This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
Philosophy, Aesthetics and Cultural Theory Series Editor: Hugh J. Silverman, Stony Brook University, USA The Philosophy, Aesthetics and Cultural Theory series examines the encounter between contemporary Continental philosophy and aesthetic and cultural theory. Each book in the series explores an exciting new direction in philosophical aesthetics or cultural theory, identifying the most important and pressing issues in Continental philosophy today. Derrida, Literature and War, Sean Gaston Foucault’s Philosophy of Art, Joseph J. Tanke Philosophy and the Book, Daniel Selcer
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
ADVENTURES IN LOGOPOIESIS
Continuum International Publishing Group The Tower Building 80 Maiden Lane 11 York Road Suite 704 London SE1 7NX New York, NY 10038 www.continuumbooks.com © William Watkin 2010 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN: HB: 978-1-8470-6452-3 PB: 978-0-8264-4324-3 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Watkin, William, 1970– The literary Agamben: adventures in logopoiesis / William Watkin. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN-13: 978-1-84706-452-3 (hbk.) ISBN-10: 1-84706-452-3 (hbk.) ISBN-13: 978-0-8264-4324-3 (pbk.) ISBN-10: 0-8264-4324-9 (pbk.) 1. Agamben, Giorgio, 1942–Knowledge–Literature. 2. Literature–Philosophy. I. Title. B3611.A44W37 2010 2009030741 195–dc22
Typeset by Newgen Imaging Systems Pvt Ltd, Chennai, India Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Antony Rowe Ltd, Chippenham, Wiltshire
a Emilia e Luca “Long have we laboured in miracle realms” .
This page intentionally left blank .
The Idea of Prose Poetic Gestures The Tablet.CONTENTS Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations Exoteric Dossier: The Literary Agamben Projection: There is Language Infancy: Animals and Children Ineffability and Experience The Stanza The Sign Negating Negation Subjective Enunciation The Semiotic Poetic Dictation FIRST EPISODE: ON THE WAY TO LOGOPOIESIS Chapter 1 Logos. Philosophical Gesturality Potentiality x xi 1 4 6 9 13 17 20 23 26 32 41 41 44 48 52 54 58 61 63 vii . The Thing Itself The Idea of Language Communicability. Thinking Thought Poetic Thinking Poetry and Philosophy Communicability.
The Messianic As Not ˉ Messianic Kairos Messianic Rhyme An Endless Falling Into Silence Tension: The One Line Chapter 6 Caesura. Thinking through Making Poiesis Praxis Techne The Art Thing Finitude Morphe. Productive Anti-poiesis Living As If or As Not Auratic Twilight Shock! Profaning Scission Taste and Terror How to Exit Art Modern Aesthetic Desubjectivization 69 69 71 73 75 77 79 81 83 87 88 92 94 97 99 103 107 SECOND EPISODE: ADVENTURES IN LOGOPOIESIS Chapter 4 Logopoiesis. Modern Anti-Poiesis Chapter 3 Modernity. Shape Entelechy Arche. Thinking Tautology The Logo-Poiesis Tautology The Exemplary Tautology of Logopoiesis Infinite Poetry The Habits of the Muse Chapter 5 Enjambement. the Turn of Verse The Definition of Poetry Boustrophedonics Kle sis.Chapter 2 Poiesis. the Space of Thought The Caesura Apotropaics 117 119 122 124 129 135 135 139 144 149 153 155 162 166 166 174 viii .
Ease: The Proximate Space Corn: In The Corner of The Room Rhythm Recursion. the Turn of Thinking Notes Bibliography Index 180 186 189 194 203 218 229 ix .
the title of this book is his. . more unexpected it was that sharing a home with a theoretical physicist would open up for me the very structural basis of poetry and thinking. living with someone so much more intelligent than I. but also for her many comments. Excerpts from Giorgio Agamben. Language and Death © 1991 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota. I greatly appreciate the questions and remarks that followed which encouraged but also challenged me. on behalf of the author. So it is that the last but also always the first expression of gratitude as ever goes to my wife. Reprint of the final stanza from “Down By the Station Early in the Morning” from A WAVE by John Ashbery. Copyright © 1981. and my son. 1983.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Thanks are due to my editors Hugh Silverman. Dearest Barbara. suggestions. The Man Without Content. Obvious it is that sharing a house with an Italian is useful when writing a book on Agamben. 1982. Chapter Two was presented as a seminar at Brunel University in March 2009. Barbara Montanari.. whose careful stewardship of the book in its latter stages was much appreciated. University. . the writing of this book coincided with the birth of my daughter . miraculous year. 1984 by John Ashbery. that is truly living. x . and Sarah Campbell. Finally. not merely because of the incredible support she has given me over this past. I must also thank Brunel University for granting me a year-long sabbatical to complete this work. intense. and aids to translation. granted by permission of Georges Borchardt. Permission to use “Warrant” granted by Charles Bernstein. Inc. and Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy © 1999 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Jr. Excerpts from Giorgio Agamben.
Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry (1981). trans. William Watkin. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1995). Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press. Idea of Prose (1985). Liz Heron (London: Verso. Alain Badiou. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1995). 3–24. xi . Keith Hoeller (New York: Humanity Books. Alberto Toscano (Cambridge: Polity Press. trans. Being and Time (1953). 2 (2000). Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience (1978). 1996). Handbook of Inaesthetics (1998). trans. 2005). In the Process of Poetry: The New York School and the Avant-Garde (Lewisburg. 2001). 1993).LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AP BT C CC EHP EP HI HS IH IP IPP Leland De La Durantaye. Giorgio Agamben. Alberto Toscano (Stanford: Stanford University Press. The Century (2005). Giorgio Agamben. 1999). Giorgio Agamben. Giorgio Agamben. trans. trans. no. PA: Bucknell University Press. trans. Joan Stambaugh (Albany: SUNY Press.” Diacritics 30. Michael Sullivan and Sam Whitsitt (Albany: SUNY Press. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1993). trans. trans. Giorgio Agamben. The End of the Poem (1996). “Agamben’s Potential. 2000). trans. Martin Heidegger. Alain Badiou. The Coming Community (1990). 2007). 1998).
1991). M Jacques Derrida. Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1999). Kevin Attell (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1994). 344–364. trans. N Giorgio Agamben. The Man Without Content (1970). trans. trans. 1971). MA Jean-Luc Nancy. Philosophy.” Paragraph 31. Para Paragraph 25. no. 2004). Literature. Means Without Ends (1996). MWE Giorgio Agamben. Muses II. Politics. trans. 2008). O Giorgio Agamben. The Philosophy of Agamben (Stocksfield: Acumen Press. 2008). trans. Alan Bass (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf. Manifesto for Philosophy (1989). ed. NC: Duke University Press. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press. Multiple Arts. xii . OWL Martin Heidegger. P Potentialities (1999). 2005). PMD Andrew Norris ed. On Mourning: Theories of Loss in Modern Literature (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Margins of Philosophy (1972). Nihilism: The Uncanniest of Guests (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. trans. Norman Madarasz (Albany: SUNY. LD Giorgio Agamben. no. Pinkus with Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2000). LPN Shane Weller. 2008). 1999). 1982). Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Simon Sparks (Stanford: Stanford University Press. Language. Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (1991). 3 (2008). trans. 2006). 2 (2002). Shklovsky. Thought. “The Materialization of Prose: Poiesis versus Dianoia in the Work of Godzich & Kittay. OM William Watkin. 1999). Silliman and Agamben. trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper & Row. MofP William Watkin. 2004). Hertz (San Francisco: Harper Collins. On the Way to Language (1959). Language and Death: The Place of Negativity (1982). Peter D. 1971). The Open: Man and Animal (2002). PA Catherine Mills. Poetry. Ninfe (Torino: Bollati Boringhieri. Metaphysics and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer (Durham. trans. PLT Martin Heidegger. MP Alain Badiou. trans. MWC Giorgio Agamben. Karen E.LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS LAS Jean-François Lyotard. Georgia Albert (Stanford: Stanford University Press..
