L'absolu littéraire: Friedrich Schlegel and the Myth of Irony Author(s): Kevin Newmark Reviewed work(s): Source: MLN

, Vol. 107, No. 5, Comparative Literature (Dec., 1992), pp. 905-930 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2904824 . Accessed: 17/05/2012 22:57
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Friedrich L'absolulitteraire: Schlegel and theMythofIrony
Kevin Newmark

and philosophical The peculiar status of ironywithinthe literary traditionis perhaps best illustrated the potentially by tempestuous questions thatalwaysseem to hoverjust over the head of itsfounder and chiefexemplar, Socrates. Was Socrates a model pedagogue or a seducer and corrupterof innocentyouth?Was his method of rigorous ignorance a path leading to negative knowledge or an abyssal spirallingof rhetoricaltricks?Was his stubborninsistence on interpersonalquestioning and dialogue a formof urbanityor of the egotistical undermining any genuinelysocial,in otherwords, form of community?Was his death sentence an unacpolitical, knowledged confession of moral and intellectualbankruptcyin Greece or a necessarystep in the unfoldingof Western thought? These questions, preciselybecause they will have been repeated there in a way thathas leftan indeliblemark on our own thinking about literature,philosophy, and political history,assume their that is to most acute form in the epoch of German romanticism, of in the constellation textssigned by Schlegel, Hegel, Kierkesay, gaard, and several others. Reading these textsis thereforealways of exactlywhat the quesgoing to entail the difficulty determining tion of irony is about and to what extent such a question can be taken in earnest. For instance: Was FriedrichSchlegel a serious philosopher or a or an mere litterateur, a dilettante, worse,afarceur, intellectual pracPress MLN, 107, (1992): 905-930 ? 1992 by The Johns Hopkins University

Schlegel himself. The solicitationof literatureby to philosophycan alwaysbecome a simple invitation trouble. as saying goes. lative writingsrelate to one of philosophy'sprincipal objects and truth. poetry and philosophy should be united.also serves to remind us that irony is a term that always marks the encounter and potentialtension between literature and philosophy.906 KEVIN NEWMARK literatebuffoon?Geoffrey ticaljoker. it is the ludic element of "play" that mattershere more than the gender specifiis cationof "boy. its masked appearance in more or less playful form.Is ironythe name for a specifickind of philomotivations. termsof truthand itsmanifestation a subsidiary. but as we know-notwithstanding Keats's happy version of this commonplace-such meetingsbetween poetryand philosophy.because it statesthe issue in in and in thiscase. in about some of the more controversial a perceptiveessay aspects of once referred to Schlegel as a contemporary literarycriticism."thoughof course sexual difference neverwithout at in its own interestor significance these cases. always run the risk of having theirconstituents rub each other the wrong way.One of in formulations thisregard reads: his more laconic and well-known of "The whole history modern poetryis a continuouscommentary on the short text of philosophy: everyart should become science. knowledge. "playboy philosopher. though.say.l Whether Hartman himselfmeant it thatway or not." and this prettymuch sums up the way Schlegel has been considered. Irony. and of distortion the truth?This question. is taken far too serithis ously. related to philosophicaldeterminations and truth. that is. a pretentiously Hartman."2This is all well and good. Primarily issue in mode in which his specuis the non-systematic Schlegel. one published posthumously.moreover.or between truthand tropes. or.by real philosophers ever since he received his firstdrubbing at the hands of Hegel.or rhetoric. masked form. or truthand tropes. especially seems to be the case withFriedrichSchlegel. just happens to read: "Critique of Philosophy = Philologyof Phi- . always seems to confrontus withthe veryserious question of the precise way in which literature'sconstitutivedimension of tropological such as is play.as the if it is not taken seriouslyenough. of course.deception. and every science should become art. or. is it rather play as sheer dissimulation.went out of his way on more than one occasion to draw attentionto the appeal and even inevitability of such an encounter between literatureand philosophy. Anotherof his fragments. sophical truth. and dismissed. meaning.

(28-9) meansof the'philosophical path' As thingsturn out.L'absolulitteraire approach the enigmatic place occupied withinGerman romanticism by Friedrich Schlegel and his irony.. for withthe philosophical it be articulated itself." or interruption. other is words.the erupnames.produced inalong its lengthby "the question of literature":"[romanticism] withinthe philosophical. Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy state veryclearlyand rightfromthe startof theirpresentation: that for be that It is imperative [romanticism] accounted philosophically..thatis one and the same.If entirely it in romanticismapproachable. ical.. ironywithinromanticism? In an all-too familiar posthumous fragment. in facthas criticized just about everything itself" sun. it certainlyought to be able to stand a littlecriticism 228. least a little.Thus..4 articulatedin German romanticism.Schlegel himself underscored the relationbetween ironyand the sudden eruption the thatserves to disruptor interrupt movementof a straight line.this deviation.in itsproperand in factunique cessible) onlyon a philosophical with (in other words. Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy immediatelyrecognizethatthe philosophicalpath invokedhere willhave as well to negotiate the "eruption. et and a deviation(unedistortionun ecartement)" (29).. however. a littlebit playfully.. it to the dramaticprocedure wherebythe chorus interby linking . a distortion it not also be true that this distortion. of tion. KA 18:40). new)articulation thephilosophical.or interruption. is approachable onlyby .a distance fromthe philosophtroduces. in its fundamental provenance and consequences.-Since philosophyhas criticized under the so verymuch. or Might path of philosophyalso turningaside fromthe otherwisestraight albeit by the roundabout figureof periphrasis. The basic contours of such a critique can be conveniently provided by way of several remarks made by Philippe Lacoueand Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy in theirmagisterial presentation analysis of the relation between literatureand philosophyas it is L'absolulitteraire...3 And so it is perhaps high Fragment (Philosophical time to subject philosophical truth to a critique by philology or or at literature..M L N 907 losophy. [R]omanticism rigorously basis. Unquestionin ably one of the most vigilantand successfulefforts recentyears of philosophyto criticizeitselfby takingup the challenge of literoffersperhaps the best example bywhichto ature. it is philosophical through and is (or comprehensible even acthrough.

The Walter Benjamin and Peter Szondi. thatLacoue-Labarthe and Nancy are simply taking at face value-always a questionable maneuver when "irony" is in the offing-suggestions made by the two German criticswho have most influenced the writingof L'absolu litteraire." which Lacouecalled. In his dissertation.it willbe helpfulto examine in some detail how Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy . however.." As a grounding principle for a general idea to theoryof hermeneutics.. In an essay and Romantic Irony."had the Schlegel." a commen"poetry. itseems. temptation whichso many scholarshave succumbed.makingit difficult not finally in his writings clear definitionof termslike "irony.partlybecause he lacked "sufficient names for his systematic different confusinghabit of substituting if useless to attemptto find concepts. veryclose to Labarthe and Nancy are familiar has thissurprising commentto of his discussionof "irony. KA 18:85). For it was our hope that in this way we mightresist the define to Irony." sustained and differentiated tary.Szondi. logical force. ask the followingquestion of L'absolu litteraire: What.5 But to judge fromthe exFragment (Philosophical plicit references by Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy in L'absolu lita teraire. at least forthe properlyphilosophicaldiscourse." "religion.is a temptation to be resisted. "irony"does not constitute major crux of theirargument about the kind of deviationintroducedinto the philosophicalpath nor do theydevote to the termirony. "is a permanent parabasis" 668. by the question of literature."7And Peter a on Szondi is even more straightforward this point. when the temptation name and directly? manner is literalizedand ultimately define ironyin a truly rigorous resisted? In order to suggesta possible response to thisquestion."and "criticism. Concept in Benjamin points out that of Art Criticism GermanRomanticism." the end make: "So far we have sought to discover the presuppositionsof and without to romantic irony without namingtheconcept attempting it.. as they do to the romantictheorizingof "fragments.908 KEVIN NEWMARK rupts and intervenesin the sequential unfoldingof a Greek tragedy: "Irony. when happens to a reading of Schlegel and German romanticism the ironic dimension of their legacy to modernityis not tackled to What happens. thatis. "Friedrich Schlegel withand cite. of course.and is best writtenabout when it is neither "named" nor "defined.this would be a very interesting more germane to the point at hand would be to pursue. precisely.6 It could be." Schlegel once wrote.

