Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Introduction to Transformation: Literature (Pt 2)

"I am the spirit of my hair"

V. Disrobing Ourselves : of Ourselves

Walt Whitman and Neil Gaiman: Key Concept
  • Songs: Of Celebrating Myself
  • Dreams: Of Escaping Myself

"If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle, they are nothing"
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

The performativity of matter, like performativity in general, is often regarded with a cynical and somber disposition, as irony becomes pastiche among the post-moderns. Pastiche was to do away with the presumption of an essential identity or normativity to be foolishly transgressed.

But need ironic-subversive-queer poses be humorless?

Once we can no longer laugh, especially at our-selves, then it seems to me that our solemnity defaults into the impossible sealed, set formality that post-modernism not only sneers at in the modern but that the conceit of irony/pastiche was intended to dispel; if we do no laugh with surprise & impotence, we transform transformation into "the monotonous groove" & queerness somehow becomes strictly defined. But No! What is wonder without joy? What is queerness without surprise? What is transformation without the humorous exchange of what we expected for that which we have not yet seen? 

"I celebrate myself and sing myself"
Walt WhitmanLeaves of Grass

It is this lesson of joy that we can take from Whitman as he celebrates & sings himself. Not only is becoming self an action, but an act of rejoicing. As we unpack Serres's & Latour's black boxes, can we not feel the thrill of anticipation, the sense that something wonderfully new is about to be unveiled? The perpetual unwrapping of our presents / presence can be propelled with an awful, childish enthusiasm. Even if we suspect what comes next, what of the thrill that we could be wrong? 

"What I assume, you shall assume"
Walt WhitmanLeaves of Grass

Whitman not only plays the game of himself, but plays it with us. We are drawn into each others games and we are drawn into each others bodies. The giddy motions of the self does not simply pull at us, but through our thoughts / neuro-links, our feelings / hormones and all else which plays our games, we enter into the language of the other and follow its map like a song or a dance. We assume, as we comes to new presumptions, and we assume as we become. Becoming would be impossible if not done in a material community. We are our-own inside joke.

"Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you"
Walt WhitmanLeaves of Grass

We may say that we hear Whitman's voice in our heads as we read, but it is not more his words as our own performing Whitman as a mask and dance. We take on the material motions that Whitman extended into space, literary space being no less material than a book-store or memorized passage rooting around in the brain of student. Insofar as Whitman was material things, he has entered into us and we re-make him as he re-makes us. Insofar as Whitman was a motion "the universe sings yours song, and tonight I sing along" (The Killers).

Sing on Whitman, I rejoice as you play me into new transformations!

"We perceive but aspects of the Endless,
as we see the light glinting from one tiny facet 
of some huge and flawlessly cut stone...
Each facet catches the light in its own way.
It glints and sparkles and flashes uniquely.
It would be possible to believe the facet was the jewel, not just part of it.
But, then, as we move the jewel another facet catches the light"

Neil Gaiman likewise explores identity and storytelling in his work, particularly the relationship between the two. In Sandman, a series of graphic novels named for the title character Dream (who is not simply an allegory for stories, but the act and substance, as well as the personal embodiment of stories). Dream, as one of the seven Endless (Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair and Delirium [formerly Delight]), is at the same time everywhere becoming himself through manifestations of his motions. He is a weaver of stories, who weaves out of himself, along with us.

"We do what we do, because of who we are.
If we did otherwise, we would not be ourselves."
Dream, Neil GaimanSandman

Dream need not be personally present in a story to be present, thus some plots feature the Dream King Morpheus only as a minor character but affirm that he is fully present throughout on the physical level of characters dreaming, imagining and telling the stories and on the meta-physical level of the book which we are reading of their story is likewise Dream manifesting himself.

