Affecting the Logos Open Access

Stoholski, Mark Andrew (2016)

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The unconscious, Freud writes, speaks in sophisms. This work takes the psychoanalyst at his word, for it is indeed apt, perhaps more than Freud himself was aware. These "sophisms," where unconscious affect signs itself in the interruption of the progression of articulated discourse, show the psyche to be touched by an aesthetic force that it cannot master. Language is itself made to serve otherwise; it does not communicate, but rather comports something of the aesthetic. This theme, in a literary idiom, is central to the surviving writings of the ancient sophist Gorgias of Leontini. Two chapters trace his arguments regarding the irreducible aesthetic character of the logos - for Gorgias, language is at once indissociable from affect and incommensurable with it. For Gorgias, language is incited by what he calls, to ektos, "the outside," an indefinite field of formless affective excitations that impinge upon the psyche and to which language tries to give form. This work of formation is therefore both interminable and deceptive: as it purports to represent an unrepresentable affect, language can only dissemble the affect that prompts it into being. Literature is, for Gorgias, merely a limit case of a generalized logos that perpetually transforms images, showing itself to be affected and affecting at every turn. Gorgias' argument is not merely a historical curiosity; he is cited nearly verbatim--albeit without attribution--in Nietzsche's considerations of classical rhetoric. Via Nietzsche, Jean-François Lyotard's work attempts to think a "sophistic" politics and ethics in relation to the aesthetic concerns of the ancient sophists, one which is continually animated by unrepresentable affect that stands to unmaster any pretention. Pascal Quignard's rewritings of the authors of the second sophistic attest to a fascination with the work of affective images, the images that the ancients discuss and the image that they themselves become under Quignard's pen. For Quignard, to be human is to betray a fixation upon the image, images that continually transform themselves, attempting to represent and to elude the terror and fascination of the primal scene.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Freud, Ferenczi, N. Abraham: Symbolization 31

Gorgias I: Affecting the Logos 67

Gorgias II: Helen, the Pleasant Malady 137

Lyotard: On Apathy, On Grace 195

Quignard: The Pursuit of the Image 238

Reference Matter 294

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