"is neithermere 'literature'. itself literature in other words.which is to say.Mme de Stael. that such a forabsolute that is simultaneously mula for the literary absolutelylitis also equivalent to the philosophico-literary program anerary nounced in Lyceum 115.What. . Nancy finallyidentify and that theycharacterizeas Mme de Stael's typical"resistanceto au (12-3). What finallysets L'absolu litteraire apart from almost every other is of German romanticism the recognitionthat." does notmean.M L N 909 eventually deploy the fundamental and invaluable insight their philosophical treatmentof romanticismenables them to reach.prior to any study determinationof either the specificallyliteraryor philosophical relation between phielement withinit. nor simplya as or. who in this respecthelped to found whatLacoue-Labarthe and Nancy also call on a long traditionof "ignorance" and "criticalunintelligence" the wondered if great writers"needed metaphysics"to be subject. itself literature in 'theoryof literature'."Romanticism. precisely. . . But perhaps thisindispensableinsight itself and repetition) than to formalization to formulation (and therefore criticalanalysis and understanding..it is theory other words. is thatwe of view adopted by Mme de Stael on the relationof literatureand philosophy in German romanticism. when theory assumes the necessaryburden of itsbeing at one and the same time "literary. Only by fully recognizing theory-resistance theorique" as is that romanticism "theory or." to come into contactwiththe absolulitteraire which Laby possible characterizeSchlegel and the rocoue-Labarthe and Nancy rightly manticismhe helped to articulate. insistLacoue-Labarthe and One thingit certainly should be led astrayby the "ratherfeeble" point Nancy. Rather.along withLacoue-Labarthe and Nancy. literatureproducing itselfas it produces its own theis more liable ory"(12). and eventuallybecame a bit impatientwith "philosophical It applied to literature. But would it then sufficeto suggest." thereforeremind us. . it must be the constitutive thathas to become an object of criticalanallosophy and literature Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy ysisin its own right.does it mean for literatureand philosophy when literaturebegins to produce itselfas it produces its own theory."9 is thisimpatiencewiththe philosystems of romantic literaturethat Lacoue-Labarthe and sophical aspect witha refusalto read the textsin question. great. litwould it be erature producing itselfas it produces itsown theory. whichquite simplycalls for "poFragment withoutfurther ado? etryand philosophyto be united (vereinigt)" .

as a resultof acknowledgingthis reciprocalideal of unity it and theory.in Paul de Man's writings the relation between literatureand theoryis the peculiar suggestion or that. literarytheory theory refers to boththe rhetorical awareness.At issue.there stillrerequired mains an obstacle to the criticalanalysis and understandingthat such vigilancecould alone make possible. and in ever so slightcontradistinction LacoueLabarthe's and Nancy's avowed project of achieving a properly philosophicaldescriptionand understandingof thisabsolulitteraire. Literary theory. for instance.it is literature's at the same timethatit reproduces itselfabsolutely.would it then follow that a book like could itselfcomplete the "properly L'absolu litteraire philosophical of romanticism" (13) it in facthelps to initiate? study Certain "literarytheoreticians. were possible to overcome foronce the forliterature resistanceto theorypracticedby Mme de Stael kind of superficial and her academic heritage.beyond the necessarilytheoretical. have pointed to a kind of "resistance theory"thatcannot be overcomeonce and forall byan act of critical recognition simply and vigilance on the part of the philosophical commentatorof on literature. de Man's model of literary theorycan be said to be neithermere literature but is rather made up of both nor simplya theoryof literature. sometimes called "close dimension linguistic reading. "can overcome the resistance to theorysince theoryis itselfthis resistance."de Man says with a bit of irony of his own. and literatureat once. further. then. philosophical." that allows access to the specifically of transformation of constitutive any textas textand the systematic thisdimension into a universallogic of philosophicalmeaning and truth. is own productionof an absolute literatureas theory.But on theory to the other hand."'0 What can de Man resistance to theory."not that distant from LacoueLabarthe and Nancy in terms of their textual interestsand apto proach. of structure of theorization the literary it is preciselythe systematic text whatsoever that de Man says is always and necessarily any .vigilance for any genuine reading of a literary text. and verymuch like the romantic named and theorized by Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy. For de Man. the resistanceto theoryhave on a "properlyphilosophical" coming reading of FriedrichSchlegel? absolulitteraire On the one hand. mean when he says that this self-reflexive which he also calls a "resistanceto reading. "Nothing." cannotbe overcome? of would the impossibility overwhat specificeffects And.910 KEVIN NEWMARK And if.for de Man as for Friedrich Schlegel.

element in the text is what always resists the theoreticaland philosophicalsystematization.Such a determiliterary nation could not itselfbe reduced to a mere descriptionof literary . that romanticismnames the moment when then it must as literature produces itself it produces itsown theory. Accordof ing to de Man. What now remains to be determinedwithsomewhatmore preor cision is what an absolutely"literary theoretical.or ultimately.figural. So we'll 53.like the absolulitteraire disclose." "systematically would consistin of Schlegel's romanticism nonsystematic" reading to a theoretical reductionof the were it not to fallimmediately prey elementscomprisingits object of analysis. systematic/non-systematic. poetry/ they philosophy. And.By an ironictwist that at this point would have verylittleto do withsubjectivemasabsolu teryor caprice.moreover-always designate a necessaryphilosophical task whose ultimatepossibility is radicallysuspended by the verynature of its literary object. If it is true. it'sjust that we usually resist reading that as well: "It is equally deadly for the mind to have a systemas not to have one. then. the actual specificity the literary. the theoreticalresistanceto romanticism's would be most redoubtable precisely at the moment it litteraire distortionand undoing of the claimed to describe the systematic discourse actuallybroughtabout by romanticliteraphilosophical ture. be grantedby the same token thatno genuine access could ever be had to this moment by economizing on either the systematically rhetoricaldimension that by definitheoreticalor the specifically To in tion resisteachother theirmutual productionof romanticism. the extent that any analysis aims at and can actually achieve a it "properlyphilosophical" expositionof romanticism. the two terms of the textual relation-literature/theory. just have to learn to combine the two" (Athenaeum Fragment KA 2:173). It is in this very particularsense-and not as a result of some will to paradox or obfuscation-that de Man's resistancecan be said to be a built-in of constituent "literary theory. conversely. Taken in conjunction.M L N 911 "resisted"in a way that nothingcould hope to overcome.rhetorical."Schlegel himselfhad already said somethingquite similarabout the resistanceto theoryin literature. would necin a systematic avoidance of the very literarydiessarilyengage mension it setsout to document and understand. necessarilysystematic aspect of all theoreticalexposition is what eventuallythreatensto erase any given literary specificity transby posing it into a generalizable law of philosophy.

