I Won't Pretend to Be an Historian: Lyn Hejinian's Poetic Investigation into 17th Century Epistemologies
Degree awarded: M.A. Literature. American University I argue that two of Hejinian's works investigate the influence of 17th century thinkers René Descartes and Blaise Pascal. Hejinian's A Border Comedy (2001) discusses psychoanalytic theory in terms of a closed narrative, which, as I argue, is a legacy of Descartes' cogito. A more recent work by Hejinian, "The Distance" (Saga/Circus, 2008), further shows how the metaphor of the camera obscura for human vision in Descartes' Dioptics (1637) propagates a certain use of language and conception of knowledge in the West. "The Distance" uses the trope of the voyage to compare this Cartesian epistemology with Pascal's aporetic epistemology in his Pensées (1660), finding in Pascal's practice of geometry and definition of experiment an analogy for language use that is different than Cartesian practices of language.