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SHAT, past participle of shit

SHATTER, vb. 1: to cause to drop or be dispersed 2a: to break at once into pieces b: to damage badly: RUIN 3: to cause the disruption or annihilation of: DEMOLISH vi. 1: to break apart: DISINTEGRATE 2: to drop off parts (as leaves, petals, or fruits)

Webster’s Ninth

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“The human subject is originally shattered into sexuality” (36), Leo Bersani has famously asserted in “Erotic Assumptions” (1990) and elsewhere, extending Jean Laplanche’s notion of ébranlement as “self-shattering.”[i] And yet, in Homos (1995), Bersani also figures the jouissance supposedly intrinsic to “homo-ness” in terms of self-shattering, stating that “this self-divestiture is enacted as a willful pursuit of abjection” (126).[ii] A paradox arises: how can self-shattering be the “willful pursuit” of a “human subject [who] is originally shattered into sexuality”? How can a “human subject,” in other words, be willfully “after” (in pursuit of) what it “is” always already “after” (the after-effect of): namely, (self-)shattering? In order to pursue the steps [pas] of this paradoxical “pursuit”—i.e., what we might call the paradox of a willfully shat(tered) remainder—I propose to read a “passage” from Samuel Beckett’s “The Expelled” [“L’Expulsé”] (1946), as translated by Beckett and included (despite its title) as the opening to the 1958 assemblage, Stories and Texts for Nothing [Nouvelles et texts pour rein], which explicitly links the word “shat” to a scene of apparent self-shatt(er)ing and its after-effects. Here, then, is the passage (a passage, we should note, which is itself about the passing[s]—and [im]passes [aporias]—of certain bodily passages and their remainders, or better, their passengers, since “The Expelled” is, as we shall see, the tale of a passenger):

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I had then the deplorable habit, having pissed in my trousers, or shat there, which I did fairly regularly early in the morning, about ten or half past ten, of persisting in going on and finishing my day as if nothing had happened . . . . I dragged on with burning and stinking between my little thighs, or sticking to my bottom, the result of my incontinence. Whence this wary way of walking, with the legs stiff and wide apart. (Beckett 14)[iii]

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Such shat(tered) steps, I want to argue, not only recall the provocative entrance of Beckett at the end (literally) of Bersani’s Homos next to Jean Genet’s “scatological aesthetic” (181), as Calvin Thomas notes,[iv] but they also suggest a certain abutment of the “scatological” on what we might call the “shatological,” i.e., a “shatology”—if not quite an eschatology[v]—whose endgame would involve the “excrementalization of being” (Thomas 180). But how? and to what end?

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Rearward

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AFT [ME. afte back, fr. OE. aeftan from behind] (13c.): REARWARD

AFTER [ME. fr. OE. aefter] (12c.) adv. 1. following in time or place: AFTERWARD, BEHIND; prep. 2a. behind in place 2b. the object of a stated or implied action [go ~ gold].

Webster’s Ninth

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“A rigorous thinking of the after,” as Gerhard Richter has argued, entails “more than a simple sequential progression [or stepping] in time”; unlike various “post-isms” (e.g., post-humanism), “afterness is never a clean break but . . . an unfinished business.”[vi] And indeed, as insinuated by the shat(tered) steps above, there would seem to be something, at bottom, excremental about this “unfinished business” of afterness, as if a failing to properly tie up (one’s) loose end(s), and thus something abject about the absence of its “clean break,” recalling Georges Bataille’s definition of abjection as “the inability to assume with sufficient force the imperative act of excluding.”[vii] “I dragged on with burning and stinking between my little thighs, or sticking to my bottom, the result of my incontinence” (Beckett 14).

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LOOSE END n. (1546) 1. something left hanging loose 2. a fragment of unfinished business—usu. used in pl.

