social theory, which arose out of dialogues with Rousseau’s “Profession of Faith.” De Man’s shows how “The sovereignty of Rousseau’s State exemplifies action independent from consciousness, significance, and emotion” (52)–actions without feelings. Since the state is a unified power, it can react, engage in actions, without feeling. Feelings only arise when the “subject” is divided; precisely since the subject is fragmented, divided, lacking, results in emotions arising. Emotions, however, are deceptive. De Man concludes that “one’s own emotion does not really provide access to the feelings of others or reflect the structure of reality, he seems to be saying, but the affective force of emotion understandably persuades us to think so” (55).

Terada explores de Man’s reading of Derrida’s views on emotions because this encounter sparks de Man’s views of emotions. De Man goes back to Rousseau’s reading of “fear” and the giant. Fear comes to point in two directions: first, as the inner state of the frightened person–the “I am afraid;” second, in the outer state–the object of fear “This may be frightening” (57). However, neither of these two have an objective claim, necessarily. Terada posits “As an interpretation of the predicament, “fear” is “in the nature of permanent hypothesis'” (57). The metaphor fails because the tenor (giant-the thing being spoken of) is ontological, while the vehicle fear (the thing) is hypothetical. The emotion itself, however, also is mere interpretation. Furthermore, “fear’s figurative status” fails to lesson it. The emotion of fear exist wether or not the object (giant) is real.

Terada then looks at de Man’s reading of Narcisse . Some points to take away:

The I’s of cogito (and Lacan already hints at this) are both virtual. Everything is simulacra, and de Man reads this story as falling in love with representation, not with self. We can never know ourselves nor a person because we are stuck in representation: the ‘I’ that can be known is virtual. This analysis explains how de Man sees emotions as arises out of uncertainty. In this story, the emotion (love) ends interpretation by positing an object (the portrait that Valerie falls in love with), thus ending the metaphor. Terada reads de Man’s reading of love here against his earlier readings of fear: “Earlier de Man contrast fear to metaphor [the metaphor turns to literalization where the giant becomes ontological and the emotion, fear, remains hypothetical]; he now likens love to metaphor….the purpose of emotions shifts…from registering the vacillation between possible interpretations to ending it” (61). I am oly hypothetically afraid of the “giannt”– depending on the giant, my interpretation shifts, but in this example with the portrait, the portrait is the thing, interpretation ends.

Emotions hypothesize confusion–fear of giant is a hypothesis of the other; and resolves confusion–when I become angry, I assign an object to my confusion, resolving what I am angry about.

De Man reads Schiller’s sublime as a way to help us cope; the sublime helps us confront something terrible without actually confronting it. As de Man puts it, we are better off imagining the boat being tossed around in the ocean than actually being on the boat. The sublime helps us cope with danger when we can experience it through a theatrical presentation. The sublime, like anxiety, has the power to motivate us to action or to paralyze us with fear.

The allegories of emotion present the sign, itself as the cause (thing, itself) of emotions. Concepts and figure of speeches undermine themselves. De Man uses these ideas of the undermining of allegory to posit his theory of emotion–Terada explores de Man’s readings of different texts.

An interesting reading Terada teases out his de Man’s reading of Rousseau’s reading of judgment. Morals are built on comparative judgments, which circle back on themselves. Feelings lead to judgments that we compare because we are unsure about which judgments are right or wrong, so we fall back on feeling– what feels right or wrong, which depends on judgments. De Man then deconstructs Rousseau’s interpretation of the State and the State’s “happiness,” which Terada uses to explain her thinking on emotions: “individuals and states must be seen as feeling nonsubjects, but the executive power of the State must be seen as a nonfeeling subjects” (77-78). Rousseau’s social contract requires the state and individuals to verbalize their relationship, which the state does through generalizations, and generalization have a different “figural structure” than the metaphorical structures of emotions. The state is “happy” insofar as it knows itself and what’s outside it. The state is defined in sovereignty, but nonsubjects have no ground to stand on, which is where emotions arise from.

The state is not conscious enough to feel. For de Man, a “real” subject lacks the centrality of states; that is, “Far from containing emotions…or possessing a consciousness capable of directing feelings, a ‘truly in-dividual, un0divided’ being would lack the self-differentiality that makes experience possible at all” (81).

And I can’t go on much longer from here, as none of this barely makes sense to me. Next she looks at Gasché’s reading of Kant to make her point about the non-subject.

Looking at Kant’s theory of lacking emotion, Terada points out how not having emotions is an emotions.

I wonder, though, is it a “lack of feeling”– the Modest Mouse lyric example of “I don’t feel anything and it feels great”? Or is it rather that feeling overwhelms the senses and so confuses the subject? Is apatheia a result of emotions having to be understood in words, and words failing to capture emotions that it “feels” like we don’t have any emotions?

Terada connects de Man’s theory of apatheia here with Heidegger’s theory of moods. We are never not in a mood, Heidegger would say. De Man points out how complicated this gets when he evokes Yeats’s idea of how to separate the dancer from the dance: how do we separate the emotion from the subject?