But is not the process true on the inverse side? Does not Dreaming also play out Dream, like a puppet and likewise in dreaming do we not also play him as our doll? And even in dream-less moments, if we could imagine them, is he not also present to define its boundaries? The question of self-ownership / puppetry, rules / bonds, tools / traps, freedom to leave / kill the self all play out in Sandman. In fact, we find that all the Endless wrestle with the prison of being themselves. The story of Dream is the story of stories and the story of us.

"Identity the pale light of the moon, I play the game of you.
Whoever I am. Whoever you are"
the Hecate, Neil GaimanSandman

We might be tempted in the description of the gem, to dissect whether we are the light, the facet or jewel. But ecologically and paradoxically we need to imagine those and ourselves together if any are to be imagined at all. We are all "in" one another and all are "in" us. Not merely generally, but materially and specifically we flow into each other and in sharing and entering into and out of each others "bodies" (which we may define in a variety of different ecological extents and dimensions) and play the game of each other. What plays us need not have our "permission" or even our cogniscience to do so and likewise we play others.

Lucifer: "There [is] always freedom...the ultimate freedom, the freedom to leave."
Dream: "The freedom of the dreaming can be a cage"

The question / conflict of the self as prison is played out throughout Sandman, in the stories of Dream, the other Endless and a multitude of other characters. Gaiman admitted that "rulers abdicating their kingdoms" was a central theme in the story, and its sub-stories. In addition to the normative types of king and kingdom, we discover a variety of fashions in which selves are released from the monotony of them-selves:
  1. Abdication (leaving the places, things and acts that defined an identity)
  2. Transformation (adopting new substances & perspectives as the self)
  3. Death (chosen when the others are not affirmed as possible,
               most often an assisted suicide or "suicide by cop")
All options are treated as mixed blessings by Gaiman, presented as a kind of relief and a tragedy, especially death. But as Gaiman relentlessly affirms, in no worse or better way than through Death, the limits of forms and lives are what permits and celebrates their existence. Death is not the End, but an end, which when it is celebrated most in Sandman, is because it comes as an affirmation that a thousand tiny deaths / abdications  transformations have already occurred. In a sense, we do not perceive a wonderfully thing / person / place as a prison until we have transformed so as to longer "fit" or find joy / livable lives in it. We shed our bounds, our clothes, our selves because we have already transformed (them).


VI. Refashioning Nature: 
Through the Wardrobe

CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien: Key Concepts
  • Trees of Life: The Dialectics of Angels, Adam and Aslan's Country
  • Tree-beard's Life: The Monstrosity of Rings, Wraiths and Reincarnation
The inside is far larger than it seems from outside, writes Lewis and Tolkien. As writers of fairy-stories, characterized, in part, by an escape into an-other world which often reveals itself to be very much still "in" and "of" the world one leaves, Lewis and Tolkien look at and into things to see the every-thing in them and seek to make familiar things strange so that the world suddenly reveals its wonder-ful life.

"The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble.... 
the whole difficulty of understanding Hell 
is that the thing to be understood is so nearly Nothing....
It begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it...
And yourself, in a dark hour, may will that mood, embrace it. 
Ye can repent and come out of it again. 
But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. 
Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood, nor even to enjoy it, 
but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine"
CS Lewis, the Great Divorce

Lewis warns against a kind of becoming-grumble which may be a knock against performative models of the self, but if read carefully in fact vindicates performative materiality, insofar as it defies the potential Neo-Platonic view that something can be-as-action and not also be-a-thing. It is in fact the queer materialists warning against the queer theorists tendency to reduce all to act without consciousness to the thingness which acts and may also resist act; the unbecoming, the undoing that undermines performance.

Furthermore, while one would expect a Neo-Platonists to imagine a relatively static heaven in which things simply are ("in their proper place"), Lewis's heaven is ecstatic. To become-anything, even the self, will become a monotonous prison unless a surrender into diversity, variance, trans-formation and thus surprise. 

