יש משהו מסעיר ומחריד בספרה פורץ הגבולות של אביטל רונאל, אשר לא זו בלבד שהוא וירטואוזי, במידה רבה הוא גם מציב כללים אחרים של כתיבת ביקורת תרבות, ספרות ופילוסופיה. ברגעיו המובחרים הוא מאפשר לדמות את אביטל רונאל מפרקת בעקביות, ביסודיות, באמנות, בכאב, באבל ובהומור בניינים וגופים שלמים של "ידע" ושל הבנות עתיקות-יומין... מובילה את חלקיהם אל עבר הגבול שבו ניתן לומר כל דבר על כל דבר.
יש בטיפשות משהו שקשה לשים עליו את האצבע, שחומק מן הסורקים הקוגניטיביים שלנו ומגיח ככפיל ערטילאי של בקיאות ואינטליגנציה. רבים ניסו את ידם בניסוח ההשלכות הפוליטיות והחברתיות של הטיפשות – מרקס, ניטשה, דלז ואחרים. אבל הטיפשות, דוחקת וסרבנית, יוצרת משבר באופן שאנו מבינים פוליטיקה, אתיקה ופסיכואנליזה.
הדילמה שמציב הסובייקט המוגבל כרוך בזהות לאומית, במזוכיזם ובפוליטיקה מינית, כמו גם בקשר שבין המבע הפואטי לבין הגמגום המצוי במקורותיו. הטיפשות, אשר קשורה במהותה לסצנה הפילוסופית הראשונית של השתוממות, מכוונת גם אל מה שלא היה ניתן לניכוס במובן ההיסטורי, כמו למשל הדיון באייכמן, כפי שעשתה חנה ארנדט, לא רק במונחים של הבנליות של הרוע אלא גם במונחים של הטיפשות של הרוע.
אביטל רונאל היא פרופסור לספרות גרמנית, אנגלית והשוואתית; ראש המחלקה לספרות גרמנית באוניברסיטה של ניו יורק. בין ספריה האחרים: The Telephone Book; Dictations; Crack Wars.
טיפשות מאת אביטל רונאל בהוצאת רסלינג, בשיתוף עם מכללת בית ברל – ביה"ס ללימודים רב-תחומיים. תרגום: עידית שורר, דרור ק' לוי עריכה מדעית: ד"ר דיאנה סילברמן-קלר וד"ר דרור ק' לוי, עיצוב עטיפה: מיכל סהר, 368 עמודים.
Avital Ronell is chair of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature at New York University, where she is a professor of German, English, & comparative literature. Ronell was born in Prague. Her parents were Israeli diplomats who returned to Israel before going to New York; she studied at the Hermeneutics Institute in Berlin with Jacob Taubes, ultimately earned her doctorate at Princeton University, and then worked with Jacques Derrida and Helene Cixous in Paris.
She was professor of comparative literature and theory at the University of California at Berkeley for several years before eventually returning to New York, where she currently teaches German and comparative literature and theory—in addition to her yearly Fall semester seminar with Derrida—and where she continues to churn out a breathtaking range of rigorously deconstructive rereadings of everything from technology, the Gulf War, and AIDS to opera, addiction, and stupidity. Her new book, Stupidity, is just out (December 2001), and she is currently at work on The Test Drive.
Summary of Major Themes
Avital Ronell is perhaps the most interesting scholar in America.
Avital Ronell has put together what must be one of the most remarkable critical oeuvres of our era . . . . Zeugmatically yoking the slang of pop culture with philosophical analysis, forcing the confrontation of high literature and technology or drug culture, Avital Ronell produces sentences that startle, irritate, illuminate. At once hilarious and refractory, her books are like no others.
Avital Ronell's "remarkable" and edge-pushing oeuvre is informed and facilitated by a wide range of (post)philosophers—including, for example, Derrida, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Levinas, Blanchot, Lacoue-Labarthe, and Nancy—but when it comes down to it, as Eduardo Cadava observes, "Ronell's work remains absolutely different." From her first book, Dictations, through her latest one, Stupidity, Ronell calls the established questions into question, zooming in on whatever "withdraws from immediate promises of transparency or meaning" and/or tracking what she calls the "rhetorical unconscious of a text" ("Confessions" 249). As Culler notes above, however, Ronell's works are remarkable—startling, irritating, illuminating—at the level of the sentence, as well. A striking hybrid of high theory and street talk, Ronell's texts come off gutsy, rough, and edgy, but at the same time exceptionally dense and philosophically rigorous. That is, Ronell's texts are remarkable both for what they say and for the extraordinary way in which they say it.
Ronell's thoroughly postfoundational and (so) posthumanist redescriptions, for example, of the telephone, the writer, and the addict, relentlessly pry open again thinking-zones that had been closed up and covered over. And this is where Ronell's texts remain, in the open-ing, in the coming of open-ness; perpetually deterritorializing without reterritorializing, Ronell's work seems most at home in the unhomey danger zone that it catalyzes, right there where the "ground" is shaking and all the edifices are coming (crashing) down. The reader is asked to enjoy the destruction and disorientation and to risk her/himself (without a hardhat), to join Ronell in this perpetual opening/rupturing, in an affirmative embrace of nonclosure.
