Foucault as educator: the question of technology and learning how to read differently.
techniques that permit individuals to effect, by their own means, a certain number of operations on their own bodies, their own souls, their own thoughts, their own conduct, and this in a manner so as to transform themselves, modify themselves, and to attain a certain state of perfection, happiness, purity, supernatural power. (1997a, 177)
Thus defined, the concept reflects Foucault's late turn to the subject. Confessing in an interview that his neglect of the subject resulted, in part, from his overemphasis on technologies of power and domination, Foucault moved to correct his one-sided analysis of the modern subject (understood as an effect of discourse), by going back to the "origins" of modernity, to the study of Greco-Roman culture, and turning his attention to the ancient, ethical notion of the "care of the self" (le souci de soi).
The return of, and to, the subject in Foucault's late writings, however, has led to much controversy: Did Foucault renounce his earlier idea that "the individual is not a pre-given identity" (1980, 73)? (2) The answer is clearly no. But, as a critic recently remarked, "it is an ironic return," since "the reinvocation of the subject serves as a means of showing its historical construction, not its metaphysics" (Strozier 70). Indeed, Foucault's turn to the subject did not reflect a naive wish to return to quasi-transcendental origins, a yearning to resurrect a monadic ego, a transhistorical subject whose demise or dissolution he had celebrated in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (1970). On the contrary, Foucault still rejected an a priori understanding of the subject (the subject is not a substance) but now simply turned his genealogical focus from the formation of the subject to the self's own active self-formation as subject through specific technologies. In an attempt to bridge his earlier thinking and this new concern, Foucault introduces agency in his understanding of the constitution of the subject. As Mark Olssen observes: "'Technologies of the self' ... are operated by individuals themselves who have the agency to utilize strategies of power to manage and affect their constitution as subjects through a recognition of the possible 'subject positions' available, and through resistance, to change history" (32). Those familiar with Foucault's Archeology of Knowledge (1972) will recall that he uses the notion of "subject-position" namely to dismantle the view that the subject exists prior to discourse: a subject, Foucault tells us, is "not the speaking consciousness, not the author of the formulation, but a position that may be filled in certain conditions by various individuals" (115). In a similar vein, Foucault writes elsewhere that the subject is simply "a complex and variable function of discourse" (1977, 138). Ironically, however, Olssen's use of "subject position" is intended to underscore not its social and institutional character but the possibility of freedom; it is argued that an awareness of available "I-slots" would enable the subject to position itself differently and thus to make itself otherwise than previously constituted.
This interpretative move is not without precedent. Diana Fuss, in her study Essentially Speaking (1989), makes the case for the pertinence of the notion of "subject-position" as a critical tool for textual hermeneutics. Drawing on Foucault's insights, Fuss constructs a theory of reading, raising the following suggestive questions:
What are the various positions a reading subject may occupy? How are these positions constructed? Are there possible distributions of subject-positions located in the text itself? Can a reader refuse to take up a subject-position the text constructs for him/her? Does the text construct the reading subject or does the reading subject construct the text?" (32)
Yet there seems to be a tension between the model of "subject-position" originally outlined in Foucault's Archeology of Knowledge and Fuss's voluntaristic formulation of "subject-position." What is at stake here is the compatibility of "subject-position" discourse and the autonomy of the self, or the incompatibility of maintaining the subject, at once, as a discursively produced effect and as a viable site of resistance (witnessed, for instance, in the reader's refusal to take up a position constructed for him or her). While the question of agency arguably invites a reevaluation of Foucault's whole corpus, its relevance to pedagogy--especially to the teaching of reading practices--deserves special attention. In what follows, I will seek to reformulate a Foucauldian theory of reading, but this time drawing from the philosopher's late notions of self-care and technologies of the self. In other words, I will be treating the practice of reading as a practical strategy in the constitution of the self. And more importantly, I would like to suggest how reading as a technology of self-care can serve as a tool of resistance against oppressive socialization, and how the act of reading can help safeguard the space of the classroom as a nonhegemonic space, a space which, in Habermasian terms, resists the rationalization of the social, or the "colonization of the lifeworld" (3)--or how, in Heideggerian terms, the practice of reading can function as a "saving practice" in a social world deeply invested in the paradigm of technological efficiency, in a world where "calculative thinking" is alarmingly becoming "the only way of thinking" (1966, 56). I will consider as well the role of new technologies (namely the hypertext) and evaluate their potential impact on the formation of reading selves.
