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© 2007
ZONE

Urzone, Inc.
BOOKS

Contents

[226 Prospect Avenue Brooklyn, NY lI218 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, system, or transmitted electronic, or otherwise mechanical, photocopying, stored in a retrieval recording, in any form or by any means, including microfilming, by Sections [07

(except for that copying permitted

and 108 of the U.S. COI)yright Law and except by reviewers for the public press), without written permission Originally published as Pr~f(lnaziollj from the Publisher. Nottetempo.

Translator's Genius
9

Note

7

© 2005

II
Printed in the United States of America.

Magic and Happiness Judgment Day
23 29

19

III
Distributed Cambridge, by The MIT Press, Massachusetts, and London, England

IV V

The Assistants Parody Desiring
37 53

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Agamben, Giorgio, 1942[Profanazioni Profanations English] / Giorgio Agamben ; translated references. Philosophy. Title.

Data

VI VII
by Jeff Fort.

Special Being

55

p.

em,

VIII IX
I.

The Author as Gesture In Praise of Profanation

61
73

Includes bibliographical ISI3N978-1-890951-82-5
I.

Aesthetics. 2. Art-

X

I3H39·A,2132007 111'.8S-dc22 2007023901

The Six Most Beautiful Minutes in the History of Cinema 93 Notes
95

Traosla tor's Note I would like to thank Kevin Attell for contributing tion, "In Praise of Profanation," which he prepared beri's request for an oral presentation for his helpful suggestions. his translaat Agam-

of this text in English in

January 2005. I would also like to thank TOl11l11asoGiartosio

"-

7

CHAPTER

ONE

Genius

Now

111)'

charms are all o'erthrown I have's mine own. to the audience ill The Tempest

And what strength - Prospera

In Latin, Genius was the name used for the god who becomes each man's guardian at the moment transparent of birth. The etymology is and remains visible linguistically in the very proxThat Genius is

imity appearing between genius and generation. related to generation in Latin, the "genial" lectus 8enialis, accomplished. object par excellence

is evident in any case due to the Fact that was the bed, the is

because it is in bed that the act of generation (birthday)

Birthdays are sacred to Genius, and for that reain Italian. refrain, the are a Anglo-Saxon

son we still use the adjective 8enetliaco Despite the odious, now-inevitable presents

and parties with which we celebrate

birthdays

memory of the feast and sacrifices offered to Genius by Roman families on birthdays. month-old sprinkled originally Horace speaks of pure wine, of a twolamb, meaning one that is It seems, though, that wine, and delicious honey piglet, of an "immolated" there was only incense,

with sauce for the sacrifice.

cake, because Genius, the god who presides over birth, did not like blood sacrifices.

9

Even if his .our! . if without that light blue linen shirt (for goodness' sake.he needs! .a certain light yellow paper. If in order to write you need . means to make one's life miserable.1 And since this god is. quia me Ben IIit): . Certainly. the gesture of bringing the hand to the forehead .which we enact almost without confusion forgotten and disorientation. must maintain One must consent in every aspect and show us that we are more and less than ourselves. what is most intimate and most our own. a certain special pen. realizing it in moments of when we seem almost to have of the cult of in us. it is the personalization in us. that any paper and any light will suffice. it was not the pubis but the forehead that was associated with Genius. in a certain way. his happiness our happiness. that now is the time to be over and done with them. breathing and beating in our feverish temples like an immemorial present. Genius' youthful face and long. fluttering he does not know time. of man implicit understanding that man is not only an ego and an individual but rather that from birth to death he is accompreindividual element.requirements seem unreasonable and capricious. that we feel him quivering as closely within us as he did when we were children.indicates. it is still present in us. eventually But the impersonal. the sum of physical and moral qualities innate in the one who is born . and to Compremeans in Genius afterward from it. near to us and inseparable from us. in a sense. In Latin. Man is thus a expresses the secret relationship with his own Genius: indulBere oneself to to Genius and abandon consciousness. for both good and wings signify that him. and personal god is also that which of what. one must grant him everything he asks for.PROFANATIONS GENIUS "He is called my Genius. in Latin. without hesitation to the impetus genial. it is only in order as more than us. goes beyond and exceeds us. For this rea- self. to defraud one's to cheat oneown genius.recalls the ritual gesture Genius (LInde venercnres deum tan8JIllLls fi'ontem ). complex single being with two phases. the principle and expressed his entire existence. If life is not worth living without collar of an office worker!). but rather insofar as we originate with us. a certain dim light shining from the left. every and perpetuates life. Genium suum difraudare. both of which the fertility that generates as the term inBenillm .that is. That is 10 11 . But man had his Genius and every woman her Juno. the divinization that governed of the person. But this most intimate is most impersonal far as it was originated son. panied by an impersonal. it is best to accept them without argument. A Latin phrase perfectly each person Benio. "Genius is our life not insoby us." If it seems to be identified to reveal itself immediately hending the conception ourselves . he is a being that results from the dialectic between a part that has yet to be individunonindividual part is ated and lived and another part that is marked by fate and individual experience. not a past we have left behind once and for all and that we may recall in memory. Genius was. not the white one with the those long cigarettes ill. But the life that turns away from death and responds of the genius that engendered it is called Benialis. it is useless to tell yourself that just any pen will do. then there's no point in repeating to yourself that these are no more than little manias. not only the personification manifested me (Genius with black paper you just don't see any reason to go on. he must be placated and his favor maintained at every moment of life. for his exigencies are our exigencies. because he generated meus nominatur. But that is not all. still with us. Genius was of sexual energy.

abandon ourselves to Genius. in this sense. remaining constantly in relation to a zone of nonconis not repression. life. in the decreation to produce a work. period. and yet. whether dissolution practice. Ifwe did not if we were only ego and consciousness. even by two conjoined that moves from the individual to the impersonal that moves from the impersonal forces coexist. then. themselves completely separate. spirituality customarily is above all an awareness individuated that to be sufficient unto and disappearance. it's a matter in which the ego. testifies does not belong to us. like every true celebration. It has been said that spirituality the individuated contains a certain nonindividuated be not only preserved honored. in a way. waiting to resurface in symptoms if the only and neuroses. by the perGenius. sonal element. by Ego. This but opposed to the individual. in which what is most one's and in which what is near- Genius. we move much less that of an author. looks on with a smile at its own unincredulously to its own incessant of Genius.has no inclination become impersonal. in writing. the pertinence the avant-garde. Genius is our life insofar as it We must therefore tensions field is traversed consider the subject as a force field of forces: one and another The two emancipate being is not completely but also respected but still whose antithetical poles are Genius and Ego. But this a computer) that presses through our veins or that plunges us into sleep. The force that pushes the blood and distributes its other perfectly. This intimacy with a zone of nonconsciousness work worthy of Genius is the one been revoked and undone. but can neither as one honors one's debts. mented as a troubling where this experience ourselves as authors of this or that work. is necessarily destined to fail. 12 . Living with Genius means. that there is in me toward writing. individuate away from Genius. joyous esoterism. This desire means: Genius exists. Every attempt to appropriate one's own name. must be an abolition of time- special. What. It is Genius that we obscurely own is also strange and impersonal. But this zone of nonconsciousness it does not shift or displace an experience to the unconscious. to force him to sign in like those of to est somehow remains distant and escapes mastery.PROFANATIONS GEN IUS why a birthday the epiphany cannot be the commemoration and presence of a past day pres- an everyday mystical doing and. who has never taken up a pen (mucbless . But past. share of reality. in a sort of of digesting food or illumi- but. we who can never have the form of an ego. is the best way for Ego to testify to Genius? Suppose the ego wants to write-not 1 (Ego) feel that somewhere an impersonal power or that work. I-Tence we have and success of ironic operations and destruction in which the presence of Genius is attested of the worle. nating the mind. which must and. from consciousness would be sediis sciousness. living in the intimacy of a strange being. the unknown power in our body that gently regulates warmth or that relaxes or contracts intimacy of our physiological the fibers of our musclessense in the that too is genial. But Genius is not merely and is not just concerned with the things that we in us regard as higher and more noble. Everything from each other nor identify with each to write this that is impersonal is genial. One writes in order to to become genial. This inescapable ence prevents us from enclosing ourselves within a substantial identity and shatters the ego's pretension itself. we would not even be able to urinate. but simply to write. intersect.

"If only you. will pass through the world like like the illThe life proof of its own nonexistence. In the face of Genius. Passion is the on which our Even before we wonder at the infinitely adolescent. to the admiration does without this sordid accomplice. hesitant to cross the threshold of any individuation.. can reappear or else they seek hypocritically in the form of symptoms to their own miniscule stature. it must be moved. refuse to impersonate the impersonal. the emotion It is this elusive young boy.who think of their do not abandon to lend their lips to a voice that does not To have emotion. stretched of the zone of ncnconsciousness. not because they famed bearer of its own unworking. who stubbornly others. The lowest rank comprises sometimes genius as a sort of personal sorcerer ("Everything well for me!" .panic at something greater us 011 will be found in the end. this pue!". What is rejected as impersonal. and tics that are even more impersonal. But some let themselves be shaken and traversed by Genius to the point of falling apart. is to feel Genius as anguisb or sive. According to Gilbert Simondon. world outside us. an incomparable joy. experiences or grimaces that are even more exceswith Genius as a privilege. safety or fear. worse. then the Duchamp-Ego the melancholic will never be able to coincide with Genius of all. my Genius. But more laughable and fatuous than this is someone who the encounter who strikes a pose and puts on airs or. we are all equally small. those . more serious but less happy. That is why the encounter with Genius is terrible. between Ego and Genius. most people flee in terror before the part of themselves that is impersonal.PROFANATIONS GENIUS r and if the truly genial artist is the artist without a work. belong to them. Ego must shed its own properties. is called poetic. of curling up in the corner of an attic to the point of almost disappearing. For the poet celejust like the child discov- ers the 8enills loci of his hiding place with trepidation. because he knows that "the absence of God helps"? Children take a particular pleasure in hiding. The rank of every being can be defined by an ethics of relationships with Genius. between us and Genius. but by the very act of hiding. and emotion is the way we relate to be moved.and turns out so they are very famous authors . But the feeling that occurs when Genius exceeds panic . and. no one is great. the impersonal joy. On the threshold tightrope. to experience Iunambulant life steps forward. of the solitary 810/! in their secret lairs. that comes over us and is infinitely able to bear. in whom we seek precisely incomprehensible pushes us toward that remains me . This childlike excitement voluptuous of his illegibility (the micrograms) desire to go unrecognized. hoping that by some miracle it 14 15 . then. Others. what awes and stuns us is the presence within us of a part that is forever immature. How much more amiable and sober is the poet who in ourselves. a special excitement Walser's willing to renounce There is that children are unpleasure in and This every side is called for any reason. that maintains the tension between the personal and the impersonal. feigns humility and gives thanks for the grace received. within us. ."). For this to reduce it is the source of botb Robert securing the conditions Walter Benjamin's revealed to children stubborn than what we believe ourselves reason. of being concealed in a laundry basket or a cabinet. to the preindividual. the Poet pleasure and this desire are the guardians brates his triumph in nonrecognition.

what changes is not Genius but our to him. as well as the silent witness who accompanies moment. to the extent that he has been avoidthe grace displayed by any creatureThat is why when we love of evading both genius and into a kind of silent. aspect and an ethical colperhaps. pushing us into damnation.PROFANATIONS GENIUS will be clarified and elucidated in the mirror of the other. It then whispers: "I am your daena.speak of a good genius and a bad genius. we actually love neither his genius nor his character between emerges: if Genius is our life. own ruin both is and is not our face. shambling way a certain philosopher and holy. and reversal. insofar as it does not belong to us. by the Greek theme genius and a black (ater) evil. The first pushes and coaxes us toward good. To some extent we all come to terms with Genius. the childlike grace with which a cerwould pace the tain poet in Naples gulped down ice cream in secret. his character. Roman art thus represents ries a burning overturns it. hidden outlaw who follows two genij side by side: one who cara harbinger the paradox of death. Like the transformed of the two daimons within each man . unexpressed. turning from luminous and clear to shadwho it amiable. and the other is wicked and 16 17 . moralization. two angels. it is imperceptibly our every gesture. our secret delight and our proud and loft)' agony. In time. then we must answer for something sponsible. our life molds and out- lines the archetype in whose image we are created. or the awkward. who our every move like a shadow and secretly conspires against us. which has been transfigured by the soul's conduct into either a more beautiful creature or a horrendous demon. the one who has been formed by your thougbts. daena. and observes us at every with of And yet the angel's face changes over time. sometimes relationship wise and sometimes depraved. of a white (a/bus) corrupts us and inclines us toward one. the second right to suggest that there is. your deeds. Our own vital principle. presides over the birth of each man. Genius took on a twofold oration. with what resides in us but does not belong to us. One is good for which we are not reThe childlike face of our own salvation and of our (and even less his ego) but his special manner of these poles. Each person's character is engendered ed andlcft An author's depends deprived someone by the way he attempts to tum a·way from Genius. Thus. According to this doctrine. The daena is the celestial archetype in whose likeness each individual has been created. one Genius who changes .influenced. Genius. But it is Iranian angelolan angel called a ogy that gives the guardian angel its most limpid and astonishing formulation. in reality. guiding us to salvation. the soul is met by its angel. Witnessing the pleasure and the passion of others is the supreme emotion and the first politics because we seek in the other the relationship with Genius which we are incapable of grasping on our own. style -like inscribes a grimace on Ego's face. the companion orients our existence and renders transformed picture of Dorian Gray. more precisely. and tho~ght. Horace is no doubt perverse. who has the form of a very beautiful young girl. is then suddenly owy and opaque. The analogue guardian angelof Genius in the Christian tradition is the or." In a vertiginous your words. at the moment death. to flee from him.by turns candid and shadowy. In other words. In this belated of Genius fully less on his genius than on the part of him that is of genius. word. torch and another. The sources . his rapid back-and-forth character. (For example.