In her first book, Dictations, Ronell tells us that she "has never entertained any illusions concerning the objective nature of scholarship, no matter how tedious or dusty it can appear to be." Each of her works goes after a seemingly recognizable and knowable signifier (Goethe, the telephone, the drug addict, the television, the test, the greeting, stupidity, etc.) but then tracks it so closely that it quickly becomes unrecognizable, exceeding its object-status, overflowing itself as a concept.
Explicitly breaking with scholarly tradition, a tradition that values mastery and certitude, Ronell engages her “object” of study at the level of its finitude, of its radical singularity. In Stupidity, for example, Ronell begins with the concept of stupidity, tracking it through poets and novelists and philosophers and literary/critical theorists, and pre-schoolers—but the closer she gets to it, each time, the more it exceeds itself as a concept. The closer she brings us to it, the more unknowable it appears.
One of stupidity's many guises, Ronell says several times, is the claim to absolute Knowledge or Intelligence. And it's in that context that one should read Ronell's determination to remain open, exposed to stupidity’s inscriptions and operations, to refrain from closing off or closing in on stupidity in order to pretend to “get” it or to represent it accurately.
Ronell presents herself as somewhat "stupid" about stupidity throughout the book, and this is not only exceptionally courageous in academe, it’s also a significant ethico-political move. It would have been much easier to go the standard "scholarly" route, to stay just far enough away from the "thing" to re-conceive of it, to adapt the existing concept so that it more accurately represents the truth of its object. But "if stupidity were that simple," if it were that comprehensible, that intelligible—"if stupidity were that stupid," as Ronell puts it—"it would not have traded depths for the pits and acted as such a terror for Roland Barthes or Robert Musil or pre-schoolers" (10). So Ronell sticks with stupidity, tracks and traces it, opens to it, re/discovering in each (missed) encounter with it a fundamental inability to know it completely or objectively, and therefore a fundamental inability to represent it.
It would be a mistake, however, to assume that there is no imperative to understand in Ronell's work; clearly, her work is driven by that imperative. It's just that what goes by the name “understanding” gets a radical update in her work inasmuch as she determines not to wipe out (objectify) the "object" of this "understanding" in the very rush to pin it down and define it. The link that academe posits and propagates between rigor and certitude (the former leading to the latter) gets busted in Ronell's works, which are always incredibly rigorous and theoretically sophisticated interruptions of certitude. As she notes in an interview in JAC, she approaches her “object” of inquiry not as a police officer going after a suspect but in detective mode, turning in her badge and assuming a different rapport with the truth, one that involves breaking with standard (academic) procedure in order to remain attuned to finite singularity, in order to refrain from infinitizing finitude (as she put it in Finitude’s Score).
Another striking aspect of Ronell’s work is its attentiveness to the materiality of language—that is, to the sound, shape, size, beat or rhythm, etc. of the words themselves. The Telephone Book, Crack Wars, and Stupidity all explicitly call our attention to the texture of the text, to the fact that language is a material “medium” that cannot not interrupt, suspend, resist, exceed, and otherwise trip up the very message it is charged to deliver. Words inevitably go AWOL, bagging their referential duty and going off on their own, connecting not to the idea they are supposed to represent but to other words—and making all kinds of “noise” while they’re at it. Ronell affirms this noise, amplifies it, and asks us in The Telephone Book to learn hear it by learning to read with our ears.
If a foundational approach to language acknowledges that the word negates the actual “thing” in order to bring an operational concept into being (which implies a triumph for the subject over the “world,” for “meaning” over “chaos”), Ronell's nonfoundational approach embraces a language that goes on to obliterate the concept, too, by ignoring and/or exceeding it, sparking a proliferation of meaning in discourse. From this perspective, it is language that triumphs over the concept, including the concept of “the subject,” infinitely and indiscriminately breeding meanings that detach from the writer’s intentions and that remain inappropriable to any single interpretation. Ronell embraces the materiality of language very explicitly, cranking up the noisy texture of the words themselves through wildly unconventional page design and an in-your-face typographical performance.
Inasmuch as it showcases language's double negation, this textual performance amounts to a destructive affirmation—or an affirmation of destruction—no doubt about it. Still, Ronell's work steers clear of "undeveloped pronouncements of nihilism," and in Stupidity she reminds her readers of the "Heideggerian distinction between destruction and devastation." "Destruction," she says, "involves the force of a critical clearing and does not imply the shell-shock stoppage of devastation" (122). In the opening pages of Finitude's Score, she more thoroughly sketches out this distinction: whereas devastation "has to do with a fundamental shutdown," a "pathological" drive toward "a telic finality or fulfillment or the accomplishment, once and for all, of a Goal," destruction, Ronell says, is "a decisive doing away with that which, already destroyed, is destructive in its continuance. To the extent that it is possible only on the basis of a new and more radical affirmation, destruction, moreover, has pledged itself to the future" (Finitude's Score xiii).
Ronell's work is relentlessly destructive, relentlessly turned toward futurity, and it throws its disorienting smack in the name of what she calls "responsible responsiveness." Whatever the topic at hand, Ronell's overarching concern is with an "ethics of decision" for this postfoundational era—an era in which all the transcendental navigation systems are down: "To the extent that one may no longer be simply guided—by Truth, by light or logos—decisions have to be made." It's only in certitude's interruption that meaning's inappropriability is exposed; and it's only in that exposure that an ethics of decision becomes available: as Ronell reminds us, "no decision is strictly possible without the experience of the undecidable" (Crack Wars 58).
טיפשות (טפשות) - אביטל רונאל