What is it about the human (Western?) mind that compels us to think in narratives?
Pornographic literature is dismissed as an oxymoron by many scholars because we expect ‘literature’ to imply form, while the endless repetition of unproblematic sex acts denies us the comforting format of beginning, middle, and end.
The incapacity of the mind–or rather of the Western mind culturally trained to succeed and strive–to conceive of reality. We are not taught to see what is, but to dream, long, hope, desire, strive, reach for a perfection (physical, intellectual, financial, social) that does not exist outside of our projections and the standards of the society where we are born.
Dictation implies a separation between “me” and the writing itself. I had to re-imagine what the writing life would look like. Suddenly I was speaking my text to someone. I was externalizing a step of the process that had been so far silently kept within. We were now two in the room, and at the beginning there was no obvious agreement on what should be typed on the screen.
“Il faut souffrir doucement les loix de nostre condition. Nous sommes pour vieillir, pour affoiblir, pour estre malades, en despit de toute medecine."
There is the question of the influence of technology (or absence thereof) on the way we think and write. But I recently came across the question of the biology of writing: what are we writing with? Our minds, our hands, our guts, or an immaterial mix of subconscious/reason/emotion peppered with cruise-controlled linguistic automatisms?
« Je ne puis tenir registre de ma vie par mes actions: fortune les met trop bas; je le tiens par mes fantasies. » Montaigne, Essais, III, 9, 945
A prescient definition of blogging, no?
Cécile Alduy, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of French Studies at Stanford University. A former student from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, she teaches French literature and film, with an emphasis on gender and ethnic studies. Her research interests include Renaissance literature and culture, the history of the body, poetry, cognitive theory, and more generally how we make sense of the world.