for that reason. for this.as when in The Tempest. only now does the very boy of the self begin . an extreme and Happiness in which we know there is salvation want to be saved . unexpectedly. It is. something truly supernatural would have to happen. it is the late and final stage when the old artist lays down his pen .) suddenly and staring at a distant CHAPTER Two Magic But for each person there comes a time when he must be separated from his Genius. the life that did not keep its promises and.before the gangling his hesitations. and yet somehow we know that now it can really belong to us. but that overwhelms children is does not make it any less salient. cannot make us truly happy.and contemplates. What does he contemplate? Gestures: for the first time truly his own.PROFANATIONS room as he spoke.? long unlearning one. Whatever we can achieve through merit and effort. and the latter will not be possible for me without some kind of magic. without him. And no matter what the situation. one by side. It can be at night. only now do we begin to live a purely human and earthly life. Only magic can do that. Walter Benjamin once said that a child's first experience world is not his realization that he cannot make magic. disis true. quite likely that the invincible sadness that sometimes born precisely from their awareness that tbey are incapable of magic.'? Like creatures in fables. Prospero Ariel: "Be free. knowing why."! The statement the influence of a twenty-milligram of the that "adults are stronger but rather was made under dose of mescaline. stopping corner of the ceiling. time." This is the moment when he relinquishes spirit's charms and knows that the strength he has now is his own. This did not escape the childlike genius of Mozart. that his god has abandoned send Genius away in a moment moment when at the sound of a group of people passing by he feels. can now give us infinitely more. This is exhausted and suspended penumbra night fulfilled. Joseph Bullinger: "To Live respectably wbo clearly indicated and to live happily are the secret solidarity between magic and happiness in a letter to two very different things. it is much more important to know the exact place ancl the right words to say than to take the trouble to reach a goal 19 18 . Or perhaps we but no longer says to the of great lucidity. devoid of every charm. children know that in order to be to keep the genie in the boule at one's happy it is necessary tant music? Only the departure returns to take up his blushing glances one by one and. No doubt life without Ariel loses its mystery. and have the donkey that craps gold coins or the hen that lays golden eggs in one's house. in fact. this is Did Ariel ever exist? What is that fading. the sudden in which we begin to forget about Genius. imperiously.

the only one that allows someone know that he is. not even a good one. is shown in the ancient maxim that whoever realizes he is happy has already ceased to be so. and unites with the beautiful Alcmene. If this is so. Whoever enjoys science. that it can indeed testify to a higher ethics. His enjoyment only what has been obtained who is enchanted fortune through trickery. happiness coincides entirely with our knowing ourselves to be capable of magic. has always met with the objecthe difference that which then tions of official morality. which affirms that happiness is not paths of magic can be enjoyed consciously and purely. in a certain sense. What a disaster if a woman loved you because you deserved it! And how boring to receive happiness as the reward of work well done. as and lies entirely in enchantment. Take the words of Kant. pre- thy of happiness is your reason we (or the child within us) when Kafka affirms that there is plenty of hope . nor even. That the bond linking magic and happiness is not simply immoral. through the crooked he does not enjoy her as Zeus. which does not know that he is. Here magic appears as an excepto be happy and to through ensomething 20 21 . He writes that if we call life by its right name.but not for This apparently ascetic thesis becomes intelligible only for others (happiness we understand that happiness the meaning is reserved of this "not for us. limits this inclination wouldn't to the condition . This means that happiness relationship with its subject. Thus when Zeus assumes the likeness of Amphitryon Amphitryon. and the only happi- ness that is truly deserved is the one we could never dream of deserving. the philosopher who was least capable of understanding between which strives toward happiness is inclination. it comes "that is the essence of magic. the subject of happiness is not a subject per se and does not obtain the form of a consciousness tion. if happiness depends not oneself to be truly and on what one is but on a magic walnut or an "Open sesame!"then and only then can one consider blessedly happy. as the ancients knew.4 that can be deserved. despite appearances. Someone has a paradoxical who is happy cannot or of a con- cisely. Magic means precisely ness commensurate result of arrogance influencing that no one can be chantment escapes from the hubris implicit in the conscioussince. any happiwith man is always hubris. if there is no other happiness than feeling capable of magic. with the gesture we use to banish that childhood sadness once and for all. it is always the and excess. only if is. because definition of magic becomes clear." It means not know what to do with a happiness of which we were worthy. Only someone can say "I" with a smile. for us) but that it awaits us only at the point where it was not destined for us. he knows he possesses is not his. At that point. the happiness that worthy of happiness and that. That is: happiness can be o L1I"S only through magic."3 But living with dignity and living happily: "That in you of your first being wor- between Franz Kafka and Gustav Janouch. But if someone succeeds in ness of happiness. This childlike something wisdom.PROFANATIONS MAGIC AND HAPPINESS by honest means. when we have wrenched it away from fate. then Kafka's enigmatic forth. That is the ultimate reason for the precept that there is only one way to achieve happiness on this earth: to believe in the divine and not to aspire to reach it (there is an ironic variation of this in a conversation US).

is shattered.the faces of two women Day." according This definition agrees with the ancient a science of secret CHAPTER THREE tradition scrupulously followed by kabbalists and necromancers. That is why a child is never more content walking without any goal But "everything riding bicycles in he invents a secret language. or any event whatever. And justice. active journalists everything could be called photographicflanerie: who practice a call to happiness. of course. who speak in gestures alone. has in addition to its manifest name another. the What quality fascinates and entrances captures the Last Judgment. not a knowledge In the final instance. like magic. any object. magic is question of subject matter. The Boulevard du Temple is very well known. than he holds in his hands the laissez-passel' nameless. To be a magus means to know and evoke these archi-names. The photo can show any face. magic is than when of names but a gesture. not a I grave. This is the case with photographers dero and Robert and photographing that happens" Capa. . each being. Each thing. summoned to appear on Judgment There is one example that shows with absolute clarity how this has been true ever since the history of photography daguerreotype considered photographed began. Scotland. Happy. that happens. To have a name is to be guilty. The silver plate represents from the window of his studio at a 22 23 . serious. to which magic is essentially Judgment Day names.is called forth. the first photograph by Daguerre pears. photography it represents pears on the last day. the Day of Wrath. according to this doctrine. more luminous tradition. When it is pronounced. But according to another.PROFANATIONS create but summons. rather. no sooner docs he invent a new name. love are ones that represent something secret name is not so much the cipher of the thing's subservience to the magus's sanctions its liberation speech as. or even like Mario Donwhat that 1 love? I believe it is this: for me. the secret name is only the seal of his power oflife and death over the creature that bears it. . from language. No sooner does he succeed. is a name. The secret name is the gesture that restores the creature to the unexpressed. a breaking free from the name. the monogram The secret name was the name by which the creature was called in Eden. hidden name to which it cannot fail to respond. every manifest name . the creature knocks at the gates of the land of the magi. I don't mean that the photographs tragic. a shop window in Paris . I-lis sadness comes less from ignorance of magic names than from his own inability to free himself from the name that has been imposed on him. it is in which a human figure apthe Boulevard du Temple. and without that grants him happiness.the entire Babel of names That is why. me in the photographs in some way the world as it apIt is. For him. Hence the interminable discussions of names (diabolical or angelic) through which the necromancer ensures his mastery over spiritual powers.

between gesture The power of the gesture to summon and sum up moment.Nathalie Samuel Beckcontain ett. The boulevard with people and carriages. and yet. and must have stood still for quite a while. But this is not a punishment. not Christian one. all of humanity . Walter his char- entire orders of angelic powers resides in the photographic and has its locus. captured. to have his shoes shined. required an extremely should the question here is a pagan. they demand not to be forgotten. Ixion turns in vain to carry water in a the pagan shades cannot be is the cipher of an existence. . I Dondero nature of the gesture . an indelible of the gesture. Here. the shades of the dead repeat the same gesture ad infinitum: on his wheel.PROFANATIONS JUDGMENT DAY busy moment be crowded cameras in the middle of the day.indeed. this index now the Editions de Minuit in 1959. that he fixed them 1 believe the hell in 24 2[' . to the special power time. more actual and more urgent that any But there is another aspect of the photographs compelled to mention.or. I Even if the person today. in photography. time. that person. thanks to the photographic lens. All these photographs index. that gesture is now charged with the weight of an entire life.is concerns a single life: precisely this one and no other. because of the period long exposure time. is given over forever to his smallest. eternal repetition the infinite recapitulation the lower left-hand corner of the photograph. man. by the angel of the Last Judgment also the angel of photography? While making the most banal authors . Or of the (rightly famous) photograph the nOllveall roman And when has that life. however. In the supreme instant. the gesture of having his shoes shined. but it cannot be seen. of exigency and lens subject shown in the photo demands concept tographed is particularly forgotten be confused with factual necessity. with his leg slightly raised to place his foot on the shoeshiner's stool. acters with a gesture charged with destiny. took of roof of the Reichstag the day before the fall of the Berlin Wall.that person demand their name. because the judgment a single person. of an apokatastasts. and ordinary gesture.who is present. And yet. and yet. or of' the photograph of East Berlin taken from the that Dondero Sarraute. The and must not pho- It has to do with a certain exigency: the J believe there is a secret relationship photography. Claude Simon. is completely because something important I love that I am from us. Nothon the sidewalk in A man stopped ing.outside the offices of date. that is. taking an ything away am thinking of the wartime correspondence and Capa. most everyday gesture. In Hades. its opporlune Benjamin once wrote that Julien Green represented in the irrevocability of an infernal beyond. even if his or her and that face name has been erased forever from human memory . that insignificant or even silly moment collects and condenses in itself the meaning of an entire existence. I could never have invented a more adequate image of the Last Judgment. Alain Robbe-Grillet an unmistakable thanks refers to another chronological historical . the Danaides attempt sieve. The crowd of humans .without. precisely of this . absolutely nothing of this moving mass is visible. and immortalized A good photographer from the historicity knows how to grasp the eschatological or singularity of the photographed between event. been picked out. each man. indeed. except a small black silhouette equated with the damned.

certainly. one. Too Late. when he was twenty-two way of dedication one of the boys he had fallen in love with years old. is always more than an image: it is the site of a the sensible and the intelligible. Photography demands that we remember all this.a rather well-known that sense. a sublime breach between between copy and reality. who seems to stare harshly at me. Origen cut short these endless discussions by 26 27 . quests for a portrait. today as on the final judgment Dondero once expressed reservations one to Proust. On the back of the photograph. in order to render it gado. bald. a demand for the name of that woman who was once alive. between a memory and a hope. every day. Henri Cartier-Bresson that is always in the process of being lost. in this of David Octavius Hill. is. I know with absolute certainty and will be my judge. old. by Illy that shows the face of a young Brazilian girl. Edgar Aubel'. that is. and photo- (and in English): Look at my face: about two photograand Sebastiao Salconstruction. claiming that the resurrection its eidos. exigency that interpellates about it. room where I work. rather. a prophecy of the glorious body. in factthat she is day. Christian theologians concerned with the resurrection whether it happened of the flesh repeatedly be resuscitated moment integrity asked themselves in the condition the body would to be in at the of death (perhaps of its youth.) and that he went to great lengths to obtain photographs people he loved and admired. It is. A pretentious dedication. of the human face as a us has noth- to be explored. missing a leg) or in the But they were never able to find a satis- factory answer. J am also called No More. like a Book of Life that the new angel of the apocalypse . a demand for redemption. In the first he saw an excess of geometrical in the second an excess of aesthetic both of them with his own conception story to be told or a geography way: the photographic ing aesthetic The photograph perfection. finally gave Aubel' wrote. Photography that the image of the fishwife gives rise to an exigency. he wrote than the body itself. rather concerns the form of the body. It is well known that Proust was obsessed with photography of the reIn response to his insistent had to turn away . I feel the same graphs testify to all those lost names. name is Might Have Been. on a piece of furniture there sits a photograph . gap.they (In the next to my desk.? It is perhaps because they could not bear this mute apostrophe the viewers of the first daguerreotypes felt they were being watched by the people portrayed. but it perfectly expresses the every photograph and grasps the real exigency that animates possible once again.PROFANATIONS JUDGMENT DAY Benjamin must have had something referring to the photographs like this in mind when.the angel of photographybolds in his hands at the end of all days. Farewell. He opposed phers he admired.

thick beards. But they look like angels. who are half celestial genie. "of students Someone. of the Indian sages. with long." "quick" and "supple". it's not clear who.CHAPTER FOUR The Assistants In Kafka's novels. skills. has assigned them to us. messengers the content (which would explain why they do nothing but lie in wait and of the letters they must deliver.perhaps they are "emissaries" watch). "we don't know who they are" . and it from the enemy who do not know isn't easy to get them off our backs. And yet they are attentive the adult faces. "assistants" creatures who are referred to no and or "helpers. and no "equipment". they are "as alike as snakes. they are so similar that they can only be told apart by their names (Arthur. whom Walter Bensimilar to the whose look. in foolish behavior even sometimes and childish games. almost" they have sparkling eyes and. in contrast to their childish 'Nays. they are "pests" "cheeky" and "lecherous:' ance. jamin defines as "crepuscular" 8andhClrliCls and incomplete. but whose smile. whose very posture "seems like a message:' Each of us has known such creatures. we encounter as Gehiifen. Tn sum. half 2 ." But help seems to be the they never do anything but engage As for their appear- last thing they are able to give. Jeremiah). observers. They have no knowledge.

It could consist precisely in the fact that they cannot be helped. the main characters . we know. a certain air of world and allude to a lost In this sense. an inconclusive mathematical nimbleness citizenship boldness in judgment certain point and dies most shamefully. the marvelous puppet that Geppetto wants to make so that he can travel the world with him and thus earn a "crust of bread and a glass of wine." Robert on If and taste. There is not one that is not either rising or falling. they lie down in a meadow to weep bitterly horn's existence:' over their "stupid green- mate beings who are too small or too large. talking crickets and snails. little frame. wraiths.and they seem to study very hard . at botTry asking Prospero with the more about them. even if it is against our wishes. And why should they bother to help with anything the world takes seriously? After all. this unclassifiable tom. beings. a certain end. in the end. they still do not succeed in finishing an ything and are generally idle [senz 'opera swindler other humans to his duchy . donkeys who defecate gold coins. "None has a firm place in the world. gnomes.what life is like without Ariel.PROFANATIONS THE ASSISTANTS demon. or firm. all his charms and returned yet is unripe. without ever becoming a boy. in the end. they study . and other enchanted creatures who miraculously forgotten by the narrator appear to whisk away the good litat the end of the story when the protle princess or Jean Sans Peur from danger. A perfect type of helper is Pinocchio. just when he realizes ears. They prefer to take walks. good giants. dear animal. not to say indescribable." For that very reason. always ready to yield to temptation one moment and then to promise "to be of seriousness and out his legs" at a good from now on." to his companions that Pinocchio has sprouted us help. that we have somehow betrayed them.these figures who are irreparably work that is utterly and stubbornly busy collaborating superfluous. fairies. none that is not deeply exhausted and yet is only at the beginning of a long existence. We learn nothing "crew" to whom. children's litparallel and approxi- and bursts out laughing a pair of donkey's Walser's assistants are made of the very same stuff . Perhaps because children are incomplete erature is full of assistants and helpers. I would gladly give you something. it's nothing but madness." Nevertheless. (This is in the first version of the story. its qualities with its enemy or none that has not completed its period of time and tagonists go on to live happily ever after. if only I had it.) with his "scrawny who describes Another Funland is Larnpwick. none that is not trading neighbor. before the author thought assistant it necessary to add an edifying conclusion. they give in their limbs or words ." this eternal archetype of the grace of the inhuman simply "stretches J. that they belong to a complementary like the new wick of a night-lamp."2 Neither dead nor alive. even though we can't quite tell what sort of help it is. an unforeseen grace. always intent on notions and projects for which they seem to have an the necessary virtues."! More intelligent and gifted than our other friends. And if they encounter a dog or some living creature on their walks. And yet something them. or in their stubborn insistence that "there is nothing to be done for us.after he has abandoned owe everything. inalienable outlines. they whisper: "I have nothing to give you.all these features indicate or an inviolable elsewhere. These figures are 30 31 .it is in order to become big fat zeros. They embody the type of eternal student or who ages badly and who must be left behind in the about gesture. half golem and half robot. and capricious genies.