TTR The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans (2000). QCT Martin Heidegger. Radical Passivity: Lévinas. Selected Poetry (Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks. 2005). ST Giorgio Agamben. Life (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. SP Alexander Pope. Robin Winterfield (Oxford: Oxford World Classics. Kevin Attell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1999). Three Poems (New York: Penguin. 2005).com/. trans. RP Thomas Carl Wall. Martinez (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Sovereignty and Life (Stanford: Stanford University Press. http://williamwatkin. trans. Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture (1977). blogspot. 2007). The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. SAQ The South Atlantic Quarterly 107. WWB William Watkin. Nicholas Heron. trans. Profanations (2005). State of Exception (2003). and Alex Murray eds. trans. trans. Republic. SL Matthew Calarco and Steven DeCaroli eds. RA Giorgio Agamben. Jeff Fort (New York: Zone Books. xiii .. SE Giorgio Agamben. 1993).no. William Watkin’s Blog. 2008). Literature. 2008). 2008). trans. 2002). The Question Concerning Technology. 1977). Daniel Heller-Roazen (New York: Zone Books. trans. Patricia Dailey (Stanford: Stanford University Press. TP John Ashbery.LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS Prof Giorgio Agamben. Blanchot and Agamben (Albany: SUNY Press. 2007). 1993). R Plato. WGA Justin Clemens. 1 (2008). William Lovitt (London: Harper Perennial. Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (1999). Ronald L.
This page intentionally left blank .
now stretched to six volumes or around a third of his total published output. 1942) first came to prominence in the field of political philosophy with the publication in 1995 of his explosive book Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Like the homo sacer. whose sacred life was the possession and legitimization of the sovereign ready to be forfeited at any point without fear of legal repercussion.EXOTERIC DOSSIER: THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben (b. bare life. In this work Agamben presents his critique of our political modernity as a permanent state of exception/emergency. That exception has become the norm is the basis of Agamben’s savage attack on our biopolitical modernity.” he presents a convincing cartography of the political in our age that is. This state of exception. confrontational studies that make up the ongoing Homo Sacer project Agamben proposes a radical. perhaps. 1 . what Agamben calls the biopolitical. makes of us that most despised figure from Roman law. often unremittingly negative critique of our Western modernity in terms of the political and its relation to life. The sovereign’s legitimacy extends from the power of the state to reduce our existence to bare life or life as mere survival. the homo sacer and our current “state of exception. the homo sacer. typically. through which he likens our advanced democracies to living in a camp. This extended study of the categories of the political and modernity continues apace. Living perpetually in this denuded zone of indistinction between biological existence as such (zoé) and our social life (bios). is overseen by sovereign power. In particular through the consideration of sovereignty. our bare life can be taken from us at any point without the state having to answer to the very apparatus of law from which is gains legitimated power through its right of occasional exception from legal norms. In the complex and.
Thus Negri is canny enough—well aware as he is that even though he dismisses the three books preceding Language and Death (1982) as a “literary apprenticeship” (SL. sometimes so marked it is suggestive of the possibility that there are more Agambens out there writing philosophy than was first assumed. destining. This is the Agamben we are most familiar with. Numerous critics have noted a seemingly contradictory bifurcation in the Agamben methodology. 111).3 Negri is far from alone in asserting that “Agamben” is a homonymic moniker referring to two thinkers of radical dissimilarity.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN the leading revolutionary political theory that we have. for example. instead opens the door to just such a possibility of tertiary ruination. rather infamously:2 It seems there are two Agambens. the uncanny unwelcome guest at the intimate if troubled feast that rages still tête-à-tête between metaphysics and politics. but no one can fully suppress the ability of the uncanny to undermine studiously erected structures of identity. who. one of Agamben’s great productive antagonists. one a philosopher of negative being and the other an etymo-philologer and habitué of material clues. ponders. the “literary” Agamben is not mere youthful promiscuousness but a serious and lifelong affair for his compatriot—to retain the propensity for plenitude to be found in dualistic metaphysics at the same time as he praises Agamben for finally putting an end to this tradition. and terrifying shadows.4 This enforced subjective scission is strategic. These are the metaphysical and the political Agambens respectively. attains the power of being (that is. 2 .5 Thus Negri. Canny enough perhaps. As is often the case with the dual structures of metaphysics the energy between two terms leaves little space for the imposition of a third. he rediscovers pieces or elements of being. through immersion in the work of philology and linguistic analysis. by manipulating and constructing them). unless under the auspices of dialectical resolution or archeunity. and the one about whom I will have the least to say in the chapters that follow.1 Antonio Negri. There is the one who lingers in the existential. Away from the political/materialist Agamben there is another Agamben. so desperate to negate the third Agamben. And there is another Agamben. the literary Agamben. where he is perpetually forced into a confrontation with the idea of death.
6 3 . absolved of the negativity of which it had been the bearer. Attend then. that the following pages wish to augment. the literary Agamben. It is this voice. adventurer in poiesis. to the tones of the tern. muted by the clamour of the bios. Effectively. intimidated by the sovereignty of metaphysical thought. an absolute voice. 113–14). if you will. it is now poiesis. inasmuch as it endures as the only power of this dissolved universe” (SL. and yet always persistent and quietly insistent. beyond the learnéd and almost overwhelming conversation between the two Agambens and his many critics.EXOTERIC DOSSIER: THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Speaking of Agamben’s oft-cited application of the voice as such emptied of content as a solution for post-metaphysical negativity he concedes: “this nihilistic self-dissolution of being frees the voice— but another voice.
a characteristically confident Giorgio Agamben declares: “In both my written and unwritten books. requires that one “venture into a perfectly empty dimension . in which what is experienced is language itself. Such a pure exteriority of an empty language which yet still speaks is both the basis of Agamben’s “metaphysics” and of my claim that the literary Agamben is an essential element of that mode of thinking.)1 At the age of 36. 5). cannot think its chirping. is able to predict the guiding topic of all one’s books. over the years. Who. . his metaphysics and. to make language appear before us such as it is. in which one can encounter the pure exteriority of language” (IH.” Such an experience. what is the meaning of ‘I speak’?”2 This may seem like youthful exuberance and in the mouths of others at similarly early stages in their career might strike the seasoned observer as a touch hubristic. 30 years later one has to concede that the young thinker was either preternaturally prescient or. after all.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE (The cricket. he suggests.” In this thin sheaf of pages he explains that he is undertaking an experiment with language “in the true meaning of the words. in the preface to his third book. . the centrality of literature to his work. in its full material yet voided exteriority. clearly. This risk-bound declaration of intent occurs in the short piece that prefaces Infancy and History (1978) entitled “Experimentum Linguae.4 To see language as it is. however. written and unwritten?3 Now. past and future. unbelievably obdurate for it is undoubtedly true that the questioning of the presence of language remains at the heart of Agamben’s political thinking. I have stubbornly pursued only one train of thought: what is the meaning of ‘there is language’ [vi è il linguaggio]. most pertinent to our study here. to let language speak 4 .
