Now : New Pornographers, "Challengers"
'Specially : Track 3, 'Challengers' (I am a sucker for both Neko Case and the Banjo; this was predictable)
(Excerpted from a paper, in progress, on a heresiologist (Irenaeus) in the early church who was sort of freaked out by childbirth. Seriously.)
... A quick note about my use of the term ‘obvious’ here. One element of literary analysis is the examination not just of what an author writes but of what she leaves out – either because introducing this into the text may highlight a flaw in (or completely undermine) her argument, or because it is so obvious as to be an unnecessary inclusion. For example, if I tell a story about my summer vacation and do not end it with a reference to my return to school, this may be because I am done with school, which thereby changes the nature of summer vacation from interim relaxation to post-graduate aimlessness; what I wanted the reader to understand as ‘summer vacation’ in the general sense of that phrase is actually not ‘properly’ understand in this category. More information would cripple my project. On the other hand, I may not have mentioned it because the very category of ‘summer vacation’ implies that at the end of it I naturally returned to school; this return is obvious, and to include it in my narrative would be a redundant waste of my reader’s time. The work of, among others, Rene Girard and Jacques Derrida has shown how useful analyzing for the former case may be for textual analyses; it is the second case that more directly informs my argument here, and for that the ideological theory of Louis Althusser is more directly applicable. Althusser defines ‘my’ ideology as my imaginary relations to the real conditions of my existence. That is, the manner in which I relate to the physical, social and economic realities with which I negotiate for my living. These negotiations are more conscious and explicit the more they deal with new and unfamiliar relations; old relations are often near-automatic repetitions of familiar negotiations, and therefore take less attention.
A basic component of an ideology is the collection of questions it forecloses – in the 2nd scenario above, my not ‘asking’ my narrative to specify that I came back to school is such a foreclosed question. Ideology makes social communication possible by establishing certain certainties: we are not constantly required to ask each other what ‘hello’ means and how best to respond to it; we are not constantly required to test the sidewalk with a stick to make sure it won’t fall away underneath us if we put our weight on it. While neither of these situations is absolutely certain (‘hello’ may be a distraction in order to initiate a mugging; flooding may have knocked out the support of our walkway), they are certain enough that we can usually disregard the possibility of their acting in an unexpected way unless foreign details (a furtive glance or a recent rain) have been introduced to make us wary. In persuasive texts such as the heresiological writings of Irenaeus, the ‘obvious’ points, the truths too certain to need examination can give as much insight into the world he imagines as the explicit points of his argument do to the world he advocates. He argues for a world where the transmission of the knowledge revealed by Christ is limited to Apostolic succession; he imagines a world where procreative transmission is an essentially destabilizing process, not only because desire is chaotic but because desire generates new meaning. It is fertility, not only lust, that makes up the immorality of desire. ...