we in L'absolulitteraire: "thereis intermeet withthe following enigma ruption and disseminationof the romanticwork. there is interruption itselfat the same point" (57). the fragment.exactly. What can Lacoue-Labarthe and leging that Nancy mean when they say that the radical fragmentation traversesand underminesthe totalizinglogic of romantic actually .or fragment. 49). that the otherwisefertilepluralityof the fragafterall: "Withinthe romanticwork.. Unlike the "writing"referredspecifically Blanchot or far Derrida. frombringingthe disof persion or the shattering the workinto play.fragments both examples of particular fragments(literature)as well as formalizeddeof in scriptions the fragment general (theory). But how do we actuallygivea literary example without it. roof manticismnever seems quite able to achieve the totalization the absolute it representsto itselfin the formof the fragment. then...912 KEVIN NEWMARK theorybut would have to include an actual example of the literary also resistsbeing-fully element that is to be-but that ultimately theorized. and thus resistingit philomerely describing sophically?ll The question brings us back to Lacoue-Labarthe's and Nancy's philosophical descriptionand understandingof the "romanticgenre par excellence.." (57). a certaintension. though this in even and especiallyby privifact is not readablein the work itself.On the one hand.Now thisrecognition to leads.inscribesits pluralwork . thisdisseminating characterof the literaryfragmentwould begin to manifestitselfin a way that or would no longer be theoretically philosophically totalizable... the totalizingtendencyof the logic of the fragment-simultaneously literaryfragmentand theoreticaldefinitionof the fragment-is clearlydistinguishedfromwhat the authors understand to be the effectof more contemporary examples of literary "disseminating" to theory. And thisremarkleads to a recognitionin the same paragraph that "fragmentsare definiare tions of the fragment.."In other words.Lacoue-Labarthe and stands for itself Nancy themselvesgloss thislogic: "Each fragment and for that from which it is detached. The fragment it the philosophicallogic of romanticism servesboth to exemplifies constituteand to interrupt. Fragmentationis ityas the exergue of the total. Totality is the fragment itselfin its completed individuality" (44).infinite not. a dissemination." (48. in L'absolulitteraire. then. representingit. On the other hand. the fragmentcloses and interrupts If we go on to ask where. then. literary It turns out...the fragment" (40). ment mightbe disseminating and disseminationof the romanticwork. "the romanticfragment.

they ground their own readings of Schlegel's mimesis. fragment's of constitute mimologics truth:"The a and method would therefore expositioncannot unfold on the basis of a principleor foundation because the 'foundation' fragmentation presupposes consistspreThe fragment in its organicity. radical intermeaning .M L N 913 or writingis not "readable" in the fragmentitself. Mimologiques.the motif progressivetotality on would respond to and even mirror. suitable for romanticfragment the statement access to the truth"(45).according to L'absolu litteraire. also becomes "the verymethod . Taken together. Is it not because Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy never actually question theirown capacityto read and understand the romantic principle of fragmentaccording to a mimologically-determined or that they must insistthe dissemination. despite of and their unerringtheoreticalformulations the disarticulating of the example. Because the truthof the individual romanticworkor subject mustbe formedthroughan infinite process of auto-production. . the tal and involuntaryaspects of fragmentation" (41).13 fortheirunderstandingof the Labarthe and Nancy ultimately rely and on romanticfragment just such a mimeticprincipleof identity if this understandingeventuallyleads to a theoretanalogy-even ical statementof its own collapse and dissolution. and be intellito in fragments the capacityof such writing signify and finallyselfeven if multiplicitous gible in an unproblematic. And this fidelity a principleof semantic is in factreadable in the way Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy.the ultimateformof the subject or work of can be given onlyin a fragment the necessarilyincompleteand at whichit alwaysaims. it is "a determinate the thatassumes or transfigures accidenand deliberate statement As such. fragmentary writingis not just an effectof happenstance. For the romantics. stillconceive the actual writing disseminating logic and reading of the romanticfragmenton the basis of a logic of That is. cisely conceivable for the the thus constitutes most 'mimological'writing individual's organicity"(44). on the level of mean that theythemselvesnever the fragment?It may ultimately principleof semanticcoherencygoverning question the underlying theoryof litany properlyphilosophical reading of romanticism's determination to erature. way.Followinga path Lacouetraced out by Gerard Genette in his book. philosophicalmeaning of incompletionit is alwaysalready orientedtoward. the level of the "fragment" the of its incompleteformalarticulation. contradictory.12In thisway. in the fragmentary totality..

emphasis added)? that there is somethingin the romanticproject of the statement.. see that the question of this "new mynation.In this case.. as it does.914 KEVIN NEWMARK ruption.as both Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy have subsequentlyhelped to demonstratewith a great deal of intelligenceand force. formaland epistemological-ideal.such surprising as history and politics. called for by Schlegel at Jena in 1800 is not just an aesthology" thetic-that is. titythrough thatgoes and a reading practicewithrespectto the textsthemselves counter to the literarytruthof the very same statement.the German roon cannotbe separated fromitsprofound manticreflection "myth" . Rather.it is high adds.it is readnevernamed. entirely For it remains to be seen whetherit is not preciselyat the level of the literaryexamples deployed in and around the act of naming could be said to inscribea textual interrupthat romanticwriting itselfat everypoint. or rather. And this of course."but.though thisin factis not readable in the work itself. irony mightjust turn so out to be one of the most rigorouswaysto name a "readability" thatitwould necessarily remain formulation to resistant theoretical hidden or dissimulatedwithrespectto any properlyphilosophical understandingof Schlegel's text. as anythingelse Schlegel ever wrote: "We he have no mythology.moreover." says at the beginningof the text.of philosophical speculation engaged in our own day by like Blanchot and Derrida is notreadable on the level of the writers romanticfragment?Is this not also the reason theycan go on to and disseminationof make a furtherclaim: "there is interruption the romanticwork. Rather. An entirely correcttheoretical manticwork"(57."'4 almost say notorious.For it does not take an overlyactive imagito on the contrary. can be traced in Schlegel's text wheneverit confrontsthe perplexing power of the name. for instance.one might mythology. immediately time we set to work togetherto produce one" (81)."he "we are close to getting one." where the issue in question is the romanticproduction of a "new This slogan has become as well known.and thistimebeyond the reach tion exceeding of any theoreticalformulation.. of that insinuatesitselfthroughoutthe interstices the rothought. Such a dissimulated readability. is where the question of romantic"literary theory"takes a and dramaticturntowardmore compellingissues.and still less able in the unworking (desoeuvrement).in his "Discourse on Mythology. a of thatexceeds and radicallyinterrupts thinking idenfragment leads to a conclusion the mediation of non-identity.accordingto anothertermof Blanchot.

