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Lines of Power/Limits of Language

Lines of Power/Limits of Language

Gunnar Olsson
Copyright Date: 1991
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Lines of Power/Limits of Language
    Book Description:

    Olsson’s singular brand of linguistic experimentation focuses on the basic structures that determine the organization of knowledge. He repeatedly reveals the nexus between the exercise of power, the use and content of language, and the taken-for-granted internal worlds of individuals.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8381-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  3. Nowhere
    (pp. 3-4)

    Time and space. Common knowledge and intimate feeling. Now-here, no-where. Hyphen at work. Striptease in hiding.

    Such is the story of the pages to follow. A head on a platter, a collection of essays from the decade of nineteeneightyfour. Remembrance of creativity and socialization, erasure of categorical bounds, throw of dice into the social space of silence, eye setting mind to rest, lines intersecting at points of insight. What is the difference and how can I know about the same? A question mark as a point under an S in a mirror. An I as an I no matter whether...

  4. Dematerialized
    (pp. 5-10)

    We live forward and understand backward. This explains why in retrospect I can detect exciting parallels between the development of my own work and that of Wassily Kandinsky. As he once had reacted to Monet’s Haystack, so I now wonder if it would not be possible to get further in this direction.

    W.KThe geometric point is an invisible thing. It is the most ultimate and the most singular union of silence and speech. It belongs to language and signifies silence. Only its concentric tension discloses its inner kinship with the circle–while its further characteristics rather point to the...

  5. Sermon of Remembrance
    (pp. 13-26)

    PRE TEXT This recoiling recollection of self-portraits is a tribute to the god Janus. Janus is a pivoting symbol of gatekeeping, whose major characteristic is not that he can see in opposite directions at the same time, but that he is able to merge seemingly contradictory categories into a meaningful whole. In the same evaluating glance of the present he can catch a glimpse both of those pasts that once were and of those futures that have yet to come.

    Janus’s concern is with creativity. This makes him a deity of our own time, for the crucial presumption of modernity...

  6. Creativity and Socialization
    (pp. 27-40)

    With this second introduction, I want to illustrate the workings of the dialectical principle of self-conscious reevaluation. The inevitable anchoring is in the here and now, even though that nowhere is doubly tied both to my own experiences from the past and to my hopes and fears for the future; by necessity every author is an inventive individualist.

    As usual, I shall say nothing new, merely reformulate some of the old.

    With this purpose, I now proceed to yet another set of preliminary definitions. What is creative research? What is research training? Most commentators define research as the production of...

  7. On Doughnutting
    (pp. 43-50)

    Dealing with modal logic is like eating a doughnut from the inside. It is to chew away at fluffy possibility and to digest it into precise and agreed-upon knowledge. In the process, the black hole of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is gradually pushed to its outer limits, for on the logician’s way toward silence, there is “nothing but the familiar idea of information as elimination of uncertainty.” As the explorer learns to speak exactly about states of affairs that are other than the actual, then the known becomes credible, the believed plausible.

    The question is this: Can the modal logician be trusted?...

  8. Magician’s Wand
    (pp. 51-65)

    And there was a long silence.

    An awkward two pages came to pass between the chapter heading and the first marks.

    It is this brimming emptiness that at the same time kept you and me separated and united that I would now like to enter. I ask for your company in this void of the taken-for-granted, because it is here that we find some of the most crucial issues of the human and the social sciences. It is here, for instance, that we discover both the necessity and the possibility of prediction. But what is prediction if it is not...

  9. Set Your Mind at Rest
    (pp. 66-94)

    The human condition is a relentless struggle between the forces of individual and society, particular and universal, mental and physical, ambiguity and certainty.

    The former obey the principles of practical inference, dialectics, and ongoingness. The latter follow the dicta of scientific reasoning, categorical mathematics, and status quo.

    As the struggle evolves, the forces are brought together in the activity of self-conscious reevaluation.

    Self-conscious reevaluation is itself a dialectical enterprise that leads to personal and social change. Nowhere has this been better illustrated than in Hegel’s unfolding of the lordship-bondage relationship. Thus, as the master realizes his dependence on the slave...

  10. Hazerdous Hazard
    (pp. 95-107)

    To translate is to express a sense in another language-parole. It is to carry to heaven without death and to remove the dead body or remains of a saint. It is to convey an idea from one art form to another. It is to make new boots from the remains of old ones. It is to interpret signs.

    The definitions come from the OED. The conclusions are my own: Much is aVOIDable, translation is not. Anywhere/anytime, aeneymy/anyf(r)iend.


    My . is made, now I must erase it. Thus, to translate is to doubly lie, to beget by not getting at...

  11. Social Space of Silence
    (pp. 108-128)

    Questions spring from the constellation of quotes: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME?

    Rephrased and operationalized: Which difference makes a difference? What is an ontological transformation? How is touchable turned into untouchable, sound into silence, letter into meaning? Is power the power of meaning, meaning the meaning of power?

