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McKeane, John (2013)
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: B1
At the turn of the 1960s, Maurice Blanchot began publishing texts that he named entretiens, this change in his writing responding to what deconstruction sees as the closure of logocentric or continuous discourse. Paradoxically, this closure does not prevent such discourse, in which philosophical enquiry and technological change are intertwined, from dominating the modern world. By changing his writing, and by reiterating the dialogical form so central to metaphysical tradition since Plato, Blanchot gives voice to the tensions between continuity and its ‘outside’, between philosophy and literature. This is one sense in which his entretiens do not engage in a representation of difference, but instead open themselves to the inflections of what Jean-Luc Nancy calls le partage des voix.
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    • 1 From Friedrich Hölderlin's 'Celebration of Peace', after Philippe LacoueLabarthe's translation into French in L'animal, 19-20 (Winter 2008), 154.
    • 2 The Infinite Conversation/L'entretien infini (Paris: Gallimard, 1969). Henceforth abbreviated to EI. All translations are my own, and references are given to the French texts. See also Awaiting Oblivion/L'attente l'oubli (Paris: Gallimard, 1962), which opens on the failure of a male writer to engage a woman in a dialogue of equals.
    • 3 In Lautréamont and Sade/Lautréamont et Sade, 2nd rev. ed. (Paris: Minuit, 1963), 14.
    • 4 It is well known that Socrates's presence was particularly notable, insofar as he fulfilled the role of maître with all its personal and erotic magnetism: on this and other questions, see Sarah Kofman, Socrate(s) (Paris: Galilée, 1989).
    • 5 As Jean-Luc Nancy writes: 'We can better understand the “dia-” [of dialogue] or the “dis-” [of distribution]: by understanding that they are of absolute necessity also a “syn-” or a “cum-”. (That all this should also therefore be political is obvious (. . .))' in Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, 'Dialogue sur le dialogue' in Les études théâtrales, 31-32 (2004-5), 79-96 (88).
    • 6 Several critics have looked at this meta-subjective position, for instance Joseph Libertson, who describes it as 'panoramic or synoptic' in Proximity: Levinas, Blanchot, Bataille, and Communication (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1982), 279; Leslie Hill, who is aware of 'Blanchot's growing reservations regarding the term “dialogue” - on the grounds that it subordinates the multiple to the One' in Blanchot: Extreme Contemporary (London: Routledge, 1997), 259; and Timothy Clark, who contrasts Blanchot's use of entretiens to Levinas's avoidance of them - despite or due to his desire to think how the Other disturbs our phenomenological horizons - in Derrida, Heidegger, Blanchot: Sources of Derrida's Notion and Practice of Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 97-8.
    • 7 This text follows Blanchot being called to an interview with a juge d'instruction in the wake of his role in the 'Declaration on the Right to Insubordination' ('Déclaration sur le droit à l'insoumission') in the context of the Algerian War: after this encounter with Blanchot, the judge was reportedly given leave for 'moral exhaustion'! See Alain Robbe-Grillet, Angelica or Enchantment/Angélique ou l'enchantement (Paris: Minuit, 1987), 204.
    • 8 In Friendship/L'amitié (Paris: Gallimard, 1971), 142.
    • 9 In Political Writings/Écrits politiques: 1953-1993, ed. by Éric Hoppenot (Paris: Gallimard, 2008), 29.
    • 10 In 'The Pain of Dialogue' ('La douleur du dialogue') in The Book to Come/Le livre à venir (Paris: Gallimard, folio/essais, 1959), 207-18 (210).
    • 11 In The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, trans. by Shaun Whiteside (London: Penguin, 1993), 4.
    • 12 The Socratic dialogues interrogate the epistemological status of philosophy on many levels, for instance in the investigation in Charmides of 'knowledge of knowledge' or in the major rift between sophism and Socrates's approach - not least in The Sophist which, as Nancy recalls, was intended to give rise to a dialogue named The Philosopher. See Nancy, 'The Ventriloquist' ('Le ventriloque') in Sylviane Agacinski, Jacques Derrida, Sarah Kofman et al., Mimesis: (Dis)articulations (Paris: Aubier-Flammarion, 1975), 273-338 (274-5, 283) and Plato, Early Socratic Dialogues (1987; London: Penguin, 2005), 165ff.
