Breton, Bakhtin, Blogging

What matters is that the particular aptitudes of my day-to-day life gradually reveals should not distract me from my search for a general aptitude which would be peculiar to me and which is not innate. Over and above the various prejudices I acknowledge, the affinities I feel, the attractions I succumb to, the events which occur to me alone—over and above a sum of movements I am conscious of making, of emotions I alone experience—I strive in relation to other men, to discover the nature, if not the necessity of my difference from them. Is it not precisely to the degree I become conscious of that difference that I shall recognize what I alone have been put on this earth to do, what unique message I alone may bear, so that I alone can answer for its fate?

Such reflections lead me to the conclusion that criticism, abjuring, it is true, its dearest prerogatives but aiming, on the whole, at a goal less futile than the automatic adjustment of ideas, should confine itself to scholarly incursions upon the very realm supposedly barred to it, and which, separate from the author’s personality, victimized by the petty events of daily life, expresses itself quite freely and often in so distinctive a manner. (Andre Breton, Nadja 12-13)

Discourse in Breton’s surrealist novel reflects an interesting sort of distanciation. Most scholarly writing on blogging tends to reflect on its centripetal pull, the bringing together of communities. However, there are also centrifugal forces which threaten at any instant to make writers pull apart in order to “find” themselves among a constellation of consumptive choices. I sense myself as being apart from what I read; is this a false consciousness which betrays the fact that I am essentially constructed through the process of reading? Blake’s infernal method of reading sets the process of locating oneself within the ideas consumed as critical of self and other; it is an exaggeration of a productive kind.

To one degree or another, the author distances himself from the common language, he steps back and objectifies it, forcing his own intentions to refract and diffuse themselves through the medium of this common view that has become embodied in language (a view that is always superficial and frequently hypocritical).

The relationship of the author to a language conceived as the common view is not static—it is always found in a state of movement and oscillation that is more or less alive (this is sometimes a rhythmic oscillation): the author exaggerates, now strongly, now weakly, one or another aspect of the “common language,” sometimes abruptly exposing its inadequacy to its object and sometimes, on the contrary, becoming one with it, maintaining an almost imperceptible distance, sometimes even directly forcing it to reverberate with his own “truth,” which occurs when the author completely merges his own voice with the common view. As a consequence of such a merger, the aspects of common language which in the given situation had been parodically exaggerated or had been treated as mere things, undergo change. (Mikhail Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel” 302)

May 20, 2005 3:48 PM