Webster’s Ninth

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If, for Bataille, this unfinished business left behind is literally left behind in the form of “anal eroticism” (12), then this only goes to show how the “imperative act of exclusion”—an act which, as Bataille notes, is “found exactly in anal behavior (when it is applied to the exclusion of excreta)” (12)—is, in fact, never directly assumed: “In childhood, that is to say, at the time attitudes are forming, the act of exclusion is not directly assumed: it is communicated [step by step, we might say] to the child by the mother with the help of expressive grimaces and exclamations” (Bataille 12). Hence the possibility, or so it would seem, for what Bersani calls a “willful pursuit of abjection” as if against such rites of passage—”formation[s] of attitudes” [formation des attitudes] (Bataille 12)—which Freud, in his “Preface to Bourke’s Scatalogic Rites of All Nations” (1913), aptly calls “upbringing” [Erziehung], or what we might call (parental) rearing: “Under the influence of its upbringing” Freud writes, “the human infant is obliged to recapitulate during the early part of its development the changes in attitude [Verhältnis] of the human race towards excremental matters which probably had their start when homo sapiens first raised themselves [Abehung] off Mother Earth.”[viii]

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REAR[ING] vb. [ME reren fr. OE raeran; akin to ON reisa to raise, OE risan to rise] (12c.) 1: to erect by building: CONSTRUCT 2: to raise upright 3a: to breed and raise (an animal) . . . BRING UP b: to cause (as plants) to grow 4: to cause (a horse) to rise up on the hind legs . . . see LIFT

ATTITUDE n. [F fr. It attitudine aptitude, fr. L aptituduo fitness] (1668) 1: the arrangement of the parts of a body or figure: POSTURE 2: a mental position [or feeling] with regard to a fact or a state . . . .

Webster’s Ninth

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Less a scatologic love of “shit” (which paradoxically makes a value of non-value by turning negativity into a positive substance),[ix] abjection, for Bataille, is more a counter-attitude, or inaptitude, with regard to the act of exclusion—i.e., “the foundation of collective existence” (Bataille 10)—which he calls “anal eroticism”:

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When excreta are held too long in the bowels . . . this attitude results solely from the pleasure derived from the retention (as opposed to the act) of the need to exclude. Thus. . . anal eroticism . . . differs from the imperative act of exclusion in its duration: duration introduces the possibility of an alteration, of a radical change of value in the sense that, in its durable form, the process becomes the object of a profound positive interest (the pleasure derived from retention): but this positive interest centers on the process itself (and not directly on its object, the excreta). (Bataille 12)

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More “shatological” than “scatological,” we might say, “anal eroticism” here entails a kind of pleasurable (re)tension of inaptitude, or, as Freud implies in the following passage, a kind of (mal)function of expulsion: “[a] holding back [of the] stool till its accumulation brings about violent muscular contractions and, as it passes through the anus . . . powerful stimulation of the mucus membrane.”[x] Beyond intestinal disturbance, as Freud notes, “the retention of the faecal mass . . . is thus carried out intentionally [absichtliche] . . . to serve, as it were, as a masturbatory stimulus upon the anal zone [der Afterzone]” (52-53). But can such an inaptitude—(mal)function of expulsion—be “carried out intentionally”? Freud’s phrase, in fact, carries us back to our opening passage from “The Expelled” and to the shat(tered) steps of Beckett’s unnamed narrator who calls “this wary way of walking, with the legs stiff and wide apart” (14), precisely, “carriage”:

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This carriage is due, in my opinion, in part at least, to a certain leaning from which I have never been able to free myself completely and which left its stamp, as was only to be expected, on my impressionable years, those which govern the fabrication of character, I refer to the period which extends . . . from the first totterings, behind a chair, to the third form, in which I concluded my studies [terme de mes humanités]. I had then the deplorable habit, having pissed in my trousers, or shat there . . . of persisting in going on and finishing my day as if nothing had happened . . . . I dragged on with burning and stinking between my little thighs, or sticking to my bottom, the result of my incontinence. Whence this wary way of walking . . . . (Beckett 14)

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Ironically, Beckett’s translation of the phrase “terme de mes humanités” (“I concluded my studies”) is itself, I think, a kind of “miscarriage,” because what is at stake in “this carriage”—”this wary way of walking”— is precisely what the French version of “L’Expulsé” literally spells out: i.e., “the end of (my) human(itie)s,”[xi] as both the end of “my humanity” and of the institution known as “the humanities,” when it comes to the “fabrication of character” as a (de)termin(at)ing step in the “proper” upbringing (rearing) of the “self” [autos], or what Guy Hocquenghem called “the formation in the child of the small responsible person”:[xii]