unpublished fragment of another great work Agamben never wrote. differential. The projection of the “problem” of empty linguistic exteriority from the experiments with language the youthful Agamben had been performing in the laboratory of his mind allows him to address with great speed in the pages which follow some of the major problems of philosophy. .5 It is the nexus wherein his great ontological question. if there is a human voice. In this incorporated and yet incorporeal work he asks: “Is there a human voice. oversteps the threshold of his other great demand that primarily occupies the first two decades or so of his career. what does it mean to have language. As for the unwritten. the possession of voice/language by the animal and the privation of voice in the human. is this what we humans mean by language. 3). and yet related responses when confronted with the empty plane of language or the sheerness of its suddenly uprearing edifice is our simple mode of conceptual transport here in this now-written work. 5 . in effect. The two interlocutions are. 4). bundled together in what might be termed his interim request. where does this lead the classic philosophical definition of the human as zoon logon echon or “the living being which has ¯ ¯ language”? (IH. one will take his word for it that this is also the case. or better drama. returns again and again in Agamben’s early work. what is the meaning of “I speak”? or at the very least this demand will eventually lead Agamben to consider the political and anthropological implications of this assertion for the Western definition of human being in works such as Homo Sacer and The Open (2002). To understand the relation between thought and literature through their complex. This unusual rumination leads to a series of related questions such as. a voice that is the voice of man as the chirp is the voice of the cricket . and if we do not find a human voice.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE itself without being exhausted through its enunciation is the experiment Agamben conducts on thought as such in all his written works thus far. The first of these is extrapolated from an.6 not posed until many years later. This theme. An adventure in the mind and in the word is how I would term such an experiment that can only commence through access to the singular nature of the relation between literature and linguistic exteriority that philosophy has traditionally termed poiesis. La voce umana (the human voice). what is the relationship between voice and language in this regard. and Agamben has indeed not yet done so. up to this point. .?” (IH. what does it mean to live as a human being.
tautological. First. what order of communication. but is an ontological term for a state of being indicating a compound of questions pertaining to how humans have language and how this relates to their 6 . and self-regarding entity? INFANCY: ANIMALS AND CHILDREN One of the earliest postings into the vast dossier of Agamben’s great experimentum primarily concerns what he calls human linguistic infancy or how we humans are expelled from language as such into linguistic and metaphysical scission. language. is this solipsistic. (The difference between speech. and voice is therefore foundational. purely exterior landscape of language as such. echoing that of the animal. Acquisition of voice. negation. Infancy as a concept originates in the observable phenomenon that humans learn to speak whereas animals do not in two significant ways.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Consistent with Negri’s remark and the critical community’s claims of the two Agambens. what if anything does the literary have to contribute to the arrival at the sheer face of the outcrop that is language’s exteriority? The answer resides in Agamben’s complex investigation of language as such through ideas pertaining to the acquisition of human voice. the role of language in subjective enunciation. enunciation. Aside from the obvious fact that literature is composed of language and constitutes a profound experience with language. of language: communicability or a language that communicates itself without communicating any specific thing. and second they are pre-possessed of their voice as soon as they come into being. or as-such-ness. and language’s materiality. and our acquisition of a voice. and semiotic materiality therefore form the five arms of the guiding star of the Agambenian ontological constellation that shines above the empty and literally unwelcoming. The cold light cast by this stelliform compound reveals for us linguistic exteriority defined as the very existence.) Infancy does not describe our actual early childhood. scission. my contention is that in order to take up a position in relation to the literary in Agamben one must come to terms with language. however. Agamben uses the term infancy in his early work to describe an interim state between our pure state of grace in language.7 What kind of language. the dependence of metaphysical definitions of language on division and negation. they do not actually speak although they do possess language.
language and speech are indivisible and when one speaks of an animal voice. the human has no voice of its own. or have speech foisted upon them.” Second. on the contrary. Thus. 59) Infancy in this instance names the fact that human animals are the only ones to emerge from language into the ambiguity of the unidentifiable sound of the human voice. they are already inside it.8 In one basic sense infancy captures the process wherein human animals learn. as indeed developmentally we seem to do. for example. thus far have not. are the only beings that are not born with a clearly identifiable voice then they must come to their voice or arrive at speech. by preceding speech. . in order to speak. One can say the cricket chirps but not the human “. by having an infancy. has to constitute himself as the subject of language–he has to say I. Animals do not enter language. . they are always and totally language . Man. The historicity of the human being has its basis in this difference and discontinuity. regardless of our tireless encouragement. In this way the term infancy describes having language and privation of voice as fundamental conditions for human being establishing an important interplay between possession and privation that echoes throughout the whole of Agamben’s work. as we saw. . and chimpanzees. then man’s nature is split at its source. In disputation with the Aristotelian inheritance Agamben does not accept that animals are without language which. or a cricket’s chirping one also names the animal’s language and. means they cannot be appropriated by “we who do” as a means of securing subjective self-definition:9 Animals are not in fact denied language.10 In contrast to this.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE apparently not having a voice of their own such as one finds in the cricket. a dog’s bark. of all animals. first. splits this single language and. or at least he is uncomfortable with the uncritical ¯ ¯ acceptance of this formulation within philosophy. by implication. (IH. as humans acquire 7 . Unlike the metaphysical tradition Agamben is not at ease with the Aristotelian definition of human being as zoon logon echon. instead. if language is truly man’s nature . . . for that matter. For the animal. . their being. If humans. for infancy brings it discontinuity and the difference between language and discourse. acquire. This could be taken to mean how we come to language but this is not how Agamben views infancy.
Third. Fourth. first silencing language and then. It would seem. In losing language we become a human being and alive. and voice are therefore separate yet inseparable terms within Agamben’s thought. and as a critique of the basis of modern thinking on negation. Life. from this. and silence.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN their voice a clear division between speech and language in the human animal develops. Thus. but the way in which we come to have it—not the zoon or the logon but the generally ignored echon ¯ ¯ that matters. this division and our awareness of it define human being as self-consciously different from all other beings. voice. then as subordination. In reality these two nascent states are simply two elements of an overall infancy as an ongoing process of being. that forms the bedrock of Agamben’s attack on metaphysics and modern ontology upon which all the various edifices of the numerous Agamben’s are placed. Infancy submits us to history expelling us from language as such and propelling us into a bifurcated sense of language as phone and logos. that there are two infancies: infancy as that which we have lost. language-speech. or lack of it. in seeking to regain language we create the possibility of becoming something like a post-human. and infancy as that which we must recuperate. Agamben argues. in a destinal and possibly liberationist historicization. eventually. a return to a pre-divided idea of a pure language. and this is a profoundly Heideggerian gesture. and finally as negation. language. speech over language. as Agamben is at pains to show.11 It is only because we have infancy that we have a history and it is only because we have a history that we are human and possess the potential to access the full meaning of this by a recuperation of our infancy. This is effectively the argument of Language and Death. Our entrance into this philosophical cul-de-sac is the fact that we humans have infancy. a period wherein we acquire speech. Yet it also involves us. the way we have language is first as bifurcation. forming the basis of the meaning of our possession of voice. 8 .12 Thus one could put together the three great questions of Agambenian ontology by exclaiming that what it means for human beings to live is the fact that they “have” language as a silenced potential embedded within the human voice. the follow-up text to Infancy and History. voice itself. speech denies any experience of the nature of language as such comparable to the manner in which animals experience language. is infancy. The only way out of this metaphysical dead end. it is not the fact that we have language that defines our humanity.