literatureproducitselfas it produces its own theory. then it must be understood in termsof its historicaland political as and theoreticalsuramifications well as in termsof its literary And this also means that we must be willingto conperstructure. . and politics.If German romanticism to be taken seriously.withthe fatefultransposiing tion of this model in twentieth-century Germany to a total and and politics.The formalmodel of autovision of history totalizing production Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy trace back. of frontSchlegel's model of the absolulitteraire. would always have their appointed place. An attentive pied reading of the penetrating analyses and reflectionsof LacoueLabarthe and Nancy on the inextricabletie between art. moreover. It is the self-forming as well as a social Bildung. In this respect it is highlysignificant that the presentationand in of the Schlegelian strandof German romanticism L'abanalyses are solu litteraire followed in 1986 by the publicationof Jean-Luc and desoeuvree.M L N 915 implicationin aesthetic. earlier project into the domain of twentieth-century thoughtand all these works together helps to situate the politics.philosophical. or poiesis.community. in L'absolu litis to teraire. as "Auto-production" it is used by Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy is to be understood in termsof an all-encompassingmodel of autoproduction of an estheticBild. makes it extremelydifficultif not but impossibleto considerSchlegel'sauthorshipas a brilliant finally and dated contributionto nineteenth-century aesidiosyncratic is theticphilosophy.and politicaldevelopments and sometimeswiththe century. in 1987 by the publication Nancy's La Communaute of Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe's La Fiction politique: du I'art Heidegger. both of whichcan be read as naturalextensionsof the etla politique. including the production of the quotidian itself.or cultural matrixin which all image.l5 Reading withinthe largercontextof our own eventof German romanticism the seminal place occuand to identify waning twentieth-century of withinit by the writings FriedrichSchlegel. philosophy. early German romanticism thus shown by their later work to be coterminouswitha politicalmodel of auto-production of that eventually made common cause with the totalitarianism National Socialism in the 1930s. The resultingspecular relationshipbetween both concrete formsand intellectualor spirof itual developmentensuresbythe same tokenthe ultimate identity to and State in contradistinction any elementsthat self. extendingwell into the twentieth most disastrousconsequences. such images.

according to La Fictiondu politique. inventing. Lacoue-Labarthe is able and nationalism.and philosophyis thoroughly tent with a much older model "that would be impossible not to identifywith the romanticmodel developed at Jena" (La Fiction.but also passing throughWagner and on Nietzsche-"finallyimposed itself and dominatedunder various the Germanythatwas unresistant the 'movement'of the to aspects thirties" (88-9). And he takes thisremarkone further step when he adds thatthis "tradition"-for all intents and purposes. Schellingand to some extentthe 'young Hegel' " (87-8). by of National Socialism. howeverdistinctively. while loosely associating in this way the thought of Jena romanticismwith a broad traditionof "national aestheticism" unresistant to ultimately the actual factof National Socialism in Germany. politics. to delineate theircommon strandsof aestheticism whichalso allows him to point out that. his politics). lanconstituteHeidegger's conception of History guage. the artof will eventhat. wordfiction the titleof Lacoue-Labarthe's book on art and polin itics designates the originaryoperation of making. the "romantic" particular traditionincludingSchlegel.such a of consisconfiguration art. the identity. "national aestheticism.prior to its furtherimplicationin epistemologicaldeof terminations truthand falsehood.16 The overall movementof thisorientation froma remarkLacoue-Labarthe makes near the middle of gauged La Fictiondu politique.in the finalanalysis. immediately specifiesit by it directlyto Schlegel's celebrated call for "a 'new mythollinking by ogy.is notsuggesting thatall the proper names implicatedin thiscontextcan be read and . Now it is certainlypossible that Lacoue-Labarthe.or fashioning. Lacoue-Labarthe anchors them in what he calls "a longstandingGerman traditionthat originatedin theJena of Schiller(and not of Goethe)-the Schlegel brothersand H6lderlin. and the Jena romanticism FriedrichSchlegel. myth-that (and as a result. Summarizing the central motifs-art.' " This formulation Lacoue-Labarthe of the common ideal of a "new mythology" shared."By tracingout in this book the brief but significantalignment in 1933-1934 of Heidegger's thought with the actual politicalphilosophyof the Nazis.orientsa number of the book's most incisiveanalycan be conveniently ses. self-fashioning tuallygovernthe entireNazi model is dubbed byLacoue-Labarthe. For thisreason too. moreover. And as if this referenceto the romanticmodel developed at he Jena were not clear enough in itself. Heidegger.916 KEVIN NEWMARK would remain recalcitrant thismimetological to Thus. 29).

. but that does not mean he shared everything withthem."Are the most sacred things the and formless.18 The proximity Schlegel's textto the motifs withwhichwe have become in the meanof all the new mythologies time only too familiaris obvious and massive." discourse begins by always to remain nameless ."new mythology." in curs. . Holderlin.But. in fact.did have a lot in common with the Schlegels.can in factbe called "resisimplication tant" with respect to a "tradition"leading backwards to Schelling and Schiller and forwardsto Wagner and other ideologues of naof tional aestheticism. The question here is not to document the general fate of the concept of mythafter the "Earliest Systemof Program" or even afterSchelling'slectureson the Philosophy Art of first all in this or his Philosophy Mythology. should give us immediate pause. Rather."'7 Schelling. the stakesof the discussion-political and historicalnow as well as merelyliterary and philosophical-are enormous.The inclusion here of the name. on the otherhand. It cannot simplybe overlooked or discounted. 93).whatmatters of particularcontextis to testwhetherand to whatextenta reading of and of the necessary Schlegel's own "Discourse on Mythology." in it of his theoryof irony.Even the refis erence to a "new mythology" not necessarilymeant to designate also ocFriedrichSchlegel alone. For the term.M L N 917 understood in the same reductiveway with respect to twentiethcentury ideology and history.Schlegel's new mythology of givinga name and a formto the highestof powers. the textcalled the of "Earliest System-Program German Idealism.as we know.the productive power or force of poetry itself. and well before The Dialogue on Poetry. concernsthe possibility As is well known. They are certainlyimposing enough to warranta return to Schlegel's text before subscribing once and for all to the commonplace that the "'Discourse on Mya thology' . since both Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy have on a number of occasions gone between Holderlin's poetics and the out of theirway to distinguish "main stream" of German romanticliterary theory.nor that he did or thoughtor wrotethe same thingsto exactlythe same degree. is virtually pure distillateof Schelling" (L'absolulitteraire." an anonymous is text usually attributedto Schelling and in which mythology indeed associated withan "eternalunity"eventually capable of idenand developing all the forces and historicaldestinyof a tifying given "people.

But thenitis precisely challengeof determining very between statusof the name on the basis of the necessarydistinction that is at issue here in the accident (Zufall) and intention(Absicht) This kind of accident. whichgoes hand in hand here withthe question of form. But withthe be multaneously a determinateformand a formation.then. intothe "Disa radicality. the further possibility would remain curinaming whose relationto formand formation In indeterminable. And once the questioningattitudeis perceived in all of its fragen"). The second referenceto the name could thus be a mere accident withinthe contextof the essay taken as a the the whole. which would then be merelyan any emptyname"(86). the formationof a new mythology.then let us give up claim to a free art of ideas. exacerbates it even further. At this point. In other words.the Ideal. unabsichtlich zufallig.if it is rhetorical.the second referenceto the name.it would be so in a way that could not be easily reduced to theoreticalexposition and understanding.that is." far fromresolvingthe tension. thatwould once again coordinateliterature poetryand of on the possibility a kind of naming that would siphilosophy.or formation (Bild and Bildung). but thisname on whichall else restsmightitself or remain a pure accident. Of course. otherwords. it can always be argued that the reference at this particular moment to the "empty name" is itselfgratuitousand and thereforecould have absolutelynothingwhatunintentional. For. is in factnot susceptibleto determinateformation(absichtlichen Bildung).actuallydoes serve to interrupt decision about the concernsa grammatical ment.the originary power to name ously musthave a name. thatis. despite the apparent resolutionin the talk on mythologythatfollows."and will theybe leftin darkness to chance (imDunkeldem Zufall)?"(81) This question of the name. rather.entirely torical. this the text'sown movetime empty. and theory.Schlegel's textstakesthe entire and this free art of ideas (freie Ideenkunst) project of romanticism. soever to do withthe text'soriginalquestion of givinga name and a form to poetic force.as rhewell as withthe darkness of chance.thisquestion is introducedas a challenge or a zu Euch selbst summons to ask questions ("willichEuch auffordern. however. same gesturehis textalso names a threatimmediately posed to very of a kind of the project bythe name. moreover.The interruption . quite unexpected answerinsinuatesitself course": "If what is highest.19 the textualslip thattransforms challenge of the "namelessart" into the radical threatof an "emptyname. Or.918 KEVIN NEWMARK asking. is not.

