Johannessen, Lene. “The Lonely Figure: Memory and Exile in Ana Menendez’s “In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd.” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 41.1 (2005): 54-68. Routledge, 15 Aug. 2006. Web. 5 Nov. 2013.


Johannessen covers the discussion of exile and figuration. She examines how the exile attempts to re-map his/her new place in order to orient him/herself, in order to understand a new place meaningfully. Johannessen expresses that writin gin exile is writing in extreme. Her essay explores two levels: figuration- metaphor and analogy, which are the master tropes; and the manner in which the exile attempts to understand and familiarize him/herself in a new land. The exile uses old knowledge and applies it to new, unknown world in order to place him/herself. Migration is never merely happy or not—literature, like actual experience, has a growing number of displacement stories. Migration follows a wide range of motivations. The difference between groups depends on motivation. Exile, for instance, is marked by forced banishment; emigration is a choice for a better life.

Ana Menendez’s stories speak in memory, which remembers what has been left behind. The essay states, “The title story “In Cuba I was a German Shepherd” allows a reading that lends ear to the voice of memory as it obsesses with the past” (Johannessen 55). This essay wants to look at how “this voice” [memory] configures the narrative and how memory shapes desire. Johannessen says she will use tropology (the figurative use of language), Bakhtinian architectuonics (triad of model of human psyche; I-for-myself; I-for-other; and I-for-me), and cognitive linguistics. All these fields deal with memory, orientation, and relationships.

Memory unites the dissimilar, while similarity unites what is not continuous in memory. Borrowing the idea from Dianne Thompson’s The Brothers Karamazov and the Poetics of Memory, this essay quotes: “the continuity of memory makes us unite what dissimilarity (spatio-temporal) might otherwise separate; similarity makes us unite what discontinuity in the memory might hold apart” (Thompson (3) qtd. in Johannessen 55). The essay goes on to say that writing in exile intensifies this “sensitivity to temporal and spatial complexities and contradictions embodied in all attempts at representation” (55). Writing magnifies the disjunction between “home” and “place”—writing turns to home in order to restore familiarity in memory (55). Writing in exile highlights what was and what is, and attempts to recover home through narrative, “in order to recreate and restore familiarity, if only its memory” (55). Therefore, exile writers attempt to hold on to memories and to write in order to familiarize themselves with the world.

This familiarization attempts to “orient” self in the world. Writing attempts to restore the old world from nostalgic memory: the writer’s attempt to understand a new place through familiarization happens through the use of metaphor and analogy, “ ‘the master tropes’of migration” (55). Since the exiled lives in a new, unknown world, the exile uses analogy and metaphor to familiarize him/herself—to map his/her new world, a way of understanding. One comes to know the world through language—figuration or mapping—the exile takes what he/she knows and connects that knowledge to things he/she does not know. This “figuration” results in mixing of culture and language. Memory recalls what has been left behind. This idea leads to the essay’s contention that “The title story “In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd” resonates powerfully with such compulsive retrospection, and allows a reading that lends ear to the voice of memory as it obsesses with the past” (55). This memory leads to exile’s desire.

Emigration leads to the need of making the unfamiliar and new into the familiar and understandable. The essay draws on cognitive linguistics to explain the idea of metaphorical mapping—the mapping of “source domains” that diverge from the “target domain.” The idea—from Heyden White and Antonio Barcelona—is that the exile projects old concepts on to new ones: “Language, custom, religion, and tradition undergo a certain degree of ‘figuration’ as they travel from one domain o another”—the two domains tend to blend (56). Migration parallels the idea of the “figuration process.”

