File spoon-archives/blanchot.archive/blanchot_1997/blanchot.9712, message 27

Subject: RE: MB: The Writer and Place
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 12:21:02 -0700

Reg et al,

I've been jammed with the end of the semester and haven't been able to
post for a while.  I'm glad to see that nonetheless  someone is keeping
my name up on the bandwidth.  The question I have for the list today is
whether Blanchot's idea of negativity can be brought to what Reg called
a "gravitational force" on a semantic space.  That is, can we find a way
to talk about language as cross-vectored with forces that create its
possibilities by a kind of emptying out of meaning.

In partial answer to Samuel Saks' original question, couldn't we say
that Blanchot, writing in 1955, is placed or places himself in a space
that is committed to rethinking the Heideggerian problems of mind,
authenticity and language, outside of the political scenario in which
Heidegger himself had set them?  If the answer to this is yes (which I
think we would probably all agree is the case), then maybe such a
setting is the starting point for thinking about how Blanchot wants to
characterize language's gravitational pull (maybe as the creation of an
alethetic space that somehow does not raise the question of authenticity
-- a kind of idle chatter).  I think Ann Smock's wonderful introduction
to _The Space of Literature_ gets at something like this.

This was what I was trying for when I went to Dante's puns on "finding,"
especially since the pun as a trope seems to have as its chief
characteristic a kind of self-negation -- two meanings competing for the
same semantic space and thus heightening the sense of
semantics-as-space.  Does this make sense?  I think (and I think Dante
and Blanchot think) that puns make a special appeal to the imagination
that somehow impacts on or heightens our sense of the semantic process
(or maybe the thought process).  The fact that Dante's pun on "ritrovai"
seems also to pun on "aletheia," or at least to works towards such a
pun, makes it an interesting place from which to come back to Blanchot.

Somebody has brought the word "shame" (vergogna) to my post on Dante,
which I feel I should address.  I was deeply touched to see the work of
my old friend and one-time (short-time) college roomate R.A. Shoaf cited
on this list.  I think Shoaf would disapprove, however, of being cited
in the context of property rights on a pun.  (See, for example, Shoaf's
article in Jonathan Culler's volume _On Puns_.)  Shoaf is, to my
knowledge, the first Medievalist to think medieval literature and
medievalism itself back through Heidegger's personal and historical
interest in medieval theology and philosophy (he has a wonderful article
somewhere called "Medieval Studies After Heidegger" -- or something like
that; I'm quoting from memory).  The brilliance and importance of his
work, I think, is that he was able in the late seventies and early
eighties to look beyond the commonplaces of Yale deconstruction and seek
out the real imaginative roots of what then was called "critical
theory," which he found in medieval literature.  I think the importance
of the book that was cited on this list is not so much his argument over
the pun on "ritrovai," which like all puns speaks for itself and has
been noted before, but rather in the implications he is able to read
through the pun into Dante's work and the literary tradition in general.
 I would be happy to go on with this off list if anybody is interested.
Shoaf was working on this particular book before many of the works we're
reading on this list were available in translation and he takes his
reflections on "ritrovai" in a very different direction than I do.  But
I think his work is very important and am delighted to see it cited,
however ineptly.  I also think that Shoaf's work is "state of the art"
for Dante students and that the pun on "ritrovai" has been a critical
commonplace for a long time.  I'm happy that Lucio is so excited to
finally have discovered both.

But Lucio's posts don't really seem to have anything to do with Dante
(besides the obsessive and rather precious culture-dropping) or
Blanchot; rather, they seem concerned with my presence on the list and
my right to post to it.  I  can only understand about a quarter of what
Lucio writes, but it seems clear to me that his posts are filled with an
unaccountable violence and personal attack on me that seems mostly to be
concerned with property rights on Dante.  I've emailed him privately to
ask him to explain this to me off list (which is where I think this sort
of discussion belongs).  After more than two years of lurking on this
list I finally posted something to it because Sam's and Reg's topic
interested me and I felt like I could add something to it.  I would like
to participate in the talk about Blanchot and literary "space," and feel
that personal confrontations and demonstrations of ego don't really
belong in this forum.  

Michael Harrawood, snowbound
Laramie, WY


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