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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Aside from the fact that "clansgression" is not a real word, the above title might almost pass as the title of CBS' THE BIG BANG THEORY, since said titles usually stress the formal, hyper-academic usage of words.

The only "big bang" I'm concerned with, though, is the explosive experience that Georges Bataille calls "the sensuous frenzy"-- and even then, for the purposes of this blog I'm only concerned with its appearances in art and literature.

The primary elements of kinetic experience, as noted several times before, are sex and violence. Both can appear in literature in purely functional modes, but they are most effective when they provide to the reader the sense of being "caught up" in the experience of having boundaries broken in an explosive, irresistible state of being.

Sex and violence, obviously, are not the only elements that bring about the state of transgression. A plant growing from a seed "transgresses" against the soil it shoves aside as it grows, but no one would seriously call this violence, nor is it sex, though the seed's existence comes about as a result of a sexual process. Early human culture is governed by a wealth of taboos that may have no overt correlations with sex or violence, much less any utilitarian purpose. It's not impossible to believe, with Bataille, that these taboo simply exist to be transgressed, to serve as "lightning rods" around which the culture of practical work can organize itself.

I've agreed with Bataille that Freud's favorite taboo doesn't rate a special etiology as against other taboos, nor does it explain any of the others. However, I've stated in the essay INCEST WE TRUST PART 3 that the taboo against incest does occupy a special place in the history of culture:

In Part I I went to some pains to explain why Georges Bataille was right to say that no particular transgressive form of sexuality was any more important to human development than any other (in contradistinction to Freud and Levi-Strauss). That distinction made, I will note that the phenomenon of incest is probably the best possible metaphor FOR transgressive sexuality as a whole. Unlike homosexuality and bestiality (for two), incest in its most popular conception-- that is, its heterosexual form-- can give rise to living progeny whose proper relationships will thus be confused after the fashion of the riddle in PERICLES:
          I am no viper, yet I feed
          On mother's flesh which did me breed.
          I sought a husband, in which labour
          I found that kindness in a father:
          He's father, son, and husband mild;
          I mother, wife, and yet his child.
          How they may be, and yet in two,
          As you will live, resolve it you.

In CROSSING THE LAWLINES PT. 1  I gave two examples of sexual transgression: Oedipus sleeping with his mother and Ben Grimm coveting the fiancee of his best friend. I remarked that there was no form of incest-motif in the latter narrative, but it's not absent only because there's no genetic relationship between Ben Grimm and Sue Storm. I further argued that a relationship between Oedipus and the woman whom he believed to be his mother would also have carried incestuous connotations, and this is in part because such a pairing would also confuse the "lawlines" between family members, whether or not Oedipus was aware that Merope was not his biological mother. In fact, I mentioned a schema of three types of incestuous liaison in this essay, though I'm currently somewhat dissatisified with the terminology used therein, and not much happier with my recent opposition of "physical" and "cultural" types of transgression.

At any rate, I feel the need of a subcategory within the greater category of transgressive activity: a subcategory that would include all activities that seem to confound the boundaries between the roles and/or identities of family-members. My latest neologism, then, is "clansgression"-- a demonstrably false construction in the etymological sense, since it's produced by interbreeding two unrelated languages: "clan," which carries the connotation of "the extended family," and "-gress," meaning "to step." Thus, while the legitimate word "transgress" means "to step over," my made-up word "clansgress" means "to step into family"-- thus confusing the implied familial boundaries by said action.

By this logic, then, Ben Grimm's desire for Sue Storm and his antipathy to her bond with Reed Richards would be transgressive, because Ben wants to break the social bond between Reed and Sue, but it would not be clansgressive. Oedipus marrying his mother would be both, but so would even the most highly symbolized forms of quasi-incestuous events, such as the Superman story discussed in INCEST WE TRUST PAT 5.

In Part 2 of CROSSING THE LAWLINES I'll devote space to refining these arguments.

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