"On the biological level life is not like a pool but like a tree. 
It does not move towards unity but away from it 
and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection. 
Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different 
not only from evil but from other good."
CS Lewisthe Great Divorce

As things eternally run "further up and further in" for Lewis they discover that which is inside is far bigger than what it had appeared on the outside, harder and more real. For the first arrivals to "the valley in the shadow of life" they find that the things there are so material and so themselves that they themselves cannot even bend a blade of grass and the light all but completely shines through them.

There is kind of a double-edged sword to this vision however, in which things become-more-intimate but also profoundly more alienated. While it is mentioned that one could still "eat the apples of this country" but how can I, for instance, eat it without the apple and myself surrendering our distinctiveness? Lewis writes that this story was meant to vindicate the reality of the "either / or" but ends up imagining scenarios in which the presence of the "and" becomes all the more required to mediate and justify the alienated poles.

“She had been conceiving this world as ‘spiritual’ in the negative sense 
– as some neutral, or democratic, vacuum 
where differences disappear... not transcended but simply taken away... 
Now the suspicion dawned on her that there might be differences and contrasts 
all the way up, richer, sharper, even fiercer, at every ring of the ascent”
CS Lewis, That Hideous Strength (The Ransom Trilogy)

In the Ransom Trilogy, the protagonist "Ransom" visits Venus and there encounters a new Eden, a new Adam and Eve and in the end, Mars and Venus themselves. There Lewis writes how the former was Masculine in a way which transcended the confusion of particulars among the sexed bodies of male and the latter Feminine in a similar transcendant respect to the female. Each were said to be the others opposite and like all differences, in our becoming-self a course must be taken towards one thing and utterly away from another.

If this becoming-form was more like differance, Lewis may be on safer ground, but here we can see Lewis's love of doubles over-running his love of differences. As Judith Butler suggests in Gender Troubles, our identities and our sex(ualities) are not able to be governed by the simple distinction of two, "like" and "unlike" because in a sense all-things are "unlike;" and as we discussed with Jacques Derrida, these differences must somehow be coincident.  In trying to be a champion of difference he lands himself in the court of paradox.

"[Angels] are more like living minerals...
[with them] the distinction between natural and super-natural break down. 
When it does so one realizes how much of a comfort it had been; 
how it had eased the burden of intolerable strangeness 
which the universe impresses on us, 
by dividing it into two halves and encouraging the mind 
to never to think of both in the same context. 
What price we have paid for this comfort 
in the way of false security and accelerated confusion of thought"
CS LewisPeralandra (the Ransom Trilogy)

In his description of angels, Lewis comes close to articulating Latour's & Butler's positions on dualism and hybrids. In his further description of Angels& Heavenly bodies, Lewis in facts comes to close to articulating what Deleuze & Guattari describe as matter-energy becoming and what has here been described as the Transforming of Substance, where all things meet in the (w)hole.

"Body is movement.  
If it is at one speed, you smell something; 
if at another, you hear a sound; 
if at another, you see a sight; 
if at another, you neither see nor hear nor nor know the body in any way.  

But mark this, Small One, that the two ends meet...
that which moves is more nearly in two places at once...
if the movement were faster still...
in the end the moving thing would be in all places at once...
the thing at the top of all bodies - so fast that it is at rest, 
so truly body that it has ceased being body at all."

While not affirming (or denying) the specific reality of angels or other such fantastic things, the way that movement and material ontology are so bound up in them, as well as their conventional, even named status as "messengers" and mediators require thinking in terms of hybrids and paradoxes. Once "spirit" or "life" or "the power of movement" is thought of in material terms, there is a simultaneous motion (whether one catches it or not) of beginning of thinking of the "spirit" or "life" or "motions" of matter. The strangeness / otherness / queerness of the spirit world is investigated, it reveals instead the wonderful life of the familiar objects. Spirits in this sense are invoked not so much to imagine disembodied forces but to shock the mind into seeing the "spirit" or queer / mediating "life" that is emphatically present throughout material things.

