Language as Meeting-Space and the Symbolic Order

In my recently-drafted seminar paper for poetry, I argued that poetic language may offer a “common ground” in which to draw autistic writers and allistic readers together.  In the currently-underway seminar paper for theory, I’m attempting to articulate a theoretical (as opposed to poetic) basis for that same argument.

So of course Spivak’s A Critique of Postcolonial Reason threw a wrench in those works:

The Name-of-the-Father imagery in The Eighteenth Brumaire can help to emphasize that, on the level of class or group action, “true correspondence to own being” is as artificial or social as the patronymic.

Lacan’s Name-of-the-Father (NOF) marks the entry of the child into the symbolic order or language-based experience.  If, as I’m guessing, this is roughly analogous to the “left-hemispheric dominance for language [as]…a side effect of print literacy” Julie Kane describes in “Poetry as Right-Hemispheric Language,” then Spivak’s statement complicates the heck out of my thesis.  Is Spivak saying that an essentialist definition of a group (subaltern or otherwise) is no more “real” than this emergence into language-based experience and vice versa?

The things such a statement might imply for my thesis are legion – among them, that we cannot possibly assume non-lingual autists have no internal symbolic order.  The work of autistic writers and artists like Tito Mukhopadhyay and Jessy Park would seem to make this point obvious, at any rate: both clearly have an internal symbolic order, just not one predicated on word-based “language.”  Even after decades of training and work as a writer, teacher of English, and lawyer (talk about left-brain language holy crap), translation of my own thoughts into word-based language remains, for me, a consciously laborious process and a persistently reductive one.  It’s not just that I think things for which there are no words; I think things for which there cannot be words, by their very nature.  Somethinks preclude wordification.

Thus, I could argue that just like there is nothing inherently “right” or “normal” about neurotypicality, there is nothing inherently “right” or “normal” about word-based language.  “Pervasive” is not the same as “inherently preferable”; just because the vast majority of people work from a basis of wordified language does not make wordified language essentially better, nor does it make people who do not work from a basis of wordified language essentially defective.  Despite (or perhaps because of?) its pervasiveness, wordified language remains, on some level(s), arbitrary.*

…But what does that do to my argument that poetic language offers a “common ground”?  To what extent am I asking users of predominately left-brained, word-based language to deconstruct the regime in which they reside and thus to get out of their own way (a la Spivak) and to what extent am I establishing a subject-position by asking and thus creating the grounds on which I can be responded-to, responding-to containing an inherent acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the asking subject (a la Anzaldua)?

Like the questions I constantly ask my students, I don’t have answers to these.  They’re their there, though.


*Irony: If I keep this up, I’m going to wordify myself right out of a job.



About Dani Alexis

Dani Alexis is the Legal Coordinator at Autonomous Press as well as a freelance writer. When she's not working, she coaches winterguard and waits on the whims of two spoiled cats. Check out her most recent work by subscribing to her Patreon:
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