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Control of the anus is the precondition of taking responsibility for property. The ability to “hold back” or evacuate faeces is the necessary moment of the constitution of the self. “To forget oneself” [to shit oneself] is the most ridiculous and distressing kind of social accident there is, the ultimate outrage to the human person. (Hocquenghem 99)

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As if indifferent to this “ability”—this “necessary moment” (or step)—in the rearing of the “human person” (“self” [autos]), the unnamed narrator of “The Expelled” carries on “with burning and stinking between [his] thighs, or sticking to [his] bottom”—carries on, in other words, “as if nothing had happened”— whence not only “this carriage,” these shat(tered) steps, as if carried-over from this youthful carrying-on, but also his “love,” as he tells us, of “the prone position” [la station horizontale] (15, “L’Expulsé” 22).

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CARRIAGE n. [ME cariage, fr. ONF carier to transport in a vehicle] (14c.) 1: the act of carrying 2a: DEPORTMENT b: manner of bearing the body: POSTURE 3: MANAGEMENT 4: the price or expense of carrying 5: BURDEN, LOAD [baggage] 6a: a wheeled vehicle, esp. a horse-drawn vehicle . . . 8: IMPORT, SENSE [as carried by words]

Webster’s Ninth

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As stated before, “The Expelled” is, at bottom, the tale of a passenger, and, in fact, the unnamed narrator spends most of the time curled-up in the rear-end of a black horse-drawn carriage (“cab” [17]), circling aimlessly: “It’s a big black box, rocking and swaying on its springs, the windows are small, you curl up in a corner, it smells musty” (17); “the horses were farting and shitting as if they were going to the fair” (16); “To the Zoo, I said. It’s rare for a capital to be without a Zoo. I added, Don’t go too fast” (17). Although they never make it to the Zoo, it is tempting to read this carriage (and its prone passenger) as carrying-on those other shat(tered) steps (“carriage”) in a “rectally inflected embrace of self-abjection” (Thomas 178). Indeed, insofar as the “carriage” of the “human person” (“self” [autos]) is an effect of “de-animalization”[xiii] as de-analization, we must, as Hocquenghem says, “eliminate the anal, or rather transform it into anality [into a stage or step]” (112), in order to “properly” step into “the great lineage of Humanity” (107), and thus into our parent’s footsteps. (Hence the cryptic remark in “The Expelled”: “Everyone is a parent, that is what keeps you from hoping” [15].) And yet, the so-called evolution of upright posture, as Freud says, is not simply a break from animal olfactory-sexual behavior (“the prone position”), but, as Bataille says, a “displacement of the center of gravity in the walking or running of various animals,[xiv] such that:

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[With] the radical transformation of the hindquarters of the first [upright] men . . . . the human anus [l’anus humain] secluded itself deep in the flesh, in the crack of the buttocks, and it now forms a projection only in squatting and excretion. The full potential of its blossoming . . . found the way open only toward . . . the buccal orifices . . . throat, brain, and eyes. [Thus] the blossoming of the human face . . . succeeded . . . [that which] had hitherto made the anal orifice bud and flame. (Bataille J 77; translation modified).

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As a radical displacement of carriage, “man,” it seems, is less as an evolutionary event of “standing [up] straight” (Bataille 76) than a passage (step) from “the prone position” to what Bataille calls “vertical posture” [la station verticale] (76), but which only “succeeds,” ironically, by carrying-on, which is to say, by getting- carried-away-with, the “carriage” (baggage, burden, deportment) of an anal expulsion. (“I dragged on with burning and stinking between my little thighs, or sticking to my bottom, the result of my incontinence.”)

