May 18, 2013

"Heh, great stuff, Althouse. Cf. Derrida on Nietzsche's umbrella."

Says Yashu, in the comments on "The word 'umbrella' appears exactly once in Obama's 'Dreams From My Father.'" And that was after I'd read rhhardin, commenting on "Sigmund Freud on the meaning of the umbrella": "Derrida in Spurs on the umbrella that Nietzsche wrote he had forgotten."

I'm spurred to read "Spurs," but "Spurs" is not an ebook, so I'm off the hook. Still, here's some text visible in Google books. Derrida is playing with the the possible meaning(s) of "I have forgotten my umbrella," found (in quotation marks) in Nietzche's unpublished manuscripts. Excerpt:
The umbrella's symbolic figure is well-known, or supposedly so. Take, for example, the hermaphroditic spur of a phallus which is modestly enfolded in its veils, an organ which is at once aggressive and apotropaic, threatening and/or threatened. One doesn't just happen onto an unwonted object of this sort in a sewing-machine on a castration table. 
"Unwonted" is not a typo. Unlike "unwanted," it's not commonly heard/seen. It means: "not commonly heard, seen, practised." So says the OED, which tells us that Charlotte Brontë used "unwonted" in "Jane Eyre": "Difficulties in habituating myself to new rules and unwonted tasks." Are there umbrellas in "Jane Eyre"?
I jumped up, took my muff and umbrella, and hastened into the inn-passage: a man was standing by the open door, and in the lamp-lit street I dimly saw a one-horse conveyance....
The Freudian symbolism is too blatant to need pointing out. The umbrella, the man, and the horse. And the muff, the inn-passage, and the open door. That's more than dimly seen.

"Apotropaic" is also unusual. The OED says it's "Having or reputed to have the power of averting evil influence or ill luck" and gives this earliest example from the 1883 Encyclopedia Brittanica:
The sacrifice of the ‘October horse’ in the Campus Martius..had also a naturalistic and apotropaic character.
Wikipedia says the "October horse was an animal sacrifice to Mars carried out on October 15, coinciding with the end of the agricultural and military campaigning season." There were chariot races and "the right-hand horse of the winning team was transfixed by a spear, then sacrificed." So did the ancient Romans have umbrellas? Yes. They were used by women and "effeminate men." Used against the sun, of course. How much Latin do you need to see the "umbra" in "umbrella" and to know we're talking about shade.

We law folk know "umbra" from the "penumbras" in "specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights [that] have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance," a very glaring phrase written by Justice William O. Douglas, trying to explain how in the lamp-lit street he dimly saw the right of privacy.

But it was really Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. who got that word started in its U.S. law usage, the OED tells us: "The use of the penumbra metaphor in American jurisprudence appears to date from the late 19th cent. and is associated with Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841–1935), legal scholar and Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court."
1873   O. W. Holmes in Amer. Law. Rev. 7 654   It is better to have a line drawn somewhere in the penumbra between darkness and light, than to remain in uncertainty.
I suspect no one will ever Heh-great-stuff-Althouse-Cf. me again. Here I am, writing expectantly, hoping for the circle to finally close, as it did for young Obama, crying over his father's grave, when he realized that the masculine needed to be leavened with femininity and that who he was, what he cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words, and then it started to rain and suddenly his brother Bernard was squatting beside him, sheltering him with a bent-up old umbrella. 

"Are you ready for me to read it?" Meade asks, and I say, "It needs one more thing, and I don't know what it is."

40 comments:

Meade said...

At last. One really does have to draw the line somewhere.

That's enough blogging for now. Let's go for a ride.

Smilin' Jack said...

Modern psychology texts do not even mention Freud, except perhaps in an historical footnote. Oddly, the only people who still take him seriously are feminists in English departments (and, apparently, law schools.)

It would have been so cool if the Turkey dude had just taken the umbrella from the Marine and held it himself. What would O have done? I'd have loved to see the look on his face.

exiledonmainst said...

Good Christ, you're really beating this umbrella thing into the ground.

Synova said...

I think we usually say something like unwarranted for unwonted, but I knew unwonted.

pm317 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

Freud might wonder if that whole post was merely a plea for the return of -

vbspurs.

Smilin' Jack said...

Modern psychology texts do not even mention Freud, except perhaps in an historical footnote. Oddly, the only people who still take him seriously are feminists in English departments (and, apparently, law schools.)

