Friday, April 25, 2008

Invention of the Quotidian

Natalie Zemon Davis's review-essay on Michel de Certeau is unsurprisingly peripatetic, given de Certeau's interest in "extravagant wanderers." But it leans very heavily on the theological and spiritual aspects of de Certeau's writings, saying very little about his social or broader philosophical concerns. Here's one paragraph that gives you a glimpse:

Certeau examined commonplace activities over which control could in principle be maintained by the institutional organization of space and language and suggested how in fact control was ignored or bypassed. People walk their own way through the grid of city streets, zigzagging, slowing down, preferring streets with certain names, making turns and detours, their own "walking rhetoric." People read in ways that escape the social hierarchy and "imposed system" of written texts: they read in all kinds of places from libraries to toilets. They read with their own rhythms and interruptions, thinking or daydreaming; they read making gestures and sounds, stretching, "a wild orchestration of the body," and end up with their own ideas about the book. "These procedures and ruses...compose the network of an antidiscipline."

Davis also devotes a surprising amount of space to Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict. It's almost as though she were working on a really cracking article about de Certeau, Ratzinger, and Foucault (those "exact contemporaries") -- their intellectual development, responses to the 1960s, theological dimensions, and cultural reception -- and it morphed into a review of de Certeau.

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