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EXPEL vb. [L. expellere, fr. ex– out + pellere to drive] (14c.) 1: to force out: EJECT 2: to force to leave (a place or organization) by official action: to take away the rights or privileges of membership (expelled from college)

EXPULSION n. [L. expulsio, fr. expulsus, pp. of expellere to expel] (15c.): the act of expelling: the state of being expelled

Webster’s Ninth

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Although the term “expelled” [expulsé]—from ex- (out) + pellere (to drive)—appears only in its title, Beckett’s text, with its carriages and passengers, constantly insists on a certain notion of the drive (pulsion), as if “sustained by an irresistible, inhuman impetus.”[xv] Indeed, readings of the so-called Beckettian hero as abject “outcast” (Thomas 178)—from ab- (away) + ject (to throw or cast)—miss the point, I think, to the extent that the abject thus becomes, as Julia Kristeva warned, the reassuring substance of an identity (politics): “[when] the body’s inside . . . shows up in order to compensate for the collapse of the border between inside and outside . . . urine, blood, sperm, [and] excrement then show up in order to reassure the subject.”[xvi] Or as Bersani writes at the end of Homos:

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In a society where oppression is structural, constitutive of sociality itself, only what society throws off—its mistakes or its pariahs [its outcasts]—can serve the future. (180)

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In Homos, then, even the aimless circuity of Genet’s “tongue drill[ing] into his lover’s anus” (178) becomes, for Bersani, “the fertility of rimming” (179)—i.e., “the anus produces life, waste is fecund, from death new landscapes emerge” (179)—all of which seems consistent with Bersani’s speculation that “self-shattering” (originally) serves as an evolutionary scheme of survival for the human infant (100) and then (afterwards) becomes a human “aptitude” (100) for “the willful pursuit of abjection” (126) in scenarios involving what Bersani repeatedly calls the “nonsuicidal disappearance of the subject” (99; emphasis in original). Tim Dean, perhaps more than anyone, has pushed Bersani on this distinction between a “suicidal” and “nonsuicidal” disappearance of the subject,[xvii] asking him point-blank in a 1997 interview: “What, then, is this benign, nonsuicidal self-dissolution?”[xviii] To which, Bersani replies:

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[W]e have to go back to the notion in Laplanche that sexuality is originally constituted as masochism. For me, Laplanche was suggesting . . . that what is inherently destructive is also originally a mode of survival. This led to [my] speculation . . . concerning the evolutionary purpose served by sexuality as ébranlement, as shattering. Perhaps the only way for the infant to survive the imbalance between external stimuli and the ego structures prepared to receive them is to find the pain of this imbalance pleasurable. This does not mean, incidentally, that ébranlement is an empirical characteristic of our sexual lives; it means that a masochistic self-shattering was constitutive of our identity as sexual beings, that it is present, always, not primarily in our orgasms but rather in the terrifying but also exhilarating instability of human subjectivity. (Bersani AC, 5-6)

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Despite the human exceptionalism of these survivalist speculations, it is noteworthy that, in “Is the Rectum a Grave?” (1987), perhaps his most famous evocation of self-shattering, Bersani does, in fact, characterize the pleasure of “the bottom”—i.e., the de-meaning image of a man’s participation in receptive anal sex—assuicidal: “a grown man, legs high in the air, unable to refuse the suicidal ecstasy of being a woman.”[xix] And yet, by the time of Homos, Bersani will write: “the promise of suicidal jouissance is what sustains the most aggressive self-affirmations and self-promotions” (96). Clearly, an ambivalence seems to hang over the notion of self-shattering as “suicide” in the Bersanian corpus,[xx] something which can perhaps be traced to Bersani’s first use of the term “self-shattering” which occurs (as far as I can tell) in his reading of the suicidal figure, Igitur, in The Death of Stéphane Mallarmé (1982), where Bersani writes of “Igitur’s fate” (suicide) as “an inclination, on the part of consciousness, to abandon the world for the sake of a possibly self-shattering and yet also self-authenticating spasm of negativity.”[xxi] The temptation of such an end-pleasure, as we might call it, lies in what Bersani condemns as “an anti-vital, perhaps even anti-evolutionary capacity to make us love death, to make us see dying as power” (DSM 65; emphasis added). And yet, by the time of Arts of Impoverishment (1993), co-authored with Ulysse Dutoit, it is precisely this notion of suicide as a kind of (“impotent”) “power” that is valorized in “works” such as Beckett’s, with Bersani now asking:

