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Posted December 28, 1999
A Language Of Physical Thought
In this selection of texts, Antonin Artaud seems to create and explore a language that functions by systematically confusing unconscious thought and descriptions of its 'physical determinations': these are, or could be considered perhaps, the corporeal workings, and their correponding sensations, of thought, such as cerebral chemical changes, or nervous modifications and spasms accompanying thought. Also, rather than thinking in terms of communicatively correct and metaphorically intelligible discourse, Artaud's language attempts, in its practice, to equate pure soliloquy, an almost private language rhetotic, with a supposed textually necessary, and causally determined, poetic logic. Accordingly, Artaud produced, in these texts, a series of (allegedly mad) visions of something that could be described as the soul's body, and its movements within a strange psychic space. Such visions strike one as deliberately self-induced and obsessively self-convinced monologues of exaltation (and as consequences of the author's powerful depressions, of his illnesses, and his use of drugs). But these texts also comprise an impassioned (if somewhat mistaken) defense of the reality and actuality of dimensions of thought usually branded fictitious, unreal, unnamable. One is thus confronted with a bafflingly radical poetic perspective that demands strong imaginative stamina for its lead to be followed. Yet, although these writings generously indulge enthusiastic poetic, psychological, and even philosophical curiosities and appetites, understanding, a concern quite foreign to Artaud's thought, is, for the textually engaged reader, a danger of the utmost spiritual deadliness.
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