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205 Tom Cohen Roaming (Dis)Charges: “Catastrophe of the Liquid Oozing” Abstinence—cold turkey— opens the medusoid rift. —Crack Wars Coming from her, originating in her, it is nonetheless a foreign body, ever replacing the newly born body. Catastrophe of the liquid oozing. —Crack Wars One can approach Avital Ronell as a political scientist of memory transmission whose performative forays—at plague-centers within a grand mal d’archive—negotiate a different relation to the catastrophic. There are vapors one encounters in this prose, drugs without names of the sort that concern AR, and one enters corridors within her syntax that beckon, or unravel, into accelerating passages. One could assemble a file of these, trip over their accumulation and vanishings, get off in uncharted spots at which the body writes under other names, under the radar of swooping policial cropdusters. Peel back the analytic riffs and one finds oneself, forgetting these opiates, at the revocation of imagined histories: legatees are threaded like beads, epistemo-political machines are exposed, and one is delivered, if one is, to sites one cannot get back from. One finds oneself—no, I do, who find sanctuary in a certain tonality—before an array of portals that whisper again and again one word: war. Ronell goes out for drives to test this perimeter. There are crack wars and drug wars, the tropes of Desert Gulf, war as illness: one hears the “tensions rumbling through the novel derive from a secret war against artificial, pathogenic and foreign invasions” (Crack Wars, 115)1 ; “the poetic and war efforts appear often to interlap” (Stupidity , 5); the “warrior impulse” (Stupidity, 110), and illness is itself “war” (Stupidity, 186).2 It is a word that recurs like a stamp, suggesting a “civil war” internal to the archive and contemporaneity, of which Crack Wars i-viii_1-256_Davi.indd 205 4/10/09 3:14:57 PM 206 tom cohen is an unlikely cipher and Stupidity a strategy of transition. AR roams the modern legacyscape inspecting catastrophes of cultural transmission and their cognitive politics the way a ghost returns to a remembered site—from after “the transvaluating machine was left running” (CW, 69). I will examine the slow drip of this word, war, but do so by way of the least auspicious trace among Ronell’s preoccupations—the black ooze, which haunts the center of Crack Wars, coming from the mouth of Emma Bovary ’s corpse. Site of speech and ingestion, the running fluid that dissolves interiors in literature’s famous corpse is like the acid-blood of Ridley Scott’s alien, manifesting prefigural properties: ink-like, it seems to precede not just tropes but letteration itself—as if inscriptions were being liquefied. What I would like to explore is a minor figure in her text, a bile she finds coming from the mouth of Emma Bovary and locates at the center of Crack Wars—as if, threading the pharmocopoetics of the “literary” and programmed culture, this figure had something to do with war itself. I will interpret this as a sort of prefigural agency Ronell encounters in secret places—a leakage that evacuates the remaining debris of old models of interiority . I will suggest it also condenses the figure of “anteriority” itself to a mercurial and corrosive ink, a site where inscriptions seem to have melted back. And I will suggest that, in its way, this figure into which traditions may be dissolved, as into an allo-human black hole within memory networks , is connected to a site linked to what Derrida calls khora, a nonsite in which the preinscriptions from which reading models and meaning systems derive are set or effaced. Because of this link, the prefigural agency Ronell taps into anticipates coming wars of reinscription that seem palpable on numerous epistemological fronts “today.” The war, then, will be in and over archival programs and memory regimes that return, like oil, to the site of “catastrophe of the liquid oozing.” I. Why can, or must one, return to war in Ronell—even if that is called by other names, like “test drive”? Do others not know this war is going down? What has it to do with wars of transmission and legacies, of the archive and anteriority? AR is the performative (an)archivist of a certain going under (the jacket of Stupidity speaks of “the fading of cognitive empires”). Of course, she will be forced to migrate along the filaments of metaphor: from telephonics and switchboards (s)he is forced from...


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