Re: religious text

Christopher Pound (pound@IS.RICE.EDU)
Thu, 7 Apr 1994 21:40:55 -0500

> A good theoretical stance ought to lend
> itself easily to lots of commonplace examples. I have
> not noticed many springing readily to the lips of those
> espousing their devotion to Lacan, Foucault, Derrida,
> and the like.

OK, for Lacan, I can think of a whole ethnography (_Deadly Words: Witchcraft
in the Bocage_ by Jeanne Favret-Saada). Slavoj Zizek looks at jokes, films,
politics, religion, and literature from a Lacanian perspective in many of his
books (try _The Sublime Object of Ideology_).

As for Foucault, he gives the commonplace examples himself. _Madness and
Civilization_, _The Birth of the Clinic_, _Discipline and Punish_, and _The
History of Sexuality_ are basically (except for the later volumes of _THoS_)
huge long lists of commonplace examples, and I recall that _The Order of
Things_ dwells extensively on all sorts of (boring :) details. If you need
something slightly more anthropological, try Rabinow's _French Modern_, and
there's an excerpt from his current work on biotechnology in volume one of
Late Editions, _Perilous States_.

I can't think of anything that might look like a Derridean anthropology,
but that book by Kittler I mentioned in my last message probably has a lot
in common with such a thing. _Discourse Networks 1800/1900_ is a genealogy
of hermeneutics that clearly owes a lot to Derrida, and it is always engaged
with the commonplace details of discourse at the previous two fins-des-siecles.
Greg Ulmer, whom I understand our friend Seeker1 knows too, has invented a
kind of pedagogy based on Derrida that he deploys daily in the classroom;
his books _Applied Grammatology_ (you didn't think it was possible! :) and
_Teletheory_ go into this in enormous detail.

I think a couple of geographers have (somewhat naively, as far as I can tell)
appropriated some Derrida and other literary critics for their "landscape as
text" stuff, and they stick closely to their geographic object (though I
can't say I recommend what they're doing). I'll give citations if forced. :-)

I remember a guy on the general philosophy mailing list (send an "info lists"
command to, I *think*) who mentioned that he often
teaches seminars that revolve around a single everyday object or experience
(e.g. "doors") and tries to fit in as many different philosophers as he can
to examine the matter ... I think I have his post on "doors" saved, including
the list of which theorists (I think Lacan and Levinas were on it for sure)
applied in which ways, if you're interested.

In short, while I agree that many discussions of these folks do not happen
to stray much into the commonplace, everyday examples of how their theories
work are not actually that hard to find. Since we're having this exchange
in an electronic medium, I'll add that you might like to read Mark Poster's
_The Mode of Information_. With chapter titles like "Baudrillard and TV
ads," "Foucault and databases," "Derrida and electronic writing," and "Lyotard
and computer science," it's probably just the thing you're looking for
(or claiming doesn't exist ... whatever :-). At least I think I've offered
enough examples to make you think it's possible for someone (like Poster)
to turn these texts into what you've called a "good theoretical stance" that
generates lots of commonplace examples.

Christopher Pound ( | They think they are Parisians, but
Department of Anthropology, Rice U. | they are nothing. -- Pierre Bourdieu