Can The Titanic Think? or Cecilia Corrigan: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Hiroshima Mon Amour

A lot of searching must be done to find new rules for forming and linking phrases that are able to express the differend…What is at stake in a literature, in a philosophy, in a politics perhaps, is to bear witness to differends by finding idioms for them.

-Jean Francois Lyotard, The Differend (pp. 13)

This is a very long review because there are no real reviews of this book.  This is also a very long review because the book is called, after all, Titanic:

When you can’t see me you pretend to

I’ve seen how you did it, your eyes were shut,
your arms were around an invisible female body
“leading” without any music, at least not any I could
hear through the thick glass of the space station.

I have a couple questions.

“How to name things with allusions”
“The advantages and disadvantages of allusions for titles”

God fuck we are both lonely. (Corrigan 107)

The language ultimately distracts itself from its stated goals: “When you can’t see me you pretend to” leads instead to a description of what the speaker sees and hears, which is nothing.  The body is an invisible female form, and the a priori knowledge of its gender establishes the body as a loved object.  Is the speaker having an out-of-body experience, a voice disembodied?  Was the invisible body hers, and has she evaded capture?  There is, in any case, an invisible third in the room, a triangulation by which a song is portrayed, but it is not so much heard as it is received by some satellite in space.  We have to wonder what the speaker is orbiting here.  And just as this happens, the speaker distracts us again in stating she has a “couple questions”, and while this may be true, she doesn’t ask them.  The couple we have instead is a pair of titles in quotes, both on the subject of allusions, and one of which is on the subject of allusions in titles.  The reader can thus begin to muse on the title of this book and its referent

 

     A true heart, a left hand shrouding a paper, The Titanic, these are the elements of art movements, which we will spearhead once we learn to Paint. (152)

 

which is unclear and elusive.  This passage appears 50 pages later than the previous passage above, and it is the only time the term “Titanic” is used.  Perhaps it refers to the historic ship, The Titanic, as clued by the term “spearhead” which appears to connote a prow.  And yet we have here another triangulation – a true heart, a left hand shrouding a paper, The Titanic – as if to signify feeling/expression, artful figuration of the referent, and the referent “itself.”  And yet the historical referent is already so mediated by its pop culture referent – its filmic representation in the movie Titanic – that there is no possibility of separation nor return: the two are contaminated by another, they interface.  The artificial and the human – the third term being communications media – is replaced here with artifice and the real, and suddenly the beginning of the book becomes clear: this book is interested in readers who are interested in getting involved with real artifice, with Art Official, the third term.

Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t even a character in this book, so much:

 

Oh ah individuality?  That bird is named  don’t say everyone

405820_

‘nster

It’s a woodpecker.
Haha.
Highlighting, finger-banging   choices the descent of
we stayed we were  wore eyel
Is that Leonardo Di-fucking-caprio? (143)

[…]

Leonardo Di fucking Caprio doing all kinds of fucked Viking things like
fucking pillaging, raping and… (144)

[…]

Georg  Simmel on individualitysh.  silly goosie (145)

[…]

He’s sitting on a light blue chair looking right into the camera, sitting in the lower left hand corner.  I can’t tell what’s in his hand, because the only thing it looks like is a glass in the act of shattering, which seems impossible, because the chances are one in a million that the camera’s lens could have snapped at that exact moment.  Several of the pictures which are hung on the wall behind him bear a drawing of one woman’s face, or perhaps various women as represented by the same artist, who interprets all women’s faces the same way. (145)

 

This final stanza ends the Leonardo Di fucking Caprio sequence, his name conjugated to separate his given name from his family name.  For this reason he becomes fungible, a historical actor responsible for “all kinds of fucked Viking things” in the same way that Corrigan becomes fungible, a metonymic figure standing to represent women represented the same way as the homogenized loved-object.  Lil’ Wayne:

 

You know Father Time, we all know Mother Nature.  It’s all in the family, but I am of no relation. (18)

 