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Are such works, then, merely impotent, perhaps even suicidal protests in the margins of culture? To take them seriously is to face the possibility that they may indeed be nothing more than that . . . . Perhaps the only way to escape from the nearly irresistible thrill of exercising a hyperbolic (personal and cultural) ego is to exaggerate, with a Beckettian obstinacy . . . our divested, even derelict condition. Might there, however, be a “power” in such impotence? . . . This is difficult to think about, even more difficult to imagine in concrete political terms. But . . . there is . . . something exhilarating in the idea of a joyful self-dismissal giving birth to a new kind of power. (Bersani and Dutoit 8-9)[xxii]

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Yet it is precisely this idea of a “joyful self-dismissal”—expulsion—”giving birth to a new kind of power” which is literally shat(tered) in Beckett’s “The Expelled” [“L’Expulsé”], and not simply because, as critics have noted, Beckett’s “scenes of expulsion” conflate birth and defecation (“fetal/fecal and anus/vagina”),[xxiii] but more radically because, in its incontinent insistence on figures of the drive (carriages and passengers), what Lee Edelman in another context calls “pulsions of the anus,”[xxiv]. “The Expelled,” by failing to “dissociate masochism from the death drive” (Bersani 99), fails to offer a “clean break” between “before” and “after” (beginning-end) necessary for the “proper” standing of the “self” [autos] as (a vehicle of) autonomous will. “The Expelled,” in other words, “begins” not simply with an involuntary scene of expulsion (the unnamed narrator cast down a flight of stairs), but rather with a deconstruction of accountability (shat[tered] steps):

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There were not many steps. I had counted them a thousand times, both going up and coming down, but the figure has gone from my mind. I have never known whether you should say one with your foot on the sidewalk, two with the following foot on the first step, and so on, or whether the sidewalk shouldn’t count. At the top of the steps I fell foul of the same dilemma . . . . [F]rom top to bottom, it was the same . . . I did not know where to begin nor where to end, that’s the truth of the matter. (Beckett 9).

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Which “steps” count? How do we separate the base from the step “proper”? When do we count “one”? Such aporias of accountability (shat[tered] steps), of course, cannot be separated from those of “carriage” (shat[tered] steps). But by destabilizing its “own” frame (parergon), so to speak, “The Expelled” destabilizes the very idea of “expulsion”: since there was never anyone “properly” at home to begin with (“before”), no one can be expelled (“after”). There’s nothing to carry out. Such is the trope of “originary dispossession” in the Beckettian corpus.[xxv] Or as the unnamed narrator puts it: “The fall was therefore not serious” (10). “Coming to rest in the gutter,” he tells us, “nothing compelled me to get up” (10). Nothing, indeed. As the belated personification of a “carriage” belonging to no one, we might say, there was never any “self” (“before”) to be “shattered” (“after”). And yet, something, it seems, compels him from “the prone position” [la station horizontale]. (W)hat?

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It was merely my hat sailing towards me through the air, rotating as it came [ . . . ] How to describe this hat? And why? When my head had attained I shall not say its definitive but its maximum dimensions, my father said to me, Come, son, we are going to buy your hat, as though it had pre-existed from time immemorial in a pre-established place. He went straight to the hat. I personally had no say in the matter, nor had the hatter [nor, we might say, had the shatter]. (Beckett 10-11).

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Resting in the gutter, it is as if the unnamed narrator is interpellated by a rotating hat coming after him. Pursued—or should we say, preceeded—by a (s)hat? Hélène Cixous has noted the omnipresence of hats in the Beckettian corpus: “Man being a thinking hat. No pure outside. No pure inside.”[xxvi] A kind of nothing folded over on “itself,” a fabrication not unlike a bicycle horn or sphincter.[xxvii] A preposterous prosthesis.

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PREPOSTEROUS [L. reversed, perverted, absurd (f. prae before + poster-us coming after)] 1. Having or placing last that which should be first . . . 2. Contrary to the order of nature . . . monstrous . . .