The essay looks at Menendez’s stories, and it claims that the characters “and their relationship to the world display…a sensitivity to temporal disjunction and dislocation that challenges the coherence of the narrative’s inner space” (56). –plot summary   –focus on Maximo’s “nervous breakdown” (bottom 56-57).Looks at the park: essay claims that Domino Park becomes a separate entity of “American Miami” and acts as a “synecdoche of Cuba” (58). The park only matters to the Cuban immigrants who determined the “place” of the park, giving it meaning as they recreate a Cuban ritual. The Park, now—when Maximo visits it—has become gentrified and a tourist attraction. With the gentrification and touristification of the Park, the Park loses its synecdoche for the Cuabns (why? I don’t understand this logic?) The process works by taking something old but subordinate (Cuban Domino) and re-figuring it to match the new “thing” (America Miami). [An example is brujeira—where Cubans take an old, “pagan” religion and map it on to the new Catholic religion). The Park, however, has not followed these examples: “The park takes its cue, as it were, exclusively from what lies outside it” (58). The tour guide’s discourse objectifies Maximo and the Park, taking away the old Cubans agency in creating their own culture. [Again, I don’t agree—the Park, gentrified or not—arises out of Cuban culture, of bringing and introducing a Cuban ritual in to this space where only (mostly) Cubans over the age of 55 are allowed to participate. Objectification for tourist does not lead to inauthenticity of the ritual performed by the Domino players).

Maximo feels someone else’s will determining him “So even if the function of the park (as a site for playing domino) may not be basically altered from the point of view of the guide, the metaphorization it has been subjected to transforms it into a relic, an object for musuems, something that is lifeless” (59) – [Cubans who fled from Castro’s communism have always-already felt “someone else’s” will determining them].   The park attempts a one-to-one replacement that attempts to limit distance and past. [[I would argue no—that the Cubans who go play there KNOW that this park is a constructed space; however, as Raul says, they do not care. He embraces the spectacle. The Cubans know that this Park, in the middle of Miami, pales in comparison to what they had in Cuba—like most everything in Miami/America, none of it is as good as it was in Cuba.—‘eso no pasabar en Cuba]

Troping is a desire for replication not transformation; the exile space becomes itself the substitute for home. Johannssen claims that “Domino Park represented home with little regard for the new cultural domain in which it resided” (59) and that currently, the Park represents home as a constructed place, thus a caged zoo. Using cognitive linguistics, metaphor and metonymy, used to map knowledge to the unknown for understanding. Both, however, are different “Metonymy is [a] conceptual projection whereby one experiential domain (the target) is partially understood in terms of another experiential domain (source) included in the same common experiential domain” (Barcelona 4 qt. in Johannssen 60).

The essay relates memory to metonymy—metonymic memory selects what it remembers along continuous lines. For the exile, the idea of orientation does not involve making a ‘new home’—home is lost forever, and only lingers, frozen, in memory (60). Metaphor is not good for constituting the exile’s discourse “both because of its retrospective orientation, but also, and just as crucially, because the exile’s obsession is not only with memory but also oblivion” (60). Metonym is better since it “prefigures the exile’s mode of ordering” (60). The essay then looks at “In Cuba…”—stories about Cuba and past and follows two figurations: 1-similie—figure of despair of departure “roots dug in like fingernails in a good-bye” (Menedez 7). The 2nd– likens narrative to movement, where memory uses image of journey and space: “figuration is, however, inherently unstable, inaccurate, if for nothing else than the fact that the absence of figure does not exist” (61)—language opens up a gap between what is meant and what can be meant—this analysis sounds much like Derrida’s trace. The gap is itself a form, a “thing.” The figure that Maximo opens up is called “suspension” (61). Maximo’s memory illustrates memory and oblivion: memory connects him and separates him from his old home.

Maximo’s memories –his daydreams—become present in the figure of his wife. His memories, his daydreams, are a “synecdochical representation”, where parts (memory) stand in for the whole (Cuba). His memories stand in for that location, his home in Cuba. His memories represent how the exile occupies a certain place while remembering another place. This double creates a “discursive tension” that cause Maximo to “conflate and confuse” Cuban with Miami (62). Maximo thinks of his “other life” but that phrase is ambiguous—which is his other life? Johannssen wants to look at this tension—this suspension—and states that exile’s “double orientation” struggle for dominance; however, for Maximo, this “suspension” is neither Miami nor Cuba. Maximo is left without a place because he has no way to orient himself. He has no place from which to speak since he cannot reconcile his current place and his past; he is caught between place and time. (63).

