File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 66

Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2001 18:50:16 +0000
Subject: Re: The Sublime

Eric and all

'There is something of the sublime in the capitalist economy' (105 the 
inhuman) Lyotard suggests - and at this point you cannot help but 
realise that the concept is broad that anything can be incorporated into 
its frame of reference. Prior to this the recognition of the predominace 
of market economics presumes the end of any avant-garde as anything but 
an economic form. (In the same way that a reading of post-modern 
hollywood movies is meaningless unless you delineate the product 
placements that they are  constructed from.) This has become the destiny 
of the artist - economic value or oblivion...

Psychoanalysis is predominantly structured around the master/slave 
dialectic, for psychoanalysis is dialectical in the extreme, from the 
relations between the analyst/analsand through to a child and its 
parents. Perhaps a reference to beyond the pleasure principle might be 
appropriate but - the representation of analysis as interminable is of 
course accurate, but the reason is miscast for psychoanalysis is 
interminable because it knows that the truth cannot be realised, behind 
each small event/truth a myriad of other never to be known truths/events 
remain unrealised. (The profound atheism of psychoanalysis derives 
ultimately from this insight). Truth as such has nothing to do with 
psychoanalytical practice

If it is accepted that in our specular society (Empire) - the aesthetics 
of the sublime have been surplanted by the spectacle.

Perhaps a better way of asking the question is - what is the sublime not?

Perhaps from the negative I can understand the boundary of the sublime 
in this post-modern specular society.



>What is this sublime affect that can be experienced both aesthetically
>and historically? Lyotard points out that the question of the disaster
>is that of the insensible, of what might be called anesthesia.  Lyotard
>writes: "I have invoked briefly such an occurrence in Kant's analysis of
>the sublime: the incapacity into which the imagination is put when it
>has to produce forms to present the absolute (the thing).  This
>incapacity to produce forms inaugurates and marks the end of art, not as
>art but as beautiful form.  If art persists, and it does persist, it is
>entirely different, outside of taste, devoted to delivering and
>liberating this nothing, this affection that owes nothing to the
>sensible and everything to the insensible secret. Kant writes that the
>sublime is a "feeling of the mind."
>For me, this is a good summary description of the sublime and it also
>helps point the way to how the sublime is experienced in connection with
>historical events and some of the possibilities this offers.  
>As Lyotard points out, "the sublime such as Kant analyses it in
>"Critique of Judgment" offers, in the context of quite another
>problematic, some traits analogous to those of the unconscious affect
>and of deferred action in Freudian thought.  It introduces what, in
>Benjamin's reading of Baudelaire and in the later Adorno, will be the
>aesthetics of shock, an anesthetics."
>This connection between Freud and Kant is an illuminating one.  "In
>primary repression, the apparatus cannot at all bind, invest, fix, and
>represent the terror (called originary, but without orgin, and which it
>cannot situate), and this is why this terror remains "within" the
>apparatus as its outside, infuse and diffuse, as 'unconscious affect.'
>In the sublime feeling, the imagination is also completely unable to
>collect the absolute (in largeness, in intensity) in order to represent
>it, and this means that the sublime is not localizable in time.  But
>something, at least, remains there, ignored by the imagination, spread
>in the mind as both pleasure and pain - something Burke called terror,
>precisely, terror of a "there is nothing" which threatens without making
>itself known, which does not realize itself."
>Lyotard, as a philosopher of the event, invokes the question "is it
>happening?" Underlying this question is the fear, angst, dread that
>perhaps nothing will happen. This sublime terror can be called an
>aestheticisation, but it is really closer to an anesthesia.  It numbs
>the minds of those who survive and the forms which might be used to
>reconstitute the event, lie on the groundless ground like a debris of
>We survivors mark the event on the grid of time - 8-6-45 - 8-9-45 -
>9-11-01 - yet the event itself is extra-temporal, approaching the
>ontological.  It evokes the feeling that history might undo itself, that
>we ourselves might end.  This nameless terror cannot be signified, yet
>it remains as a "feeling of the mind."
>In the face of these sublime events of history, Lyotard calls for
>anamnesis, an act of remembering what can never be presented and what
>must never be forgotten.  Lyotard writes: "It follows that
>psychoanalysis, the search for lost time, can only be interminable, like
>literature and like true history (i.e. the one that is not historicism
>but anamnesis): the kind of history that does not forget that forgetting
>is not a breakdown of memory but an immemorial always "present" but
>never here-now, always torn apart in the time of consciousness, of
>chronology, between a too early and a too late - the too early of a
>first blow dealt to the apparatus that does not feel, and the too late
>of a second blow where something intolerable is felt. A soul struck
>without striking a blow."  


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