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The Character of "Character" Author(s): Hélène Cixous and Keith Cohen Source: New Literary History, Vol. 5, No.

2, Changing Views of Character (Winter, 1974), pp. 383-402 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 28/02/2014 19:02
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The Characterof "Character" Cixous H6lene I. Introduction
HAT EXACTLY is "character"?How is itpossible at present to thinkof the "concept" of "character"-if it is a conhow far cept? Assumingthat this concept has a history, are we along now in thishistory of this or in the examination history? What does "character" name? These questionsare, on the one hand, involved in a whole systemof critical presuppositions and crop up from traditionaldiscussionsabout literature, within a conceptionof creationthatis today outmoded. But, on the otherhand, these literary same questions, havingcroppedup out of a disintegrating allow, system, through displacement,for the emergenceof new, prying questions opening out onto the unknownof a text ratherthan its recognizable development;ontolife,theincessant agitationofliterary practicerather than its theses and its stability;onto its indescribable,unidentifiable aspects rather than its rules and means of being classified. To be more precise,it is withthe removalof the questionof "character" that the questionof the nature of fiction comes to the fore,' as well as the examinationof subjectivity--through in fiction, and as fiction: fiction, where the term "fiction" should not be taken simply (in the sense of borne in mind) as part of a pair of opposities, which would make it the contrary of "reality." Here, rather,it would appear that subworked over by fiction, because of jectivityas realityis continuously severalfactors: the surplusrealityproduced by the indomitabledesire in the text; that which, beginningwith the subject, tears itselfaway, desire,fromwhat alreadyexists(le de~ij-ld),fromthe donnie, through to project itselfout into what does not yet exist (le non-encore-l&), into the unheard-of;and the imaginary, secretedby a subjectivity that has always been disturbed, changeable,literally populated with a mass of "Egos." I As I began to suggest in my essay on "La Fiction et ses fantbmes" (Poitique, io) and elaborate in Les Prenoms de personne (Seuil, Coll. Poetique, 1974). The present remarksgo along with the basic ideas of the latter work.

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if "character" is the productof a repression of subjectivity. It is on the basis of the imaginaryand by means of its restriction that "characterization"is produced.which conventionalizes.the "socialization" of the subject. unpredictable. and if the of scenes done under of is the masterdom. subject of the unconscious-am what I can be. .by repressing the production of the unconsciousthatposes a threat to established withthe Ego relegated order.D.. if the unconsciouscould be canceled out. primaryand secondary. It is precisely this open. discourse). attemptsat reappropriating with which the myth (for it is a myth) of "character" collaborates insofaras it is a sign.Now. then the imperishabletextcan be recognizedby its abilityto evade the prevailing meaning-and at establishingmastery. within a text which. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . "I" am always on the run.91 on Fri.Any relation between one thing and anotheris part of the imaginary. In fact. "concept" of "character" excludes in advance.a cog in the literary machinery.114. accomplishedonlyat the price of controlling duction of the relationto other signs.which it enters into and supports. . It is subordinate to the symbolic. The imaginaryis the category of identifications. A "character" is always in store for the subject along the chain where everything is coded in advance.e.of handling literary aegis the conscious.205. Under the reignof this "concept. its insertion in the social can be the promachine. if "I"-true subject. this infinite to that the rise potentionl up. card go togetherin this restricting processof which literary interpretation (by means of the encodingthe laying of the wires for a current-that it effects)becomes the reinforcement and reflection. coupled with the or the order of symbolic(i. This content downloaded from 128. to its "civil" place in the social system. the notion of "character" necessarily goes back to a theoryof the imaginary. and "characterization"conducts the game ofideology. if it admits of the existence of Such "character.) The "Ego" is the location of the Subject's identifications. If "character" has a sense." the mass of Egos would be reducedto the absolutemonarchthat "character"wants to be . according to cultural demand." necessarily goes back to pure representationalism. The imaginaryis the material of the symbolic. Actually. (In this sense. with the concatenationof the signifier. As an "imaginarynature.384 NEW LITERARY HISTORY I take the imaginaryhere in the Lacanian sense. evaluates. and codes so as to conformto set types."the "Ego" is a function of unawarenessthat makes knowledgeand ideologypossible. piercingpart of the subject. that is. then it is as a Figure that can be used in semiotics: the "personage" functions as a social sign. a textis governedby a codingprocessthat assuresits communicability. "Character" and I.

at least and homogeneous. recomfromhimsimilarto or different pensedby anotherwho is sufficiently such that the reader is upheld. This is all accomplished in the name of some reality principle 2 "Vouloir-dire" as a substantivehas attained a pejorative connotation.insofar as it implies a certain logocentrismof the author. It leads is offered take account of it."the reader entering of on conditionthat he be assured gettingpaid back.2 of the author Porte-paroleof sense." at fore the guarantorof the transmission once porte-parole. while he so as to preserve themin the book.91 on Fri. it is given as explicable.emissary. of "character" is that of this fetishization The ideologyunderlying an "I" who is a whole subject (that of the "character" as well as that "I" expresses of the author).114. understood.decipherablehuman sign that "character" claims to be: in the "concept" of "character" the allurements are all asserted. that is.just represented himself complementarily as a simuin the textin a formequivalentto pictorialrepresentation." a truth thatis hiddenbut discoverable. read: he is presented. By is bound up with the authority and expresses his messages.In fact.especially in contemporaryFrench criticism. conscious. knowable. He is therefixeshis essentialtraits of sense and of the "true. Literaturethereby formof literature. to assume a "depth. The commerce establishedbetween book and reader is thus facilitated.THE CHARACTER OF ccCHARACTER") 385 circuitwith the through"character" is establishedthe identification the norms. the representation a set of externals.the "character" represents and exterior to the text: he has referents (real causes that are anterior could be the portraitof a real person) to which he alludes."preconceivedor created by an author.and idol. up to a seeks the traditional of that with reading prospect interpretation. and the enunciatory is as the world in the text."character"is the servant of a certainorderthat parades itselfacrossthe theaterof writing.205. assumesvalue as a marketable form.The marketable we mightsay. is closelyrelated to that familiar.forming mutual leagues and legacies in orderto make up a certainliterary scene: this "concept" organizes to the perceptionof the reader who can "recognition". This content downloaded from 128. with such and at the level of a potentialidentification its satisfaction into commercewith the book such a "personage. a "character.the betterthe reader reader: the more "character" fulfills recognizesit and recognizeshimself. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . A community consignsits comfortsand its goods to this mirror relation. indubitablyhuman. it patronizesmeaning. partiallyuniversalizable. by comparisonor in combinationwith that he wishes to have of himself. a personage. finally. offered is to be figuredout. He In this system.