"The spirit [fea] of Sauron endured. 
His life force [fea] is bound to the Ring, and the Ring survived. 
Sauron has returned....He is seeking it, seeking it—all his thought is bent on it. 
The Ring yearns above all else to return to the hand of its master.
They are one, the Ring and the Dark Lord."
Peter Jackson, the Lord of the Rings (Film)

When Sauron, among others, creates objects of power, the things become recognized as subjects in their own right. There is a sense of hierarchy, at least insofar as causation, that one thing (the ring) is made OF its maker (Sauron) but subsequently, the thing has power and a life that the maker needs, which acts on him, even holds him dependent. The thing can act, swerve and perhaps even desire on its own, and yet remain with / in / of the body of another. In this way, we live on in and because and as our things. In this way too, Sauron, in his high narcissism, writes his own undoing. By becoming-creator he produces things which will have their own freedom FROM him and thus can and does act against his wishes. The story of Lord of the Rings is the tale of defeated narcissism, and all attempts to dominate and hold form static.

"A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die,
but he does not grow or obtain more life,
he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness."

The tragedy of the elves is that they will not die, writes Tolkien. Tolkien wrote his stories from the perspective of elves and out of the wonder of death and and the haunting (as it is an imagined terror of the un-leaving) theme of "deathlessness". The elves and the ring-bearers have a kind of deathlessness which offer the twin challenges of remaining the same in a world which constantly transforms and how the self can begin to feel like a prison; the wisdom and the tragedy of the elves is that they see death as a kind of escape which they cannot take and the foolishness and tragedy of the wraiths is that they live in perpetual despair and suffering but refuse to seek change; the act of holding off change is the same here, not simply the result of tormenting the self (with the self) .

"Elves began it...waking the trees up and teaching them to speak and learning their tree talk. They always wished to talk to everything, the old Elves did... but many of [the Ents] are growing sleepy, growing tree-ish, as you might say. Most trees are just trees, of course; but many are half-awake. Some are quite wide awake, and a few are, well, ah, well getting Ent-ish... Sheep get like shepherds and shepherds like sheep... it is quicker and closer with trees and Ents"

All of Tolkien's tale of Middle Earth are filled with things and the waking up or putting to rest of them. Mountains, fire, trees, rivers, rings, animals and humans are all things which must be roused or lulled back into slumber at their "proper" time. We can regard this not only as an endorsement of Queer Materiality which does not regard a real divide between humans and... well everything else as having a kind of life or personhood and does not leave any (especially humans) out of having a very deep running queerness which not only makes them wonder-ful but which sustains them. This view of waking and resting is also a way in which we may regard the ebbs and flows of transformation, wherein which things DO play in close enough repetitions to sustain a form for some time; while also emphasizing the NEED to destroy things (like "the One Ring"), to reform things (like "the Flame of the West"), to let things fade (like "the three elven rings," "Lothlorien," and "Arwen"), and to transfigure things (like "Gandalf, the Grey / White")

"They all gazed at him. His hair was white as snow in the sunshine... gleaming white was his robe;
the eyes under his deep brows were bright, piercing as the rays of the sun; Between wonder, joy, and fear they stood and found no words to say"

In looking to literature for how to understand the "holes" in our ability to express, like the "holes" in philosophy or theologies ability to "know" or "be," we find in Tolkien's description of the wonder of trans-forming things the sense that things CAN exist and NOT be captured or connected to words. Language is a performance, and not one that can be wholly avoided or wholly entered into. BETWEEN wonder, not wonder itself, BETWEEN joy, not in or of joy, and BETWEEN fear, not fear itself, do we find things and ourselves; BETWEEN...AND with words, but not bounded in words.

Light (or white) is often used to describe the wonder of things and it is not entirely without its effect, light can blind and reveal, but not itself completely in and of itself, but always with things. Many like to play on the way in which darkness plays the role, often better, than light, but here they would not imagine darkness as no-thing but all the more a thing because of its presence and action in these ways. Darkness performs light, as we said light performs darkness.