Such an object that has survived Mahdi makes his decisions and judgments sultation on the basis of conwho to Thanks with them. just as carelessness is a precursor tortion. the angels and the other mes- sengers who hide in human and animal forms. since they are the true Knowers really know what is there in the divine Reality.PROFANATIONS THE ASSISTANTS One also finds assistants and helpers among the world of inanimate things. and the helpers are. in fact." his helpers. This share of oblivion has something of time. to an unavowed Eden in for them. illegible books. called Rosebud half talismans . who are in some ways his guides. justin who exists between This "tenant Chapter 366 of The Meccan Revelations.s who will have the the visionaries? the wQzir and life" go in the end? Is there some storehouse which they will be collected God is written in one of them? for eternity. which Jews keep old. vision capable of distinguishing An intermediate creature memories. these translators? If they hide among the faithful as foreigners. or a tiny to keep." Or. the sled of this sort. a continuous revelation. fact." which recognizes that is. in the drawer For Charles Foster Kane. the messiah who comes at the end of time. meant renounce could be an old plaything T -shirt that we continue for men's shirts. The MahdJ. only the personifications of the qualities or "stations" of his wisdom. there is also the scooter engine that becomes a cream whipper in Alfred SohnRetheJ's magnificent these helper-objects. in this sense. is dedicated Messiah. in ance makes it so that whoever looks at him "can no longer pay to himself or to the little man. of an incessant quality of the the "men Another language of men. the entire world is in fact nothing other than a translation theophany.but perhaps for this very reason . already possess the last day. wouldn't childhood. the hump." must have been something think of the Maltese falcon. which he renders into the of the divine language. the operators assistant is his "penetrating of the invisible realm. of the Kafka's assistants is the little hunchback in his childhood that Benjamin evokes of the distorted nor the trickster the great Sufi Ibn al-'Arabi. the representative he presents himself in to do with the end to redemption.they are chosen from among non-Arabs. Rather. even if they are. for no reason. the masterwork of wazir. Or.half souvenirs. Where do they. his appearis. prayer from someone attention" so many times in The Thollsand and time: they already belong to the they are foreigners among the who steals the glass from someone who wants to drink and the who wants to pray. Everyone keeps certain useless and somewhat shameful objects . According to Ibn al-Arabi. One of the qualities of the helper is. Arabs. some ark in like the genizah case the name of these testimonies vision. "The order to lay claim to the aspect of oblivion that resides in every thing. the Mahcli can understand the language of the ani- mals and can extend his justice over both men and jinn."? These helpers vizier we have encountered characteristics of messianic to "the helpers of the (wlIzaJ"G " the plural is not just the cipher of childish clumsiness. The hunchback of the forgotten. which for its pursuers turns out to be "the stuff that dreams are made of. that he is a "translator" a pencil box that still retains a lost scent. (mlltaljim) of the language of God. Dis- One Nights) are men who. in profane time. Curiously . in truth. even if they speak their language. description of Naples. But how can one recognize these helpers. needs his helpers.which one the ravages of for anything in the world. and clumsiness are the forms things take in 32 B .

we do not confess even to ourselves. governs the hierarchy of all What is lost demands not to or lost The assis- redeem on the last day. we who live "as if we were not the Kingdom. his irreducible is articulated only in parody. Hence. or the sordid closet in which someone showed us his or her nudity assistants. it influences us just as much that. Throughout and ruin. al though as our conscious memories. forgettable mime's it can neither be measured in terms of consciousness insistently and all consciousness. the waste that we dom. It is his face or that we will recognize in the angel who sounds the trumpet and fulfilled but to remain forgotten for that reason alone. and the forgotten will be remembered the unending lost. For it is said. On every side and all around us. to what is lost. unforgettable. force and almost an apostrophe mulated as a patrimony. were also desires. On the contrary. rather. someone us like Arthur and Jeremiah. comes to be mass our lives. Or. the assistants are busy the Kingdom. will count off our blushes like a collection notice for paradise. that shame. in both collective forgotten measure at every moment. The assistants are our unfulfilled empty. irrevocably of oblivion of what becomes carry in ourselves. And we will be guided toward salvation precisely by the companion who has lost his way. that now appears we will have to hidden precisely in what today appears despicable and derisory." When the will become easy. the incomplete and the inept. He spells out the text of the unand translates it into the language of deaf-mutes. is the Kingthe obstacle of its thing that. The bead of light that emerges from our defects and our Iittle abjections is nothing schoolmates other than redemption. gotten that accompanies nor inefficacious. For the Hence his obstinate face. for the first time. The place of song is under their school desks. To reign does not mean to fulfill. in sum. In this sense. It is a nor accu- ries and our consciousness." The idea that the Kingdom is present in profane time in sinister and distorted forms. that the elements of the final state are to do with glory. Everything debased and worthless to us is the currency far exceeds the small mercy of our memoBut this formless chaos of the forus like a silent golem is neither inert although in a different of the forgotten way. the naughty pictures to us who passed the first pornographic too. tan t is at home in all this. What we have always already forgotten messiah comes. unforgettable preparing gesticulations who carelessly drops the Book of Life from his hands. the ones On the day of judgment. "for them and their kind. This relationship concerns of our every- 34 35 . to them hope will be given. and individual It concerns life. The assistant relationship is the figure of what is lost. knowledge be remembered and therefore. they will come smiling toward That day. secretly has something is a profound messianic theme. coupled with his impassive ambiguity. the ontological own accord. the distorted will be straightened.PROFANATIONS THE ASSISTANTS oblivion. It means that the unfulfilled is what remains.

is this: "Your father is a Parody!"3 Recalling the dicArturo futilely searches the thin. and finds the following definicomic. the island. he mentally repeats it to himself as he returns else's verse in wbich what is seri- ous in the other becomes ridiculous. he is uncertain where he consults a dictionary tion: "Imitation This intrusion a literary the term reappears separation revelation of someone the secret language of whistles that he believes he alone shared of its meaning. Especially since that leads to Arturo's The forget it. gracious features that might tionary definition. the story's narrator. rather."2 of chance. Parody (with a capital P) appears rather unexpectedly central characters of the novel. In order not to home.CHAPTER FIVE Parody In her novel Arturo's Island. When Arturo hears the word for the first time (or. text cannot be a matter of a definition from a manual of rhetoric into shortly before the end of the novel. A little later. and his childhood. Wilhelm father of Arturo. the idol and it from I ment about her poetics. or grotesque. The term. face of his father for the comic or grotesque justify the epithet. Elsa Morante meditation presents a concealed on parody that very likely makes a decisive stateas an insulting epithet for one of the Gerace. in an episode that contains the final revelation from his father. he realizes that his father is in 37 . when he translates with his father).

and the into the lit- comic.. The definition duced. The classical world. are in this sense perfect examples of parody. against (or beside) the song. In for which it is has made a not difficult to find precedents almost unique in the modern ered from this perspective. but that reveals itself to be accessible only in a parodic tion. The name of a literary involving the object of the serious into the homosexuality voice (which is and in addition to the serious argument." We know that his mode of recitation 38 39 .the protagonist Arturo of her book. In Greek music. Aristotle us that the first to introduce was Hegemon parody into rhapsody in this sense of Thasos. when this traditional link is broken and the rhapsodes begin to it is said that they are singing informs para ten oiden. such as the one that Arturo finds so thought Medieval sacred parody such as the missa potatowm Coena Cypiiani. melody to the rhythm of the Homeric poems. of the author's desperate in medieval texts but which is novel. speech. introduce This definition supposed made a distinction to correspond between song of melos and logos. It could also be said that the character's the literary obviously accordance genre with which the narrative also the voice of the author) with a specific allegorical intention. more ancient. It comes from a rhetorical tradition crystallization is urgy of the mass or in to the text of the Bible.parody . however. Scaligero's the tradition for provided the model that dominated was originally Just as Satire derives from Tragedy and Mime from Comedy. such as the referthe ences to the Homeric poets (rhapsody) to which we will return in a moment.. is a cipher that indicates he is nothing other than a symbol for has fallen in love. these songs were called paioidous. because alongside In the case of the recitation discordant melodies. which introduce crude contents of parody that Arturo finds in the dictionary one.. devotes an entire chapter definition centuries: of his Poetics to parody. Consid- from something contents Island appears as the story in the begin- comic.PROFANATIONS PARODY love with the man who insulted him. and the preservation and childish Jove for a literary object into which new and incongruous that seems highly serious and almost legendary form in the end. performers entered who. Elsa Morante '5 two canonical features of parody: the dependence transformed literary genre . inverted and overturned everything that had come before . in fact. Parody is therefore an inverted Rhapsody that transposes the sense into something ridiculous by changing the words. and speech. Indeed. when the rhapsodes interrupted their recitation. out of playfulness and in order to spur the souls of the listeners. a relatively modern whose exemplary teenth century appears at the end of the sixwho in the work of Giulio Cesare Scaligero. From here it is a short step to modern manuals' defini- ning. so does Parody derive from Rhapsody. It was similar to Epirrhema and Parabasis. For that reason. It also establishes on a preexisof formal are introprovoking. was familiar with another. tent model that is subsequently serious into something elements and to comic parabasis. Scaligero was one of the sharpest minds of his age. meaning that situated parody in the sphere of musical technique. they inserted other genre is here the cipher of an inversion of desire rather than the transposition ridiculous things. His definition contains certain important elements.

PROFANATIONS PARO DY provoked irrepressible fits of laughter among the Athenians. and the writer can only repeat she must necessarily resort to childvices". The "obscure song" to Cicero. Since she wants to evoke the unnarratable. according etiam from song. is felt in a prose speech (est autem of the natural and mimic the intimate parody of this object. not because parody is not a serious matter (indeed.is rigThe precocious the music from the words. the inititated attended mirrors says Arturo before his last toys: We know that in the case of the pagan mysteries events that involved source (an ill-intentioned and on the intimate defines that tops. and Arturo as it were. beta eta. man was driven from Eden. own not taking place. ish means and to "novelistic over Arturo's informed acters voice. It is." myth . any other attempt into bad taste and bombast. as the author suggests at must therefore count on well- conversely. the separation odic loosening of the traditional Breaking this link liberates of song from speech.s The notion that parody constitutes and half Treasure Island. there may be great seriousness in the reasons that drive the parodist to renounce resentation of his or her object. like Useppe children's lament for this lost music. it also cannot deny being necessarily beside the song (para-oiden). In approaching offer nothing but a parody." The notion that life can be presented a mystery. According to this more ancient meaning of the term. This means that literary prose carries in itself the mark of its separation that. half fable and half mystery. Her narratives in dicendo quuiam catitus obscurior) is. aspects of every mystery binds mystery It is useful to reflect on the childish solidarity a mystery. books. "parodic. tion of the alphabet (beta alpha. he lost his own place and. then. The very object of narration that is. for the disappearance place of song. a para. we can call the 40 4. Morante the end of the book in one of the rare moments when she takes readers to fill in and supplement." theatrical in literature only in the stylistic key to Moran- te's world is certainly nothing new.is definitive into a history a song in which words give way to the recita- for her poetics: that does not is.the innocent unnarratable. in this sense. pinecones. out of place. The gives of it in a fragment from 1950 . the unseem to come are half Cuore bearably stereotypical from illustrated and parodic quality of many of her charhimself. one can to parody. of speech from song. Reference has been made in this respect to "serious parody. in fact. them as puerilia 1udicra). For Morante. these reasons are terms of a mystery is a theorem that is very fitting for Morante ("Thus life remained departure). precisely this parlink between music and logos in which that made possible the birth of the art of prose with Gorgias.1 .an explanation from the Judeo-Christian with the animals. Or. However. to evoke it falls In this sense. at times it is extremely serious) but because it cannot claim to be identiand thus it cannot deny its a direct repfied with the parodied work. It as evident orously as they are substantial: the object that she must explanation that she borrowed is said that the either player Oinopas introduced lyric poetry also by separating split between who composed song and language appears complete parody into in Callias. parody designates the rupture of the "natural" bond between music and language." The concept of "serious parody" is obviously contradictory. together was thrown belong to him. life outside history . describe . that is. prose takes its place. a who. in this sense. and so on). life. a space beside.

