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First Person, Second Person, Same Person: Narrative As Epistemology
Mieke Bal I. Introduction
with two statements about description. "Tranis always also description," writes anthropologist Joscription hannes Fabian in his seminal Power and Performance;1 and continuing this idea, philosopher and historian of art Hubert Damisch writes: "Describing, in this sense, is always already narrating" in his equally seminal L'originede la perspective.2Something seems to be the matter, epistemologically speaking, with description. Joining the one statement to the other, something seems to be a contamination that infects "pure" neutral rendering with the taint of narrativity. Fabian takes description as already implicated in this process, but warns that even transcription is "always part of a process of interpretation and translation" (P 110). What else can a historical, philosophical, erudite treatise on linear perspective, and its origin in Italian art (history), have in common with a critical-anthropological study of a proverb and a theatrical performance based on it, in Shaba, Zaire? What could make it worth analyzing the common elements in two so diverse scholarly texts, neither of which is on narrative nor is a narrative in any commonsense definition? Both are products of academic work, of "new art history" and of "critical anthropology" respectively; both, that is, stand in the tradition of contemporary, "progressive" knowledge production. Let me briefly tell these two stories. One evening at dinner, Fabian heard the expression, probably proverbial, le pouvoir se mange entier (power is eaten whole). Trying to find out what the proverb means in the Shaba culture, he asked people, and one day (second episode) he asked a group of theater actors who were his friends. After an intense session of brainstorming, the group decided to work up their next play around the saying. Fabian was present at preparations, rehearsals, and performance, considering that what happened is the best possible form of modern ethnography: the construction of
ET ME START
New LiteraryHistory, 1993, 24: 293-320
and their relevance for. yet must be absorbed in a tradition in order to measure its revolutionary impact. Both of these books address up front the basic epistemological problem of their discipline and. constructed as a group. also. which he studies in relation to one another in order to understand the origin of perspective through the transformations in its use. Johannes Fabian is a well-known critical anthropologist: his Time and the Other4 is perhaps the single most important text of the movement of anthropologists impatient with and thoroughly suspicious of the colonialist legacy that subtends their field. His recent Power and Performance. It presupposes a beginning which must be revolutionary in order to be perceived. The real performance of the actors becomes an allegory of the idea of performance as an epistemic model for ethnography.294 NEW LITERARY HISTORY knowledge about a culture with the people and through collective research and discovery. an impatience. Both books grew out of an impatience. To avoid mythification." and of three paintings. For Damisch. of the humanities and the social sciences in general. For Fabian.the text under discussion in this paper. which gives the books an autobiographical slant. a third text: a philosophical analysis of epistemological problems in relation to feminist theory. as Damisch put it in his first sentence. the problem is the paradox of historical search for an origin. that problem is to account not only for knowledge as a product but for its production in an epistemic situation where power inequality has made the discipline's traditional paradigms virtually useless. I contend. He provides close readings of the treatises on perspectives. The rationale for my choice of discussing these texts is the relevance to them of. origin must be seen through a double predicament. to those who tend to conclude from Fabian's critical work that there is no . gives the lie to those who become skeptical of what they consider the overcritical mood of the relentless critique of ethnography. anthropology and history. Damisch's pursuit of knowledge concerns the origin of perspective as well as of the thinking about perspective-perspective as a discourse-and proceeds on an equally "democratic" base. the experiments that led to what can only be anachronistically called its "discovery. with the epistemological modes current in their respective areas. an absorption which requires that tradition to ignore the event which it acknowledges as its origin (L 79). Lorraine Code's 1991 What Can She Know?3 That relevance is best seen when one realizes that both case studies grew out of a search for an epistemology through which the subjective status of the objects the writers sought to understand could be done more justice.
Both are explicitly engaged in overcoming the object status this "third personhood" entails. it remains true to the discursive habits of ethnography: it is a narrative text. the Groupe Mufwankolo" (P 55) echoes Damisch's search for "an analysis which would be less about a painting than it would have to reckon with it" (L 240). lies their relevance for the kind of inquiry Lorraine Code proposes. both narratives can be seen as . . the people of Shaba in Zaire. Moreover. mixed with those of the discussions and rehearsals. Here. His impatience also concerned his fellow historians and their simplistic conception of what kind of narratives history ought to construct. in terms of narratology and seen from the perspective of the object of study.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 295 way one can do it right.6 Hence. Complex. as he formulates it in his later study on perspective. . interlarded with stories about each of the participants in the project as well as of popular theater in Shaba. in renaissance Italy. and as such a teller of tales too. In addition to being a philosopher. the same author who would never be satisfied with the well-meaning attempts at democratic and nonexploitative ethnographies is showing his hand. telling the multiple stories of his own discoveries of ethnographic facts as well as of methodology. And whatever else this seminal study may also be. and states as much in its title. the embedding part of the narrative is self-reflexive. this study. Fabian's intention "to explore the meanings of 'le pouvoir se mange entier' and to do this following a 'method' that works as an ethnography with. Both studies represent an object lying rigorously outside the subject of inquiry: a discursive habit of a different people in terms of cultural identity and location. A complex. In that book he took clouds to be. in the one case. and that topic promises a text that is at least doubly narrative: as story of origin and as story of the search for that origin. yes. not of. multilayered and intricate one indeed. His masterful Theoriedu nuage5 (Theory of the Cloud) was as pathbreaking as Fabian's Time and the Other. too. Thus at first sight. And since it offers an in-depth exploration of ways of pursuing knowledge. "emblems of what perspective excludes from its order . Damisch is primarily an art historian. but a narrative no less. while also of the logic on which it is based and which gives it coherence" (L 297). too. presents a complex narrative with a self-reflexive dimension. his topic is the search for an origin. a different discursive apparatus in terms of time. And there. in the other. into the relationships between subject and object of knowledge whose possibility emerges when the traditional objectivism's self-evidence is suspended.
the capital of the mining region of Shaba in Zaire. His identity as a selfreflexive narrator represented as writing specifies the discourse. 1986. the most famous of which is The Ideal City at Urbino. The neutral. I was writing up the day's events when I made a discovery" (P 3). neutral narrator and a modernist first person. In the case of epistemological narratives. Both scholars take the second person as the core of their examination." perspectival city views. Both perform formal experiments to inscribe this second personhood of their object as well as the performative dynamic into the narrative. let alone a neat and clean third-person narrative. but a performance. Placing the events to follow in a specific time frame. the problem of the status of the object of narration remains as yet to be examined. by and with and through the cultural group under investigation. First. Damisch. and theoretically at least. and the first event of the fabula to come as the potentially spectacular interruption of a durative occupation: it could be practically any novel. in the midst of a relatively short stint of field work in Lubumbashi. renaissance. which thereby becomes experimental. so that the embedding narrative is written in the first person. as well as conducting that investigation. and the self-reflexive side of the studies involves the first person in their quest. This is precisely the discovery alluded to: that ethnographic knowledge is not simply a dialogue. Fabian sets up a situation in which the object. But between a realist. they turn their texts around. process. cultural knowledge. whose object is not a cultural group but a cultural discourse. is not studied but constructed on the spot. performance the core of their knowledge. distant narrator becomes part of the exploration. the issue becomes that of the subjective status of the object of inquiry. with an invisible narrator and a nonidentified focalizer. Where Damisch opens his preface with the statement of his impatience. Fabian espouses the conventions of realist fiction when he opens his first chapter thus: "On the evening of June 17. complex. himself as the story's narrator in specific circumstances." including the tensions inherent in that discursive mode. sets up a specific enunciation of perspective as his interlocutor: the group of three anonymous. as it suggests a modernist aesthetic. and both make action. a second-person . "urbinate.296 NEW LITERARY HISTORY primarily "third-person narratives. Both authors make that status an important element in their experimental narrative. But both authors struggle with precisely that dimension of their professional discourses: the false neutrality sufficiently challenged by contemporary epistemology as it translates into a narrative told in the third person.