we could say that it is preciselythis dilemma that is named in Schlegel's writingby the . mythologynames a mode of historicaland collective and knowledge.There can as yet be no question of saying Schlegel actually meant thisbut rathersaid that. whichwould us give up any claim to a freeart of ideas (Ideenkunst). it of the possibility our understandingwithouthesitation interrupts around which the entire the very particular name. nor can we safelyassume thatthis or that aspect of the writingrepresents the "thought" or "unthought"portion of his discourse. ." does mythologyhave as its grammaticalantecedentthe promise of "determinate formation"or the threatof the "emptyname"? Is mythology the name as determinateformfor all poetic force. At least it does not do so withoutobligatingus to have recourse to a kind of of over the formation meaning that or authorial intention.determined only by the demonstrativequalification. "mythology.as and ideology. mythology autoformation also designates a mere tool of deception or self-deception that.but does itfashionself-identity self-deception? power As we have seen.M L N 919 statusof the example now given fora "freeart of ideas. emphasis added). "Mythology. a free art of ideas. and thatmuch at least is abundantlyclear. (Anspruch) epistemologicalor historical or to fashion. Absicht. does not allow us to decide the outcome of this tension in favor of one of its two sides over the other. Rather." or to a logic of intention of accidentis not to be decided lightly. but on the other hand. Mythology. But whether the form and formationof this name for a free art of determinedaccording could itself ever be fully ideas.thus places the question withina highlyvolatile relation. the grammarof Schlegel's text."sucha work. Just an whatis mythology example of here? In otherwords.." then." Schlegel writes.at thisparticular point in any case. can have no claim the very stuffof mystification to Mythhas the legitimacy. "If whatis highestof all is in factsusceptible "thenlet to no determinateformation whatsoever. Mythologysuch a workof art. Schlegel. On the of romantic"mythology" one hand.is the exemplaryname for (86.and therefore a substantial and free art of ideas in its own right." That is. is the very point of contention.and thus foreclosed. is then merelybe an emptyname. or is an mythology art of ideas only insofaras it is actuallynothingbut an emptyname (in whichcase we would do well to give up making any importantclaims on it-philosophical much less political)? According to one of the oldest and most powerfulof philosophor ical distinctions.wittingly not." discourse is organized.in the text itself.

other words.education and sociality-and in the and figuration" end. of a poetic work capable of producing itselfas it proprojection in duces its own philosophical theory. individual activityand universal underwillalso standing. the fragmentsof shattered art. an age of negativity so far at least.920 KEVIN NEWMARK extended It word "mythology. "the purposelessness and der lawlessnessof the whole of modern poetry"(Uberdas Studium he KA 1:223). like a sea of strugglingforces in which the particlesof dissolved beauty. Now the romantic project of this literaryabsolute.we are broughtto the veryheartof romanticism's mythology.As Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy point out in L'absolulitteraire-andas is confirmed in La Fictiondu politique-the romantic concept of for shaping "formation. an age of pre-reflective harmony. as be opposed to modernity. for history (36)."responds once again to the received opinion that the modern age must learn to demonstrateitscapacityto unite the two antithetical and theoreticalorganizationinto a tendencies of poetic creativity unless workscan be produced in whichthe spehigher unity. has been unable to produce anythingbut isolated momentsof poetic and philosophicalachievement.art and culture.and even formalization. the speaker in the "Discourse on Mythology.."or Bildung.For. The "Discourse on Mythology" opens on the oppositionbetween poetry and knowledge." could thereforeonly be by a more reading of how the textactuallyinitiatesand develops the formation of thisparticularexample-mythology as the name for"sucha work of art"-that we mightever hope to approach thistext with anythinglike the criticalrigor necessaryfor Schlegel to writeit in the firstplace. and divisionthat. And thisis also why. cifically poetic force of each new creation is also provided witha firmbasis.at least linkin principle.The argument of Ludovico.thisdistinction to the assumption of a historically determinable correspond will as schema in whichantiquity. Modern poetry."is the place of intersection and molding.Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy have littledifficulty .is also the project of literature's universal formation. goes on to add. With the question of then.Throughout the Dialogue in fact. clash in a confused and gloomy mixture. "is griechischen Poesie. there can be no hope of ever advancing beyond the stage of what Schlegel calls elsewhere. a chaos" (KA 1:223-24).to the heart of Lacoue-Labarthe's and Nancy's absolulitteraire.. as can be remarked yet again in the "Discourse's" own stated aim to overof come the originary formlessness poetic force.

" be then. To be trulyworthyof its one art mustbe capable of producinga new mythology." mode that though this time in the paradoxical and interrogative allows the restof the "Discourse" to unfold: "Is therean art worthy of the name thatdoes not have the power . articulationof the politico-aesthetic thatthe necessity form-giving of For instance. The same principleand task is again specifiedin the "Discourse." Schlegel starts a fragmentthat becomes glaringlyclear on this do and point: "He can onlyform(bilden)." (Idea 54.. "mythology."and immediately scattered images of poetic power offered by present-day merely thisas the crucial probart. . to historical the comprehensiveorder of Bildungitself.then perhaps it would not be so difof ficultto work fromthere toward the actual fulfillment its task. fromthe discretepoetic Bilderproduced by transitoryand thereforeaccidental forces. "The artistshould no more wish to rule than to serve.ends up being necessarily implicatedin the formation State power.because itwould be purelyaccidentalor arbitrary. romanticism's.20 in Nonetheless.would ultimately the of possibility passing out fromthe lawless chaos of disjointed particlesof beauty.. "theoryof literature" with an "aesthetico-political" program whose continuation and effects reach well into the "nationalaestheticism" Nazi Gerof many. At stakein the name.. . The Bild. nature of its poetic force to a systemwould harness the arbitrary atic exposition and development.In the early essay. whichstartsout fromthe purelyformalconsiderations of naming and the kind of poetic activity thatmakes it posof sible. nothingbut form(bilden). "On afterbemoaning the the Study of Greek Poetry.Schlegel insists evenof face up to the threateningpossibility bringing fortha tually could resultthat. that name.formation. KA 2:261).to a systematic process of and politicalorganization.Schlegel had indeed already identified lem for romanticism:"If it were only possible to clarifymodern poetry'sprincipleof Bildung. to breathelifeinto its beautifulBildungenin accordance with its necessaryarbitrariness (nach ihrernotwendigen Willkiir)?" (81). 229).. .in order finallyto achieve that of ordered confusionand charmingsymmetry contradic"artfully tions" (86) toward which the entireDialogue is oriented. and beyond him. the actual formationof the name "mythology" the "Discourse" reserves some unexpected twistsfor the smooth ideal it constantly alludes to. and universality.M L N 921 ing Schlegel's. Bildungis the veryessence of human being" (KA 1:224. . so can do nothingforthe Statebut form(bilden) thosewho lead and those who serve .