/ I got there by swimming of crap. of the object of courtly love. This is supported they have been preserved by the countless struggles unfailingly end in a sort of mock scatalogical like a "true gentleman": medieval sacred parodies which exhibit such a lack of profanatory intention of the monks. The institution to represent the assumes parody as the very form of mystery. become lucid threshold by the faithful hands can only on the "I am in Faced with mystery." Concerning this noble gentleman. du cul Ii chiet la merde a grant foison.PROFANATIONS PARODY liturgy of the mass. which Audigier undergoes Grinberge a decouvert et cul et con caricature. rCrinberge uncovered her ass and cunt and squatted down over his face. These sacra- mystery. but I cannot push my egoism that far. at the center into the most unrestrained a poem in Old French and entire wi thin composed sometime around the end of the twelfth century and in a single manuscript. 42 43 . in the love and sexuality. we know that is lord of Cocuce. trial. shows himself to be a worthy "when he shit all over his clothes. artistic creation in the sense in which Nietzsche. It is even possible that the unknown author of the poem is thus doing nothing other than making crudely explicit a parodic intention that separates already present in chivalric literature and love poetry: to confuse and render indiscernible the sacred and the profane. Grinberge sat on him and rubbed his ankles. Turgibus. ii. Et Grinberge SOl' of madness. of the ceremony of knightly which unfolds in a dung pit. I would rather be a professor Basel than God. While Audigier lay down on a dungheap.]" This is less a return to the womb or an initiate's of which have precedents in folklore. et sor le vis Ii ert a estupon. of parody as the form of mystery of the parodic countertexts perhaps of the of lui qui li froie les ners. foiz li fist baiser son cul ainz qu'il fust ters. "a soft country a stream Audigier shit up to their elbows. the sublime and the base. and sucked on them. Quans Audigier se siet sor un fumier envers. wrote to Jacob Burckhardt: God. His father." But the true parodic nucleus of the poem is found in the imitation investiture. Twice she had him kiss her ass until it was wiped cleaned. which is abruptly taken from the prestigious sphere of the sacred to the profane site of the dunghill. I made this caricature. both in- defines the most extreme chivalric scatology. of its antihero that is resolutely The genealogy and protagonist are inscribed than an audacious version of the stakes involved in the chivalric quest and. more generally. above all. The poetic dedication a correspondence between that opens Arturo's island establishes the "small celestial island" that is the threshold a constellation cloacal. preserved existence intention Middle Ages."? It is through a sort of probity that the artist. feeling himself unable to push his egoism to the point of wanting unnarratable. / he stuck his fingers in the crap. / where the people are in through of whom get out again through heir. in which the aura of mystery is converted I am referring to Jludigier. the representation modem par excellence of the repeated struggles with the enigmatic old Grinberge. ment. parodic. Shit fell from her ass in great profusion. and. / and I couldn't any other hole.

parody does not simply insert more or less comic content into a serious form." whose very name evokes the children's tains. like that reserved but must be a privative one. though. But this correlimbo there is no E1y- how parody stituent (here too a serious form) is an essential con- has a bitter codicil: "Outside of Dante's style. is almost equal in dignity to the passages of sacred scripture that it reproduces. The persistent (the split between cannot be an afflictive one. It thus introduces a split into language . A reading of the theological yond any doubt. That is why.somewith their lanto them but . as it does the damned. perpetual constitutes however. consisting punishments. of in a tains creatures who. limbo undergoes for the damned. It is not difficult to see the results of this tension in twentieth-century literature. in their case. Latin and the vulgate and. and this language something else that is peculiar. Whether mode. in each case is the ability to introduce language a tension which parody uses to install. however.l'' ian literature language. thing peculiar happens: they become enamored itself." as Morante sees it. between living language. All poets are enamored But usually something that the Church the language that enraptures them and occupies them so comat a certain moment . as in into island "like some grey thing. along with the memory of the homosexual man from Amalfi.. are innocent and yet carry the original being baptized or righteous pagans who could not have known. because it implies that happiness can exist only form (as limbo. nature . not as Elysium ..and this is yet treatises on limbo shows. which amounts bilingualism to the same culture of Italian literary language (and therefore thing. Since and not the supernatural good of the lack of the highest cause the residents they have only natural consciousness one that derives from baptism. beFathers conceived of the another exchange of places). but parodies language itself. the veil of sadness that covers the inviolate limbo. in elegiac and pedantic forms. like the opposition and special form of parody. so to speak. concerns an inhabitant the punishment pletely: the divine.or discovers a split in in love). the city. According to the theologians. its central power source. which the first of the infernal does not of limbo pain. like the blessed. love. This lack. And this is the cause . With the Italian poets . later. The most ironically parodic moment.. as it were. Guglielmo of Italian literature GOIni has shown the J-fypnerotomachia what is essential Pohpiuli. a parody of innocence. with the the dead language and the certainly has a constiand the in a poetically grammar language and dialect) between gradual decline of Latin. the entire tradition stands under the sign of parody.children who died before hell. goes even deeper. in themselves It is a parody of paradise insofar as it constain . and parodic function in this sense. an extreme into a natural joy. conorgies of the tongue in Dan te. or in crude forms. In a certain sense.or perhaps the consequence namely that the Italian poets hate their language as much as they love it. The "house of the kids. the good.at least beginning guage alone.PROFANATIONS PARODY the setting of the novel (childhood?) spondence in a parodic and limbo. Thus the creatures limbo convert the greatest punishment this joy is certainly Hence. which alms to produce a double that But the presence of a parodic strain in Italof their is revealed to them through sium:'9 Bitter. of beatitude as well as damnation. inability to perceive God.of reveals nothing "first circle" as a parody of both paradise and hell. tutive mother literary does not cause them the sligh test regret. as in Folengo. Parody goes from being a literary genre 44 45 .

whose obscene sirvetites never ceases to raise difficult problems for scholars). a metaphysical signification. and the differences elimination in meter (Latin and popuplus the into a itself. Writers lar language are separate to the point of no longer communiare abolished) the unattainable of the loved object's unattainability (obviously not sort of "discord" internal to language (Carlo Emilio Gadda and Giorgio Manganelli) (Giovanni Tommaso song. It reflects the simul- L' amor de lonh is a parody that guarantees the separation of the object from that with which it seeks to be united. but to Pasolini as well. in a realistic sense. obsessively occupied with keeping the Jove object at a distance. Pasolini. began with a linguistic parody (his Friuuse of the Roman dialect) in the giving it the weight of life bears a split if we consider the With his shift to the cinema. Pornography. lives in a symbiotic Moclernlove parody. displaced the parody onto its contents.PROFANATIONS PARODY to the very structure ture expresses of the linguistic medium in which literawho mobilize this dualism as a with writers the nonplace who. often in the same person (the exemplary case is Daniel Arnaut. parodied her work. 46 47 . He could be develon a that we read Pasolini's late works in close proxThe suggestion Pasolini not only carried But polar tensions on the erotic plane. however. to save poetry from parody. always aston ishing to find an obscene and burlesque drive alongside a more refined spirituality. His formula is both simple and effective: within itself (the analogy is not surprising. his incongruous footsteps of Morante. Elsa Morante The dead aura [l'aura mortal In both cases. too. Exit parodic. tradition. Indeed. of the Canzoniere.or speaks . poetry is born under the ambiguous Catizonieie. it is taken for becomes the proper object of poetry. and one that it is impossible to parody. parodically Landolfi). Metrical preciosity and trobat clus establish transform differences signification of level and polarities also emerge in language tensions. who systematisign of cally inverts his intention. work of the Divine Marquis as the most implacable revocation which maintains the intangiwith which it to look at . but also more or less consciously lian poems. Repressed parody reappears. At one point. Pascoli and. The poet. into a specter). The fact that the first biography of Laura was written It announces by an the ancestor of the Marquis de Sade.in a mode that is unbearable the eschatological form of parody. who includes her in his genealogy. then the poetry of the troubadours and childish character and the stilnovisti of its formality. which resolutely is an attempt turns away with dialogue with Morante (whom he ironically calls Basilissa in his poetry). however. This is also true on the linguistic level. is essential can be contrasted celebrate verse or in prose. in a different way. Petrarch's from the troubadour relationship with the parodist. Incipit literatura.only alongside language or to parody. though.indeed. is not merely an ironic coincidence. but by transforming cadaver .is bility of its own fantasy in the same gesture brings it closer . granted that one sings . imity with those of Morante. It is that into a field of unresolved The critic Franco Fortini suggests applying the formula "serious parody" not only to Morante recommends oped further. in a pathological form. in of song and regard to language. If the presupposition contains an indubitable taneously complicated of the object's unattainability parodic intention. an integral monolinguism cating. h Like language.

PROFANATIONS PARODY theological equation between life and the word that profoundly marks the Christian comforts of religion" world)." 'with fiction. From this perspective. and condenses mi cingo. parody not only does not coincide with fiction. the parodic split in language would necessarily . that parody is the theory . detaching But his gesture remains parodic: the death of Beatrice is a parody that. ture.at least for modern dic opening of a space alongside Just as metaphysics experience is thought . Dante certainly takes a step beyond the poetry of the troubadours. according (which is the gesture of Manganelli and Landolfi). Beatrice and Laura. I out that.between of creation place to grasp the affinity . once defined his beloved child "pataphysics. however. By allowing the object of his love to die. (which is Elsa Morante's to fiction (and she knew that she was a master of fiction).or.and practice . In other words. the triumph of love rather than and the stttnoonly to able to gather up its beatific essence. flatus ogy of life. dress.of that in language and in being which is beside itself . we can say that it presupposes a dual tension in being. fiction. finally. is and. If we pursue the metaphysical vocation taking its gesture to an extreme. the "long celebration respond to the sanctification something function. between to keep it at a distance. so to speak. Morante's you.as these two symmetrical poles to than in the passage that leads from Beatrice novel by Morante) but not without those of parody. or one can feign parody of parody further. on the threshold stubbornly word and thing.except as the parosensible (but a 48 49 . impossible . in the end. fatua veste" ["With adorn myself"]. In truth. parody holds itself. fatuous its musical theme: "Di te. if fiction defines the essence of literaof litsuspended between reality and fiction. by the name from the mortal creature who bears it. parody does not call into question reality of its object. read Pasolini's Solo as a parody of Morante's Parody maintains a special relationship always constituted most beautiful announces poems in Morante's History. but constitutes because. this object is so intolerably parody that it becomes necessary (or "as if not"). The poet can live "without the (to quote the title of an unpublished to Pasolini's cult of Sandro to the tril- Perhaps there is no better well as the distance . The angelic little boys who must save the world corIn both cases. But interare possible as well: one can parody fiction vocation). indeed. unlike fiction. one can say fiction's "as if. Laura. erature." only an "aura. as the science of In the same way." what is added on to metaphysics. to in the very foundation appears here too in its apocalyptic it would not be illegitimate death. the being-beside-itself of every being and every discourse. finzione. pornography of vitality in Morante" of Ninetto. writers distinguish themselves according the distinctive trait of literature. unrepresentable And. Laura's death. Morante's cult of Umberto Saba corresponds Penna.ontology correspond to a duplication of being would correspond to a paraontology." to Pasolini. This is the To real for tends that Italian exists"). is the death of the parodic conof the love object for the troubadours henceforth becomes The object I'ocis." parody opposes its drastic "this is too much" Thus. Hence the absolute lack of mourning stitution visti. which has One of the it In this sense. the way in which they inscribe mediate solutions themselves into one of two collection Alibi is devoted great classes: parody and fiction. there is of parody. Alfred Jarry And it has been pointed language itself is pure fiction (it "preits polar opposite.

the reader. the split between song and speech and between in parabasis language and world. Schlegel. In the gesture of parabasis. the chorus moves over (pal'Obaino) to the part of the stage called the lopeion. As Arturo says of his island: "l would rather pretend tions parabasis. The space of parody . [si can- cella in pC/tria]. of parabasis in the modern expresses language's inability to reach the thing and the impossibility of the thing finding its own name. this heart-wrenching ment. stage and reality is relaxed what is perhaps its only resolution. as it were. from Cervantes Called forth and carried away from his place and his position.which is literature .is therefore necessarily and theologically marked by mourning and by the distorted grimace Gust as novel. So I'd better not when it can't be seen any longer. mately and parodically 50 5l . empty). Scaligero menlanguage of Greek comedy. Jess painful and is canceled out into a homeland the space of logic is marked by silence). in literature. Here. from this perspective. then parody. when the narrative as in the famous apostrophes to reflect. of parody . In order to do this. of the poet to the of parody. in this way. lflngereJ that it doesn't exist. divided- point where theater goes beyond itself and approaches the novel. reader. For this reason. If ontology tween language is the more or less felicitous and world.PROFANATIONS PARODY space that must remain rigorously ously impracticable terrain.both a transgression Friedrich Parabasis is an look until the moment tell me when that moment Alifhebung and a completion. sees parabasis as the The staged dialogue . the place of discourse.intiopens a space off to the side possible way of ironically surpassing the Romantic form par excellence. the reader accedes not to the place of the author but to a sort of space between worlds. And yet. 1ogeion) and thus becomes voice turns to in which the traveler constantly nothing more than an exchange. the representation the tension encounters between is dissolved and and parody actors and spectators. If parody. It will be on the eminent to knocks against limits and aporias that he cannot avoid but that he also cannot escape. al ways attenti ve to every art. this is a parabasis. At a certain point in his definition In the technical of parody. for a morates in reality the absence of a proper place for human speech. commemoatopia becomes. relationship beas paraontology. simply a human conversation. author and audience exchange roles. in order to speak to the audience. You has come ?" parabasis (or parekbasis) deSignates the moment when the actor exits the scene and the chorus turns directly to the spectators. an interruption necessary function Morante. parody attests to what seems to be the only possible truth of language. parody is a notori- (which is physically represented by the Likewise.

like a picture book for children who do not yet know how to read. in fact. We are unable to put our desires into language because we have imagined them. In reality. suspended for us to put them into words? It is so difficult.CHAPTER SIX Desiring There is nothing simpler and more human than to desire. Until the moment when we begin to understand 53 that desire will remain . like the lmagerie d'Epinal of an illiterate image we have made of it for ourselves. To communicate tedious one's desires to someone one's dreams without images is But people. that we where they remain brutal. is a more difficult task. both of these are easy to do. To communicate desires and the desired images. and waiting. are om desires unavowable end up hiding them. To communicate (like recounting one's images without one's desires is the imagined or one's travels). And what is unavowable for us? Why is it so difficult a crypt for them somewhere embalmed. on the other hand. Why. The body of in desire is the desires is an image. then. constructing within ourselves. And that is why we put it off until later. the crypt contains only images.

limbo. For medieval philosophers. with the pure word. forever prisoners in the crypt. in order to show we have imagined. it is not surprising substance:') 55 that both Dante and other than itself. how could they occupy the space already occupied by the body of the mirror? And if their place is the mirror. ow? Are they endowed Should they be identified with colors. With fulfilled desires. he constructs hell. the image is not a substance but an accident that is found in the mirror. would we not also be displacing the images by displacing the mirror? First of all. what exists not in itself but in something between the image and of love. with unfulfillable images.PROFANATIONS forever unfulfilled .and that this unavowed desire is ourselves. images of we have already had. (Given the proximity the experience dent without 54 Cavalcanti were led to define love in the same way: as an "acci- . being in a subject is the mode of being assumed by what is without that is. He separates they have already been fulfilled. They inof these into the nature of the images that appear substances or accidents? And how does in them: What is the being. Medieval philosophers qui red in particular were fascinated by mirrors. not as in a place but as in a subject (quod est in specula ut in subiecto). If they were simply body or substance. Or rather. the beatitude of paradise. the being of images must be very peculiar. the nonbeing. or with shadwith local movement? the mirror receive their form? ertainl y. or rather images? Are they bodies or nonbodies. Whatever them from images in order to fulfill them. CHAPTER SEVEN Special The messiah comes for our desires. substance. And with imagined desire. with light. There remain the (unfulfillable) Being what is already fulfilled.

