I.

The Poetic Demand of the Disaster The need to which the poetics of disaster responds has long been felt if not known. It is in fact the case that the earliest appeal for such a poetics, voiced by Hölderlin, in “Brot und Wein,” in which he wrote “Aber Freud! Wir kommen zu spät. Zwar leben die Götter, Aber über dem Haupt droben in anderer Welt... und wozu Dichter in dürftiger Zeit?”1 Here, what is disastrous, or the disaster itself, is the destitution of the times – the retreat of the Gods – which calls into question the role of the poet, and thereby, of all writing. 2. Nietzsche – Madman Parable – Eternal Return
The madman.- Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours. ran to the market place. and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!" As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Oris he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated? Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him-you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward. sideward. forward. in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it Dot become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods. too. Decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. "How shall we comfort ourselves. the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever IS born after usfor the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto." Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners and they. too. were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At 18st he threw his lantern on the ground. and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then: "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds. though done. still require. lime to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars-and yet they have done it themselves .• , It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and caned to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God? Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 181-182

3. Historical/Technological/Political/Cultural events at the end of Modernity 4. End of history in double sense – Histoire/Geschichte – Story “When all is said, what remains to be said is the disaster. Ruin of words, demise writing,
1 Friedrich Hölderlin, Dichtungen und Briefe (München: Winkler, 1952), pg. 166.

faintness faintly murmuring: what remains without remains (the fragmentary)” (33) “Quand tout est dit, ce qui reste à dire est la désastre, ruine parole, défaillance par l'écriture, rumeur qui murmure ce qui reste sans reste (le fragmentaire)” (58) II. The Disaster 1. No definition is possible. The disaster discredits definition vis-a-vis a concept or essence. a) How to do without definition? b) description and “family resemblance” remain. 2. Reference to standard dictionary definitions, with emphasis on the article “the” as opposed to “a” - Etymology a) OED 1. An unfavourable aspect of a star or planet; ‘an obnoxious planet’. Obs. 2. a. Anything that befalls of ruinous or distressing nature; a sudden or great misfortune, mishap, or misadventure; a calamity. Usually with a and pl., but also without a, as ‘a record of disaster’. ‘Disaster is etymologically a mishap due to a baleful stellar aspect’ (Whitney Life Lang. vi. (1875) 99). Etymology: OED: “[ad. F. désastre (1564 in Hatz.-Darm.) ‘a disaster, misfortune, calamitie, misadventure, hard chance’; f. des-, DIS- 4 + astre ‘a starre, a Planet; also destinie, fate, fortune, hap’ (Cotgr.), ad. L. astrum, Gr. star; after It. disastro ‘disastre, mischance, ill lucke’ (Florio). Cf. Pr., Sp., Pg. desastre, also Pr. benastre good fortune, malastre ill fortune, and Eng. Illstarred.]” cf. 116-7
* If disaster means being separated from the star (if it means the decline which characterizes disorientation when the link with fortune on high is cut), then it indicates a fall beneath disastrous necessity. Would law be disaster?? ...the idea of totality cannot delimit it... The disaster... exposes us to a certain idea of passivity.... (2-3)

3. Disaster calls everything into question; as a non-concept it is exterior to totality and outside of the System (of Knowledge – Hegel). “Disorients the Absolute” (4) 4. The Disaster: An Event “* I call disaster that which does not have the ultimate for a limit: it bears the ultimate away in the disaster.” (28)
* the Absolute Event of History (47) * excess/impoverishment of experience * Always Already, already (40) Past, Yet Always Still to Come, Never Present – radical change (114) * outside of history * Experience none can undergo”(120)

5. Disaster – neither noun nor verb but a remainder of désoevrement 6. “We are passive with respect to the disaster” (3) III Writing the Disaster (A Primal Scene?) 72, 114, 125 – Disaster experienced, inserted into story – imagery: sky (Grenier –

L'Attrait du Vide?) Revelation of the outside, not beyond yet “the beyond” Indicates Trauma of the Disaster – Freud, Winnicott, Leclaire III.a The Writing of the Disaster “*The disaster, unexperienced. It is what escapes the very possibility of experience – it is the limit of writing. This must be repeated: the disaster de-scribes. Which does not mean that the disaster, as the force of writing, is exclued from it, is beyond the pale of writing, or extratextual.” (7) “*May words cease to be arms; means of action, means of salvation. Let us count, rather, on disarray. When to write, or not to write makes no difference, then writing changes – whether it happens or not, it is the writing of the disaster” (11-12) Literary practice Purely de-scriptive poetics Fragmentary Excessive Corpus: Le Bleu du Ciel, L'Instant de ma mort, Paul Celan fiction and testimony –> compare Instant with Borges' Secret Miracle III.b Writing in the Wake of Disaster Vastly greater corpus! Wake: OED:
n1 1. The state of wakefulness esp. during normal hours of sleep. Obs. exc. in sleep and (or) dream. b. A state or period of wakefulness. Obs. c. The act of awaking. Obs. 2. Abstinence from sleep, watching, practised as a religious observance: often coupled with fasting. Also, an instance of this; a night spent in devout watching (on the eve of a festival, of the reception of knighthood, etc.); a watch, vigil. n2 I. 1. The track left on the water's surface by a ship (in the sea often marked by a smooth appearance). 2. transf. Anything compared to the wake of a vessel. 4. in the wake of. a. Naut. or quasi-nautical. in the wake of (a vessel); in her (its) wake, etc.: immediately behind, and (properly) in the actual track made by, a vessel; immediately backward and along the track made. Also used of any person or persons aboard, as in his, our, etc., wake; behind his, our, etc., vessel. c. transf. and fig. (a) With nautical metaphor (often jocular): Following close behind (a person compared to a ship). (b) In wider use (cf. 2): In the train or track of, behind (a moving person or object); in imitation of; following as a result or consequence wake, wake and

Writing in the Wake of Disaster 1. Wakeful Witness to the Disaster – That which cannot be witnessed 2. Three variations:

a) nostalgic – restore or reconstruct old order – attempting to regain what was lost b) The Work of Mourning – De-Fragmentation, Reconciliation, Making new intelligibility through what remains c) Avant-Garde – the “open sky” of the future - “not everything has been said” (OULIPO) 3. Saying what remains to be said. Corpus: a) Pierre Drieu la Rochelle b) Georges Bataille, c) IV. Historical and Political Dimensions V. Literary Practice
* The disaster: stress upon minutae, sovereignty of the accidental. (3) * The disaster is the gift; it gives disaster... (5) * Inasmuch as the disaster is thought, it is nondisastrous thought, thought of the outside. (6 – c.f. Foucault)

wake / wakefulness – pp. 48-9 Ex. - Instant of My Death juxtapose Borges – Secret Miracle Instant → Demeure (Derrida) fiction and testimony Writing (in the wake) of disaster bears witness to that which cannot be witnessed What cannot be witnessed? The Fragmentary Non-dialectical interruption False Dialectic and Totality

Forerunners: Nietzsche
125 Kafka Freud Lacan Hölderlin – Klossowski on Nietzsche Ch. 9 The Euphoria of Turin. Nietzsche's last letters. De Sade Artaud Ovid – Narcissus Aeschylus – Orestes Adorno F. Schlegel (Bataille)

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