In advance of an Epistemology of the Locker Room;
and then Some ‘Kantian’ Thoughts on the Pornographic Sublime
This piece was originally written for a seminar given at the end of a short fellowship at the Humanities Centre in University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and therefore dates back to 1994 – though it has since been pillaged and modified and has served as a source for for a number of essays. In the same time theory, work, leisure – work and leisure was the theme of the study year - and pornography have all moved on leaving their interleaving traces of old and fresh effects and affects, and sometimes altering the possiblities of thought or of thinking about the issues that interested me.
So, for this recuperation of my materials, I have to make a number of issues quite clear. First that while the theme of the Centre’s seminar for that year was Work and Leisure, and I did set out to address myself to it as such, but in a round-about and allusive manner. On reason I am putting versions of my work on this website is that the development of its most important – (for me anyway) – concepts is so conditioned by fitting in this way, by way of audiences and participants. Versions never quite end up where I imagine that they will be when I set out to prepare them and, at the same time, each one diverts from what had seemed to be the inaugural concept - sometimes putting it into question and sometimes giving it renewed force..
There, in Michigan, I had adapted to the framework of work/leisure by making over a question put to gay sm pornography into one about cultural studies as a discipline, understood as living in the (institutional) bad faith of being both a critique of the leisure industries and the principal site of their configuration as an intellectual pleasure. The question of what is work and what is leisure in sm porn on the one hand and in cultural studies on the other thus came to generate a palimpsest of inappropriate comparisons that yielded up the figure of the slave as the figure of the question itself – becoming a question about pasts and futures in cultural theory and its investment in utopian objects as the ground for its retort to the rule of commodity capital. The slave seemed to be an elegant riposte either to the post-commodity object as it appears in William Morris’s utopian writing, as it also did to the dread of the commodity itself in an Adornian dystopia of the culture industries.[i]
In my more recent work this critique of cultural studies itself then re-emerged as a necessity for other quite different and not gay-as-such sites of reflection, and once again as a matter of address, of theory’s rhetoric and histories. One such discussion is the interview in Interrogating Cultural Studies, Paul Bowman ed, (2003); another is a discussion of the poetics of Jacques Rancière’s writing from the late 1970s to the present read in terms of their incompatibility with the anglo-american versions of Cultural Studies – especially in their more populist or ouvrierist manifestations. Two versions of this are available, one in Paragraph and one on www.gai-savoir.net on the Now page.
The specifically gay theme itself was in turn refigured as central – but without cultural studies as a specific concern -, but rather as if it were only a singular form of cultural theory’s radical prention or perversion, in my Sexual Anaphora (2003), and in a paper on Andres Serrano of the same year.[ii] These represent a stand-off and a moment of becoming disabused with the whole démarche of the Ann Arbor project. For my argument or proposition itself was hardly immune from such immanent dystopia as might overtake any romantic gesture such as that of trying to turn one’s ‘outness’ in regard to sexual curiosity into a theoretical proposition! Romantic gesture, ill-shaped narcissism, radical particularity, whatever; it gives a certain pleasure to writing along the borderlines of scholarly activty and a form of political judgement, but it is no shelter from the changing conditions of thought.
At the time it even felt quite daring, - as little even as 10 or 12 years ago the popular manifestations of gay sm(porn), that form a central object here, were much less commercialised than they are now. And when I published Slavery/Sublimity to my surprise one comment was that it was a ‘courageous’ piece, when I regarded it rather as a theoretical divertissement. But the international tendency, which is the dynamic of the consumer industries in general in their globalising form, is to give rise to a supermarket ‘alternative’ lifestyle of almost any choice or type, of which leather and ‘forbidden’ sexual gestures are no exception – see only the flourishing of leathershops just off the high-street and art-sm in the museums and galleries;[iii] and as with avant-gardes in general, these ‘choices’ are brought safely within the fold of that of which they were, perhaps, once the edge – or could be convincingly imagined to have been. A couple of essays on the evolution of cruising styles in Paris and the historic fabric of the city in the 1990s reflect on this from a slightly different perspective.
1996/2004 – this aporia, or zig-zag path between commodity and judgement, the pull of desire and the dead-end of the ‘hollowed out’ à la Benjamin, already held my attention in an old Block article, A Down on the Upbeat: Adorno, Benjamin and the Jazz Question, (see Then, pdf download). It reemerges as an issue in itself in my first article for Parallax, Total Ellipsis, (ibid) which reflects, from contemporary Paris, on its Zolaesque past, the absence of Zola from the Passagen Werk and the shared reluctance of Adorno and Benjamin to allow for an epiphanic experience of the commodity as symptom… of some kind! It is here too that the cruising essays of which the most satisfactory, ‘Reconstructing Ruin: Change in Paris and the Gay as Trace’ (found in ), are located as an interrogation of the commodity as a host for the unconscious, historical and individual.
One only has to look back over 30 years at a novel like William J Carney’s The Real Thing to see how dificult and complex an issue it was then to articulate a contemporary sexuality on the ground of Sade on the one hand and conservative social norms on the other. Indeed the epistolary form seemed to suit this difficult address, giving it a patina of literary quality, as we find in Joel Hespey’s S/M. The eighteenth century style of sexual discourse, picking up on a Socratean model of education is a mask that writers of Preston’s generation were to throw off as if porn itself were simply the privileged or preferred form of being out. More on this elsehwere.[iv] And the novels of John Preston in turn passed into the canon of stylishness, so much so that even Preston had to admit that the only honourable dress for a man like himself was to revert to chinos and loafers and to announce nothing in one’s appearance of a sexual vocation; and then his novels anyway passed out of fashion again. So the role that I found for the slave now seems to be more interesting in relation to the critique of cultural studies than it does as a figure for a difference between forms of sexual identification that are embattled with each other on the terrain of sameness. On Gaydar or World Leathermen just about everyone wants to be a ‘slave’, certainly more than those who want to be a ‘master’. .. sic transit etc.