. that is being shaped.prove. or artificial in forms(diekiinstlichen amount to nothing. in fact. to beget only the lifelessimage of an emptyname? In this text. And the particularbodily-spiritual formof the soul thatis put back intocirculationat thispointof the textis thatof a glimmering light. but would furtherensure In our capacityto apprehend it sinnlich geistig.. or Bild. This is because it is alwayspossible thatthe god-likeprinciple. a mere corpse. Schlegel therefore goes on to consider. as well as to our understanding.922 KEVIN NEWMARK not be broughtback to a determination the basis of an organic on and self-conscious intention. In the new mythology named by Schlegel. "it allows what otherwisewould be in constant flight from consciousness to be apprehended bodily-spiritually and held fast. As Schlegel finally declares throughhis stand-inLu- . or gebildet.that the body it shines throughis not an emptyform.through ears" (85)." "Mythologyhas one great advantage. Mythologyis thus the bodying forthof a name that would preventthe sheer power of the poetic act fromgoing nameless and formless. of course. like the soul in the surrounding (sinnlich geistig). and throughitsshiningprove itis not absentfromthe body. other words.It would be a kind of name that. This form. the soul would shine. external body. whichit glimmers beforeour eyes and speaks to our body.or soul. of spirituallife (Bildung)would somehow remain absent fromitsoutward manifestations (Bilder): "And isn't this softreflectionof the Godhead in man the true soul.." Schlegel has Ludovico say." is. and should the soul be missing. and thus fromremainingforeverinaccessibleto our eyes and ears..it could onlymean incurringthe riskof givingbirthto a corpse. Formen) themselves That is only the visible.far frombeing an emptybody.then indeed it would leave only the dead corpse of poetry der Leichnam Poesie)" (85). throughoutthe "Discourse. would not only be capable of containingour own soul. the enkindling spark of all poetry?-Mere representation(das blosseDarstellen). (dertote Now it is preciselyas a preventiveto ward offthe threatof such a corpse thatthe actual example of "mythology" broughtforth is in the "Discourse.Schlenames the possibility a transcendental of coordigel's "mythology" nationof the senses (sinnliche and the mind (geistige Bilder) Bildung). the verymythof philosophy: the phenomenal intuitionof a light that would ultiof mately guarantee the intelligibility divine truthin thought as well as being.What would it mean.where the metaphor of poetic force is continuallysupplied by the biological process of procreation.that is.

cannot itselfbe construedor understood strictly an thatis. Then would the empty chatterstop and man . . someelement (ohneein erstes Urspriingliches that is absolutelyirreducible(was schlechthin ist).one that would exist of another principle support categoriesoperativeso far: "nor can a beyond all the self-reflexive without highly a subsist(bestehen) originaland inimitable mythology und Unnachahmliches). unaufloslich thing that after all transformations (was nach alien Umbildsomething ungen)stillallows itsprimalnatureand forceto shine through(noch die alteNaturund Kraftdurchschimmern .is stillnot quite tologics." "light. This means that no image. termsthe "Discourse" puts into circulationto describe itstrue subinnecessarily ject-the "soul. this mimethen. built around the mythological unityof image and meaning begins which names to wobble."the primalforcesustainingall the mythological as of the text. That is what I mean by the new mythology" (88). if not topple altogether.or budding "national aestheticism." (86). can only be apthat proached "nachalien Umbildungen. . figure.example-that is. .. of poetryand philosophy.For mythology. myth-inthe text could ever forceit refersto.. to But the transition this exalted pronouncementtakes one last the detour in Schlegel's text. there will be light before you." And at thispointthe entireedificethe "Discourse" has alive enough. only beyond all the anof transformations Bild und Bildungon which its own dealogical scriptions are necessarily based. this specular system of sensuous Bild and spiritual precisely or cannot. on the basis of a Bild properlyspeaking..M L N 923 dovico. This passage lisst) confirmsthat the "soul" livingon in the name of its own "mytholconstructions ogy. forcethatallows the body and soul to be held togetherin "mythology.In order to be maintained it constantly requires the of lightand life."or "spark" of mythology-is to the precise extent that it names what by definition adequate ." according to Schlegel's own words here. would understandthe earth and the sun. illustration. . and in a barely disguised revision of Genesis 1:1-4: "Be worthyof the greatnessof the age and the fog will liftfromyour eyes. The actual image. since thisforce access to the mythic sufficient give would itselfbe absolutelyinimitableand irreducible (unaufloslich And it furthermeans that each of the key und unnachahmlich). all by itself.endure Bildung.Immediatelyafternaming mythology of coordinationcapable of appropriatingthe solar body principle of light to a spiritual process of (self-)understanding." is. Schlegel of points out that this livingsynthesis mind and body.saysSchlegel.

Schlegel insiststhatthe union promisedin mythology of poetry and philosophy could never itselfsubsistwithouta more originalforcecalled "madness. it can always be reintroducedinto precisely the same transformational systemof Bild and Bildung to . On the one hand. For how can "Schein.Whateveroriginallightstill glimmersthrough the "Discourse" can thereforebe said to shine only insofar as it is not itselfthe mere sensuous appearance. nature and history. Schein can no longer be said to designate anythingbut its own peculiar madness and stupidity-no matterhow these words are translated-since what could be more blindlyfoolishthan to continue calling an absolutelyinimitableand irreducibleforce by the word Schein? of Now the structure thismadness is verycurious indeed. however." the word par excellence for aestheticrepresentation. or Bilder. also implies thatin spite of the he true nature of the force. that is. formand substance. imitated by these veryanalogical images." On the otherhand.of course have a great deal of troublewiththispassage. Translators.924 KEVIN NEWMARK and reduced.something still thatafterall transformations allowsitsprimalnature and force allows the blinding to shine through.formations. What is the inimitableand irreduciblelightthat stillshines beof and transformations yond or behind all the forms. in which naive profundity (den Schein)of error and madness. appear preciselywhen the link constituting entireseries of Scheinand Wethe mimetological sen. by going on to call this madness itselfa Schein.somethingthat is absolutelyirreducible.of course.21 What is trulyastonishingin thispassage. or of foolishnessand stulight pidityto shine through" (86). to undone at itsverysource bya forceinassimilable all theserelated versionsof the same transformational logic? At thismoment. literature and theory.is notthe overt thathappens referenceto "madness"-no matterhow eye-catching of to be-but ratherthe silentinscription the word "Schein" at this particular place in the text. and philosophicalthoughtin Schlegel's text?Schlegel himliterary self.then. couldn't be clearer in his response to thisquestion: subsistwithouta highlyoriginal and inimi"nor can a mythology table element. or Schein.of anythingelse beyond it. includingitsown. means of cannot be understood. body and soul. been has lightand truth. since a literalreading of its"light" so radicallychallenges our mostfamiliarpictureof romanticism by and the positingan absolute break betweenthe origin(diealteKraft) of end (alle Umbildungen) any myth whatsoever. appearance and essence.

or logic. forcethatcan stillbe seen shining iomatic. But this philosophicaltruthcan be reached only by means of the very textual examples it nonetheless requires us to that is to say. or interruptedin its turn by the ensuing statement its own truth. the given textual example.Beyond all process of poetic activity(bilden. infinitely structureof all philosophical meaning.thatis to say.The theory. it is possible whichit by necessity structureof what de Man calls "litto recognize the self-resisting to it may be somewhatunsettling see it reerarytheory"-though In cast here in termsof Schlegel's madness and mythology.truly . tation or of mutual interruptionthat can only go forward. The interruption theoryby Schein or literature. of these transformations (nachalien Umbildungen) one and the same name-Bild-there is no denyingthe absolutelyinimitableand idmad. of tems have just been shown to be. and thereforeunderstanding. and so on and so forth. understand. or of Bild(ung) by the empty name.Of by that all the philosophical transformations occur in the textnone is more sustained or imposing than the one that.umbilden.And nothing.in the "Discourse on Mythology.Once again.according to Schlegel. must be fragof mented. thatexemplifiesthis What is it. thisis what he can now be understood to be sayingin that definitionof irony he ever gave: "Irony is a most self-resisting 668.Schlegel seems to be saying. Fragment permanent parabasis-" (Philosophical of the The truthis thatironyinterrupts possibility fully saturating. both we are dealing witha movementof radical fragmencases. though. of mimo-or mytho-logic the untranslatable by of madness. relate the mythological would ultimately image (Bild) to a systematic capacity for self-formation (Bildung) through the mediating anbilden). is always interruptedby the it-but the particularexamples thatmustbe given to illustrate also have a wayof generalizingthemselves resultingfragmentation however aberrant such formalsysinto a systematic formulation. or mytho-logicthat would systematizeliterary or specificity. Irony is thereforethis self-resisting." truthabout the endless alternationbetween philosophical formulation and its interruption the ironic structureof poetry?The by question takes us back to the "emptyname" in which.M L N 925 remains irreducible.can stop thisendless process of permanentinterruption. truth about the literary and non-reflexively repetitive.the poetic fieldof Bilderit necessarilybelongs to. At least. KA 18:85). the potential for mythologicalconstruction (Bildung) would no longer be underwritten any intentionwhatsoever.as we have seen.