it comes as no surprise that the . yet the quest for knowledge is undertaken separately by each rational being who is thereby unassisted by the senses and uses the same method. the overruling primacy of objectivity and the paradigmatic status of physics as the ideal model of knowledge. and the model for the mode of inquiry she proposes is friendship. Lorraine Code challenges. then. a narrative which inscribes the second person. The attractions of physics are deceptive: they consist in providing the illusion that knowledge can always be analyzed in observational "simples" (W 139)."8 In her fascinating inquiry into the conditions of knowledge and the problem of access to knowledge for some of those rational beings who are apparently a little less fit to be such a subject of inquiry. reason is common to and alike in all knowers." syntactically "first-person. related. "indubitable" presupposes a subject of possible doubt. we don't even need Descartes's personal expressions of anxiety to realize that this conception of knowledge is inherently contradictory. and neutral representation. and the centrality of performance. Since the terms offered for reflection are strikingly close to those put to use by Fabian and Damisch. Central in her analysis of the knowing subject is Annette Baier's concept of second personhood." and present attempts to achieve pragmatically a "second-person" narrative. of course. This intrication of a project of critical epistemology. to which it is relative. The two are. hence. To sum these up too briefly: the epistemological notion of objective truth and impersonal knowledge is bound up with the narratological notions of "third-person narrative. She proposes instead to give primacy to intersubjectivity ("a conception of cognitive agency for which intersubjectivity is primary and 'human nature' is ineluctably social" [W 72]) and to give paradigm status to the difficult and complex epistemological project of knowing other people. and especially so in light of recent developments in epistemological theory as they relate to narrative. But if we realize that the Cartesian cogito which sustains the objective epistemology is itself a mininarrative in the first person. are semantically "third-person. Where the subject of inquiry is so emphatically and contradictorily both foregrounded and neutralized.7 Indeed. struck me as significant. one might well associate this epistemological ideal with what Philippe Lejeune analyzes as "autobiography in the third person. among many other things.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 297 narrative." external and invisible narrator. Both books. the Cartesian principles are all bound up with subjectivity and defined in terms of the individual subject: the basis of knowledge is one indubitable thing to which all other knowledge is systematically related.
This paper. To speak with Lorraine . Code's remark sounds convincing not only because. One caveat is already called for. the symbolic and indexical relationships of signification are reinforced by an iconic one. In other words. how nonsimplistic analyses would require complex narratives as their accounts. In the wake of her critique of physics as paradigm. however. And since the academic endeavor as a whole is very much invested in those questions. I would like to keep distrust toward such iconism along with an interest in the connection itself. perhaps inevitable reservations. which stand out the more emphatically as these studies are such exemplary texts which only my unease with the term prevents from calling masterpieces. then. uncluttered analyses are valued more highly than rich. there is an opportunity for humanists to contribute to the foundations of academic. and on the level of indexicality. to present the three best books in these three areas I have read in years. In semiotic terms.298 NEW LITERARY HISTORY discursive consequences of Code's theoretical position seem to apply quite specifically to the texts produced by these two "field" scholars. between the ability to handle complex knowledge and to tell and read complex stories as much as between cleanliness and simplicity. incidentally. but also constitute these. the reader is asked to bear in mind that those are quibbles. Each of them not only discuss paradigms of knowledge. as I think she is. on a symbolic-logical level. but also because it suggests a resemblance between complex knowledge and messy narrative modes. but messy and ambiguous narratives" (W 169). presents an examination of epistemological adventures in the three areas in which I have been particularly interested since I started to work on narrative: anthropology. and feminist theory. intellectual life that I would hate to miss. then narrative theory and analysis have a lot to offer in the important area of reflection on what it is and how it is we can know. it is easy to imagine how it can be right. multifacted. such formal congruence. if I eventually have some critical remarks to make. if Code is right here. And narrativity is the locus of these consequences. And although there are very good reasons to believe that complexity and messiness are valuable as well as contiguous. the iconicity in question is not one of them. such a coincidence between content and form. This allows me. This remark strongly suggests that there is a relation between narrative form and epistemological competence. Indeed. partakes of a profoundly mimetic impulse that makes us tend to think that there is a virtue in such iconicity in itself. Code scornfully suggests that there are narrative reasons why epistemology values simplicity: "Clean. Hence. art history.
her view mediates between the two opposites by virtue of narrativity. or even 'reality' can be understood only in relation to particular sets of cultural or social circumstances. Narrative and Epistemology Let me first explore some incidental and less incidental connections between narrative and epistemology as these studies display them. decontextualized positions" as well as the "stringent accountability requirements" it entails (W 3). As it happens. Code even makes narrative the core of her "epistemic responsibility. Here is her definition of relativism: "Broadly speaking.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 299 Code's preferred model: I will engage these paradigms of knowledge according to the mode of friendship. a conceptual scheme. truth. coincidence itself. in terms of drastically simplified paradigms of knowledge."9 She argues . will benefit from my continuous doubt. One of the aspects of the theoretical framework and the conceptual schemes. less explicitly. I was already interested right there. And these remarks nicely sum up the ambitions of both Fabian and. with its leaning toward mimesis." These two aspects of narrative. and given my own inclination to deplore dichotomies. While not endorsing a stark construal of relativism. Both go out of their way to avoid decontextualized reporting. monolithic explanatory modes. is later explicated as narrative. I will discuss the potential of narrative as epistemology as well as the problems a narrative epistemology might incur by confronting views of narrative in these three studies. nor the equation of epistemological with conceptual relativism. the "ways of life" of Code's definition. exploitative. have a tremendous impact on the very possibility of reliable and responsible knowledge. as well as. not the adversarial mode. Damisch. The coincidence that both Fabian and Damisch find their inquiries to converge in the notion of performance as an alternative to dominating. II. or privileged. in Fabian's case. and asymmetrical modes of knowledge requires an examination of the implications of that concept in relation to the narrative aspects just mentioned. eventually in relation to time and "person. to a theoretical framework. and they do so by experimenting with narrative structure. or a form of life" (W 2). But as I said before. Code's first concern is to break away from the dichotomy between objectivism and relativism. it turns out. epistemological relativists hold that knowledge. a specifiable range of perspectives. she mentions as major advantages of a moderate epistemological relativism the fact that it "is one of the more obvious means of avoiding reductive explanations.