When I wrote the seminar it was prefaced by a short porno theory, a genre of writing I developed for myself in order to be able to make mistakes and confuse categories of thought without being subject to criticism for lack of rigour. This was called ‘A Roman Holiday’ and was one of the episodes in the life of David, who you will also find in the porno theory that now prefixes the piece below, and who is a pseudonym of a man called Brad in the final chapter of my Ingres then, and now (2000). ‘A Roman Holiday’ has been published seperately in Parallax, Having Sex, and the new prelude was published as Slavery/Sublimity in 1999 in The Eight Technologies of Otherness ed/author Sue Golding(aka Johnny de Philo, now Johnny Golding). In effect this was the concentrated outcome of the Ann Arbor work and for a number of years I found that it said everthing that I really had in my mind for that seminar, - elliptically, but accurately. Now I have attached it as an introduction, a point of induction for the thinking from which it arose in the first place as, in a sense, it was also an effect of my beginning to realise all the reservations I now have about the value of the figure ‘slave’. It is called Slavery/Sublimity in order to evoke the abyss between political optatives and involuntary desire. Finally in this series of porno theories is the Confessions of a Gay Lacanian, a plenary paper given at Queermatters conference, Kings College London, in 2004. Now the accumulated version starts:
The Epistemology of the Locker Room; Some ‘Kantian’ Thoughts on the Pornographic Sublime
Part One: Slavery/Sublimity(1999)
One of my problems is the banal nature of quality, the high-serious quality of reflections upon matters of sex and ethics. It's all too difficult to escape from the shadow of Genet's trivially ecstatic treacheries in Funeral Rites, Sade's exquisite grammar in any of his writings, or Liliana Cavani's elegant framings of desire's disjunctions in the Night Porter(1974); acting them out once again risks being even less than banal; perhaps just naughty, or, even worse, theoretically correct. Nor for that matter is there any shortage of academic discussion on the legitimacy of all these cathexes that cut across the boundaries of political acceptability on the one hand and the need for what we loosely call 'love' on the other, though sex and love are all too rarely named as such. What follows is inescapably a repetition what has come before, but, I hope, in a fresh order, or maybe just a fresh disorder and perhaps without too much concern for legitimacy or it's sinister twin, legitimation. It proceeds by quotation, invention, conjunction and commentary.
source 1 ‘Léonore, separated from her lover Sainville, is more than twenty times attacked, and finds herself more than twenty times in the most critical situations for her virtue, without ever giving it up, her lover who is separated from her and who seeks her, finds her three times without recognising her, and himself gives her up three times to those who are hunting her, without that the unfolding of the situations artistically, if naturally, arranged, allow Sainville to act otherwise, and without that Léonore much more reduced by these conjunctures, all the less finds the means to escape from the eminent perils that surround her.'(Sade, Aline et Valcour, p. 1198)
Sade's need to summarise his longest text in just one sentence unexpectedly offers us an extraordinary erotic of the subclause as the vector for a cruel deferral of conventional sublimation - a putting-off as the very substance of entertainment. Stripped of the apparatus of Enlightnement ethnography that characterises this novel as a whole, as well as of its intricate comparison of societies and civilisations, it is as if Sade had already overtaken Adorno and Horkheimer's critique of Enlightnement, at the same time showing how narrative itself might reduce complexity to a simple system of equivalences. A system in which Léonore escapes with her virtue, or, rather on account of which, her pleasure escapes her. In The Night Porter, the long scene where the lovers sense one another's presence in the Vienna Opera to the performance of Mozart's Magic Flute, Liliana Cavani allows a glimpse of a desublimation through the rite of passage that leads from Enlightenment Masonic fantasies to the Holocaust as a wound that might only be imagined healed through a sexual acting-out. Léonore could yet be saved from loss and for desire.
source 2 '"I want to be your slave". The voice was hoarse with desire, just as you might expect in a pornographic story. Neither too heavy nor light toned, its richness cut by the breathless sigh, a slight Berlin accent in his English. David was struck by this, by the man's ability to be so direct in another language, immediate in his response to the question that had just put to him.
"What do you want?", he had asked, "what do you want?".
Had the man replied 'I want to be free', it would have made no sense at all.
David pulled out of his absorption and asked himself what the question had really meant to do, what kind of an answer he had indeed required to hear. It had seemed natural enough that he should have put it. For the play had reached a turning point or perhaps an impasse; the impasse of strangers who have who have begun to confide their body to each other, wordless, but have not yet matched, and perhaps never will quite match such highly coded desire with the involuntary movements of their flesh.
For, after all, their actions derange and unsettle the Freudian theory of the fetish. Rather than a disavowal or imaginary replacement, the elaboration of this acting out of fetish is the site for a subtle yet dramatic unfettering of cognition.
Around them the spaces of the club are wrapped with sounds and filled with lights, the dance-floor techno muted in this distant corner of the concrete bunker, beating off the attracting shield of leather, toungueing latex and lashing round tattoos.
The guy is crouching at David's feet, slightly askew against the sweating wall, his head swung round against his torso's twist, and looking up. He is neatly trussed, not to immobilise him, but to ensure that each and every movement reminds him of the purpose of his bondage, which is the character and construction of his pleasure. Rawhides spider geometrically across his body, held by knots and clamps, linked to his hands, and his hands to each other, so that each response to one of David's machinations pulls his balance out with sharp and transient pains, a gradual crescendo of isolated elements into an abstract, formal map of the desiring body, at once immanent and within. Now they have been together more than an hour, and up to now the scene has been going well. But now it has reached its limits for the place, for the dark; it needs a fresh turn, or perhaps more space, regular lighting, clarity. A change.
In an ordinary pornographic story, they would find the quickest path to jouissance, the cum-shot.
David admires the man, his motions, the way he folds into a pain, taking control of it, amplifying it without recoil or hesitation. But it is David now who hesitates; his concentration slips; the reply is not what he expected, and has caught him off his guard. It should have been something more local, the expression of a parochially specific preference to enable a new stage in their play. Indeed, as a prompt, he had indicatively slipped the man's belt free of its loops, and even now still runs it between his fingers.
But then the man said: "I want to be your slave".
David has been a fool, he's betrayed the master's discourse. In this secretly most intellectual of encounters, he has let up on the fiction of elemental passion guided by unflinching reason, broken the subclausal chain.
What passes through his mind, and makes his attention drift so completely, is a reversal of the image that the two of them are making in their shadow-play. Here it is the man, above medium height, Germanic without caricature, who is standing, booted in his leather, feet apart in a classic posture of dominance (the fantasy is quite detailed, slightly differing from the real man); his fists are stretched down, halfway between a disco gesture and a menace, between succour repression; and before and beneath these fists there kneels another man. This figure is evidently Jewish, at the refined end of the stereotype, some ten years older than his companion. From his mouth comes a misshapen bubble in which these same words have hastily been scrawled:
"I want to be your slave."
A little dazed by this unexpected, yet far from uncanny figuration, David now tries to think his way free from it.