By the time this musing on the couple of allusive titles is finished, we are all of a sudden transported back to “God fuck we are both lonely.”  And yet the ghostly third is gone and has eluded us, replaced by “both”.  This is not linear movement at all; in fact, the portability of pronouns as forms themselves makes the reader wonder if “we” refers to the original loved-object dancing with the invisible female body, or if it now refers to “Corrigan” and “the reader,” in a sort of ironic “I think we’re alone now” moment. This is the irony of Titanic: the more transparent figuration becomes, the more allusive/elusive “Corrigan” is rendered.  This is why I’ve used the term “the speaker” this whole time instead of “Corrigan,” and this is why I only air-quote “Corrigan,” because I do not know where in fuck she is.

 

*

I was never very confident in my voice, you see. (Corrigan 9)

 

Cecilia Corrigan’s 208 page-long “epic love poem depicting the eternal gothic romance between man and machine,” Titanic, begins with this invocation of an invocation of the muse.  The epic tradition of the poet’s humble entreaty for inspiration – that the gods fill the poet’s voice with breath – is here a humility stretched to its extreme, the poet’s lack of confidence here shared in confidence, for you to see.  This subverts two idioms at least.  One, the idiom established by the Homeric epic tradition, characterized by the poet voicing his – traditionally “his” – wish that the muse pipe her – traditionally “her” – song or story through the poet’s own windpipe.  It is a question of, or an entreaty for, occupation.  Although Corrigan’s speaker is not yet identified, the line’s confessional affect, that of a secret told in confidence, lends the speaker a certain verisimilitude, a genuineness that makes the reader drop his/her guard because Corrigan herself has as well: i.e., this must be Corrigan the poet speaking.  Instead of requesting that the muse occupy her voice, however, Corrigan As Speaker (CAS) states she occupies her own voice, ambivalently, as if its prisoner.  There is no muse there.  Thus, the second subversion, whereby CAS addresses this line not to the muse, but to the reader.  

 

So I thought, rather than just sing them which would probably bore the pants off everybody, I would uhm, I’d like to kind of portray the songs. (Corrigan 9)

 

Private thoughts are public generics now. Corrigan can characterize the songs as “them,” presuming a shared culture, a public idiom.  Corrigan’s “you” rarefies here as well, re-forming into “everybody,” and so instead of Me as private reader We are now spectators inside a performance space.  Corrigan presumes the community’s over-familiarity with the epic tradition – it is old hat – will “bore the pants off us,” another idiom (of course we now at some level see ourselves pantsless).  Corrigan is so confident in her writing that she can cannily rely on the nonverbal idiom “uhm” to connote a lack of confidence in her voice.  This ambivalence is felt by the reader: the vernacular, which implies a spoken presence, is here being portrayed as present, that is, as representation. We’re thrown against the wall of writing: what is it to “portray” songs?  In the stead of invoking the presence of the muse, we have here a musing on the very act of representation in writing.

 

In rendering the book for you the somewhat unusual course has been adopted of printing the original side by side with the translation.  Such a method of       presentation seemed desirable both on account of the obvious difficulties raised by the vocabulary and in view of the peculiar literary character of the whole.  As a result, a certain latitude has been possible   in passages to which objection might otherwise be taken as over-literal. (Corrigan 9)

 

Corrigan As Renderer (CAR) refers to “the book,” but where is the lost referent?  Because this book Titanic is not printed side by side with “the” translation, our view of “the book” now becomes double: there is the source text Titanic, and there is the translation text Titanic.  And a ghostly third emerges to contain them both, that perhaps this book Titanic represents a sort of dialectic between the source text – the idiom of the epic – and the translation which encompasses as a kernel that very source, but updates it, renders it appropriate, “[t]he way every duality is haunted by a third thing that the two of you are” (Corrigan 167).

Or maybe this third stanza refers to an entirely different book altogether.  Maybe it refers to the wrong book. Was this third stanza translated – literally transported, or lifted – from another source?  Did CAR even write this, or is this appropriated text? Is the source the boat?  Is the source DiCaprio?  Is the source the fact of DiCaprio on a boat?  The first line is written in the passive and discusses the “rendering” of the book, and neither the subject of the rendering, nor the nature of the rendering, is disclosed.  It has – “the whole” has – a peculiar literary character.  