ghost). of the expression has the form of a the aspect of length and width. It does not have a its being given to be seen. it can- The species intelligibility. In itself. the fierce and that the image is and is not our image. where the (particularly in the sense of it: "Just as light is always of the illuminator." derives from a root signifying "to look. speciosus terminology. a gesture. drugs and spices) and. propetJormae). with its aspect. If the interval between perception "vision. The second characteristic tennined of the image is that it cannot be deof an habitus or a mode of being.is the most interesting "being in a subject. erly speaking. it means believing that we are the masters of our own species and that we coincide with it. ing itself to be seen). that is.it means no longer being able to love. The Latin term species. but always and If the gap is eliminated. The mirror is the place where we discover that we have an image and. only a "kind of thing" [specie c!i cosa]. (habitus . a visibility or an appearance. which means "appearance. its pure with its own A being is special if it coincides according to the category of quantity. hence the sense the term takes on in natural science (animal or plan t species) term signifies and in the language "commodities" of commerce. there is a gap. like the image in a mirror. at the same time. (example. and spectaculum species was used to Rather. it is not. of each thing is its visibility. that this image can be separate from us. sign). that our species or imago does not belong to us. (beautiful. Each moment." or image but without also being misrecognized only for an instant . In this sense.PROFANATIONS SPECIAL BEING Two characteristics are derived from the insubstantial reality and cannot be described naas root is also found in speculum pel'spicuus (spectacle).being able to refer on Iy to a "habit" or an signification What is in a subject It is never a thing. if one recognizes oneself in the and loved in it . later." The being of the image is a continuous nova generatur). according to the Talmud. Since the image is not a substance. Between the perception of the image and the recognition of oneself in it. sing the praises of God and immediately sink into nothingness. which the medieval poets called love." "aspect. a usage. specimen In philosophical (mirror). a form or an image but rather the "aspect image or of a form" (species imaginis not be described are therefore becoming visible. each time (semper do we say that the image in the mirror is generated according to the presence of the one who looks. spectrum (image. not possess any continuous moving by means of any local movement. giv- ture of the image. like the angels who. Narcissus's shocking realization mirror is the source of love." species. but it occurs in a subject and is in this sense like a generation a being [essere] of generation ancl not of sub- it is created anew. to see:' This S6 S7 . A being is special if its essence coincides with insubstantial. money (especes). with its own revelation." The dimensions not measurable species. stance. The image is a being whose essence is to be a species. it is generor the presso ated at every moment according to the movement created anew according to the presence translate the Greek eidos (as genus was used to translate genos). modes of being and "habits" This characteristic ethos . (transparent. but instead as "having only of the image quantities but merely aspects or vel c!ispositiones).if as long or wide. Special being is absolutely proper place. ence of the one who contemplates it does clearly seen).

but it cannot be an use nor enjoyment is and But neither was first defined it offers itself eminently makes visible and only later became the principle of classification and equivalence." Nothing shows more clearly the meaning of the thewith which the linking the The person is invested than the fact that the Christian theologians used this term to translate mask to a substance person is the containment the Greek hypostasis. The being that desires and is desired becomes species. species is what presents and communicates being.a face. The itself to the gaze. special being is like "special.be fixed in a substance and in a specific difference in order to constitute an identity. of each the species and belong together be reassuring. to communicate itself. The transformation of the species into a principle of identity and classification inal sin of our culture.generically indifferently out allowing any of them to identify it." that is. And special being does not mean the individual. without resembling it resembles first meant "beautiful" apparent.PROFANATIONS SPECIAL BEING and recognition internalized is indefinitely prolonged. In the image. at the cost of sacrificing its specialriess. Special being is delightful. there can be only appropriation 58 r9 . because to common use. being and desire. anchoring the species). "To be special ifar specie]" can mean "to surprise and astonish" (in a negative sense) by not fitting into object of personal property. at the same time. and only later came to mean as that which . and this is something the image or the face of humanity. On the contrary. identified by this or that quality which belongs exclusively and to it. To love another being means to what renders visible and. what can . Something is personalized is the orig[disposiapparatus . desires to persevere the being that is common or generic. existence and conatus coincide perfect! y. but the notion that individuals constitute a as a fantasy and love falls into psychology. being is desirable" is a tautology. The term names the internal tension (intus tensio) is more instructive than this double meaning. something ological.and must. the image becomes established rules. love with which each being desires itself.is referred to as an identityany other. possible with the personal. a being such that it is . makes itself visible. "Whatever Specious "untrue. Nothing in a homogeneous class tends to In the Middle Ages. Identity papers contain a photograph (or some other means of capturing Everywhere the special must be reduced to the personal and the personal to the substantial. a gesture. psychological. (three persons in a single substance). at all costs . A being . and social processes desire its species.each one of its qualities. that which pushes it to become an image. it exposes it.is special when. desires to persevere in its own being. adhering to them with- it in a sub- stance in order to identify it. intention. In this sense. it means a being insofar as it is whatever being [essere qualunque]. its most implacable uvo]. jealousy. species was also called intentio. eminently Originally." Species all the others. persona meant "mask. The species does not subdivide the genus. that is. of the species. an event . to desire the desire with which it in its being. The species is nothing other than the tension. within the genus.

The model wife brutalizes herself. is not so much the the basis of an ethics of contemporary of a subject as the opening of a space in which the of his absence. who introduced Maurice de Gandillac. Foucault suggested. in an autonomous The spectacle is the separation generic being. of herself. Foucault began his lecture with a quote from Samuel Beckett ("What someone mulate an indifference question expression in writing. said what matter who's speaking")2 toward the author that would serve as writing. In the audiand Jacques Lacan). what matter who's speaking. if Things had made him a celebrity. Special being communicates and is constituted transformed of jealousy. the publication the lecture.! of The Order Three years earlier. of someone without whom the thesis denying the importance 61 60 . The jeune fille is jealous The Author as Gesture nothing but its own communicabecomes separated from itself sphere. the impossibility of love and the triumph On February 22. remaining "What matter that seems ironically the Beckett who's speaking. Lucien Goldmann. the brutal CHAPTER EIGHT confuse the personal with the special. that is. Michel Foucault presented the lecture "What Is an Author?" to the members and guests of the Societe Francaise de Philosophie. 1969. The special is of bility. But this communicability into spectacle. it was easy to confuse fashionable curiosity matter about the topic to be discussed. as a vvay to forWhat is in ence (which included Jean Wahl." There is thus someone who. proffered this statement. with excitement who's speaking."! quote contains someone a to evoke the secret theme said writing subject does not cease to disappear: "The trace of the writer is found only in the singularity But in its very enunciation contradiction of the lecture. while anonymous and faceless.PROFANATIONS The jealous confuse the special with the personal.

we could say that in a civilization like our own there is a of discourses tion' while others are deprived of it . But if of New York at Buffalo. Fou"The author is nol I discover that Shakespeare did not write the tragedies attributed to him and that instead he wrote Francis Bacon's Novum an even more drastic opposition and the author-function. conversely. a modified version of the between the does not cease referring to the same person. If I learn. on which Foucault focuses his analysis. The name of an author is not simply a proper name like any other. beyond the limits of his work.PROFANATIONS THE AUTHOR AS GESTURE the one who speaks could not have been formulated. and regime of circulation certain number therefore of a individual who produced it". selects: in short. source of significations Organllm. 5 he was not born in Paris. The author's name does not refer simply to civil status. He is a certain functional by which. It is based on the distinction the author between that are often confused: as a real individual two notions the dispersal of the enunciati ve function different a transdiscur- into several remains rigorously out of the picture. The same ecuting and punishing the author of a text. Foucault goes on to clarify the meaning operation. that fill the work. in by and functioning of certain discourses within a society. the possibility of gesture that deprives the identity of the author of all relevance distinguishing the possibility and selecting discourses in literary and scientific of authenticating texts by constituting of determining who occupy them as their texts. to which various modes of the same function correspond. simultaneously the possibility subjects At this point." whose status it defines within a given society. nonetheless does not have blue eyes. and recornposition of fiction:' In this division between the author-subject ments that actualize this subject's function cault's strategy is marked by a profound on subjectivity. it is located "at the edges of the text. and finally. just as Freud is more than the author of The Interpretation of Dreams). of his who a canon. that Pierre Dupont for one reason or another. the possibility of pros- 62 63 . for example. the one delimits. at the same time. and the author-function. neither at the level of description nor at the level of designation. he repeats several times that he has never ceased working while on the other hand. constitutes (Marx is far more than the author of Capital. the subject as a living that constitute this subject and the of individual is present in his research only through the objective processes of subjectivation apparatuses that inscribe and capture it in the mechanisms Hence the various characteristics our time: a particular the author's rights and. the possibility of constructing the author as a "founder of discursivity" sive function which. circulation. The author function characteristic of the mode of existence. de- author does not precede his works. FouOn the one gesture. the principle by which one impedes the free the free composition. "it does not pass from the interior discourse to the real and exterior instead. excludes. or that the proper name Pierre Dupont places. or that he is not a doctor as I believed. or. the free manipulation.... hand. apocryphal character." of the author-function sanctioned regime of appropriation composition. then it cannot be said that the function of the name Shakespeare has not changed. when he presented lecture at the State University cault proposed author-individual an indefinite principle circulation. in our culture. and the arrangein society. nevertheless affirms his irreducible necessity. Two years later. "As a endowed with the 'author funcis result.

process of subjectivation fied and constituted the author-function in the Bicetre on April 21. and lettres de cachet. of It thus seems that every inquiry into the subject as an individual must give way to the archival record that defines the conditions and forms under which the subject order of discourse. in the discussion to Foucault the and transformed' And in response intention when they are struck with infamy. to leave his own traces in an empty place? There is perhaps only one text in Foucault's work where this difficulty emerges explicitly and thematically and where the in all its splenillegibility of the subject appears for a moment ceived as the preface to an anthology prison moment records. he must assume sively close face of a stranger stares out at us.. This refusal has the aim of eliciting the processes that are peculiar to in which the subject and the object 'are formed in relation to and in terms of one another.PROFANATIONS THE AUTHOR AS GESTURE power. fulguration opprobrium another exceeds the subjectivation of effacing the individual subject. of Mathurin August 31. in which." The grimace of sexton Jean-Antoine Milan (interned Something Touzard (interned obscure on at Charenton following the lecture on the author. can appear in the is In this order. these infamous lives appear only agents and authors of villainous acts and discourses. the encounter power pulls from darkness and silence these human existences that would otherwise the atheist. But in what way can an absence be singular? And what does it mean fOTan individual to occupy the place of a dead man. to the flesh-and-blood perspective cidedly aestheticizing with regard to subjectivity. 1707) shine for a brief moment cast upon them by power. something 1 its found only in the singularity beyond any expression and beyond any memory." originally conof archival documents. from which the distant but excesin this to itself proper name.something like the luminous traces of another life and history. attributed "To define how the author function back our tears. of it on behalf of a pure objectivity. he said witb irony: is exercised is not equivaSo let us hold appears as a in the beam oflight them to of the lent to saying tbat tbe author does not exist ."7 From this perspective. aware of this apparent des phisubin the following was in any case perfectly aporia. and In what way are these lives present in the brief. but to position oneself as an author means occupying the place of a "dead man. testifying through quotes in the discourse of power. sinister annctations that have consigned them forever to the pitiless archive of 64 65 ." An author-subject does exist." to Lucien Goldmann. Foucault continually emphasizes. sodomite vagabondage not have left any traces.. according to a diagnosis that "the trace of the writer of his absence. who. 1701) and the obstinate. as in those photographs infam y demands [esige as the author of a certain COTpUS texts. at the very with ject does not amount to acting as if the subject did not exist.. To be sure. in this instantaneous that condemns and is marked out in the laconic statements througb which an individual is identi- archive . Foucault. the role of the dead man in the game of writing. In the early 1980s." The author is not dead. This is probably lute indifference Foucault why hostile critics have reproached for both an absoand a deindividual yet he is attested to only through the traces of his absence. I am referring to "Lives of Infamous Men. writing in the Dictionnaire losopbes. which fixes them as responsible Still. not without a certain incoherence. he characterized his own method way: "Refusing the philosophical making an abstraction an experience recourse to a constituent dor.

They of the text in which they are put into their eternal turning away.and this seems more 66 6 . Real lives were "played out lJouees]. then. intrigues for which words were instruments.9 in these few sentences. that this text from 1977 contains something like the cipher of the lecture on the author: the infamous life somehow constitutes unexpressed the paradigm of the presence-absence what remains act. "Real lives were 'played out an ambiguous expression. this is ence. It is possible. by which a life appears to us only through what silences it and twists it into a grimace? Foucault seems to be aware of this difficul ty. gestures. quotation it possible and exceeded and nullified fJoueesJ''': in this context. rather. remains deliberately selves.. by this I do not mean that they were represented. the insignificant functionaries of either in death. the gesture by which they have been fixed seems to reof remaining essential: they are "played out" or "put into play" in these sentences. their freedom and their disgrace are risked and decided. reserve . but because the agent. had appeared absolutely in language only on the condition in it. or their roles recited). or. exactly a cenof the author in the work. If we call "gesture" in each expressive in the archi ve of infamy. is its their absence. we can say that. These discourses intersected with lives in real. at least in part. but traps. One won't see a collection of verbal portraits here. 10 these notes certainly had no intention these men: their only aim was to stamp them with infamy. ruses. like the gesture that has both rendered intention. Where is Mathurin Milan? Where is Jean-Antoine Touzard? Certainly not in the laconic notes that register biographical their presence unexpressed It was therefore taken for granted that these were neither of repportraits nor biographies.Mathurin Touzard to his Who put these lives into play? Was it the infamous men themMilan to his vagabondage. Nor are they outside the archive.PROFANATIONS THE AUTHOR AS GESTURE infamy? The anonymous who wrote knowing or representing scribes. what binds the infamous lives to the but something different and more fleshless writings that record them is not a relationship trary. like infamy. but that their freedom. at least for a moment these pages. and Jean-Antoine Or was it rather . cries. their misfortune. these existences were effectively risked and lost in these words. Can it be said for that reason that these lives found expression here and that they are somehow communicated to us and given to On the conas if they be known. How should we understand the modality of this singular pres- marked on the outer edge of the archive. weapons. these lives shine blindingly with a dark light. in a reality of which we know literally nothing. concrete ways. in any case their fate were actually decided in them. albeit in the most drastic abbreviation? move them forever from any possible presentation. attitudes. often their which Foucault emphasizes by using marks. abandoning sodomite passion? themselves without obscure in the text. the author is present in the text only as a gesture that makes expression possible precisely by establishing tral emptiness within this expression. NOl so much because r= also has a theatri- cal meaning (the phrase could mean that these lives are staged. resentation or refiguration. And yet. the one who put these lives into play. stand on the threshold play.