VII. His Performative Materials : Become Dark and Vibrant

Jane Bennett and Phillip Pullman: Key Concepts
  • Dust
  • Vibrant Matter
We see in Jane Bennett's Vibrant Matter and Phillip Pullman's Dust (via John Milton's Dark Matter) much of what we are looking for in Queer Materiality, but without the queerness or trans-formation as explicit or explored yet. None the less, particularly in Bennett and those thinkers she uses, it is evidently at play.

The Vibrant Materialist Creed:
    • I  believe in one matter-energy,
      the maker of things seen and unseen.  
    • I believe that this pluriverse is traversed by heterogeneities
      that are continually doing things.
    • I believe it is wrong to deny vitality to nonhuman bodies,  forces, and forms, and that a careful course of anthropomorphization can help reveal that vitality,
      even though  it resists full  translation
      and exceeds my comprehensive grasp.
    • I believe that  encounters with matter can chasten
      my fantasies of human mastery, highlight the common materiality of all that is, expose a wider distribution of  agency, and reshape the self and its interests.

Stating "things seen and unseen" along with "even though it resists full translation and even exceeds my comprehensive grasps" not only does its work of paralleling the Nicene Creed but performs the "hole" of language and undermines itself qua performativity. Unseen is not just what is discernable in the visible spectrum of light, but that which lacks identity or a logos, queerness. Trans-lation and comprehensive grasp play on the way in which language is an act of mediation which trans-forms and is not an all powerful act-thing. Likewise it is not a seal but it is an attempt to grasp / conquer, which will not succeed, in part because it undermines itself.

We can also highlight the recognition of vitality in "forms." It is worth noting, along with many of our thinkers, but Chesterton comes to mind first, how forms are a restriction which is in some ways a defiance of trans-formation, change or queerness... but is it not this life, this resistance, this defiance of expectation in the face of all other things even the self not what we look for in the queer? Straightness in this sense, with all its whips, chains, paddles, bindings, cages, name-calling, loop-holes, dog-collars and other toys of domination / restriction, not itself queerness?

"[Things] were trying to hold back the Dust flood. 
They were striving to put some barriers up against the terrible stream: 
wind, moon, clouds, leaves, grass, all those lovely things 
were crying out and hurling themselves into the struggle 
to keep the shadow particles in this universe, which they so enriched. 
Matter loved Dust. It didn't want to see it go."
Phillip Pullman, His Dark Materials

The note on "anthropromorphization" and "reshaping the self and its interests" also brings us to Pullman and our later thinkers, as it is the "self in the other" and "other in the self" the "all in one" and "one in all" that the paradox of holey things can tried to emphasize in contrast to dialectics. Rather than draw poles even between these two perspectives, we can see how one seeing in two is already a paradox and coincidence of viewing. By seeing one thing in other things and other places as it transforms is the game to see it in its particularity and difference. The self becomes self in extreme in the hole in which it becomes other.

"Lyra sensed the presence of the Dust, 
for the air seemed to be full of dark intentions, 
like the forms of thoughts not yet born."
Phillip Pullman, His Dark Materials

Can we not see the gift of sight that comes from shaking free these assumptions / tools / forms for a time, as a kind of disorientation of discovery? A kind of self-othering? Is this not the queering act of the fairy-world taking hold on us? Do we not return to things after a time with an awareness of the wonder and spontaneity / potentiality / queerness of things we once thought dead or unseen? Does this not reveal the presence of magic in things, the magic of their very presence, the magic of them to speak to us, to speak with us in new ways and ultimately to defy us? In vibrancy is there not an inherent darkness? Can we hear Lady Gaga telling us that "we dance in the dark... cause when he is looking, she falls apart" ?

"Dust is beautiful," "strange", and "we wonder at it". 
Phillip Pullman, His Dark Materials

For Phillip Pullman in His Dark Materials, we tells of the fairy-story of a pair of children wandering away from the familiar, battling the chains of ideology set down by "the Authority," who then discover a material universe that is not dictated by the powers of determinism but the spontaneous, wonderful and queer quality of "dust." Pullman runs over and again themes and things in order to awaken a sense of their magic. In his story, the travels from and across an Other-world to our own works to sharpen this awareness and see our act of seeing our-selves and our-things as beautiful, strange, and wonderful.

