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Monday, August 5, 2013

Citations, Citationality and the philosophy of textual re-use

A recent essay by Constantin V. Nakassis focuses on a contemporary reading of the eternal phenomenon of textual re-use. As a passionate reader and interpreter of the history and philosophy of textual re-use, here are my personal highlights I selected from the paper:
  1. —Nakassis relates citation as a philosophical reality with the Fregean separation of sense and reference: once Frege had opened the door for something different than sheer states of affairs, he also opened the door for decentering and suspending the referent-anchorage of a sign.
  2. —Nakassis thinks (following Derrida) that there is an interesting parallel between citation acts and illocutionary speech acts (such as "I promise", "I baptize"…). In fact, Nakassis interprets the latter as being a type of acts which simultaneously "cite" themselves as a token of the same type (they "reflexively cite themselves as tokens of particular performative types while effacing that token-type relationship at that very moment", p. 63).
  3. —textual re-use (my terminology, Nakassis speaks instead only of citations) include two contrasting forces, i.e., iconism and indexicality. In other words, they on the one hand reproduce a previous text (iconism) and on the other they refer to it as something "other" (indexicality). In this way, sameness is marked by difference
  4. —citing appropriates a previous text, but not without risk, as testified by taboo linguistic expressions, i.e., words or sentences which do not let themselves be bracketed within a citation. An example (by me), in many European cultures, are curses, which are not allowed even when reporting someone else's sentences (Nakassis mentions the Tamil belief that evoking the word for 'snake' will make it appear, even if one is citing the word in someone else's sentence).
  5. citing is a creative act: "[Derrida's] Deconstruction is one such example, a method of critical reading that opens 'the crevice through which the yet unnameable glimmer beyond the closure can be glimpsed' (Derrida 1976, 14), that is, that through citational practice can decenter Western metaphysics and open up new ways of doign philosophy. This creative potential of citation is, as I take it, Derrida's most important point. Citation conjures something new into the world by deconstructin the intelligibility and legibility of the social forms that it reanimates, introducing an alterity through repetition (Derrida 1988a, 40). Citations focalise new qualities, eliciting and entaling them out of what is cited" (p. 71).
I like the idea of citations as evoking and at the same time bracketing the power of the re-used text. What do you think?

Further info on my volume on textual re-use can be read here. For my other projects on this topic, see this post. On textual re-use, follow the links from this post.

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