Self-writing is likened to the digestion of food. It’s all very well to read many books but at some point the bee must return to the hive and turn the pollen into food. Put another way we must stop eating and digest our food (what we read) so that it becomes a part of our soul and serves to shape who we are.
Stultia: A kind of mental agitation which has one jumping from one idea to the next without ever settling. Has a future focus which the hupomnema resists through fixing acquired elements. “The hupomnemata contribute one of the means by which one detaches the soul from concern for the future and redirects it toward contemplation of the past” (Foucault, 1997, p. 212).
The hupomnema is a way to gather together disparate thoughts and ideas and create from these heterogeneous elements one’s own truth.
Unification is achieved through the author digesting what is read and written so that concepts become flesh and blood. They are no longer memory but have changed the soul of the author. (p. 213)
In the hupomnema one does not simply regurgitate what is written – much as I’m doing here – but rather makes it one’s own through reflection. Nevertheless a genealogy is present in that one can see the genesis of one’s identity through the writing in much the same way as one’s ancestors can be known by one’s face. (p. 214)
Thinking about this as it relates to Armstrong we can see her emergence through her blog. The history of her identity is knowable through her writing.
The hupomnema is more in the style of a personal journal or an account book of what is happening in one’s life. Correspondence is something a little different. Both are similar in that they create a reading of what is written. As I’m writing this I’m also reading it (just as when I’m speaking I’m also listening) and this acts as much on me as on the receiver of the communication.
In the process of both teaching and writing we also learn so writing is both benefit to the writer and reader. Which reminds me of the saying “the teacher teaches what he/she needs to learn the most.” No truer is that than it is for me this semester. I’m tutoring in Dreamweaver and have never used the programme. Steep learning curve here I come.
Correspondence is more than an extension of the huomnema, a training of oneself. It’s a way of manifesting ourselves to another, of being present to the reader – almost as if physically present in a face-to-face meeting – and a way of the writer gazing upon the reader through the content of the letter and in turn offering oneself to the gaze of the reader. There exists a reciprocity of both gaze and examination. My, how much fun would Foucault have with the Internet. (p. 216)
An observation. Correspondence works differently to surveillance in that the authoritative gaze goes in one direction and is, at least as understood as a panopticon, internalised. With correspondence though their is a mutual gaze of authority. Power flows in both directions through the internalisation of the mutual gaze. Blogs, or might we say self-publication on the Internet, are much more akin to correspondence in that there exists in the writer an ever-present sense of an other, an audience, whether that audience is intended or otherwise.
Finally, the letter is a way of presenting to another all that can be said about everyday life, a reviewing of one’s everyday life as a form of self-examination. “[I]t is a matter of bringing into congruence the gaze of the other and that gaze which one aims at oneself when one measures one’s everyday actions according to the rules of a technique off living” (p. 221).
Armstrong’s blog contains much of the banality anticipated by Foucault’s concept of the letter. Nappies, bowel movements, drinking, drugs all form part of the complete (almost) revelation of the self to the gaze of botht the self and the other. Over the longer term we can see evidence of the reconcilliation of gazes to which Foucault refers wherein Armstrong writes about matters that were, up until the point of writing, previously unknown by the readers – her family and her supervisors. Through the process of her writing she came to be seen in a congruent manner by both herself and her readers.
Foucault, M. (1997). Self writing. In P. Rabinow (Ed.), Ethics: subjectivity and truth. New York: The New Press.