""biography. simply person: he is a a man or He serves woman. the function of . This is why he should not be too mortal. It is thisrepresentational function by which the truesubjectcan be but draggeddown or banned by the civil powers that be. It is therefore turbing to many that. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . as theyperform Ego's (re) appropriationof itself. it is the instrument and the essence of what pertains.with the one person mark. print type."or personnage. his interest.the role of roles.but a theaterthat offersno exit." a certificate the intervention of the censor ("detailed reportof a person' the centerof a stagethatis commandedby his presence." "truth.Upon his "life" depends the life of the text-so distheysay. Haven't theyannounced once again "the death of the hero" (another This content downloaded from 128. what belongs. "Character" occupies a privileged positionin the novel or the play: without"character.91 on Fri. "That's him all right! That's me all right!" a specular operationthat consistsof the people say. we are in the which the "character" is assured to be that which has been characterized and refers It includesin its back to thestamp. Figuratively. fora nonrepresentational itself thatsubstitutes reality.386 NEW LITERARY HISTORY ("Life. being."passive or active. As soon as we say " is that which morallydifferentiates distinguishing fromanother. at the present is first preservedsign.205. his story.114. notable. A mark. graphic character. And what can be said of its Frenchequivalent.a text. From here we pass metonymically to the role played-in the theateror in life. the The is not a personnage English parson). the verymark of becoming an "account. then the title. good repute"). theorigin. he has disappeared.. engrave. which confers a rank.natural or legal. Punctuation mark."le personnage"? A sketchof its lexical history provesstillmore illuminating: "person" is first a mask used by the Etruscanactor. it is designedmore and more to function as an active elementin the process of social coding-to the point of of conformity. that takes in everything.. lexical evolution-that part connectedwith expression("he's a person of 'character'"). It is a subjugationenunciatedfromthe outsetby the semantic to of the word character: coming fromthe Greek kharattein. The earliestusage adopted by the Frenchlanguage is that of "ecclesiastic person" (cf. the trait that dominates the natureof character thatof beingthe "specific is precisely nature" of a thing. history the mark.. then.""sense") to which the textis subordinated.the goes offto appear on the dramaticstage.. written. fictitious person. with description-the art of the portrait. He is the major agent of the final analysis. which is none other than the representation of a "real" that is itself a stage: the personageis thus. he personifies.

he is unmasked: which does not mean revealed! But rather denounced. so to speak. fantasized productions (Neutre by Hel6ne Cixous) ? This content downloaded from 128. it implies So long as we do not put aside "character"and everything in termsof illusion and complicitywith classical reasoning and the economythat such identify with." the captor of the dead? No. Being the subject can resist severaland insubordinable. so of the unlong as we ignore the fact that the "subject" is an effect is consciousand that it neverstopsproducingthe unconscious--which of will remain the we prisoners unanalyzable.we will remain appropriating locked up in the treadmillof reproduction. a group actingtogether.So long as we take to automatically. subjugation.broughtback to the of his subjectivity. returnedto his realityas simulacrum. into a trans-subjective to be. remainunSo long as the questionsof subject.of its subjectification. In texts 3 Nonhuman: because a non-repressedsubject can produce formsof unexpected. in the syndrome of role-playing. "I" must become a "fabulous opera" and not the arena of the known. He is givenup thento the complexity to to his off-center his to his multiplicity. monotonousmachinationthat turns every "character" into a marionette.205. of a true be the representation subject that which is only a mask. to go forth.3even if this ground is in fact the systemof roots that constitutes language ratherthan the visible. several others (Ulysses). to recognize.delimited. a set of animal. on which followsthe reader'squick withdrawalof since he sees nothingmore to be done with a textthat his investment.we willbe trapped.a loss. unheard of subjectivity. uncharacterizable. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . in short)--a death generally experiencedby the reader as a murder.onto groundthatis stillvirginand perhapseven nonhuman.he disappearsonlyto be multiplied. mythic. diverse.91 on Fri. what if I were to become an animal (Kafka). a scrap (Beckett). has no one in it? No one to talk to.114. Understandit the way it is: always more than one. in the same instant.framed. a collection of singular beings that produce the enunciation. differentiated effervescence. asked. mask as mask.which then throws off the identificationprocess. capable of being all thoseit will at one timebe. attainsthe selfonly likethe author. escapade: permanent position. The reader is loath to ventureinto a place where thereis no mirror.comfortingstage.THE CHARACTER OF "CHARACTER" 387 death of God. he is just broughtout of his blindingignorance. We will find ourselves. Is the "hero" or "character. imaginary.

