October 8, 2012

How to Kill People by: Barthes, Burke, Derrida and Foucault

It's a tricky thing; as a symbol, as sign, as tool, as instrument, as is what it will be, but for that, or whatever we have made it out to be in our papers, language has/is, power/agency. To this effect, its reflexive nature, its self performance (Barthes), its manipulation of the heteroglot (Bakhtin), has with combined effort the ability to conglomerate itself to whatever mold the castor cast; casting itself even, as Burke might suggest, into the realm of symbolism.

Yet, if we should take into account all of our above factors in unison, one may find difficulty with the rationalization of success in Hitler's rhetoric. While Burke focuses on the processes by which Hitler employs heteroglot, language, and symbolism to his advantage, we also have put much emphasis on the individual "in charge." It might even edge blasphemy to try and reason away from Hitler the man as the leader or propagator of such moral atrocity; for we would not want to comdemn the actions of one man, or of a father to those of his posterity.

Despite what events have happened, it might be beneficial for us analyze instead the success in terms of author-function (Foucault).

As Barthes would implore, language is voice in itself; the traditional Author need not involve himself in order for interpretation or understanding. However, much of what is rooted in anti-Semitism, seems to stem from one man, and his immediate sensory perceptions of his situational "goods" and "bads." It is adept attention then that Burke would remedy this individualization by offering Hitler's manipulation of the stratification of languages (Bakhtin) to his advantage. No longer does the personal narrative hold weight, instead it has the borrowed voice of religion "in his selection of an 'international devil" (Burke 194), in sexuality, and medicine, as it relates to Germany's "cult of money and a detestation of this cult" (Burke 195). This of course also points out the explicit parallels between Hitler's campaign and organized religion, and the borrowed lexicon of keys and legends that decipher their meanings, but it also brings light to an older concept, that "The work...now possesses the right to kill, to be its author's murderer...Using all the contrivances that he sets up between himself and what he writes, the writing subjects cancels out the signs of his particular individuality" (Foucault 905). The contrivances can be seen as all the above named characteristics of rhetoric, but what is unique about this instance of author-death transforming into Foucault's author-function, is that it does not involve the singularity of who Barthes would deign scriptor. The brilliance of this transformation is that Hitler has dragged both himself, his countrymen, and the Jewish community at large, into the grave with him.

By sheer incorporation of their characterized and imposed opposition to him, Hitler has effectively made the "Jew" a co-author of discourse, in the same way that the Bible's ultimate author-function would be "God," as much as it would be "Satan" (for Satan could be said to offer up equal possibility of what is considered moral bad and good). This discourse's author-function then is based in differance (Derrida), whose success is largely measured by which point of view with ultimately have the most strength; which symbol (good vs. evil) or signification (Aryan vs. Jewish) will predominate within the word "German."

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