Whither volume II?

A while ago, before the publication of volume I of A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! (Dec 2022), I joked on Facebook that I would certainly be referring to work by the psychoanalyst Joseph Slap! Unfortunately, as it turned out, the good Dr. Slap did not make it into volume I. He will have to wait his turn until volume II.

I also, somehow, failed until yesterday (can you believe it?) to hit on the phrase “a Freudian slap,” which failure, given the importance of the connection between the slap and my psychoanalysis, must itself be a parapraxis. This wonderful coinage, too, will have to await the next volume.

These missed opportunities bring to the front of my mind the question of what volume II will be like. When I decided to publish what I had already written (commentaries on slightly fewer than half the memes I had planned to discuss) as volume I, I simply assumed that volume II would proceed in the same manner, making the two volumes together a homogeneous unity. And there are certainly some memes among the remainder that I would like to comment on in a manner similar to the commentaries in volume I. For example, these two:

It has recently occurred to me, however, that I could make volume II very different in style and/or format from volume I. Not to do so seems like it would be another missed opportunity. As of yet, I have no idea at all of what it might look like, should I decide to let go of the goal of homogeneity. Although I find myself in a state of uncertainty, I am not anxious. As I said some years ago on this blog, I know the answer will get to me somehow. (Looking back on that earlier post, after I had written the preceding sentence, I saw that I used there the word “anxious” precisely to describe how I was feeling then!)

If I were to miswrite the orthodox psychoanalyst’s name as “Joseph Slip,” that would imply both the presence and absence of a Freudian Slap!

Take dthat!

Next week, I am going to teach again David Kaplan‘s wonderful paper “Dthat.” David was one of my teachers in graduate school and although I did not work especially closely with him, I had enough experience of him to be smitten. He had, and no doubt still has, a luminous and humorous intelligence that was utterly beguiling, both personally and intellectually.

It’s a bit hard to explain what “dthat” is to those not immersed in analytic philosophy of language but I’ll give it a try. Kaplan, in the paper of that name, is discussing the semantics of the English demonstrative “that” and makes certain conjectures about how it might be used. Rather than argue over the substantive question of whether the English expression is used in the conjectured way, Kaplan employs a technique not uncommon in analytic philosophy (another instance of which I touch on in my post Shmidentity Politics) and introduces a neologism about which he can stipulate the features that are merely conjectured to apply in the real-life case. “Dthat,” (pronounced exactly like “that”) is a demonstrative device about which roughly the following is stipulated: when it appears in a sentence, what it contributes to the meaning of an utterance of the sentence is nothing other than the object demonstrated. This extends to its use when coupled with descriptive content. So in an utterance of “Dthat slap you just gave me really hurt,” the meaning of the expression “[the] slap you just gave me” does not enter into the meaning expressed by the utterance, but functions in something like the way pointing does, if I point to an ice sculpture and say “Dthat is going to melt pretty soon.” The pointing is, we might say, a parergon to the meaning of the utterance; and just so is the meaning of “[the] slap you just gave me” a kind of linguistic parergon – a paratext – to the meaning of the utterance in question.

A long-standing question for philosophers of language is whether proper names function, semantically, in a way similar to “dthat.” Proper names, Kaplan says, are a “theoretician’s nightmare.” He concludes that “if it weren’t for the problem of how to get the kids to come in for dinner, I’d be inclined to just junk them.” Perhaps because his character is so evident in this sentence, it’s always been one my favorite bits of philosophy! Of course, unsurprisingly, there is a very deep point there too. Names are used not only to refer, which is how almost all philosophers of language approach them, but to address as well, to interpellate (as Althusser puts it). It is, Kaplan suggests, their use as means of interpellation that makes it impossible to get by without proper names.

This is the background to a meme, composed several years after most of the others that will appear in my book, that will be the final entry in A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!. In it, I combine the form of the Batman-slapping-Robin meme with that of another meme: Broke-Woke-Bespoke. This allows for some allegedly tired content (though I hope this post makes evident how inappropriate I think it is to regard Kaplan’s original formulation as in any way tired!) to be transformed into a ‘woke’ version, and ultimately into a ‘bespoke’ version, the acme of its possible expressions.