114.even when Nobody is dubbed with names of "characters. thereis still a part of that remains unassigned."when Nobody is alive. saying referring by priority to any particular modernistliteraturethat has had the benefitof insights. and in general of the whole problematic of a text complex subjects ("person. in termsof the movement of their intensities (see Logique du Sens. how could he surprise me. or Artaud.388 NEW LITERARY HISTORY that evade the standardcodes. ravish me? Fortunately.4But here the immediatequestion is that of subjectivity insofaras it continually givesriseto modifications of any structure and re-examinations that agitates a certain number of "pre-Freudian" texts." of the proper Name.scriptor. you. and Deleuze and Guattari. 4 I am thinking in particular here of the beautiful "antianalyses" by Gilles Deleuze reading Lewis Carroll. myself?" pretty away I be?" And couldn't like who if.and that of the subject's in its periplumthroughits personalindividualities?By means history of which criticaldiscoursewill I be able to grasp that which "character" can neithercover nor contain nor designate? and yet.reader. subjectivity questions-beginningwith "What will I have to do withit?" and "Who is us: "Who am I when I am you.spreadingout shattering in everypossible direction. goistically.Nobody*-he is that which escapes and leads somewhereelse. others. Nietzsche." though this should be understood in its ambiguityof "a person"/"no person" (translator'snote)." groupwriting). in fact.all the instancesof production-all subject. or Klossowski.into every possible contradiction. who name and who becomes? bears a first How would it be possibleto study"character" in Virginia Woolf's * I have translated personne throughout as "nobody. psychoanalytic The problemof the subject and its relationto fiction.I can say: "I then how can I not questionthe value am all the names in history.repressive interpretation. uncodifiableby means of "character. L'AntiOedipe)." These textsbaffle everyattempt at summarizationof meaning and limiting. transeFrom this eccentric flow all the off-center. the value of History. How could he carryme away otherwise? If he repeated me. In I am or exclusivity not this. This content downloaded from 128. here in the exploded multiplicity The subject flounders of its states. which disorganizesthe discourse.91 on Fri.205. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .never submittedto traditionalcriticism. or speaking?"-that interest far from and also "If I can be all my and him.on which the code has no his subjectivity hold. the homogeneity of the ego of unawareness. and continually thisis new only in its systematic developingformulation since the advent of psychoanalysis a certain by antipsychoanalysis and a certainphilosophy of fiction. and which produces itself but inventiveand (it is not produced or reproducedor reproductive. formative). the "personage" is.

cut the strings. theologism. but to bring it back to example.homogenizing. This content downloaded from 128. as I wishto show by way of one. Early on Hoffmann set free the complicated intoxicationof knowingthat "I" is more than of subjectivity. idealism.205. he set out. textlaid bare. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . by its typesor characters: and it is there. new criticalconceptsthat happen to be "alamode. forthe German Romantics." "characteristicfeature.deposers of conservative of yokesand of shackles. unifying allied itselfto the Master." Literature has been at work for a long time on this subversion that has now become its up personal possession. reasonhas always the base. as for us: logocentrism. Long ago Georges Bataille and James Joyce. This subjectis any otheromy? No designation and also all those that precede it and those it anticipates. As an artist to the not make subject disappear. that represented has already struck-where the thesesand conceptsof Order literature were imposed-by denouncingthem at the level of the signified. * I translate propre as "personal possession" in this context. props society. the pillarsof property. or taken away" by way of the notion of property (propridtd) and family (not given) name (nom propre) (translator'snote).THE CHARACTER OF ccCHARACTER" 389 The Waves when the vacillationof subjectivity between"nobody" and all the possible individualities the text by provokingit? discomposes What is a "character"in a Joyceantext? Or in a textby HenryJames? or by Shakespeare? How is one to describe. And the point here is not to use.*dismemberthe marionette.circumscribe thissubjectthat and ruins social and affective econplus-one explodes structures can connectNobody. of antiidealism. stable.throughdifferent strugglewent on. by contagion." and an etymologicaltrajectorythat goes from the "close. There were the same bastionsto destroy for example. radicalize the is now to that dismantling began process taking place what was happening in literature?The same activelyand massively. In pre-Marxistand pre-Freudiantimes.114.with and more offensive. to the single. in different took place perhaps more violently because it was more hopeless. of psychoanalysis beforethe joint efforts and linguistics. though the word has a great many other connotations in French. theytear away the subject fromsubjugation. channels: it forms.The machine of repression has always had the same accomplices. breakers narcissism.Hoffmannand Kleist took to task the idealismof Hegel and the confining "dialecvirulently tic" of Recognition.all the the of of scaffolding political and subjective economy." or "intimate" to "that which is appropriated. less subversive. Poets of Subversion.distortthe mirrors. such as "one's own (self).91 on Fri. It is no accident that Nobody was at a crucial momentthe name of Ulysses and that fromUlyssesflowsJoyce'sUlysseswith his thousandsof individualities. socializable subject.

a sortof fantastical musical notebook.are permeated times. of crystallized of times by the name of Hoffmannor of Wallborn-and of many others. but it mightas well be entitledHoffmannia. thoughtthat are similarin that theyall proceed froma marvelouslifepersons. Portrait as Artists There existsa seriesof admirabletexts.91 on Fri. of snapshots. is ever held back in his precipitation into the otherwho No preperson withthe conspeaks to him in his name or who makeshim reverberate vulsiveairs of his libido. To attackthehome (le chez-soi) and consciousexistence of the centerand the partitions of (le pour-soi).body. is there continuous materialization a and dissolution of paspheries sionate encounters.exultant.localizations are in and vast movementof unfettered this centersand periliberated. Yet it is not absolutely unlimited. and by advocating property in all its forms. he is calling on the infinite Nobody to speak.that gatherstogether(under the title here of Kreisleriana. and uncharacterizable.musical sex. are reintegrated.recognitions. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .but amorous. of writing and the musicalsourceis the source of life. A fabulous continuity enlivensthis opera of fluids.114. (musical and of musical notation. being to role-playing. dismantles When Hoffmann the Great Proprietor (le GrandPropre). thesebeginningless theseleaps and bounds.dispersed portraits. identities.390 NEW LITERARY HISTORY its divisibility.which is indicated at timesby the name of Kreisler. oftheArtist II. supersubjectivities. is to hinder the complicityof the Ego as a masterful and masterable"character"by exercising by reducingthe human authority.or whateveryou wish) diverse thoughts.which concertto make a "story"woven together moments. not masculine or feminineor neuter.disconnectedpeople.multiple. time. respondences. This content downloaded from 128. by a fewbeingsof unclear gender. limitless spaces.and thesebottomless. the one called it is taken down only when it occurs to one of the loyal friends. substances.and whose infinite variationsare carried along by a flux of reflections on and This life-source itself a source is human) composition. source.205. to show the fragility the ego. who are similaror identicalto one another. relationsamong all thingsand all beings. who recognize one another and deliver resounding messages in an ecstatic exchange of corand enchanting othernesses. of personifications-concerts singularitiesthatgive riseto themodulatedmelodyof a name. The materialis personal. human or musical or amorous.of such a way that space.individuals. To attribute this material to anyone would be impossible.

