2011/05/25

a soul, a voice, an animal



A Voice and Nothing More
by Mladen Dolar
"Plutarch tells the story of a man who plucked a nightingale and finding but little to eat exclaimed: "You are just a voice and nothing more." Plucking the feathers of meaning that cover the voice, dismantling the body from which the voice seems to emanate, resisting the Sirens' song of fascination with the voice, concentrating on "the voice and nothing more": this is the difficult task that philosopher Mladen Dolar relentlessly pursues in this seminal work.
The voice did not figure as a major philosophical topic until the 1960s, when Derrida and Lacan separately proposed it as a central theoretical concern. In A Voice and Nothing More Dolar goes beyond Derrida's idea of "phonocentrism" and revives and develops Lacan's claim that the voice is one of the paramount embodiments of the psychoanalytic object (objet a). Dolar proposes that, apart from the two commonly understood uses of the voice as a vehicle of meaning and as a source of aesthetic admiration, there is a third level of understanding: the voice as an object that can be seen as the lever of thought. He investigates the object voice on a number of different levels—the linguistics of the voice, the metaphysics of the voice, the ethics of the voice (with the voice of conscience), the paradoxical relation between the voice and the body, the politics of the voice—and he scrutinizes the uses of the voice in Freud and Kafka. With this foundational work, Dolar gives us a philosophically grounded theory of the voice as a Lacanian object-cause."
review from: http://mitpress.mit.edu

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'Voice Devoured: Artaud and Borges on Dubbing'
by Mikhail Yampolsky
An extract from Mikhail Yampolsky's 1993 essay, which explores the relationship between the voice and cannibalism.

Antonin Artaud's article ‘Les souffrances du "dubbing"' (The Torments of Dubbing) appears to have been written in 1933.[1] Discovered soon after his death, it was published posthumously. At first glance, it appears to be a straightforward vindication of those French actors who sold their voices for pittances to American film companies engaged in dubbing their own productions for the foreign market. A closer look at the text will, however, reveal a connection between ‘Les souffrances du "dubbing"' and a whole constellation of aesthetic issues that transcend the narrow limits of the essay's ostensible topic.
On April 19, 1929, Artaud wrote to Yvonne Allendy to inform her that he was completing work on the screenplay for the film The Dybbuk, which was to contain ‘sound fragments': "I have decided to introduce sound and even talking portions into all my screenplays since there has been such a push toward the talkie that in a year or two no one will want silent films any more."[2] The script of The Dybbuk did not survive, but its very title is highly suggestive. A dybbuk is a character in Jewish folklore, a person inhabited by the spirit of someone who has died and who speaks through the mouth of that person. The ghost of the deceased torments the living person, causing him to writhe and to rave, forcing him to blaspheme against his will. This folkloric character obviously recapitulates, in its own way, the problematic of dubbing, though in an inverted form: in dubbing, the film star diverts the live actor of his voice: through the dybbuk, the voice of the deceased inhabits a living body.
Nevertheless, in both cases the situation remains much the same; the voice resides in someone else's body. Given his love for anagrams and of glossolalia, Artaud might well have identified one with the other, purposely retaining the foreign, English spelling of the word dubbing: dubbing - dibbouk.[3] The overtly satanic subtext of an article about dubbing, which is about something "thoroughly ghoulish" - the snatching of the personality, of the soul - is crucial.
The question of the reciprocal alienation of voice and body was by no means an academic one for Artaud; rather, it struck to the very core of the artistic problems that confronted him, tormented him, and, in the end, drove him to insanity. For Artaud the mistrust of the audible word - the word that exists prior to its utterer - is central. Its origins are obscure, for it is as if prompted and spoken by someone else - a predecessor - and in it the speaker loses his identity. The word is always a repetition; it never originates from within the body of the speaker. If Artaud strives to implant the word in the body, in breathing, in gesture, it is in order to restore the corporeality and individuality of its source. We must prevent "the theft of the word". Jacques Derrida describes Artaud's dilemma as follows: "If my speech is not my breath [souffle], if my letter is not my speech, this is because my spirit was already no longer my body, my body no longer my gestures, my gestures no longer my life. The integrity of the flesh torn by all these differences must be restored in the theatre."[4]

Extract from Mikhail Yampolsky, ‘Voice Devoured: Artaud and Borges on Dubbing', trans. Larry P. Joseph, October, Vol. 64 (Spring, 1993), pp. 57-77
from: http://www.ica.org.uk
[1] Antonin Artaud, Oeuvres compl├Ętes, vol. 3Gallimard, Paris, 1978, pp. 85-87.
[2] Ibid., p. 151.
[3] For a discussion of Artaud's anagrams, see Mikhail Yampolsky, ‘O stat'e Grazhiny Shimchik- Kliushchchinskoi', Kinovedcheskie zapiski 9 (1991), pp. 129-33.
[4] Jacque Derrida, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1978, p. 179.

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