In Language and Death specifically Agamben identifies a metaphysical reliance on ineffable unsayability as modern thinking’s greatest weakness leading philosophy into a reification of the unsayable as the negative basis for being in language. For language to signify and thus become the human language we are all familiar with. Erdmann knowledge independent of sensibility (see IH. the concept of infancy is then an attempt to think through these limits in a direction other than that of the vulgarly ineffable” (IH. In contrast to this tradition of negation Agamben involves himself in an experiment. Accepting this to be the case the ineffable can be said to come to presence in that it only exists as pure thought or what language cannot say. there must be reference to something that is not language that it signifies. defining being and thinking along the way as first. a thing or a truth to be known.” a place where thought can go and language cannot. 4–6). to identify the singularity of language as such. Ironically. namely that of the ineffable. 9 . 54–65). the ineffable in philosophy.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE INEFFABILITY AND EXPERIENCE Infancy solves another problem for Agamben beyond that of the relation of the human to the animal via the faculty of speech as a negation of language. as “not something ineffable but something superlatively sayable: the thing of language” (IH. “If every thought can be classified according to the way in which it articulates the question of the limits of language. It is a concept without a name and knowledge without an object. 4). and second. instead “express its invincible power of presupposition. the unsayable being precisely what language must presuppose in order to signify” (IH. Agamben goes on to read the experience of the ineffable in the work of Kant and German historian Carl Erdmann as an attempt to think a concept that can be known but which has no referent in the world. As Agamben says. “far from indicating the limit of language. the unsaid and the ineffable. 4). after Benjamin. Kant calls this the “transcendental experience” of pure thought. which seems to direct us towards pure thinking without language. “in which the limits of language are to be found not outside language. post-vocal divided language. actually comes to name language for this tradition. presuppositionally negative (see LD. Thought has become embroiled in thinking language in terms not of what it can say but of what it cannot. based on language. 4). This is our old friend the experimentum linguae which Agamben renames here infancy.
pre. for if it is not named there can be no shortfall of plenitude. Finally. that language exists” (IH. in its pure self-reference” (IH. I am language. even if all one is saying is that one can say something. rather it is language that is content-less speech. Infancy first names our coming away from being animal. Language as the basis of thought should be considered not in terms of what it cannot say.or ir. 15–49). in response to the problem that there is an object. “But what can an experience of this kind be? How can there be an experience not of an object but of language itself . that which is outside of it (the referent). experience me. but in terms of what it can say if it does not refer to that which is outside of itself. It then indicates our ability to conceive of a pure thinking not in terms of what cannot be said but what can. This great quest to move beyond modern philosophical ineffability isolates a third and final issue in relation to infancy. . but in naming it we find that the name never entirely renders the object. 6).THE LITERARY AGAMBEN in the direction of its referent. but also testing. Agamben instead simply introjects the problem. thus concluding that language always remains insufficient to name objects. infancy names the problem of human experience. but in an experience of language as such. 10 . a reification of the unspeakable. as a thinker. as the pure fact that one speaks.13 This problem has afflicted language for a good deal of time naming a clear division in philosophy between knowledge and experience. or a typical conversation in a British pub towards closing time.referential language. The subtitle of Infancy and History is On the Destruction of Experience and a significant portion of the book is a response to the philosophical belief that in modernity one does not go through an experience but merely observes events as spectacle from the outside (see IH. . language that says nothing other than here I am. Important in this regard is the fact that the words “experiment” and “experience” share the same Latin root and consequently the meaning of experience for Agamben originates not only in the act of sustaining or going through something. Rather than. forcing the thinker to seek for a concept that cannot be named. a morass it has proven impossible to escape from. 6)? This then is a second issue: Can one testify in thought to the significance of the fact that one speaks or that language exists without recourse to referential exteriority and difference? Can there be an experience of language as speaking but saying nothing in particular? This is not language as the ineffable. that we need language to name it. only to find that the name for such an experience is the ineffable or un-named as such.
evidenced by our endless pursuit of novel and new experiences. is by definition bifurcated. Human language. as Agamben sees it. 8). via that infancy that dwells in the margin between language and discourse.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE Thus Agamben’s expressed project or experimentum linguae suggests that to understand the fact that there is language one must conduct an experiment on and undergo an experience with language. it is an impossibility of speaking from the basis of a language. To live as a human being means to live both from the outside of language as the being who knows but does not speak and from the inside as the being that speaks but does not know. and being human within the very faculty of language that says nothing specifically but merely enacts the experience of having language before one succumbs to the way in which our tradition has chosen to possess this faculty. or we observe events from the outside as judgemental critics. namely as the imposition of scission as a means of creating human. thinking. between experience as knowledge and as going through. a form of thinking that does not look at language 11 . but Homo sapiens loquendi” (IH. As he says: “In this sense what is experienced in the experimentum linguae is not merely an impossibility of saying: rather. 8). Maintaining the false division. self-conscious subjectivity.14 For Agamben the experience of language. Infancy reveals the confluence of language. of the very faculty or power of speech” (IH. he concedes. Infancy names this third possibility: to maintain experience as knowing and as undergoing. Yet nor can it be experienced entirely from the inside as in some imagined. To undergo an experience with language. denying that the event in question actually pertains to how we live. It is what Agamben means by thinking and what he takes to be the truth of the very existence of the possessed faculty of language as such. primordial being for whom the division between phone and logos has not yet come about. therefore. In the modern age the division between the two meanings of experience is most profoundly felt. defining human being as “neither Homo sapiens nor Homo loquens. it is an experience. and then imposing unworkable unities to heal this rift is a habitual failing of Western thought. Either our experiences are so unique that they are one-off events that can hold no meaning for “the human experience” at large. is to undergo a new form of experience as testing or thinking. which he takes to be the experience of experience itself. cannot be undertaken exterior to language as he contends some philosophers have attempted.
24). which is not only impossible to ascertain but also not what Agamben intends. accepting their division as a fact of our ontological Geschichte or deep history (see QCT. which we might call infant being. it opens up a zone that exists for thought and being between language as such and discourse. Infancy. or occupy language and seek for exterior referents. what does language say. while Agamben is critical of both Heidegger and Derrida. is silenced. and Derrida’s on its privileging of speech over writing. therefore. provokes our attention back to the quasi-mythological “moment” before the acquisition of speech when human beings had a more direct line of sight to language in that they did not possess language but were rather possessed or captivated by language (see O. Agamben’s rests in large part within the silence as regards how we have language and the assumption that the human ontological relation to language depends on the voice to such a degree that the truth of human being.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN from the outside. or psychosomatic empiricism behind our being with or having language. yet refusing to succumb to the various aporias that have traditionally arrested the progression of thought on this matter. a human defined as life. In a way. While infancy is observable in children it would be a mistake to suggest that infancy is a psychosomatic or neonatal stage of our development (see IH. 54–5). One issue here is that the very choice of the name infancy is as confusing as it is illustrative. zoological. Infancy allows Agamben to name this alternative mode of thinking in relation to three key metaphysical problems for conventional thought: what is the human animal. 39–62). and what does it mean to experience something? Most specifically. and the imposition of a voice through the agency of speech. If anything.15 his own philosophy is partly a colloquium of his two great predecessors: an attack on the metaphysical occlusion of being (in language) that was actuated historically by the prioritization of speech in the form of the voice. therefore. and an in-between and constantly emergent human being. suggesting a developmental. If Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics resides in the tradition’s obfuscation of authentic Being. said relation to language. 12 . but which accepts the presence of language as such as exteriority as such. our actual infancy is merely a useful developmental analogue for an ontological temporality of development that presupposes a pre-human. This is not to be conceived of as a return to a pre-human animal stage but is rather a moment between our emergence from the animal in our realization that we have no voice to speak of.