and the way Schulz way the that inflames his that innermost racked with pain heavenlyimage is set loose fromhis innermost fibers self. in and the such a mannerthat his melodyis the speech of his interlocutor melody flaresup in him the moment that the one he wishes to be of the mad-musicianpar breaks into speech. The very very disconnected of themaster.designatesby name these perfectfriends separable by nothingbut chance and distance. just as much on song.who once carriedmusic shut up and now within him.intercepts waves and harmonicsof all these Excellenciesevokedin such a crazily musical way. Schulz. he's the one who's shut up inside music. ness. unstandardized. as the resultof a turnof the trebleclef. breathblown throughan instrument And because he is an excellent musician. passing throughthe dear form of Baron across the bizarre littlebody of another Wallborn. the exaltation.will galvanize anotherfraternal. the role of author-all thatis gathered by one of thesingularities filling in thisnotebookof folliesis some "very disconnected"reflectogether tions. the gentle. yes. the born. His Excellencyis the Baron Wallbornwhom Kreislercarriedin his heart. thus-we are told signature.the amiable Wallborn. a few instantsof and a few restrictions on breakingloose.flutes. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . burst open. Rathenow. nourished Lordship. guise forgiven way Kreisler. and capable of divine violins. who. ofit at thesame timeas music. it takes on-so as to be well liked-a few authors' names.writing. the music sprang forthviolently.which. exactly the same. all thesetransformations This content downloaded from 128. Kreisler cannot help but recognizethe key in which his Excellencyis played.91 on Fri. then the he could become was so him. But it is the same sensibility that. reboundingfrom this witty wittyLordship.just as Johannes' however.and who now encompasses heart from the and returns issued there.and the way he becomes. comes back to his ears as chords.the good. The way WallDr. or resonance.205. in the person of JohannesKreisler. For JohannesKreisler. But the editorof the author-persona-who is himselfan invention of the author-has been entreated by various Kreislerpersonaeto the "very verydisconnected"reflections. have not potentialities without of for us to feel a trace at every leaving enough disappeared moment their possible presence in the text or in some recollection a multivocal memory.114. harmony.became momentarily in in of his madthe Schulz was ecstasy. This baron. Schulz of Lordshipwho might. as to person. On the contrary. emanatingfrom A self-samesensibility.who no doubt sprangout it.THE CHARACTER OF "CHARACTER" 39I it doesn't get lost for lack of designation.on a nightof gluttony. cuts like lightning be named Dr. which he is burn ruthlessly supposed to do out of love for each and everyone of the individual potentialitiesof choirmasterKreisler.

of the originof if he were morethan one and as if he weren't the masterof his own mastery. of which the consciouswould like to be masterand analyst." will open up. composer. And thisresearch divides the researcher: he is himself a mysterious violently a a "master" of master what -and source. as described.disconcerting. Kreisler. by intensities or hears himself. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Someone in him "knows" what someone else does not.whose keypredominates.Hence his apostrophic. a disorganized chapter-sequenceand plain pretentiousness to incoherenceor insanity-arduous. Thus. opening himselfto in a storm of in shaken affects. the studentin search of knowledge. himself no more than a melody desirous of dissolvinginto heavenly spaces. he would be from the famous choirmaster. rushesto meet the guestshe doesn't know and-if possible-in orderto become familiarwith them or to win them over.91 on Fri. The written in the name of Kreisleris precisely furious"we" frequently this artistinterrogating his art and taking his soul apart to pluck out the secrets of its creation. followthe incompatiblerulesof two systems that whichharassesthe livingin orderto subjugateit. and unconscious logic. nearlyunreadable notebook in several-part harmonywhose author varies according to the keyin whichhe is played. passionate. This content downloaded from 128. ellipticalstyle: the emitterand receiverof the discourse is he himselfdivided by the pangs of a thoughtprocess that must of logic: consciouslogic. But this dance of singularsby Kreisler and others. But in the receiverthereis always a thiefof the message. conversational. flourishes. and precedeshimself to thepointoflosinghishearing.205. and actually. multiple possibilities.the knowledge.392 NEW LITERARY HISTORY excellencemake of the Kreislerianaa tumultuous. at the same time.The object of this researchis the mystery of musical genius. complementing himself.incapable of takingpleasurein the art. something The comedy of the notebook-mansimply recordsthe humiliation of the Ego discovering that he is not the masterof his house. (but discipline?) also the discipledevouredby curiosity. Kreisler. the object that he is supposed to send back to the sender. E-major "knockingat the door of the great smithy. painstakingresearchis going on which the stylistic extravagancesat once veil and reflect.114. has an admirerwho is an excellentbeing in everyway but who is sometimes definedas "the enemyof music". And it is hopelessfromthe outsetforthe subject to speak to the Other within him in the hope that. litsening himself.but who.were he not. depersonin the otherwho singularizes alizes himself him. through a indistinguishable in which he is by himself seriesof encounters his own groupusculeor to club.these prancing are no insignificant in the guise of caprice-from intensities.

