Sunday, March 7, 2010

Just Gaming

Lyotard, Jean-François and Jean-Loup Thébaud. Just Gaming. Trans. Wlad Godzich. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1985.

Lyotard and Thébaud structure their collaborative work as a Platonic dialogue with the former functioning as the main orator and the latter as the interlocutor. While the second half of the book focuses mainly on the concept of justice and how it can be most appropriately formulated within the discourse of contemporary politics as a “multiplicity of justices, each one of them defined in relation to the rules specific to each [justice] game” (100), the first portion of the book covers, at length, language and its pragmatic usage. Over the course of the first half of the dialogue, both men provide aphoristic quotes that pertain to writing, such as “writing is irresponsible...because it does not come in response to a question. It proceeds of its own pace,” and “there must be a kind of absence of readers to write the way some of us wish to write” (8). Furthermore, Lyotard claims that “the artistic vanguard knows that it has no readers, no viewers, and no listeners,” but what “is at stake in artistic language today is experimentation” and if an author immerses himself or herself in the experimental moment, the work itself will eventually “wind up producing its own readers” (10). Moreover, Lyotard discusses the manner in which pagan cultures employ narratives as an avenue of experimentation within the language arts; specifically, narration becomes kinetic when “stories are animated with movement and they pass over you, [and] you must pass the movement on” (35). This movement is not merely a reference to plot arc, but, literally, about the dissolution of origins in that, with regard to the narrator, there is “no subject because s/he changes bodies, and by changing bodies, s/he, of course, changes passions as well as functions” (40). Eventually, Lyotard relates language and narrative discourse to justice in that the most just language game is the one in which a speaker “speaks only inasmuch as one listens, that is, one speaks as a listener and not as an author. It is a game without an author” (72).

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