Åka Gafvelin interviewed me for his podcast series Determinate Content. We talked about the Batman Meme Project and some other related things.
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!
“Philosophy always needed a good m**e-ing, Robin!”
My friend, the linguist Manny Rayner, has been doing some really interesting work on ChatGPT. He has also been reading and reviewing A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! on the Goodreads website. As he made his way through the book, it occurred to him to query ChatGPT about the Batman Meme Project! I am proud to say it had heard of it!
Manny also had the brilliant idea of asking ChatGPT to compose some memes in the format of Batman slapping Robin! I must say that it really rose to the occasion and produced two very worthy memes, which I reproduce here:
The first, as you can see, goes right up to the edge of ChatGPT’s inbuilt limits on profanity and suggestive content.
I asked Manny if he would mind if I reproduced the memes and he, in turn, deferred to ChatGPT’s verdict on the matter. When queried, it replied:
If you haven’t already, please consider buying the book, available on Amazon or other online bookstores for a modest price, and reviewing it on Amazon and/or Goodreads.
Four short videos about the book. 4. Psychoanalysis
And here is the final, short video I have made about A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!, this time dealing with its relation to psychoanalysis.
The book itself is available from Amazon, in ebook, paperback, and hardback formats.
Four short videos about the book. 3. Autotheory
Here is the third of my short videos about A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!, this one dealing with its status as autotheory.
Four short videos about the book. 2. How is it philosophy?
Here is the second of my short videos about my new book, A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!. This one takes up the question of in what sense my book counts as a work of philosophy.
Four short videos about the book. 1. Premodern and postmodern
I have made four short (just over two minutes) videos, each talking about a different aspect of my just published book A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!. Here is the first video, in which I talk about the premodern and postmodern inspirations of the book. The book itself is available on Amazon.
The book is finally here!
Hi everyone. My book, A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!, is finally finished and published! It is available from Amazon here.
It would be really wonderful if you would think about reviewing it on Amazon itself, on Goodreads (if you’re there), or in any other fora where it might be appropriate. As a self-published work, it will need all the help it can get!
If you are unable to get hold of it or cannot afford it or just don’t feel like paying for it, get in touch with me and I will be happy to send you a free PDF of it.
Thank you for your support through this journey. I will continue to blog here about its reception and any other thoughts or ideas I have about it.
It’s so hard, Batman!
Lately, several people have indicated to me that they would like to read my forthcoming book, A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga!, but they are worried it will be too difficult to understand. With its publication imminent, it feels like a good time to address this concern. Some theorists have held that literary works are really about how to read them. Since much of my book is about difficulties in reading, writing, speaking, and understanding, it may have some help give with how to approach it.
This meme, which will be the subject of a long commentary in volume I, is about free association in psychoanalysis. One way to read the book is to think of it as an extended exercise in free association on the part of its author. How does, or should, an analyst listen to a patient’s free association? Freud recommended an evenly-suspended attention. More radically, Bion suggested the analyst should be present “without memory or desire.” These descriptions suggest a lightness and immediacy in relation to the text, not getting snagged on things one doesn’t understand, letting go of preconceptions about what our response ought to be. The reader just needs to open herself to the text as it reaches her. More recent trends in psychoanalytic listening emphasize the role of the analyst’s own fantasies in response to the patient’s words. In this vein, my book can be approached as a stimulus to the reader’s own associations, the reader and the text creating a unique, third thing between them.
Another meme, sadly not included in volume I, alludes to the words of the seventeenth-century polymath Sir Thomas Browne. Browne’s sensibility is captured by the image of the cabinet of curiosities and this, in turn, suggests a different way of accessing the book. The reader may simply stroll through the collection of weird exhibits, passing quickly by those that do not hold her interest but lingering over those that do. Not every commentary will catch everyone’s interest. None may be universally interesting. But I hope, and believe, that in the eccentric collection of so many oddities that is my book, everyone will be able to find something or some things to interest her.
A final way of approaching the book is suggested by this meme, which will be in volume I and the commentary on which will explicitly touch on these issues. “Listen to my words!” Trust the author to take care of you and follow along with him, in a relaxed frame of mind, just taking the text at face value. As I explained in another post, I have been frequently praised for my clarity of expression. Where topics are potentially hard to grasp, I have done my best to make them clear. Although I will certainly fail in this at times, don’t let anxiety get in your way and you may find things easier to understand than you were worried they would be.
So, there are three different ways of reading the book. Of course, they can be picked up and discarded at will for different parts of the book. You don’t get to choose just once. But above everything, have fun with it! That’s what it’s there for!
Kierkegaard meets Calvino meets auto-theory
It looks as if I am going to be publishing the first volume of A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! myself. I hope that it will be available within two or three months via Amazon. It has taken me six years to get this far and I don’t want to have to wait another six years to finish the work before any of it is made public.
My current plan is to publish it in three versions: a hardback with better paper; a paperback with regular paper; and a Kindle ebook. I will also make available a PDF version free to download from my website though, naturally, I prefer people to buy it. (Not for the profit, of which I will make a token amount, but for the book sales.)
Publishing the book myself, I expect my main challenge to be getting it seen, read, and taken up in the discourses of philosophy and the other humanities on which it touches. To that end, I have asked several widely-respected individuals to provide blurbs for it. The first one, by Professor Susanna Siegel (Harvard) is in and I am happy to say it is positive!
Just as a newspaper holds its form constant while it varies the news content, the author of A Certain Gesture: Evnine’s Batman Meme Project and Its Parerga! finds a way to use a single meme in which Batman slaps Robin as a structure for conveying a sequence of reflections. Sometimes alternately, and other times all at once, these reflections are philosophical and picaresque, sarcastic and explanatory, literary and analytical, visual and discursive, musical and rabbinical, fragmentary and unified, continuous and interrupted. Kierkegaard meets Calvino meets auto-theory. The collision sweeps up some analytic philosophers, an avuncular joke-teller, and other characters who come and go. The pictures provide a rhythm, the captions start a melody, and the commentary improvises with chords, riffs, and surprises.
Gaining visibility, however, is not the only challenge the book faces in being taken up. The very idea of “being taken up” is problematic. I very much think of the book as a work of philosophy (though not exclusively such by any means) but it ‘performs’ (or perhaps ’embodies’) its philosophy in very novel ways. (Indeed, love the book or hate it, I believe it deserves some consideration merely for its exploration of how far one can mutate the forms of philosophy before one ceases to do philosophy at all.) But how might it be taken up? Would I be invited to give talks about it? I have given a few such talks and every time, I am baffled about what to say. I have found some expedients which I am pleased with but I wonder if they please anyone else – especially philosophers. And what would a philosophical review of the book be like? Would it get into the weeds with the account of my own hylomorphic metaphysics that surfaces in one of the commentaries? Fair enough, but that hardly responds to the book. It would be a bit like critiquing a work from Robert Morrris’s Blind Time Drawings Series IV through a discussion of the Donald Davidson text quoted in it, without so much as acknowledging that the text was delivered inside a drawing!
As I write this, I am finding the analogy with the Robert Morris drawings illuminating. I thought to look for interdisciplinary journals that might be interested in reviewing my book, but the issue, I am coming to see (in real time!) is not interdisciplinarity. It has more to do with something like quotation. Morris is not engaged in an interdisciplinary art and philosophy project but something quite different. What happens to things when they are subsumed (for example by quotation) by other things? Perhaps Hegel will have the answer.
And indeed, in volume II will appear a meme the commentary to which will be the perfect place to try and unravel this. (The text is a quotation form the novel Sophie’s World.)