Modern psych is dominated by APA, I'd guess, and that is overrun by Lefties.

And his work is still read, so more people may take him seriously than some imagine.

raf said...

Charlotte Brontë used "umbrella" in "Jane Eyre": "Difficulties in habituating myself to new rules and unwonted tasks." Are there umbrellas in "Jane Eyre"?

Did you mean to say: "Charlotte Bronte used 'unwonted' in ..."?

Dr Weevil said...

You need to read further on in the Wikipedia article on the October Horse, specifically the section entitled "The Tail". After the October Horse was sacrificed, its tail was cut off and carried around the city, dripping blood. A classicist of distinctly Freudian tendencies named George Devereux argued that "tail" was a euphemism for penis, pointing out that horse tails have very little blood in them. More penises!

chuck said...

was a euphemism for penis

What, the Romans? I don't think they needed an euphemism, they just represented the real thing. See tintinnabulum. And the greeks would parade giant phalli through the streets.

Baron Zemo said...

My dear Holmes,

It is your most humble petitioner, Inspector Lestrade. It has been many months since I have last requested your assistance in the troubling matter of the disappearance of Lord Douchebag which you might not recall as it happened several years ago. However today I must make enquiries regarding the case of the politico with the bumbling bumbershoot.

It seems that a photo has surfaced that depicts the prime minister performing an unnatural act with an umbrella. It appears that this umbrella is of foreign design with strange markings typical of the musselman and originating in the Levant or perhaps in some other part of the domains of the Ottoman. In this photo it seems that a member of the Coldstream Guards had inserted this tool into the Prime Minister's fundament. And then opened it. It seems he had shot it into his bum. So to speak. It is quite disquieting.

In any event I do not know if this is an area in which you have any knowledge. There has often been talk about your relationship with Dr. Watson but I have always discounted that as the idle jibber jabber of jealous minds. However I do think it is possible that your brother Mycroft might offer some sage advice.

I well recall the matter of the street lascar and the barrel of whale oil that was quite the talk of the club last year. Also the unfortunate incident with the narwhale tusk and tar that require his visit to hospital last month. So I would respectfully request that you contact your brother and have him aid us in our inquires. I just request that if he does visit the Yard that he leave his rare clumbers at home. Inspector Gregson is deathly afraid of dogs.

My best to Doctor Watson and my condolences on the recent death of his second wife. It is passing strange that she would perish at such a young age in much the same manner as his first. Perhaps I might venture to suggest that he stay away from boats and second rate actors in the future.

I am sure you are glad that he is back in your rooms.


I remain as always,
Your obedient servant,
Inspector G. Lestrade
Scotland Yard
October 19, 1899

edutcher said...

Rhythm and Balls said...

This is a great post!

Everything about this blog is awesome!


He doesn't realize Ann called his Messiah a girly-man.

chuck said...

was a euphemism for penis

What, the Romans? I don't think they needed an euphemism, they just represented the real thing. See tintinnabulum. And the greeks would parade giant phalli through the streets.


I thought Obama was a euphemism for penis. Actually, the tintinnabulum was about fertility generally.

And St Augustine had a few choice words about those festivals, as the Romans perpetuated them.

wildswan said...

If you open an umbrella suddenly in a field of sheep, they fall over. If you are charged by a goat, open an umbrella suddenly, the goat stops. If you are doing a Chinese dance, open an umbrella suddenly and the audience applauds. (I think this was in Chariots of Fire) What does opening an umbrella symbolize? Oh please don't answer.

El Pollo Raylan said...

A couple quibbles and bits:

Nietzsche may have written Regenschirm for umbrella and if so his mind may have been more on the original notion of Schirm which relates back to the word Schild which is cognate with our word shield.

Allen S may be amused to know that the related words Regenschirm (umbrella) and Fallschirm (parachute) are so named because they resemble one another. Schirm is also the generic name for screen as in a TV or computer screen.

Secondly, surely Freud would have learned from Nietzsche and not the other way round. Nietzsche was already insane just 8 years after Freud became a medical doctor. Sure they may have overlapped some, but I don't think Freud had become famous until after Nietzsche's breakdown in 1889.

On the other hand, I've always been fascinated with certain writers who antedated Freud and yet wrote about strikingly similar topics--for example RLS's "The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr Hyde" (1886) and Stephen Crane's "The Bride Comes To Yellow Sky" (1896).