Let us first examine what Foucault means by the "care of the self." In a late interview, Foucault put into relief the aesthetic dimension of self-formation: "From the idea that the self is not given to us, I think that there is only one practical consequence: we have to create ourselves as a work of art" (1983b, 237). Indeed, the care of the self entails above all an art of life, a stylized relationship to oneself, a "relation of the self to itself" (rapport a soi), or a self-knowledge not based on a hermeneutic process but on the creative activity of self-fashioning. (4) With his notion of the care of the self, Foucault thus avoids both a romantic return to a substantial account of the subject and a reduction of the subject to a mere discursive effect. And while he underscores the role of agency in the act of self-making or autopoeisis, (5) Foucault does qualify what he intends by a "free" self-constituting subject:
I would say that if now I am interested ... in the way in which the subject constitutes himself in an active fashion, by the practices of sell these practices are nevertheless not something that the individual invents by himself. They are patterns that he finds in his culture and which are proposed, suggested and imposed on him by his culture, his society and his social group. (1988a; emphasis added)
By looking at the practices of reading--by examining how we are taught to read in the classroom (for instance, what pedagogical model and strategies of reading are "proposed, suggested and imposed on students" by their teachers), we may get a better idea or understanding of the ways in which our subjectivity is being constituted, and the ways reading can serve as a "saving practice" without, however, losing awareness that such a practice--like all techniques of the self--can only be performed within an already pre-existing normative field of power. Reading's emancipatory potential, in other words, should be qualified.
Thus while reading may at first suggest a private "romantic" interpretive space, freed from the workings of ideology, a closer look reveals that the act of reading is itself governed by the norms of readability specific to any historical period; (6) in short, the reading self might be seen to a large extent as a disciplined self (produced in its own specific field of subjugation, the classroom), or better yet, as a self-disciplining body. Yet this does not necessarily entail a bleak or pessimistic vision for reading. On the contrary, because the norms of readability, like any other norms, are historically contingent (there are no transcendental norms), Foucault urges us to inquire into and question the ways in which we are taught to read. How do we fashion ourselves as readers? What kind of relationship do we establish with a work? Is it one in which we seek to master the text? Why and how do we read? Do we read for knowledge's sake, to acquire a certain kind of knowledge, a knowledge which is authorized by the University? We all know that the literary canons, for instance, have been, and continue to be, formed through a logic of exclusion; indeed, only recently have we begun to take due notice of literary works of, and problematics specific to, minorities or marginalized groups.
I find Roland Barthes's now well known distinction between the reader as consumer and the reader as producer fruitful in dealing with these vexed questions. To recall, Barthes writes in S/Z: "the goal of literary work (of literature as work) is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of a text" (4). He opposes what he calls the "writerly" (scriptible) text to "what can be read, but not written: the readerly" (4). Any text which does not appeal to the reader's active participation (reading as a kind of self-writing) or de-valorizes hermeneutic agency is, according to Barthes, a "readerly" (lisible) text. And it would seem that the latest avatar of the "writerly text" is the "hypertext." A hypertext, according to George Landow, is essentially an intertextual system, denoting "blocks of text ... and the electronic links that join them" (4). Inspired by the works of Barthes and other poststructuralists, hypertext theorists like Landow argue that this new digital medium actualizes even further the reader's involvement in the textual process of signification, making him or her a co-author, a collaborator of sorts: "hypermedia linking automatically produces collaboration" (Landow 95). While literature is still identified readily with print culture, hypertexts--displayed on the ever-expanding World Wide Web--challenge our assumptions and force us to reassess the reader's altered relation to the text. Michelle Kendrick aptly summarizes commonly held beliefs among hypertext theorists: "writing hypertext is metonymic with the very workings of the subject's mind ... [T]he author as subject--print culture's definitive subject--is dispersed and untraceable" (233). Lacking textual centeredness, the nonlinear hypertext reconfigures the authorial figure, problematizing, in turn, the very notion of "author-function." (7) "As the authoritativeness of the text diminishes," writes Michael Heim, "so too does the recognition of the private self of the creative author" (1987, 21).