at bottom. containing Rogozhin instead.and that is why it is the possi- rubles and throws it into the the avid Ganya that the money will be his if he has the courage to pluck it from the flames. never said . of saying ("But what are you talking about? You're having an her. by Nastasya Filippovna has put her life into play . the hundred thousand fire. The author marks the point at which a life is offered played out in the work.or to be putinto play? In Dostoyevsky's in these gestures The Idiot. life is only played. Nastasya immediately caprice that she makes Prince up and played out. including General Yepanchin. And it is out of playfulness pressed or fulfilled. that is why she rein all her respond to his offer to marry the young Ganya in exchange for seventy-five thousand rubles. Even Prince Myshkin certain is there. the man Nor can one say that she acts in order to seek venFrom beginning as her friends never tire drawing room on a certain evening that will decide her existence. bearing a packet containing for Nastasya. it is never possessed. He is the illegible someone 68 69 . of a form of life. Nastasya seems gripped by a delirium. she's lost her head"). marry the prince. the chancellors internment? pletely to either tionaries and policemen one or the other. ble but empty site of an ethics.even at the risk that its happiness or its disgrace will be decided once and for all. the author can only remain and unsaid in the work. the anonymous functionaries. is inexplicable. For this reason. promising she grabs the packet juridical identity that will have to answer for it nor to the funcof power who will judge the infamous men in the end. as if possessed. by Lebedev. "I don't understand she has allowed Rogozhin. agrees to choosing happens very quickly. But what does it mean for a life to put itself . for example). 1 don't feel well.!' She has promised who has dishonored her and kept her until now. and the venomous ko.or perhaps this life to be put into play by Myshkin. who is practically By agreeing to play the unpleasant abjection. decide her response to Totsky. actions. And yet it is impossible anything like a rational superior to discern and the attitudes of the others present (with decision or a moral to end. they are incomparably to the calculations the exception principle. All her friends and acquaintances are gathered in her drawing room. sick and feverish stops repeating: by Ferdischenko. What guides the actions of Nastasya Filippovna? However excessive her gestures may be.the conspiracy of familiars. and. The mistress 1 have afever. From there. irrevocably and without reserve . The infamous never represented. the ineffable Lebedev.PROFANATIONS THE AUTHOR AS GESTURE likely . who were in charge of their it belongs neither to the The infamous life does not seem to belong com- stranger everything to her. society game proposed in which each player must confess his own places the entire evening under or a Myshkin. Nastasya Filippovna enters her Afanasy Ivanovich Totsky. attack". From the beginning. by her own caprice. that she will geance (against Totsky. unsatisfied Offered up and about it. not ex- the sign of games and play. She unexpectedly only to take it back immediately. of Myshkin). A life is ethical not when it simply submits to moral laws but when it accepts putting itself into play in its gestures. point makes an entrance Ferdischenwho at a as is Rogozhin. a hundred That is why her behavior mains perfectly at the head of an unseemly thousand rubles the evening has something of the house never inaccessible and misunderstood clique. Then.

And yet this illegible gesture.in old books that reproduce the portrait decipher threshold or photograph of the author as a frontispiece . it is rather likely that this thought and this sentiment became real for him. fore neither gesture the author used to testify author's enigmatic features. at the same time. this place that remains empty.that this was written now buried in the Montparnasse his wife. Like the mime in his with his 1azzo. Does this mean that the place of thought and feeling is in the poem itself.or while . in the signs that make up the text? How could a passion. take up the book and read. it returns to retie the thread that it has loosened. relationship other posthumous into play.is therein the text nor in the author (nor in the reader): through which the author and reader put or it is in the gesture nitely withdrawn guarantor themselves into play in the text and. The author's gesture passed for a brief moment through attested to as a strange and incongruous to the theorists of the commedia interrupts unravels presence in the work . individuals thought is unique man named Cesar Vallejo. this inthe and discourse issue. The author is only the witness of his own absence in the work in which he is put once of the inexhausfrom the to join "Padre polvo que subes de Espaiia" 12 We know . In order for them to become present. And just as we seek in vain . like a lace. This individual occupy the empty place in the poem left by the author. making himself in turn the guarantor ing to Averroes. Does it 70 71 . in exactly the same way that . who was born in Peru in 1892 and is Cemetery who survived him by many years and is writings. a thought be contained nition. for the flawed edition of his poetry and that constitutes this poem as a work by Cesar with it from time to time. and their details and nuances his own. are infifrom it.PROFANATIONS THE AUTHOR AS GESTURE who makes reading which writing possible. accordand separate and fantasies who use their imaginations it seems. only after .writing became inextricably it has brought to life. is what makes reading possible.or. And yet.or at least we have been told .according dell'arte 1azzo incessantly and continually the story unfolding the plot. the author tirelessly silence and the Harlequin returns to enclose himself again within the opening he has created. And yet the text has no Vallejo (or Cesar Vallejo as the author of this poem). so does his gesture hesitate on the of the work. and the reader can only provide this testimony again. its taking place . rather. Georgette.to the reasons and the meaning of the work from the exergue that ironi- and think them. the legendary emptiness from is mean that on a certain day this particular comparable thought sentiment. Let us attempt to pinpoint the tible game in which he plays at missing himself. guarantees presence of an inexpressive the life of the work only through the poem (just as they become such for us only in the moment when we read the poem).the Harlequin's on the stage each time gesture mind and soul of the individual named Cesar Vallejo? Nothing is less certain. Consider the poem that begins one day in 1937 by a in Paris. just as the 1azzo the author's owes its name to the fact that. Just as. next to The place of the poem . like an intractable cally claims to hold its unavowable secret. he will repeat the same inexpressive to his absence in the work. responsible. so do the author enter into a relationship that they remain unexpressed and the reader with the work only on the condition in it. feelings and thoughts one must in a piece of paper? By defia subject to experience somewill require the irreducible outer edge. Indeed.

73 one arrives show itself and increase its resistance at the point capture it and put it into play. this special unavailability. to return them to the free use of men. they could be neither sold nor held by servitude. so must (in which case they were simply called And if "to consecrate" the removal (sacrare) must remain unexpressed in the work while still attesting. "In the strict sense. it is what results from the encounter with the apparatuses of the chancellors the hand-to-hand produced precisely subjectivity and from the hand-to-hand confrontation in which it has been put . like the life of the infamous man The Roman jurists knew perfectly well what it meant to "pro. confrontation with the apparatuses they have in and the history of human beings is perhaps nothing other than . of men:' And "pure" was the place that was no longer to the gods of the dead and was now "neither to the common rather. encountering of its being reduced and nowhere like an ethical subject. Reading must of what has the CHAPTER NINE In Praise of Profanation which no interpretation come to an end at the place where the reading been poetized encounters personality was lived. All the rest is psychology. these things exclusively itself . on the contrary. As such.and bas put fane. where its apparatuses tivity is produced guage and putting itself into play in language without reserve.is not something that can be directly attained as a substantial reality present in some place. anything chology do we encounter form of life. exhibits in a gesture the impossibility this gesture.PROFANATIONS other light than the opaque one that radiates from the testimony of this absence. profane. And just as the author presence. not only the writing of the archive of infamy) is an apparatus too. But use does not appear 72 . It is just as illegitimate to attempt in some way the empty place of what to construct of the author by means of the work as it is to turn his gesture into the secret cipher of reading."' The thing that is returned here as something natural: use of men is at it only by pure. Perhaps Foucault's aporia becomes less enigmatic at this point. in psy- nor holy nor religiOUS. The subject -like the author. for the celestial gods or for the called "sacred") in lien. free of sacred names. The great jurist Trebatius that was once sacred or religious and is returned property allotted wrote. they were removed from the free use and commerce of men. was the term that indicated of things from the thus this way. to his own irreducible sphere of human law. was sacrilegious. For writing (any writing." Sacred or religious were the things that in some way belonged to the gods.above all with language. conversely. profane is the term for something to the use and sacred. A subjeclanto a where the living being. "to profane" meant. freed from all names of this sort.into play. neither given for usufruct nor burdened Any act that violated or transgressed which reserved (in which case they were properly gods of the underworld "religious"). But this is precisely beyond why the author also marks the limit can proceed.

as an insipid and incorrect etymology unites would have it. rather. or physical play. which indicates 74 ~ . puts it to a particular to the sacred. tention that must be adopted in relations with the gods. That which has been ritually separated of profanation same sacrifice can be returned from the rite to the profane sphere. between (the "rereading [rileaaere]") and formulae .PROFANATIONS IN PRAISE OF PROFANATION means of profanation. in fact. To profane use. Most rather. (that is to say. the threshold that the victim must cross. once belonged. and indifference toward what unites men and gods but what ensures they remain disIt is not disbelief the divine. or people from common tion. no matter in which direction. released from the religio of norms) before things and their use. from the human sphere to the divine. The apparatus that effects and regulates the separation is sacrifice: through a series of meticulous rituals. while the rest can be consumed profane men. reuse) of the sacred: namely. It is well known that the spheres of play and the sacred are closely connected. which differ in various cultures and which Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss have patiently inventoried. from l'eligare (that which binds and and the divine). or exta: the liver. it ieleqere. that stand in opposition to religion. also come about by means of an entirely inappropriate LIse (or. to the religious sphere. it or wordplay. of separation means to open the possibility of a special form of negligence. The term ielipio does not derive. The rite. top and the chessboard were instruments lyzing the relationship between of divination. One part of the victim (the entrails. the before formsReliaio is not "using" and "profaning" uneasy hesitation separation tinct. he writes.that must be observed in order to respect the Religion can be defined as that which removes things. Not only is there no religion without also con tains or preserves the sacred and the profane. Play breaks up this unity: as luclus. gallbladder. a touch that disenchants games and rites. itself a genuinely religious core. Emile Benits overturning. sacred ceremonies. games of chance derive from oracular practices. heart. girotondo by from divinatory a marriage practices of the games with which we are familiar clerive from ancient and rituals that with a ball the spinning In anabroadly speaking. Thus one of the simplest forms occurs through contact (contagione) that effects and regulates during the the passage of the The passage from the sacred to the profane can. animals. therefore. play. but "negligence. the profane which ignores separation or. a behavior before forms that is free and "distracted" and their meaning. as lOCUS. playing victim from the human to the divine sphere. stages it. lies in the conjunction the myth that tells the story and the rite that reproduces drops the myth and preserves the rite. It comes instead from and atthe stance of scrupulousness the human ven iste shows that play not only derives from the sphere of the sacred but also in some ways represents power of the sacred act." What is essential is the caesura that divides the two spheres. The of and sacred had separated and petrified. in the rite need only touch these organs and edible. The participants for them to become contagion. but every separation use and transfers them to a separawithin separate sphere.lungs) is reserved for the gods. always sanctions the passage of something sacrifice from. ship between There seems to be a peculiar relationthat we must clarify. There is a profane and returns to use what the was originally reprod uces the struggle of the gods for possession of the sun. places." that is.

war. can of use. contra- dictory meaning that the verb prrj'anare seems to have in Latin: it means. It is the sort model. a firearm. and other activities becomes as serious. What is common to these cases and the proas vera religjo. old thing falls into their hands. the "profanation" sphere. so to speak. In this sense. can become the gateways to a new happiness. so law. and politics. leaving its power intact. gious intention. even in the form of the inane cerereligion or a tango lesson in a an unconsciously relidance hall. or a legal contract a toy. that which was unavailable and separate loses its aura to use. he desperately 76 77 . we can say that one has play when only half of the sacred is completed. the lost feast. constitutive of the profanatory in dances. Secularization is a form of repression. It is an ambiguity inherent sacer means both "august. and at play. a political task. a car. Mod- knows how to play precisely of new and old games. Freud noted) standing "cursed.PROFANATIONS IN PRAISE OF PROFANATION effaces the rite and allows the myth to survive." and (as The excluded from the community. Both are political the first the exercise of power by carrying it back to a sacred the apparatuses of power and compare to that of a child at play) but a new dimension which children and philosophers give to humanity. operations: Once profaned. All of a sudden. Playas an organ of profanation ern man proves he no longer through the vertiginous Indeed. of the religious Children. without which the sacred is returned play does not solely concern who play with whatever simply abolishing it." [potenzeJ of economics. is in decline everywhere. does not mean neglect (no kind of attention eign power) does nothing but displace the heavenly monarchy onto an earthly monarchy. This. and proliferation ambiguity at issue here does not arise solely out of a misunderbut is. stubbornly seeks exactly the opposite of what he could find to there: the possibility of reentering monies of the new spectacular provincial part of a new liturgy. In this sense. law. we must distinguish and profanation. The use to is a special one that does not coinIn fact. deacti- returns to common use the spaces that power had seized."3 This means that play frees and distracts humanity sphere of the sacred. and is returned guarantees however. vated in play. make that we are used to thinking of intact the forces it deals with by simply moving them from one place to another. Philologists never cease to be surprised by the double." Just as the religjo that is played with but no longer observed the powers opens the gate to use. "If the sacred can be defined operation through the consubstantial translating unity of myth and rite. neutralizes what it profanes. to render profane and. Profanation. on the one band. on the other (in only a few cases) to sacrifice. Thus the political secularization cal concepts (the transcendence of theologiof God as a paradigm of sover- toys out of things that also belong to the spheres of' economics. the second deactivates of use that Benjamin must have bad in mind when he wrote of Kafka's The New Attorney that the law that is no longer applied but only studied is the gate to justice. fanation of the sacred is the passage from a reliqio that is now felt to be false or oppressive to negligence however. at parties. returning the sacred and its rites. only the myth into words from the or only the rite into actions. televised game shows are they secularize To return to play its purely profane vocation is between secularization It leaves cide with utilitarian consumption. consecrated that seems in the vocabulary of tbe sacred as such: the adjective to the gods.