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Heh-great-stuff-Althouse-Cf.

Rhythm and Balls said...

El Pollo dares question the greatness of this blog?!!

It is infallible!

rhhardin said...

but "Spurs" is not an ebook, so I'm off the hook

It's worth finding in the library, just for its tour through the dislocating effect of women on men, men being taken by Nietzsche as philosophers.

(Sewing machine on a dissecting table is a citation of Lautreamont's Maldoror, which throughout is parodying literature in a way that undermines every literary theory, in this case striking metaphor.)

Ann Althouse said...

"Did you mean to say: "Charlotte Bronte used 'unwonted' in ...""

Yes, thanks for pointing that out. Especially bad in a post about seeing clearly and making abrupt transitions.

Didn't mean to make it hard to read!

Ann Althouse said...

"(Sewing machine on a dissecting table is a citation of Lautreamont's Maldoror, which throughout is parodying literature in a way that undermines every literary theory, in this case striking metaphor.)"

Thanks. I googled the phrase and mostly only found "Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella."

yashu said...

Here I am, writing expectantly, hoping for the circle to finally close...

Derrida says of Nietzsche that he sometimes seems "a little lost in the web of his text, lost much as a spider who finds he is unequal to the web he has spun."

Aw, love the ending to this post (along with the first comment). Like the final lines to some kind of parable.

rhhardin said...

There's the full thing, here's the paragraph (parodying metaphor)

[Marvyn] is fair as the retractility of the claws of birds of prey; or again, as the uncertainly of the muscular movements in wounds in the soft parts of the lower cervical region; or rather, as that perpetual rat-trap always reset by the trapped animal, which by itself can catch rodents indefinitely and work even when hidden under straw; and above all, as the chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella!


Derrida does a long essay on Lautreamont's Maldoror in Dissemination.

rhhardin said...

Bataille has an umbrella in The Solar Anus

An umbrella, a sexagenarian, a seminarian, the smell of rotten eggs, the hollow eyes of judges are the roots that nourish love.

Here's my own umbrella pic citing Bataille.

William said...

Let a simile be your umbrella.

Palladian said...

"Are you ready for me to read it?" Meade asks, and I say, "It needs one more thing, and I don't know what it is."

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you....

Rhythm and Balls said...

Although this blog appreciates the patronage shown to it through the Amazon portal, it recognizes that not all readers are amenable to the consumer products offered there.

As such, the blog will now be accepting homage in the form of sacrifices and burnt offerings. Show your support today and consider a ritualistic killing of six sheep, twelve goats, or if you're feeling especially generous, a nice healthy heifer!

Ann Althouse said...

"Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you...."

Exactly, and:

"But nobody has any respect
Anyway they already expect you
To just give a check
To tax-deductible charity organizations"

I was just considering using that in connection with the IRS scandal.

Lem said...

"It needs one more thing, and I don't know what it is."

Umbrella Man is the man (you might remember) who appeared in the Zapruder film.

After an appeal to the public by the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations, Louie Steven Witt came forward in 1978 and claimed to be the Umbrella Man.[2] He claimed he still had that umbrella and did not know he had been the subject of controversy. He said that he brought the umbrella to simply heckle Kennedy whose father had been a supporter of the Nazi-appeasing British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. By waving a black umbrella, Chamberlain's trademark fashion accessory, Witt said he was protesting the Kennedy family appeasing Adolf Hitler before World War II. An umbrella had been used in cartoons in the 1930s to symbolize such appeasement, and Chamberlain often carried an umbrella.[2][3][4] Kennedy, who wrote a thesis on appeasement while at Harvard, Why England Slept, might have recognized the symbolism of the umbrella. Black umbrellas had been used in connection with protests against the President before; at the time of the construction of the Berlin Wall, a group of schoolchildren from Bonn sent the White House an umbrella labelled Chamberlain.[5]

Testifying before the HSCA, Witt said "I think if the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing, I would be No. 1 in that position, without even a close runner-up."

rhhardin said...

Incidentally Spurs is said to have angered Gayatri Spivak, Derrida's first translator (Of Grammatology).

Spurs, like Nietzsche, was anti-feminist in the received feminist sense.

Most of Derrida's translators then and since have been women.

yashu said...