Theoretically speaking, in this utopian cyberspace, the hypertext reader is assumed to be liberated from the tyranny of authorial presence; this empowered reader is now free to navigate or "surf" the net at will, (8) to question the autonomy of the text, to either accept or dismiss the information that is made available to him or her:
All hypertext systems permit the individual reader to choose his or her own center of investigation and experience. What this principle means in practice is that the reader is not locked into any kind of particular organization or hierarchy. (Landow 209-10)
Supporters of hypertexts have been quick to underscore the importance of this new technology for teaching:
Educational hypertext redefines the role of instructors by transferring some of their power and authority to students. (Landow 123) [T]he student is in control and may use his initiative dynamically; the subject is not artificially processed into a presentational sequence. (Nelson 31)
To be sure, after Foucault, we are all too aware of the relational character of power, how power works primarily not by controlling individuals but their actions: "What defines a relationship of power is a mode of action which does not act directly and immediately on others. Instead it acts upon their actions" (1983a, 220). Yet advocates of educational hypertexts promise that power relations between teacher and student will be more malleable and productive, and thus reduce the asymmetry traditionally inherent to this type of relationship. Teachers, of course, will always influence how students read--strategies of reading will always be "proposed, suggested and imposed" on students by the University--but hypertexts would seem to grant a greater degree of autonomy, of resistance to the internalization of ideological codes and historically specific norms of readability.
There is, then, little doubt that hypertexts have (re)shaped to a certain degree the reader's experience, enabling him or her to take a different attitude towards the text. But this new interactive reader--produced by hypertextual practices--strikes me as resembling more Barthes's consumer reader than producer reader. Rather than making readers/students into critical thinkers, hypermedia links assume as their ideal reader an insatiable consumer of information (symptomatic of the commercialization of the web, and notably search engines): to borrow Montaigne's distinction, such technologies presuppose, and help to perpetuate, a "well-filled" rather than "well-formed" mind. As Kendrick rightly observes, "digital forums are seen as instantiating the consumer dream of inexhaustible resources" (246). Reading after the "death of the author," readers of hypertext impose their interpretive will on the text, all but replacing the author as a founding creator, co-producing texts by imposing their semantic closure (consumption through unproblematic interpretation), invariably controlling the move to the next link. Lucidly aware of this irresistible impulse, Barthes himself had warned against such hermeneutic reduction: "To interpret a text is not to give it a (more or less justified, more or less free) meaning, but on the contrary to appreciate what plural constitutes it" (1974, 5).
Moreover, there is a dubious tendency among hypertext enthusiasts to dichotomize (hypertext versus linearly constructed text), to essentialize the digital text (its non-linearity, open-endedness, interactive or dialogical form), usually at the expense, or at the risk of caricaturizing, print culture (the book is "processed into a presentational sequence," closed, static, monological, if not undemocratic). (9) In any case, I find the implicit question of choosing one technology over another to be ill-conceived. Instead of arguing a priori how a particular technological medium may or may not liberate the reader, I would like to attend more closely to the reading process, to what fuels or motivates one to read. Here a consideration of Foucault's reflections on curiosity may elucidate further what is at stake in the act of reading:
Curiosity ... evokes "care" [souci]; it evokes the care [soin] one takes of what exists and what might exist; a sharpened sense of reality, but one that is never immobilized before it; a readiness to find what surrounds us strange and odd; a certain determination to throw off familiar ways of thought and to look at the same things in a different way; a passion for seizing what is happening now and what is disappearing; a lack of respect for the traditional hierarchies of what is important and fundamental. (1988b, 328) (10)
Foucault, indeed, places curiosity at the center of his late writings, evoking it in his introduction to The Use of Pleasure (1985), in which the author radically reformulates his philosophical project:
As for what motivated me, it is quite simple ... It was curiosity--the only kind of curiosity, in any case, that is worth acting upon with a degree of obstinacy: not the curiosity that seeks to assimilate what it is proper for one to know, but that which enables one to get free of oneself. After all, what would be the value of the passion for knowledge if it resulted only in a certain amount of knowledgeableness and not, in one way or another and to the extent possible, in the knower's straying afield of himself. (8; emphasis added)
Curiosity for Foucault, then, engenders self-reflexivity and freedom. Curiosity, and the kind of knowledge it generates, is emancipatory in that it liberates us from a fixed or unchanging identity: to be curious is to always remain open to the possibility of erring (in the double sense of making errors and wandering), of becoming altered and having one's expectations disrupted. It functions as an antidote to social conformism, creating the possibility for "no longer being, doing, or thinking what we are, do, or think" (1997b, 315-16), even if momentarily. To be curious (about oneself) is indeed synonymous with being modern, with having a modern care of the self: "To be modern is not to accept oneself as one is in the flux; it is to take oneself as object of a complex and difficult elaboration" (311).