as Code rightly argues. conceptual scheme. On the contrary. But revised in this direction-and such a revision is well under way. the subjectivities involved in the interactions that especially humanists and social scientists study are objectifiable precisely because they can be related to. This last feature points at the need for self-reflection as part of the epistemic endeavor itself. The importance of narrative because of its capacity to map positioned subjects in relation to knowledge does not entail a facile rejection of all standards of objectivity." and although she doesn't name any academic discipline. it is open to interpretation at different levels. and she adds that the model of the Cartesian knower as neutral and not positioned has worked to obscure that significance of narrative. and all of these features are prominently at work in Fabian's book: such knowledge is not achieved at once. That the history of anthropology has not particularly yielded such status stems from the bond between knowledge in the objectivist mode and domination as a political practice. Rather. then the relevance of narrative will be apparent as an epistemological resource" (W 170). for Code. Code's competitor for paradigm status to supersede physics is "knowing other people. and positioned within narrative conceived as a mobile. subject and object positions in the process of knowledge construction are reversible. with Fabian as one of its leaders-Fabian's study could then be a paradigm within the paradigm. it admits of degrees. "often. Knowing other people-which. The events that constitute the process . which both Fabian and Damisch like to call performance. it changes.300 NEW LITERARY HISTORY that the moderate relativism she advocates entails an increased relevance of narrative: "once epistemologists recognize the locatedness of all cognitive activity in the projects and constructions of specifically positioned subjects. it is a never-accomplished constant process. objectivity requires taking subjectivity into account" (W 31). on the other denying that there are objective social realities "would obliterate the purpose of feminist political projects" (W 45). while on the one hand. it seems obvious that anthropology at its best could be the privileged discipline. with narrative as its central mode. is narrative in nature on all scores. "the 'more-or-lessness' of this knowledge constantly affirms the need to reserve and revise judgement" (W 37-38). is best seen as based on the model of friendship-has features that clearly demonstrate why narrative is such an important resource for it. The relevance of narrative as a resource is not limited to its use in documents and reports. made relative to. the process of knowledge construction. dynamic. As I mentioned before. instead it develops.
Damisch proceeds to devote the rest of his book to the narrative of the three paintings he has selected. taking the progressive form literally. including various characters. justification. the knowledge-claimants position themselves within a range of what Code calls "discursive possibilities which she may accept. Similarly. pure. A narrative more narrative than those constructed by his fellow historians he so generously despises.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 301 producing knowledge do not exist outside the narrative accounts of them. She sharply denounces the blatant tension between the autonomous. focalizers.'? Code's central critique of the traditional Cartesian subject of knowledge challenges the individualism inherent in that tradition. for it tells the story of the paintings' performance. In an argument strikingly convergent with that put forward by linguist Emile Benveniste. and other people. she emphasizes the impossibility even to conceive of subjects as individuals independent from the senses. criticize. not the concrete noun. Later on I will revert to the odd bracketed clause in the second person. and even narrators. Language alone. meaning that the dependency on caretakers and other people makes personhood in isolation impossible. but for now I wish to remark that this statement is noticeable by its inherent contradiction: The Origin of Perspective is precisely a narrative of paintings. proves it. the social structures. and report. Damisch paradoxically demonstrates the pervasive relevance of narrative in his resistance to it when he writes: "That a painting cannot be narrated is-as you noticed in the beginning-a kind of scandal in a culture so massively informed by philology as ours" (L 239). Distinguishing autonomy from individualism (W 78). Moreover. Benveniste claimed that the first-person pronoun that produces linguistic subjectivity can only be semantically filled by a second person acknowledging and eventually reversing it. deixis. or challenge" (W 122). His "epistemology of the group" precisely turns three isolated and perhaps static paintings into a set of characters among whom events-essentially relative transformations-take place. indeed. she convincingly suggests that "persons essentially are second persons" (W 82). but of paintings as actions. And that is the very reason why for him the pronoun. "scandal" implies a story and. It is this dependency on others that constitutes . thus constructing yet another performative context which does not admit reduction to simples and separation of discovery. and unique subject of objective knowledge and the reduction of people who are "objects" of study to "cases" or "types" (W 21). not reference. is the essence of language. which construct the knowledge by representing the events. events. the very language knowledge is so heavily contingent upon.
the problems and tensions within this epistemology resemble that of "third-person" narrative in the realist tradition.302 NEW LITERARY HISTORY the scandal. Thus formulated. They do that in several manners. a wonderfully clever . in writing this book. I have already quoted Damisch's resistance to narrative. The tremendous problem of making text to which the chapter's title negatively alludes ends up being the text we are reading. The irony bites itself in the tail when we realize that it is precisely the story of that irony that we are reading. But there is no hope ever to come up with a definitive text of the play" (P 91). what he comes up with is neither the text of the play nor the text of the text production but. of which more shortly. one of which is to struggle with the very textuality they need in order to perform their knowledge.'3 or the literary analysis of ethnographic texts. Then he begins to explore the predicament of the texts on which ethnographers base their writing: field work notes. recordings. such as the equation of culture and text. the stumbling block. perhaps postmodern narrators.'2 or the experimental practice of literary genres in ethnography. and hence it is the traces of that grafted status of the knowing subject that must be erased (W 172). antagonism. which enables Fabian to come up with the following irony: "Never before did I have the chance to witness and document text production in such detail. self-aware. of orthodox epistemology. just as in visual representation. or interest the narratorial "I" can constitute itself. and Fabian's chapter title "Interlude: The Missing Text" points to a similar problem. his performance. In it he discusses the different conceptions and genres of textuality currently debated in anthropology. first. in spite of the above quotation." Fabian and Damisch are quite outspoken in their "second personhood" and thereby constitute themselves as ironic. where subjective traces of narratorial intervention must often be erased. and therefore the latter must hide behind impossible third personhood. documents. For Fabian does narrate not so much the production of the text as his documentation of that production. As a consequence. protocols.14 But these are conceptions of textuality that do not affect his work. Solicitation by the second person crucially defines first personhood. Narrative as a mode entails that inevitably metanarrative position: Fabian cannot perform (his role in) the collective construction of knowledge by a number of different subjects/characters without being the narrator-focalizer of the story of that construction. but must at any rate not be explicitly responding to an implied second person thanks to whose curiosity. the allusion to perspective rather than the full embodiment of it-though an inconspicuous allusion-works to both stage and hide the subject.
The struggle with text-making is a struggle for the ability to answer Damisch's very pointed question. This latter situation can be compared to Fabian's predicament of irony upon irony. and my guess is that he knows it. not necessarily coherent among themselves. Damisch rightly adds that. de quoi est-elle l'histoire?" (L 12. as I said before. If there is history. for performance precludes narrative in the "third person. Formulating the hypothesis that perspective provided painters with a network of indexical signs equivalent to the system of enunciation in language. I like to think. of what is it the history?). This is how perspective. Or a painting can refer to the model. when his denial of his narrative competence in fact affirms it. but only to deny it. the meeting-point of narrative and epistemology. He needs to act in the text which he therefore cannot write up. a "first-person" narrative. of providing a simple answer to his own question. each of them equally narrative. in some way he is its hero.. such a denial reaffirms the system. and as I will argue later. autobiographical from the beginning. And this question is." Of what is he writing the history? Of himself Instead writing the history of himself writing the history of. Or one only puts in a sign or two of it. His is. in which cases two narrative situations are unambiguously represented. he demonstrates various possibilities of relating to the "law" of perspective.. is a discourse: it can be intertextually signified without being obeyed and yet it will be read.15 To understand how this paradox is bound up with narrative on more than an anecdotal level. endorsed by the viewer. and the gradual reversal of the respective amounts of talking and of acting on the other. rather than undermining or invalidating it. "S'il y a histoire. Damisch demonstrates this with Raphael's Extasis of Saint Cecilia. This would be as close as one gets to "third-person" narrative with an invisible narrator. just enough to make the "law" work: to make it appear to be assumed. in the case of the origin . it can be compared to Damisch's analysis of linear perspective in terms reminiscent of narratological typologies of narrative situations. Damisch's whole book develops the complex answer which. But this is so precisely because that question does not bear a simple answer.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 303 structural representation of his focalization of the production of the former through the latter: the transitions from discussion to plot design to play-making on the one hand. Either one obeys or ignores the law. For Fabian's predicament is precisely that the production of the knowledge he wants to narrate is a performance in which he is an actor.'6 Such a denial can work like a self-ironical statement. even within the practice of painting. . where perspective is heavily signified yet not obeyed.