I suspect that something along these lines, perhaps, passes through his mind, moves his lips slightly, like someone half-literate reading aloud under his breath: "I need to run this without Deleuze, the humanist paradigm just won't do, neither the manipulative pleasure of the masochist nor theory of victim complicity. I need to run it without the help of Bettelheim or Thewelheit." Possibly David is frightened by his own desire, his unabashed virtuosity hatching symptoms of the endless passage of repression and its returns.
David wrenches himself from the fantasy of inversion, which already, in its single replication, threatens to universalise this wish. He looks down at the man, who seems far, far away. "Let's go for a drink", he whispers. He stoops and deftly frees the other, raising him and at the same time asking him his name. Threading through the beat of sounds and bodies, they make their way to the bar. In a simple gesture of welcome to the city, the man buys the beer, and then they talk.
David's dilemma, his dilemma of intensity and distraction, strikes me as having a special pathos. This is not to say that I have any pity for him. On the contrary, I emphatically regret that the young German was not to get his way, and reproach David that he left him soon after they had returned to one of the cage-areas where they had first cruised one another; angry too that he has thus deprived me of another glimpse of the city's byways that he could have shared with me. No, rather it is that I feel a certain sense of despair that their plight might not get the exegetics it deserves, simply because it happened in a night club, solely because it overtook them at the level of the pornographic. At the same time I have come to believe that this dialogue, taken generically that is to say, offers one of the only possible exorcisms of the Holocaust. To write about its defferal of the indentification in self and other, to rescue and to cherish their aporia, I have two choices.
One is to reach for a theory of power and sexual identity. You will imagine the scenario; deposits of the socially and historically evolved forces of domination and shame manifesting themselves in the deepest structures of individual gesture and enunciation; gay subversion at play with performative sexuality in a non-resolvable conflict with individual and collective fascism - see and rerun Leo Bersani's critique of Judith Butler in his Homos(1995) for the latest version of this one. And perhaps a discussion of the Night Porter, skilfully referenced to Pat Califia's and Gayle Rubin's long-past defence of S/M in the pages of Body Politic. I'm not happy with this if only because it repeats the problem as a problem and not as an opening. 'Yes, it is a nazification of the personal...' versus 'No, it's not, it's an acting out as finally harmless of the politically dangerous...' and so on.
The other is to seek a tracing of the borderlines, the interferences of experience and representation, precisely in the pornographic, in its quest for a sublime transcendance of these two men's predicament. That is to say, I must refuse theory's offer of a safe sublimation for another fantasy, that of the desublimated moment that the best porn alone has the freedom to envisage. A borderline, for example, where the lovers in an adventure story, cross from the safety of their dungeon to the 'real world' of villains, and experience the dissolution of their expectations of pleasure, of its politics and limits. For me this is to envisage the breaking of a law not so much as the subversion of the social as the refusal of our theoretical currency itself. For can we not argue that it is the pornographic imagination that wills the distinction between the possible and the permissable to break down, and that even as the story might be quite 'literal' this occurs at the level of theory, at the level of an abstraction that reconciles the elements of a contradiction under the auspices of an ethical longing?
But here, for just a moment, let us imagine another scene in a similar space.
source 3 There is a large St Andrew's Cross fixed against a brick wall, and, with his back to us, a man is fastened to it with ankle and wrist restraints. His leather is a ripple of highlights in the shadows, shifting as the heavy belt-blows fall across him. His master who, from David's odd perspective, appears below him and the cross, and so as if in fact a servitor, unleashes a closing salvo, then sooths the man, relaxing him into the restraints, which he carefully detaches from the iron rings. One weary arm falls in a diagonal, slow sweep, rising to crook backwards around the master's head, pulling it to nuzzle at his nape as the master, in turn, reaches ungainly up and over to release the other arm. The flagellant's second hand falls to his crotch, he folds back against the other's chest, into his arms, concave, not quite enraptured.
It's a special expression of contentment, one of those moments that confuses the order and expectations of the story's outcome. A queer combination of the deposition and the flagellation, an earthly mingling of the flagellator and the mother, the lover and the son.
David thinks that this is a sort of mental amniosis, this unique, polymorphous flow of energies in a low blue-green light, and that it also has very little to do with a sentimental or maudlin humanism of the genre 'even they', or even 'especially they' are attentive to each other's needs.
No. It's as if the humanist tropes which might be used speak the scene, to excuse it, are undone. Vaguely they point, but they fail to name or offer a connotation that doesn't underline their own inadequacy. As a social relation it's both terribly practical and at the same time inventive. Inventing from moment to moment its own ethical balance between two others, whose subject is sovereign on the terrain of sameness. Its outcome is unpredictable and subject to an excess of witness in the collective space of the bar. It's witness strips of the right to a narrowly individual satisfaction, to a singular interpretation.
source 1 "Stop, he said to me, I'll forgive the disgust due your manners and national prejudices; but it's too much to give yourself up to them; give up making a difficulty of things here, and know how to adapt yourself to situations; repugnances, my friend, are nothing but weaknesses, little sicknesses of the organisation, whose cure has not been worked on in youth, and which master us when we yield to them. In this respect it is absolutely as it is with many other things; seduced by prejudice, the imagination firsts suggests refusal...one tries...one finds it good, and the taste sometimes decides itself with a violence that is all the greater the stronger estrangement had been in us. I arrived here like you, mad with stupid, national ideas; I blamed all...I found everything absurd; the practices of these people alarmed me as much as their customs, and now I do everything as they do." (Sade, Aline et Valcour, p. 561)
Sade's narrator has adapted to a moral climate that puts all judgement in question. Yet the responsibility of judgement is thereby heightened, and, in the frame of the Enlightenement, the subtlety of Kant is revealed as this sublime space between the absolute and the absolutely contingent. Yet the worst of all possible eventualities would be that you all learn to act like those two men, or like David and his German trick, as a substitute for dealing with your own contingency.
source 2 Back home for the summer, David is at the annual festival, and is chatting with his friends outside a marquee. The usual mix, the informal, ageless grouping of his scene, refined by leather. Another German, younger than the Berliner, charming if a little cool and detached, sips a cola. David knows of his reputation as a master, and admires the manifest elegance of his judgement. He panics. How can he know it, other than as an other to himself?
I'm sure that one reason for his panic is tied up with his residual alleigance to religion. A Jew may prostrate himself, but must never kneel.
His panic seizes him as if desire. He faces the young man, half raises his hands, flapping, and then drops to his knees, controlling the hands that he folds behind his waist; his head inclined. No words are needed, his posture speaks them, 'I want to be your slave.' In what must look like a gesture of benediction the young man gently adjusts the incline of David's neck.