Essay turns to joke, which functions along metonymic memory. The laughter directed at Anglo-American superiority and arrogance also pokes fun at Cuban “and his innocent provincialism in the face of the cosmopolitan new world he encounters” (65). He invests his naivety in the dignity. Essay says that he gets the laugh and “allows Maximo to escape his enclosure in a life lived elsewhere” (65). [I think this reading of the joke misses some nuances. I think that Maximo, a professor and well-read man in Cuba, knows that he is thought to be the provincial, poor man, and possibly uneducated man in the eyes of American society, and the joke is quite “literal”—in that new way literal means—in pointing out that Maximo was a German Shepherd in Cuba (a well respected professor), so the joke serves as a tragic reminder of his new place in America, in Miami, where he can no longer come off as a great and “pure breed”]

This annotation is of Cheng’s essay published in The Kenyon Review; since then she has published a book. I hope to get to it soon,


Cheng, Anne Anlin. “The Melancholy of Race.” The Kenyon Review. American Memory/ American Forgetfulness 19.1 (Winter, 1997): 49-61. JSTOR. Web. 15 July 2013.

Cheng begins by asking if we can ever get over race; she answers her question with no: one merely has to look at the way the “race card” gets played in society to see that the answer is no. She examines the idea of a “race card”—of a card that gets played. The implication is that if one holds a full deck, then they do not need to play the special card. The full deck implies an “idealized version of multiple subjectivity” (race, gender, ethnic, etc) (49). One only needs to play a card if one is outside of the game, “for to play the race card is to exercise the value of one’s disadvantage, the liability that is asset” (49-50). Cheng points out the paradox: the one who plays with a full deck does not need to pull out a special card.

[Or is the race card more like a Wild card? The race card is a card that gets played when you do not have the proper “real” card. A card used to try to get an advantage because your hand is short of the proper card]

Cheng looks at Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Women Warrior where the narrator says she feels most at home when she is not at home. The narrator, who is always sick at home, but feels great in America, reveals the effect of affects. A sick body becomes one of hypochondria. That body only feels good when it is not at home, in displacement.

Freud sets up a distinction between mourning and melancholia, where melancholy is the pathological version of mourning; someone who cannot “get over the loss” (Cheng 50), the loss becomes incorporated into the ego. Remembrance becomes part of the self; since melancholy fails to let go, “is denied loss” [Derrida’s I carry the world of the other], Freud says “by incorporating and identifying with the ghost of the lost one, the melancholic takes on the emptiness of that ghostly presence and in this way participates in his/her own self denigration” (Cheng 50).  Cheng turns to Freud and his distinction between mourning and melancholy. Melancholy is the pathological version of mourning because melancholy does not allow the sufferer to “get over” the loss. As she points out “rather, loss is denied as loss and incorporated as part of the ego” (50). The act of remembering (of not forgetting) becomes part of the self. Freud, she says, reminds us that this taking on of the lost one, means that the melancholic “takes on the emptiness of that ghostly presence and in this way participates in his/her own self-denigration” (50). Taking this idea of melancholy, Cheng wants to apply it to race:

“As a model of ego-formation (the incorporation as self of an excluded other), melancholia provides a provocative metaphor for how race in America, or more specifically how the act of racialization, works” (50). America has a history of forming its identity through exclusionary practices (blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, etc), but America also does a good job of forgetting those practices. Since American identity is caught between these axis, the problem becomes how to remember America’s ugly past without slowing down progress? (51). Cheng presents the protagonist of Invisible Man as an example of the “minority as the object of white melancholia” (51). He represents an invisible body that cannot be forgotten. The ghost of that which society killed but the body remains. Mr. Norton represents the idea of progress. He supports black education and builds a monument on the progress of blacks in America off of the work of young black (ghostly) men. Cheng transitions into Toni Morrison’s critique of the American literary canon. The canon is full of books that look back at America’s past, but the canon is full of white people; therefore “the canon is a melancholic corpus because of what it excludes but cannot forget” (51). We have stories about the history of slavery and racism we cannot forget, but we fail to have very many minorities IN the cannon.

Cheng turns her attention to the melancholic minority. First, melancholy resembles what Derrida would term an undecidable: “. . . it designates a condition of identity disorder where subject and object become indistinguishable form one another. The melancholic object, made neither dead nor fully alive, must experience its own subjectivity as suspension, as excess and denigration—and in this way, replicate the melancholic subject” (51). A good cultural melancholic is the one who has a vision of herself without herself (as in the Kingston example). The idea that America is a melting pot is in itself a contradiction between assimilation and making a difference. The minority subject has to deny her/him self in order to inhabit the majority subject, thus suspending the idea of his/her own “minority” subjectivity.