926 KEVIN NEWMARK througheach of them. . do and it mustalso remain foreverirreducibleto an originalintention that would stillbe accessible to us as such. This originaryforceis able to bringall the constellationtogetherin Schlegel's own text names of this mythic linksformedby what because of the unconditionally arbitrary only refersto as the "ironythatliveseven in the smallestpartsof he also b-i-l-d of the whole" (86).or secretion) in of blank letters(b-i-l-d) thatwilleventually appear (scheinen) the formof a teleologicaldevelopmentof livingspirit(geistige Bildung). This. Fragmentationhere.Schlegel's text on the possibility a properly"romantic" mythology.Thus. is notjust a general theoreticalstatementabout the production and use of alphabetic letters-that is.thatis to say. though.Schlegel insists:"Whereverlivingspiritappears held fastin thereis art. Such a scattering the literalfragments indeed constitutea whollyinimitableScheinin Schlegel's text.thatcan always play. But it is this ironic law of the letter-at one and the same time absolutely arbitraryand necessary as Saussure will later put it. or even arbitrary.the law of the arbitrary of such a plan in the ironicname of undo the systematic coherency of its own letters.to constructmeaningful images-of oneself or one's own intellectualor political community. to It may seem a bit farfetched. naive. implementsto put to work. is not only a project. finishedor unfinished. the semioticprinciplein its barest posof It sible formulation. is also the actual implementation those very elements the text will later put to work in its own mythological construction of romanticism: "Wo irgend lebendiger Geist in da einem gebildetenBuchstaben gebunden erscheint. and on the verythreshtherefore old of the dialogue in which the "Discourse of Mythology"will unfold. In thiscase. . the romanticproject announced. ist Kunst. of echoing in his own way the characterization Socratic irony in 108-that is nonethelessalwaysdissimulatedand Fragment Lyceum readable in Schlegel's text. make in of ironytributary thiswayto whatis nowadays Schlegel'sconcept referredto as "the playof the letter.or univocally.thereis the generationand isolationof a formedletter. of course.the enthusiastic constructionof a universal philosophy of literature that totalitarand potentially would go hand in hand witha totalizing. is not merely.thoughmisleadingly. da istAbsonderung . described. a substance.It is also the necessary accident. and carried out is that of fragmentationthe originary Absonderung (generationand sundering." (KA 2:290)."22 often. a it projectand laws forcarrying out" (60). then. material to overcome.

L'absolu litteraire: du allemand(Paris: Seuil. national aestheticism. His reinflections thisdefinition ironymeritanalysisin their own right and constituteone of the most massive and promising challenges and philosophical about ironyas a literary addressed to the ideesrepues recently principle. Indeterminacy.or Schein."and.it remains true that for the most part Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy relyfortheirunderstandingof Schlegel's ironyon Beda Allemann's ratherpedestrian study. Yale University NOTES in 1 GeoffreyHartman. ther references. whichis cited in a footnote(135). entitled. An English translationof litterature romantisme the analysis. Especially relevant for the present discussion is a lecture de Man delivered in 1977. or irony. from. Romanticism. 1959). flight only be designatingin thisway the permanentparabasis. in addition."Criticism theWilderness (New Haven: Yale. in theKritische Werke. 2:161. 1958-91). Philip Barnard and Cheryl Lester (Albany: SUNY. passages of the book wherethe romanticconceptand use of ironyis invokedand analyzed. withJean-JacquesAnstett to Schoningh. On the contrary. Furwill appear in the text. 280."to be included in the voled. is. and referencein the work of 5 This fragmentwas a constantpoint of reflection of of Paul de Man. Irony. is available as: The Literary tr.Ironieund Dichtung (Pfullingen:Neske. A good deal of L'absolu litteraire there are several key itselfwritten"ironically. 56: 3 See also Athenaeum Fragment "Since these days philosophycriticizeseveryof thingit can get its hands on. thereforea the threatthatis alwaysposed by it.a more sober reminder about the literal forces that work through and actually serve to before theyeven get off the interruptsuch mythicconstructions That Schlegel was finallyled to exemplifythe enigmatic ground.to this translation. structureof this mythby referenceto a radical form of madness and should in no way be considered a mystification. Furtherreferences thiseditionwillappear in the text. Aesthetic Ideology."The Concept of Irony. Andrzej Warminski (Minneapolis: U Minnesota. Theorie la de 4 Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy. 1978). a criticism philosophywould be nothingmore than a just reprisal" (KA 2:173). ume. 6 It would not be entirelytrue. even more importantly.M L N 927 It ian. forthcoming). minus the presentationand translationof the German texts in in The Theory Literature German Absolute: of question. ed. "Criticism. 1980). or fair. seiner 2 FriedrichSchlegel. 1988). that foreverdisruptsthe mythological unityof literatureand phiwould it even be possible to begin reading it in its true losophy light. The most importantand tellingreferenceto ironyin is L'absolu litteraire made in connection to Socrates and his subjectivemastery . to claim that romanticirony is simply is overlooked by Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy. Ausgabe Fragment and Hans Eichner (Munich: Ferdinand ErnstBehler.Lyceum 115. Nonetheless.

