4 April 2011
The Spell of the Sensuous
“If our primordial experience is inherently animistic, if our ‘immediate’ awareness discloses a field of phenomena that are all potentially animate and expressive, how can we ever account for the loss of such animateness from the world around us? How can we account for our culture’s experience of other animals as senseless animata, or of trees as purely passive fodder for lumber mills? If perception, in its depths, is wholly participatory, how could we ever have broken out of those depths into the inert and determinate world we now commonly perceive?… Nonhuman nature seems to have withdrawn from both speaking and our senses. What event could have precipitated this double withdrawal, constricting our ways of speaking even as it muffled our ears and set a veil before our eyes?” (Abram, 90-92)
My first inclination in reading David Abrams’s piece is to contextualize it critically. It appears to me to be a counter argument to one primary poststructuralist concern: to highlight the marginalized status of written language. In “Sign, Structure, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” Derrida highlights the potentiality of language. In this text, Derrida anticipates the inclination to romanticize pre-industrial, usually oral, language and extends to the inclination to the elevation of the “noble savage.” When Abrams speaks of his “convergent” experience f the world, isn’t that a convenient narrative making?