Cheng goes into the example of Flower Drum Song where the minority, a father and daughter, celebrate their minority through illegality. The movie promotes assimilation. The two, illegal aliens, are actually ideal citizens. The father worries about breaking the law, as he is breaking the law. At the end of the movie, the daughter embraces her illegality in order to assimilate—in order to give herself over to citizenship and becoming the ideal citizen. Cheng states “More than a haunting concept in America, the “minority subject” presents a haunted subject. Minority identity reveals an inscription marking the remembrance of absence” (52). The minority subject is the melancholic one who is forced to renounce herself (instead of the lost object—in this case, the lost object is the minority subject, herself).

[this analysis of the minority embracing the illegality in order to become legal is interesting. The illegal has to assimilate, lose him or herself, in order to be legal. But in Cuban narrative, Cuban subject is here (by dry foot law) always legally. Cuban occupy a different space/place within the immigration narrative. The Cuban immigrant is the embodiment of U.S.’s victory over communism—Cuban represent a win for American ideology].

Freud realizes that even in proper mourning, the subject might suffer melancholy. In order to get over “it” the subject needs to already have been, somehow, over “it.” (53). Freud’s mourning entails a forgetting, which only reinstates the death: “Mourning implies the second killing off of the lost object” (53). Cheng makes an interesting connection between mourning and melancholy, stating that the melancholic integrates the lost object while the mourner forgets the lost object, but in both cases, the result ends up the same, with the disappearance of the lost object: “. . .the production of denigration and rejection, however re-introjection is concomitant with the production and survival of “self.” The good mourner turns out to be none other than an ultrasophisticated, and more lethal, melancholic” (53). The two methods are for the benefit of the subject who is dealing with lost—and in both cases, the subject either kills and denigrates the lost object (mourning), or hangs on to, fails to forget the lost object—both cases, in order to move on. In other words, the difference is that the mourner kills (again), in forgetting the lost object; the melancholic replaces the loss object with the very loss. The melancholic forgets the lost object and hangs on to the idea of loss (53).

In terms of racialization, these two methods deal with boundaries and blurring boundaries. Boundaries establish race; one defines the other against self. By identifying as one race, one identifies “other” races. While the issue of ethnicity is one of boundaries, we will never be able to set matters right. We are already conditioned by what society deems abnormal or broken—the language used to discuss and attempt to free those society oppresses is already caught up in and pre-conditioned by society. Cheng connects this problem to Freud: “In the way of Freudian logic, pathology defines health. Racial identity, as a moment of active self-perception, is almost always simultaneous with the racialization of another, an instance of othering” (53-54). Zora Neil Hurston, for instance, says she feels most black when contrasted with a white background. Where white defines black, “each defining the other’s pathology” (54).

The melancholic minority internalizes (assimilates) dominant cultural demands. This internalization is a matter of desire. What does the minority want? [Cuban culture is an exception of this idea of internalization. Cubans playing domino at Domino Park have intergrated their culture into America—not “internalized” the dominant culture. Indeed, the language, food, and general culture of the Cuban community show how little Cubans, at least initially (first wave Cuban immigrants) assimilated; I am not talking about Perez-Firmat’s 1.5ers who have create a new culture out of mixing Cuban/American].

The point is that the act of racialization, of denying and re-assimilating the other, of self-perception, is a melancholic act. The discourse of compensation denies the problem of how the discrimination was put in place, and fails to acknowledge the physical affects of the discrimination. Cheng wants to explore how racialization works through this melancholic heuristic. The ethnic subject attempts, like the melancholic one, to forget (who she is). Cheng asks, “If the melancholic minority is busy forgetting herself, with what is she identifying?” (54). The minority, as has been said, has “internalized dominant cultural demands” – so Cheng asks: what does the minority subject desire? “When it comes to political critique, it seems as if the desire itself may be what the minority has been enjoined to forget” (54). Cheng looks at Madame Butterfly, where Song, disguised as a woman, seduces Gallimard. Song’s desire is never explored; he is either the object of Song’s desire or critique of it. His performance must remain inauthentic if it is to remain a critique. Cultural assimilation requires relinquishment—a disguise.