and knowing. although the term “before” needs careful reconsideration within what might be termed an ontological rather than historiographic or teleological temporality. This is perhaps best illustrated by the etymological root of the word wherein fans originates from fari or to speak. and being as such. the ontological. the ontic. for we are always in the world operating as already pre-divided beings. much as Agamben might wish. but the asymmetric difference between experience. endless deferral. capitalized Being.18 He thus designates for himself an immensely difficult task and he sets about it by returning to the scission inherent in language through the theory of signification. If infancy is to resolve this difference then its hands are tied to some degree. infancy is to be found within the human at all stages as both remnant of the animal and potential for the post-human. Agamben sometimes writes it like this. Infancy has little. reconfigured as the term différance. In some way Agamben’s thought must enter into the scission of being and resolve the conflict therein without recourse to pre-human unity. simply put. 13 . It cannot unify language and discourse into a single entity. the only remnant of the tradition that Heidegger leaves standing. It is our existence in language before the primary scission of language into phone and logos.16 In a sense Derrida’s critical investigation of this difference. to do with babies. is an ancient problem relating to how language names truth. and as such is an ontological state of speechlessness within language that precedes the potential human being’s emergence into actual humanity. Nor can it choose language over discourse.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE Nor should one suggest that Agamben is recounting an actual historical series: animal-infant-human. but is the reliance of metaphysics on difference as such. Thus in-fancy. Human being is this ontological caesura (see O. We must stress this is not the intention of infancy.17 This difference is not simply the difference between different technical senses of being in the work of one philosopher however. collapses the last great frontier of metaphysics. 91). THE STANZA In relation to Heidegger people often speak of the ontico-ontological difference between actual being-in-the-world. Dasein. in other words. is nonspeech (see LD. Rather. or the eradication of difference. 13–16 & 21–2). to live our division. To live as human means. Certainly there are many forms of difference. or better there are myriad differentiations to be made.
Students of Heidegger will immediately recognize this structure of imposed forgetting of the most important thing due to its assumed obviousness as Being. “when in fact it is the only thing truly worth interrogating” (ST. The space of the stanza. For the troubadour poets the stanza was not just a structural designation but the “nucleus” of their poetry. which he regularly cites along with that of the stil novists as the origin of all modern poetics. The majority of the book proceeds to investigate the object of love ever since in the arts and has little to say about the stanza as such. Again in the preface—Agamben has a penchant for the exoteric as well as the esoteric statement—he considers the various significances of the term stanza for poets of the twelfth. receptacle” (ST. The 1977 volume Stanzas.” According to a conception that is only implicitly contained in the Platonic critique of poetry. for the entire tradition. The split is so fundamental to our cultural tradition that Plato could already declare it “an ancient enemy. and his considerations of poetic space and rhyme. although taking as its main area of concern the art object. but in response to this ancient quest for the missing womb of art in our culture Agamben states that access to the destination of this labour is “barred by the forgetfulness of a scission” so ingrained in our culture that it goes without saying. xvi). In a way this is true although Agamben prefers to call it scission: The scission in question is that between poetry and philosophy. but that has in modern times acquired a hegemonic character. a process Agamben emulates in his own work on the metaphysics of enjambement. the 14 . xvi). By conflating a formal technique with a meta-thematic concern the troubadour stanza takes on the quality in poetry of a “receptive ‘womb’” (ST. defined as a “capacious dwelling. and open reception not only holds the words contained in the poem’s structural segmentation but also conveys the unique object of all the poetry of this period. dwelling-stability.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Agamben’s first major intervention on language concerns linguistic scission as the precondition for the later establishment of infancy. In addition. between the poetic word and the word of thought. caesura. namely the joi d’amor or unattainable joy of love. brackets this fascinating topic in major statements on language and philosophy. the troubadour concept of the stanza provides a model for discovering metaphysical truths within the very prosodic operations of the poem itself. in its capacity.and thirteenth-century troubadour tradition. xvi).
Having said this. and enjoys the object of knowledge by representing it in beautiful form. as we saw earlier. locates his philosophy within this scission between poetic joy and philosophical knowing in the capacious dwelling of the stanza as opened up and yet closed off. poetry exists entirely in language on one side of the scission of the word. is now named as the closest we can get to an experience of language that speaks itself while not necessarily saying anything specific. infant form of language. Both are victims of the cruel scission at the heart of human language and neither. Poetry does not know what it has. Within our tradition. therefore. “And a word that has all seriousness and consciousness for itself but does not enjoy its object because it does not know how to represent it” (ST. This grave. because it can only experience language as going through or sustaining.” We will take this word from now on to be the poetic word. xvii). by knowledge of what 15 .PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE scission of the word is construed to mean that poetry possesses its object without knowing it while philosophy knows its object without possessing it. In contrast. and philosophy entirely outside on the opposing side. dissatisfied word is the immaterialized insensible word of Western philosophy. while philosophy is able to test language it has no direct experience with language.19 Here he effectively substitutes poetry for a number of terms—language as such. Agamben. very early on in his career. a direct experience of language as such within which resides the meaning of human being. for example. prose. as if fallen from the sky. (ST. stanza in Italian means room of course. holds the key to language’s capacious inner chamber. the thing here being language as such whose forbears can be found in the troubadour quest for the joi d’amour represented by the stanza. Poetry’s tragedy is possession of the thing without knowledge of the thing. between language and discourse. experience—some of which we have already considered. “In the West. alone. therefore. the word is thus divided between a word that is unaware. xvi–xvii) These thoughts on the stanza in relation to unattainability and scission compose one of the first occasions that Agamben names the role of poetry within his overall experiment in language and is the open door for my own contention that the literary Agamben is essential to an understanding of Agamben’s work as a whole. This is particularly because infancy resides between the poetic and philosophic word or. The poetic word. Agamben clearly does not hypostatize poetry as an ideal.
criticism. so it is an ambiguous strength to say the least. through its empty capaciousness. Just as the ancient stanza manifests. and infancy are all manifestations of the tendency towards scission in Western thought imposed between two central modes of thinking language as such: philosophy and poetry. a nothingness that protects art’s most precious object. he states most openly that the assumed problem of metaphysics is to be revealed there in that room. as Agamben calls it in relation to modern poetry and art. here. metaphysical scission represented in the thirteenthcentury European culture by the poetic stanza reaches its apotheosis and crisis point within the epoch of modernity in the rather different form of criticism: “Criticism is born at the moment when the scission reaches its extreme point” (ST. but knows the representation. xvii). To appropriation without consciousness and to consciousness without enjoyment criticism opposes the enjoyment of what cannot be possessed and the possession of what cannot be enjoyed” (ST. and directs a large part of his energy to resolving what he sees as the false caesura at the founding of our philosophy and culture which effectively cuts the room in two.20 We are presented with a model 16 . Yet he also begins a complex journey out of the abyss of philosophical nihilism onto the plain of a Benjaminian messianic positive philosophy to come through his approach to language. The stanza. both revealing it and rendering it inoperative. What he reveals for us in these early pages is the state of aesthetics in the modern age whether he likes it or not.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN cannot be possessed and/or possession of that which can never be known. Agamben explains that criticism is marked by a formula “according to which it neither represents nor knows. He does not. the missing thing of poetry via scission. xvii). The stanza of criticism. contains nothing. While criticism differs in kind to the stanza. that which it cannot possess. but he is also something of a fatalistic thinker. Agamben is widely critical of the modern nihilistic tradition of valorizing negation. in modern aesthetics. The power of criticism emerges out of its collapsing and nihilization of the category of art. For Agamben. so modern criticism reveals the emptiness of the modern category of art by its imposition of a division between the artist as maker and the critic as she who judges creation. one a modern quasi-philosophical discourse the other a historical prosodic-structural effect. and we will investigate it in detail in the chapters to come. Further. whether in philosophy or.
