“We Do Not Take Literature Seriously”: Marília Librandi Rocha on Hallucinatory Reading

by on Sep.27, 2013

From poetry-mourners/killers to Argentine novelists, it seems like everyone is panicking over the ontology of literature these days.  I think one of the freshest takes on how and why we read comes from Marília Librandi Rocha’s essay “Maranhão-Manhattan“:

There is a sense of urgency to this proposal. My thesis is that, unlike the Indian tribes and the fear and respect that the shamans require, we ignore what poets tell us because we think that what they write is only literature; in spite of all that has been written, we do not take them seriously, for real; we do not take literature seriously as an existential, social, psychological, ecological production. From my point of view, we need to re-think the magical value of fiction without characterizing it as exoteric or exotic. We need to re-think the usefulness of poetry without limiting it to business. The problem is: how do we do this?

For example, experience seeing our world through the eyes of literature – as if we were a character inside a book watching the world that exists outside our own fiction, placing ourselves in its body/under its point of view. It is a type of borgean experiment. Maybe we need to invent a policy of imagination. That means considering what fiction tells us at the same level of what nature sciences tell us; at the same level of what philosophy tells us, granting it the same rights. Maybe we need to re-think the famous expression ‘suspension of disbelief’: suspend the disbelief of the moderns and sustain the literality (not only the literariety) of what the fiction writers themselves say.

The times we live in today are times of vertiginous changes. Like Bruno Latour says (this incredible philosopher of modern sciences):” We can’t yet measure this change, but there is big change” (interview to V. Castro). This new philosophy, which questions the idea that we “have never been modern”, is in fact questioning Disenchantment (Entzauberung). We need to hallucinate, as Sloterdijk says.  This Amerindian thought opens amazing possibilities of finding alternatives for what Gotthard Gunther synthesized as our 25 centuries of European metaphysics and technology, which are based on a monovalent ontology and a bivalent logic.

Regarding the former, it affirms that the being is and the non-being isn’t; bivalent logic states that what is true isn’t false, and what is false isn’t true, tertium non datur.  According to Sloterdijk, this classic metaphysics is not capable of describing cultural phenomena such as tools, signs, works of art, machines, books, and all kinds of artifacts that are, he says, “by its own constitution, hybrid, with a spiritual component and a material component”. He explains that our way of separating body and soul, spirit and matter, subject and object is not capable of really perceiving these things; it cannot really explain what they are.

1 comment for this entry:
  1. Anthony

    In language there is a storehouse of knowledge/ intuition about the world and about consciousness — intuitions about phenomena not currently circumscribed by quantum physics & relativity. Expert use of language brings these intuitions to our attention. It is admittedly subjective but no less real for its subjectivity. Literature seems “hallucinatory” only because it is difficult for us, on a day-to-day basis, to keep in full view the seeming contradictions of the physical world. A minute is not a minute, and matter is here or there by chance. Thus literature exists.