Awakening and nurturing curiosity in the classroom--frustrating the learned tendency to consume literature (what might be described as the "naturalized attitude" of reading), getting students to become "modern"--that is, critical--to contest their "acculturated understanding" (Hoy 5) of how to read--becomes, then, a crucial task for a Foucauldian pedagogy. Curiosity is indeed what enables the student (the curious subject par excellence) to resist the powerful lure of ideological complacency, conformity to the traditional hierarchies of what is "important and fundamental" (1988b, 328). Teaching, for instance, how to preserve the "writerly-quality" of literary texts--how to maintain the text (be it printed or digital, or in a larger sense, any object of interpretation, say, an image, or an oral work) as a genuine object of curiosity and wonder (11)--introduces an ethical sensibility to the practice of reading, a sensibility which is antithetical to the model of hermeneutic efficiency, where textual otherness is mastered and knowledge of the work quantified, commodified and consumed (or, we might say, cannibalized). New technologies are by no means excluded from this program of self-care. Quite the contrary, they embody great potential for radicalizing our understanding of the classic relationship between "form" (medium) and "content" (message), for reconfiguring the boundaries between writer and reader, for de-naturalizing our habitual economy of reading--our relation to the text (our perception of what a text is and does)--and more abstractly, for reshaping our sense of community in a globalized age. But in practice, such technologies have tended to reinforce a consumerist model of reading, hindering rather than favoring the cultivation and proliferation of a serf-contesting curiosity.
The problematic of reading also raises the different but related issue of textual commentaries: how does one gloss a literary work without simultaneously reducing it to the order of the Same? This could be described as the "double bind" of the reader/critic/educator. In Levinasian terms, he or she must communicate a meaning (the Said of the text, what can be thematized and formulated in propositional statements), and thus make the text to some extent readable (the acts of reading and interpretation harmoniously coincide); yet, at the same time, the reader/critic/educator must counterbalance this hermeneutic move and attest to the demands of the text, and point to its interpretive inexhaustibility, that is, to what escapes textual mastery or communication. It is precisely in this tension between thematization and alterity that an ethics of reading can take place. My formulation is inspired by the following passage from Blanchot's The Writing of the Disaster (1995):
There is an active, productive way of reading which produces text and reader and thus transport us. There is a passive kind of reading which betrays the text while appearing to submit to it, by giving the illusion that the text exists objectively, fully, sovereignly: as one whole. Finally, there is the reading that is no longer passive, but is passivity's reading. It is without pleasure, without joy; it escapes both comprehension and desire. It is like the nocturnal vigil, that "inspiring" insomnia when, all having been said, "Saying" lie Dire] is heard, and the testimony of the last witness is pronounced. (101; emphasis added)
Blanchot's last type of reading--"passivity's reading"--undermines any instrumental relation to the text. His words not only invite us to call into question the one-dimensional model of literature as consumption but also problematize the reader's agency (actualized in the cherished practice of interpretation) and the communicative dimension of reading and writing, since the Saying (le Dire) of the text is ultimately incommensurable to anything said or spoken. Yet, if Blanchot's disquieting reading interrupts the process of signification, escapes "comprehension and desire," this is not to say that it is beyond curiosity, at least of the kind described by Foucault, that is, a "passion for knowledge" that does not seek "to assimilate what it is proper for one to know" but results in the "straying afield" of oneself (1985, 8). In this respect, curiosity would lead not only to a sense of empowerment but also to one of vulnerability. The sovereignty of the reading self (the reader as either consumer or producer) is unmistakably disrupted by the subject's unruly curiosity. Indeed, Blanchot--whom Faubion correctly characterizes as "Foucault's ... genuine thinker of the 'outside'" (87)--also forces us to reconfigure or alter what it means to care, for a genuine openness to textual otherness (Foucauldian curiosity) is clearly at odds with the ancient ideal of self-care as self-mastery. (12)
