File spoon-archives/blanchot.archive/blanchot_1997/blanchot.9712, message 31

Subject: RE: MB:  Writer and Place
Date: Sun, 14 Dec 1997 14:51:41 -0700


Thanks very much for your thoughtful reply to my post of yesterday.  I
thought you got a little rhapsodic at the end, but I also agree with
most of what you write.  I am not seeking to restrict posting to the
list, by the way, as I think you know.  My issue is elswhere -- I agree
with you that anybody should post to the list in anyway they can.  But
the subjects of personal attacks and of tortured syntax raise other
problems for me that have to do with the medium of writing and with
thinking itself.

I think you read me unfairly to say "You say it is "great" to read what
you already understand"; that's not what I wrote.   Do you see, though,
how hard it is to have lucid and decent exchanges even in this
straightforward writing style?  Heidegger writes in very narrowly
configured sentences, even if he mobilizes the power of German to
combine, recombine and pun on itself.  So, for the most part does
Blanchot; so did Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean Luc Nancy when they
taught their famous course on Blanchot at UC Berkeley some years ago
(the course that resulted in the exchange of texts between Nancy and
Blanchot).  I think -- and I think you'll agree -- that the opposition
you're suggesting here really doesn't work.  There are plenty of things
we can say in pretty boring and standard sentences that are plenty
challenging to our understanding.  Your own post is a perfect case in

So, there's something else.  I get a queezy feeling when you use a
language that takes our issues to heroics and morals -- when you talk
about "any level" of writing, or when you caution readers on the list
against "narrow or ready-to-hand readings," which you seem also to want
to imply by misquoting me are the kind I'm militating for here (maybe
I'm wrong about this).  These are not the terms that describe our
present discourse -- remember that these exchanges began when somebody
corrected my spelling of an Italian word and then directed two or three
fairly nasty personal attacks on me, all concerning citations, erudition
and me personally; my original post was about Blanchot and not Dante,
and nobody has addressed the issues it raised.

You ask if when confronted by aggression and antagonism "Are we
necessarily restricted from other readings?" -- but my experience is
that most people know when they are being aggressed upon and most of
them don't like it.  I'm not sure its a matter of "mediation" or
"utilitarianism."  I think that violence is also an unfortunatley
straigtforward issue, one that is complicated by our present medium, as
I suggested in my last post.  But I think it may be a bit self-indulgent
(as this present medium permits) to suggest that there is an
intellectual problem here that can be addressed by heroically
reconsidering the distance between your fist and my nose.  I suggested
in my last post that Lucio would not have been as aggressive with me if
we were in the same room together.  The thing that makes us need to
avoid aggression on lists like this is precisely its power to reduce the
talk to the "nothing more or less" that you mention: we're all
interested in avoiding the "Is so!"; "Is not!" kind of exchanges that
you can find so easily on the usenet lists, aren't we?  Aggression has a
way of escalating fast and becoming quite rigorously un-intellectual, as
also we all know.  If it is really "the problem" (of Blanchot's work, of
literary space) we want to come at then there are lots of better ways of
coming at it than by calling each other names. 

The thing I think we're talking about -- the intersection and
co-implication of ego, language and logos -- is central to Blanchot's
work and is also part of a centuries-long meditation in our culture.  I
suggested in another post that it is part of what he calls the
"uselessness" of literature, a move which I think directly rethinks
Heidegger's notion of "idle chatter."   This is what I would like to
discuss here.  A good place to look for a quick history of literature's
ethical use-value is in Judson Boyce Allen's _The Ethical Poetic of the
Later Middle Ages__ (Professor Allen was R.A. Shoaf's mentor, and in
many important ways my adoptive father).  Also, for a very cool
treatment of the problem of word games and tortured syntax, there is
Arno Borst's chapter on Science and Games in _Medieval Worlds_.

You write "No, I do not seek to impose my will," then say, "I aim only
to motivate and to be motivated."  This apparent paradox, which I think
you mean to resolve on the mutuality of co-motivation, is actually
caught nicely by the term used by the Latin Middle Ages for "meaning":
"impositio ad placitum," which bespeaks both the sense of willfulness or
"imposition" and of arbitrariness, or "pleasure," that our last two
exchanges address. 


Michael Harrawood (snow is melting and flooding my bedroom!)
Laramie, WY


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