If the discourse here seems to become hopelessly entangled in its subordinate clauses and double negatives.304 NEW LITERARY HISTORY of perspective. because Damisch is describing as well as demonstrating here how difficult it is to be entangled in the "firstperson" narrator's position of a performance that stages that narrator. . He writes much later in the book a sentence that displays the difficulty in its very structure: "But there are various ways of conducting a narrative . at the same time. Indeed. would be asked to reflect itself in its operation. together with the resistance to narrative. And the projection of the violation of those cherished boundaries onto those subjects who. subjectivity and. and to which the word "messy" in Code's statement responds. women as subjects of knowledge. But the particular interest of this text remains in the reason alleged for that exclusion. The confusion of . are subject to it speaks of the conceptual and emotional confusion underlying gynophobia. it is. or at least neatness. of countries as well as bodies and intellectual territories.17 The acceptance and handling of that contradictory entanglement may well be. . therefore. Wilhelm Von Humboldt's judgment that "their [women's] nature also contains a lack or a failing of analytic capacity which draws a strict line of demarcation between ego and world. The days of Brecht and the epic theater are long gone. in the modern sense of the word. III. Indeed. the crucial relevance of narrative for epistemology. I think. feminists have amply demonstrated the vested interest of a "malestream" view in the securing of boundaries. and so is Freud's mystic writing pad. and even less the production-even of demonstration-of an apparatus (dispositif)where representation. which does not necessarily imply the a priori construction of if strictly for the sake a scene. doubles up the subject of inquiry. and what remains is the impossibility of answering the question "Of what is it the history?" upon the scene of writing. according to a biological iconism. had a lot to do with the preference for physics as the paradigm of knowledge. and I wouldn't wish to suggest that women have always and everywhere been excluded from knowledge. they will not come as close to the ultimate investigation of truth as man"18 may have been replaced with more sophisticated versions of the same. Facing Domination Earlier on in this paper I quoted a statement from Code which suggested that cleanliness. as some epistemological texts suggest. and simultaneously in its constitutive reference to the position of the subject" (L 364).
which depends on equally strong distinctions. In other words. that of the accumulative principle in the name of which many scholars claim that objects consist of the sum of their parts. and domination. and we will encounter it once more in the present inquiry. This principle hampered the development of semantics until the advent of discourse analysis. But within the present inquiry such answers tend to beg the question. becomes. since it excludes both complications of the issue when taken in context and plural approaches to it. The mode produces less than maximally good reasoning. what it also betrays is the intricate relationship between knowledge. serious. and if that is so especially for subjects who need that comfort most. only too well known. Indeed. or even an ideological code. representational forms that scheme takes remain to be interpreted.'9 This is one reason why a subject-oriented narratology can be helpful. it has been sufficiently demonstrated. it is structurally complicitous with objectivism. for example. who came up with the concept of adversarial mode of argumentation. we might count dualism. If strong boundaries provide emotional comfort. that the sharp division between subject and object which encourages adversarial attitudes is predicated upon the implicit notion that the goal of knowledge is "to produce the ability to control. aggression. and self-confident scholars to cling to a model so contaminated by objectionable impulses? Keller looks at psychoanalytic theory for an answer. argues.21 Given the need for sharp opposition and delimitation that the mode demonstrates. General epistemology thus partakes of another specific ideological code.2? The investment in boundaries-here you have a subjective. What are the stakes. and predict the behavior of its objects" (W 139). as Janice Moulton.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 305 subject and object. enhances the need for observational simples as the basic unit of knowledge. And since it uses the model of war for the peaceful activity of intellectual work. and contiguous with. and why are these so high as to entice well-meaning. manipulate. emotional motivation for objectivity-Code suggested. and she makes her case with much force. .22 The obvious question. by Evelyn Fox Keller and others. As a third participant in this ideological cluster. the subjectobject distinction of objectivism is structurally similar to. then. Here yet again the structure lives off the artificial and often unwarranted isolation of well-delimited (boundaries!) claims and arguments. serving many purposes. the cultural. not only the most basic structure of Western thought but also the all-but-exclusive mode of academic argumentation. the self-other distinction of the adversarial mode. which underlies this phobia happens to be a powerful ideologeme.
through the illusionary mirroring provided by the deceptive optical structure of perspective? If so. remains subjected to the law which is the law of representation: the distance the subject takes in relation to the object . who equated such a mode of vision with domination. Domination. Ironically. to deploy the gaze. bound up with realism but not with reality. Damisch had quoted MerleauPonty. and then he had continued: "A vision in the first person. . But what about the ambiguous phrase "his representation" (sa representation):Does it mean the representation of which he is the object or the representation he performs. "that subject which is considered 'dominating' since it appears to be established in a position of domination is tenuously established [ne tient qu'a un fill" (L 354). precisely. He has a keen sense of the issue when he writes: "In order for the things in this world to become objects for perception. if not to a mechanism of projection. But that movement. . This would place an urgency on the debate about pornography. with its smooth if illusionary . . is not a political background of representational realism but its product. a provider of the illusion.. imaginary.. if we think of Norman Bryson's distinction between gaze and glance. then. For we have seen that perspective. according to Merleau-Ponty-to take hold of the objects in that field. irremediably so. for example. If the visual field encourages subjectsadults. the fantasy of adult vision as a firstperson narrative foregrounds the ambiguity of precisely that notion. the subject must take distance from itself. as his property. Yet at the same time that product is illusionary. the subject who needs to see its origin mirrored in the system of perspective. This implicatedness which is the very essence of the system of perspective as well as its motivation helps Damisch to understand the "difference within" perspective as illusion. The juxtaposition of "his property" and "his representation" points again to a confusion of subject and object. coherent. there is one confusing epistemological detail here. allows him to escape to the immediately lived experience. as his representation" (L 46).306 NEW LITERARY HISTORY Damisch provides an element for an answer in his analysis of perspective as just such a device for demarcation. illusion ("the invention of a dominated world" [L 46]). in the spectacle which takes its truth from that very implication" (L 345).3 they might tend to consider it their property. and adulthood. and which would imply as its condition the position of a subject who can eventually claim it as his. even in its slight theatricality. which is related to one we saw earlier without stopping to consider it. In addition to the ideological problematic this statement implies. of original subjectivity. mastered. Much earlier. but he can only discover that he is implicated.