introduced in paganism concerned idea of the simultaneous presence in him that separation which only human things. in this way. he cannot be sacrificed and is excluded from the cult because his life is already the property of the gods. And yet. pontiffs. sacred and profane represent two poles of a system in which a floating Signifier travels from one domain to the other without ceasing to refer to the same object. as far as possible. What was at stake here was nothing less than the survival of a religious system that had involved God himself as the victim of the sacrifice and. and yet. in Roman sacrifice. victim is profaned is assigned these operations refer to a single object that must pass from like a residue of of sacred- Hence the mingling of the two operations in which one part of the same consecrated by contagion to the gods. of sacrifice. of the consecratory one. they must every time reckon with something profanity in every consecrated ness in every profaned object. has survived the rite that separated him from other men and continues to lead an apparently Although body an irreducible profane existence among them. where the divine sphere is always in the process of collapsing into the human sphere and man always already passes over into the divine. Nevertheless.or. That is to say. through mander the solemn consecrates act of sactatio or devotio (when a comhis life to the gods of the underworld in thing and a remnant by men. insofar as it an incongruous remthe survives itself. has been given over to the gods and belongs exclusively to them.PROFANATIONS IN PRAISE OF PROFANATION operation . and emperors to show such obsessive care and implacable suring. the distinction with the entrance of God as the victim of sacrifice that put nant of profanity into the domain of the sacred. The same is true of the term sacer. in his he lives in the profane world. of messianic tendencies sured that the species of bread and wine were transformed Christianity. one who belongs to the gods. having can be killed with impunity but cannot be sacrificed to the gods. From this perspective. while another it becomes easier to understand seriousness why. homo sacer. there inheres and in telligibility of the in the sacrifice of the mass and and homousia in the dogma of the trinity. the coherence notions of transubstantiation incarnation order to ensure victory). inversely. the reli- gious machine seems to reach a limit point or zone of undecidability. in had in en- the Christian religion. the of two natures in a single to paralyze the sacrificial guaranenin person or victim was an effort to cope with confusion between divine and human that threatened machine ambiguity without of Christianity. the adjective seems to indicate an individual who. As for his fate in the divine sphere. in the expression been excluded from the community. It indicates that which. This removes him from normal commerce with his kind and exposes him to the possibility of violent death. 78 79 . This is precisely how the machine ensures the distribution of use among humans and divine beings and can eventu- and with the strong presence between sacred and profane into crisis. it introduces in the machine teed that divine and human nature were both present without in the same person. That is to say. just as transubstantiation remainder into the body of Christ. What exactly has occurred here? A sacred man. and consumed the profane to the sacred and from the sacred to the profane. Insofar as ally return what had been consecrated to the gods to men. theologians. which returns him to the gods to whom he truly belongs. so to speak. The doctrine of incarnation residue of sacredness.

so complete prophets of modernity of the is And in our time its dominion God in this guilt . with it. only in reference "the celebration not possible to the fulfillment of a cult. generalizes Benjamin's reflections a tendency from the perspecin in Chris- of a cult sans tteve et sans merci. separation indifferent ceaseless process of that assails every thing. Marx. ognize the religion of capitalism and begin to bring it to fulfillment. on the side of the religion despair in the absolute loneliness despair. The same or experiencedis true for everything that is done. between form.PROFANATIONS IN PRAISE OF PROFANATION "Capitalism penetrating as Religion" is the title of one of Benjamin's posthumous fragments.. not to atone for this guilt but to make it universal . uninterrupted coincides with the celebration cult is not directed first instance A monstrous toward redemption of separation of the cult.. in the very form of the object. this cult is permanent. already present in every domain the structure pushing to the extreme rather. which splits into use-value and exchangevalue and is transformed into an ungraspable fetish. the capitalist that defines religion. the first to recof the to Benjamin.. most faith. in which work from or atonement is probably the . there is a single. which pays interest of the simple and compound J .. to distinguish between workdays Let us try to carryon tive that interests tianity. it is a cultic religion.. Second. belongs to the priesthood capitalist cult: "What has been repressed. they are. comes the cult."6 Precisely because it strives with all its might not toward redemption but toward guilt. and Freud) conspire of even the human body. be- us here. According of the Protestant from Christianity. according to Benjamin. that no longer defines any substantial division and where all use becomes and remains impossible. perhaps the most extreme and absolute one that has ever existed.. into the destiny [God] is not dead. An absolute profanation separation inheres mainder now coincides with an equally vacuous and total conIn the commodity. secration. not toward hope but toward despair. even the three great (Nietzsche. too."? Freudian theory. "Capitalism of a cult that creates guilt. holiday. not in relation Schuld [guilt/debt to a dogma or an idea."9 capitalism is not solely a secularization nomenon.. In its extreme nothing left to separate. They are and placed in a separate sphere This sphere is consumption. "This passage of the planet 'Man' through the house of of his path is the ethos that 80 81 . not atonement sense of guilt that knows no redemption activity in order to divide it from itself. he has been incorporated realizes the pure form of separation. but is itself essentially a religious phethe religion of modernity. there is now a Single. in some way. This man is the superman."> Here it is and holidays. even sexuality. now divided from themselves that. capitalism "becomes socialism by means interest first. We could say that capitalism. it is defined by three characteristics: In it. Where sacrifice once marked the passage from the profane to the sacred and from the sacred to the profane. capitalism as religion does not aim at the transformation world but at its destruction. produced. multiform. but toward guilt itself. everything has meaning it is the idea of sin. even language. This process is entirely divine and human. the capitalist religion to the point that there is without re- for guilt. every place. As Nietzsche defined. which develops parasitically as it is for Max Weber.. and to once and for all include ofman. capital itself. is on the hell of the unconthat are functions of scious:'8 And for Marx. Third. every human to the caesura between sacred and profane.

In that one could never have. their destruction or the negation they consume selves their own inability to be used. but only in memory or anticipation. It is also. This obstinate it cannot be had but in the instant of an unwitting many centuries prophecy. as such. In fact. sumption. given over to or to spectacular has become impossible special procedures). consumption. is nothing but of use. captures the nature of use more radically than could any definition put forth by the Franciscan order. the capitalist something to profane (or at least that it requires to the sphere of the sacred. in order to distinguish it from usufruct and from every to use. phase aims at creating If to profane means to return to common in its extreme of an impossibility of using that has use that which has been removed religion absolutely unprofanable. the impossibility such as food. later in consumer denial of use. is always in the past or the future and. as has been suggested. today. because this use coincides their consumption. he argues. But in this way use also lays bare the true nature nothing separate consumers sphere. as the impossibility century of not so much as something instant property inexistent . and so on. clothing. . it is in no way something that one can "have:' "The act of use itself exists in nature neither The museification of the world is today an accompotentialities fact. Against them. it is not only because that have incorporated xxrr. distinct from property. proper~y. and above all. in the Pope's account. If.indeed. does not exist in nature. This means that it which it is exercised. there cannot exist. within themin mass society are unhappy." the Franciscans of a use entirely other right [diritto] (or use offact). its disappearance. because they have become incapable of profaning them.but rather Curia during its conflict with the Franciscan order.PROFANATIONS IN PRAISE OF PROFANATION If. even in the act in is exhibited in its separation from itself. however. plished of using has its emblematic place in the that which necessarily destroys the thing. use is always a relationship it refers to things which is which. issued his bull Ad Conditoretn things that are objects of consumption. cle facto use Canonum. we use the term "spectacle" extreme phase of capitalism which everything for the before being exercised nor while being exercised nor after in which we are now living. Therefore. in having been exercised. That is to say. but the device that moves the free use of men into a into a right. with provided the paradigm reached its fulfillment ety. What cannot be used is. which presupposes that the substance of the thing remains intact (salvo rei substantia). cannot be said to exist in nature. a use distinct that is. The impossibility Museum. that one could never with something that cannot be appropriated. as such. John XXII soci- spectacle and consumption consumption sibility of using. For pure use appears. they called ususiacti. In their call for "highest poverty. from Conentirely with the act of (abusus)."!" In this way. One by one. because they believe they are exercising their right to property on these objects. where it is converted objects of property. That is not all: a simple de facto use. the spiritual 82 83 . an implacable adver- sary of the order. John insofar as they cannot become objects of possession. removed asserted the possibility from the sphere of law [diritto]. it exists for an as something possess as The theological canon of consumption in the thirteenth use was established by the Roman in the act of consumption (dominium). then are the two sides of a single imposexhibition.

however. the adepts they go. on which the capabsolute impossibility exloss of all use. from sanctuary to sanctuary . we must like a of play in into the relidoes not simply restore something sphere. withdrawn the idea into the television primary shows. a Museum. "Museum" lives . The Museum occupies exactly the space and function once reserved for the Temple as the place of sacrifice. (or. this operation is more cunning and complex than that and is not limited to abolishing order to regain an uncontaminated the form of separation use that lies either beyond The cat who that once or before it.correspond today the tourists who restlessly participated between in a the travel in a world that has been abstracted sacrifice that reestablished into a Museum. For this reason. tourism industry in the world.just as the child belonged to the economic sphere . was in heaven.felt as true and decisive has moved. Nothing is so astonishing as the fact that millions of ordinary people are able to carry out on their own flesh what is perhaps the most desperate perience that one can have: the irrevocable of profaning. in the Museum. because their homeland in the pure form of separation. These behaviors are not effaced." that is. But use that existed before being separated or juridical clearly shows. sites).PROFANATIONS IN PRAISE OF PROFANATION defined the people's of nature. within a given sphere (predatory still reproduces activity. economic. capitalism and It is. As the example religion becomes clear. In this sense. vated and thus opened up to a new. the analogy between italist religion is founded. is not truly such.have docilely cult and central altar of the capitalist here is not a given physical space or place to which what was once . religion. thanks to the substitution yarn for the mouse (or the toy for the sacred object). and that today there For this reason. of dwelling. recall that profanation natural gious. of experiencing. philosophy.but is no involving more than six hun- but the separate dimension Museum can coincide dred and fifty million people each year. of the religious cult or the world of work) in vain. they find of dwelling that in malls. which were declared of individuals disappeared). But what sort of use? For the cat. Museum. the with an entire city (such as Evora and World Heritage Venice. but. The freed behavior and mimics the they knew in their houses and their cities. the same inability to 84 8 .the pilgrims who would travel across the earth from tern ple to tern ple. and even a group (insofar as they represent a form of life that has But more generally. the tourists celebrate on themselves a sacrificial act that consists in the anguishing experience of the destruction of all possible use.art.knowingly behaviors uses the charac- the right relationships divine and the human by moving the vietim into the sacred sphere. To the faithful in the Temple . Even in nature there are profanations. because this term simply designates the exhibition of an impossibility Thus. the is the even politics . plays with teristic ancient religious of predatory symbols activity or objects while the faithful and the pilgrims ultimately plays with a ball of yarn as if it were a mouse . possible use. possible that the unprofanable. insofar as it represents religion. the longer . strangers on the earth. are still effective forms of profanation. in the case of the of the deacti- child. and on of the new capitalist cult have no homeland because they dwell Wherever pushed to the extreme the same impossibility use that they experienced in supermarkets. If the Christians were "pilgri ms. everything today can become of using. a region (when it is declared a park or nature preserve). what is the possible use for the ball of yarn? It consists in freeing a behavior from its genetic inscription hunting).

in our society. in order to transform them into pure means. on its its goal and can now show itself as such. feces are a just like any other. The creation is also and above all exercised in the sphere of tbe and separation of certain physiological which. that is. it opens them and makes them available for a new use.it is clear . private and public. in our society." This is why every individual attempt to profane them can have only a parodic value. rendering an end. If the apparatuses of the capitalist cult are so effective. And yet. it is not so much because they act on primary behaviors. body. to this play stages the very same behaviors The activity that results from this thus becomes a pure means. The instrument I:i which the little girl has showered wax puppet bewitch and use against us. which represent 86 87 . human production sion (which is still better Certainly not to regain a supRather. it has possible? The question toward the capture and death of the mouse. is emancipated joyousl y forgotten means without only by deactivating Separation functions. as the repression (and the cat must continue No one knows a toy can be of liba cold. on behaviors that have been separated from themselves and thus detached from any relationship to an end. that is. capitalism is nothing but a for capturing pure means. after which normal course life must once again continue its hunt). it is a matter or simply to enjoy it as a perverse transgresthan nothing). and disquieting piece of wood. of archaeologically sions between and common. from its relationship play with them. N olhing. just as and separaThe forms of this common use can only be ~I This evil magician is the high priest of the capitalist religion. But is a is perhaps activity from being necessarily that define hunting. an old use." around a dining table in the in emptying them of their sense and of any obligatory relationship to an end. but. and erase separations For to profane means not simply to abolish but to learn to put them to a new use. as a of a new use is possible it inoperative. poorly formulated. In its extreme gigantic apparatus phase. Pure means. while firmly maintaining means. is as fragile and precarious as tbe sphere of pure means. As Italo Calvino once noted.are here only as a symbol of what has I: been separated society without and can be returned separation to common use. Play. a praxis that. only there has never been a history of them. however. and the doll on better than children how terrible eration shameful turns into an awkward isolated and bidden by means of a series of devices and prohibitions that concern both behavior and language. its nature as a to an end. profanathe deactivation babies tried to do in their way. also has an episodic character. but because they act on pure means. tion intervened. where the dinner party defecates film by Luis Bufiuel.PROFANATIONS IN PRAISE OF PROFANATION forms of the activity from which it has been emancipated. arriving at defecation as a field of polar ten- once the game it forms a part of is over. as in the scene Illi tory behaviors. singular That is: to learn a new use for feces. that is. is One of these is defecation. What could it mean to "profane defecation"? posed naturalness. before repression invented collectively. her love becomes that an evil magician can capture nature and culture. The game with the yarn liberates being prey and the predatory directed the mouse from Feces . The classless society is not a society that has abolished and lost all memory of class differences but a society that has learned to deactivate the apparatuses of those differences in order to make a new use possible.