    • 13 In Positions (Paris: Minuit, 1972), 23 (emphases original). In Of Grammatology/De la grammatologie itself, he writes: 'today something is allowing this newness to appear as such, is allowing us somehow to charge ourselves with it, however without this newness becoming translatable via the summary notions of mutation, explanation, accumulation, revolution or tradition' (Paris: Minuit, 1967), 13.
    • 14 This Mallarmean term is also used extensively by Blanchot, for instance in 'The Absence of Book' ('L'Absence de livre'), the culminating essay of The Infinite Conversation that also provided its working title.
    • 15 Positions, 11.
    • 16 Dis-Enclosure : The Deconstruction of Christianity, I/La déclosion (la déconstruction du christianisme, I) (Paris: Galilée, 2005). As in The Creation of the World or Globalization/La création du monde ou la mondialisation (Paris: Galilée, 2002), here Nancy thinks mondialisation not only as a déclosion, but as an éclosion: a birth, blossoming, or hatching.
    • 17 Letter of 4 September 1974, quoted in Benoît Peeters, Derrida (Paris : Flammarion, 2010), 334. Mimesis: des articulations can be variously translated as Mimesis: of Articulations, Mimesis: Some Articulations and Mimesis: Disarticulations.
    • 18 The Heideggerian thinking being referred to can be found in 'Overcoming Metaphysics', where we read that '[t]he name “technology” is understood here in such an essential way that its meaning coincides with the term “completed metaphysics”': collected in The Heidegger Controversy, ed. by Richard Wolin (London: MIT Press, 1993), 67-90 (75). See also 'What is Metaphysics?', which confirms the link between technology/metaphysics and the Western conception of mankind: 'Human existence can relate to beings only if it holds itself out into the nothing. Going beyond beings occurs in the essence of Dasein. But this going beyond is metaphysics itself. This implies that metaphysics belongs to the “nature of man”. [. . . ] Metaphysics is the basic occurrence of Dasein. It is Dasein itself' in Basic Writings, ed. by David Farrell Krell (London: Harper and Row, 1977), 95-112 (111-12).
    • 19 Lacoue-Labarthe, 'Tradition and Truth' ('Tradition et vérité') (1979) in Europe, 973 (May 2012), 61-71 (62-3).
    • 20 In Poetry as Experience/La poésie comme expérience (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 1986), 15-16. In The Song of the Muses/Le chant des muses, we read: 'it is no accident if the first sages were mostly researchers [savants], mathematicians for example, or physicists (. . .). Just like it is no accident if just over two hundred years ago, science and philosophy went hand in hand, nor if philosophy was what allowed the emanciation of technology and science' (Paris: Bayard, 2005), 13.
    • 21 In Political Writings/Écrits politiques: 1953-1993, 126.
    • 22 From the late 1950s on Blanchot places such importance on this term that his biographer Christophe Bident has referred to it as '[his] major concept and contribution to thinking' in 'The Movements of the Neuter', trans. by Michael FitzGerald and Leslie Hill in After Blanchot: Literature, Criticism, Philosophy, ed. by Hill, Brian Nelson, and Dimitris Vardoulakis (Newark: Delaware University Press, 2005), 13-34 (22).
    • 23 'The Turning Point' ('Le Tournant') in La nouvelle nouvelle revue française, 25 (January 1955), 110-20 (110, 114).
    • 24 Blanchot's interest in Heraclitus - often called a pre-Socratic, in a tellingly inadequate phrase - is relevant here. See 'Héraclite' (EI 119-31), where we read that there are (. . .) two dangers, both of which are inevitable: one is to read Plato, Christian spirituality, Hegel, in Heraclitus's place; the other is to cling on to a history capable of making us, by virtue of its erudition, the masters of a vanished world and a dead truth' (EI 119).
    • 25 The Step Not Beyond/Le pas au-delà (Paris: Gallimard, 1973), 160.
    • 26 Le partage des voix (Paris: Galilée, 1982).
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