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Thread: Hauntology

  1. #1
    Symbolic Herald Vasilisa's Avatar
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    Default Hauntology

    Hauntology: A not-so-new critical manifestation
    The new vogue in literary theory is shot through with earlier ideas
    by Andrew Gallix
    17 June 2011
    guardian.co.uk

    Excerpt:
    In the original French, "hauntology" sounds almost identical to "ontology", a concept it haunts by replacing - in the words of Colin Davis - "the priority of being and presence with the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive".

    Today, hauntology inspires many fields of investigation, from the visual arts to philosophy through electronic music, politics, fiction and literary criticism. At its most basic level, it ties in with the popularity of faux-vintage photography, abandoned spaces and TV series like Life on Mars. Mark Fisher – whose forthcoming Ghosts of My Life (Zer0 Books) focuses primarily on hauntology as the manifestation of a specific "cultural moment" – acknowledges that "There's a hauntological dimension to many different aspects of culture; in fact, in Moses and Monotheism, Freud practically argues that society as such is founded on a hauntological basis: "the voice of the dead father". When you come to think of it, all forms of representation are ghostly. Works of art are haunted, not only by the ideal forms of which they are imperfect instantiations, but also by what escapes representation. See, for instance, Borges's longing to capture in verse the "other tiger, that which is not in verse". Or Maurice Blanchot, who outlines what could be described as a hauntological take on literature as "the eternal torment of our language, when its longing turns back toward what it always misses". Julian Wolfrey argues in Victorian Hauntings (2002) that "to tell a story is always to invoke ghosts, to open a space through which something other returns" so that "all stories are, more or less, ghost stories" and all fiction is, more or less, hauntological. The best novels, according to Gabriel Josipovici, share a "sense of density of other worlds suggested but lying beyond words". For the reader or critic, the mystery of literature is the opacity – the irreducible remainder – at the heart of writing that can never be completely interpreted away. The whole western literary tradition itself is founded on the notion of posterity, which Paul Eluard described as the "harsh desire to endure" through one's works. And then, of course, there's the death of the author ... All this, as you can see, could go on for quite a while, so perhaps we should wonder if the concept does not just mean all things to all (wo)men. Steen Christiansen, who is writing a book on the subject, explains that "hauntology bleeds into the fields of postmodernism, metafiction and retro-futurism and that there is no clear distinction – that would go against the tension which hauntology aims at".

    As a reflection of the zeitgeist, hauntology is, above all, the product of a time which is seriously "out of joint" (Hamlet is one of Derrida's crucial points of reference in Spectres of Marx). There is a prevailing sense among hauntologists that culture has lost its momentum and that we are all stuck at the "end of history". Meanwhile, new technologies are dislocating more traditional notions of time and place. Smartphones, for instance, encourage us never to fully commit to the here and now, fostering a ghostly presence-absence. Internet time (which is increasingly replacing clock time) results in a kind of "non-time" that goes hand in hand with Marc Augé's non-places. Perhaps even more crucially, the web has brought about a "crisis of overavailability" that, in effect, signifies the "loss of loss itself": nothing dies any more, everything "comes back on YouTube or as a box set retrospective" like the looping, repetitive time of trauma (Fisher). This is why "retromania" has reached fever pitch in recent years, as Simon Reynolds demonstrates in his new book - a methodical dissection of "pop culture's addiction to its own past".

    Hauntology is not just a symptom of the times, though: it is itself haunted by a nostalgia for all our lost futures.


    < full article >

    Last edited by Vasilisa; 08-16-2011 at 05:31 PM. Reason: bolded the essential part
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  2. #2
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Oh, I like this! I may be off the mark, but to me what it's saying is that anything in the field of human endeavour or experience carries all the related burdens of the past, as well as the Platonic ideal that only appears in a corrupt and imperfect form.

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  3. #3
    Symbolic Herald Vasilisa's Avatar
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    I'm don't pretend that I am versed in philosophy. But this piece seemed interesting to me merely because I have been thinking on ideas related to this in the cultural and entertainment realm: all the nostalgia mining in Hollywood films, those faux vintage photography filters, retro fashion by hipsters, social networking and "the larger trend of our viewing the present as increasingly a potentially documented past.", people being less present generally.