 

a certain latitude has been possible   in passages

 

We do see an over-literal hole in logic.  Between “possible” and “in passages” there is extra space, a lateral passage.  What at first appears an error becomes a recognition of (becomes a liberatory misrecognition of) a possibility. Corrigan breaks down these idioms and constructs from them new phrases as songs.  And so the old literary idiom “passage” here is de-figured in order to reconfigure it spatially as “passage.”  From Ann Cvetkovich’s Depression: A Public Feeling:

Defined in relation to notions of blockage or impasse, creativity can be thought of as a form of movement, movement that maneuvers the mind inside or around an impasse, even if that movement sometimes seems backward or like a form of retreat.  Spatialized in this way, creativity can describe forms of agency that take the form of literal movement and are thus more e-motional or sensational or tactile. (21)

Read in conjunction with CAR’s “As a result, a certain latitude has been possible   in passages to which objection might otherwise be taken as over-literal”, “latitude” takes on (new) dimension.  Latitude – “Freedom from narrow restrictions; width or liberality of construction or interpretation” (OED) – is actually predicated on its over-literal definition: “Transverse dimension; extent as measured from side to side; breadth, width of a surface, as opposed to length.”  This laterality is represented textually via the over-literal take CAR has on the space bar, creating more possibility of movement between “possible” and “in passages.”  For this reason we as readers stay awhile longer within the passage, and see the form CAR’s creativity takes: one of meandering, lingering, and erring from the prescriptive path set by grammar, to multiple latitudes promised by this new “real.”   

This is a book for people who are interested in getting involved with the real world.  If that doesn’t suit you well, the doors right back where you came in. (Corrigan 9)

 

The way to get involved with the real world is to confront error and to pass through it, to stray down unusual courses. What the passage “should” be is “the door’s right back where you came in,” that is to say, a contraction implying one door taking one copula.  However, instead of a contraction we find an expansion, or a mitotic doubling.  The doors “right” where you came in: this is a description of the heretofore singular door’s function, the now-predicate “right” of the now plural doors, and so how can one deciding to return be certain that he/she took the “correct” door? This book offers itself as an ironic corrective to what “suit[s] you well,” to the appropriate.  And Corrigan As Usher (CAU) offers us another idiomatic connotative possibility: the doors “right” where you came from, they left-justify.  And so the next line of her book centers as follows:

 

“No?”

 

We have here a book whose pedagogical imperative is to teach people to get involved with the real, and yet the real is now a sort of situation-room (Carrie Lorig) or simulation with which one interfaces – it does not appear that there is any “going back,” since the origin portal has doubled, has become at least one copy – via peripatetic thought whose metaphor is now errant walking:

 

Before we get started I’d like to tell you a little bit about me and where I’m “at” right now in my life.  First off, I’m just come out and say that for about eight years now I’ve been a daily user of a .05 microgram compound of (S)-2-amino-3-[4-hydroxy-3,5-diiodophenoxyl)-3,5-diiodophenyl] propanoic acid, which is being metabolized as we speak in my liver, kidneys, brain and muscles. (Corrigan 9)

 

The literary has been restaged and spatialized as a sort of arena, wherein which the speaker can continually defer subjecthood.  The speaker’s identity never achieves (nor seems to desire) full identity constitution, but seems rather to revel in the rhetorical possibilities of the ever-constituent.  Ditto the reader’s, or at least the addressee’s.  The first line of the book appears to intimately or at least familiarly address the reader in the second person singular “you see,” whereas the second stanza’s “everybody” transmutes “you” into a sort of implied audience of (lets say 3rd person plural), whereas the “rendering of the book for you” employs a much more formal didacticism whereby the “you” becomes general and implied-plural.  This is how “we” got started, and yet here Corrigan As Daily User implies we never started, and one wonders whether we ever will.  The stability of the speaker’s subjecthood is troubled by the spatialization metaphor.  CADU playfully over-determines space – “where I’m ‘at’” right now in my life” – with the grammatically superfluous (if not erroneous) usage of the preposition and colloquial “at”.  Because CADU’s subjecthood is so elusive, the irony of an extra preposition renders the positionality of CADU almost hypertrophic: CADU is a sort of relation with no relation.  It appears (“you see”) that the temporal has taken the “place” the spatial has abdicated: “Before we get started” and “First off” and “for about eight years now” and “being metabolized as we speak” seem to clue the reader that time perhaps might serve as a better tracking device.  And yet the inclusion of both “Before we get started” and “First off” seems once again somewhat over-determined, and the fact that we as readers have re-started several different “First off”s ought to give pause. All of a sudden, there is time.

