Julia Anoshechkina Madness, the Absence of Work & Bernhard, “Walking”

Madness, according to Michel Foucault and Thomas Bernhard, is unusually explosive. It is so volatile that it destroys the things and people that it touches. The power of madness can be compared to the power of flying given to Icarus. The wings take the young boy to see the world from a bird's-eye view. The boy gets too excited and flies too close to the sun, so that the wax in his wings melts and he dies. The greatest challenge is to be able to use this unusual power in a positive way for inspiration, for “rupturing” language and old “habits,” rather than for the annihilation of talented but hubristic individuals like Karrer and Hollensteiner. Foucault insists that the new generation should not be afraid of reaching out to madness, expanding the current conservative attitude towards it and using it to better understand of “truth.” He encourages us to look in the mirror, because the mirror image of sanity is madness. Bernhard, while sympathizing with Foucault, cautions that once you cross the line between madness and insanity and approaching too close to the sun, for a second you become the mirror image of yourself, and there is no way back. Foucault writes “that humanity does not start out from freedom but from limitation and the line not to be crossed” (p293). He goes on to list taboos and situations socially inappropriate in different cultures. This realm of limited freedom—one is free only when dead according to Bernhard—is further developed in the episode with Hollensteiner and the Austrian government. When the “so-called” Ministry of Education withdraws funds vital to the contemporary science institute, its head and main supporter, Hollensteiner goes mad and commits suicide. He does

Foucault traces the timeline of the treatment of the mad in history and finds that while . who are too lazy to think and who are forbidden to think. “The state that subsidizes the making of children has neither experience nor knowledge” (p 121). create more people. The moment people realize how miserable their lives actually are they will stop reproducing. Oehler's ‘homecoming. his own people do not want to recognize his genius and his contribution to science. then. for example. The state does not want its citizens to be knowledgeable and experienced.have opportunities to go abroad. Why. “These people no longer exist. It is inevitably harder to have control over language than over the behavior. He tasted success and knowledge. If these selfish people do not care for either Oehler or Hollensteiner. but Hollensteiner cannot handle that his own country. “The only reason we go to cemeteries….’ After decades in America he comes to live again in his Austrian city and “to tell the truth. The more power the state has over not only behavior but language. and to re-start his career there. Then will then understand that the state is cheating them into mindless submission. But people do not want to think and they produce kids “because the faculty of reason was suspended (p 119). who will have to go through the same negative experiences? Take. but instead all of their names are gone from the houses they used to live in. the more power it has over people.” He expects to find the people from his childhood. then the state or some other subject can put words into the mouths of people who cannot think.is to inter a genius who has been ruined by the state…” (p 133).” (p142). but nobody cares. family and country. The careless production of children exemplifies the ignorance of the masses and the purposeful state involvement in their lives to keep them in the dark.” If the “faculty of reason” is so easily suspended. The children will grow up as lonely individuals forgotten by their own friends. they would not care for their children either. Oehler notes that life is full of misfortune and misery.

“What we call thinking has nothing to do with faculty of reason….” and live the “so-called” fulfilling life. is also superimposed upon us by the government. Most of the thinking that the majority of people practices is fake.for to have faculty of reason means not to think and so to have no thoughts” (p118). According to Foucault there are three prohibited language groups: “linguistic error. follow “so-called social enthusiasm. the state censors not only the meaning but also the structure. Similarly. for example. . These “socalled” thinkers practice “so-called” science. the grammar and the syntax. “…inalterable what is undoubtedly most precarious…” (p291). and questions lead to answers. is not allowed to submit papers in the Boston dialect or in the California dialect. Thoughts lead to questions. which is considered to be the Standard language. he still does not see it. because real thinking is not possible. Madness manages to reappear in every society and every culture throughout time. when one looks at something. Bernhard argues. because written English is based primarily on the Ohio dialect. The state fights on against abnormalities by prohibiting some language and imposing on people the Standard. it is much harder to eradicate them. if one is thinking about it one does not see it and if one is not thinking about it. One is only “so-called” seeing it. or an intolerable meaning.it is easy “lock up” (Bernhard's term) these ‘mad’ people. according to him theirs is “so-called” thinking. the letters. which lead to more questions and thoughts. Good questions never find answers and eventually one realizes that nothing can be actually answered and thus understood. One. a spoken blasphemy.” The allowed language that we use. the form of the language. Who is to judge what “the standard” is and what is not? By censoring language. [Link this quote somehow to your words – you don't want isolated quotes]. Those few who actually try to think under the imposed frames and limitations are not really thinking.

