ON THE LOVE OF COMMENTARY (IN LOVE AND ONLINE)
Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary (Fall 2011)
Volume Editors: Nicola Masciandaro & Scott Wilson
Love must be reinvented …, but also quite simply defended.
—Alain Badiou, The Meaning of Sarkozy
Every person is free to pursue thought and experiences, however sublime and exquisite, that are his by special insight, on the meaning of the Bridegroom’s ointments.
—Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Song of Songs
What it is thus the Other’s job [the locus of speech] to provide – and, indeed, it is what he does not have, since he too lacks being – is what is called love, but it is also hate and ignorance.
—Jacques Lacan, Écrits
Taste and see (Psalm 34:8). Taste refers to the affectus of love; see refers to the intellect’s cogitation and mediation. Therefore one ought first to surge up in the movement of love before intellectually pondering . . . For this is the general rule in mystical theology: one ought to have practice before theory.
—Hugh of Balma, The Roads to Zion Mourn
What is there to say, except that we have invented the reality of a virtual space that will allow us to interact long-distance and no matter what the distance from our neighbour? Will we, in the near future, have to love our non-neighbour as ourselves?
—Paul Virilio, Open Sky
[A]ll the causes that engender and increase friendship have joined together in this friendship, from which we must conclude that not simply love but most perfect love is what I ought to have, and do have, for it. . . . This commentary shall be that bread made with barley by which thousands shall be satiated, and my baskets shall be full to overflowing with it.
I-love-you has no usages. Like a child’s word, it enters into no social constraint; it can be a sublime, solemn, trivial word, it can be an erotic, pornographic word. It is a socially irresponsible word.
—Roland Barthes, Lover’s Discourse
O marvel! A garden amidst fires, i.e. manifold sciences which, strange to say, are not consumed by the flames of love in his breast. The reason is, that these sciences are produced by the fires of seeking and longing, and therefore, like the salamander, are not destroyed by them.
—Ibn Arabi, Tarjuman al-ashwaq [The Interpreter of Desires]
As these citations attest, there are significant points of contact between commentary and love, particularly according to the premodern commentary traditions that acknowledged and practiced commentary as a form of contemplative love. But unlike the opening kiss of the Song of Songs, these points of contact have received little direct attention or acknowledgement, neither theoretically, with respect to the study of commentary (or love), nor practically, with respect to how the production of commentary is generally approached and valued. The work of writing commentary may be a ‘labor of love’, but the inflection of this commonplace (on labor) often betrays a lack of eros, or at least its displacement into private/privative regions elsewhere than commentary itself. Commentary—as obsession, compulsion, veneration, disclosure, interpretation, appropriation, contemplation, devotion, critique—has a way of attesting to love in a manner that displaces love from itself, sapping it of immanence. As a genre, commentary is not sexy. Its seductions seem to lead elsewhere than direct pleasure in or exercise of the love that drives it. This elided eros of commentary, generally visible across the medieval/modern divide as “the loss of commentary and the gloss as creative forms” (Agamben), becomes newly significant in the context of the present multiform return to commentary, diagnosed by Gumbrecht as an inevitable result of the “vision of the empty chip . . . a veritable horror vacui.”
Commentary has never been cooler, not because of its authoritative reincarnations in contemporary theory (however important these are as indices of commentary’s ongoing seductive inventional potentiality), but because of the accelerating technical horizons for its practice, hitherto always supplementary, in relation to discourse (political, juridical, academic, critical and so on) that forms the modern basis of the social bond. Commentary is not the same as discourse, rather the former is a continual elaboration and un-working of the latter. As the invitation to participate in the beta version of openmargin, an application for the iPad eReader, puts it: “Connect thoughtfully: When you read a book, the words can inspire new, original thoughts in your mind. These thoughts are never heard, because they have no place to go. But from now on, the blank space around the text is public domain. When you write thoughts in this openmargin, they become real traces in the book, left for other readers to find. Together with these like-minds, you can start a dialogue. Exchange ideas, challenge the status quo and maybe start a small revolution. The margin has always been the place where change started from. So start reading and speak up.” Yet whatever the dreams currently being offloaded onto commentary’s ever-widening gyres, the expanding archipelagic mega-glosses of networked ‘global’ cultures—dreams at once of touching the void and changing the world—the loves and desires of commentary itself remain undisclosed, even stifled in its very proliferation, like the safely cordoned off comment-box itself. Whence this themed volume of Glossator, which aims to ‘put the love back’ into commentary, one way or another, practically and theoretically. For it the editors invite the following kinds of contributions:
1) commentaries on the subject of love, on texts and other objects concerning love
2) loving commentaries, commentaries that are in love
3) articles and essays addressing the relations between love and commentary, theorizing one as the other, etc.
4) commentaries on the triangular relation between love, discourse (the social bond) and commentary
5) hybrids of the above
Please send abstracts of 300-400 words to the editors (firstname.lastname@example.org) by October 1st. Deadline schedule:
15 June 2011: Submissions due to the editors
15 July 2011: Submissions returned to authors with comments
15 August 2011: Revised submissions due to editors
September 2011: Publication, online and print.