“I’m just come out and say” is tricky. The erroneous “I’m” is a contraction of “I am,” a performative utterance of self-identification that is, simultaneously, indicative of discursive self-constitution.  To echo Judith Butler, as a knowledge system, gender discursively constructs the sort of body it purports to describe.  All of a sudden CADU is a person who, by way of saying “I’m”, has both an immediate present “right now” and a present perfect continuous “I have been” whereby CADU is metabolizing “as we speak” (and by way of speaking) this .05 microgram compound.  Speech here is metabolic, and identity is the foreign object metabolized.  CADU as speaker appears even more discursively unstable because of his/her pharmaceutical fluency: this speaker is unlike the previous, but bears a family resemblance to the previous in his/her colloquial parlance.  They may be similar or they may be the same speaker.  

A couple stanzas later – after offering a jarring and unexpected treatise on “games,” and guessing quite accurately that “you” first played them with “your family!” – Corrigan As Gamer reveals the nature of the .05 microgram compound: it is a synthetic progestogen “to suppress my gonadotropins, inhibit my ovulation, thicken my cervical mucus and change my endometrium” (Corrigan 10).  It seems as if we’ve found a more stable speaker, one whose sex we can be reasonably certain about, that is, a female taking birth control.  But why continue to employ this medical terminology, and how can this speaker so convincingly imitate the idiom?  As these certainties begin to beget uncertainties, CAG begins to ramp up the usage of the conditional, gaming us with “hypothetical” situations:

 

Now, about 27 years and 35 weeks ago, the development of my external genitalia would have been fully differentiated in my mom’s uterus.  My genitals would have started forming weeks before that.  Now, let’s say instead of the tiny cells of my clitoris and labia majora, a little penis had formed on me, around week 11 of my mom’s pregnancy in the spring of 1986.

In this case I’d be a male baby, a man now.  Let’s call me David. (10)

 

It appears we’re coming closer and closer to a stable subject – we even know her exact age and the date of her birth – and yet the narrator describes herself as if she were the studied object of medicine.  In addition, the “real” speaker describes her own gestation in the perfect continuous conditional.  The idiomatic and yet imperative “let’s” forces – while appearing to invite – the contracted “us” to collaborate in “saying” and therefore invoking or calling forth a new identity/subjectivity for the speaker.  

Like an evening spread out against the sky, or like a patient etherized upon a table, CAG lays bare the function of the pastoral mode’s idiomatic “let us”: it interpellates a female loved-object as contractually obligated to join the typically male poet in amorous elopement.  Eliot’s modernist update of this pastoral idiom – the above-cited first lines of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” first rarefies the love object as firmament or natural background, and in the next moment hypostatizes her upon a table, only to aesthetically anesthetize her thus to better fix her as the loved-object of medicine.  The haste that “let’s” connotes – and Corrigan does quote Eliot’s “Hurry up please it’s time” in “Your Ghost Dad Entices Me Away From Corporeality” – is slowed down and repeated so as to “kind of portray the songs”. Corrigan troubles gender and makes bubble up the phallocentric under-stirrings of the American literary canon as we know it.  

