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Title: "The Angel of Death Replied": Absence and Longing in a Moroccan Space of Memory
Authors: Pandolfo, Stefania
Date: 1991
Source: "The Angel of Death Replied": Absence and Longing in a Moroccan Space of Memory. Ph.D. dissertation. Princeton University. 671 p.
Abstract: This work is not the description of a particular place, or history, or way of life, or even of a particular cosmology and ontology, of a local philosophy and rhetoric. It includes all of those, and to each it makes a specific contribution. But it cannot be reduced to any of them. I locate it in the imaginary: in a Moroccan 'space of memory', but also in the intersubjective space of an interaction in which the memory of the writer plays an active role (concerning the narration as well as the experiential structure of the fieldwork). The textual strategy I set forth is 'scenic'. The text tries to be mimetic with the materials it presents and never assumes the level of metalanguage. It enacts within itself stylistically the same attitudes and concerns that constitute its object of study. A discussion about fragmentation, figuration and imaging in the local Moroccan discourse is presented as a fragmented succession of images and scenes; the way in which things are said, is an integral part of what is said. The introduction (about an indigenous 'map' of the village wherein 'seeing' is seeing-with-the-body), alerts the reader to walk through the space of the text as if through the maze of village alleys. The text is composed of three parts, echoing the steps of the dialectical movement in Western philosophy. I call them Nomination, Contradiction and Loss to stress the unresolved quality of the movement. A philosophical ethnography is narrated through a reading of indigenous texts. It discusses two kinds of logic often simultaneously deployed: a masculine discourse of oneness, purity and self-sufficiency, and a feminine (but not specific to women) rhetoric of difference, hybridization and implication. Substantively, "Nomination" analyses a corpus of folktales and legends about fathers and sons, "Contradiction" is written on the margins of a philosophical-personal conversation about temporality and the 'feminine heterogeneous' in the lineage principle, and "Loss" presents a corpus of oral narratives of catastrophic historiography, and then follows the theme of disaster, death and figuration in the local (oral) poetical tradition. Theoretically, the work follows the track of representation, figuration and of a certain 'intractable' in the local imagination, and, in places, uses the indigenous insight to reflect critically on analogous issues in the Western philosophical tradition. At the center of the local inspiration is felt the wound of an absence. It is an exile from the place and object of longing, and an exile from oneself. But it is also the exile of language--from the possibility of plain sense and of a meaning free from the mediation of its figures. Figuration, in the texts I consider, is an ambivalent remedy. It leads beyond meaning, beyond representation, into a space of forgetting--a zone of opacity which is the ever shifting place of death in life and in discourse. I trace the itinerary of that death-in-life.
Subjects: Comparative literature
Cultural anthropology
Format: thesis/dissertation
Online: View Online
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