Read This Text

Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley (1998)
Abstract
More often than not, the difference of this or that text is avoided: it is read as disruption---as we see in Jean-Francois Lyotard's sublime---or as derivation, an example of a pre-determined structure, e.g., "patriarchy," "metaphysics," "history," "culture," "desire," etc. as is found in Toril Moi's sexual/textual politics. In all these instances, a certain propriety is at work prior to the reading of the particular text. Such reading practices find themselves operating within a linguistic model of language in which there is a virtual system---Saussure calls it "langue"---which allows and determines the meaning of the particular utterance, what Saussure calls "parole." ;What I offer is an alternative to such models; I call it rhetoric. Rhetoric is often read as difference is read, as something which is done to language. Even sophisticated models of the trope, such as those of Paul Ricoeur, Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, and Harold Bloom, repeat the symptoms of a linguistic language: they avoid difference . I therefore turn to Nietzsche's early lectures and essays on rhetoric and the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Here is a different model of language---if language is still the proper word---in which there is no pre-established propriety; rather, in each utterance, propriety is established. And it is the trope---as a process, as an event---which establishes the propriety of the world: a different model of language with a corresponding set of functions and concepts. Each text is a re-configuring of the world, irreducible to a prior concept. This is in fact how Gilles Deleuze, with and without Guattari, reads: texts are autopoetic machines, engendering their own truths, forging their own concepts, configuring their own propriety. ;A critical reading practice, then, in which the difference of a text is neither a deviation nor a derivation: here, difference is articulate and articulated. Here, we read this text
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