PHENOMENOLOGY: SEBALD,HUSSERL,AHMED, IAN EVERTON, BOY GEORGE /”TRADEMARK”

“Spaces are like a second skin that unfolds in the folds of the body”(Sara Ahmed,”Queer Phenomenology”, 2006, p.9)

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This is interesting:…..Sebald’s protagonists are often overtly DISorientated are often emmigrants, or in exile, or Jewish, or homosexual, or Jewish AND homosexual. The narrators are often sympathetic to homosociality or homosexuality, if not actually INTRIGUED/drawn to these things.

Ahmed, pace her own thesis, does not re-write Husserl’s main tenet of phenomenology: that a phenomenon is an object in itself but also our “consciousness” TOWARDS/OF an object(Ahmed would say orientation rather than consciousness, but it is about direction of gaze in both cases). Queering phenomenology is already WITHIN Husserl(never mind in Merleau-Ponti!). Husserl is propounding its how we, as individuals, SEE an object(complicated by his saying this is somehow “objective” when it is clearly SUBJECTIVE); how we are orientated towards it, where we come from, and the context within which that object exists(space, place). For instance, I am sat at a cafe table writing this and the table IS a table qua table(ie materially)but the table is also 1. a space from which I look outwards.2 A table where I write/read my personal worldview. 3. Is either a safe place from which to regard that litle microcosmic cafe world or an unsafe one, because I am overtly reading a book with the title Queer in it!.

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So back to Sebald: Repeatedly his narrators and characters express DISorientation and disassociation from their own bodies(the Dunwich Heath scene in “Rings of Saturn” being the mosy cataclysmic example), be they Jewish (forced)emmigrants{Austerlitz}, estranged from land and their own bodies(marking out that disorientation/diaspora); or homosexual or bisexual men who suffer a not wholly unanalogous disassociation/disorientation from their true selves(because of societal/religious policing). Thus, they have , not only an unhealthy and fraught relationship to the geographical spaces they attempt to re-inhabit(including Sebald himself who never felt at home in England,but could not go back to his homeland either); but this is manifested, psychosomatically, in sometimes physical, sometimes mental  symptoms: depression, anxiety, physical paralysis,headaches, experiences of even transcendental disassociation from their bodies(the “tear” in the sky on Dunwich Heath). Sublimation occurs: Austerlitz has a desperate relationship with architectural monumentalism(Liverpool Street station in especial), bcause, at some level, he hopes visiting there will RE-orientate him towards his lost past in Prague.

So, psychosomatically,the bodies or psyches (or both) of these narrators/protagonists disintegrate owing to the lack of ability(because of  forced marginalisation/traumatisation)to RE-orientate themselves towards themselves, ie be self-congruent. So, phenomenologically-speaking, Sebald’s characters/narrators do not have their consciousnesses orientated to the geographical and inner , emotional spaces, they try to inhabit. This, of course, leads to inner alienation and sometimes physically manifested symptoms.

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I have just seen the exhibition of Boy George and Mark Wardell(“trademark”)(“This way Out”, Homotopia Liverpool 2013); and the bodies, in the pictures therein,(existing as they do outside hegemonic gender and sexual orientation socially costructed categories) experience a RE-orientation to their true, congruent selves, which Sebald’s largely do not achieve.For instance, David Bowie’s (early) gender self re-invention( so that , phenomenonolgically, he is re-orientated to himself, congruently, as genderqueer/androgynous), and, later, various dragqueens(I found a sexy one wearing a bra; how that , intentionally and fruitfully, disorientates ME!):-this is an INNER phenomenological (self) re-alignment/re-orientation that is healthily reclaiming consciousness towards(Husserl again)the “object” of one’s (true, if variegated) self. So we see the link between phenomenology and existentialism, or, rather, the trajectory towards the latter.

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Conversely, and we are again in the territory of (self) abjection of the Sebaldian characters and narrators, I am reading Ian Everton’s “Alienation ” novel(an early Gay Mens press imprint, 1982) which exhibits the phenomena of phenomenology to a tee:

1. As individuals, Jon and Peter have to work out their own orientation to themselves and to each other(Jon has had amnesia, and, until half way into the novel,has to re-build himself from absolutely nothing).

2. As members of a fledgling(mid/late? / 70s) lgbt resistance group and commune, constantly battered by, sometimes violent, homophobia,they have to do the same; find a space  and modus operandum for a group of disparate, usually damaged characters, repeatedly being unknowing about how to find each other as other people.

Its a time most people, me included(sometimes), would rather not acknowledge/forget(if one went through it, just post very limited legality, with virtually NO civil rights)-it slightly PRE-dates my own re-orientation/coming out as a gay man:-but, phenomenologically again,the consciousness of the “object”(this, confusingly,includes people!)is the lack of (full/semi )re-orientation to themselves, their partners/friends and, especially, the group-ironically set up to provide support; so they stay mainly disorientated within their subgroup and individual selves and intersubjectivities, all in the macrocosmic situ of the unfriendly homophobic world which surrounds them. Like Sebald’s disorientated and dislocated characters, they signally fail to mirror back themselves to themselves. So Everton’s Group is a Husserlian “object”(social entity) whose consciousness is directed, additionally, TOWARDS another “object”(mainstream heterosexual society of the time, and its prejudices), but whose(the object consciousness is directed AT)  consciousness and gaze is then bounced back in a grim way, even leading to division within the gay group itself, facilitated by hegemonic society’s divide and rule policy/ideology(they cannot agree on how best to fight their oppressors often)

{Rhizomatically, this novel is exceptionally brave, surreal, poetic, tortuous, VERY political and desperately needs and well deserves a re-surgence. Very hard to read, as it is so painfully truthful, particuarly about the era it writes about,it is like nothing else(except the repetitiveness and surreality, so that you feel your head is being drilled, reminds me of the, later, “Unconsoled” by Ishiguro)}.

{Again, somewhat rhizomatically, Helen Finch ,( in “Sebald’s Bachelors”, 2013) utilises Ahmed creatively- to analyse the various orientations, sexual and otherwise, of the cast of Sebald’s characters; I think this is a bit of an exception in Sebald scholarship, from my limited knowledge of phenomenology hereto. But this is also MY lack: the links between otherness/alterity, difference/differance(Derrida), existentialism and phenomenology, need to be explored by myself and will be!}

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About decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)
This entry was posted in Birth of reader, Cafe, cafes, gay, gay literature, Phenomenology, psychogeography, queer, queer geography, queer theory, reader response theory, safer spaces(guidelines), safety for marginalised groups, Sebald, Self-actualisation, SPECTRAL PSYCHOGEOGRAPHY, Stream-of-consciousness, working outside hegemonies. Bookmark the permalink.

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