Blanchot's singular mode of reading is arguably manifested in his brief reflections on Alain Robbe-Grillet's La Jalousie (1957). (13) In stark contrast to the kind of gloss whose primary goal is to make the text readable and meaningful, Blanchot draws our attention to function of La Jalousie's jacket blurb or "priere d'inserer," which was faithfully reproduced by critics like Bruce Morrissette who summarized the novel in the following terms:
The story with its three characters--the husband, the wife, the presumed lover--is "narrated" by the husband, a tropical planter who, from the vantage points in his banana plantation house, surrounded on three sides by its wide veranda, suspiciously keeps watch over his wife. (1975, 112-13)
Morrissette, like others, took the "priere d'inserer" to be the key to the novel, the key to a seemingly totalizing reading of La Jalousie: in other words, it authorized his reading of Robbe-Grillet's text. Blanchot, for his part, was suspicious of the novel's "priere d'inserer" from the outset and reacted strongly against it, arguing that it generated a misreading:
In La Jalousie, a powerful absence is the center of the plot and of the narration. According to the critics, we are to understand that what is speaking in this absence is the very character of the jealous one, the husband who watches over his wife. I think this misunderstands the authentic reality of this narrative as the reader is invited to approach it. The reader indeed feels that something is missing; he has the premonition that it is this lack that allows everything to be said and everything to be seen--but how could this lack be identified with someone? How could there still be a name and an identity there? It is nameless, faceless; it is pure anonymous presence. (261 n.1)
On Blanchot's account, without a name and a face, the narrator's "identity" is devoid of any being. To continue the story of the jacket blurb, Robbe-Grillet, during a conference in the fall of 1982 at New York University on the status of the Nouveau Roman, responds to the concerns of Blanchot:
And, of course, Blanchot was right. I wrote to him that he was right, but that it was I who had written this blurb and that, in fact, it was not intended for him, but for those hurried critics who do not have time to read the books they have to write about in papers. The blurb was, of course, not addressed to Maurice Blanchot who, in the cell of his tower, actually reads books. (qtd. in Oppenheim: 26; emphasis added)
In light of these markedly different and mixed reactions to his "priere d'inserer," Robbe-Grillet took it out in subsequent editions of La Jalousie as if wanting to invite others to actually read his novel, to read it attentively, if not differently, a la Blanchot.
Yet there is surely pedagogical value in this "querelle de la priere d'inserer." It provides a fruitful point of entry into the larger discussion concerning the interpretation of "new" literary movements and experimental novels. A brief evaluation of Bruce Morrissette's now classic study of Robbe-Grillet's novel will illustrate the "double bind" of the reader/critic/educator. Confronted with the apparent textual disorder of La Jalousie, a significant obstacle to comprehension, Morrissette sought to extract meaning from the novel's non-chronological matrix of events. He writes: "Paradoxically, in the case of this fundamentally antichronological novel, a 'linear' resume of the plot permits us best to penetrate into the labyrinth of its structure" (115). Thus, despite the novel's disconcerting chronological impasses, an inner psychic unity (the novel's "interior, or psychological, chronology" ), he argues, governs the order of events. This psychic unity refers us ultimately to a stable, coherent subject, to a readable subject/text.
Reinscribing La Jalousie firmly within the tradition of the novel (a reduction to the economy of the Same), Morrissette's over-arching reading, nevertheless, limits the full complexity of Robbe-Grillet's text: his definitive reading suppresses the novel's alterity, neutralizes its defamiliarizing effects. It denies, absorbs or flattens the subversive elements of Robbe-Grillet's ecriture (to the perplexing question "who is speaking?" Morrissette has an obvious answer: the husband is the organizing center of the whole text). In other words, Morrissette's gloss makes Robbe-Grillet's novel much too readable by reducing it to a preexisting model of the psychological novel.