For the subject of vision is not the subject of painting but its addressee. then. then. for Damisch's writing style. First person. because the pronouns do not refer. both psychologically and socially. subjects. First. it indicates the derivative status of personhood." Third. yet reaffirms in this theoretical moment. in effect. a person without the traces of the person's grafted being.24 Note that both these allegiances are defined negatively. presents a unique place to study the intertwinements of these three allegiances. A working definition of narrative may be in order here. it indicates the reversible relationship of complementarity between first and second-person pronouns whose use produces subjectivity and constitutes the essence of language precisely. performative anthropology? The question is relevant in the light of the obvious struggle both writers are engaged in. Narrative. Benveniste says. Narratology is the theory of narrative. Second Person? The concept of second personhood has. which is a struggle explicitly to do away with domination by doing justice to the second person. the same person. or discourses formerly referred to as the "object" but now engaged in the dialogue of the performance. To these second persons. the knowledge that effectively had an "object. as presented by Code. and for Fabian's project of a critical. works precisely because it both inscribes and effaces the subject of vision. In such an analysis lies perhaps the most valuable epistemological contribution of narratology. second person? Are these. dialogic. it indicates the partner of the ethnographer and the historian. undermining the humanist individual who ruled over objective knowledge. communicative. as presented by Benveniste and subsequent theorists in his vein. those persons.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 307 effect of the real. Second. a triple allegiance. But the fundamental confusion that underlies the equation of speech and the look in a speech-act-oriented theory of vision is precisely that same illusionary origin Damisch's entire book works to explain. and it provides tools for analyzing narrative texts. as a structural form and as a discursive posture. the scholars have a strong allegiance that is both epistemological and political. But to avoid the traps of ethics in the overextended use of the political. I will just use the former term. IV. the fundamental impossibility to be. and what would the consequences of such a conflation be for epistemology in general. to avoid both overextending and needlessly restricting .
he is on his own. the analyst can only point at a few exemplary features and details. engaged in reporting events that can be summarized as "his discovery. the narrative of the anecdote of being told the saying. second. worthy in themselves of detailed analysis. the narrator is the first person. the structural property of the text I will focus on is the narrative structure of embedding and of the representation of "characters. not be comprehensive at all. One aspect of that semiotic behavior is the one under scrutiny here: the use of first. Narrative thus conceived is not confined to literary or.308 NEW LITERARY HISTORY the concept. This psychosocial. In the second-level narrative. the "first person. I will treat these texts as literary narratives. I will look at the microstylistic feature of the use of grammatical "person. And as happens in such cases." The story of the discovery is gripping: at the punctual moment of the evening in 1986. linguistic. Throughout this analysis I will keep connecting narrative structure and epistemic meaning." subject of inquiry and writing." especially in the second part of the book. Fabian's beginning has been quoted already. and one way to measure the success of this epistemic style is precisely to examine the actual reversibility. In Fabian's case. always a "first person"-a focalizer-the implied subject who "colors" the story-and a number of actors or agents of the events. verbal narrative." Thus the anecdote of the discovery attributed to the "I" appears as a frame narrative." Like in Gide's Faux Monnayeurs (The . of a subjectivized and often entirely or partly fictionalized series of events. and epistemological second personhood affects both parties. being told. the interlocutors and fellow inquirers in Fabian's case. It involves a narrator-whether explicitly or implicitly selfreferential. in any semiotic system. the narrator realized that the interpretive events around the proverb "power is eaten whole" constitute what he names "a new ethnography. It sets him up as a first-person narrator-character. A narrative is an account. and the historical "other" discourses in Damisch's case." For Damisch. The structure of embedding is important here. by his Shaba interlocutors. First and second-person positions are by definition reversible. but upon which he needs to act culturally "correctly. the embedded one-but the structure will not remain so neat-the narrator appears as a second person. something in plain words that he does not understand. embedding a second narrative which elaborates the circumstances of the discovery. It is a mode of semiotic behavior rather than a finite set of objects. indeed. and appropriately. From now on. In the first-level narrative. as much as the second person. or third-person discourse.
first-person story of the discovery. continued during. hence its illusive righteousness. the second person cannot but be subordinated to an extremely self-centered first person. it is relevant to ask in which direction that overflow ends up streaming. first because of its false ethical suggestion of equality."26 Fabian is an engaging narrator. it does not enable one to account for the productionof knowledge. he could hardly have avoided. resulting in the brainstorming session that is the starting point of the experiment. the story of the evening of the proverb dinner. told in a first-secondperson dialogue with reversible positions. Woven through this narration are reflections on ethnography. a few weeks of search for meaning. that it takes a second look at the overall structure of the text to realize a potential problem. and his text is so explicit in its epistemic position. argumentative in mode. it is only fair to say. The second-level narrative of the quest for meaning of the saying overflows into the first level when its provisional denouement represents the shared ignorance of Shabans and expatriate ethnographer. at an earlier moment. articulating an argument as distinct from a narrative which represents a story. he tells us. ending in the group of actors who stage the saying. Yet they are in turn narrativized as Fabian's personal quest for the best method during the past ten years. At first sight these are discursive interludes. and second because. and the intricate narrative structure of the overall text. again in the first person but with an implied second person-Fabian himself. as well as overt in acting that position out. epistemologically speaking.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 309 Counterfeiters). conveyed by those who have itthe members of the culture being studied-to those who desire itthe ethnographer-it begs the question of how the knowledge comes about. Given the delicacy of the exchange. as well as his fellow anthropologists-running through ten years but interspersed with many "achronies. the inequality if they cannot interpret the saying. and which by no means undermines his tremendous accomplishment. But there is yet another level. communicative method had given him pause already. A problem that. His cherished dialogic.the modernist quest for meaning begins here. Since the dialogic model assumes that knowledge is shared. Indeed the text as a whole mirrors the structure I just outlined for the first few pages. say. and the story.25 Thus we have three levels so far: the punctual. the interof knowledge-even locutors "know" it better than Fabian-the problem that it is the first-person narrator who is telling both tales. Yet the problem is major: by virtue of the very narrative form. Chapters 1 through 5 are primarily a first- .
And . This text has a metaposition in relation to the second part as well as the first. albeit bracketed. in which he is careful to furnish. embedding the multiple narratives characterized as second-level-embedded. live only in the present and. three forms. clearly meant to be subservient to the enterprise of opening up the main. In this part. Fabian's interlocutors. and a laterally connected. it cannot help but state the "truth" about Shaba Zaireans who are thus relegated to third personhood. individualized life-histories for all characters mentioned. Thus a formulation like the following strikes me as out of tune with the careful narrative-epistemological strategies of the first and second parts: "First. to empower the embedded second persons. both versions are provided with helpful footnotes." Chapters 6 through 13 constitute the ethnography proper. partly also second-level. This text is "second person" in two senses: it is the text produced by the second persons. Thus. symbolically in the second place. Second. This part has. since it transcribes the dialogues that took place in the construction of the play. While this would be a troublesome kind of individualistic historiography in a Western context. Third. only worry about forms of power and oppression as they exist now" (P 286). the second persons-the group of Shaba actors-are the principal speakers. and of the Mufwankolo group in particular. again. Fabian deploys many strategies. as folk are said to do. second-person narrative.310 NEW LITERARY HISTORY person narration. the English translation follows. the text is transcribed in Shaba Swahili. here it serves the emancipatory purpose of individualizing people so far mostly seen as ahistorical "folk. in spite of the fact that the bulk of the transcribed recordings might seem in need of an explanatory. First. in footnotes. relegating this commentary to footnotes is a rhetorical means of effectively preserving the primary position for the Shabeans. Fabian is meticulous in doing his utmost to enable these speakers. written in the first person.. again. and therefore is obviously very useful. And this happens in the terms. interpretive. some of which are extremely effective. The concluding chapter is. academic commentary. while it is also a continuation of the argumentative interludes in the beginning. in the third chapter he provides a short history of theater in Shaba. of the Western oppressive heritage. . it is wrong to assume that the Zairean 'folk' . second-person text. the second persons remain in first position. Whereas this passage pointedly opposes mistaken and yet tenacious prejudices. The second person of this third part is clearly the "Western" anthropologist. Here. for example. and it is dialogical in kind itself. first-person argumentative narrative with a strongly implied second person identical to the first person.