It's worth finding in the library, just for its tour through the dislocating effect of women on men, men being taken by Nietzsche as philosophers.

It's also about Nietzsche's use of "woman" as a figure for "truth," truth as veil(ed), abyssal veils, the truth of no "truth" behind the veils.

Cue Freud and Lacan for what's under the veil, the woman's pudendum as no-thing (scary apotropaic sight!)... hence Derrida's invocation of a "castration-table."

Etc.

Of course, this thematic of veils, being/truth as veil, lack of totality/ closure, the lacuna or missing presence, the emptiness/ absence around which exegesis revolves, etc. is of course all too apt when it comes to the hermeneutics/ deconstruction of Obama-- Obama the screen upon which Americans project the truth of "Obama." Of O.

"It needs one more thing, but I don't know what it is," indeed.

I dig that many of Althouse's posts on Obama might well be titled (like Derrida's essay on Nietzsche) "Obama's Styles." Like Derrida on Nietzsche's umbrella, Althouse's exegeses of Obama's memoirs are playfully serious (or is it seriously playful).

Spinning a web (blog post) from the one appearance of "umbrella" in Obama's memoirs, just as Derrida spins from that single sentence scribbled on scrap paper, "I have forgotten my umbrella." Attempting (with a heavy dose of irony) to weave those fragments into an impossible hermeneutic (w)hole.

Baron Zemo said...

Dear Red

I was so happy to hear that you and Alex have purchased the team. I thinking moving the franchise from Dallas to San Antonio has some merit but I would like to discuss this name change. Now currently we are named the Dallas Chaparrals or Chaps for short after the naked butt chaps that Cliff Hagen liked to wear on the bench during home games. That was dangerous enough but to change it to another part of his costume and call the team the Spurs seems to be asking for trouble. What if all are fans started wearing Spurs to the game. At the very least they will scratch up the seats. Maybe we can name it pink ascot or nipple ring or one of his other accessories.

I mean this seems kind of gay. The NBA won't be ready for gay until...I don't know maybe 2013 or something.

I think we should talk about this when the team is back in town.

Your friend,
Tom Nissalke

Paco Wové said...

"...you've been with the professors and they've all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have discussed lepers and crooks
You've been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books..."

yashu said...

rhhardin,

Ugh, Spivak.

Derrida can be so much fun to read, but reading the work of most Derrideans is as pleasurable as ingesting castor oil.

Lem said...

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you....


Fooled me.

yashu said...

Speaking of Nietzsche, Obama's memoirs might well be titled "Ecce Obama: How One Becomes What One Is" (with such chapters as "Why I Am So Wise", "Why I Am So Clever", "Why I Write Such Good Books" and "Why I Am a Destiny").

Basta! said...

I wonder, did Derrida manage to drag in the Battle of the Golden Spurs between the Flemish and the French (1302)? The lead-up to the battle involved a shibboleth (another of Derrida's favored themes). In this case, the Flemish murdered random Frenchmen whom they identified by asking them to pronounce a particular Flemish phrase. If your accent was off, hey you must be French, you're dead!

Baron Zemo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Baron Zemo said...

Dear Red,

Thanks for all the hard work you have done for the team. The money you have put into the franchise means we can actually cash our checks. There is one problem though and it all comes back to the name you insisted for the team. I mean Sven Nater was a great pickup for us but he insists on wearing spurs on his wooden shoes.

Dutch people can be very hard headed.

Well it seems that Sven hooked James Silas hamstring with one of the Spurs and he will be out for two weeks.

I told you that these Spurs are very dangerous.

Your pal
Tom Nissalke

urpower said...

Heh, cf. the sexual rain in "Lady Chatterley's Lover"- "He jumped out, naked and white, with a little shiver, into the hard slanting rain." Little phallic raindrops. Umbrellas = asexuality. A definite Obama trope.

El Pollo Raylan said...

@yashu: LOL

He could have also written "The Parable Of The Madman" from "The Gay Science" about the madman whose terrible news falls on deaf ears and winds up crying: "I come too soon"

gerry said...

Althous is disussing penises, vaginas, cavities, swords, umbrellas and all the associated symbology that were the obsessions of modernists to distract us from the dick in the White House that she embraced heartily and fully.

Ralph L said...

Now we know Bill Ayers doesn't have much use for umbrellas. And fat chance Obama found enough angst or sorrow to cry over a stranger.