knowing: logos. and being. What language is is portrayed in this impossibly contracted history of everything. one must valorize negation as such. or that there is language. Agamben uses the figure of the stanza to bring this complex logic into relief. if disgruntled. hopeless space. but they are not genres at all. The stanza is nothing other than a pure. This word is pure. art. second that there never was. currently withheld from view. and third there never can be. Language as such. poetic and philosophic. in terms of the future. is. or how we have language. like being. and a possible solution. leaving us with a dark legacy.” namely the room as such and while to us this appears as an empty and.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE of generic languages. almost. Agamben’s great project. an error for which we suffer but which may also be a productive and generative errancy. and finally indicate the role poetry has to play in any future comments on metaphysics. this is just the inheritance of negativity from the metaphysics of scission. scission as stanza. because of this indistinction. on language. It exists as a containment space between opposing forces occupying the same zone of indifferent indistinction as infancy. because it is Being. language as scission. On one side of the stanza is the poetic word. On the other is the philosophical word. Rather their generic subdivision courtesy first of Plato and then of Aristotle. neutral medium. The division between the two “words” is not so much imposed by Plato as reified. is an attempt to veil the truth of the basis of all thought. Saussure’s development of the idea of the sign first divides the sign in a classic metaphysical gesture and then places the two components of the sign in an essential 17 . Because we see that the room is empty we assume that first there is nothing in the room. reveal its ubiquity across our culture. This location contains nothing specifically and in our age we have made the error of assuming that. Yet there is something “in the room. that is disguised. this is pure. which all amount to the same thing. THE SIGN Agamben himself imposes a dividing caesura of over a hundred pages before he finally attends to the issue of linguistic scission in Stanzas through a consideration of the sign. as a philological consideration of the troubadours’ idea of the stanza. meaningless pleasure: phone. or at least everything in metaphysics since the Greeks.
The symbol. . In this way all signs can be said to be part-symbolic or. has been a source of metaphysical unease. These strategies. and ejecting us for now from the spacious medium of Stanzas Agamben explains that while said scission is foundational and its “resolution” our only possible. yet the effect is not actual reconciliation but a painful reminder of this most destructive caesura. then placed above material noise.21 Agamben comes to this “original fracture of presence that is inseparable from the Western experience of being. completing his narrative. Meaning is separated from. is also the diabolic that continually transgresses and exposes the truth of this knowledge” (ST. a lack” (ST. he argues. through a consideration of the aesthetics of the symbolic emblem. our conception of language as a mode of signification reliant on the sign is not actually language at all but the historical solution to this primary scission of presence from absence. temporarily or artificially impose a unity on the primacy of scission in metaphysics. is there the need to philosophize” (ST. 136). in the sense that its manifestation is simultaneously a concealment. as he says: “Only because presence is divided and unglued is something like ‘signifying’ possible. For that matter. it also creates the discipline of thinking called philosophy: “only because there is at the origin not plenitude but deferral . is located below the meaning of the word. the signifier. All three gestures are typical of the metaphysical scission represented by Plato’s banning of poetry from the republic. not only does this scission produce the sign. primarily because the symbol brings together S/s into a single unified entity. familiar to us now. In this algorithm the phonic element of the word. In so doing it naturally foregrounds the imposition of false scission: “The symbolic. positive destiny. and the relation of latent to sensible 18 .THE LITERARY AGAMBEN yet profoundly heterogeneous relation: S/s (with S representing meaning and s the material signifier). the act of recognition that reunites what is divided. and its being present. therefore.” In other words. and the two are separated by a bar. 136). 136). in the model of paradigm and copy. before access to materiality or intercourse between the two values is literally banned or barred.” meaning that “all that comes to presence comes there as to the place of a deferral and an exclusion. especially for Hegel. . Symbolic acts. rest in establishing one half of the division as more true than the other. it has been widely ignored by classic metaphysical strategies. Justifying this claim.
It exists in the form of a cancelled stanza more accurately represented as S [ / ] s than the Saussurian S/s. falsifies. is the very thing that is the source of its inauthenticity and possible rehabilitation. It is therefore metaphysical structural scission that Agamben consistently takes to task. it is the structuring of thought qua scission. This scission is not specifically a division between one thing and another. 136). this interpretation is crystallized in the notion of the sign as the expressive unity of the signifier and signified” (ST. 137). deferral. The sign represents for him the ultimate in metaphysical amnesia and until we overcome signification we remain trapped in a failed project of thinking that imposes false unities to obscure the original scission at the heart of thought. its own authentic intention” (ST. Unlike Derrida. the bar. but the barrier within the sign functions as metaphysic’s betrayer. . however. Not only does it present a unity to mask the primary scission of language-thought. Again here we can see the quasi-symbolic nature of the sign. as in Derrida. and ultimately indifferent mediality. Stanzas is by far Agamben’s most sustained engagement with psychoanalysis. Agamben is not an adherent to the science of signification.22 19 . itself supposedly a symbol of unity. If the sign is a source of displeasure for Agamben. 156). As Agamben presciently states: “In modern semiology. “In the reflection on language. it betrays through its symbol-status the division at the heart of metaphysical systems of unity. or Derridean différance without succumbing to said division. Every semiology that fails to ask why the barrier that establishes the possibility of signifying should itself be resistant to signification. that is. with that omission. the forgetting of the original fracture of presence is manifested precisely in what ought to betray it. In a Lacanian gesture. . insignificant. but rather. The bar is language as pure. Aside from his regular use of the term semiotics. the bar (/) of the graphic S/s . it contains within its own boundaries a sensuous representation of both unity and scission in the form of the bar. the very thing the philosophy of language does not see. as Agamben believes contentiously that Derrida has (ST.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE manifestation. which has always been par excellence the plane on which the experience of the original fracture is represented. Agamben believes one can overcome scission. although the scission between presence and absence comes very close to being archetypal for Agamben. within its graphicality in the figuration of the bar. in particular here “language.” Our idea of language as signification is false.
or something was referred to over there. Deixis is a term used in linguistics to indicate the point of reference of a statement that relies absolutely on context. The dependency of our concept of being on finitude or death is usually taken alongside our having language as the basis of the fundamental difference between humans and animals. there. I.25 Up to this point the normative mode of literature was performed poetry and if someone other than the narrator spoke. it.23 For Heidegger it is the impossibility of Dasein to ever actually occupy the space of its own being (LD. The third is the reliance of both thinkers on deixis when trying to express language’s necessary insufficiency in relation to knowledge.24 Deixis as a form of indication can be described as exophoric in that it refers to extra-linguistic material. the jongleur or performer used a series of gestures known to his mime-literate audience to show that he was speaking as someone else. according to Godzich and Kittay. Reading Hegel and Heidegger he strives to demonstrate how nihilism dominates their thought in three ways. philosophy’s reliance on deixis or pronouns to manifest being and the concomitant dissatisfaction they draw from this procedure. wherein the possibility of having an intra-textual technique for referring to assumed extra linguistic material or presences was developed. With the slow but inexorable rise of prose this bringing in of the outside into the text. 4–5). 1–5 & 59–60). This exophoric capability explains the rise of deixis as a literary device from the twelfth century onwards. The first of these is a reliance on death as a means of defining being. continues the development of the idea of infancy through a radical critique of the dependence of modern thought on negativity. you. that. or of something else. but other pronouns indicative of space and time are also deictic: now. As we have already dealt with the issue of the ineffable through an analysis of unsayability we are left with the third. These are most commonly personal pronouns. For Hegel this is the inability of the sensuous sign to render in full the material realm (LD. then. an assumed quality of 20 . most surprising and technical part of this critique. 13–14).THE LITERARY AGAMBEN NEGATING NEGATION Agamben’s first sustained engagement with the metaphysical tradition. Each of these three themes is of no small relevance to what we have already learnt of infancy. The second is the retention of ineffability within thought. most famously in Heidegger’s being-towards-death (LD. here. Language and Death. this.