and exhibited in the sphere of the media. But it is only in our novelty the sequence in Summer of the media aim precisely at neutralizing time that this process arrives at its extreme stage. this procedure caresses. Sometimes. showing that they are more interested than in their partners. The apparatuses this profanatory experience centuries word pated itself from its communicative that is. Quite soon.which is still effective at the margins of the system. Film historians record as a disconcerting with Monika (1952) when the protagonist." "If there is anything sexually arousing here. where the pure means.PROFANATIONS IN PRAISE OF PROFANATION and rupture cial sphere. pornography as essentially announcement. who have some familiarity with the history of erotic photography know that in its beginnings almost dreamy expression. conceived of its function of the of the messianic one of neutralizing the new experience suddenly fixes her gaze for a few seconds on the camera ("Here for the first time in the history of cinema. however. suspended that Paul. potential. of all separation. shows its speaks only its own nothingness. as if no new of the word were own emptiness. Since then. directed toward an end. possible. more than any other. faith. the models put on a romantic. placing it at the center had called pistis." the director Ingmar Bergman commented. But today this instrumental language as a means for diffusing its own ideology and inducfunction . when situations of danger or exception different procedure of control.has ceded its place to a which. into the spectacular possible profanatory tion of propaganda. Harriet Andersson. at prevent- ing language from disclosing the possibility of a new use. are in turn separated into a speTo be sure. as if the models were thus showing their their indecency. arise . available for a new use. is the capture and neutralization pure means par excellence. in separating language canapes. has caught them all (this is the scene and exchange- sphere. after the first two of hoping and waiting. Those Language is one example. itself'!3 "it is more the idea that a naked body is being exhibited camera than the sight of nakedness before the that. The same thing occurs banal: in the very act of executing porn stars now look resolutely in the in the system of the spectacular religion. This nullification of pure means is most clear in the apparatus their most intimate spectator into the camera. Other times. in its More essential than the funcas an instrument of the which views language preferred by Auguste Belloc). they pretend to sleep or even read. appears to have realized the capital- One year earlier. as in certain nudes by Bruno Braquehais and Louis-Camille it seems that the indiscreet alone. the intimacy of their boudoirs. in step with of the commodity value. as if no other experience Thus is fully realized the principle that Benjamin articulated in 1936 while writing "Eduard Fuchs: Collector and Historian. lazily stretched on as if the camera had caught them in always sought to secure control of social communication. language that has emanciends and thus makes itself of being exposed to the lens. ing voluntary obedience. use were possible. 88 89 . power of language as pure means. assails it in its idling. "there is established a shameless and direct contact has rendered with the spectator"). that is. power has using ist dream of producing an unprofanable: pornography. their expressions poses more complicated intentionally awareness exaggerating changed and became more brazen. Already the church." he writes. looking at themselves the capitalist absolutization photographer in the mirror d'Olivier. the and animated. a new of the word.

on subjectivizing behavior and. be blamed. for it is always already bare. which cannot from the sphere of use. displays -like But instead of simulating pleasof the genre. power. who passes off her efforts as artistic formances. behavior in in a separate sphere. from an individual n the other. a new form of erotic communication. by detaching them from their immediate thus open themselves to a different being looked at becomes inexpressive. There is intent.when strained by circumstances in the apparatus. it no longer to the first two. and it can. and powerfully disrupts the expressive being exposed to the gaze creates a vacuum in consciousness animate the face.PROFANATIONS IN PRAISE OF PROFANATION Benjamin had created the concept of "exhibition-value" (Aus- fully visible in the foreground. are surprised to find that the star. although she is aware of be- even of the human body in the era of fulfilled capitalism. it becomes available for a new use. But it is perhaps only in the sphere of the human face that the mechanism of exhibition-value finds its proper place. as dictated by the conventions in the era of its technological fashion models . porn stars. But also to the spectators. To whom is Chloe des Lysses indifferent? To her partner. it is repreitself be captured gesture of the porn both politically and the one hand. indeed. to profane them. removed because it in no way measures not exchange-value.the most absolute indifference. of objects and and exchange- ure. potential that the apparatus of pornogWhat it captures is the human capacends. one's own absolute mediality). and others whose profession themselves must learn to acquire: they show nothing cerns not so much the pleasure of the partner as a new collective use of sexuality. has recently pushed this procedure She has herself photographed in the act of performing perto the extreme. but always so that her face is 90 J . One porn star. the face is loaded until it bursts with exhibition-value. pornography block and divert the profanatory desperate consumption places the promise of a new use. eroticism where it could have no place: the human face. who the most stoic ataraxy. Her impassive tween lived experience expression. hasn't even the slightest complicity with them. Into between introduces value. It is this brazen -faced ind i fference that fashion models. or by force -lets it has not been con- Neither the brazen-faced star nor the impassive face of the fashion model is. as such. way. at this point to The solitary and image thus reIt is this profanatory raphy seeks to neutralize. It is a That is. the awareness of processes that usually it is to show but the In this Yet. because what is. express a liberatory only if the behavior . All apparatuses of power are always double: they arise. expresses anything but shows itself as a place without a hint of as a pure means. exhibition-value a third term. precisely penetrates through this nullification of expressivity. what is disgraceful- mitting to the most obscene acts. But while these behaviors possible use. to Instead. or sub- about the individual itself. it is any labor being exposed to the gaze. as such. common experience that the face of a woman who feels she is ity to let erotic behaviors idle. which does not know nudity. from its capture often nothing reprehensible hensible of the pornographic showing itself (that is. It is not use-value. certainly. she affects and stellun8swert) to characterize of art undergoes Nothing better characterizes the Marxian be reduced is exhibited opposition the transformation the new condition use-value that the work reproducibility. which conintervenes intention. Shown as a pure means beyond any concrete expressivity. face breaks every connection and the expressive sphere.

disapproval. supporting it rethe images. that is unof an auwe must of on the arrest and diversion Beautiful Minutes In profanable .which is a sort of giant terrace . and only the wooden sword grows ever larger. begins to shred the cloth. Sancho Panza enters a cinema in a provincial city. and the apparatus CHAPTER TEN of the fashion show. The theater is almost full. attempts to reach Don Quixote. The screening has begun.is packed with raucous children. she is in danger. it is a costume film: on the screen.the of use that they have captured. The unprofanable thentically possibility profanatory of pornography intention.is founded the History of Cinema always 'wrest from the apparatuses . and. He is looking for Don Quixote and finds him sitting off to the side. staring at the screen. which have diverted them from their pos- The Six Most .from all apparatuses . The woman and the knights are still visible on the screen. The outraged audience leaves the theater. What are we to do with our imaginations? Love them and and falsify believe in them to the point of having to destroy their fanatical cheers for Don Only the little girl down on the floor stares at him in 92 . The profanation the unprofanable is the political task of the coming generation. In the end. but the black slash opened by Don Quixote's implacably devouring the screen.PROFANATIONS morally . a woman appears. several unsuccessful reluctantly girl (Dulcinea?). but the children on the balcony continue Quixote. next to a little who offers him a lollipop. with several lunges. Don Quixote abruptly rises.everything For this reason. rushes toward the screen.are the apparatus of pornography sible use. nothing is left of structure mains visible. unsheaths his sword. Suddenly. the balcony . knights in armor are riding along. After Sancho sits down in one of the lower seats.

PROFANATIONS them (this is perhaps the meaning of Orson Welles's films). Howard Eiland (Cambridge. 1966). "Dichterberuf" licbe Werke. pp. See Walter Experiment Benjamin. 18. 87. The Metaphysics of Morals. MA: Belknap Press. 2. trans. vol. See Giorgio Agamben. 1778. Friedrich Beissner (Frankfurt: (The Poet's Vocation). Notes CHi\PTER ONE: GENlllS I. ed. 3. Kevin Attcll (Stanford. Livingstone (Cambridge. 262. Siimtlnsel." On Hashish. 2006). trans. Literally: Hence in respect to the god we touch our forehead. 3. 94 5 . trans. CA: Stanford University Press. The Open: Man and Animal. Aug. ed.. Quoted in Walter Benjamin. 594. Mary Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ed.cannot love us." Selected Writings. Howard Eiland. ch. 2. 17. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to Joseph Bullinger. "Fritz Frankel: Protocol or the Mescaline of May 22. Emily Anderson. p. The Letters ~IMozart and His Family. 1961). in the end. when they show the nullity of which they are made. 798. they reveal themselves to be empty and unfulfilled. p.whom we have saved . p. 1991). 1934. Hyatt King and Monica Carolan (London: Macmillan. 4. only then can we pay the price for their truth and understand that Dulcinea . /927-1934. But when. "Franz Kafka. ed. Immanuel Kant. Rodney 1999). A. which referes to Benjamin's notion of "the saved night [die gerettete NaclnJ. 2. MA: Harvard University Press. Michael W. 2nd ed. Volume 2. Jennings. ed." CHAPTER Two: MAGIC AND HAPPINESS I. and Gary Smith. See Friedrich Holderlin. p. 269-70. 2004).

1927emended in accordance 1. Arturo's Island. 4. 1901). James D. Livingstone (Cambridge. "[ulicn W. Translated CHAPTER FOUR: THE ASSISTANTS France (New York: Harper Writ. 57 and 66. CHAPTER FIVE: PARODY "What Is an Author?" in Aesthetics. trans. ed. 2. P: 7.. Cicero. Elsa Morante. 2. Perella (Berkeley: 89. or The 120 Days of Sodom 1989). RodPress. P: 332 (here the CHAPTER THREE: JUDGMENT DAY translation Green. 2. of California Dante e la Bibbia (Florence: 3. 6. 120. P: 10. W. 109." 1. Jephcott (Cambridge. 5. Volume 2. William Weaver (New The Meccos: Bevetations. The Ac/i'entures of Pinocchio: Story University r:I a Puppet. The Portable 1954). Gontarski "Texts for Nothing. Barbian (ed. trans. 2002). p. I-listoty: II NOI'el. The Complete Short Prose. 2. lated as Arturo's (this translation L'isola di Jlrturo (Turin: Einaudi. 347. Bawdy TalesJrom the Courts of Medieval and Row. and Gary Smith. Volume 2. 4." Selected Writings. ed. in Paul Brians (ed. Walter Benjamin. trans. New York: Benjamin. Eiland. Robert HurJey (New York: New Press. Aristotle. P: 308 1998). Michael W. 1910-1923. 1934. 372 (translation Volume 3. 1977).). Max Brod (New York: Schocken. 9. Jennings. emended). P: v (translation MA: Harvard University P: 799. Selected Writin8s. ney Livingstone (Cambridge. L'isola di Arturo. University Press. trans. "Alia favela. L'isola di Arturo. in Dante." Alibi (Turin: Einaudi. 510." Selected WritiIl8s. 7. 1929- gives Parodic as "Grotesque" (New York: Grove Press. Eiland and Michael University MA: Harvard Press. Sindbard. L'isoia di Arturo. Jan.Y' ed. Press. (1975). pp. II. (1886. Howard Edmond 384-85. Arturo's Island.iIl8s. emended). and Gary Smith." 1988). Elsa Morante. Nicolas J. Jlrturo's Island. Morante. 205-22. Nietzsche. See. Morante.). and Pier Paolo Pasolini. P: 316. emended). (New York: Viking. trans1959). Poetics ch. ed. 317. Walter Benjamin. L'isola di Arturo. ed. See Elsa Morante. 1989.PROFANATIONS NOTES 5. Walter Kaufmann 8. Michel Foucault. P: 379. 6. Volume 2. for example. and 1986). CHAPTER EIGHT: THE AUTHOR AS GESTURE I. Morante. 1999). p. Carlo Collodi. 1921. Friedrich Nietzsche to jacob Burkhardt. Jennings. P: 393. SaID. 3. Method and Epis- temol08. in Giovanni 323-40. P: 339. 1935-1938. jennings. in this passage). Faubion. Walter Benjamin. p. ed. 1999). MA: Harvard P: 6. 1995). p. 2. 1. "Parodia e scrittura Olschki. 1889. Michael Eiland. 309 (translation Kcifka. Diary entry for October 18." Selected Howard with Agamben's Italian version. p. Ibid. Orator ad M. trans.E. Edmondo Crowell. 119-47. "Little History of Photography. 1972). lbn al-Arabi." Howard also uses "Grotesque"). trans. Rodney 333. "Franz Kafka. Walter 1927-1934. pp. S. 54. "Berlin Childhood around 1900. cd. pp. Franz Kafka. The Diaries of Franz 1948-49). Morante. Brutum 17. 1957). pp. Heart: A School-Boy'sJournal ed. Audigier. 685 and 687. 12. Island by Isabel Quigly (New York: Knopf. 13. lbid. Guglielmo Gorni. 5. pp. 96 . Samuel Beckett. de Amicis. Michel Chodkiewicz (Paris: York: Knopf. 2004).. p. ed. Arturo's Island. p. pp.

143-86. pp.7. trans. Belknap Press. Foucault. John XXII. "Lives of Infamous Men.TRANS. Walter Benjamin. 10." Selected Writinas. 160 (translation 11." Deucalion 2 (1947). Walter Benjamin. p.. n. 9. 300. LeJantome de 10 liberte (1974). trans.TRANS. emended). trans. Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss. P: 211 (translation 5. Foucault. WO. Michel Foucault. MA: Belknap Press. 1935-1938. 7. lbid. Jennings. "Franz Kafka. and Gary Smith (Cambridge. 4. 10. ed. in Corpus luris Canonici. ed.PROFANATIONS NOTES 3. p.TRANS. 815. 207. 8. Volume 3. Howard Eiland. 262. Ibid. 2. Robert Hurley (New York: New Press. P: 165. tbid.. emended). 817. Michel Cini. The ambiguity and by Foucault's of this French worcl (intcrpolated both by Agamben 12. vol. Emile Benveniste. "llinguaggi del sogno" Conference. Halls (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. This is an encyclopedia about himself . p. "Father dust who rises from Spain. 1954-1988. Aug. beri's ltalian version . Italo Calvi no. Michael W." Cesar Vallejo. 1978). CHAPTEI<- NINE: IN PRAISE 0[' PROI'ANATION I. 1994).. Volume MA: 1. Fondazione (Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz. p. Michel Foucault. emended). 9. Dits et ecrits. iu«. 1913-1926. cd. DiaestCl 11. Luis Bufiucl. trans. 1227-28." Selected Writinns. Ad Conditorem Canonum (1322). 7. Oxford Writinas. 6. 1982. p. P: 288. "Le jeu cornmc structure. (Cambridge. p. 12. P: article that Foucault wrote in the third person 6." p. SacrifIce: Its Nature and Function. p. Emil Ludwig Richter and Emil Friedberg 1881). 18." Power. Foucault. "What Is an Author?" p. tu«. "Lives of Infamous Men. 1934. The Idiot. Volume I (Paris: Gallimard." 462. 1964). Clayton Eshleman and Jose Rubia Barcia (Berkeley: University of California Press. "Capitalism as Religion. Ibid. 2000). 1999). Justinian. "Eduard Fuchs: Collector and Historian. Venice. 3. 5. pp. 20-Sept. 288-89 (translated emended). 11. 1992). Marcus Bullock and Michael W Jennings (Cambridge. 2. Fyodor Dostoevsky. pp. 98 ')c . 217. Alan Myers (Oxford: University Press. James D. Walter Benjamin. Edmond Jcphcott 71. The Complete Posthumous Poetry. ed. 1927- 4. Howard Eiland and Michael W Jennings. ilesthel:ics." Selected English translator) is explained below . 289. 1999). Method and Epistemoloay. "Foucault. 13. Translated emended in accordance with Agam. 289 (translated 8. ed. Volume 2. Faubion. trans. MA: Belknap Press. 2002).

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