1987). 12 This is confirmedby the furtherstatement:"Purely theoreticalcompletion is remains asymptotic. (264.is the which cannot be reduced to a subjectiveattitudeor consciousness. theoreticalexposition: "What is at stake. is thatSocrates ." irony. available in English translationas tr.whichwas first presentedinJuly."it will necessarilybe denied the same disas attributeto "writing" it is articulatedand theoruptive statusthey willingly rized by Blanchot and Derrida.. The problem.and Politics:The Fiction thePolitical. .as "a modest annotationin the marginsof [L'absolulitteraire]" (256).the recit-thattraverses enigma abusive in thiscontext of the example" (256)." Begriff Kunstkritikderdeutschen Romantik (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp. "Talk on Mythology. 1976).. in it and replacing it by a systematic is effect.or of poetryand philosophy. "FriedrichSchlegel and Romantic Irony. to 10 Paul de Man.. because the theoreticalinfinite and indeed in thisnot being there. Peter Connor du (Minneapolis: U Minnesota. cited by Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy in the French edition of L'absolu litteraire (22). (Paris: Garnier-Flammarion. 11. 8 Peter Szondi. De l'Allemagne 1968) 3:3. ed. 1986). emphasis added. "The Resistanceto Theory.thatromanticism henceforthbecomes the infinite the fragmentare." TheResistance Theory (Minneapolis: U Minnesota. available in English translationas The Inoperative Community. 19. English translation. Art. ticipatory in Schlegel's case at least. It would perhaps not be entirely to cite a furthermarginal annotation by Derrida in reference to the kind of of re-markthe theoreticalre-citation literature alwaysentails: "here. then. which is the exchange of form and truthor . 1986).. 1986)." available in Dialogue on Poetry.thisnever yetbeing there. text. in der Der 7 WalterBenjamin. The reason forthis. 39.. 162. as well as to Schlegel'sobvious failureto duplicate such masteryin his own writing:"Socrates ..the actual re-cit literature. Chap. . emphasis added).. "Systemund Begriff. 1968). 1991). 1986).. But it is impossible . Park: PennsylvaniaState UP. and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. has always representedthe anof incarnationor prototype the Subject itself . To the extentthat ironyis principallythematizedby Laof and subjectivereflexivity "formand coue-Labarthe and Nancy as thisinfinite truth. Chris Turner (London: of Heidegger. . ingand Other 65-6. desoeuvree 15 Jean-Luc Nancy. 9 Mme de Stael. ." now collected in Parages (Paris: Galilee.Workin progress truthof the work" (48)..tr..we are reminded by Derrida.1979 at a Strasbourgcolloquium organized in partby Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy.928 KEVIN NEWMARK withinthe Platonicdialogues.. .will appear in the Further referencesto this translation..Mimologiques: (Paris: Seuil. Derrida refersto his own essay.. is what could be called the subject of irony ." (86). of poetry and philosophy. "La Loi du genre.as the word the and undermines(qui travaille) logic indicates. Harvey Mendelsohn (Minneapolis: U Minnesota. absolutely."On TextualUnderstandEssays.and can be found in the second volume of Schlegel'sKritische Ausgabe.La Fiction politique(Paris: Christian Bourgeois.. en 13 Gerard Genette. is tr... 11 Jacques Derrida was the firstto raise this question withrespect to L'absolu litin teraire his essay. has to do withthe enigma of "citing"an example of of withoutsimplyocculting the literary performance. Voyage Cratyle iiber die 14 The "Rede uber die Mythologie"formsthe second part of the Gesprdch An Poesie. La Communaute (Paris: ChristianBourgeois. 1973). Ernst Behler and Roman Struc (University sometimesmodified. exemplarity along withthe entireenigma-in otherwords.

. as unintentionalor purelyarbitrary such thatinterests Schlegel. ordered and symmetrian The romanticcommonplace of constructing artfully cal chaos is a topos to whichSchlegel returnsthroughouthis work.M LN 929 16 17 18 19 20 21 Blackwell. contains both the idea of a necessary innovation in order to create a new human world on the ground of the finished world of ancient is and mythology. A new humanitymust arise mustbe (accordingto Schlegel) nothingless and thismyth from/in new myth. "appearance" of madness: "quelque-chose d'originel . see Lyceum Willkiir. at the same timethe idea thatmythology alwaysthe obligatory form-and perhaps the essence-of innovation. qui laisse transparaitre l'apparence de l'absurde et de la deraison . 1984).is not the German tradition. The totalizationof mythsgoes hand in hand withthe mythof totalization.thereis an abyss"(295)." in Jean-Luc Nancy's The InoperableCommunity. relation At issue here."respectively.condemnable as a whole. To draw as precisely possiblethe lines of the dogging our particularabuse and the depths of the particularabyss constantly own efforts understand Schlegel's "irony"would be the sole reason for exto of beyond the limits L'absolulitteraire.. or Anschein."Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy recognize and state this problem withall possible rigor: "[T]here is no doubt whatsoeverthat of and in particularthe tradition German thought. See. desdeutschen der Idealismus.. ChristophJamme and Helmut Schneider (Frankfurt:Suhrkamp. Fragment 389." is thus the render- . Critical Inquiry16 (Winter. as always.the importantchapters called "National-aestheticism. crucial preciselyto the extentthatit bringsthistensionto the fore and makes it an object of criticalanalysisin its own right. Mythologie Vernunft: HegelsAltestes Systemprogramm ed." (51).. the text's commitmentto a metaphoricalmodel in whichBild and Bildungcan alwaysbe broughtback to a specularly determined model. But that does not mean that the traditionis responsiblefor it. most a translators take the Scheinhere to signify merelyfigural. Fragments 108. its than the totalizationof modern literatureand philosophy. like that of the body and soul relation. 1990): 291-312.is the chapter tology.1990). whichhas subsequently under the title. In "The Nazi Myth.. Furtherreferenceswill appear in the text. will show that it is never the fragmentsconcerning intentionality. at all foreign to [Nazi] ideology. especially. tendingan analysisof his "new mythology" thatSchlegel had no use whatsoeverfor There is a common misunderstanding and simplydispensed with it.and because of thatfact. world." Also essential. as withinit. for instance.. A reading of the "Discourse on Mythology" 51.is the vexing question of the over-determined between a constellationof discreteworksand the philosophicalor politicalideology arising fromit."and "Myth.in this respect. Between a tradition of thought and the ideology that inscribes itself. and Athebecomes naeumFragments 305). "MimeSee. Brian Holmes. between intentionand accident (see. generated in irony for instance.Lyceum 42.and thereforeprovisional. To these textsshould be added an expose prepared by Lacouebeen published in English Labarthe and Nancy in 1980. but ratherthe of possibility resolving the tension."The Nazi Myth. entitled. A careful reading of those "intention"(Absicht) however.. "Myth Interrupted. Fragment of In order to preserve the illusion. where Schlegel's text is inscribedin the followingway: "The notion of a 'new mythology'..and it funcand relationbetweenAbsicht of tions as a hypothetical synthesis the antithetical 103 and Athenaeum For other pertinentexamples.as well as ancient of revivedand united withthe mythologies the other peoples of the mythology."tr.which is also a versionof the relationbetween individual textual details and the systematic expositionthatwould encompass and understand them.always abusively.

." But this attemptat self-censure KA attentionto the force of the original (Gesprdch." See. when applied to contemporaryliterarytexts. withthe related remarksLacoue-Labarthe and Nancy make on "chaos" in sistent Schlegel: "II y a cependant." (72-3). It should also be noted that in Schlegel himself. followingverycloselyin the footstepsof Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy. 2:319).. chaos et chaos. signifier. 1991)." Dialogue. most fragmented."would be reductionist Romanticnotion of fragment." ratherthan as the more literal. the 1822-25 editionof his works.triedto softenthe blinding it lightof his earliertextbyqualifying as "odd and even paradoxical" ratherthan only draws more outright"absurd and mad..that is to say. It would be difficult to imagine how that least tautological. would be foreverunwillingto concede: "[I]t is indeed questionable whetherthe very concept of the Romantic fragmentis ever enacted on the level of the "The Gasch6 saysin the Forewordto a recenteditionof theFragments.. and original"light"of mythology.930 KEVIN NEWMARK (316).. This is conor into a more constructed." Gasche goes on to claim. like Rodolphe the 22 This is precisely associationa serious philosopherof literature Gasch6. Philosophical Fragments.idiosyncratic or leaves open itssubsequent transformation.xxx. Peter Firchow(Minneapolis: U Minnesota." tr. si l'on ose dire. 101). viii. formof madness. le chaos est bien aussi quelque chose qui se construit. Translating ing Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy opt for in L'absolu litteraire Scheinhere as mere "appearance. gebildete Umbildung..of all withoutenacting could ever have been written of definitions "romantic"writing Buch" ("Letter itselfon the level of the letter:"Ein Roman ist ein romantisches on the Novel.

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