of the unrecognizable. formerapes. are thesetwo seriesand how do theyrelateto each other? The Kreisleriana is from the outset divided into two series. then his surpriseto discoverthat many in his house than he can reveal more thingsare happeningcontinually to his conscious. the membersof the "poetico-musicalclub" that meets in Kreisler's"house" have a common project that allows them on occasion to sign for one another. its styleof life.barons. once in a thatthe spirit This content downloaded from 128. cation processwould become impossible. of homogeneousphantoms.205. finally. The a sort of ramblingjournal kept by choirmaster first seriesconstitutes Kreislerwhichsetsout in bitsand pieces a long discourseat once critical and theoreticalon music and the followingrelated subjects: that music. Kreisler's "you-as-me"figa melting-pot for one anotheron the basis of difthemselves ures. At least the subject doesn't slam the door of his house: he is just at timesrather era.substitute ferencesasserted all the more readily as. clear hieroglyphics"? the formof calligraphy. In a sense. unhappy.that the secretof music is beyond manitself not prostitute kind: and yet doesn't music residein the veryheart of man? Doesn't it residein the veryheart of man? doesn'tit fillhis soul with to music.they ensure the Kreislerianaof its movementand thispre-Freudian he cannot give up withoutdifficulty his reign over the circle of loyal friends. a correspondent who takes charge of forwarding it. Indeed. he wants to mix his "scrawl" in with their For he expectshis instruction to come in "clean. wants are possiblewithof the person where any identifiout drawingout the workto a point of no return.and so that yieldsitself entirely lovelyimages. the ever of so duty editing the collectionis alwaysin progress.The fearof absoluteexternalis the flipside of a reckless narcissism. all these fine mastersand companions. so oftenshaken by explosions.and at the same time a whole series of individual leaks that guarantee this set.91 on Fri.admirablyconceivedso that all the excesses he to be. are Kreisler at one time or existence. It on musical notation.For the Kreisler"set" is composed of two simultaneous series.114. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .for. is a philosophicalreflection not to to a sortof synthetic The point is reduce everything Kreisler.What fact. should be reservedfor the initiatedand in society. Why should theyhold it against anotherduringhis stormy him if. enthusiastic young people. a "loyal friend"who takes on the A new editionof disconnected reflections. as we shall see.against complete annihilation. There always remainssomeoneon the surfacewhen all the othershave to whom the last letteris addressed and vanished.THE CHARACTER OF "CHARACTER" 393 even speaks their language. which is a divine art. includingall the others.

are called mysterious and disturbing combinabe comparedto mosses.a thousandmarvelousapparitionsthat scud across life.flying in radiant and fillwhomever sees themwithinfinite circles. Bach) and This content downloaded from 128.on a vivid imaginationcorrectedby can be given.205. of thismysterious kingdom. as a result.394 NEW LITERARY HISTORY here on earth a new. a mystiqueof instruments. The interweavingof musical structuresdoes not stiflethe sound: is interwoven. nostalgia.91 on Fri. fromthe depthsof a beingmustbe understood thatwhat springs in the of that and with depths being performed supernaturalintuitiveness. and streams! The uselesstrifles of counterpoint. which fillsman's heart with infinite yearning. giving way piety to thatwhichthespirit arouses he begins to speakthelanguage within him. the mysterious rulesof counterpoint. Such is ments. "The infinite varietyof musical phrases. It ravishes. one another chasing Pure music (that which is purelymusical) cannot be subordinated to a poetic discourseor to dramatic ends.Like the apprentice readingaloud fromhis master'smagic book." From one page to anotherthe famous "master" celebratesthis language (spokenby few: he citesMozart. but withinthis artfully constructed a some indications experience. is a succession. and. are of no cheerwhatsoever to the listener and. whole. transfigured life is ready to tear the spiritaway from theconstraint. that music is a voice of the heightsor of the depths.and I would call them. it belongs to no one. from theoverpowering torments of earthly existence? a divine force over man with childlike comes Yes. he evokes unwittingly. are but a grammar of an enchanted relying. Its mathematicalproportions. however. its generalstructure. intertwined. sadnessand happiness. departfrom the actual aims of music. pursuing in groups ofall forms.which is expressedthroughsounds.but neverof the base and vulgar: music is the most romanticof all arts-it is not useits object is the infinite.there in constantflight.theyadd that man can understandonly throughmusic the sublime singingof trees. it is ful. forbids hazarding here any rule whatsoever." it is gratuitous. thenscattering theninto flashes. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Haydn. light.114. from the at first blendinginto one spot of intosparks. which animals. the mysterious Sanscritof nature.Strange apparitionstake up a joyous dance.stones. Beethoven. or flowers all marvelously tionsand might grasses. Everything arrangedamong the parts of various instruand put together with the mostbeautiful senseof unity. be he artist (performer)or makes no "sense. fromhis very depths.the appearance and interpenetration of joy and suffering. one another. of marvelous images. It cannot be repossessed.

but what is more. it is not a background. dissonances.but it is a disturbmystery which possesses and draws along. in its most dramatic form: music is just as much a to the composeras to thelistener. hostile with to the and painful. constantly deceptive. analogy: is the inaccessible. respect becomes comprehensible end of an entirelydifferent the when. And he opposesit. noted. which is a fire.91 on Fri. that serve the functionof signifiers referring back. The second seriesis this strangeset of I-as-you figures.we find ourselves of buried in repetitions.205. familial.) In the second series.very succeed zones of exaltastriking changes in tone.THE CHARACTER OF "CHARACTER" 395 its unique power. The himself as much as he likesin an attemptto make mastercan multiply offwiththe secret: not onlywill he neverbe able to.written down.the subject who has nonetheless produced it. The pain uninitiated. evoked. but all of them.114.a source.the problem is attacked head on.thatwhichis the desirable. depending on whether one at the remains infinite. it is neverminor. by second series. It becomes clear that one question hauntsthesetextsthroughout.ironically to yetfervently. subject to its power. in perpetual flight.but no soonernoted than snatchedaway. Zones of depression or on whether one is near far fromthe realm of the tion. repreconstantly appears as the signified sented. This seriesof Excellenciesis put together as a signifying chain in relationto the seriesof reflections which then takes on the dimensionof the Signified: the same problematicrelation connectsthe two spaces. The first seriesis a musical composition.The first seriesdescribesin general the of music. (In a certainway. "True" music its the veryones that attemptto subordinateit (as in the operatictext) and defendsit against all processof reduction: it is not an entertainment. moving. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .secondary. subjugated arts.we have been throughthis heaven turnedupside down.particularly constantly pictorial art. the irresistible record of a mysterious libido: the only trulysovereignproduction. tormented abysses passion. victimsor idolizersof the art. beyond everylimit. a sortof hymnby Kreisler. This effect is undefinable supernatural effect exceptin terms the of of a mystico-pictorial cause this the secretof effect. an energy. numberof men definedpositively or composed of a certainnonfinite negativelyby their relationto music. it is the otherarts.he actually adds to the in his efforts This content downloaded from 128. this infernoof delightsthat makes up the Kreislerset-a set that includes-or is included by-Kreisler's editor (whom we could call Hoffmann). toward an inconceivabletruth. it is not an amusement.or domestic.It is given. edge peeringdown at its depths or is overcome with any case. always some other. in everypossiblemanner. but if we follow and jumps of the signifying the meanderings series.which takes everything. ing gift.