by definition disappoints. Working at opposite ends of the rather colourless deictic spectrum.27 Deixis is also regularly utilized as a form of anaphora or internal reference that refers back to a subject. or the work of Lyn Hejinian.29 and cataphoric projective reference. Venice. noun.26 was facilitated by simple phrases such as “he said. Imagine Islamic art. it can also function cataphorically such as in the opening of Paradise Lost wherein the subject of the opening sentence is not known until the very end of the long. 4). “there” does little to convey.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE prose that differentiates it from the so-called “univocality” of the poem. and so on previously mentioned: “The gun. the brevity and baldness of the pronominal will fail to convey the full complexity of a sensuous presence for Hegel. both writers find that while language is essential to access truth the insufficiencies of the signifier mean that something in language always remains unsaid of the thing expressed: the world and our being in it.”28 All three elements of deixis. or indeed anything of use about the where or the there. and then replace each with the reductive “this. for Heidegger. referring to the previously mentioned firearm (“firearm” in this sentence is anaphoric but not deictic). They effectively use anaphoric/cataphoric deixis as shorthand for an already uttered or to be uttered authentic name of being. In Language and Death Agamben foregrounds the importance of deixis for modern philosophy specifically in the use of the German words diese (this) in Hegel and da (there) in Heidegger (LD.” The “it” in this sentence is both deictic and anaphoric. the very thing 21 . exophoric context-dependent indication. Hegel’s interest in the sensuous versus Heidegger’s in ontological topography. For both authors this referential shortfall is represented by the silent voice at the heart of being. Agamben is most interested in how both thinkers by definition place being in negation by utilizing deictic pronouns to indicate an absence at the heart of language. It tells us where being is but says nothing of how or why it is. Naturally. inaugural syntagm: “And justify the ways of God to man. the complexity of either the world being occupies or how it occupies that world. Finally. 19–26).” Similarly. and in its anaphoric/cataphoric mode it is indeed nothing other than a convenience of abbreviation. anaphoric recursive reference. give it to me. There-being or being-the-there as Agamben re-translates Dasein (LD.” and so on. will come to hold a central importance in Agamben’s thought and its relation to poetry.” “that door.
a work every bit as important to the collapsing of metaphysics as Being and Time or Of Grammatology. however diligently Proust attended to it. through the idea of human infancy. While he blames the valorization of the voice for the dominance of negativity in metaphysics. There is the voice of the animal (especially in death). Agamben systematically attacks the idea that human voice emerges from the animal. that the voice is defined by what it cannot say (the ineffable). The only solution to this problem. Agamben’s relation to the voice is complex. If one demands of language that it is a tool for reference one consigns language to inevitable failure as regards knowledge. “This” may not capture Venice but nor will the prose of Ruskin. the world or being. Voice. valorize and exteriorize the signified only to discover a profound asymmetry in signification. The tripartite critique of modern thought enacted in Language and Death. with the voice being set up as the failure to speak or the failure to mean within thought’s reliance on 22 . this or there. 106). in reality a synecdochic anamorphism wherein one element of linguistic scission comes to stand in for language as a whole. and the failure of speech to evince knowledge. They then. both Hegel and Heidegger succumb to a primary scission in the word between signifier. If language as pure mediality has been artificially and with violence bifurcated in metaphysics into phone (voice) and logos (language as discourse). and signified. To sum up in more familiar terms. Deixis is always used to indicate something exterior to language and so is shorthand for all the failings of language’s referential shortfall. In effect there are numerous voices in Language and Death.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN that enunciates being and yet leaves its truth unsaid. he also seeks for solutions to negativity ostensibly through the voice. is not to try and render experience through language but to render experience as language. relies in each instance on an assault on the voice. which one could describe as the problem that a word does not totally contain its meaning or referent. the human voice as lack. classically. One might then ask the question why thinkers of such sophistication resort to deictic indicators at all. the metaphysical capitalization of the Voice as a condition of being in withdrawal. Agamben believes. and then perhaps the Voice under negation. This returns us to the philosophical tendency to view language in terms of exterior objectivity due to the split assumed within the sign between language and discourse. which results in the negation of philosophical negativity by the end of the final seminar (LD. although Agamben does not write it like this.
SUBJECTIVE ENUNCIATION It might appear from Agamben’s critique of metaphysics that deixis is. Benveniste’s theory of subjectivity is based on the idea of linguistic enunciation and specifically how this relies on deixis. Agamben calls this exasperation. mistakenly. One can see therefore that Benveniste allows Agamben to. I will deal with each idea in turn. the Voice. therefore. culpable for modern negative metaphysics and this is correct. Yet it is central to his methodology to look for a productive projection out from the very heart of the source of negation and this is precisely the case with deixis as regards his theory of subjective enunciation. not being as such but language as such. for Hegel and Heidegger. specifically his theories of the subject of enunciation and the semiotic. synthesize his ideas on negation and scission in direct relation to language. in part. albeit under negation. Rather than attempt to remove the reliance of objective and ontological referentiality on deixis. means that we come to be human by 23 . in part. As we saw. or it struggles to sum up our whole world and our place within it. language is seen in modern philosophy as essential to thinking and yet source of thinking’s deficiency. or having to. the second about the scission at the heart of metaphysics between language and discourse that will ultimately lead us to view what Agamben believes philosophy has occluded. enunciate its own self through language. then the voice is always both the villain and victim of philosophy. there-being. “this” thing is always a privation of the plenitude of the actual thing.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE language. but brings to presence truth or being as privation. Language brings to presence. this plangent insufficiency. The problem is that either language fails to convey the profound texturality and diversity of the sensuous. one must pass through the negative abyssal gullet of the voice. language. Benveniste defines the condition of the human subject by its being able to.30 The first theory allows us to think again about subjectivity. Agamben is inspired in particular by the ontological turn in the work of French structural linguist Emile Benveniste. instead he uses this very dependence to present a combined theory of referential ontology that he calls desubjectivization. The possession of an articulated or bifurcated system of differential referentiality which we term. To exit metaphysics.
