Sunday, April 24, 2005

TAGS Certeau

A Variant: The Entry That Changed the World

Only a few days since Richard Adams' gem in the Guardian told of a trend set in motion by Mark Kurlansky, the writer of non-fiction whose Cod (The Fish that Changed the World) and Salt (~The Chemical Compound that Changed the World?) laid tracks for a slew of world-changing subtitles.  In "The Article that Changed the World," Adams gives us the formula for titling manuscripts in the blazing-hot new genre of thing-iographies: Book: the book about the book that changed the world about the fish that changed the world.

I'm busy, so it's inexcusable that I ran across Adams' short piece while surfing (and while watching NBA playoffs).  But in fact I was doing some associative click-around.  More specifically: I was flitting through Bloglines--fresh feeds I set up a few days ago to collect sites matched up with a few designated tags at Just. To. See.

At the same time, Adams reminded me about De Certeau's chapter on hagiographic edification.  There, Certeau traces the shift from writing to celebrate the lives of saints to writing to celebrate the lives of royalty to writing to celebrate the lives of celebrities.  No, Certeau doesn't go all the way to celebrity, but the short chapter does take up the connections between panegyric memorials, the generalization of moral living (i.e., if the saints can live clean, so can you), and the coordination of the life celebrated with named edifices, streets, and so on (as a response to "leaks and 'loss'" (272) or dispersion of a group). And there's some thick stuff on the histori(o-graph-i)cal implications of the switch from celebrating the lives of saints as a way to proliferate saintliness to celebrating (writing into monument) the lives of less savory, though prominent folks in the twentieth c., and also on the vacation function and entertainment value of such texts (take a break; give it a rest,'s almost May).  Then common hagiographical treatments: mystical protections of body, the bestiary lineup and body as applied metaphor.  Least that's what Certeau says.

And so this amounts to mere notes to self more so than anything else.  I want to come back later, retrace. I'm thinking about the crossover from the genre of thing-iography to the inscription of a name on another thing--the edifice in edification (Carrier Dome, RFK Stadium, Cleaver II Blvd).  Certeau gives us hagiographic edification; what is thing-iographic edification? The object named by an ulterior imprint. A stamp (or assemblage/hybrid?). Do we already call this branding?  I would say 'yes,' except that it doesn't reconcile with what Certeau forewarns as a tautological tomb.

Yeah, the entry that changed the world.  But then the change happened slowly. Or maybe it didn't.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at April 24, 2005 10:37 PM to Unspecified