What we hear. copy. mental music.governas absoreignsin thesemasterpieces ing at will the methodsemployed. Music." Supreme Being creates. cleavage.205. While in the first seriesthe choirmaster appears to be the masterto master-fool in the second. outsidethe you-as-I above Kreisler'ssuffering in practice between the true points out the difference relationship. in music." but that one thataccompaniesand the otherthat accompaniesnothing. The otheris "fabricated. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . in in tearingapart. and fallsflat.Kreislersets forth contemptuousdiscrepanciesthat exist between the dignityof the art and its dishonorableexploitationby commoners." soul to the listener's takfromthe outside. This content downloaded from 128. it is not communicable.396 NEW LITERARY HISTORY densityof the mystery: the more he is numerous and the more he spreadsout to encompassthe object of his desire. sage. thiseffect imitationof formnevercreatesspirit: "It is spiritalone that. then. consigns is confirmed-so cruelly?thatthe scoring(partition) of musicis thereaftera real partition.ravishes the subject that produces it. it is fromhis partition that the subject proceeds to his parturition. What happens. composers: ing its cue fromthe impresariosor fromsimple-minded the soul." someonewho rises and remainsanonymous. The one springs effect and and the artificial effect irresistibly the from and of the of the out spirit depths passes genius' spontaneously soul by way of the soul. the unlike "sacred. therearises anotherdiscrepancy-the "true" one. the work as it is heard-or even seen-in the soul of and its actualizationin the formof a written the artist. The neverentering remainsexternal. that blends lute sovereign.that is not In a verybeautifulchapteron "Effectin Music.114."This music. in a sense of loss: forthat haps always) 5 For Lacan.communicatesnothingof its mistressof "repeating"it.and among thenaturalrealmsthemselves-this and all forms in reality. most profoundtruth. into two "languages". the "individualizedlanguage" and the "universallanguage.this air that seems to bring about communication universal among human beings.the more the mystery goes beyondhim and playsat his expense: the Kreislerset is the instrumentof thismusic.a notation it to repetition: hereis wherethe idea that. This truediscrepancy was repressed relation (that makes a broken relation) between music at its source.betweenhuman beings of nature. he is shifted fromone seriesto the other? In the first the series. the Himself.91 on Fri. these audible readings of scored parts. In the other part. the one that at first is the one that breaksthe in vain. like life. are nothingbut the remains of a divisionthat has cut music into two unequal is this necessity which in realityresultsso often (perwith the essence of musicality." But at the same time.out of technicalexercisesand formalimitations.

we can understand us. spiritof were in the roused chords initiate.listento the song of life. envelopsus. in the soul of the creator.Never a solitudesuch that it is scarcelydifferent but a simulacrum.THE CHARACTER OF "CHARACTER " 397 which is at once infiniteand complete.114. formusicwhich.205.speaks to enflamesus. The musician hears everything. on the otherhand.he will fix and enclose within writtensigns these nameless affects. For the musician. What is locked up in the score is nothingmore than a of musicintocommonlanguage. demanded our the human need for "execution. no notationcan acit.a singingunconscious."which "prealignment hieroglyphs. these sudden inspirations everything forthin him of melodies." The divergence is huge and unparalleled.the springing the perception-the unconscious. The musician is someone who grasps everything (colors.vibrating in unisonwithhis thisway onlyinsofaras the marveloussounds of his interior music go on: but this realm cannot be part of this world. Having a privilegedrelationto the unconscious. as does painting. Kreisler. As composer." servesonlythe indicationof what we have perceived.or to be but a phantom."Music. an intimate feeling sightis an internal hearing. thatis. Thus.could be considered musician.light) musically. give up interpretation. it has no directtie with the natural scene.he can learnthe art of "representing" emotions by notes. But what a diminishMusical notation is nothingmore than an "ingenious ing enterprise! of the engraving of "characters.or. it tellsus everything. but we cannot speak it: because it is lifeitself. tryingto fit them moves continuously This content downloaded from 128.or rather linguistically inexpressible conception-of the secretmusic of nature. The to alone?" unbearable inquiresJohannes intelligible into intelligible statements the chords optionis there: eithertranscribe them to interior the and lose ear.for example. by mysterious expressed him Kreisler. "And if the what the refusal mastery. Verbal lanand signified betweensignifier guage.or of characters.the attenuating transformation record.nor choose one of the paths.91 on Fri. Johannes to hear anything since he cannot give one answer.taken to be the principleof lifeor ofevery vitalactivity." by simply practically to be alone to hear.faultless. in solitude. perceivedby what lies beyond: lose life so as to preserveits trace in the formof notes. count for it. but in fromnonexistence. does not face this fracture: "There exists such a close alliance betweenthe sound and the word that no thought springsup in us withoutits heiroglyphics. musical sound belongs to a "superiorlanguage": it is speech heard only deep inside man. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . however. he is all ears. from one side to the other.smells. music. producessoundsin of the his eyes perceive.