the epistemological debate addressed to the writer's fellow historians with the analysis of the history of perspective. Now the aim is not to construct but to destroya point of view toward oneself. Of course. In the framework of an autobiographical text presented as such. this discussion receives primary focus in the first part. While the entire book carries along. Selfreflection. Embedded in a masterful and masterly first-person narrative. then. the discussion soon favors the autobiographer. a fictive trial is therefore reproduced. The dubious status of the second person becomes far more blatant in Damisch's case. the narrative structure of the text. moreover. however indispensable. In this case. the Shaba actors end up serving the interest of substantiating Fabian's discovery. this subsumption is reinforced because it also takes another formthat of mimeticism. present. From the vantage point of this final part. the text can be seen in the light of Lejeune's analysis of autobiography in the third person: "Dialogue.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 311 I don't mean just the use of the term "folk" but. And whether this danger becomes a serious threat depends on the interplay between first and second personhood. one may want to look again at the ways the second person has been staged in this complex narrative. than Fabian's insights into his discipline. thereby losing if not its alterity at least its power to put that alterity first. both globally and in detail as analyzed for the beginning. suggests that the second person has been subsumed under the first. who gradually allows his true image to emerge victorious. history." This first part elaborates Damisch's challenging view that perspective is a discursive . But let me turn to Damisch's narrative first. This earlier discourse will be reenacted so that it can be answered. This discovery. more insidiously. The dialogue is presented as a response to a discourse already expressed but which must be reconstituted for purposes of refutation. prosecution and defense are set up and allowed to speak. concerned less the knowledge produced about the Shaba insights into power. Whereas he theorizes second personhood throughout his book as part of the problem (the "object") he is analyzing. And as we will see shortly. following up on the initially stated "impatience. sometimes courts self-centeredness. in parallel and intertwinement. epistemologically he limits it to a rhetorical strategy which he imitates from the ancient treatises he studies. the very fact that the passage responds to a judgment couched in the categories of Western philosophy: time."27 And indeed as a consequence of the tripartite structure of this book. already alluded to in the beginning of this paper a propos of Code's messy narratives fit for complex ideas. This book is explicitly divided into three sections.
the "you" . Much to this reader's surprise. The tone changes. It is the third part which is both the most important and presents the most problematic version of second personhood. This painting that you know better than anyone: which forces me. up to Picasso's response to the latter. and like a random object or document" (L 157). What it narrativizes is precisely perspective: "an urban site fixed within a perspective which unfolds before the eye the symmetrical fan of its vanishing lines" (L 157. description is always already narrative. which we already saw in an earlier quote. quotations-equivalent to Fabian's second part with the full Shabean texts. most notably with Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding and Velaquez's Las Meninas. These second persons become first persons in a real sense in the long. Also. The rest of the paragraph further explains the point of this device. from the point of view of the modern scholar.312 NEW LITERARY HISTORY apparatus of enunciation (L 38) based not on the fit but on the mismatch between geometrical and symbolic point of origin (L 56). in the third person. in the passage I quoted at the beginning. and here is how he justifies the rhetorical shift: "And now. at this juncture. of the painting presumably as I/you see it. my emphasis). this third part opens with the use of the second grammatical person. and in fact this description of a still painting without any figures or movement is a masterpiece of narrativized description. who thereby acts as the second person responding to first persons. Here the author elaborates the epistemology of the group a la Levi-Strauss. often full. It contains the actual analyses of the three perspectival paintings in relation to one another. and from one discursive regime to another. If we take the use of the second person at the letter. The "you" comes up at the moment that the narrator begins to tell the story of his own engagement with this painting. These fragments are quite thoroughly interpreted and addressed. This paragraph is followed by a page and a half of description. to call upon your testimony and to shift-according to a device frequently used in the old treatises-from I to you. the narrator seems to raise his sleeves to go really to work. he intends the pronominal form to signal that "one cannot just put such a painting at one's disposal as one wishes. to an explicitly dialogic one" (L 157). but then historicized through further comparisons. It is that mismatch that produces visual subjectivity. As he will warn us later. Not only does the narrator wish to pay homage by imitating them to the discursive habits of the ancient writers. his previous second persons. The second part engages the ancient treatises and their writers as the second person. this painting.
In the end. so that the description not only narrativizes perspective and the eye before which it unfolds. one may well ask? The connotative effects of this rhetorical strategy are varied. This third person is not the painting/"object" but the contradicteurs. the implied opponents who were present from the beginning. the narrator justifies his use of . to the point of inconsistency. the same linguistic person. For Damisch introduces an explicit "third person" with an epistemological aim. at other moments these two functions are conflated so as to evacuate the point of the linguistic game: "There is still a problem you have already mentioned once or twice" (L 249). after all.By this term the narrator sets up as diegetic characters in the wake of the rhetorical tradition of which he is writing both the analysis and a pastiche. But what interests me in that appearance is the rationale they are in charge of offering for the pronominal game as a whole. And this second-person expert is Damisch. The use of the second person varies greatly. as Damisch frankly admits (L 385).NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 313 is called upon as a witness who is thereby authorized as an expert: "this painting you know better than anyone. but first and foremost-on a higher narrative level-the expert witness focalizing it. namely his fellow historians. At other times the identity of "I" and "you" is emphasized on an emotional basis: "the only question which matters to us. as in "If you insisted that we exposed this thesis in some detail. it seems "you" and "I" overlap completely: they have not only the same identity-the same person in the psychosocial sense-but also the same function. to you as to myself" (L 182). but for altogether different reasons. To assess these it is imperative to take into account the other part of the device. In an explanation presented on the mode of fictionality ("as if") and in a strongly visual vocabulary. But if the split between first and second person can be thought to signify the different functions of narrator and focalizer/expert witness. and do not always overlap with the narrator's stated intention. then. What. No more than Fabian. it is because it has been so badly received" (L 180). dissociated from the first-person narrator to gain more authority. These characters appear rather late in the day. which is the use of a third person. is the point of the game. where "you" incongruously is the writing subject/narrator." This expert is then the focalizer of the description to follow. and one had to appeal to a third person to put it in perspective" (L 385). is he content with the mere dialogical form of writing: "As if dialogue did not suffice to give the debate its true dimension. Sometimes the status of "you" as the expert directing the writing subject "I" is made more explicit.
is said to take the objection extremely seriously so that the third person has to be satisfied. neutral. But another congruence is more explicitly stated. because the debate needs to be put into perspective. As Damisch brilliantly points out. for example. does more than pose the other in front of the subject as always already there before him. This is never spoken out but alluded to.314 NEW LITERARY HISTORY pronouns in a combination of a truth claim ("true dimension"). . the expert/authority. The effect of the pronominal game stands out most strongly when the three grammatical characters appear on stage together. if only by the juxtaposition of passages about the one and the other. is precisely characterized by the deceptive illusions of true. and a mimetic act (perspective on perspective). the principle of dualism." The structure is clearly mobilized for a defensive purpose. to three the vanishing point. perspective sets up the elision of the subjecttenuously inscribed already-in the viewpoint which is seen as the origin of subjectivity. objectivein other words. the second person. But since the first person comes up with the objection. wherein the mother cannot be the other because the third person is needed. Toward the end of the book Damisch seems deeply gratified when he is able to suggest that the three points involved in perspective-the viewpoint. it sometimes appears. he claims. we must conclude that the third person too is identical to him. its cognitive content. on page 386: "But one/I [on] can respond (an differently to the objection attributed to the contradicteur objection you are far from taking lightly. a move of distancing (now the third person is called upon as a witness). there. mimes. as a model that projects. Thus the rhetoric of this third part resembles. also the law of the excluded middle. Damisch needs three persons. as happens. "third-person"-representation of the world. A bit later he then writes that perspective as a paradigm. and yonder. This is. tongue-in-cheek. Yet it works so effectively because at the same time it provides the viewer with a position as the first person who "owns" that world. on the other hand. What emanates is a triangular visual regime that corresponds to the Lacanian (law of the) father who comes to break the untenable duality of mother and child. Perspective. The depersonalized first person (on) is going to refute an objection he came up with in the first place but which he attributes to his third person. And that elision is signified as apostrophe(L 402). it also introduces a "third person" (un tiers). and the distance point-correspond locations: here. enforcing a second person subsumed within the first person who otherwise would remain unsustained.