Webster’s Ninth

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Note that the illustration accompanying the French version of “L’Expulsé,” executed by Beckett’s friend, the painter Avigdor Arikha, also seems to figure this rotating hat as a kind of pulsating sphincter (Fig. 1):

shat_brown

Fig 1

“The sphincter muscles,” as Martin Pops has noted, “are semi-autonomic.”[xxviii] “If shitting is a consummate pleasure,” Pops tells us, “it is because at a certain moment free-will and necessity, what one wants and what one must, precisely coincide” (31). But isn’t such a dialectic of perfect auto-affective end-pleasure precisely what Bersani condemns in (suicidal) self-shattering as a “self-authenticating spasm of negativity”? Hence the paradox of what I called a wllfully shat(tered) remainder: even in a “willful pursuit of abjection” (Bersani 126), as Lee Edelman has noted, “our very will to escape the human insistently reinscribes it.”[xxix] And yet, it is also Edelman who notes a certain (deadly) imbrication of “man” and “sphincter”:

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[I]f Freud identified the question of origins with the riddle of the sphinx, then perhaps we should note that sphinx itself is etymologically cognate with sphincter. Derived from the Greek sphingein, “to hold tight,” the sphinx, like the sphincter, gets read, after Oedipus, as holding men’s lives in its fatal grip unless and until they succeed in solving, by becoming the solution themselves, the developmental riddle whose answer, mirabile dictu, is “man.” (Edelman RWG 79)

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“All heaven in the sphincter,” Beckett once wrote in an early poem, “Sanies I,” whose title, taken from the Latin for “morbid discharge,” reads like an uncanny inscription of the rear-end of Bersani’s name.[xxx] Unlike Bersani’s “self-authenticating spasm of negativity,” however, the “suicide” (suicidal self-shatt[er]ing) that ends Beckett’s “trilogy”—”The Expelled,” “The Calmative,” “The End”—finds the unnamed narrator (passenger) once again horizontal, carried along in the rear (“stern”) of yet another vehicle—an abandoned boat—drifting aimlessly at sea: “[I] raised my feet and pushed the lid back,”[xxxi] he tells us:

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Flat on my back I saw nothing, except dimly [ . . . ] I was very snug in my box [ . . . ] So I waited till the desire to shit, or even to piss, lent me wings . . . . Arched and rigid I edged down my trousers and turned a little on my side, just enough to free the hole. To contrive a little kingdom, in the midst of the universal muck, then shit on it, ah that was me all over. The excrements were me too, I know [ . . . ] I must have pierced a hole beforehand in the [bottom] floor-boards [of the boat], for there I was down on my knees prying out the plug with my knife. The hole was small and the water rose slowly. It would take a good half hour, everything included, barring accidents. Back now in the stern-sheets, my legs stretched out, my back well propped against the sack stuffed with grass I used as a cushion, I swallowed my calmative. The sea, the sky, the mountains and the islands closed in and crushed me in a mighty systole [une systole immense], then scattered to the uttermost confines of space. (Beckett “The End,” 69-72)

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SYSTOLE n. [Gk. systole, fr. systellein to contract] (1578): a rhythmically recurrent contraction; esp. the contraction of the heart by which the blood is forced . . .

Webster’s Ninth

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So ends the aptly titled, “The End,” with a systolic spasm of “anti-vital,” “anti-evolutionary” end-pleasure: self-annihilation from an inundated hole in the bottom? a grown man, legs stretched out, unable to refuse the suicidal ecstasy of the bottom? Less a “willful pursuit of abjection” than an incontinent “expulsion”— i.e., a prone loosening of a plug—”The End,” we might say, ends with a loose-end, with an active-passive pulsating hole in the bottom: an incontinent ass(ault) (on human rectitude). Preposterous (s)hat.

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Afterword

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wordshit

—Samuel Beckett, “Texts for Nothing 9”[xxxii]

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By the time of “The Expelled” (1946), Beckett had “compiled notes on the writings of Freudian Ernest Jones, whom he glossed as ‘Erogenous Jones.’”[xxxiii] Jones, of course, following Freud, famously argued in “Anal-Erotic Character Traits” (1918) that “books and other printed matter are a curious symbol of faeces, presumably through the association with paper and the idea of pressing (smearing, imprinting).”[xxxiv] Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that Beckett notes the following in a letter to Mary Howe (14 November 1936):

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My next work shall be on rice paper wound about a spool, with a perforated line every six inches [like toilet paper] . . . . The length of each chapter will be carefully calculated to suit with the average free motion [or bowel movement]. And with every copy a free sample of some laxative to promote sales. The Beckett Bowel Books, Jesus in farto. Issued in imperishable tissue. Thistledown end paper. All edges disinfected. 1000 wipes of clean fun. Also in Braille for anal pruritics. (Beckett, qtd. in Shaw 59)

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Smear the queer.

