Thursday, 28 May 2009

Writing in order to change

At the recent Barth conference, there was a lot of talk about the way Barth changed as he was writing his dogmatics. Some scholars feel uneasy about this – they’d prefer to think of Barth’s dogmatics as the smooth unfolding of a single coherent vision. I was chatting to someone at the conference about this, and I referred to Foucault’s famous remarks in the introduction to his Archaeology of Knowledge (1969):

“What, do you imagine that I would take so much trouble and so much pleasure in writing, do you think that I would keep so persistently to my task, if I were not preparing – with a rather shaky hand – a labyrinth into which I can venture, in which I can move my discourse, opening up underground passages, forcing it to go far from itself, finding overhangs that reduce and deform its itinerary, in which I can lose myself and appear at last to eyes that I will never have to meet again? I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write.”

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