Monday, December 07, 2009

from "None of us have rules, none of us have scripture": CA Conrad’s Advanced Elvis Course and the Politics of Spirit

I have been trying to write an essay on CA Conrad's poetics via his recent Soft Skull book, Advanced Elvis Course. Here is a selection from the essay destined for publication in Paolo Javier's 2nd Avenue Poetry:

"Conrad’s work puts forth a genealogy of morals in the spirit of Spinoza’s ethics and Nietzsche’s evaluative philosophy. This genealogy, like Spinoza’s and Nietzsche’s, radically calls into question the relationship between morality and law. Elvis, like a certain Jesus of recent liberation theologies, is that which permits, and he whose only law is love. Not “love thy neighbor” or “turn the other cheek,” but love for the body as that which grounds a just and reasonable society—Spinoza’s socius or Nitezsche’s active affects which overcome that which is resentful, disaggregating, and reactionary. One overcomes (or over-cums) because they are bursting with love for multitudes. As in Melville’s homoerotic law of sea articulated in “The Squeezing of the Sperm” chapter of Moby Dick, singularities “splice” singularities—affect-to-affect, man-to-man. Material bodies are plastic/synthetic; all flesh is just flesh as though related by a blank before or beyond social discursion. Melville makes an appearance in Advanced Elvis Course through reference to a concert Elvis gave in which he shouted the words “Moby Dick” during the break between “Jailhouse Rock” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” Conrad reads this eruption as having to do with American barbarism: “Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.” (43) Yet Advanced Elvis Course, like Moby Dick, takes one figure as its central fact, and from this figure spins an allegorical compendium of socio-political consequence. Elvis, like the Whale, is in all of us. One becomes paranoid to seeing Him everywhere the more one looks."


Stan Apps said...

This is very interesting. I love that book, and like the way you position it in terms of "love for multitudes." I see the book as fascinatingly neo-pagan, and one of the most intelligent accounts I've seen of pop-culture iconography as a covert religiosity (which Conrad brings into the open).

I was a bit confused by the way you use Nietzsche here though, as I don't think love is at all at the basis of Nietzsche's moral geneology--Nietzsche's active principle has more to do with the enforcement of one's will on others as a regulatory principle, which is not exactly an orgiastic concept, unless one were to conceive of an orgy of control, or some sort of regulatory frenzy. It might be good to draw these distinctions more explicitly.

Thom Donovan said...

hey Stan,

good to finally meet you 'here.' you have been posting some interesting stuff yourself at Free Will Applicator and elsewhere.

Though it is not adequately 'fleshed-out' here--nor will it be--I am referring to Nietzsche's notion of active forces conquering (or willing) reactive ones as an act of love and morality--the conquering of death in life; the power of mind and body over other powers which threaten its disaggregation (a good unto itself in both Spinozan and Nietzschean metaphysics). perhaps "joy" or "blessedness" would be a more apt term...

"the enforcement of one's will on others as a regulatory principle"--this is Foucaltian application of Nietzsche's notion of genealogy/mnemotechnique.

The will Nietzsche speaks of is principally of one's own body, and the mind which issues from having a body. It is ontological, and not yet practical in the ways that Foucault would practice it...