This is a beginning, of being other. Yet there is no need for panic. However elevated the moment, it's nothing more than a subclause, and, indeed, no less.
source 4 Les tortures sont différentes, suivant les différens pays; on la donne avec de l'eau, ou avec le fer, ou avec la roue, avec des coins, avec des brodequins, avec du feu etc. (Diderot & d'Alembert, L’Encyclopédie, Neufchatel, 1765)
Kennst du das land? (2006)
SAPPHO: as far as I can see, homosexuality and the sublime first make their acquaintance in literary theory, as distinct from philosophy, in the Hellenistic Greek aesthetic text now known as the pseudo-Longinus. Translated into French by Boileau-Despreaux in the late c17 it became one of the principal motors of aesthetic thinking amongst European academicians in music, art and literature throughout the eighteenth century. And even if it's ethics and poetics of sublimity were rejected by, for example, the Encylopédie, the Longinian assertion of certain forms of artistic value has nonetheless proved both functional for modernity and indelible. In seeking paradigms for sublimity, which we can read in his work as is a strange and contested hotchpot of innate talent, learned rules and social agreement, Longinus proposes not only the classic passages of the Illiad, for example, but also a poem by Sappho. Here the effect of love, the shattering effect of emotion, is produced through the fragmentary representation of the poet's body as a series of disjointed affects. But, and here lies its sublimity, it is a fragmentation in which poetics constitute the identity of the moment not as itself fragmentary but as transcedantly coherent. At least this is my reading.[v]
It is very unlike Leo Bersani's account of the identity-dissolution, the fragmentation of social power and of the structures of domination that he reads out of and into anal intercourse in his important essay ‘Is the Rectum a Grave’.(1988) The disjunction between these two texts, Bersani's and Sappho's, or three if we count in Sappho as an internal effect of Longinus, or again four if we treat Boileau as an altogether new text, would not be interesting were it not the pointer to a process of selection, of exclusivity in the materials that we recognise as appropriate to these studies of ours and of how we deploy them in terms of theories of reading. For while Bersani writes of Mallarmé‚ and Baudelaire and Genet and Gide and Assyrian art, and reads all of these through an 'against-the-grain' reading of Freud, revealing the complex matrices of sexuality, violence and word, it is much more urgent for me to imagine how Longinus' Sappho could be put to work in a common or a vulgar culture.
Here two matters at least remain at stake. One, rather oddly perhaps, concerns the possibility of reading against the sexual rather than against the grain of something else for the sexual to show itself; to find an other terrain of experience or desire, as does Longinus.
2005 – 2006 I have now set out to accomplish this in a number of pieces which are to be found on this site. One is Sexual Anaphora which, amongst other things, tries to think about repetition of the penis in pornography as an echo of the formation of a subject in the way that the myth of Echo and Narcissus can be seen to allegorise the desire of gay/queer studies to repeat its own processes of subject formation as if in the past and not as yet to come – part of this piece is to be found in Umbr(a) No 3.
The other is the piece on Andres Serrano, Victor Burgin and self-images from Gaydar in which I see Burgin’s early floorboard piece as oddly more like the penis that Serrano’s images of the same, or those found on gay cruising sites. www.gai-savoir.com/now/html
That is to concern ourselves with the sexual as a figure, a figure rather in the specific sense elaborated by Erich Auerbach in his little book Figura, a figure rather than a symptom, the site for the production of knowledges of other phenomena than those of sexuality. The sexual as it now is enables the re-reading and re-writing of history through the disclosure of its newly realised desires, that turn out, now, always to have been. The other is a matter of canon, of the forms or levels of material that we might see as appropriate or enabling in an investigation of the valididty or capacity of theoretical models themselves, and I will return to this. Let me signal here that I seek a combination of noble and ingnoble materials not to pursue questions of high and low culture or even of cultural difference, but to pay very close attention to how they might speak to each other, register each other's tone and aspirations in their proper textuality. And in doing this I want to pursue the relation of work and leisure as a cultural distinction to be undone within method.
So let me move from Sappho to John Preston: Here, as it broaches both these questions of figure and canon, I will introduce this eminent gay pornographer through a short account of one of his novellas, The Arena, choosing a passage from this that seems to make more sense for Sappho than for Bersani. You will see that the text is unambivalent in its sexuality, and that one would not wish to read it as 'against-the-grain' as heterosexual. You will also see that it is written for entertainment, and it follows very srtictly Preston's own rules, elaborated in his more discursive and popular academic writing, for the construction of a pornographic text. The section I will read here is quite short, and I want to make it clear that I have no intention of making a spectacle of the text.
insert here (a section on TT and the reformulation of the body as a series of hyper excited and hyper cathected parts, discuss this terminology birefly, the body as an excess to the self, as a form of the non-cartesian subject and of the cartesian subject in suspense – hence sublime)
The book, The Arena, treats of the life of a wealthy and successful college graduate, who, with the aid of his sometime economics professor, is able to sell up his business and become a free man at the age of 30. After his graduation there had been a brief period of sexual liason with the professor - I think you will see that this novella, even in this introductory summary, has enough banal tropes of pornographic discourse to render it unredeemable as literature, and this is one criterion for my choosing it. (It has less words than the work of Jackie Collins or Judith Krantz, and this is only one reason for preferring it.) Anyway, we are in a world of officially illicit relations and sexual frisson literally just behind the closed doors of respectability; comfort, wealth sufficient to make unbridled leisure a matter of reasonable opportunity. And yet, a field of opportunity that looks like nothing so much as the most ordinary of markets for commodities. For this young man, good living and good routine sex in the leather bars of the big city, good bodies, endless choice and the power to exercise it. Like other commodities these can be measured in terms of their availability, their quantity, their aesthetic quality, but never in terms of something beyond that, something one might call their density, their sublimity perhaps. That is to say they remain commodities, nothing more than the phantasmatic representations of the very idea of choice - which of its nature remains within the imagination.(remove choice which is slavery - here is the heart of the critique) A world more like that of Bourdieu than Kant.
Anyway, to cut a short story even shorter, the professor prevails on his protegee to accompany him to the Arena, a private club where young men come to get themselves trained, to perfect themselves physically and morally in subjection, to become the sexual playthings of other men, whom they do not choose, and where they learn to achieve this complete objectification not as an abjection, which is the expulsion of self-hatred or of the fear of being, but as a transcendant choice. The choice is a choice to be chosen, not to choose, or it is a decision that renounces choice, and in doing so leaves the subject open, open ended, but potentially achieving a renewed coherence at each surpassing of its established limits.