"Dust came into being when living things became conscious of themselves; 
but it needed some feedback system to reinforce it and make it safe... 
Without something like that, it would all vanish. 
Thought, imagination, feeling, would all wither and blow away, 
leaving nothing but a brutish automatism; 
and that brief period when life was conscious of itself would flicker out 
like a candle in every one of the billions of worlds where it had burned brightly."
Phillip Pullman, His Dark Materials

How can "dark materials" be so described by Pullman as at the same time "bright" or even vibrant? In the sense we were following with Bennett and others that what is at stake here is that which performs its existence and readable material qualities, does so performatively. The act of revealing hides. Things cannot "know" things fully, in the dialectical sense of intercourse and the narcissists dream: of conquering, devouring and making the other the self... thus obliterating both. Through the differenance of things, they exist paradoxically together, affirming with mutual hands their distinctiveness. Psychoanalysis has much to say about the ability to self-reference creating a self as the other which thus brings the self into being. The materialist would remind her though, that it is an ecological thing that is doing this performative act of self. One substance at the same time becoming a multiplicity of things and selves.

VIII. Ethics for Wardrobes: 
And Why We Have to Share

Judith Butler and Bisclavret: Key Concepts
  • Feminist Cyborgs: Life Through Trans-Autonomy
  • Cross-Dressing Were-Wolves : Life Through Were/Wear-ring Clothes

Essentialism and dialectics depend on alienating things. Pride and prejudice depends on objectifying things. The former assume that a thing can be in itself without an ecological / social / transforming body; a sort of eternal isolation which ultimately collapses into the impossibility of the self and, as Zizek writes, potentially into nihilism. The latter assume that there are subjects and objects, an us and them, a good and a bad as such; a sort of eternal dis-embodiment which ultimately collapses into an impossibility of accepting the self and, as Judith Butler writes, potentially into suicide. Thus, as we have deduced with other thinkers, the only possible things and lives must be mediated in queer paradox of trans-formation.

“No one achieves autonomy without the assistance or support of a community
...I think we see here the concrete limits to any notion of autonomy 
that establishes the individual as alone, free of social conditions, 
without dependency on social instruments of various kinds. 
Autonomy is a socially conditioned way of living in the world. 
Those instruments…can be enabling, but they can also be restrictive 
and often they can function as both at the same time”

Leaving behind the comforting position of the subject, of the us versus the objective them, forces us to acknowledge that given the queerness of ecological bodies, we have to consider many more things as incorporated into our bodies and thus surrender our prejudice; we have to learn to share many more of our things as incorporated into the bodies of others and thus surrender our pride and ourselves. Once we begin counting the things that make / perform us, we find from Butler that while receiving a sort of "transautonomy" in which becoming-self is a trans-action with a multiplicity of things; we are not our own creator and we are not even comprehensively our own actor / performer. We are not even completely, or largely, organic or biological; leading us to question whether the "we" we speak of, is even an organism. 

“If I have any agency, it is opened up by the fact 
that I am constituted by a social world I never chose. 
That my agency is riven with paradox does not mean it is impossible. 
It means only paradox is the condition of its possibility…
to be a body is to be given over to others 
even as a body is, emphatically, ‘one’s own’, 
that over which we must claim rights of autonomy”

Pride and prejudice objectify, because they essentially mean to deaden or alienate things away, to make them no-thing of significance. Molecules of air, water, waves of heat and "essential minerals" play with our bodies. Sparks and lines of electricity play like lightning storms in our head. Words and thoughts are mapped into our cognition and play out somewhere between a collaborative script and an improvization where no one knows what the authors were really thinking. Their problem here is that we ARE objects; we should be objectified. Our problem is that objects are treated as the waste and slaves to be used and forgotten by the subjects. Just as there will be no equality and no respect for the individual as queer / hybrid of hybrids so long as the male / female distinction continues (separate is not equal and never really separating), so too there will be no respect for the living thing so long as the subject / object distinction continues.