This notion of cultural assimilation is common in literature. Homi Bhabha explores connection of assimilation and falsehood: mimicry is a colonial discipline that is doomed to failure. Mimicry means that ethnic other acts a little like the dominant culture but not too much. The attempt by the ethnic to “internalize the other” is for Bhabha an authoritive injunction. An example of this injunction to mimic the dominant culture can be seen in the servant Indian dressed as the English (Babar the elephant?). This imitation serves the purpose of showing that the ethnic is playing the game and trying to fit in, while also keeping the distance of never reaching “authenticity.” However, Cheng says that “The concept of melancholic racialization, however, implies that assimilation may be more intimately linked to identity than a mere consequence of the dominant demand for sameness” (55). This melancholic assimilation (passing, acting like dominant culture) is a fait accompli (an action that is done and cannot be changed). The ethnic subject forms an ego through this acting, but the ethnic other is never considered authentic. “Passing” becomes part and parcel of the ego, of the subject.

Cheng looks at Derrida, who also implies that the “disguise” becomes part of the subject’s identity. The very act of “taking in” the culture of the other becomes an act of self-constitution. This act of mimicry works on both the minority and dominant culture. As Cheng’s Invisible Man example illustrates “If he [invisible man] has assimilated only through his invisibility, then he also renders dissimilar and strange the status of their [white-anglo] visibility” (57).  Cheng sees this type of mimicry as a possible way to challenge and subvert assimilation. Assimilation only goes to undermine the culture assimilated.

This essay then falls into the idea laid out by Derrida on immigration and the breakdown of an in/out binary. Cheng focuses on Rinehart from Invisible Man, who is both religious and pimp, runner and gambler and lover, etc.. “Who you are depends on whom you are talking to, which community you are in, and who is watching your performance” (57). Cheng describes how performing becomes the actual thing; Song in M. Butterfly becomes the lover he was only playing—Zizek elaborates this point in stating that the mask we wear is actually who we are.

Cheng’s argument revolves around a Derridain deconstruction of absence/presence and of inside/outside. She says that “American culture is continually confronted by ghost it can neither spit out nor swallow,” and then later she says that the act of configuring authentic American culture is an act of exclusion that pre-conditions what is included: “The act of delineating absence preconditions presence” (58). What Cheng argues is the melancholy of race, is precisely what Zizek says is the problem with tolerance in racial matters. Cheng says that “ You carry the foreigner inside you. This malady of doubleness, I argue, is the melancholy of race, a dis-ease of location and memory, a persistent fantasy of identification that cleaves and cleaves to the marginalized and the master” (60).

What would Levinas think of this idea of carrying the foreigner inside you? If my subjectivity is predicated on the other, then I am by difference with the other, no?

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’m getting my ass kicked. The book about emotions I am reading is kicking my ass. And I also have a class about teaching literature that is kicking my ass. Sure, I could be doing better, but I’m having a hard time concentrating. Anyway, the book I am reading now needs to be broken down, so here goes:

Rei Terada- Feeling in Theory: Emotion after the “Death of the Subject”


Beginning with Jameson’s Postmodernism, Terada illustrates how Jameson, and most people in postmodern society, fails to see emotion; as Jameson states, postmodernism begins the “waning of affect.” In postmodernism, the subject loses its center: there is no subject to have a strong emotion. Terada quotes Manfred frank, who states, “A dead subject emits no more cries of pain.”
(pages 1-2).

However, Terada’s thesis contradicts these views of lost emotions with the death of the subject in postmodernism, stating “it is time to consider the possibility that poststructuralism is directly concerned with emotion. In order for this to be so, emotions would have to be nonsubjective. I will argue that these statements do describe the case. Poststructuralist thought about emotions is hidden in plain sight” (3), and goes on to argue that if there were subjects, emotions would not exist (4).

