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17 September 2008 @ 11:04 am
Philosophy Fic?  
I spent the weekend curled up with a number of my favorite books of social and political theory.  I mean "favorite" when I say it; I love my job, I love my field of research, I love the fact that I get to think and find things out and argue for a living.  But, somewhere around hour ten billion of hashing over the same texts in search of a new way to say things, one's mind wanders to...other things. 

Wouldn't it be awesome if there was RPF for philosophers?

I think the real genesis for this idea was looking through most recent porn battle to figure out what one was like, and discovering that there was such a thing as Bible fic.  (I think the one I read was Samson/Delilah.)  That people would take such a treasured set of texts, full of religious, historical, and political significance, and take the characters within it as characters that we have a right to rewrite--well, it was a little mindblowing.  After all, the effects of the allegories (I don't feel like getting into an argument about the historcity/literal inerrancy of the Bible right now, so let's just say they're at minimum allegorical/metaphorical/mythical stories, and at maximum a literal history of humanity that one applies to one's life via allegory and metaphor, therefore we can talk about them as metaphors either way) are massive through time and space, but once we start talking about the characters as characters we can do whatever we want with them. We can transform canon--the literal, actual, most unassailable definition of canon ever--and make it into something new.

The entire act of philosophy is structured as a conversation.  One reads texts by others, sifts them, and begins to emerge with a new story from the mass of facts. This is exactly what the literary-theoretic act of ficcing is about: we take a text, we rewrite it into something that either follows the same path or takes us in a new direction.  But what if, rather than doing this with the ideas, we did it with the people involved?  Why not put them into new situations and make them have new conversations?  Why not try to imagine what certain real-life situations might have been like, write the conversations in them, see what it tells us both about the theories and about human nature?

OK, I'm being too high-minded about this.

I want philosopher porn, is what I want.

I mean, maybe not literally.  Maybe it would be better if everyone kept their pants on, especially people who are still alive and who I email on a regular basis.  But, honestly, the entire genre of philosophy has a not so sublimated erotic tinge right beneath the surface.  It's about arguing, and I think if The X-Files teaches us anything, it's that arguing is not just sexual, it's sexy.  The tensions between philosophers are right there, and can cause huge rifts between individuals.  At the same time, there's the aspect of collaboration, where two minds work together so well you can't tell where one theoretical paradigm ends and the other begins; the academic literature on slash notes that this is a primary trope of the genre.  And then there's the sense of carrying someone's mantle, of being someone's protege.  All of these are intellectual relationships that carry erotic weight.  We fic them for TV.  Why not for philosophy?

Oh, and there's the fact that intra-academic hook-ups are legendarily full of drama, which spills necessarily into the work.  There's the trailing-spouse/B-career problem: what happens when one of you is a superstar, and the other is forever lost in their shadow?  There's the dramatic falling-out following a break-up that leads to permanent academic rifts.  And academic conferences are often just an excuse for repressed people to get trashed and hook up.  Seriously, there's so much material here, we could go on forever...
Foucault and Habermas meeting in a backroom at a bar in Berlin in 1968, taking on Kant and enlightenment over pint after pint, hands on knees... 

Marx was a terrible husband and father, because you know Engels was getting all of his attention...

A smutty, angsty post-ep for the Crito: after all, Socrates was going to die the day after...

The scene backstage at the Feminist Contentions panel, Benhabib and Butler in opposite corners glaring, Fraser trying gamely to make conversation about something that had nothing to do with the nature of postmodernism, and secretly wondering how much time she'd need to give them to make it up.  (That's my OT3 right there, dude...)

Honneth dedicating Redistribution or Recognition to Joas, "the critical companion of twenty-five years"...

We've even got canon 'ships to write.  Arendt/Heideigger.  Butler/Brown.  Fraser/Zaretsky, if you're willing to let a historian of thought count as a philosopher.  I'm sure there are more, though I can't think of them right now. 

I don't know.  Maybe it's just that I've been reading too much.  But I think there's something here.  Who knows; might be fun.
Bob Loblaw's Law Blogscullyseviltwin on September 17th, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
As a sociologist, reading a Max "fic" would probably make my life. Just saying. JUST SAYING.

But yes, it may be that you've been reading too much! :P
Amal Nahurriyeh: scully smokesamalnahurriyeh on September 17th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
I totally was teaching the Max 'n' Karl show Tuesday morning. My students were sooooooo boring; I set them up for a cagematch on the relationship between ideas and material life and nobody bit! Grr, students.

I have had a headache for weeks now. I think this is my brain shorting out.
Penumbra: el mundo grandepenumbra23 on September 17th, 2008 05:24 pm (UTC)
It practically writes itself
Who knows; might be fun.

It sounds like great fun! Although you're giving me weird ideas about my copy of 'The Philosophy of the X-Files'...

Arguing is definitely sexy; Mulder and Scully are my personal philosophers, and I realize now I've been attempting to write 'philosophy porn' from the beginning, but never had a name to put to it, until now.

Mmm, you've given me a lot to think about. Thanks.
Amal Nahurriyeh: scully smokesamalnahurriyeh on September 17th, 2008 10:01 pm (UTC)
Re: It practically writes itself
Although you're giving me weird ideas about my copy of 'The Philosophy of the X-Files'...

Um...I've actually been emailing with one of the editors about something unrelated...and now I may burst out laughing next time I do. Thanks a lot. :)
Dasha: fantabulousdashakay on September 17th, 2008 05:35 pm (UTC)
Marx was a terrible husband and father, because you know Engels was getting all of his attention...

As a former Russian language and history major (even though they weren't Russians, I certainly had to read them), that made me laugh an indecent amount.
Amal Nahurriyehamalnahurriyeh on September 17th, 2008 10:34 pm (UTC)
Glad to amuse. :)
All the letters I can write: Only One Choicewendelah1 on September 18th, 2008 07:01 am (UTC)
Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir? Having hot sex? Wait, wrong ficathon.

I don't know if you gave this a look when it was posted but you might get a kick out it. Anyway, it's short.
Amal Nahurriyeh: scully smokesamalnahurriyeh on September 18th, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
Oh! How could I forget Sartre/de Beauvoir! Again, among the classic theoretical OTPs.

Your story? Is amazing. :)

Yeah, I'm thinking I need to start a great theorists ficathon. It would be HILARIOUS.
All the letters I can write: And the love of one womanwendelah1 on September 18th, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC)
I would try to write it. It would require some research. Well, for me it would. My philosophy is rusty, to say the least.

And, thank you. I enjoyed making my little contribution to-- philosophical pornography? Is that what Penumbra called it? Brilliant.
(Anonymous) on November 19th, 2008 10:55 am (UTC)
Hi - sorry, this was linked off the Guardian and I couldn't resist it! Here's a couple of other random starting-points for your philosophyslash pleasure:

I just wrote a chapter for a book called Derrida and Antiquity reading Socrates/Plato as lesbian daddy/boy slash;

Deleuze talks about his relationship with previous philosophers as 'ass-fucking' (and in fact mpreg - the quote's here (http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/jpl/ENG6076.htm));

a friend of mine requested Roman Philosophers slash on Yuletide (mainly Cicero and Pliny, I think);

and of course there's the famous Foucault/Lucius Malfoy story (which obviously I can't find now, drats)

Good luck in your quest! Next year - Yuletide?

- Ika Willis (http://nowandrome.blogspot.com)