    Is the power to produce meaning with the repres(s)entative editor, proudly appointed by society to guard and to legitimate the right to write? Is it with the creative writer, publicly relieving himself on sheets of paper? Is it with the responsive reader, privately experiencing anew what she already knew?...

  12. The Eye and the Index Finger
    (pp. 129-145)

    Thus begins the first paragraph of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. A quote. A launching pad. A germ of reformulation. An instance of intertextuality. To write is to walk on a pavement of citations.

    As a way of showing my desire, I now enter the stage. Silence. A glance catches another. An index finger pins each and everyone down. You. You. You. You. You. You. A mouth opens. Out it comes:







    And then?

    You fill in by silently saying “Seven.” Not because “seven” is a holey number, but because it comes next in the hierarchy of...

  13. Hooked
    (pp. 146-150)

    “You say I and you are proud of this little word. But greater than your word is your body which does not say I but performs I.” Thus spoke Nietzsche in his Zarathustra.

    Nietzsche’s insight was that the identity of an individual is intimately tied to the fact that he simultaneously has a body and is a body. I am limited by my own skin and this is why physical touch tends to be taboo. To penetrate another person is to transgress the boundaries of her self, to trespass and to sin. To experiment with one’s own body is therefore...

  14. Hemming the Way
    (pp. 151-164)

    The subject of this essay is La Contessa. Its guiding image is the selfreferential circle, that most natural and most totalizing of all forms. And yet it should be noted that even though the circle often is interpreted as a symbol of renewal, it also encapsulates the absence of time and space.

    Since the circle has neither beginning nor end, neither up nor down, it carries within itself a hint of a world without categories, perhaps even of a geography without time or space. This is an extremely challenging conception, for it is only by trying to imagine a geography...

  15. Lines of Power
    (pp. 167-182)

    For Jacques Lacan the unconscious was structured like a language. For me power is structured like a knowledge.

    As I now move from this double beginning, I quickly find myself in the company of René Girard and his theory of mimetic desire. I am driven there by my conviction that knowledge by definition is an exercise in translation. But just as desire desires not to be satisfied, so a translation can never be perfect. And in this light, communication shows itself to be what it really is: a form of collective violence designed to neutralize the deviant by sacrificing it...

  16. Squaring
    (pp. 183-196)

    There is this mysterious blending of the familiar and the different. Recollections of shared memories. Anticipations of understandings. Yet another exercise in the art of self-conscious reevaluation. Minimum effort for maximum result.

    A map of an intellectual Odyssey of a man without qualities. Thirty years of roaming around concentrated into four points of intersecting lines. Forms of thought turned into thoughts of form, workings of the mind translated into a cartography of understanding. The point of one thoughtposition connected through lines with that of another, marks drawn on the dematerialized surface of a basic plane.

    The journey can be pictured...

  17. Malevich Torpedoed
    (pp. 197-204)

    There is a double helix in the social sciences too.

    Shot through the tube of ontological categorization comes a torpedo of power. At the center of this projectile is a turbo-prop engine designed according to the identity-difference principle of the equal sign. On each side of the parallel lines are forces of opposite modes of being. As these are turned on and off, the torpedo propels itself into the ontological transformations that constitute human action. It is the fluctuation between signifier and signified that gives rise to the spiraling movement of a double helix. In the ethical operationalization of the,...

  18. Endings
    (pp. 205-208)

    There is a relation yet a distinction between what I say, what I say something about, and what I say about what I say something about. This mutual dependence is especially clear in the intertwining of epistemology and ontology: my knowledge of the world and my delimitation of the world are intimately connected.

    The braiding of epistemology and ontology is inevitable, even though the former activity tends to dominate during some periods, the latter during some others. The transition from modernism to postmodernism provides a recent example of such a shift; whereas modernism deals primarily with epistemological questions of a...

  19. In Parentheses
    (pp. 209-213)
  20. Beginnings
    (pp. 214-218)

    The present volume is a retrospective of self-portraits. With one crucial exception, the chapters stem from the decade around 1984. They were retouched and put together on the island of Sicily in the summer of 1990. Never was there a vacation more recreative, never a merger more complete. Birgitta was with me. Ulrika paid a visit.

    Each portrait has its own story. Every reporter knows that if you want to make something up, you must be very precise.

    The two introductions “Nowhere” and “Dematerialized” were written where the fire of Etna meets the water of the Ionian. The words of...

  21. Prefigured
    (pp. 219-224)

    And who prefigured them all—Malevich’s black icon, Kandinsky’s intimate communication, Wittgenstein’s solipsist screams, Duchamp’s c’est la vie, my own inventions? Several. One was Walt Whitman in his rendering of the four faces of the Godhead. The Father without remorse. The Son absorbed by affection and charity. The Rebel always despised, because always set against the ruler. Holy Spirit, essence of forms, name of the beyond beyond the beyond.

    Chanting the square deific, out of the One advancing, out of

    the sides,

    Out of the old and new, out of the square entirely divine, Solid, four-sided, (all the sides needed,)...

  22. Proper Names
    (pp. 227-229)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 230-230)