The Pineal Eye Sleeps on Bodmin Moor

In the early stages of L.T.C. Rolt’s short story ‘Music Hath Charms’ (1948), two companions view the landscape from the train: ‘they saw the majestic shape of St Michael’s Mount framed in the carriage window’. The scene is pictured, ‘framed’, as a distant view, stripped of any other senses, as is characteristic of ‘the tourist gaze’. In this case the journey is from London to Cornwall, as it is in other gothic fictions by authors across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging from Wilkie Collins’s Basil (1852) to Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars (1903) and several of E.F. Benson’s ghost stories (from 1912 to the 1930s). In such stories Cornwall — along with Yorkshire, Cumbria and other rural regions with coastlines — operates as a peripheral location at the edge of England.

A narrative pattern in these stories is the progress from distant, window-framed views of landscapes, laid out in front of their viewers like the page of a book, to an increasing immersion in the sounds of unsettling, sometimes dangerous environments.

Shelley Trower, “Peripheral Vibrations”

The eye, at the summit of the skull, opening on the incandescent sun in order to contemplate it in a sinister solitude, is not a product of the understanding, but is instead an immediate existence; it opens and blinds itself like a conflagration, or like a fever that eats the being, or more exactly, the head. And thus it plays the role of a fire in a house; the head, instead of locking up life as money is locked in a safe, spends it without counting, for, at the end of this erotic metamorphosis, the head has received the electric power of points. This great burning head is the image and the disagreeable light of the notion of expenditure, beyond the still empty notion as it is elaborated on the basis of methodical analysis.

From the first, myth is identified not only with life but with the loss of life with degradation and death. Starting from the being who bore it, it is not at all an external product, but the form that this being takes in his lubricious avatars, in the ecstatic gift he makes of himself as obscene and nude victim — and a victim not before an obscure and immaterial force, but before great howls of prostitutes’ laughter.

Existence no longer resembles a neatly defined itinerary from one practical sign to another, but a sickly incandescence, a durable orgasm.

Georges Bataille, “The Pineal Eye”

‘Nothing stands in the way of a phantomlike and adventurous description of the universe’, wrote Georges Bataille. And then, in keeping with his ocular fetishism, he conjured up the pineal eye — a primordial eye seated at the top of the human skull that contemplates the sun, then immolates the head like ‘a fire in a house’, causing the ecstatic sufferer to spend life’s currency without count. Bataille’s speculation on the pineal eye was no doubt a ‘subversive negotiation with the impossible’ — a delirium entangled with myth, a myth ‘identified not only with life but with the loss of life — with degradation and death’. The pineal eye forges the very image of Bataille’s notion of expenditure.

But Bataille failed to extend his speculation to the aural domain. Beholden to vision, Bataille was oblivious to the advent of the pineal ear.

Brooker Buckingham, “The Pineal Ear”

Two of these quotes are taken from the new AUDINT book, Unsound : Undead, which I’m really proud to have worked on as editorial assistant at Urbanomic. It’s out now.

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