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[i] Leo Bersani, “Erotic Assumptions: Narcissism and Sublimation in Freud,” in The Culture of Redemption (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1990), 36. Bersani’s notion of “being shattered into sexuality”—as a particularly “human phenomenon” (38)—is perhaps most famously developed in The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art (New York: Columbia UP, 1986), especially in the chapter “Sexuality and Esthetics” (29-50).

[ii] Leo Bersani, Homos (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995), 125-126. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text

[iii] Samuel Beckett, “The Expelled” [1946], trans. Samuel Beckett and Richard Seaver, in Stories and Texts for Nothing [1958] (New York: Grove Press, 1967), 9-25. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[iv] See Calvin Thomas, “Cultural Droppings: Bersani’s Beckett,” Twentieth Century Literature 2 (Summer 2001): 169-196. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[v] See William Hutchings, “‘Shat Into Grace’ Or the Tale of a Turd: Why It Is How It Is in Samuel Beckett’s How It Is,” Papers on Language and Literature 21.1 (Winter 1985): 64-87. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[vi] Gerhard Richter, Afterness: Figures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 8 & 17. See also Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, trans. David Wills, ed. Marie-Louise Mallet (New York: Fordham UP, 2008), where Derrida writes: “everything in what I am about to say will lead back to the question of what ‘to follow’ or ‘to pursue’ means, as well as ‘to be after’” (3). And later—apropos of animality and the “ends of man”—Derrida asks: “What does one do when one follows? What is it I am doing when I am (following)? When I am (following) after someone or something, after an animal that some hold to be something that is not necessarily someone? What does ‘to be after’ mean?” (54-55).

[vii]Georges Bataille, “Abjection and Miserable Forms” [1934], trans. Yvonne Shafir, in More & Less, ed. Sylvere Lotringer (Cambridge: Semiotext[e], 1999), 10. Emphasis added. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[viii] Sigmund Freud, “Preface to Bourke’s Scatalogic Rites of All Nations” [1913], Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 12, trans. and ed. James Strachey (London: Hogarth, 1961), 336.

[ix] On this paradox of negativity, see Steven Connor, “Absolute Rubbish: Cultural Economies of Loss in Freud, Bataille and Beckett,” in Theory and Cultural Value (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), 57-101.

[x]See Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality [1905], trans. James Strachey (New York: Basic Books, 1975), 52. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[xi] See Samuel Beckett, “L’Expulsé,” in Nouvelles et textes pour rien (Paris: Les éditions de minuit, 1958), 20. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[xii] Guy Hocquenghem, “Capitalism, The Family and The Anus,” in Homosexual Desire [1972], trans. Daniella Dangoor (Durham: Duke UP, 1993), 98. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[xiii] See Roberto Esposito, “The Dispositif of The Person” (unpublished manuscript), 8. A version of this essay has been published as “The Dispositif of The Person,”Law, Culture and the Humanities 8 (February 2012): 17-30.

[xiv] Georges Bataille, “The Jesuve” [1927], in Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939, ed. and trans. Allan Stoekl et al. (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1985), 77. Emphasis added. Hereafter cited in the text as J.

[xv] See Georges Bataille, “Molloy’s Silence” [1951], trans. John Pilling, in On Beckett: Essays and Criticism, ed. S.E. Gontarski (New York: Grove Press, 1986), 135. Hereafter cited in the text as MS.

[xvi] Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia UP, 1982), 53-54. Kristeva implies (wrongly, I think) that Bataille too belongs with such metaphysical “frontiersmen.”

[xvii] See, in particular, Tim Dean, “Sex and Syncope,” Raritan 15 (Winter 1996): 64-86. As Dean states: “The question of suicide brings us to the crux of Bersani’s argument, which lies in his attempt to distinguish the ego-annihilating force he locates in homo-ness from the homophobic forces that would happily . . . annihilate gay people—forces with which he claims anti-identitarian queer theorists unwittingly collude by eviscerating gayness of all substantive attributes. Homos wants us to distinguish between gay self-erasure, which Bersani condemns, and gay self-shattering, which he applaudes . . . . ‘Psychoanalysis challenges us to imagine a nonsuicidal disappearance of the subject—or, in other terms, to dissociate masochism from the death drive.’”