but says everything – syntax without meaning. where “linguistic code and utterance become entangled. The absence of work produces language. articulating something else beneath what it says…an esoteric language” (p295). where “the utterance enunciates” (p296).Both Bernhard and Foucault envision these people and their language being trapped in a “so-called” reality that is limited and intolerant of anything new or “foreign. [Another isolated quote] “Madness appears as an utterance wrapped up in itself. The meaning Foucault is searching for is accidental. He is not arguing about the buttons or the workmanship. but mislabeled for the purposes of lower tax payment to the state. ghosts and witches still exist today as they have existed then and the language of madness does not have to fit into the above-mentioned three language restrictions. nor is Foucault trying to resurface Lacan’s “I” through signifiers and signified. the quality is labeled as the material of the “Checkoslovakian rejects.” but Rustenschacher and his nephew claim that in truth the material is of the finest English quality. He wants only to see the signifier.” Foucault is not interested in discovering the root meaning behind madness that Freud is preoccupied with. the empty metaphor: the images. the “void. to revealing truth that the government and formal language try to hide from every individual. Madness holds the key to liberation. He wants to hear the language that does not say anything. Karrer sees the light through the pants. to step out of internal. loosing grasp on the physicality of the material. and meaning without syntax.” the “pale region. the voices and the senses. To the state. . Foucault gets rid of the referent and the signified to almost erase the physical presence of the bar and the subject. This precise “absence of work” drives Karrer over the edge at the Rustenschachler’s store. questioning its quality.” However. Karrer is really upset with the material itself. Foucault sees the power in madness “to rupture” language. shaping each other” (p295). limited space into the external unknown.

seem to divide the world into internal and external spheres according to both Bernhard and Foucault. because he is afraid to suffocate. In Bernhard’s description this is the “state. The narrator wears trendy things like pigskin gloves and trousers with cuffs. Karrer loses his ability to explain his grievance. Considering clothes as their language one sees their dependence on and from “the . as he is unable to “annunciate” concepts any longer. both characters are under the influence of their clothes. Foucault says that language and formal control as discussed above dictates the rules and laws of the sane internal dimension to which we all inevitably pay respect. like words. to see his friend to go mad. His condition of complete physical exhaustion culminates in the frequent repetition of “These thin spots” (p 156) before he is finally taken away to Steinhof. Similarly Bernhard suggests that clothes. the existence of physical things. is less important than the fact that Karrer eventually loses his ability to speak and collapses. Whether the pants do have thin spots or not. the mental house. In Foucault's terms Karrer enters “that pale region…the twinkle incompatibility of the work and of madness becomes unveiled” (p 297). He looks in the mirror. where he can think but not walk. define us.Oehler also notes the thin spots but does not participate in the argument. preferring to stand “in front of the mirror” (p147) on the side. This is the moment when he has to succumb to that unending string of thoughts that lead to understanding everything and nothing. Thus. Clothes such as the pants Karrer was looking at. as Foucault encourages.” when Karrer can only think and cannot do anything physical. On the other hand Oehler is the one who is being suffocated and the narrator is the one who is getting cold. which they have been wearing for decades. Oehler wears warm clothes such as mittens. a wide-brimmed hat and a buttoned coat because he is scared of catching a cold.

alternating between conscious choices and personal habits. can be also very helpful in trying to understand the language paradox between enunciation and meaning.” as Foucault would say. just as Oehler wears always his coat buttoned down while the Narrator prefers his coat to be open. and one can say much about the other but not about one's self. We are physically forced. while thinking and talking. The same concept is applicable to thinking and talking---“enunciating.habit” of speaking in their own manner. We inadvertently fall into a circular path of thinking and talking. Bernhard insists that much can be said by observing how a person walks and thinks. . he cannot concentrate on walking. That is where the question of power arises: whether language controls thought or thought controls language. Thus. thinking and walking balance each other. it is hard to think. Very often we are told that first we should think and then talk to avoid saying something embarrassing. Thus we can never really see ourselves because we are constantly either preoccupied with talking or thinking. to rely in part on habitual ways of using language and habitual ways of thinking. When one is thinking. in parallel to the above. it is hard to talk. while it can be destructive as in the example of Kerrer. by observing how a person talks and thinks we can tell a lot about that person. It seems that neither language nor thought have the upper hand in a power struggle. While when one is talking. The concept of walking is yet another illustration of physicality of language and its formalistic properties. while when he is walking deliberately he cannot concentrate on thinking. One cannot think and talk at the same time. and. Self-observation is less possible because when the person thinks. This relation finally shows why the concept of madness.

the mirror image. They at least try not to walk as far as Karrer does.” preaches Foucault about a future where one transforms the current limited space into a more advanced madness-encompassing dimension (p291).To see the truth. the other side of which one is.will have been reduced to ashes. The question still baffles us – what is the point of staying alive. Karrer approaches too close to the sun and sees the light through the melting fabric. or keeping madness at a distance. Foucault and Bernhard give the mirror a bit more of a specific spin by saying that madness is the mirror image of sanity. He falls along a singular limitless tangent away from people and the real world – although the real world does not seem to be hinged on anything more than habits and simple routines that Karrer’s friends follow to stay sane. If the mirror or the other side does not exist. The Ego is formed by resolving the conflict between the one’s visually perceived experience and one’s emotional experience. Lacan suggests that during “the mirror stage” the baby is for the first time faced with its physical “I” and has to come to terms with the mirror image and itself. “The sharp image of reason will wither in flames. This new dimension will give one truth. one cannot exist in relationship to other people. if “the whole process of life is a process of deterioration in which everything…continually gets worse” (p116)? . In Geometry one needs at least two lines to form a point. The familiar game of mirroring the other side of ourselves in madness…. and maybe even the solution. Same here – to locate one's self at the human horizon one needs at least two images: sane and insane. one can just look in the mirror. When a person such as Karrer loses his walking stick—his sanity line—one becomes mad.

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