“If some trans people argue that their very sense of personhood 
depends upon having access to technology to secure certain bodily changes, 
some feminists argue that technology threatens…
that the human will become nothing other than a technological effect”

The biological rights only hold if there is a goddess of biology, a mother nature that privelages and stands in opposition to reality to defend us against it, as products of some (ironically) other and super-natural substance. Is not that which forms the biological, a kind of technology? Is not the technology we create thus "natural" at LEAST in so far as it came from the biological? Is our industry somehow not in our "nature?" Is a snail not its shell? Are we not our clothes? Are we not the air we breathe and the machines which bring it into our bodies? Are our bodies not a very complex technology which we every day learn to forwards and backwards engineer? 

The body is a technological product & a product of technology we didn't create. 

“I take off all my clothes and then, for two or three days, 
I am a wild beast in the woods” 
Amanda Hopkins (trans.), Bisclarel

The need for the affirmation of objectifying bodies to permit livable lives is evident among the stories of cyborgs, transgendered and were-wolves. When Bisclarel and Bisclaret took off their clothes, their lays say, they become wolves. Thus their human-form is bound up in their clothes. The suits make them men. But it is also said that becoming-wolf or exchanging cloth for fur is very pleasurable and they do this trans-formation frequently; they also keep their consciousness. This is another way to say, that livable lives not only require things to be a part of them, but that things need to be exchanged often and that personhood and life is found via the exchange. Thus we find an ethical imperative in our ecological materiality, we must share because it is in the act of giving as much in the act of receiving, more than the act of keeping that creates us.

 “I beg you, for God’s sake, wait for me here and look after my clothing.
I leave you my life and my death...
If I am not touched with the other stone; I should never again be a man”  
Amanda Hopkins (trans.), Melion

The were-wolf changing clothes / fur and crossing the human / animal boundary, and thus also the human (or subject) and object boundary (and are not animals regarded one step closer to if not simply biological objects?) are not simply an allegories for cross-dressers and transgendered, but participates in the same act of queering the materiality of the body through performativity of knight / wolf. The were-wolf in this case no only signifies human-wolf hybrid, but all the things that hybrid ecologically in the identity of human and wolf. These are things all-in-one of the body as the body is one-in-all with things it acts with and on. The clothes dictate a form and motion of becoming, as does the stone and the fur. They exist in each other, so that the were-wolf feels the pull to become-wolf even when he is performing his humanity, and visa versa; all the time performing their materials / objects / things and their desire for them; their lives not only need things but arises out of and in them.

“This beast wouldn’t under any circumstances in order to get rid of his animal form, 
put on clothes in front of you; you don’t understand what he means....
Have him led to your chambers and bring the clothes with him; 
then we’ll leave him alone for a while" 

Among the connections between cyborgs, transgendered and were-wolfs, besides their monstrous hybridity and queering of borders, are their evident acts of transforming qua change. What the were-wolf narratives provide however is an important screen behind which the transforming body occurs, much to the relief of classic Hollywood monster movie makers, and much to frustration of CGI movie production teams of the present. What we find in his refusal to perform his transformation on call, in the viewership of others, is queer material's abjuration of readership. Not all things can be translated, particularly at once, into language and be mediated or understood even if it was possible. Performances happen in ways which escape the colonization of words and thoughts and sight. The deterministic powers to set down signifiers or call spaces empty of signification is the same desire to lock forms into stasis; which as we have discussed is to hold them against the vital, life-enacting drive of transformation.

Queerness overthrows ontology, materiality overthrows form, things transform and we live between the unspeakable limits of possibilities. We live in and as the holey paradox of things.

No comments:

Post a Comment