I think both Heidegger and Lacan can deter this concern. As Terada points out, emotions exist precisely because there is no subject–because the subject is divided, fragmented, and in language, emotions arise as a way to try to make sense of this experience of non-subjectivity.

But that is all my brain can process now…

I finally read Chapter one: “Cogito and the History of the Passions.” Terada begins this chapter by pointing out how deconstructionists are unknown for passionate writing. She points out, however, that Derrida’s writing produces emotions–emotions that overflow and “burst the bounds of his thought” (16). She further posits that emotions fail verbal representation.

Terada examines Derrida’s view of Descartes, Husserl, and Rousseau: “Their awareness that emotion is an interpretative act and that positions on representation influence positions on emotion” (17), and for Derrida, experience includes repeatability–I think of the past and past experiences while I anticipate the future–experience has always-alread just passed; I’ve always just missed it. Since experience cannot be understood outside of language, I can only realize emotions in reflection, which is always-alread a supplement to the experience. Rousseau finds this reflection theatrical; he posits that we need representation in order to have emotions.

Terada then compares Derrida to analytic philosophers, looking first at the “content approach to emotion,” where the content gives the emotion. Emotions are physical and chemical–in the body–and conceptual, so emotions stem from individual beliefs and desires. Stemming from Huuserl’s intention (perception is always the perception of something), emotions work the same way, always about something. In content approach, emotions alway depend on context. Husserl and Rousseau contribute to this thinking; whereas, Derrida:

“describes a surprising consequence: if one does accept that duality [emotions rising to the level of concepts– a connection between the conceptual and the empirical], then our own emotions emerge only through the acts of interpretation and identification by means of which we feel for other . … We are not ourselves without representations that mediate us, and it is through those representations that emotions get felt. Emotions are niether intentional nor expressive… wether they are directed at objects or not, wether we feel them on purpose or not, [emotions[ take place on what must seem to be a mental stage peopled by virtual entities” (21).

The cogito that feels these emotions, can only feel the emotion when it represents itself to itself and reads the self representation.

Terada then discusses Derrida’s deconstruction of emotions. We only feel experiences that are not immediate, and only feel other’s experience to the extent that it reminds us of our own.

The cogito, for Derrida, represents the fictive place of emotions, encouraging a “textualist stance toward life” (22). Furthermore, the cogito’s auto-affection reveals how feeling emerges in my announcing feeling to myself (23). Terada then jumps to look at how other philosophers have critiqued Derrida, claiming that Derrida’s subject differs only in terms from classic views of the subject; however, these critiques of Derrida fail to account for the phenomenological description Derrida provides. Derrida looks at “self-difference–falsely resolved in the Cartesian tradition, rejected as nonsense in the realist tradition–is experience itself, nonsubjective experience” (24). In Derrida, experiencing incompleteness is an experience, itself, and he notes that we shouldn’t confuse mental life with subjectivity. Our mental life is confused with “something else” precisely because of the incompleteness of subjectivity. We would have no emotions, Derrida contends, if there was a subject. (24)

When Husserl descrobes lived-experience, he speaks of interior monologue speaking of interior monologue, with no outside. This experience creates an immediacy, but Derrida deconstructs Husserl, point out that Husserl descrines the living present as delayed. A perception approaching future of retention–both present and different, perception and non-perception. So when I speak to myself (even in Husserl’s interior monolgue that feels immediate), there is always delay. Therefore, consciousness “in the present” is always delayed. Even “the self-enclosure of auto-affection upsets the distinction between conceptual emotion and mere empirical affect” (26).


Terada goes on the analyze Derrida’s deconstruction further. Auto-affection (addressing self) is less immediate that addressing an other. When I address myself in my head, I create a distance that is not there since I am me–I shouldn’t need to address myself; but addressing someone else reduces the distance that is there.

Terada argues that Derrida’s erasure of self makes lived-experience possible. Since immediate experience is impossible, since I have to address myself, represent the experience to myself, illustrates the lack of subject that can immediately have an emotions without filtering the emotion through representation. As Terada contends “Fright and reassurance spring from the Cartesian ego’s inability to complete its project of subjectivity. The similarity of these narratives lies not only in their movement from anxiety to reassurance but in their implication that the very existence of emotive experience assumes the incompleteness of subjectivity” (30).

The analysis then turns to Rousseau and moments of the dangerous supplement (voice, masturbation), where a substitution is needed. The analysis turns to aesthetics and the emotions that arise in fictive situations. A play, for instance, can cause emotions. Then Terada turns to her own critique of the content approach of emotions, claiming “The content approach often looks like a shell game of concepts that clams to establish a subject actually given from the beginning” (39). Mostly, content approach fails to account for aesthetics and imaginary objects. A good deal of our lives are imagined/fictive, and one can hardly deny the “fake” emotions produced by art–also a fiction.

Our words represent the idea of the emotion. For instance, looking at the example of people encountering people in the jungle and calling the people “giants.” Once actually encountering the people–of normal size– the word can change. The word “giant” represents the representation of my fear. Derrida looks at this and posits that “gaint” expresses an idea even if the word fails to indicate the actual person. Emotion is not expressed in the same manner as the idea is. The expression “is the difference between sunjective ideality and the external world, appearing with experience” (44).

