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Maurice Blanchot and the Literature of Transgression

Maurice Blanchot and the Literature of Transgression

John Gregg
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7rm8q
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  • Book Info
    Maurice Blanchot and the Literature of Transgression
    Book Description:

    In this book, the first in English devoted exclusively to Maurice Blanchot, John Gregg examines the problematic interaction between the two forms of discourse, critical and fictional, that comprise this writer's hybrid oeuvre. The result is a lucid introduction to the thought of one of the most important figures on the French intellectual scene of the past half-century.

    Gregg organizes his discussion around the notion of transgression, which Blanchot himself took over from Georges Bataille--most palpably in his interpretation of the myth of Orpheus--as a paradigm capable of accounting for the relationships that exist in the textual economies formed by author, work, and reader. Chapters on the critical work address such issues as Blanchot's ambivalent attitude toward the speculative dialectic of Hegelianism, his thematization of literature's involvement with death, and the mythical and Biblical figures he uses to portray the acts of reading and writing. Gregg also performs extended close readings of two representative works of fiction,Le Très-HautandL'Attente l'oubli,in an effort to trace Blanchot's evolution as a creator of narratives and to ascertain how his fiction can be seen as constitutinga mise en oeuvreof the concerns he treats in his criticism. The book concludes with an assessment of Blanchot's place in the recent history of French critical theory.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2127-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A NOTE ON SOURCES
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-9)

    Dwelling at the crossroads where two literary discourses meet, one critical the other fictional, Maurice Blanchot has pursued a rigorous meditation on reading and writing that has spanned more than four decades. His first collection of critical essays,Faux Pas, was published in 1943 and is composed of nearly sixty articles written originally for publication in the dailyLe Journal des Débats. This assemblage is certainly the most eclectic of Blanchot’s critical works, and the subjects of his articles—for the most part musings inspired by the latest releases of critical studies, translations, poetry, and fiction—range from da Vinci’s...

  6. ONE LITERATURE AND TRANSGRESSION
    (pp. 10-17)

    In an autobiographical sketch written in 1958, Georges Bataille states in one brief sentence the event of 1940 that stands out for him the most (he speaks of himself in the third person): “Dès la fin de 1940, il rencontre Maurice Blanchot, auquel le lient sans tarder l’admiration et l’accord” (Oeuvres complètesVII: 462).¹ The friendship that developed between these two men over the next twenty years can be traced in the writings of each during this period. The role that Bataille accorded Blanchot inL’Expérience intérieure, the homage to Bataille that Blanchot placed at the end ofL’Amitié, and...

  7. TWO LANGUAGE, HISTORY, AND THEIR DESTINIES OF INCOMPLETION
    (pp. 18-34)

    Blanchot’s theory of language is informed principally by Mallarmé, who in “Crise de vers” divides linguistic activity into two domains, theparole bruteand theparole essentielle. Use of theparole bruteis comparable to exchanging money in the marketplace. It disappears after having served its purpose. It is thus theresultof the exchange that is important and not the way in which the exchange is carried out. Theparole essentielle, on the other hand, is strictly literary. Whereas theparole bruteis uttered in view of accomplishing a transaction, theparole essentielleis not predetermined by any particular...

  8. THREE BLANCHOT’S SUICIDAL ARTIST: WRITING AND THE (IM)POSSIBILITY OF DEATH
    (pp. 35-45)

    Language and human beings share the same destiny of incompletion. Death as an approach, a passivity that cannot be rendered present or personal, worklessness and failure: these exigencies that Bataille posits as the basis of both sacrifice and hisexpérienceare also categories that serve to organize Blanchot’s account of the experience of the writer’s approach to the space of literature. Literature’s involvement with death is central to Blanchot’s thinking, and it is a theme that I would like to explore in this chapter on three fronts: first, in connection with his comparison of writing and suicide; second, by examining...

  9. FOUR MYTHICAL PORTRAYALS OF WRITING AND READING
    (pp. 46-71)

    The premise of an excessive, nonrecuperable negativity that causes the closure of Hegel’s model of history to crack wide open has served both as our point of departure in our analysis of Bataille’s theory of sacrifice and transgression and as afil conducteurin the successive chapters in which we turned our attention to Blanchot, specifically his elaborations on the nature of literary language and literature’s involvement with death in his comparison of suicide and writing. The articulation of the literary practices of writing and reading and the two negativities is crucial to our understanding of Blanchot. Having established that...

  10. FIVE WRITING THE DISASTER: HENRI SORGE’S JOURNAL
    (pp. 72-126)

    Blanchot’s third novel,Le Très-Haut(1948), recounts the events of a few days in the life of Henri Sorge,² a loyal employee in the bureaucracy of a totalitarian state, a model citizen, and a member of a politically influential family. At the beginning of the novel, Sorge, who had previously been on sick leave, resumes his duties in the administration with seemingly renewed vigor, only to find himself strangely overcome by a lack of enthusiasm for his work. In need of more time to recuperate from his illness, he once again vacates his post. In the meantime, an epidemic has...

  11. SIX FLAGRANTS DÉLITS: CAUGHT IN THE ACT OF SELF-READING
    (pp. 127-172)

    Dans les élégies, l’affirmation de la vie et celle de la mort se révèlent comme n’en formant qu’une” (EL170).¹ Rilke isspeaking here as the author of a letter to Hulewicz in which he embarks on an explanation of the concept of death in theDuino Elegies. To offer interpretations of one’s own works is a cardinal sin, an outright violation of one of the primary commandments in Blanchot’s corpus of critical edicts.Noli me legere, “Thou shalt not read me,” is the fundamental demand made by the work on its creator that Rilke chose to ignore on this...

  12. CONCLUSION BLANCHOT’S POSTMODERN LEGACY
    (pp. 173-200)

    In the preceding chapters, our overriding concern was to examine two representative works of fiction by Blanchot, one fairly traditional-looking novel and one highly experimental fragmentary text, through the lense of his theoretical writings. The decision to engage in close readings of each of these modes of writing and to play them off each other necessitated a certain willingness on our part to remain within the circular trajectory described by the constant movement back and forth between his criticism and his fiction. Whereas I hope that this methodological approach was far from inhibitive, it did not lend itself to addressing...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 201-232)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 233-238)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 239-241)