caused by partiality and distortion when it comes to interpreting" (P 282). occasion. event to be studied is a performance. his theory of triangular perspective. Damisch uses a triangular rhetoric which substantiates. also present here and there in Code's: the occurrence of congruence. it becomes clear that coincidences of histories may well be an added attraction of coevalness. Fabian writes. Hence not only is the group's performance an allegory of the ethnographer's ar- . The terms of scholarship are used to describe the play: "the more direct threat . whereas "power must be based on true knowledge and supported by people of integrity" (P 282). This happens on many levels. and is substantiated by. . of a mimeticism. so strongly argued for in Time and the Other. . Once one is alerted to this tendency to present analogies. 24): the Zaireans talk like Europeans about Zaireans (P 69). The mimetic impulse. is pervasive in both texts. and to present them as positive in and of themselves. Formulations to this effect are many: "It is also an interesting document about 'documentation'" (P 50n. his intermediaries" (P 282). in a sense that makes the method appear more "real" than the narrative structure suggests it is. within the play. and as if by chance the object.Sometimes it even seems as though the performance circles around one great epistemological goal: to become an allegory of "good" scholarship. "the idea of mediation and the risk of corruption were expressed dramatically by locating the most serious threat to the chief's power in the corruptness of the notables.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 315 V. once noticed. for example: "It occurred to me that the group's work-giving form to everyday experience in the urban-industrial world of Shaba and thereby making it possible to reflect and comment on it-was not in essence different from my own groping for an ethnography of work and language" (P 42). The Seduction of Mimeticism Why is it that this argument is more than persuasive-almost irresistible? I have already alluded to one troublesome feature in both these books. and first of all on the level of overall structure. and only if taken seriously-as "not a game"-does the rhetoric alert us to the potential collapse of third and second person into first-just like in perspective. And these coincidences also happen within the actors' own lives: "their own progress from childhood to mature age coincides with the emergence of popular theater as a childrens' entertainment and its development to present levels of virtuosity and mass appeal" (P 43). Fabian proposes performance as a method of ethnography "with" the people described.
that the speech act theory of painting is ultimately a language-centered analogy. And rightly so: if enunciation can be a model for perspectival painting. If it elides the subject under apostrophe. where a struggle is fought between two contradictory impulses: to construct knowledge in an engagement with the other. It conflates different modes of perception without examining the implications of that conflation-thinking and seeing. it is called to illustrate.28 In its simplest form. it seems useful to spell the problem out. a product of the mimetic impulse. This is. in this otherwise extraordinarily clever argument. In remarks like these. possibly but not necessarily actively. Far from "speaking"-the painting does that-the viewer acts. he forgets the differenceof painting his whole book tries to found. the second person wins out. then it may also be one within these texts. then the viewer acts. as something "qui donne a penser" (which makes you stop and think) (P 289)-just like philosophers. Visually representing. speaking is hardly an act of perception-and it conflates different subject positions in relation to acts. but the very content of the play allegorizes the scholar whose discovery. Since this analogy is extremely common in the semiotic analysis of visual art in the line of Benveniste. Damisch's mimeticisms have been pointed out already. but then in the other direction. this analogy is untenable for two reasons. as second person. A battleground. VI. Conclusion But Fabian also writes a propos of theater in Shaba that "mimesis had opened a battle ground" (P 56). and makes painting be a bit too much like language. That battleground can host fierce struggles when the issue is "knowledge of other people" on the model of . especially in the work of Louis Marin. after all. that confusion ruins Damisch's argument and doubles up his rhetorical mixture of persons under his own identity. For the point (pun intended) of perspective is precisely that very confusion. his "second person" par excellence. and to subordinate that other once more. not seeing.316 NEW LITERARY HISTORY gument for performance as method.29 Because of this problem." that fake second but in fact authorized first person. I contend. would be the act parallel to speaking. And that might well be intolerable for the "you. but as addressee. that is. who knows the Urbinate painting better than anyone. why he is unable to see. He too suggests an allegorical identification when he defines painting. and if that is so.
or at face value. Yes he does. albeit sophisticated and dynamic. Conversely. the performancecould not overrule the mode: narrative. the apparently greater success of Fabian over Damisch could simply be attributed to the difference between contemporary and historical objects of inquiry. Fabian's dialogue. and between linguistically accessible and mute interlocutors. but partly also complicates it. and absolute other. and Ankersmit have argued for history writing. translated by John Barrell as "this. From his positionality as a narrator. self-consolidating other. To put the cards on the table with still more explicitness: if you look to blame. it obscures the dissymmetry that allows the second person to "be disappeared" yet again. feared. and the three locations involved in spatial organization. more "real" because he can really talk with the Zairean actors. The analysis presented here is not meant as a review of the respective merits and flaws of these studies. As White. that. he can get away with ignoring the paintings' first personhood. Kellner. Taken too literally. The result of the above analysis partly converges with this notion.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 317 friendship yet narrativized in a first/third person narrative. I am not sure I would blame either Damisch or Fabian. no less a sham. to use Damisch's visual vocabulary. For the shape-the dialogue. epistemologically speaking. I am referring to Gayatri Spivak's distinction between self. in all three senses distinguished above and integrated as they are in narrative. For narrative as well as epistemology is overdetermined by its traditions and histories. could do. In the face of the narrative mode. Damisch's beautiful analogy between the three points involved in perspective and the three grammatical persons involved in narrative. If it came to evaluating. with yet another triangle. one could object to my criticism. one of which is the central position of the knower/narrator. and the other. can easily become self-consoli- . That is not necessarily the same as producing (his) knowledge with them. Damisch ultimately does not have a second person. the shape of the story you tell determines what knowledge you produce. and then cast out by Damisch's dramatization of the "third person" as a projection of an opposition he is still able to master."30This absolute other seems implied. he struggles with his ignorance. "friendship" may be a good model only to the extent that it elaborates and refines what the antagonistic mode of argumentation simplifies and obscures. I would argue: himself. Second personhood. is. and that positionality enables him to ask questions in order to alleviate that ignorance. Precisely because his narrative game enables him to deny his own secondariness in the face of the paintings as well as the treatises. by way of caution.