The experience that one imposes but does not take - worthwhileness of this signified by the loss of choice, loss of control over one's own body - dare one say the experience of empathy with the commodity by becoming the commodity, yet at the same time not being one at all. For the form of this offering, of the constitution of this state of being is not that of the wage-slave but that of the slave. To become an object is not to become a commodity. That is to say it is at the doors of the Arena that the prevailing economy ends together with the prevailing morality. If the figure for this cessation is that of slavery, rather than of freedom, then it is this problematic cessation that permits the 'outlaw' sexuality to understand its own unfolding as the critique of a society that rigorously separates sexuality from labour as if it were mere leisure, except for the antinomic roles of the reproduction of the labour force on the one hand and prostitution on the other. Unlike the prostitute the young man in the Arena does not work for someone else's leisure, for a pimp; on the contrary, his role as well as that of the masters, is the production and reproduction of a system of pleasure in which each will produce the other as another effect of each other's own subjectivity in different relations of transformation and fixity.
2004:here and now I would restate the above paragraph to encompass the following terms: that in the gap between empathy(for the commodity) and not being one is some thing that we should also call the objet: the prevailing economy ends face to face with the objet, with the non-figurability of the desire that it provokes: the objet is enfolded here and within the Arena as the inside of the sexuality at the edge, where the edge itself is also objet – and at the same time the slave is the figure of the objet in the face of the master’s desire that brings it into being. The slave is the figure of the master’s pathological belief in master’s coherence, and in its being-seen, a utopian figuration of the real and a play with the failed mastery of political domination, Bush, Saddam.
Here the game of subject and object is openly declared as such, and as a game the fixity of each element is undermined by the other, subject and object changing into each other through the poetic of the body as a work of self-realisation. I suppose that I want to argue that not only is this representation only available within the imaginary of same-sex relations, but that this must be one between men, because it is only between men that the signifying power of the phallus, this monster of modern cultural theory, can be undermined by constantly turning over this signifier into the mere, if extreme pleasure of the penis. That is to say the phallus is prescisely deprived of its sublimity, with which it is endowed by Freud and Lacan, and in becoming the penis is nothing other that the site of desublimation. Or, the production of this intersubjectivity is the work of this society which in its atopian ideality cannot construe of a difference to the work which is also pleasure. The 'I' and 'I' of this relation is not that of the concentration camp, nor that of Sade, both of which imply the anihilation of the other as the effect of an extrinsic law.
[The play of the extrinsic - anyone could wish this, with the intrinsic judgement, it is 'I' who wish it, plays the borderline of Kant's dilemmas in the construction of the synthetic judgement, something that Arendt notes of Eichmann’s non-thought ‘morality’ in her Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) A concern about this lies behind reservations that I have in respect of Barthes Sade essay, though much of his observation is exquisite and makes reading Sade like the appreciation of an illuminated manuscript. It also lies behind some footnotes in the Tom with Sebastiano essay, that are in effect aimed only at Zizek’s lacano-fascism, in my understanding that Lacan is, in his writing, perverted to become the law of his own narcissism. In effect the Gay Time piece( www.gai-savoir.net/then/html age, PDF) is another attempt to navigate my way around these questions, as well as Sexual Anaphora. 2004]
So in the passage, at the height of the novice's training, when he is learning identification with pain - there is no reason, no explanation, and as in all profound allegory, the material of representation is taken as a given. Therefore there is no seeking of an oedipal scene, a withdrawal of maternal love, an unseemly sighting, there is no staging of the origin that is the fleeting form of today's session of analysis as distinct from tomorrow's. Simply the shaping of a new form of the subject as an effect of the experiences of his body. Difference of this from Sade is important, for it is not avowed to entropic collapse, but to and endlessly overlapping series of expansions, also different from Barthes’ grammars.
[This has something to do with the denotative stage of gay identities, following on from the late 1960s and on the other side of the historical poetic of abjection, that made Genet. See my pieces on Renaud Camus and others on Gay Paris as well as the Queermatters piece on this site]
[ That is to say now, 2004, that these figures, the primal scene or the oedipal process, in not being needed, become the site of a play, they are played out as if they were themselves within the objet, and this play endlessly extends them and gives them a new existence as figures. Here one must build upon and criticise Hocquenghem’s critique of Oedipus, following Deleuze and Guattari.]
The Epistemology of the Locker Room
You will recognize an element of parody in my phrase. And why not? Why should Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's important work The Epistemology of the Closet not be relocated in a world of rather different realities and theories. from those in which it was produced. The closet of her title is essentially literary, historically disclosed as closet by the Foucauldian notion of a homosexual episteme, that nineteenth-century moment of transcendance from the period of sodomitic acts to that of a nameable sexuality as such. I don't, with my parody, so much want to take all this down a peg or two as to hang cultural theory on rather different pegs than those of the literary and artistic canon, the classic movies and other materials of media studies or whatever, that have tended to make the focus for the recent highly creative and comprehensive development of gay studies. The point about the locker room of my title, and the locker room is preeminently a site of someone's leisure, is that it should be a space of fantasy rather than one of oppression, a space to enter rather than one to escape or to 'come out' of; or rather, perhaps, a place to which one might escape not so much to hide what it is that one is, as what it is that one is up to. But nonetheless a somewhere that remains a kind of public space and not a Foucauldian heterotopia – a small idea that I do not understand very well.
Or let me retract that straight away, and suggest that the locker room is a nowhere, an atopia, an ideal space which, in its tensions and its pleasures, is a little like the ideality of the sublime. And so to write out of the locker room is to write from a radically different episteme to that of the closet, neither to hide nor to explain, but speak, across and within, across and within boundaries, constructing boundaries as well as crossing them, yet finding a tone or a mode that can be heard, followed, understood. My locker room is peopled with some perhaps unexpected partners in theoretical enterprise, amongst them Immanuel Kant, and two famous gay pornographers; the draughtsman and cartoonist Tom of Finland and John Preston, the late writer, editor essayist and health activist. The former, Kant, is not there to be subjected to a rigorous philosophical examination, but to provide a metaphor for the impossible of representation - the impossible that, like the categorical or the sublime, is over the edge of being sayable. Above all we might think in terms of Chapter Two of his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, which is The Passage from popular moral philosophy to a metaphysic of morals, or the complex discussions of 'finality' in the Critique of Judgement.