I feltas thoughI was resorting to the plural simply as an elegantform ofmodesty. he divides himselfinto several representatives of the Ego.the othercannot hold his tongue . He goes so far as to encounterthem at the obscuresite of enunciation: it is in thisway that he can tell us about the inceptionof the overture to Don Juan. finally.. what is more. you and I are but one.91 on Fri.. situatedat thispointin thesequence of variationson the Ego. in a certain way. it seemsto me that.pursuing.his body jumps around and visibly changes more and more inaccessiblehimself-nearlypostshape. It is certainly his desirethat make thesepages resonatewhere he moves about-where he has just passed by. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .othertimeson the side of enunciation.he is comparable to the musical "mirror". selfalone.but a puff of air: while I-as-you.. Sometimeson the side of the inaudible. Gliick) way of theirsolitude: he is the ideal listener. . He who is designated as Kreisler. ofRepresentation: III. the musicianwith nature-music. (Mozart.hiding the absence. of the utmostimportance in that it could be comOpera. is so volatile that whereverhe appears he is at once in a second place and in a second state. persistsin listeningto.398 NEW LITERARY HISTORY he identifies withthe geniuses together.he approachesthe arthe idolizesby fadingaway: his desire-and what he achieves-is to be no longerthe expression of music. in the filiationof his signifying confreres. amidst rapid transformations. On the side of silence. mydear student: when I used the word "we" in the preceding phrases. but look here.. A Representation How to Outcharacterize Character There existsa letterto the Stagehandsthat Hoffmannwrote at the time he was JohannesKreislerand directing the orchestra of the . with whom he is in correspondence as the hypnotist with his medium."his strongdetermination being the one questionthat nature (or the other) never leaves unanswered. colorswith sounds: he worksin concert with them. conveying. You knowverywell what I mean .114.. It is a letter posed only aftera period of intellectualfastingpromptedby a long This content downloaded from 128. in such a that he removesthe risk Beethoven.205. .whenusingthesingular. he is. I-as-I runs out of breath and vanishesinto unspeakablythin air.. his otherself. whose secretis held by him alone-and thelast analysis. his ardor. Kreislerian." He inventsaccomplices who can understandhim at the very level of enunciation: We are made such that as soon as one of us speaks..On the side of communication. I was speaking ofmyas though and.counseling.his suffering.

extraordinarily pure water. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and -setter at the theatre One of the symptoms of Kreisler'ssickness for was a puerileveneration the stagehandsof the theaterof X . were accordingto which the sets and stage machinery to blend into the text: thus. -Get rid of all trace of labor: paints.machinery. so as stagingto perfection. . excluded fromit." Of the threedomainscoveredby the stagehand'sjob. therefore. geniuses. of unityunder the author'sdirection. end up in the imaginaryland of poetry. too.canvases. These are the preceptsof this doctrineof subservience that Kreisler neverstopped attackingfromthen on: -Resort in everycase to sets. . and the theatrical. .in . . forbeingcuredof the many errors I had fallenpreyto. gushes?.no! but which flowsgently numerous sources. .. and especiallyat the and silently from theatre.. It is our author's The Gay Science. Besidesan imposedyetverysalutary fasting. as for the last.. the second is so the real.. withoutrealizingit. I am indebted to mystayin .by directreference.I can stillremember witha genuinesenseof shame the respect-what am I saying?-the puerileveneration-I used to feel for the stage-designer of X . thatI dangerous previously admiration of gave up my puerile people I had once regardedas great intellectual men. The motto of the "perfect"stagehand: he is flatly "No theatreat the opera. -Comply down to the meanest detail with the poet's intention. the first is out of bounds. thereit was. parison. One should be careful not to materialize or to actualize the theater. "instead of conceivingtheir work in line with loftypoetry.205.thus conferring upon it the value of a the spectator would be transported far away from spectacle." In his letterto the Stagehands. Firstof all. the sign of his recovery.THE CHARACTER OF "CHARACTER"5 399 series of errors. and an absurb adherenceto theirprinciples. otherwise the theaterand. the imaginary.planks.91 on Fri.our friendKreislerexposes the dia- This content downloaded from 128. For example.. far subordinatedto him as to be his repressed matter. ..have dragged the theaterdown to the rank of a wretchedmagic lantern.which. . .the stagingthat existedthen was in the serviceof "the theatricalsuperstition of the text and the dictatorship of the writer" (Artaud). -Preserve the effect -Eliminate everydetail that mightsuggesta connection-by comor by reflection-with reality. the cause of my recovery was the regularuse theyrecommended of that clear.etc. distrustall slipshod artisanswho. to ensurethe mostcompleteillusion.114.