Instead of the epic male poet occupied by the female muse from which song is borne, Corrigan’s speaker is occupied by sexual inhibitors to stop birth and to obfuscate sexual and gender determinacy.  Eliot’s update to pastoralism was to take the female loved-object produced by poetry and give it its analogue in medicine.  Beginning in this passage as the studied loved-object produced by medicine, we see CAG play this out as a sort of diagnosis, “a kind of portray[al]” of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I’m not certain the results are liberatory nor celebratory.  The subject comes up throughout the book, and while nearly always funny, the ambivalence is palpable:

 

I want to be part of the family of modernist boyfriends

but how can I??  It’s all fathers.  I admit I feel helpless. (83)  

 

And later, as if this father’s further aged into a grandfather that can no longer be cared for, but to whom one feels one owes still:

 

I thought you’d like it here!  I wouldn’t have brought you if I…if… if… if… I thought the pastoral would do you good.  But you claim you hear the birds singing in Greek.  I didn’t go to all that trouble just to do it to a vegetable. (170)  

 

In any case, this series of passages that “begins” the book ends

 

I’m gonna tell you a love story (10).  

*

 

Back to lateral movement: at another juncture Corrigan writes as a Guggenheim Museum headset guiding the museumgoer through an interactive art exhibit called The Cremaster Cycle, whereby the participant enters a Glass Coffin that cycles throughout Titanic.  The panels of the coffin are transparent – like Titanic represents itself as convention-bound (bound literally, as a book) and emphasizes its own figuration – and yet it snows inside the coffin, the color of the page.  Once again:

 

I’m dying for you just to touch me.
The coffin onstage is translucent white fabric,
reminiscent of a child’s fort of sheets.
It has a large, open front, facing the audience.

The loved-object takes the form

of language,
holds that shape. (44)

and how it now resonates with “hear through the thick glass of the space station”.  As a sort of haptic experience, we hear language hold its shape here in another space.  The portability of identities (as social forms) as well as themes (as aesthetic forms) throughout Titanic – this sort of hyperlinking – is reminiscent of what Kevin Davies would call “lateral argument.”  Citing Davies’ poem “Lateral Argument” from his collection Comp, Christopher Nealon interprets lateral argument as “a rhetorical style in which lists, and cross-referenced links, mimic the laterality of a network that dwarfs poetry” (Nealon 154).  

But does this rhetorical style – does the network form – dwarf poetry, or does poetry employ the form and become itself titanic? Like the reader’s entrance into the book – the one door that, after a certain passage, suddenly becomes two – the reader enters the glass coffin at a nonspecific point, and returns to it several times throughout the book, only to suddenly be presented with the fact that the Glass Coffin is a virtual reality machine, and entrance/exit are no longer viable terms: they are replaced with a sort of hyperlinking.

Gottlob:
     Please.  I’d like to write a play with a set representing
language’s visual room, and to write a number of interwoven narratives, all exemplifying some sort of pedagogic relationship, and the pull of the forbidden visual room, so can I, Gottlob?
     I look forward to hearing from you!

Thanks,
Cecilia (123)

 

Of course “Cecilia” never hears back from Gottlob, but probably that’s the point.  He’s avoiding her, in the way Corrigan avoids the topic: 157 pages after the initial birth control scene, Corrigan “reveals” that the bulk of the book has been errant circumlocution around the subject of birth control, or deferral of the human subject’s constitution:

 

My dear Norman,
Wait.  Ok, sorry, I was avoiding the topic.  I also use, more or less every day, 0.15 mg of levonorgestrel, (167-8)

*

 

The final poem of the book is called “THE OTHER NATURE POEM.”  In the poem Corrigan describes how George Cukor’s film The Women introduces in the opening credits each woman beside an animal that’s meant to be her avatar: Paulette Goddard is juxtaposed to a fox, Joan Crawford to a snarling leopard.  Here Corrigan muses that the film could be considered synecdochal to the career of Cukor and not to his body of work, and she explains why:

 

     particularly women.  Therefore the film itself
could be considered a synecdoche
     for Cukor’s career if the term is considered loosely i.e.
          poetically, that is, as a metonymic device
          rather than through the more
     obvious metaphorical relation between the film and
Cukor’s general body of work. (208)

