Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Cartesian Mirror/quixotic Web: Toward a Narrativity of Desire

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Cartesian Mirror/quixotic Web: Toward a Narrativity of Desire

Article excerpt

of interests. Because thinking is an active process conducted within a social web, all human acts assume an interconnective significance. Every human act is possessed of "infinite import" because the "little part of the scheme of affairs which is modifiable by our efforts is continuous with the rest of the world." Art, according to Dewey, intimates the significance of human actions and evokes an appreciation of that significance by weaving a desire for reforming the world into the "texture of our lives" (Human Nature 180). Art, writes Dewey, is not simply a faithful reflection of what is out there; rather "all art is a process of making the world a different place in which to live" (Experience 272). Because it is an "active productive Metaphors, writes Stuart Hall, are "serious things" because they "affect one's practice" (282); and they affect our practice, as Richard Rorty points out, because "metaphors...determine most of our philosophical convictions" (12). Those metaphors which have become historically capable of representing a basic philosophical principle and, therefore, naturalizing a rhetorical practice fall into that category of symbology to which Kenneth Burke has given the name of "master metaphors." Should any critic wish to discover the "cue for the organizing" structures underpinning anyone's work, according to Burke, that critic should seek to discover two things. First, he/she should strive to discover the "master metaphor" governing the representation of that work, and, second, he/she should note crucial moments when there occurs a mixing or shifting of metaphors (Attitudes 262).

One master metaphor--the master metaphor of Western philosophy, some would argue--that has directed the work of numerous post-Cartesian theorists attempting to describe the operations of thinking, representing and desiring is that of the mirror. The metaphor of "the mind as a great mirror"-which is, as Rodolphe Gasche points out, the "chief methodological concept for Cartesian thought" (13)--has ramifications not only for epistemology, but also for neo-Platonic esthetic theories of art as the mirror of nature, Althusserian political theories of ideology as the mirror of labor-relations, and Lacanian psychoanalytical theories of the "mirror stage" as the point in a child's development when the child learns to mediate his/her desire "through the desire of the other" (Ecrits 4-5). The Cartesian heritage of the mirror model, however, is not without its contemporary critics. Rene Girard, in particular, has spent a career attempting to theorize desire in a way that seemingly escapes the metaphysics associated with the reflective model. Yet despite the way he keeps changing the specific metaphors that he uses to describe the structure of desire, it can be shown that the master metaphor of the mirror continues to govern his work.

The persistence in Girard's case is so interesting because he writes on the borders of so many disciplines. At various points in his career he has focused upon the function of scapegoating in social groups, the relationship between God and the individual subject, the role of art in society, the nature of sacrifice in biblical narrative, and the agency of violence in cultural transformation. What is consistent about his respective forays into anthropology, theology, esthetics, hermeneutics and politics is his basic argument about the relationship of desire to the concept of mimesis. Although it is the metaphor of the mirror that ultimately permits Girard to see the connections amongst such disparate disciplines, I would like to suggest that it is possible to determine another basis for connections by developing an alternative understanding of how desire operates and by generating a different metaphor for representing that operation. This is the metaphor of the web--and it gives rise to what I will call the "narrative model." My strategy in the following essay is therefore as follows: first, I will explain the reflective model proper by examining the various ways Girard has attempted to disclaim the mirror model while employing all the features associated with it to explain the work of desire; then, I will elaborate the terms of the narrative model by paying particular attention to its explanation of the operation of desire; and, finally, I will return to Don Quixote--the key text first used by Girard--and reconsider the representation of desire in this novel in order to recuperate Cervantes's work as the basic text for the narrative model. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.