Community and literature in the work of Blanchot
Abstract of thesis entitled COMMUNITY AND LITERATURE IN THE WORK OF BLANCHOT
CHENG CHI WAI, LOUELLA
for the degree of Master of Philosophy
at the University of Hong Kong
in February 2001
Everything I lived, said, or wrote ?everything I loved ?/ considered communication. How could I live my life otherwise?
?Nietzsche, The Will to Power
The thesis explores why and how the notion of literature is related to the experience of community, through a meditation on the idea of the poetic in the work of Maurice Blanchot. Community and literature both confront us with a code of ethics. Blanchot's ethic is his insistence on a notion of the poetic that endlessly challenges the limitations of language and brings forth a continuous confrontation with our consciousness. In modernity, language no longer carries our thoughts and ideas but becomes a discourse of its own, forever suppressing and reconstructing our consciousness. Man makes his disappearance, which we may later realise is also his only possible choice, when language ceases to be the unquestioned universal model of knowledge.
Writing means an insistence on pursuing an aesthetic in one's existence. This insistence confronts the author with the impossibility of speaking, or of reacting, and mutes her/his voice into silence. Yet the aesthetic of existence is the only way the author may find a bridge to the world, the only way the author may communicate with the rest of her/his community and the only way to respond to the confinements of reality. Our individual confrontations with our consciousness in general may enhance our collective communication, or communal experience. Therefore, Blanchot's non-
compromising attitude towards the poetic is significant because his commitment to literature is also a commitment to the community.
Blanchot's notion of desceuvrement is a response to modernism, and to the problem of the absence of language. Desceuvrement means "un-working" in the context of the problems of language; it refers to action that goes beyond negation by experiencing the nothingness in our constituted subjectivities. Desceuvrement suggests a notion of writing or engagement that allows us to approach the very heart of the void of all discourses, in which our consciousness will be challenged. In the void of language, we become the subjects of silence. By experiencing the absence, we call upon our long forgotten loss of infancy when we first experienced language.
The thesis starts with a brief introduction to the entire argument. Then, the second chapter explores the problems of modernity and language, tracing back to the Greek understanding of ethics, and identifying the notion of the aesthetic of existence as a form of ethics. Chapter three furthers Blanchot's ideas on language and silence, articulating the relationship between impersonality and transgression in Blanchot's writing, thus relating the idea of the poetic to the notion of infancy. Chapter four explores Blanchot's excellent interpretations of the Orpheus myth and Biblical stories to illustrate the notion of writing and reading, also briefly discussing the temporal movement in literature and the comprehension of impatience. Chapter five rests on the frustration and disappointment of intellectuals in the absence of the community, which on the other hand brings forth a positive dimension to one's commitment. What we come to is a point where commitment is an involvement with desceuvrement, an experience in silence. Chapter six is the conclusion of the thesis. To sum up the discussion, it outlines the figure of Blanchot with the notion of infancy, and suggests that the poet's solitude comes from his primal experience with language, in which the poet's disappointment often amalgamates with a profound childhood faith.
Experiencing community, writing and history only points to a profound but essential solitude, but as Nietzsche puts it "How could I live my life otherwise? "
School:The University of Hong Kong
School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:blanchot maurice criticism and interpretation
Date of Publication:01/01/2001