OlMMONS v^^ II WS InDiscourse on a French FarragonKarlis Racevskis: Michel Foucaultnand the Subversion of Intellect;nCornell University Press; Ithaca, NY.nCharles C. Lemert and Garth Gillan:nMichel Foucault: Social Theorynand Transgression; Columbia UniversitynPress; New York.nJonathan Culler: Roland Barthes;nOxford University Press; New York.nMaurice Blanchot: Ihe Space of Literature;nUniversity of NebraskanPress; Lincoln, NE.nby Gary S. VasilashnX o get things off on the right foot, anpassage from Boswell’s Life of Johnsonnabout an event of 1763 is in order:nAfter -we came out of the church, wenstood talking for some time togethernof Bishop Berlceley’s ingenious sophistrynto prove the non-existence ofnmatter, and that every thing in tiienuniverse is merely ideal. I observed,nthat though we are satisfied his doctrinenis not true, it is impossible to refutenit I never shall forget the alacritynwith which Jolinson answered, strilcingnhis foot with mighty force againstna large stone, till he rebounded from it,n’I refute it thtis.’nSeveral things can be gleaned, pickednup, measured, and possibly assessednfrom the preceding about the Imaginarynorder (Racevskis: “the order in whichnthe subject develops a consciousnessncentered in itself…. [I]t is the Imaginarynthat represents the fundamental andncentral structure of our experience”)nthat has shaped my discourse. I admitnthat it is rather presumptuous to introducenmyself blatantly into the text, but,nas Foucault—^historian, philosopher, allaroundnsavant—says in “What Is annMr. Vasilash is associate editor o/^Chroniclesnof Culture.n6nChronicles of CulturenAuthor?” (in Language, Counter-nMemory, Practice; edited by Donald F.nBouchard; Cornell University Press,n1977), “Discourse that possesses annauthor’s name is not to be immediatelynconsumed and forgotten; neither is it accordednthe momentary attention givennto ordinary, fleeting words. Rather, itsnstatus and its manner of reception arenregulated by the culture in which itncirculates.” Foucault looks forward to “anculture where discourse would cfrculatenwithout any need for an author”; Indon’t. These unfleeting words may notncarry any truth (i.e., Nietzsche, a fevoritenof Foucault, wrote: “The different languages,nset side by side, show that whatnmatters with words is never the truth,nnever an adequate expression,” andnRacevskis, who favors Foucault, writes,n”the Imaginary mode of apprehendingnexistence is fundamentally deceitful —nThe Imaginary leads us to think that wenare in Ml possession of our knowledge”),nthough I hope that they do. And if theyndo, there stiU exists a problem in gettingna message across: Foucault might recommendnthat anyone studying themnshould skip the “meaning” of the stringnof signifiers. As he writes in The Archaeologynof Knowledge (Pantheon, 1972),n”discourses are composed of signs; butnwhat they do is more than use thesensigns to designate things. It is this morenthat renders them irreducible to languagen(^langue) and to speech. It is thisn’more’ that we must reveal and describe.”nOr, put more simply, skip the contentnand observe the form of the discoursennnand all that surrounds it throughout thenpages of the journal: that’s where thenreal message can be located. Hopefully,nsome have stuck with me through thisnprologizing (certain author-responsencritics stress that an author cannot bentoo sure about his audience anymore)nand will try to match up the presentednsignifiers with what they assume, guess,nare my signifieds. Admittedly, this paragraphnis rather crowded, prolix. It is sonin honor of the subject. For example,nFoucault, in the introduction to ThenArchaeology of Knowledge, writes ofn”the cautious, stumbling manner of thisntext: at every turn it stands back, measuresnup what is before it, grojjes towardsnits limits, stumbles against what it doesnnot mean, and digs pits to mark out itsnown path.” Getting over his potholes is ansimple thing as compared to risking thenchasms in the works of some of thosenwho are presumably his explicators.nLemert and Gillan write about the practicenof reading Foucault’s writings: “Wenare obliged to transgress, to go beyondnwhat we know, to let ourselves fall intonthe strangeness of his language andnthought, and to wonder if what we arenreading has any worth at all.” The twonmen are certain that the answer to thenfinal phrase is an affirmative one. By thentime that they have traversed to the finalnpage of the book, transgressed throughnthe writings of Foucault, they announce:nTo write history is to wager gainstnthe possibility of error. But only tonwager. Neither the philosophy of historynovershadowed by the absolutennor historical relativism can understandnthese risks. But Foucault does.nAnd this is simultaneously the strengthnand weakness of archaeological discourse.nViolence is always an unstablenaction. All the more so is the violentnact that transgresses the will to know,nthat breaks the spell of anthropologicalnsleep, and that digs its own grave byncreating a space to think.nTalk about digging graves.n