Emotion falls outside of representation: “Fear itself exists in the world no more than an idea does” (44). Emotions appear to follow the Derridian trace, failing any actual, present represntation.

I would argue that all of this emotion talk is in language. Wether the experience is immediate or not, in order to understand what I feel about the experience, I have to put the experience in words. Since words only mean through diffårnce, then experience and emotions are always caught up in language and can never be directly experienced nor explained in a manner other than phenomenologically.

I finally read the infamous A Clockwork Orange, a book that more people can talk about, but that few have actually read. They aren’t missing a whole lot.

The book displays a mastery of language, employing and inventing a futuristic slang, mixing Russian with English—an irony of two opposing ideologies merging together. Stylistically, Burgess created a masterful dystopian universe and tackled some complicated issues of violence, aesthetics, free will, and the connection of these issue in a moral universe.

The protagonist Alex only loves classical music more than he does extreme and arbitrary violence. After letting his hubris get the best of him, Alex’s friends betray him at an old woman’s house filled with cats. Alex breaks in to rape and rob the old woman, but he slips on a saucer, the cats and the old woman attack him, and his friends knock him out and leave him to be arrested by the police.

The state sentences Alex to fourteen years in prison. While there, he befriends a chaplain that allows Alex to play the music during mass and introduces Alex to the Bible—Alex identifies with Jesus’s captors and torturers and enjoys the violence. The prison becomes overcrowded and Alex has a confrontation with a fellow inmate and Alex ends up killing the man.

The state decides it will use Alex for a new program they have. Alex is injected with something and forced to watch hours of horribly violent films, which cause him to have a physical reaction of nausea and sickness, along with fear and anxiety. Eventually cured (after two weeks), he leaves and finds himself in a different world. The state has cleaned up crime on the streets, and Alex can no longer defend himself since he cannot even think about violence without getting sick.

He goes home and finds his room has been rented out. He ends up at a library trying to research ways to kill himself peacefully, where he meets a man who Alex had robbed and abused. The old man and his friends attack Alex and the police are called; however, the police are his old rival and his old droog, Dim, who betrayed him earlier. They take Alex out to the country where they beat him senseless. Alex ends up at a home where he raped a writer’s wife (the dude’s book was called “Clockwork Orange”). The writer is a dissident who wants to use Alex as a pawn against the government. The writer’s friends take Alex to an apartment and lock him in. He wakes up to classical music, which now reminds him of violence and he gets so crazy he jumps out of a window.

At the hospital, Alex is “cured” and realizes he can fantasize about horrendous shit again without getting sick. The government, in a moment of p.r. with elections coming up, make a big show about curing Alex and offer him a great job and a stereo. Alex rejoices in knowing he will return to his old criminal life while accepting this job—the writer was going to kill him anyway, so everything really works out for Alex. (The American version ends here)—the British version has a final chapter where Alex is older, and while he has a new gang, he begins to lose his taste for violence. He runs in to one of his old droogs, who is married and working now, which further makes Alex realize that all his violence was childish.

One of the central themes of the book is the necessity of free will for good and evil. If the state “cures” Alex, making him incapable of even choosing to commit crimes, then he cannot be good. Much of the commentary I’ve seen discusses this central concern: the text’s examination of free will and good, claiming, correctly I believe, that good only exist if we have free will. My problem with all this talk of free will is Alex’s characterization. If Alex has no capacity for shame or guilt, is that free will? How can Alex chose good if he doesn’t even know what good is? Grant it, that might be a weak argument: he knows what good is; he manipulates people in a knowledgeable way. Alex views violence as an art form, and he reveals his sense of violence as art, claiming some things wrong and something correct when it comes to inflicting violence; however, when one feels no remorse, no guilt, no empathy, that person is a psychopath, an the idea of free will and choice is skewed. When the doctors tell Alex, “What is happening to you now is what should happen to any normal healthy human organism contemplating the actions of the forces of evil, the workings of principles of destruction. You are being made sane, you are being made healthy” (Norton Critical Edition 71), they are partially correct. Alex has no sense of remorse at all for the violence he inflict; not even when he is helped by F. Alexander, knowing the women he raped died because of it. Alex feels no remorse at the violence he inflicted on the old man at the library—Alex is a psychopath, and the normal rules of society, or free will, apply to him.

Furthermore, these readings arguing for Alex’s lost free will overlook his suicide attempt, his choice to not tell F. Alexander that he(Alex) was the criminal who two years earlier broke in and raped his (F.) wife. Alex lies, purposefully and with malicious intent. While Burgess says “Goodness is nothing if evil is not accepted as a possibility” (135), I would also argue that evil is nothing if goodness is not accepted as a possibility.

Nonetheless, the novel displays the government as the ultimate psychopath, unrelenting in its manipulations, without remorse for its victims. The state uses Alex and the thugs to patrol the streets and keep common people scared and indoors, and then later, the state hires those thugs as police. On this point, the novel does an excellent job of revealing the ironies of a totalitarian regime.

But now this is all much too much to review later when I study for comps…