The latter two authors are there not to be rescued from common parlance, nor from 'pornography' but to figure Kant's impossibility in a utopian discourse on and in the present. And it will be through them, their present, I will try to construct an 'au delà' of work and leisure out of the pleasures of the locker room. Kant and pornography will rescue each other from their own very evident limitations through the playful aporetic that might unfold from the ways in which the finalities of one interfere with the other's desire to go beyond any finality. For a moment or two Luce Irigaray might join them in there as well as Marx and the Freud of fetishism and hysteria. There will certainly be the Hellenistic aesthetician of a different kind of sublimity, the 'pseudo-Longinus'.
But the Sade of Lacan[I think: I do not understand this piece, finally. 2004 -6] stays outside in the cold with sundry other heroes and heroines of the current state of cultural theory. It's worth noting that the word pornography is somewhat dysfunctional in my chosen context. Here, in the locker room, it at least begins to dissolve its traditional connotations in the construction of a series of phantasies of which the restless meanings, the complex involutions of desires for social and psychological transformation, and longings for transcendances, match up very poorly with the kind of critique which we might find in the work of, for example, Andrea Dworkin or many other barely satisfactory texts on the question.
In a recent parallax Jay Bernstein, for example, takes Giorgio Agamben to task for generating porngraphy in his Remains of Auschwitz. I am in profound disagreement with Bernstein, whose concept of the pornographic is rooted in the moment of Dworkin. But were I to criticise his article, my riposte would be this evaluation of Preston, not a dismantling of his logic, which unfolds watertight from its faulty premises. I would pull Agamben’s theory of the subject and its discursive constitutions onto my side, perhaps hyper-evaluating the énoncé of Benveniste as a modelling of the slave’s training in The Arena. In addition the elaborate giving-to-see of For the Pleasure of a Master might be though of a a division of the visible that enunciates these histories in their self-incommensurable chacter.(2006)
To retain the word pornography is therefore to risk misunderstanding, while to scupper it would be to set myself against both of my chosen champions, who have assumed the title of pornographer without concern or with the considered concern of what Stuart Hall has named 'strategic essentialism'. But, after all, as Marx banally warned us, we do not need to take anyone's view of what s/he is or does, so I will retain the word with this provision; that I will locate it in a moral space called 'kant', a space that is opened up by this form of gay pornography, but certainly not by what you might see in Hustler, Playgirl or generally on 42 Street.
But even less than the word 'pornography' do I like the word 'erotic'. Following the very trenchant advice of the French writer Renaud Camus I will especially eschew it from my vocabulary, along with its accretion of gloomy and guilty implications of that which is either merely complementary to something else that is properly everday; or of that which is transgressive in the derisively sublimatory sense of the word. Erotic is, then, a(an irremediably heterocratic) word which has inscribed within it and reinscribes in its very usage an unreflected relation of work and leisure. To evoke and then reject it at this point is to give something of a hint about how I intend to get to the the topic of these seminars. (A good part of which is simply to make these things work for thinking the problem.) For if I begin to do this through developing a discourse that might effectively relate gay studies to the matter of work and leisure, it is not simply a ruse to fit my experiment into the theme chosen for this year's work by the Institute for the Humanities, even while this does indeed offer an excuse. Rather it is because it enables me to engage in two strategic moves for the historical framing of cultural theory on the one hand and its more limited application on the other.
The first I see as an ongoing reflection on what it means to work in a discipline that itself seems to be the product of a commodity or leisure culture, flourishing as more often than not as a kind of academic superstructure to the endlessly expansive base of culture industries. My discussion therefore concerns the work of cultural studies. And the second means to engage in what I hope is a worthwhile series of translations within the field of cultural theory and its different kinds of object and material. By translation I mean a transference of knowledge between differing social ontologies, one that respects their difference while making sense of and for each other.
(this is all rather out of date???) This could be put more simply, if at greater length, like this; that I do not intend to engage in identity politics as an end in itself, as the making present of 'something in itself' which would otherwise be absent, occluded or repressed; but rather I want to look at the possibility that, without making a spectacle of certain comportments and their many representations , I can read out of them an ethic and a cultural critique that would not otherwise be available, and of which the availability will make a difference to our understanding and deployment of cultural theory, our keeness to its specific configurations and to their limitations. In this respect it is crucial that a shift in understanding should not have a legislative value, such as, for example, certain forms of post-lacanian feminism once tried to claim.(This non-legislation, or the desire for it, might be best thought of as a categorical moral judgment) Insofar then as work and leisure present themselves as a useful site of operation, this because of their conceptual centrality amongst the many binary couples that structure the work of cultural studies and that this structuring is worked through the specific genderings of their binary relation, and also because the history of their antinomy is, in some respects, a history of the study of capitalist culture itself.
The very concept of work and leisure as an antinomic relation is one that must, then be thought through an economic history of capital and the commodity. The reason for this is both historical and theoretical. At the same time, or as an element of this history, work and leisure have come to be figured through the allegorising of certain types of human figure in the nineteenth century - I think first of all of the artist and the prostitute and of the crucial role that their allegorical dialogue has played in the imaginary resolution of this conflict. Without Benjamin's reflections on Baudelaire, cultural studies, would, in retrospect, be almost without an origin, a model or an alibi. The very idea that the petit bourgeois will only 'empathise' with the commodity until 'he' is proletarianised by the realisation that 'his' life is 'imposed from on high by the organisation of production'(p. 87) sounds pathetically like a prophecy not only miserable in its failure but wretched in its active subversion by those who have taken it as their slogan. Benjamin's linking of these themes, of a citation from Baudelaire's Spleen with the prostitute's experience of the market economy, offer her as the very image of the subversive intellectual as ...Partout elle se fraye un occulte chemin/Ainsi que l'ennemi qui tente un coup de main:/Elle remue au sein de la cite fange/Comme un ver qui derobe a l'Homme ce qu'il mange.(p. 85)
Or to take another paradigm that implicates the activity of the artist in the very representability of the capitalist economy, need we think further than the distinctions made by Marx and Engels between productive and unproductive labour. It was in these terms that Marx and Engels reflected on the appropriate apparatus for the pragmatic, temporary and therefore convenient fixing of something that seemed all too fluid and too complex to allow theory to do its work of cognition and taxonomy. What precisely are the labour processes and products of the artist, the artisan - shoemaker or tailor -, and the proletarian? The question was and remains crucial for an mapping of those networks of self and other which both structure the human subject and the relations between subjects, and in which one woman's work is another man's leisure;
Nowhere more so than in the spaces of activist art and art as activism, of the division of the visible etc…Ranciere in queer theory..Preston as an activist and as a runner of the borderline of aesthetic and political – for the Love of a Master – love, pure love – my other piece, and representaion of this love is deep relation of xtian and s/m!! At the same time, underline this, need for abstraction from work that is success and wealth to accomlish this: wealth is equivalent of honesty on Wm Morris.
