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Show me your text! –Socrates urging the assertive but withholding Phaedrus

I only know that I do not know. –Socrates

Are you really that convinced of your own personal rectitude / genius?

When in doubt, be a genius.

The enemy is too strong. You can’t confront it directly. –Abbas

In a specialized and co-opting world, we rhetors take the time—and the consequences—to think about life, the world, to call attention to things that, as we see it, aren’t quite right …

I’m so confused, always. –Coffeen, Rhetoric 10

As for the good life or reason or the world of the spirit, you can afford to be poetic about it because you are here. You forget one thing: we are there. –Vic in Jose, My Brother, My Executioner

If writing, according to the king and under the sun, produces the opposite effect from what is expected, if the pharmakon is pernicious, it is because […] it doesn’t come from around here. […] The signifier of little, this discourse that doesn’t amount to much, is like all ghosts: errant. It rolls this way and that like someone who has lost his way, who doesn’t know where he is going, having strayed from the correct path, the right direction, the rule of rectitude, the norm; but also like someone who has lost his rights, an outlaw, a pervert, a bad seed, a vagrant, an adventurer, a bum. Wandering in the streets, he doesn’t even know who he is, what his identity—if he has one—might be, what his name is, what his father’s name is. He repeats the same thing every time he is questioned on the street corner, but he can no longer repeat his origin. Not to know where one comes from or where one is going, for a discourse with no guarantor, is not to know how to speak at all. –Derrida, “Plato’s Pharmacy”

He is the scapegoat of mankind. He makes it possible for men to enjoy sin without guilt, almost without guilt. –Kafka’s definition of the writer, “Letter to Max Brod”

He will never be a fairy, but neither will he ever be fully human. –Samar on the writer, Eight Muses of the Fall

Why do you write—so much? —Why is the world as it is?

And I turned and saw the injustice of everything that took place beneath the sun. –Franz in Fassbinder, Berlin Alexanderplatz

To tell a story has become strictly impossible. –Robbe-Grillet, For A New Novel

I have not the courage to rise up before my fellow-men as a prophet, and I bow to their reproach that I can offer them no consolation. –Freud, Civilization and its Discontents

Acting counter to our time and thereby acting on our time and, let us hope, for the benefit of a time to come. –Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations

The key categories for grasping the present order also point beyond it. –tenet of Marxist critique

Eternal existence is a fantasy of ruling classes, which is why they are afraid of history. –Linebaugh, Stop, Thief!

Economics that denies politics is at most ideology. Politics ignorant of economy is at best speculation.

Who are these beings, they who come like fate? (‘Some pack of blond beasts of prey, a conqueror and master race which, organized for war and with the ability to organize, unhesitatingly lays its terrible claws upon a populace perhaps tremendously superior in numbers but still formless . . .’) –Deleuze and Guattari quoting Nietzsche, Anti-Oedipus

A conqueror is always a lover of peace (as Bonaparte always asserted of himself); he would like to make his entry into our state unopposed; in order to prevent this, we must choose war. –Clausewitz

The king was the central character in the entire Western juridical edifice. –Foucault, Society Must Be Defended

The Romans feared absolutely nothing. –Montesquieu, Dissertation on Roman Politics in Relation to Religion

Historically, semiotically, and culturally protean, as well as politically elusive, ‘freedom’ has shown itself to be easily appropriated in liberal regimes for the most cynical and unemancipatory political ends. –Brown, States of Injury

All culture is originally colonial. […] Every culture institutes itself through the unilateral imposition of some ‘politics’ of language. Mastery begins, as we know, through the power of naming, of imposing and legitimating appellations. We know how that went with French in France itself, in revolutionary France as much as, or more than, in monarchical France. This sovereign establishment may be open, legal, armed, or cunning, disguised under alibis of ‘universal’ humanism, and sometimes of the most generous hospitality. It always follows or precedes culture like its shadow. –Derrida, Monolingualism of the Other or The Prosthesis of Origin

And not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini—which was able to mobilize and use the desire of the masses so effectively—but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us. –Foucault, preface to Anti-Oedipus

The boundaries that exist at any moment in time are likely to be arbitrary, poorly drawn, the products of ancient wars. The mapmakers are likely to have been ignorant, drunken, or corrupt. Nonetheless, these lines establish a habitable world. Within that world, men and women (let us assume) are safe from attack; once the lines are crossed, safety is gone. […] Once an invasion has been threatened or actually begun, it may be necessary to defend a bad border simply because there is no other. –Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars

Nazi totalitarianism arose within and against a society widely perceived as the exemplar of certain core Western values, a leader in the arts, science, scholarship, and industrial technology. Its nightmarish evolution during the 1920s to 1945, from Weimar to Auschwitz, was eventually halted by military defeat only after horrific loss of millions of lives. However, the awesome effort mobilized by the Allied nations to conquer a totalitarian system, ‘fighting fire with fire,’ exacerbated certain tendencies in the ‘free world,’ e.g. racism, militarism, high technology coexisting with ideological/religious atavism, medical experiments on human subjects, government lying. When the ‘free world’ mutates into a globalized economy and ‘the last best hope’ of democracy is absorbed into a mega-State, the normative appears ambivalent, as free and menacing. –Wolin, Politics and Vision

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform. –Twain

You can be an outsider, criticize all you want but no one will listen to you, or you can be an insider, but you can’t criticize a fellow insider. –Summers to Warren

Are we gonna amuse and entertain ourselves to extinction? –McKenna, “The Taxonomy of Illusions”

Not what we call democracy, which is a system that allows a population every once in a while to choose between selected business and landowner groups who share control of the state between them, while the military makes sure that nobody is causing any trouble. That’s what we call democracy. –Chomsky, “The Empire and Ourselves”

You raise my taxes and freeze my wages and my son’s in Vietnam. You give me second-class houses, second-class schools—Do you think that all colored people are just second-class fools? –Simone, “Backlash Blues”

Race will always be at the center of the American experience. –Omi and Winant, Racial Formation in the United States

White people are not white. Part of the price of the white ticket is to delude themselves into believing that they are. –Baldwin

White men making unfounded claims to legitimate rule saw their manhood bolstered by equally unfounded claims to racial superiority. –Stoler, “Tense and Tender Ties”

[The Irish boy] is the richer [Anglo-Saxon] boy’s other, less inhibited in speech and more likely to get into trouble. –Isaac, American Tropics

The Filipinos may be vanquished now and again, but as long as they are denied every kind of right, there will not be lasting peace. –Mabini

The country is not only the province, nor the pueblo, much less is it even the place where one has been born; it is formed by all the provinces, all the pueblos, and all the places in which a Filipino may have been born, whatever the beliefs he may process or the dialect he may speak. –Mabini, Decalogue

The horse is as much a part of the West as the landscape, but Kim never really made it with the horse. He tried at first to establish a telepathic bond with his horse, but the horse hated the relationship and tried to kill him every opportunity. It would swell itself up when he put on the saddle, or it would suddenly scrape against a tree or run under a low branch. All the old horse tricks. –Burroughs, The Place of Dead Roads

He understood for a moment, as if in the breeze from an undefined wing passing his face, that the history of all this terrible continent, clear to the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic ice, was this same history of exile and migration, the white man moving in on the Indian, the eastern corporations moving in on the white man, and their incursions with drills and dynamite into the deep seams of the sacred mountains, the sacred land. –Pynchon, Against the Day

The Americans didn’t even think about the outcome of the bombing, because the Sudanese were so far below contempt as to be not worth thinking about. Suppose I walk down the sidewalk in Cambridge and, without a second thought, step on an ant. That would mean that I regard the ant as beneath contempt, and that’s morally worse than if I purposely killed that ant. –Chomsky

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel! –Johnson

As a twenty-three-year-old faggot, I get no affirmation from my culture. –Bordowitz, “Picture a Coalition”

And what if sexuality is not reducible to a single social relation but is itself a complex nonschema of discourses and economics, which are constitutive not only of the semiotics of gender but of race and class formations? –Brown, States of Injury

The truth is that sexuality is everywhere: the way a bureaucrat fondles his records, a judge administers justice, a businessman causes money to circulate; the way the bourgeoisie fucks the proletariat; and so on. And there is no need to resort to metaphors, any more than for the libido to go by way of metamorphoses. Hitler got the fascists sexually aroused. Flags, nations, armies, banks get a lot of people aroused. A revolutionary machine is nothing if it does not acquire at least as much force as these coercive machines have for producing breaks and mobilizing flows. –Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus

We are drawing in this last observation on the chapter in [Freud’s] Three Essays dealing with ‘indirect sources’ of sexuality in order to note this time that far from being simply a biochemical process localizable in an organ or in a collection of differentiated cells, the ‘source’ of sexuality can be as general a process as the mechanical stimulation of the body in its entirety: take, for example, the rocking of an infant or the sexual stimulation that may result from rhythmic jolts, as in the course of a railroad trip; or the example of sexual stimulation linked to muscular activity, specifically to sports. Then, in a still vaster perspective, Freud comes to assert that intense intellectual effort can itself be a point of departure for sexual stimulation—a fact that most ordinary clinical observation confirms. Such is also the case for such general processes as affects, notably ‘painful’ affects; thus, a suddenly emergent state of anxiety will frequently trigger a sexual stimulation. –Laplanche, Life and Death in Psychoanalysis

Even if we are straight or gay at birth, we still have to learn to desire particular men and women, and not to desire others; the economy of our sexual drives is a cultural achievement. Perhaps nowhere are we manipulated more effectively and more insidiously than in our most personal choices or tastes in the objects of our desires. Those choices have cultural origins and political consequences. –Bersani, Homos

Women and gay men spread their legs with an unquenchable appetite for destruction. This is an image with extraordinary power; and if the good citizens of Arcadia, Florida, could chase from their midst an average, law-abiding family, it is, I would suggest, because in looking at three hemophiliac children they may have seen—that is, unconsciously represented—the infinitely more seductive and intolerable image of a grown man, legs high in the air, unable to refuse the suicidal ecstasy of being a woman. –Bersani, “Is the Rectum a Grave”

Ugliness, in itself an objection, is among the Greeks almost a refutation. –Nietzsche’s double insult against Socrates, Twilight of the Idols

Berated for its power, beauty is simultaneously belittled for its powerlessness. –Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just

You’re being unrealistic. You’re in a dream world. […] We have to face reality to survive in a world like this. –This is the kind of world where you need dreams the most. –Kurosawa, One Wonderful Sunday

Philosophy is itself a piece of culture, is enmeshed in culture; and if it behaves as if it were rendered immediate by some allegedly primal questions that elevate it above culture, if blinds itself to its own conditions and truly succumbs to its cultural conditionality; in other words, it becomes straightforward ideology. There is no knowledge that can repudiate its mediations; it can only reflect them. –Adorno, Metaphysics: Concepts and Problems

The most monstrous and the most sublime have their origins in the same source. […] Although the ego must strive to recapture that perfection qua unity of the ego ideal, too close a proximation to it, not to mention its actual attainment, would result in the de-differentiation of manic psychosis. [… From this can be] trace[d] not only severe forms of psychopathology […] but [also] the most barbarous social and political pathology of the century as well. While too great a distance between the ego and the ego ideal, too little unity, results in lethargy, cynicism, complacency, depression, and lack of esprit—cf. ‘joyless reformism’—its attainment, reunification, were it possible, would cause ‘all [the] acquisitions which have made us human beings [to] collapse like a house of cards. –Whitebook, Perversion and Utopia

Some may think resistance and scholarship incompatible, that scholarship must be unencumbered by politics or social realities, or any other agenda, except to tell it like it is or was—though ‘objectivity’ invariably acts as a synonym for insidious subjectivity. … And so Vestiges of War is partisan in the way survivors are partisan, thankful they are alive, taking steps to assure not only that they continue, but that their stories blossom into vigilant insight and mercy. –Francia

Those who feel they remain alone naturally hope. Hope of having said the truth, and that the truth is revolutionary. –Negri, Marx Beyond Marx

In fighting Russia, the German army is like an elephant attacking a host of ants. The elephant will kill thousands, maybe millions, but in the end their numbers will overcome him, and he will be eaten to the bone. –a Wehrmacht colonel on Operation Barbarossa, World at War

Works of art can bear witness to the context of their conception and fabrication, but to treat them simply as pedagogical historic documents is to suffocate them. –Groom, “We’re Five Hundred Years Before the Man We Just Robbed Was Born”

But the love, not for Feuerbachian man, nor for Moelschott’s metabolism, nor for the proletariat, but the love for the sweetheart, and namely for you, makes the man a man again. –Marx to wife

What lies between the greatness of failure and the horror of success?

We suffered from an illness which is not peculiar to the French, the illness of having been victorious in the end [in WWI], believing that we were right and very clever. –Gen. André Beaufre (French High Command) on the fall of France, World at War

What wasn’t failure? I wanted to know. Was there something that was working? –Sam in Marcus, The Flame Alphabet

You can’t choose your defeats. –Meck in Fassbinder, Berlin Alexanderplatz

You have to broach failure like it’s always on the horizon …

If you’re going to fail, you have to face it.

