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Tracking Anti-Teleology: Is There an "End" in Sight? Paul Gifford IN MATTERS OF CRITICISM AND OF THEORY, intellectual renewal often proceeds—particularly, it seems, in France—by processes of a reactive order, obeying the formula "NO, not X!" The exorcising Negative may constitute a fruitful move in the game of the mind, bringing a greater liberty of manœuvre, genuine possibilities of fresh insight, a real stimulus to research; but it also generates a new partiality. It develops its own imprisoning codifications, betrays its own philosophic imbalance—and sooner or later declares critical losses to match its gains. The central overbid then comes into question, generating a collective debate which, in the best hypothesis, gives rise to a subtler and sharper grasp of underlying problems. Some such re-balancing has been visibly at work in the many bi-millennial reflections greeting a "return of the subject," despite and beyond its supposed demise at the hands of Barthes and Foucault.' We had been led to understand that any reference to an authorial subject had been fatally undermined . Had not the author—but also the human subject as such—been altogether vaporized by the structuralist demand, in the sixties and seventies, for synchronicity and system, multiplying the cumulative effect of all possible deconstructions? Yet the subject, for all that, is still visibly around in critical discourse: de-essentialized, perhaps; yet sufficiently attested and sufficiently substantial in phenomenological and existential terms to warrant a return centre-stage of the question of personal identity, and the inscription of this question on the agenda of ontology itself, as we perceive clearly from the patient, steely and far-reaching hermeneutics of Paul Ricœur...2 Textual genetics has been interestingly involved in this ideological modulation ; and, in turn, it directly involves today's genetic critics in the front line of what might well be the unresolved "next question" on the agenda of debate—the question of "teleology." Our manuscripts, after all, present us with the immediate evidence of the autographic trace of a writing hand: it is simply not open to us to dissolve or deny the scriptural agent whose hand made those traces, even where the methodological emphasis on "the writing" (its operations and processes) and on "the page" (as unit of functioning and signification) interposes a form of methodological bracketing. The idiosyncratic particularity of the manuscript trace, together with whatever it signifies Vol. XLI, No. 2 53 L'Esprit Créateur about the processes of a writing subject in the instance of creation, is specifically our business; take it away, and textual genetics has no ground for its exercise and no raison d'être. Moreover, manuscripts observably interest the genetician precisely to the extent that they exhibit the complex and fascinating tractations of a creative subjectivity at work: embedded in its time and place (in ways which may be fully conscious or entirely unconscious); embodied (according to all the energy variations we observe in the written trace and the entire interplay and management of psychic drives which the writing visibly attests); related imaginatively to others, despite the laboratory condition of solitude (the entire notion of intertext is relevant here, as is the context of enunciation, with its horizon of readership and reception); gendered in direct or subtle ways (including the transactional exchanges between masculine and feminine aspects of the writing "I"). Such movements of subjectivity are also self-negotiating , self-representing and self-narrativizing (for instance: in the patterns or figures created, in the interplay between invented persons and metadiscursive scriptural subject, or between the latter and the inspirational or compulsive "sub-jet."3 We can even speak with confidence of the ethical dimension of the aesthetic project of writing (apparent, not least, in the compelling dynamic of deletion and substitution, rewriting and re-ordering which is the very texture of the writing process and part of its sustaining excitement). Yet can we take the next step? Can we say of the writing subject whose trace is presented to us in literary manuscripts that it is purposive, and that it functions in relation to projected ends or goals? This proposition has been, in the theory and practice of textual genetics, strangely muted and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 53-67
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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