where the work of the proletarian and the poet are doomed to irreparable misrecognition; and in which, in the very last eventuality, art can only escape being a commodity at the expense of its effective invisibility.(Already thinking around Ranciere then, now after Partage it is more evident) If I insist on putting these quite wide ranging if not to say vast coordinates in place to examine what might be thought of as little more than a matter of local interest, then this is because they suggest how work/leisure together with gender/sexuality might open perspectives of a thoroughly non-sociological character for the discussion of what Foucault called comportments in the social 'imaginaire' that is Cultural Studies.(And there, even before I have really introduced the project, I am into that most leisurely yet difficult of academic discourses that is meta-theory; before you have even caught so much as a glimpse of a story or a picture, they are framed and then reframed.)
Let us pick out a little more of these historical and theoretical dimensions. Historical reflection is needed because of the development of modern forms of work as distinct from other activities are tied up with the unfolding of the process so dramatically elaborated by Marx in Chapters 13 and 14 of Volume 1 of Capital; that is to say with the development of and shift between manufacture and the industrial division.of labour. It is this latter that finally strips work of any residual sweetness, from the pleasurable attention that is inherent in the very nature of fabrication and that turns 'man' into an instrument of the machine.
Forestalling the factory and the gym and the fairground in WB – cit here from WB on leisure.
And it this destruction that opens up the space, which is a space of loss, for the Utopian critique of capital, for the many mid to late nineteenth-century economic and social Utopias that imagine a world freed from the social division of labour. We could follow a thread from the eighteenth century artisan of E P. Thompson's important essay Time, Work, Discipline essay to the extraordinary, vacuous activities of the finally healed population of William Morris's News from Nowhere, and then trace our way back again to Sir Thomas More's Utopia to see something of the effects of industry lying uneasily with the durability of utopia's tropes.
Theoretical because of the moralities surrounding the matter in Adornian theory of culture. Because of the role of the commodity and commodified culture in precisely constructing work and leisure as indefinably interlinked mutual necessities in modern critical theory, in the nexus of the culture industries. In fact in Adorno as in Kracauer the antinomic couplet of work and leisure is an identity, because the leisure is allways and already a representation and an enforcement of the alienation of commodified work, of exploitation. In the decade or so that separates Kracauer's The Mass Ornament from Theodor Adorno's Essay on Jazz the question progresses from being one of how to speak about the previously unspoken, how the Tiller Girls and Fordism belong to each other as a structure of mass subjectivity, to one of a popular culture actively becoming the discipline of political fascism as leisure. It is not the place here to go into a detailed analysis of these two difficult arguments nor to make a judgement on their value in relation, say, to the work of Benjamin or Brecht, nor to take to task their pessimistic absolutism which might seem to theoretically rob the masses of any human agency or of any power in the unfolding of a fantasmagoria of leisure that will lead to Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle.
Rather it is an opportunity to underline how closely the critique of the commodity and the critique of leisure depend upon each other in such a way as to constitute the theoretical framing of capitalist society as a society of work, even where this work may more and more, for some strata and some privileged social classes, take the apparant form of leisure. William Morris suggested as much in the 1880's in his essay Useful Work v Useless Toil (just before Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class), in which the mutual irresponsibilities of capital and labour are structured through this antinomy. And in which the modern work of art in is true negativity becomes the only possible form of labour that is not alienated, but, as with my texts on margins, at the price of not being open to comprehension.
Theoretical because I want to find some ways to complement the explanatory models of cultural studies - primarily psychoanalytic, that avoid at the same time the foucauldian methods of non-explanation or of de-theorised comparison as dispositif. And because I want to put theory under the strain of reading banal material. Take this image, for example.(Tom) If theory can find plenty to say about it what will this be? What will it do to the object? Will it be appropriate to a specific experimental objective that is the finality of the object? If it can find nothing to say, what does this mean for the.object - that it is nothing, that it is not up to scratch - which is more than possible, or that the theory has limits imposed by its customary use?
After nearly two years of working around the notion of nothing and having ‘nothing to say’ (see www.gai-savoir.net/now.html Leeds Lecture) all this takes on an unexpected turn that I could not have forseen, a potential redundancy of the relation of theory to object as a useful relation of reflexive procedure. Here masculinity via Preti comes back into play. A masculinity of waiting, as in the life of the slave, for the next, for the worse, for the coming to desire it, for the relation with the saint, with the Painter in the Painter’s time. 2006
Here Preston's, as well as Tom's, work is especially interesting because it proposes a means of rethinking or of thinking at all some complexities that are hidden in complex theory but which cannot be got out of it by its own efforts if for no other reason than its refusal to countenance self-reflection other than in the mode of sophistry about itself.
Wind down with??? with reading agains the grain of identity politics - themes of work and leisure in gay(and straight) porn, the worker, the plumber, the police, the office, and the work that is represented on the master slave relation, all this might be read not as a problem of the subject, but as the problem of the subject being the site at which other forbiddens are imagined as ovecome - the two over the edge experience which are those of the healing of the division of labour and those of the indifferent articulation of a way of being are a site for a specific imaginary that can only be perceived through the trnaslations that I propose. For example, let us take back being happy from Foucault.
Theoretical because art history and cultural studies, where they overlap, have taken leisure as the object of their work, thus drawing another line between them, one crossed in the mind of the intellectual who takes the site of leisure as the site of work, whether in the analysis of impressionist painting from Schapiro onwards, or in concern with funfairs or cinema watching, it or they process leisure into work. In the end one is more often than not inclined to make a judgement, and I am inclined to do so, though this judgement has its own little history - which is a decision to read these texts first because they are there: this is very important, because it is a little like doing CS before the event, as is usually the case with media studies, where one studies it in a trailing sort of way long before one knows what it is [- the case of the new man, for example].
