TREVOR OWEN JONES’ THE NON-LIBRARY (3): Walking Library and Estranged Cognition

Some people are walking libraries, embodying the Principle of Sufficient Access in their discursive competence. In his ABC Primer Deleuze discusses this phenomenon in relation to what he calls “frightening knowledge”. He declares his admiration for Umberto Eco, but cannot separate it from a feeling of horror:

when I see someone ”cultivated” I am terrified…I am just terrified of a ”cultivated person”…lt’s a kind of knowledge, a frightening body of knowledge on everything… Umberto Eco, it’s amazing…it’s like pushing on a button, and he knows all of it as well. I can’t say that I envy that entirely, l’m just frightened by it, but I don’t envy it at all (in C for Culture).

Eco’s culture is a universal competence, having a reference for everything, vast knowledge and erudition, having read everything, and able to come up with an opinion on anything. Deleuze’s culture, on the other hand, is performative:

I have no ”reserve knowledge.” At least, there’s no problem, at my death, there’s no point in looking for what I have left to publish… Nothing, nothing, because I have no reserves. I have no provisions, no provisional knowledge. And everything that I learn. I learn for a particular task, and once it’s done. I immediately forget it.

The Library is based on a Principle of Sufficient Knowledge, as cognitive competence. For Trevor Owen Jones, the Non-Library is not the negation of knowledge: what is frightening is not the knowledge itself but its sufficiency. Knowledge is not to be suppressed in some mindless anti-intellectual movement, but its sufficiency and the associated competence are to be suspended:

This suspension does not perform a taxonomy of operations, but rather is a performance of the immediate and immanent multiplicity the Library itself purports to present. This presentation in turn is not a negation…there’s no exchange with and through the Non-Library, it is a performativity in practice (pages 1 and 10).

Knowledge is no longer reduced to the familiarity of memory, but is estranged into the performance of a stranger. That is to say, the cognitive estrangement of philo-fiction becomes embodied in the estranged cognition of an alien subject or non-ego:

 This knowledge comes forth as the Non-Library, the Stranger-in-the-World of heterogeneous (and thus “bastardized”) practice, discursive performativity, and textual illumination (2).

The Non-Library is not anantithesis to the Library, but an estranged “outlandish” library, insofar as Trevor Owen Jones can describe it as the Library suspended and bastardised. It is no “other place” or “outdoors”, because there is no other place in the Library’s own terms. The correlation is complete and absolute, such that any outside would be an unknowable, untouchable, empty abstraction:

The Non-Library is not the ‘Great Outdoors’ outside of humans’ correlation with a nether-realm of noumena, but the dissolution of the grand epic it is (6)

Correlation, even the indirect correlation by allusion and/or by intellectual intuition that characterises Graham Harman’s object-oriented esotericism, remains idealist even when it posits a Great Outdoors as requisite of its thought, thus reducing it to a “nether-world” of invisible noumena, whose very utility is unfortunately also invisible. The grand narrative of correlationism and of its overcoming is an intrathetic epic that can only be escaped by its dissolution into the dark materials that surround it, and out of which it is made. Its very Structure presupposes while denying the “dispersal of shadow inside and outside of Text, texts” (6). Gnosis sees these dark matters as shards of light, but a diffuse polycentric light having no need of a central unattainable Sun.

Note – for the notion of intrathetic correlation see here.



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