Classics in theory, (is) ethics?

On Saturday Miriam Leonard and Tim Whitmarsh held a thought-provoking day in Oxford that was all about re-thinking relationships between Classics and Theory, to rejuvenate  positions, textures, relationships…with/in both (a good and timely thing!)

One of the things that kept coming up in the discussions, was the word ethics: a question, a desire, a necessity… for Classics to re-engage (with) itself ethically somehow. And that ethics seemed a desire for political engagement and radical impact and transformations.

(really rough un-thoughts):

 (for me at least) it is like creating space for theory  (a word which I struggle with its meaning even more than the word Classics) seems to create a space for ethics. Like Theory gives permission for the opening up of an ethically engaged (Classical) scholarship. Because theory is an encounter of difference, a different encounter, or something (else) like that?      

(for me at least) it made me think of Rachel Wiegman (2003:  “Feminism’s Broken English”) talking about the need for a theoretical humanities as a political act for Feminism within the Academy– that it is through re-cognising theoretical relationships that a political place can be continually developed, nuanced, transformed.

But more than all of this (for me at least) I keep coming to the what I can never really think (theorise?): a kind of un-thinking position that comes from my gut: that whatever ethics is (I do not know) it is something to do with being with/sharing with others and acknowledging that. And whatever theory is it is something about seeing that sharing, writing with it. And I keep coming back to my desires for reception to re-conceive its place to become something like Bracha Ettinger’s “matrixial borderspace” where any knowledge is because of a sharing, co-emergent making-together/ play, generous, re-membering its/my pain of not-knowing, and making it new (together).

“The knowledge of transformation-by-borderlinking is not cognitive; it is accessed by aesthetical and ethical joining-indifferentiating and working-through. Matrixial differentiating creates an invisible aesthetical ‘screen’ on the border of the ethical, a screen which by art and in the psychoanalytical ongoing continual encounter becomes accessible. It becomes that which is woven and touches me behind the visible and the audible on the borders of the thinkable, a knowledge with the other and in the other, and the other’s knowledge with-in me, which can only be reached by some kind of non-defensive self-relinquishment …by compassionate hospitality or generosity…” [Bracha Ettinger (2006: “Matrixial Trans-Subjectivity”: 222)]

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