To be fair to Morrissette, his analysis must contextualized. Reacting against the reduction of La Jalousie to a Beckettian work, to a semantically unstable or undecidable text, Morrissette was at great pains to recuperate Robbe-Grillet's novel from modernist readings (14): "it is most inexact to state that this jealous narrator 'never reveals himself.' ... He speaks several times, and there is every reason to suppose that his speech is perfectly conventional, without the slightest resemblance to Beckett's verbal chaos" (136). Morrissette's assumption that a text is either meaningful or devoid of any meaning is questionable, however. I am more inclined to follow Barthes's assessment that Robbe-Grillet creates meaning only to put it into question: "his entire art consists precisely in disappointing meaning precisely when it makes it possible" (1972b, 200). The ambiguity of Robbe-Grillet's novels is precisely what for Barthes characterizes literature in general: "What do things signify, what does the world signify? All literature is this question, but we must immediately add, for this is what constitutes its speciality, literature is the question minus its answer" (1972b, 202).
Barthes's last remarks tie in well with the above quotation from Blanchot's The Writing of the Disaster (1995), in which the reader is compelled to respond to the demands of La Jalousie, to attest to its Saying, to preserve the uncanny experience of the text, to conceive of Robbe-Grillet's novel as something otherwise than being, something that is irreducible to thematization, to "the act of comprehending" (Iser 10), that is, to the hermeneutic act of grasping (com-prendre). Now this does not entail that the reader/critic/educator should retreat into a paralyzing, skeptical void, opting for non-meaning over meaning, remaining silent or simply affirming the unsayability of the text. On the contrary, faced with the recuperative logic of reading, he or she needs to establish a non-totalizing relation to the text, vigilant to the fact that every act of communication runs the risk of semantic reification (the ontological Said): whence the exigency of "unsaying" (dedire) and "resaying" (redire). Interpreting the text otherwise than being would reveal (or remind us) that communication and knowledge are not the same thing: "To require that a communication be sure of being heard is to confuse communication and knowledge" (167), writes Levinas. This Blanchotian-Levinasian sensibility, (15) I would argue, is also at work in Foucault's later definition of philosophy as essay. Underscoring its formal capacity to challenge and transgress the limits of thought and experience, Foucault writes that the essay as "the living substance of philosophy" (1985, 9) does not aim to legitimate what is already known but rather endeavors to know "to what extent it might be possible to think differently [penser autrement]" (9; emphasis added). (16) The essay, while not liberating in any straightforward way, does work to expand thought and to create new ways of thinking: it unavoidably imposes form on thought but a kind of form that relentlessly tries to think both beyond its own cognitive limits and against the dogmatic "image of thought" (17) of any given historical period. Simply stated, the essay as form perpetually refuses its own homogenization.
As we saw earlier, Foucault defined modernity primarily as a mode of being, a relation to self, where the subject re-channels his or her will-to-know and courageously takes up the task of reading his or her historical situation differently, acting on the imperative "to throw off familiar ways of thought and to look at the same things in a different way." What Foucault says about philosophy (as essay) here is especially true of the arts of criticism and teaching in general. Making reading, the interpretation of literature, an essayistic practice, an endless ethical practice--imagining one's relation to the text (to any text) otherwise than that of mastery and consumption--is not only conducive for thinking differently about literary texts but also reflects and attends to the reader/student's curious impulse, making the classroom the site of both socialization (yet another instantiation of the process of subjectivization) and an ethico-aesthetic self-fashioning, spurred by the question: "what kind of reading serf am I going to be?" Fostering essayistic thinking, as opposed to the predominant model of calculative thinking, encouraging the self-fashioning of "well-made" and not "well-filled" minds in the classroom is perhaps the ultimate challenge of any educator; and teaching, as Foucault taught us, how to read differently might be a good place to begin. (18)
(1) See Heidegger (1977), Marcuse (1964), and Adomo and Horkheimer (1972).