the machinery. the real is not however. as accomplices: it is nothing a shortof an abuse of confidence.91 on Fri. swindled spectatorhis own phantasmsto enjoy.the theater. It gets lost in its own perfection. Not but by appropriating insidethe magic lantern. Thus exclaimsour furiouschoirmaster. imaginary magical. and on the other. unconsciously or not." shouldbe leftoutside. his consciousness. Normally. in the excessiveness of its decor. spectacle thatthestage itself vanishes? By usingthe Chinesebox technique. in the long run. it is agreed. impassionsit-in short.400 NEW LITERARY HISTORY bolical schemeof the poetsforwhom the stagehandsact. This great paranoid encounters virtuallyno resistancesince he is assisted by the servant-stagehands. in "theaters." by means of variousmanipulations. The theaterloses its essentialtheatricality and This content downloaded from 128. And the real? The real. by placingthe spectator his senses. locked up. hypnotizationof the spectator who responds on demand.With one stroke.through"lofty poetry. No more no more real.the paltryofferings as it is alienating: forthe "spectacle" doesn't give the poor.114. all the pleasures that the theatercould give are confiscated or retrieved beforehand.both the real and the theatricalare annulled. and placed undersurveillance in the phantasmal box erectedby the text around its captives. with whom the clever conspiracyhas forcedthe spectator to identify. The poet behaves with regard to his audience like the leader (as describedby Freud) with regard to a primaryhorde: he deprivesit of the real world and plunges it into a place of violence.makes it dance to the tune of his pipe. no theatricaleffect. the spectator is to be carriedaway.205. of the stagehandand the poet consists The joint effort in pullingdown real that masksthe theater's"truth"-that over the theatera fictitious the stage-and breaks down the relationship into a is. the generaldeterioration of places of rapture and of life: in the poetic process. his mental and emotional apparatus. it is the reduction of the spectators to a role of marionette with the text pulling the strings. left the What is is and its theater. where he moves it. canceled: it is the repudiatedterm in relationto which the theater definesitself. tortures it. takingapart the machinery. Let there be two termsof a representation that operatesin such a way that the two termsdissolveforthe benefit of a thirdtermwhich arriveson the scene like a thief: thisis the paradox of representation stretched to the of can the of How art the be so far refined point absurdity. They are the phantasmsof the great poet. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .teetersand then disappears. Without the element of the real.ephemeralaspects. What does Kreislerfindso revolting?On the one hand. insofar wicked. the paradox by which.his sensibility. like an automaton. of the fantastic. commonplace externality.stretched to the limit.

28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . on the contrary. between the real and the theatrical. realityor perispectacle-that are pure profit more is given to enjoy: the actor is at once the personage something who does an himself).his real blood. the means of ing stage.205. the action and the representation and a whole take turnsat causing accidents. reach We the must the imaginarythrough transportation. admirablejob ofidentification. who is threatened by on-the-jobaccidents and who receivesa triple ration of sympathy This content downloaded from 128. IV. metaphor's self-destruction. that would insinuateitselfas the true intermediate scenein whichthe transition and particularly is accomplished delightful fromone termto the otherand where all sortsof eventscannot help takingplace: in thisexchangezone. The theatermustbe theatricalized. So what's the use of the theater? Since it no longerexists. forms.114. seriousness.and his allreality. his genuinelaughter. spectatorurged expose put tricks: the spectatormustbe given the double pleasure of representathatwhich arisesfromthisappendage at two places at once. tionalism." The theatermust be the presentedas a spectacle: so it can bringout its truthand destroy of the labor be manibogus truthof the setting. too-realfears: he is the real withina fiction which he giveslifeto and which he cannot perceiveto be a mere box of words. the longer aware of his seat in the theater. . by cleverlyarrangingsets and machinery. as We certainly means of passage: the theater of demolishservesprecisely the function that other cumbersome that of It's the real. And the spectator. provisional difference between two that the these crystallizes "story" typesof reality in the formof a dust cloud of supplementary effects-a sort of cofor the spectator. Thus. Unite against the poet and the musician! Thwart their plans! "Insofar as these individualswill resortto anythingto make the spectatorforgethe is at the theater.the artist.bans all formof possession. continuallyremindhim of it. The Theater at the Theater Kreislerthen proclaimsa manifesto-against magic. also opens should.all at the same time. his true tears. the phonymystery to an the and to to controlthe stage end. (with whom he must tryto identify and the actual person. Let the impeccability festedas such. appropriation. do we need theater? do-we always need the carried away on invisible for the sake of wings to an immaterialland to which he contributes.91 on Fri.hybrid. which maintainsthe game value and thus.the couch.ousts but alienation.THE CHARACTER OF ccCHARACTER" 401 which is itselfthe true fiction-fiction opens up onto a sham exterior.

for each more-than-one."This is whereseriousness stops". forexample. which begins at a withwhich humor measurabledistancefromseriousness-a seriousness never breaks. And the text refers us back to its There incertitude.the model of ravishing in glissadeproposedby Hoffmann wherehe does a demonstration his the pointwherethe intensity seems to topple it onto its other side-parody. de Paris VIII) UniversitC This content downloaded from 128. at the riskof killing unAt the risk. Kreisler'smanifesto. effects precede their causes: firstthe piece of cake is eaten. For thisdeed. will effects of multiplying alwaysbe extrameaning. therefore. 28 Feb 2014 19:02:14 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .capriciously roll this surfacespread out between auditoriumand stage along the real."Seriousness"encounters at some point of being overthrown. UNIVERSITE DE PARIS VIII (Translatedby Keith Cohen. And in the theater. of having Kreisler. givesway. signifier precedessignified: the thunder makes us jump. ofstylistic figure skatingin the letterto the perfect stagehand."What an uproar! what a racket!" And then he sets his stormgoing.114.402 NEW LITERARY HISTORY when a piece of machinery carefully hung improperly by the stagehand threebirdswithone stone. the possibility its limit.or some other. so strongly There is a momentat which it reverberates that. then it thunders. In this case it is a questionof "sowing" seriousness-not of destroying it or of overof off hook but it its and it it. ofme. a sort of accelerationin place.takes offwith a leap and elaboratesa dynamic of sugwhich carriesoffhumor along a curve. It is impossible position.91 on Fri. An excessivespeed and-where are we reading? We are quite incapable of saying. It would not be.but an intensification of being. but to set himself up as the technicianof the passage-according to.the point at which its of meaningelude all affirmation:that can mean anything effects one to attribute to the authorany definite wishes.205. throwing taking leaving behind. internalsuperiority a measurable. In thisway. the stagehandis first heard yelling.quantitativeincrease. and for each one space enough for everyone. thisis parody.discoversthe rationalefor his art: not to trick.then. as in the adventuresof Alice. We are let go of in a space that leaves us freeto interpret. to the thingdescribed. which continuesto the point of becoming a backstage to itself. then it is cut.too. The stagehand. the techniqueof "curiouserand curiouser"mustbe used: an a sort of comparativeof emphasison the real throughaugmentation.plottedin the manner gestion. of its reverberation of a Moebius strip. as in the Kreisleriana.