L’événement qui sort du langage

October 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes 1915-1980: Le théâtre du langage, dir. Chantal Thomas and Thierry Thomas, 2015 [TV interview]

La mort est le seul événement. Tout le reste est discours, au fond. Tout le reste est langage. Le réel ne peut jamais se saisir, se posséder. C’est toujours un langage qui renvoit à un autre langage, indéfiniment. L’amour lui-même. Mais la mort, c’est l’événement qui sort du langage.

Does the Angle Between Two Walls Have a Happy Ending?

October 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

J.G. Ballard, “Does the Angle Between Two Walls Have a Happy Ending?” Ambit 33 (Autumn 1967)

Abandoning Art

October 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

Susan Sontag, “The Aesthetics of Silence,” Styles of Radical Will (1969)

But the choice of permanent silence doesn’t negate their [Rimbaud, Wittgenstein, Duchamp] work. On the contrary, it imparts retroactively an added power and authority to what was broken off; disavowal of the work becoming a new source of its validity, a certificate of unchallengeable seriousness. That seriousness consists in not regarding art (or philosophy practiced as an art form: Wittgenstein) as something whose seriousness lasts forever, an “end,” a permanent vehicle for spiritual ambition. The truly serious attitude is one that regards art as a “means” to something that can perhaps be achieved only by abandoning art; judged more impatiently, art is a false way or (the word of the Dada artist Jacques Vaché) a stupidity.

[See Blanchot.]

Almost a Negative Theology

October 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936)

What happened was: when, with the advent of the first truly revolutionary means of reproduction, namely photography (simultaneously with the dawn of Socialism), art felt a crisis approaching that after a further century became unmistakable, it reacted with the theory of ‘l’art pour l’art’, which constitutes a theology of art. From it there proceeded, in the further course of events, almost a negative theology in the form of the idea of a ‘pure’ art that rejected not only any kind of social function but also any prompting by an actual subject. (In poetry, Mallarmé was the first to reach this position.)

The Instinct is to Kill It

September 25, 2015 § Leave a comment

Joy Williams, “Joy Williams, The Art of Fiction No. 223” by Paul Winner, The Paris Review 209 (Summer 2014)

I wonder if understanding the dream is really what must be done. Can we incorporate and treasure and be nourished by that which we do not understand? Of course. Understanding something, especially in these tech times, seems to involve ruthless appropriation and dismantlement and diminishment. I think of something I clipped from the paper and can’t lay my hands on. This peculiar aquatic creature who lives deep within the sea — it looked like a very long eel — came up to the surface, where it was immediately killed and displayed by a dozen or so grinning people on a California beach. Didn’t have a chance to evolve, that one. Curiosity by the nonhuman is not honored in this life. For many people, when confronted with the mysterious, the other, the instinct is to kill it. Then it can be examined.

This Obsessional Looking at the Human

September 24, 2015 § Leave a comment

Dan Kois, “The Misanthropic Genius of Joy Williams,” The New York Times Magazine 2 September 2015

“Could this obsessional looking at the human bring about the death of literature?” Williams asks.

Joy Williams, “Joy Williams, The Art of Fiction No. 223” by Paul Winner, The Paris Review 209 (Summer 2014)

We live and spawn and want—always there is this ghastly wanting—and we have done irredeemable harm to so much. Perhaps the novel will die and even the short story because we’ll become so damn sick of talking about ourselves.

Policing Language

September 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

Binoy Kampmark, “Pizza Danish, Franglais and Policing Language,” Counterpunch 14 September 2015

Even more strikingly, the battle being waged is against the incursions of American English, rather than more neighbourly intrusions from across the Channel. As Andrew Gallix notes, “American expressions are often adopted with far more enthusiasm in France than across the Channel” [1]. The enemy continues to lodge within.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/23/language-french-identity

The same piece appeared here:
Binoy Kampmark, “Pizza Danish, Franglais and Policing Language,” Eurasia Review 14 September 2015


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