(2) See Dews (1989, 37-41).
(3) See Habermas (1984-1987, 301-56).
(4) As Nehamas rightly points out: "the 'care of the self,' unlike psychoanalysis, [is] not a process of discovering who one 'truly' is, but of inventing, improvising, creating who one can be" (1993, 34).
(5) See Faubion (2001, 83-104).
(6) The ideology governing one's economy of reading extends of course to the literary text itself (as a historical object), to its ideological form, so aptly captured by Fredric Jameson's subtitle to his The Political Unconscious: "narrative as a socially symbolic act." Jameson opens his study with his now famous moral imperative/slogan: "Always historicize!" (1981, 9), which underscores the importance of reading any literary text in relation to history, and of bringing to light the ceuvre's "ideological closure" (see, in particular, Chapter 5 of The Political Unconscious, 206-80).
(7) Foucault defines author-function as "the singular relationship that holds between an author and a text, the manner in which a text apparently points to this figure who is outside and precedes it" (1977, 125).
(8) Interest in the hypertext as a tool for liberation is closely linked to postcolonial critiques of European nationalism and rigid colonial conceptions of "landed" identities. Studies of hybridity have often sought to turn attention to water, to Atlantic trade routes, the Middle Passage, in attempting to rethink identity construction and to revalorize the fluidity of subjectivity. "Surfing" the web is viewed as a de-centering, empowering practice similar to the revindication of hybridity. See for example Gilroy (1992), and Linebaugh and Rediker (2001).
(9) See Tuman (1992, 122-23).
(10) Foucault is opposing here a whole Christian discourse against curiosity, seen essentially as a vice, and often associated with vanity, impiety or evil (vana curiositas, impia curiositas, mala curiositas). Maria Tasinato sums up the tension in viewing curiositas or libido sciendi as what defines man's nature and as a sign of original state of fallness (1999, 9).
(11) Teaching this approach to texts is to teach against the Cartesian project of converting wonder into knowledge, of transfiguring the new into an object of cognitive value: "Astonishment is an excess of wonder which can never be anything but bad" (Descartes 1989, 58).
(12) While the desire for self-mastery, an aspiration originating in Plato's Socrates, is perhaps as old as philosophy itself, it is especially prevalent in ancient Stoicism. As Pierre Hadot points out, "For the Stoic ... doing philosophy meant practicing how to 'live," ... giv[ing] up desiring that which does not depend on us and is beyond our control, so as to attach ourselves only to what depends on us: actions which are just and in conformity with reason" (1995, 86). See Tasinato (1999, 61-64) for a very lucid account of curiosity in the context of Stoicism.
(13) For a reading of the ideological character of La Jalousie, see Jameson (1989, 167-80, 199). While such a political interpretation has its merits, its bruited focus precludes the kind of ethical questions that we are raising above.
(14) Morrissette is reacting in part to the early Barthes's interpretation of Robbe-Grillet as an anti-humanist or chosiste: "Robbe-Grillet imposes a unique order of apprehension: the sense of sight. The object is no longer a center of correspondences, a welter of sensations and symbols: it is merely an optical resistance" (1972a, 14).
(15) For an informed account of Levinas's pertinence for literature, see Jill Robbins (1999).
(16) The connection between critical thinking and the essay has, of course, been discussed by Theodor Adorno: "The essay remains what it always was, the critical force par excellence," and again: "the essay gently defies the ideals of clara et distincta perceptio and of absolute certainty" (1984, 161).
(17) This expression belongs to Gilles Deleuze (see, in particular, Chapter 3 of Difference and Repetition). Deleuze, however, goes further than Foucault (at least further than the late Foucault) in affirming the possibility of a thought "without image," singling out Antonin Artaud as "exemplary" of such new, radical thought: "[Artaud] knows that thinking is not innate, but must be engendered in thought. He knows that the problem is not to direct or methodically apply a thought which pre-exists in principle and in nature, but to bring into being that which does not yet exist (there is no other work, all the rest is arbitrary, mere decoration)" (1994, 147).
(18) I would like to thank the anonymous readers for their helpful suggestions. I am also indebted to Nicole Simek for her valuable insights on an earlier draft of this essay.
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