Language isn’t transcendent
January 4, 2012 § 1 Comment
To be assembled in an imaginary library: a canon of humiliated literature, or of literature that embodies — in its aesthetic premises — a state of being humiliated, or of intentionally or unintentionally humiliating the reader. (Also, to be gathered: a canon of humiliated film and visual art.) I prefer literature and art that seems to have been humiliated — where the material texture (paint, imagery, narrative, words, allusions, gestures, color, composition) attest to a robbed or lowered condition. the writer has experienced debasement; words reverse that state. Or else words enact and continue it. And so the reader feels, I guess it’s not a nightmare to be debased, or else it’s a bearable torment, a daily condition. i don’t like confident literature, or literature that seems immune to self-incrimination; literature should bear witness to the fact that the writer was humiliated by the very process of writing the work. The production of language — making words happen — is a lowering act, like revealing my sperm-stained dress at a trial, or showing the judge the inside of my mouth. Language isn’t transcendent. Every sentence, however stuffed and upholstered with confident maturity, attests to that earlier, infant time when we couldn’t master words.
— Wayne Koestenbaum, Humiliation