 

There’s the loose and sinuous, spiral stair-style indentation of the lines.  As “the film itself” through enjambment loses its autonomy, synecdoche bridges it to Cukor’s career.  A positive argument forms and is paralleled by the rightward movement of the lines: a lateral movement.  Looseness finds its equivalence in The Poetic, and then the poem is defined as a metonymic device.  The film is a sort of poem meant to represent the lived experience of Cukor, the work of the body.  “rather” then indicates the lines’ trend leftwards, whereby a negative argument is formed.  The film is not a metaphor for Cukor’s body of work, which would be “more” “obvious.”  

 

Maybe at a certain age, (my) a
     metonymy becomes more comfortable
          than a metaphor, in its ability to allude rather than describe
               another way of saying that might be that it
(the metonymy) doesn’t try to
“lock it down” (the relational body). (208)

 

The first line begins as a sort of general music, but the parenthetical at the end implies the personal stakes for the speaker.  Still, this is not a possessive pronoun (mine) but a possessive adjective which in this case does not take a noun, it seems to decide against it while making this decision transparent (as if the parentheticals are glass walls) and chooses an indefinite article instead, so that the noun Metonymy isn’t “locked down.”  “Comfortable” resonates with age, as if to make clear that metonymy is comfortable on the physical body; consider this alongside an earlier line in the poem:

 

Poetry is about how the mind affects the body and  

consequent attitude as it passes through time,  

another way of saying this relation to the body might be “aging it” (207).  

 

“it” here refers to “the body.”  “another way of saying this” is said again and echoed with “another way of saying that might be that it” which restarts the argument without grammatically reflecting as much, wherein which “it” now refers to “metonymy,” which alludes rather than describes, in the way that metaphor yokes together two unlike concepts thus to force a similarity, in the way that gender assimilates the body in its description that in fact locks the body down.  Long sentence.  The metonymic body, on the other hand, is “the relational body.”  Corrigan ends her book on such an example:

 

Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand
          this is an ancient belief.
            The ostrich’s protection from danger
              lies in its very powerful legs and its ability to run
        An ostrich can run at speeds of about forty miles an hour.
       Also it’s the largest bird in the world, so. (208)

 

Corrigan once again disappears, and is replaced with a loose avatar that poetically relates her body to an ostrich’s, highlighted for a number of reasons.  It is a loose allusion, in that it is suggested only by placement at and relation with the end of the book.  The ostrich does not hide its head for all to see its vulnerable body; this is an outmoded belief.  Rather, it protects itself from danger by its size, speed and elusiveness.  

 

*

 

I devoted a real incommensurable-seeming amount of space writing about the first couple pages of Titanic for two reasons: first, according to Alan Turing, “the system of the ‘universe as a whole’ is such that quite small errors in the initial conditions can have an overwhelming effect at a later time” (Turing 439).  Second, according to Corrigan:

 

Reading word by word makes the writing that is not
          anything                    be something
               What might one say about action (i.e. writing)?

To have committed an error. (Corrigan 58)

 

Alan Turing’s “Imitation Game” is meant to answer the question “Can machines think?”  The human analogue of the game has three human players, a man (A), a woman (B), and an interrogator (C) whose sex doesn’t matter.  The man and the woman are in a room separate from the interrogator, whose aim is to guess which player is the man and which is the woman.  The game is of course written (“or better still, typewritten”), so that there will be no physical clues or cues.  According to Turing:

 

The object of the game for the third player (B) is to help the interrogator.  The best strategy for her is probably to give truthful answers.  She can add such things as “I am the woman, don’t listen to him!” to her answers, but it will avail nothing as the man can make similar remarks. (Turing 433)

 

In other words, the woman is not so much a player as a helpmate.  She cannot win, and she cannot be listened to, she can avail nothing.  “I was never very confident in my voice, you see” (Corrigan 9).

After presenting us with this metaphor, Turing introduces the form of the imitation game meant to answer the question: “Can machines think?”  A machine takes the part of A in this game, in this case, the male.

