“One could almost say,” Howie writes, “that allegory passes, through metonymy, into something like a new literalism” (93). This implied phenomenology of rhetoric—the extent to which rhetoric might experience itself as phenomenal— returns us to what Howie at outset calls a poetics of rimming (6), a passing in that is as much a passing out. In less capable, less candescent a queer theory, “a poetics of rimming” might come across as blithely provocative or sexy for its own sake. It is one of Claustrophilia’s virtues that it does justice to rimming, refusing too quick a distinction between rimming’s critical import and its playful sexiness. And unlike many academics inclined to denominate nearly anything a poetics of something or other, willy-nilly, Howie’s poetics of rimming really holds.
A poetics of rimming, rather than a poetics of penetration; or rather, a set of penetrations differently calibrated. A rhythm of intimacy that may or may not precede a poetics of fucking, however the latter may be imagined. To paraphrase Eve Sedgwick’s axioms, there is neither just one form of fucking, nor one form of rimming. To think of a phenomenology of rhetoric apropos either is to allow for a rhetorical spaciousness all the more sensitive to contingency and surprise. Rimming, furthermore, like many interpersonal adventures, feels different, is a different experience, depending on vantage. As allegory passes through metonymy, how does metonymy feel? And how does metonymy feel for allegory?
To think about rhetoric in terms of these erotic and affective resonances is to think about implication, etymologically speaking and otherwise.
Rimming is its own implication, a lingual twisting in. Coiling, recoiling, rhetoric moves into itself, as implication itself moves inward. I imply this, as a way of saying that I am extending nondemonstratively. I am extending coyly, flirtatiously, gently, nonbarbarously. I am offering that which I continue holding, pondering. I am implicating you lubriciously. In this sense, Howie’s “one could almost say” replicates the implicatory rimming of a rhetorical sex-act. “One could almost say,” to return to Sedgwick, is less performative than peri-performative, and less peri-performative than peri-peri-performative, standing twice removed from J.L Austin’s sense of speech act. It’s not that Cary Howie says this. And it’s not that one says this.
It’s that one could say this. Who could say such a thing? The speaker is and is not Cary, in part because the sentence hasn’t yet been said. It is a sentence on the verge of being said, levitating in the subjunctive, even as we have what isn’t said as writing. We have the footprint before the foot, and are asked to follow. Pass through this. And only then are we asked to apprize, or to imagine allegory’s own apprizing. One can imagine allegory’s new literalism like Oz waking into vividness. One can imagine allegory feeling, for the first time, its own surface, the delight of having a surface.
Implication, a folding inward, replicates the gestures of a claustrophile, such that speaking of implication in relation to claustrophilia may well verge on tautology, as rim flirts with rhyme, a rhetorical sylph of Leo Bersani’s homo-ness. The tautological, as homo-ness, becomes queerly, rhetorically interesting, as opposed to inutile, if we think of tautology as relation exceeding even most generous understandings of narcissism. Tautology needn’t only recapitulate singularity nor foreclose epistemological errancy. That tautology itself is a relation recalls Cary’s point, elsewhere made, that we are never entirely alone (123). A word doesn’t merely pass through itself; there may be nothing merely about it. We have been before, we know this and we do not. Claustrophilia proposes an epistemology of implication by which we inhabit space several ways at once. We are Iphigenia, in both Tauris and Aulis. We are Helen, in both Egypt and Troy. Or to follow one of Cary’s other sources, we are Iacopone, dwelling between the blades.
Another way of putting this is to realize that allegory’s passing through metonymy into a new literalism retroactively describes what already has happened. How, phenomenologically, can allegory pass through metonymy without some antecedent fantasy of the literalism that allows us to think of metonymy not only as devouring contiguity of terms, but as contiguous threshold, as rhetorical sphincter? Proleptically, we’ve moved in and out of the literal with an alacrity matched only by the inclination of literalism to sublimate into its own figurative dissolve.
Tautology has its pleasures; its iteration of iteration, like a poetics of poetics, potentially pendles like an erotic metronome, and likewises asks that we linger longer, traherently. Implication affords a different pleasure, if only because the implicit doesn’t define, it involves. Less that one thing is equivalent to another, than that one thing is deeply, to the point of distraction, involved in the rhythmic inhabiting of something else.
This rhythmic inhabiting depends on a temporality more complicated and contingent than duration, per se. A rhetoric of pulsation requires a certain psychical flexibility, borne out in Howie’s contribution to theories of interiority independent of Judith Butler’s melancholy or Nicholas Abraham’s crypt. Not all modes of the interior require necrophilia: this should be obvious, even as in sundry circles it is not. Claustrophilia’s reciprocal approach and withdrawal spins melancholy’s fictive inertia into dervish. After all, to be a claustrophile suggests not just a preference for the claustral, but a predilection to experience the claustral as a new thing, again and again, a seriality requiring expulsion and repulsion as much as the givenness of being inside. In this sense, claustrophilia’s rhythm recalls Roland Barthes’s account of cruising, in which each cruise is the very first one. Munificence of temporary amnesia nearly aware that it knows if not better than otherwise. Epistemology of implication—this is the way I nearly think about nearly thinking, as its own form of ethics and rigor; and as Cary cites Anne Carson, eros as intensifier of edges.
Alongside allegory’s passage into literalism, the literal teems with figuration. The perviousness of claustrophilia occasions this teem, because the surface is promiscuously perverse. And this perviness has implications, redundantly and otherwise, for both figurative and nonfigurative subjects. Although we might well, in the spirit of enclosure, think not only of subjectivity, but injectivity, an interpellative ontological ballet by which one’s ontological debutanting can’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t, be extricated from the world by which ontology— indubitable misnomer— is bound. By which injectivity is rimmed, rhymed, and otherwise recuperated against the threat of its being forsaken.
I like tight spaces. I like humidity, and molecules too close for comfort. I think of claustrophilia as an opening toward new ways of thinking not only of textuality, but of psychical vicissitude. We are necessarily near each other, rhetorically and otherwise. And Cary’s work makes luminous the necessity of not taking this propinquity for granted.