Maurice Blanchot and the Absence of the Book: Literature, Image, Event

Dissertation, State University of New York at Binghamton (1995)
Abstract
I interpret Maurice Blanchot's writing as a surface between literature and alterity. Literature faces the poetic image as an event beyond being. The aesthetic separation of form from matter is breached when the image arrives as an event. ;If the universe is conceived of as a Book then radical alterity is invoked by the absence of the book. Literature tends towards this absence as affirmation without negation and responds to the other. The image as event is primary but it is not eidetic. Literature does not reflect the origin as metaphysics does but the absence of the origin or the outside. ;The dissertation is divided into two parts. "Preludes" develops the historical relation between philosophy and poetry from Plato's ban of the poets and Aristotle's classification of the poem as object of knowledge. The relation of poetics and philosophy culminates in Heidegger's notion of Ereignis and the "end of philosophy". I develop the event as a play of chance which appears in the image. Mallarme's "Un coup de des" is an important influence. Blanchot's notion of literature involves a play which interrupts the prescription of presence as being or non-being. Through both the "neuter" and the "fragmentary" writing in the absence of the book is a contact with alterity. What is invoked is an ambiguity lying at the heart of language. ;"Fugues" are readings of Blanchot's fiction. If literature is a reflective surface it is so in fragmentation. The image breaks away from "itself" and in the interruption literature encounters Blanchot's figure of the Law. Alterity is invoked in the play of chance as the image happens and death itself withdraws. The face of the other's death is not objective. Responsibility to this absence is called friendship. Facing the other's death one touches and is touched in difference. Though the prescription of the Law is absolute the Law is surpassed in a contact which is no longer ideational but ambiguous. The Law of the Father and signification are reversed by an infinite play as the image of the other's death arrives as event
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