You gotta fail like you mean it!

Where it is, I am. –Freud

His heart was still young enough not to have forgotten the anxiety and trembling that disciplined the youth, that the adult learned to control, but that no man outgrows –Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Philosophy consists of offering reassurances to children. That is, if one prefers, of taking them out of childhood, of forgetting about the child, or, inversely, but by the same token, of speaking first and foremost for that little boy within us, of teaching him to speak—to dialogue—by displacing his fear or his desire. –Derrida, “Plato’s Pharmacy”

Being present as an interested spectator in a spectacle or play does for the adult what play does for children, whose hesitant hopes of being able to do what grown-up people do are in that way gratified. The spectator is a person who experiences too little, who feels that he is a ‘poor wretch to whom nothing can happen,’ who has long been obliged to damp down, or rather displace, his ambition to stand in his own person at the hub of world affairs; he longs to feel and to act and to arrange things according to his own desires—in short, to be a hero. And the playwright and actor enable him to do this by allowing him to identify himself with a hero. –Freud, “Psychopathic Characters on the Stage”

Behind the adult’s professional rivalry can be found the child’s ‘egoistic’ and ambivalent identifications.” –Borch-Jacobsen, The Freudian Subject

Those all must have been important to me once. What I am now grew from that. A former self is a fool, an insufferable ass, but he’s still human, you’d no more turn him out than you’d turn out any other kind of cripple, would you? –Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

The individual is interpellated as a (free) subject in order that he shall submit freely to the commandments of the Subject, i.e. in order that he shall (freely) accept his subjection, i.e. in order that he shall make the gestures and actions of his subjection ‘all by himself.’ There are no subjects except by and for their subjection. –Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”

What thus seems to take place outside ideology […] in reality takes place in ideology. What really takes place in ideology seems therefore to take place outside of it. That is why those who are in ideology believe themselves by definition outside ideology: one of the effects of ideology is the practical denegation of the ideological character of ideology by ideology: ideology never says, ‘I am ideological.’ It is necessary to be outside ideology, i.e. in scientific knowledge, to be able to say: I am in ideology (a quite exceptional case) or (the general case): I was in ideology. As is well known, the accusation of being in ideology only applies to others, never to oneself […]. Which amounts to saying that ideology has no outside (for itself), but at the same time that it is nothing but outside (for science and reality). –Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”

You taught me language, and my profit on ‘t is I know how to curse. The red plague rid you for learning me your language! –Caliban in Shakespeare, The Tempest

A man who has begun to have an inkling of the grandeur of the universe with all its complexities and its laws readily forgets his own insignificant self. Lost in admiration and filled with true humility, he all too easily forgets that he himself is a part of those active forces and that the way is open for him to try to alter a small portion of the destined course of the world. –Freud on Leonardo

Perhaps these studies had amounted to nothing. But they are very close to that nothing which alone makes it possible that something be useful. –Benjamin on Kafka

Modern thought is born of the failure of representation, of the loss of identities, and of the discovery of all the forces that act under the representation of the identical. … At the limit, might there not be a single power of difference and of repetition, but one which operates only in the multiple? … How else can one write but of those things which one doesn’t know, or knows badly? –Deleuze, Difference and Repetition

The patient does not say that he remembers that he used to be defiant and critical towards his parents’ authority; instead, he behaves in that way to the doctor. He does not remember how he came to a helpless and hopeless deadlock in his infantile sexual researches; but he produces a mass of confused dreams and associations, complains that he cannot succeed in anything and asserts that he is fated never to carry through what he undertakes. He does not remember having been intensely ashamed of certain sexual activities and afraid of their being found out; but he makes it clear that he is ashamed of the treatment on which he is now embarked and tries to keep it secret from everybody. And so on. –Freud, “Repeating, Remembering and Working-Through”

Even when I do not intend alterity, when I intend that the unity stay within, when I fulfill the form of sense with an intuition, alterity is always already there as a necessary possibility; the indefinite iterability of any sense structure necessarily implies the possibility of alterity, of non-presence, of non-intuition. –Lawlor, “Defend the Derridean Faith”