[xviii] See Leo Bersani, Tim Dean, Hal Foster, Kaja Silverman, “A Conversation with Leo Bersani,” October 82 (Autumn 1997): 3-16. Hereafter cited in the text as AC.

[xix] Leo Bersani, “Is the Rectum a Grave?” October 43 (Winter 1987): 212.

[xx] A rare, sympathetic reading of suicide occurs in Bersani’s analysis of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film, Salò (1975), an analysis co-authored with Ulysse Dutoit aptly titled “Merde Alors” [Shit!], in which the suicide of a pianist— “the woman who jumps . . . [in] the most shocking scene of Salò“—is praised for “resist[ing] interpretation” (34): “We follow her from the piano she suddenly stops playing to her suicidal window upstairs, across rooms and on the staircase, as she moves toward her startling denouement. Walking in films creates narrative suspense; people almost never walk around in movies, they walk to. The narrative tension generated by the pianist’s walking is strictly formal: nothing indicates either where she is going or how she feels about going there. She sits at the window, looks out, puts a hand to her mouth, and then, expressionless again, coolly steps out the window to her death” (34-35). See Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit, “Merde Alors,” October 13 (Summer 1980): 22-35.

[xxi] Leo Bersani, The Death of Stèphane Mallarmè (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1982), 65. Emphasis added. Hereafter cited in the text as DSM.

[xxii] See Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit, Arts of Impoverishment: Beckett, Rothko, Resnais (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 8-9.

[xxiii] See Paul Stewart, Sex and Aesthetics in Samuel Beckett’s Work (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 132.

[xxiv] Lee Edelman, “Rear Window’s Glasshole,” in Out Takes: Essays on Queer Theory and Film, ed. Ellis Hanson (Durham: Duke UP, 1999), 79. Emphasis added. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text as RWG.

[xxv] Thomas Trezise, Into the Breach: Samuel Beckett and the Ends of Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 52. See especially the chapter “Dispossession” (34-65).

[xxvi] Hélène Cixous, Zero’s Neighbour: Sam Beckett, trans. Laurent Milesi (Cambridge: Polity, 2010), 10.

[xxvii] Deleuze and Guattari have noted the bicycle-horn-anus assemblage in “Samuel Beckett’s characters”: “Their various gaits and methods of self-locomotion constitute . . . a finely tuned machine. And then there is the bicycle . . . What relationship does the bicycle-horn machine have with the mother-anus machine?” See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1983), 2.

[xxviii] Martin Pops, “The Metamorphosis of Shit,” Salmagundi 56 (Spring 1982): 31. Hereafter cited in the text.

[xxix] See Lee Edelman, “Unbecoming: Pornography and the Queer Event,” in Post/Porn/Politics: Queer_Feminist Perspectives on the Politics of Porn Performance and Sex_Work, ed. Tim Stüttgen (Berlin: b_books, 2009), 209.

[xxx] Samuel Beckett, “Sanies I,” in Collected Poems: 1930-1978 (London: John Calder, 1999), 17.

[xxxi] See Samuel Beckett, “The End” [1946], trans. Samuel Beckett and Richard Seaver, in Stories and Texts for Nothing [1958] (New York: Grove Press, 1967), 68. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[xxxii] Samuel Beckett, “Texts for Nothing 9,” trans. Samuel Beckett, in Stories and Texts for Nothing [1958] (New York: Grove Press, 1967), 118.

[xxxiii] See Joanne Shaw, Impotence and Making in Samuel Beckett’s Trilogy: Molloy, Malone Dies, and How It Is (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010), 21. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[xxxiv] See Ernest Jones, “Anal-Erotic Character Traits” [1918], in Papers on Psycho-Analysis (Boston: Beacon Press, 1961), 425. Emphasis added.

Originally presented, on brown paper, at the “After Queer, After Humanism” conference, held at Rice University in September 2012.

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