The Quietude of Knowledge

Camelia Elias (Foredragsholder)

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    One of Jacques Lacan's most famous statements is that the unconscious is structured like a language. In Lacanian philosophy uncovering the structure of the unconscious through identifying desire as the main vehicle for the constitution of the subject is a project which has the acquisition of knowledge about the self as primary. But while self-knowledge can be thought of as always being finite and limited in relation to self-perception, the process of acquiring knowledge can be thought of as being infinite and unlimited. This being the case, one can infer that if the unconscious has any structure at all, then it is not one which lends itself easily to any limiting hermeneutic imposition. This is due to the fact that, as Lacan also suggested, where signs are concerned, we always mobilize many more of them than we know. Thus what we learn about ourselves rests more on what we remember that we don't know that we already know. Taking her cue from Lacan who also stated that the unconscious is "knowledge that can't tolerate one's knowing that one knows" (Seminar, Feb. 19, 1974), Shoshana Felman makes the interesting assumption that the unconscious must be some kind of "unmeant knowledge" (28). Knowledge thought in these terms is thus mediated not only by memory but also by the signs that we mobilize through the body as a means of transport, including thoughts. The New York poet Frank O'Hara thematizes some of Lacan's concerns with knowledge as linguistically articulated against the background of the excess of signs. This paper will look particularly at the poem "In Memory of My Feelings" and advance the claim that what the body remembers to remember is that excessive signs have an intentional quietude in them even in the face of loudly articulated knowledge which is yet bound to fall outside totalizing systems of thought and desire.

    Periode18 feb. 2010
    BegivenhedstitelThe Louisville Conference on Literature & Culture since 1900, 18-20 Feb, 2010
    PlaceringLouisville, USA