Terada outlines her terms. Emotion means a psychological, minimally interpretive experience whose physiological aspect is affect—affect: verb (used with object)
1. to act on; produce an effect or change in: Cold weather affected the crops.
2. to impress the mind or move the feelings of: The music affected him deeply.
3. (of pain, disease, etc.) to attack or lay hold of. (, “affect”)

Feeling (a capacious term) connotes both psychological sensation (affect) and psychological states (emotions).

Passion reflects the difficulty of labeling emotions as passive or active.

Terada focuses on emotion, “constructed in a psychological and unremarkable way” (5). She does not argue against a classic way of seeing emotions, nor does she argue for a fully-present subjectivity, rather the classical way of handling emotion deconstructs the idea of subjectivity. Her “expressive hypothesis” states that emotion requiring a subject creates the illusion of subjectivity “rather than show evidence of it” (11).

That is all I can make of this now… I continue reading…

George Bernard Shaw’s Heartbreak House fashions itself in the Russain tradition according to its author, but the humor aptly employs classic British understatement for its humor, and the play’s subtle sarcasm reminds me of an Oscar Wilde work.

Hesione Hushabye invites Ellie Dunn, her fiancé, and her father over for dinner to the house that Hesione’s father, Captain Shotover, built, resembling a ship. Before the dinner begins, Hesione’s sister, who had been away for years, arrives, supposedly unrecognized by her father, who might be crazy but highly intuitive. Throughout the play, the house affects all the characters in peculiar ways, revealing that all the characters are the opposite of the image they project.

The play takes place on the eve of WWI, and according to Shaw, reflects the debased society of British society that lead to war. The characters are all superficial in their way, liars, scoundrels, easily manipulated.

I believe the play informs the Lacanian symbolic space and the other. The characters mask, who they present to the world, breaks down, and the breakdown represents the breakdown of society as a whole, which leads to WWI. Zizek explains here.

We need to keep the illusion of the symbolic space, even if we all know the truth behind the illusion, in order to maintain a civil society. The play breaks down this space; the characters deny the pleasantries of knowing someone is a bad person but not pretending s/he actually is.

Nightwood presents the narrative of people’s heartbreaking. The main character, Robin Vote, leaves broken hearts behind her the way the heartbroken leaves tissues and empty Ben and Jerry’s behind. The story begins with Baron Felix Volkbein’s history–all fake, which he attempts to uphold,because family name and European traditions define his (false) identity, and he believes that marrying Robin and siring an heir will keep his legacy alive. Robin gives birth to Guido and realizes that she desires something different from life, so she spends her nights away in debauchery and distracting herself with various affairs. Finally, she moves to America and shacks up with Nora Flood, who fails to hold Robin’s attention, who feels driven by the conflicts of “love and anonymity,” spending her time debauching and in elicit affairs away from home while Nora waits for her. During one such night Robin meets Jenny Petherbridge, a widow four times over, who “gains happiness by stealing the joy of others.” Jenny turns her attention to stealing Robin away from Nora, and succeeds. In her despair, Nora (like Felix before her) turns to the counsel of Dr. Matthew O’Connor to recover from the loss of Robin.

The doctor reminds me of a darker version of something Oscar Wilde might imagine. Matthew’s speciality is stories; he expertly weaves stories that help the people who seek his consul until the end of the novel after Nora unloads on him and he turns to alcohol to forget. His monologues present an interesting mediation on love and heartbreak and memory and death and desire– his locution amazes.

The novel ends with Nora back in America, camping in a forest with her dog, near Robin, who wanders the forest and ends up at an abandoned church. Nora’s dog gets away and Nora goes after it; the dog ends up leading Nora to the church where she finds Robin kneeling before an alter. In a mad fit, Robin sprints towards the door knocking Nora unconscious. Robin plays with the dog until she falls asleep.

Many critics discuss this novel as a mediation on heartbreak and love, but the love here is selfish and violent. Robin’s love manipulates her lovers, Nora’s heartbreak results from ego, Felix gives his love as part of a lie– the characters are misguided, selfish people who engage in love that fixes their object of love in an image and results in heartbreak when the object of love breaks the image. Robin is a spoiled brat, an Nora is a spineless nitwit. The doctor, the biggest lier of all, manages to know himself better than anyone else in the novel.