    < An Elixir of Reminding >
    This is the immediacy of experience principle. If you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

    This is what is becoming in the world: the acceptance, only, of lived experience. I did not hear it if it did not scrobble, I did not see it if it’s not on Flickr, I did not say it if it is unpublished. Without Foursquare, I am not even there.

    Because of the network, our lived experience now encompasses everything: hence Network Realism. The All-Seeing Eye. The shared electronic consciousness, endlessly proliferating.

    We’re repeatedly told that computers’ memories are better than ours, that Facebook photos will ruin our future careers, that our youthful indiscretions will last for a thousand years in the mind of the network. And so we give up our memories to the machines, endlessly feeding them with our thoughts and our experiences, hoping, desperately, to preserve them. Attempting to defy death.
    < The Faux Vintage Photo >
    What I want to argue is that the rise of the faux-vintage photo is an attempt to create a sort of “nostalgia for the present,” an attempt to make our photos seem more important, substantial and real. We want to endow the powerful feelings associated with nostalgia to our lives in the present. And, ultimately, all of this goes well beyond the faux-vintage photo; the momentary popularity of the Hipstamatic-style photo serves to highlight the larger trend of our viewing the present as increasingly a potentially documented past. In fact, the phrase “nostalgia for the present” is borrowed from the great philosopher of postmodernism, Fredric Jameson, who states that “we draw back from our immersion in the here and now [...] and grasp it as a kind of thing.”

    see also: INFJs and Nostalgia

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    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    It's all very...over-conscious, in a way... I was on holiday last year and with one of my friends we realised we kept saying "this would make a great Facebook profile picture." Had to laugh at ourselves in a way. Just live in the moment and stop thinking about how good you're going to look on Facebook!

    I find the faux vintage photo thing kind of weird, wasn't everyone so overjoyed when we no longer needed film to take pictures? And now everyone seems to be manipulating their digital photos to make them look retro and film-like.

    It seems like a superficial way to acknowledge the past and the burden of history. I really do think we are haunted by the burden of history but in a more meaningful way than faux vintage and hipster fashion.

    I'm no philosopher either but I think it's interesting.
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    Member bunnyhighbrow's Avatar
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    Reminds me of a Kilgore Trout novel, where there are so many art masterpieces that they have more of them than they do rubbish, and they aren't worth anything, and generally clash together. Only the writer did miss a part: the part where every single person gets their ideal work of art to appreciate.

    SilkRoad: on a meaningful way of expressing the tension between past and present, have you seen the film 'Sunless'?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bunnyhighbrow View Post
    Reminds me of a Kilgore Trout novel, where there are so many art masterpieces that they have more of them than they do rubbish, and they aren't worth anything, and generally clash together. Only the writer did miss a part: the part where every single person gets their ideal work of art to appreciate.

    SilkRoad: on a meaningful way of expressing the tension between past and present, have you seen the film 'Sunless'?
    I haven't seen that film, what is it about?
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    Senior Member NegativeZero's Avatar
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    Post-modernism redux? Seriously, this shit is STUPID. Don't worry, I'm not calling onlookers stupid for reading about it or being interested, but this one of those dupes that attracts non-philosophers into pseudo-philosophy.

    At least they belong there...
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    Care to explain pseudo-philosophy?
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    The article is a bit difficult to penetrate isn't it....
    I think the persistence of hauntological concepts is still due to them being evoked as a natural reaction to continued change in the world.

    It's not just concepts like Marx's 'utopian revolution', we still evoke concepts dating back to our earliest written histories, even if they have been made 'obsolete' by modern ideas.

    I don't buy the whole 'end of history' argument though (I am just as likely to buy a 'start of history' argument), so I don't envisage a future society that is entirely preoccupied with the past.

  10. #10
    Symbolic Herald Vasilisa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NegativeZero View Post
    Post-modernism redux? Seriously, this shit is STUPID. Don't worry, I'm not calling onlookers stupid for reading about it or being interested, but this one of those dupes that attracts non-philosophers into pseudo-philosophy.

    At least they belong there...
    I deliberately put it in the arts section because its something I relate to easier and thats what interests me.
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