I have already stated my opinion as to how I think Corrigan replaces the question.  Corrigan does so explicitly, however, in the following way:

 

“I propose to consider the question, “Can love be empirically verified?”  I
configure the machine in which this question will be considered” (Corrigan 27).  

 

The machine, it would seem, is the book, but we soon discover that it is also the coffin that cycles throughout the book.  Let’s imagine Corrigan is the interrogator, and the reader is the human or machine being interrogated.

It is tempting to say that Corrigan’s errors are a sign of humanness, that this is the point.  And yet, it is a myth that machines cannot make mistakes, and this is a point Turing himself makes.  For example, the most successful machine in the Imitation Game would be one which deliberately introduced mistakes in computation, to fool the interrogator into thinking that this player, for example, can’t adequately do math, and therefore is human.  Turing describes this further as a confusion between two kinds of mistakes: “errors of functioning” and “errors of conclusion.”  Errors of functioning are due to mechanical defects that would cause the machine to operate contrary to its design: in philosophical discussions this very real phenomenon is often ignored, and thus we’re speaking of “abstract machines” that cannot actually exist.  These fictions would thus be incapable of making mistakes.  On the other hand, errors of conclusion happen when meaning is attached to the output signals from the machine.  If the machine typed out math equations or sentences in English, the arising of a false proposition would be indicative of an error in conclusion (Turing 445).

Thinking here is correlated to imitation.  So if Corrigan can imitate, then she is acting like a machine.  Pastiche is of course an imitation game but, as Mutlu Blasing argues, it differs from collage insofar as pastiche stakes no claim on mimesis, that is, on imitation of the real world by way of aesthetic procedure: “while a modernist collage represents a stable referent via polyvocal signifiers, a postmodern pastiche is deviation without norm, polyvocality without reference” (Blasing 11).  What we have here then is a relational body not locked down, a body that cannot be straitjacketed to the real, that cannot be considered to err or to be deviant.  As Jean-Francois Lyotard puts it in The Differend,

 

[r]eality is not what is “given” to this or that “subject,” it is a state of the referent (that about which one speaks) which results from the effectuation of establishment procedures defined by a unanimously agreed-upon protocol, and from the possibility offered to anyone to recommence this effectuation as often as he or she wants.  The publishing industry would be one of these protocols. (13)  

 

Error is one way of eluding these truth regimes, and its figuration in literature translates error into possibility.  Rather than be constituted by a knowledge system – rather than be etherized upon a table, an allusion –  the body can unlock itself via allusive metonymy.  And so when Corrigan writes

And there you have it, folks!  That’s the story, of how I discovered once and for
all that machines can feel!  Goodnight!
Music. (Corrigan 206)

 

Corrigan is not writing that she’s answered Turing’s question as to whether machines can think: she hasn’t.  By erring from the course set out by “think,” Corrigan can discover “all” the things machines can feel.  By committing errors of function (syntax), errors of conclusion (interpretation) actually become extremely productive, and so the latitude of interpretation expands.  The machine she configured is, after all, Titanic.  This can be empirically verified.

I don’t think I’ve stated this once because, in some ways, my language ultimately does not distract itself from its unstated goals, that is, to review the book, to study its machinery, to control my own emotions before it, which is itself an emotional impulse, etc., but this is one of the most amazing books I have ever read, period.  There is a youtube video called Titanic sinks in REAL TIME – 2 HOURS 40 MINUTES (there are no surprises) that does not occur in real space, and is thus a simulation, and I think that has real bearing on Corrigan’s book, which I have read every week for 32 weeks now, and reading it’s akin to watching sink, from the railing of the ship itself, the Titanic, and it is like watching real time sink inside of digital water, and the word is a cast of water, and I’m Godel’s spirit moving on the face of the water saying “It was very Goo,” and various other incomplete sentences.    There is a long swath of Titanic that re-translates and re-codes passages from Genesis, it is very beautiful, and a lot of it appears erroneous, but I think, as it were, it is very meaningful.

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Jared Joseph is boring.
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