We know how difficult and painful it is for young children to accept the independence of the object and how, as a result, they deploy a multitude of ‘manic defenses’ to deny it. Whether it is called the depressive position or the resolution of the rapprochement crisis, an essential developmental milestone is achieved when children begin to acknowledge the fact that the mother exists outside the subjective sphere of their omnipotent control. Freud tells us he ‘suspects’ that ‘this narcissistic organization is never wholly abandoned’ and that ‘a human being remains to some extent narcissistic even after he has found external objects for his libido.’ This is an understatement if ever there was one. Reducing our omnipotent denial and accepting the independence of the object—especially with our spouses, lovers, children and friends—is a life-time task that is always relative and incomplete. –Whitebook, “Hans Loewald: A Radical Conservative”

Sure she likes it. But who can buy a rug? –Vito in The Godfather II

I was as common as dirt. You showed me a snapshot, a place with them columns and I pulled you down off them columns and you loved it. Having them color lights going … –Stanley in Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

A relation to others, in these contexts, begins in an acknowledgment of all that is most abject and least reputable in oneself. –Warner, The Trouble with Normal

It’s like just the f*ckin’ regularness of life is too f*ckin hard for me or somethin, I dunno. –Christopher in The Sopranos

I told myself that if I were spared, I would be kinder and more considerate to everyone. But I knew all was lost. They were sure to execute me. That thought alone … was so unbearable that it drove me mad. –Kadema in Kurosawa’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot

It is as if we envied them for maintaining a blissful state of mind—an unassailable libidinal position which we ourselves have since abandoned –Freud, “On Narcissism”

You can’t give up hope just because it’s hopeless. You gotta hope even more and cover your ears and go blah blah blah –Fry in Futurama

I wish to face my murderers. –Rizal before his execution by firing squad

See them as mere illusions which are not less illusory for being seen to be necessary. –Lukács, History and Class Consciousness

A reversed image of the origin accompanies the origin. –Deleuze, “Active and Reactive”

The agent does not alleviate or mask domination. He displays and demonstrates them with the clear conscience of the law enforcer, and brings violence into the homes and minds of the colonized subject. –Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

We’re all conning ourselves one way or the other just to get through life. –Irving in American Hustle

We’re not running a con, but the principles are the same. –Hidalgo in Treme

I learned that there are a variety of roles to play if you’re hustling: youngmanoutofajob butlooking, dontgiveadamnyoungman drifting, perrennialhustler easytomakeout, youngmanlostinthebigcity pleasehelpmesir. There was, too, the pose learned quickly from the others along the street: the stance, the jivetalk—a mixture of jazz, joint, junk sounds—the almost-disdainful, disinterested, but, at the same time, inviting look; the casual way of dress. –Rechy, City of Night

I am becoming God, I am becoming woman, I was Joan of Arc and I am Heliogabalus and the Great Mongol, I am a Chinaman, a redskin, a Templar, I was my father and I was my son. And all the criminals, the whole list of criminals, the decent criminals and the scoundrels: Szondi rather than Freud and his Oedipus. –Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus

This the judge encouraged until they were right proselytes of the new order whereupon he laughed at them for fools. –McCarthy, Blood Meridian

In your fortune lie our fortunes all. –The Judge to black Jackson, who picks up the tarot card of the fool in McCarthy, Blood Meridian

I remember thinking to myself, so this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts, and of course there will always be more. Never occurred to me, it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment, right then. –Clarissa in The Hours

I can never repay you for what you are about to do, but [with it] I can repay everyone else. –Alma’s father to her in Deadwood

A hammer blow to the head can injure the soul. –Fassbinder, Berlin Alexanderplatz

To pass these defendants a poison chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. –Justice Jackson, chief prosecutor of the Germans at Nuremberg

In moral life, ignorance isn’t all that common; dishonesty is far more so. –Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars

History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again. –Angelou

History, like trauma, is never simply one’s own, […] history is precisely the way we are implicated in each other’s traumas. –Caruth, Unclaimed Experience

But perhaps there is some other way to live such that one becomes neither affectively dead nor mimetically violent, a way out of the circle of violence altogether. –Butler, Precarious Life

Time wounds all the heals as we fade out of view. –Queens of the Stone Age, “I Sat by the Ocean”

It is vital, after all, to have a precise understanding of our wounds.

He was not ours. He was not mine. –Karen in Out of Africa

You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star. –Nietzsche

Not to a new life of a better life or a similar life: I come back eternally to this same, selfsame life. –Nietzsche as Zarathustra as Zarathustra’s animals

At the end of the book, when the reader finally learns of the presuppositions, hitherto withheld, which underlie the plot, this leads not to his enlightenment, but to his utter bewilderment. –Freud, The Uncanny


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