Tragedy of CS has long been this matter of both having privileged insight and eve being at least one step behind the industries, of which it may be thought as a post-Macluhan symbol?. As an over correction to historicism, old style ‘lit studs’ on the Oxbridge mode, CS is committed to its own defeat at the object of its critique, a defeat which takes no definitive form, but is itself the unsettling slide between critque and celebration. If I had studied the precious historical documents of the Enfer or the Cup(the porn codes in the BN and the BL), why not render these precious in their turn? And then between them, there are differences, which one can only test or disclose through detailed comparison - Travis, Townsend, Eighner, Preston is specifically one who treats in morality. And by this I mean that he treats of the affect of his tropes rather than simply with their reproducibility as the expected site of excitation.
Something not to be regretted or tortured over. One tends to do it all the time and has the advantage of being able to do something with one's leisure when reading detective fiction or erotica. To return to the intellectual as whore, the question to ask of this is the problem of this being gendered through a heterosexual narrative that poses the relation of work and leisure as gendered? Not quite . How can gender sameness break this mold and is this breaking specific to gender sameness? Take it that it is in terms of the possibilities opened up within cultural studies by the penis/phallus collapse which has to be figured as internal to male/male relationships. And which figuring, in disobeying the finalities of (normative models of)psychoanalysis, puts itself outside a law, and so into a space of pure judgement, experience of the sublime.
The images and the writings which I use are intended to open up an alternative discourse on all of this, routing my discussion through some of the discoveries of an identity politics that I do and refuse to do, but either way as a will to to translate or to refuse translation, if translation or transmission of different particularities into each other’s pretentions to the universal seems at least worthwile – so that do do this and to refuse is radical, one way or the other.
questions: One of artist and prostitute from Baudelaire. Material: To use very noble and very ignoble combinations of stuff, Primo Levi with the porn. The work which is not, enslavement. Wage slavery - Preston on this question, he shows how the young man is removed from the commodity system by becoming something more archaic, which is the slave. This is interesting in that it reworks a pre-capitalist formation that everyone, even those most anti-capitalist, is agreed on the benefits of its elimination. This counterpoints if not actually inverts the logic of Ruskin's pre-industrial fantasies of social cohesion achieved through satisfaction in work. At the same time it relativises the notion of a normative phase of historical progress rather as Wlliam Morris does in A Dream of John Ball, and to a certain extent does this by placing its ethics in a social framework of the rich, permitting a pure aestheticising of the sexual relations. (The forms of social mobility need to be thought out here though of course pornographic writing does require a convention of wealth precisely because sex as an end in itself is outside the commodity system. Homosex as non reproductive doubles this. In the Love of a Master, the scenes of the sex-camp of bikers, Preston suggests that these people might be drop outs from business, and would clearly prefer this life to one of wage labour. The need to attack the work ethic in the name of sexual fulfillment is very strong and suggests another dimension of the critique of the heterosexual prostitute as an ur-form of modernity). (I find this worthwhile but what to do with it? Where does it belong?)
Inserting the Preston material into this critical history is to critique it and to expand it, to translate it out of the boundaries of its own coherence - another instance of a possible sublimity. In Preston it, the violence, is no longer a crime once it has been extracted from the commodity system, and must be done in a public, within a public and not be a secret, which is a political assertion, a rite of passage, a membership etc. But also in not seeking a hidden logic of abjection in human sexuality - line from Augustine to Sade to Freud to Lacan etc, it no longer seeks death as its effect, but eventual jouissance, of which the science is to time it and control it as a souci-de-soi in which the souci may be unequally distributed but not unjustly. Protocols of justice are agreed upon and a Souci-de-soi is as if an overcoming work and leisure?? Barthes just misses all of this in his p. 511, where he sets up the `autarcie' of the sadian city, its utopia, its complete range of desires, needs,pleasures etc. So, while on the one hand he sees the formation of a society built out of a thing which is not work, he is too deeply implicated in Sade's heterocratic logic to follow the implications of what perhaps is a `prophecy' of the commodity system ??????.
This is in some ways a more interesting critique of Sade or assertion of Sade's than that of Klossowski, even if this is present in La Monnaie Vivante - which I do not find, pace Foucault, radically different from Marx in its best elements. The relations of instumentality in the discourse and the pleasures in/of Sade is eliminated in Preston through other kinds of relation which can roughly be called souci-de-soi as a relation of master and slave, in which the `soi' and the `autre' exchange `souci' and this takes place on the terrain of the the sublime, technically because of its irrational relation between desire and reason, and morally, in that it is the discovery of an(at that moment) essential, but binarily mutable, self which one can will as one's own and as any other's who is so.
This is of course tautological, but mapped onto the field of experience or the representation of desirable experience, it becomes properly aporetic in mapping the ever shifting space of desire that goes beyond the limits of a socially limited framing - from the Bar to the Network, for example, but falls back into the narrative form of the sentimental story in the arrestations of condensed moments of true love - thought of as passing, but not tragically so. Here is the point at which we can test Genet and the dependance of gay literary theory on Genet - the weakness in Bersani's citing of Preston. This aporetic element is significant for gay culture in terms of its modes of reproduction, and its bearing a resemblance to dominant culture in structural rather than ethical terms, that is in terms of generating an avant-garde or a margin - this runs through from SM to Vogueing, [another collapse of the work/leisure binary] - and so clearly has more than one site.
A mapping of these sites would yield up the possibility of a quasi ethnographic, in a Lévy-Straussian mode, mapping of the the sociabilties and mythemes particular to gay cultures in their differences, and differenced by these differences, which are of course samed by these structures which homologise an ambient culture. The kantian element returns here as the going beyond one's finality, which is also the site of a utopia - and it is here that I can turn to Rancières critique of Bourdieu and his reassertion of a specific radical value in Kant. But once taken up, this allows a radical rereading of the imagery itself as outside the confines of a sociology or a psychology of masculinity and social difference, of slumming etc, to an embodiment of some socially valuable, categorical judgement on the relation between work, leisure and sexuality and the ways in which these interefere with each other not as an essential process of their intrinsic differences, but as a continually re-presented site of the socially and historically produced impossibility of their reconciliation. Thus the levels or if not levels, then imbricated circles of outsideness are fated to an as if radicality, the very contemplation of which produces the uncertainty to which their narratives aspire.
[i] Bitte nicht beruhren and the inappropriate
[ii] Interrogating Cultural Studies: Theory, Politics and Practice, ed Paul Bowman, London, Pluto 2003. See the proceedings of the conference on Rancière at Goldmiths, London, 16/17 September 2003. See my Sexual Anaphora – a theoretical daydream in Umbr(a) no 2, 2002.
[iv] Barthes etc – David Pearce piece.
[v] 100 versions of this poem