I graduated last night.
If you want to read my honours thesis you can find it here.
I started my honours thesis in June of this year and it’s now almost complete. My desk remains a mess while I tidy up loose ends, making sure that chapters and paragraphs connect to one another in a way that makes sense.
My supervisor has been a great help showing me where my work needs improvement and also where it’s strong and purposeful. I often waffle, which leads to a lack of clarity. I now have just one paragraph to write in the body and then I’ll work on the introduction and conclusion.
A post on dooce entitled I Have Something to Say is a useful example of parrhesia. Here we find Armstrong speaking truth in the form of a criticism – of both herself and others – which involves a level of risk to the speaker. It’s not a risk of life and death so much as the possibility, in her case, of being discovered by her manager and therefore being fired. Of course it’s a matter of record that this in fact occurred.
I’m planning to analyse this example as part of my thesis.
Unedited; please read forgivingly for I have transgressed.
God is described by Peter Bebergal as “the supreme referent” and the death of god, then, is the removal of this supreme referent. which gives rise to the question; what provides identity to the body without the existence of the supreme referent?
Transgression then is the interrogation of limits that exist symbiotically with prohibition and taboo. In that moment of transgression where be are neither and both the ocean and the beach, a moment in which meaning in language reaches its limits and fails, there is nothing but limit and the limitless.
Sexuality can only profane itself; there is no external object of profanation which can be desecrated by sexuality and therefore it does not have the ability to profane. Profanation needs an object and sexuality has no object. Sexuality is pure transgression which tests limits, defines new limits, but not in a contestive manner but in a way that eliminates the limit in a flash of phosphorescence on the beach while at the very same time defining the foaming outline of the new limit.
The ocean does not experience its oceanness by sitting on the ocean floor. It creates no new limits by being a millpond. It must experience its limitlessness through transgression of its limits but even in seeking new limits the ocean creates a limit through an implied search for the infinite referrant.
The key then, is to affirm the limit without God. And this is accomplished by transgression, which as we saw, is only what it is in context to the limit it seeks to transgress. This limit can only be known through transgression.
The transgression of limits is the interrogation of the very limits of the self.
This interrogation of the self, is an interrogation of the limit and a movement towards recapturing the self, without God. But this movement involves taking the self to the limit, which is where madness exists.
Transgression offers the hope for this finality, for by pointing out the limit, it exposes the possibility for the return of the Limit, the return of the sacred, without God.
Transgression is not then transcendence but limit within the body.
Here I am attempting to get a handle on Battaille’s concept (as it’s read by Foucault) of transgression and the death of god.
Garth Gillan states: “the concept of transgression says that meaning is confronted not as an absolute transcendence grounding language, but in the limits of meaning. Language is the existence of sense in the recognition of limits…[b]ut sense is not created by remaining within limits, such as the analytic of finitude, as if they constituted a new set of positivities within which humanity is reconstituted. Sense is, rather, in the excess that transgresses those limits” (p. 66).
In Battaille eroticism arises when sexuality crosses the limits of a taboo or limit of sexuality. Transgression relies on and needs the existence of the limit but in the crossing of the limit in eroticism the taboo is not lifted, it still exists. The movement creating the transgression is the limitlessness that is required for the transgression of limits in the absence of an absolute “Limit”. At this point language is no longer dialectic or binary but merely recognises difference. One could say that it is neither wrong nor right but simply is. Contestation takes place without being resolved.
The language of transgression is distinct from the language of finitude by which man is known and knowable in the world. We are known by that which ontically defines us as in our “life, labour, and language” (p. 67) and it is various discursive fields that define our limits and what can be know about our body and being. “Mans finitude mirrors the finite content of the areas of knowledge through which he is known. The limits in the analytic of finitude are positive limits within which Man appears as an object of knowledge.”
Transgressive knowledge does not have man as its centre. “Transgressive thought does not presuppose an ontic ground for the division of reason and madness, the true and the false”; it rejects the theological foundation of Western thought. Limits exist within finitude as a priori means to create a homogenous and integral whole, but within transgression limits are constantly interrogated and acts of transgression replace the dialectic.
And this was Foucault’s genealogical programme to constantly interrogate the limits of reason, madness, penality, and psychiatry. Whilst he mentions limits, transgression, and excess mainly in his philosophical texts, such as Preface to Transgression it is these concepts which inform his approach to his analyses.
Reason is at play within all of the ways in which power has its effects on the body; and this forms its own transgression in that reason has transgressed its own nature by docily taking sides with the dichotomies it has created with its violence.
Lemert, C., & Gillan, G. (1982). Michel Foucault: social theory and transgression. New York: Columbia University Press.