139.H. pp. Wis. 439-56. UNIVERSITY OF AMSTERDAM NOTES 1 Johannes Fabian. hereafter cited in text as P. and the Philosophy of Science. 9 (1977). 3 Lorraine Code. On the influence of language on Descartes's thought. 6 The narrative nature of historiography has been the object of analysis for a long time now. Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-CenturyEurope [Baltimore. 1991)." The Monist.. What Can She Know? FeministTheoryand the Construction Knowledge of (Ithaca. hereafter cited in text as L. see Annette Baier. N. For an analysis of Levi-Strauss's concepts and method used there.318 NEW LITERARY HISTORY dating ("that" helping the first person along). see Susan Bordo. Annette and Edward Tomarken.. translations are my own. 4 Johannes Fabian. Here and elsewhere." tr.Y. they pursue a goal altogether different from mine. unless stated otherwise. L'origine de la perspective (Paris. 453-72." in her Postures of the Mind: Essays on Mind and Morals (Minneapolis. While these studies offer useful insights into the problematics of representation in history. Power and Performance:EthnographicExplorationsthroughProverbial Wisdomand Theater in Shaba. R. Narrative Logic: A Semantic Analysis of the Historian's Language (The Hague. 1973]). especially The Raw and the Cooked:Introduction to a Science of MythologyI. not only of intentions and methods.Y. 60 (1977). Lejeune writes of Rousseau. that exemplary first-person writer's autobiography in the third person. of narrative. Zaire (Madison. 10 The "epistemology of the group" clearly shows structuralist tendencies. not surprisingly. John and Doreen Weightman (New York. more importantly given the pragmatic nature of language. 9 The allusion is to Lorraine Code. Narrative. 74-92. 1983). The Flight to Objectivity: and Culture(Albany.." Signs. 5 Hubert Damisch. EpistemicResponsibility(Hanover. Time and the Other:How Anthropology Makes its Object(New York. p. Wis. Ankersmit. as it turns out. p. 27-50. "Autobiography in the Third Person. tr. From my perspective it is problematic that they tend to lack a specific conception of narrative as well as an epistemology against which to measure the consequences of their findings. 1987) and "The Cartesian Essaysin Cartesianism Masculinization of Thought. Theorie du nuage: Pour une nouvelle histoire de l'art (Paris. 1985). 11 (1986). 1987). is telling. but.. This cautionary note leaves unchallenged the need for self-reflection.. Dramatic Narrative. and sometimes even the formulations recall Claude Levi-Strauss. 1987). 1990) and F. 110. For the feminist implications of this typical mode of thinking. 8 Philippe Lejeune. 1969). 1990). p. N. "Epistemological Crises. "Cartesian Persons. 2 Hubert Damisch. Language and Historical Representation:Getting the Story Crooked(Madison. 1983). hereafter cited in text as W. 1972). 239. "He gives us a lesson in objectivity" (45). see Alasdair Maclntyre. A self-reflection which partakes of a project that is political as much as epistemological requires a sharp analysis. since Hayden White began to explore the rhetoric of history writing (see Hayden White. New Literary History. N. . 7 For an analysis of Descartes's anxieties and the way these informed his epistemology. Recent analyses of interest in this area include Hans Kellner.
17 The allusions are to Sigmund Freud's short text "A Note Upon a Mystic WritingPad" (1924). Epistemology. "From the Native's Point of View: On the Nature of Anthropological Understanding" in his Local Knowledge: Further Essays in InterpretiveAnthropology[New York. further theorized in Mieke Bal. 1981). XIX.. Hintikka. ch. and "Narrative Subjectivity. Discovering Reality: Feminist Perspectiveson and Philosophyof Science (The Netherlands. No Time: Coevalness Denied. "Subjectivity in Language. Reflections on Gender and Science (New Haven. 12 See Clifford Geertz. 19 The term ideologemeis borrowed from Fredric Jameson. the illusion of coevalness dialogism implies.Y." in Writing and Difference. whereas the writing of ethnographies undermines that coevalness. 18 Humanist without Portfolio: An Anthology of the Writings of Wilhelm von Humboldt. 15 See Fabian. Fla. 11 I hesitate to propose this analogy. 11 (1982). 1986). Alan Bass (Chicago. Sign. 149-64. ca. pp. pp.Y. 22 See Evelyn Fox Keller. 1978). 37-69). pp. "Ethnographies as Texts. Methodology. pp. 227-32. ch. 1991). "A Paradigm of Philosophy: The Adversary Method. ed. Visionand Painting: The Logic of the Gaze (London. 1985). Marianne Cowan (Detroit. but this is as yet another problem of second personhood. 13 See George Marcus and Dick Cushman. Mary Elizabeth Meek. 1985). in Critical Theory Since 1965. tr. N. 1991). The Standard Edition of the CompletePsychologicalWorksof Sigmund Freud. What Can She Know?. 1953-74). . David Jobling (Sonoma." Annual Review of Anthropology. 730. and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences. James Clifford and George E. 21 See Janice Moulton. p. Metaphysics. 1973). pp. 1515-16.. and Derrida's commentary "Freud and the Scene of Writing. 1983). Bang voor schennis? [Utrecht. 349." in Sandra Harding and Merrill B. addressed by Geertz. for a discussion of the importance of the subjectivity network." in Writing and Difference. of the question when and to what extent the members of the culture are the most adequate informants (Victor Turner. 38-40. 146-70. N.. Bologna. p. 1983). 25-69. See L. 14 See Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. 278-93. quoted by Code. 1963). tr. 93 and 94. The Extasis of Saint Cecilia. 24 Emile Benveniste. p. Christine van Boheemen (Toronto. 1967]. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic (Ithaca. Calif. These allusions are not just playful. for reasons I will later expose." in On Story-Telling: Essays in Narratology. Fabian adds a third problem. in his distinction between experience-near and experience-distance concepts (Clifford Geertz. 10. Power and Performance. 55-70) as well as to that. ed. Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative." tr. Ernst van Alphen has theorized Act ideology as a code rather than a semantic unit (Ernst van Alphen. Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle (Tallahassee. p. 1983]. 1986). The Forest of Symbols:Aspectsof Ndembu Ritual [Ithaca. for a textbook version of such a theory. "Structure. I do not believe it is right to equate the subject of speech with the subject of the look. James Strachey (London. ed. Reading "Rembrandt": Beyond the Word-ImageOpposition(New York. ed. Pinacoteca nazionale. 16 Raphael.NARRATIVE AS EPISTEMOLOGY 319 see Jacques Derrida. both texts deal with the difficulty of writing and reading that Fabian is contending with. Inleiding in de ideologiekritiek 20 See Mieke Bal. tables on pp. 196-32." pp. ed. and tr. Their Time. 23 Norman Bryson. pp. 2 ("Our Time. 25 This problem is connected to that. The Interpretationof Cultures (New York. 38). discussed by Turner. In Time and the Other. Marcus (Berkeley. 1987]). 4.
"Overdeterminations of Imperialism: David Ochterlony and the Rance of Sirmoor. 27 Lejeune. Robert Caserio. ed. I am grateful to Norman Bryson.Y. pp. 1980). 84. "The Iconic Text and the Theory of Enunciation: Luca Signorelli at Loreto (Circa 1479-1484).. Jane E. Norman Bryson (Cambridge. quoted in John Barrell. 30 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. 270-72. 1991)." pp. 10. p. 29 For a more detailed critique of the analogy. 63-90. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. . Dominick LaCapra. Lionel Duisit. 28 See Louis Marin. and Ellen Spolsky for critical remarks on an earlier version of this paper. See Gerard Genette. The Infection of Thomas de Quincy: A Psychopathology the Empire (New of Haven. 44."in Calligram: Essays in the New Art Historyfrom France. 553-96. pp. 40. N." Europe and Its Others. "Autobiography in the Third Person. see my Reading "Rembrandt." tr. Lewin (Ithaca. 14 (1983). 1 (1985). New Literary History." p. 1988).320 NEW LITERARY HISTORY 26 Genette's term for bits of narrative that cannot be placed chronologically. tr. and his "Towards a Theory of Reading in the Visual Arts: Poussin's The Arcadian Shepherds. 131.
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