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
our possession of self-consciousness and our ability to speak of this. Thus we can announce “I am” and in so doing we enunciate our subjectivity. Important in this regard is Benveniste’s conception that while the subject can enunciate its presence, speak its being, this act does not proceed from an already existent central being or subject. “I” in the phrase “I am” is a form of (de)subjectifying deixis. It appears to refer to an exterior presence, but, as Benveniste explains and indeed as my own work has investigated elsewhere (MofP, 347–9), deixis as a form of indicative reference does not refer to an actual exteriority but simply to the instance of reference as such. Accepting this to be the case, the “I” of “I am” only comes into existence in the act of enunciation via what Jacobson calls the power of pronominal shifting, or a movement from langue, the whole system and existence of language, to parole, a local instance of discourse. While in Saussure it is essential that langue and parole remain heterogeneous, deictic shifters present an opportunity to move from indication to signification, a journey that defines these two faculties, their complex interrelationship and, ultimately, undermines all our presuppositions about language and being. Agamben concludes from this: The sphere of utterance thus includes that which, in every speech act, refers exclusively to its taking place, to its instance, independently and prior to what is said and meant in it. Pronouns and the other indicators of the utterance, before they designate real objects, indicate precisely that language takes place. In this way, still prior to the word of meanings, they permit the reference to the very event of language . . . (LD, 25)31 Modern philosophy is already well aware of the ontological implications of the deictic phrase “I am.” It is, for example, central to one of Derrida’s most influential essays “Signature Event Context.” There we find that the subject’s capacity to enunciate itself reveals the subject’s ability to come into existence through the revelation of the division between presence and voice. That the subject can enunciate existence means they can step out of the experience of being, of being captivated like an animal,32 and self-consciously comment on said experience. This emergence from captivation to self-consciousness is the movement from language to speech in Agamben which is both the precondition for, and problem of, human being. The power of the
PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE
subject to enunciate itself is brought to the fore in Derrida’s work more piquantly by his work on the sister phrase to “I am,” “I am not.”33 Not only can the subject enunciate presence, therefore, in so doing they also precipitate their lasting absence. Enunciation marks the advent of being and, simultaneously, its finitude. For Derrida this enunciative advent of finite being ruins any transcendental sense of subjectivity in that the subject dies as self-presence at the very moment it enunciates its existence and thus comes to life;34 one way of reading Heidegger’s being-towards-death. However, for Agamben, as soon as the subject comes to presence it is desubjectified and this is, in fact, its subjectivity. Subjectivity is not negated by enunciation as Derrida seems to suggest but actually founded through this process of negation. This reformulation of the theory of the subject allows Agamben to state that “the transcendental subject is nothing other than the ‘enunciator’” (IH, 53). If one can say “I am” one has already entered into a productively alienating subjectivity in language (RP, 128–9). Yet if one cannot say “I am,” within metaphysics at least, one cannot exist as the human is emergent from the biological indeterminacy of the animal precisely because they have the dubious power of self-conscious enunciation. As a realist Agamben cannot deny the fact that subjectivity is founded on its negation, but as the declared enemy of metaphysical nihilism he is unable to simply accept this. If one could isolate the moment, ontologically speaking, before the subject speaks but after they acquire language, what Agamben calls infancy, then one could perhaps instigate an alternative mode of being that is based on language but not on the voice as negation. This is Agamben’s intention. Before we get to that, and we may never in our epoch, we must accept the fact that, for Agamben, the subject of enunciation, once spoken, is the result of a permanent desubjectivization. At the moment the subject says “I am,” subjectivity comes to presence as nothing other than an instance of empty, technical indication. As he says: Benveniste’s studies . . . show that it is in and through language that the individual is constituted as a subject. Subjectivity is nothing other than the speaker’s capacity to posit him or herself as an ego, and cannot in any way be defined through some wordless sense of being oneself, nor by deferral to some ineffable psychic experience of the ego, but only through a linguistic I transcending any possible experience. (IH, 52)
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
Mills’ interpretation of this is especially strong in the manner of how she first shows that “in taking the place of ‘I’ as speaking subject, the speaker must effectively alienate him/herself as a phenomenal or empirical individual” and her realization that “by entering into language as a mode of ‘communicative action,’ the speaker loses touch with the mute experience of language as such” (PA, 25). Thus enunciation denies the subject both its subjectivity and its infancy. However, because infancy is not a stage in a developmental teleology, no more is subjectivity or being human, none of these possibilities are lost for good when one says “I am.” In fact, they only come about because of enunciation, even if their happening takes place in an instant before, or due to, their negation. Agamben is treading a very treacherous and perhaps impossibly fine line here. Infancy is the precondition of subjectivity only in that it allows for desubjectivization through the act of losing or emerging out of infancy. It appears that Agamben’s childhood is potentially a troubled, but ultimately liberating time.
The powerful malleability of the deictic pronoun “I”is well known allowing for any number of ontological compressions, of selfpresence “I am,” self negation “I am not,” and self-alienation “I is another.” The last of these is a famous promulgation by Rimbaud often analysed by philosophers, but initially it is to English poetry and Keats’ missives on deictic desubjectivization that Agamben turns to in his own work in the field. In the dense, remarkable, and troubling book Remnants of Auschwitz (1999), Agamben finds himself reading Keats’ letter to Richard Woodhouse on 27 October 1818. As he does so he isolates four themes of poetic, deictic desubjectivization. These are not unfamiliar, so I will merely summarize them here: (1) the poetic I is not an I nor is it identical to itself, (2) the poet is therefore the most unpoetical of things, (3) the statement “I am a poet” is not a statement but a contradiction in terms, and (4) poetic experience is that of desubjectivization. The third of these, “I am a poet,” is contradictory because, as Keats argues, “if he has no self, and I am a Poet, where is the wonder that I should say I would write no more?”35 Here Keats encounters the universal condition of enunciative desubjectivization but, significantly, he poses it as a poetically contingent experience. The poet is, by definition, always other to
PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE
himself, an experience confirmed by Rimbaud, Eliot, and the anticonfessionalism of poetry from the so-called New York, Language, and Cambridge schools. As Agamben says with misleading lucidity: “In the Western literary tradition, the act of poetic creation, and indeed every act of speech, implies something like a desubjectivization (poets have named this desubjectivization the ‘Muse’)” (RA, 113). Agamben will also go on in his work to regularly refer to this as poetic dictation, but before we get to that let us concentrate on that almost offhand remark “and indeed every act of speech.” While fascinated by poetic desubjectivization one can perceive from his comments here that he is most interested in it as a form of general ontology. Indeed it is true that all acts of enunciation utilizing the pronoun “I” in the moment of indicating subjective presence negate its ever coming to presence as we saw in his analysis of Benveniste. All speech acts are in this way “poetic.” The experience of the subject coming to being by negating its own subjectivity is, according to Agamben and innumerable poets, a poetic experience, justifying once again my claim that any analysis of the philosophy of Agamben, so centrally located on the movement beyond negative metaphysics through a theory of language and desubjectivization, is meaningless without recourse to the literary Agamben. However determined this study may be to prove the importance of poiesis to Agambenian ontology it would be disingenuous to ignore the most obvious question that comes to mind at this stage: How can Agamben begin to argue that every act of speech is an instance of poetic desubjectivization via the universal category of deictic desubjectivization? Rather the opposite must be seen to be the case: poetic desubjectivization ought to be simply an example of general, ontological enunciative desubjectivization. To justify Agamben’s and Keats’ claim on behalf of poetry, namely that the essence of modern ontology resides therein, we must now return briefly to Benveniste’s other great ontological development, the idea of the semiotic. In his work on the semiotic Benveniste, on the surface, does little more than refine the terminology of Saussure. The well-known terms langue and parole become semiotic and semantic, while the arbitrary nature of the sign becomes the semiotic definition of the sign. This definition has a familiar ontological ring to it in that it consists of two preconditions. Benveniste’s appropriation of the sign develops the law of the semiotic as first, existing, and second, not being any other sign. The sign as semiotic is defined as that it is,
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
and then that which it is by virtue of comparison with all that it is not which, admittedly by negation, matches precisely Heidegger’s ontological pairing of that there is something and how it is. Here how a sign comes to presence in the world (langue) is by not being any other sign replacing being-in-the-world with not-being-anywhere-elsein-the-world and opening up a space for linguistic being which, by its being uninsurable and subject to general negation, matches precisely the space of the stanzaic sign: S [/] s. The semiotic, therefore, is another name for language as a whole, as material presence (phone) and code (logos), before it means anything and yet always already available to mean. Its basic preconditions are presence and difference under the sign of a negation. It matters not how it exists, in terms of meaning or reference, or in which way specifically it is not other signs. Rather, for the semiotic, all that counts is that it can be identified as present and placed in a situation of quasi-singularity by one confirming it is what it is by its not being any other sign. This is structurally, at least, exactly the same as modern ontology. Being is proven by its existence and by its mode of being in the world but not being other beings. While Benveniste maintains his predecessor’s conviction that the semiotic and the semantic cannot meet one can see from his revisions that the semantic is seemingly dependent on a semiotic, quasi-presuppositional precondition. Discourse needs language as semiotic, material, yet neutral, presence to come into being. That said language only occurs to allow discourse to happen specifically as a mode of emergent human being through the process of desubjectivization which Agamben identifies as poetic. Further, it is only through discourse that language as such under negation courtesy of the voice of discourse becomes unconcealed for modern ontology. Language is the precondition for a discursive negation which precedes it. While the relation between poetry and desubjectivization becomes ever clearer, we still cannot be at peace with the assertion that modern ontological alienation is the result of contingent poetic alienation. To assist us in this regard we must return to Agamben’s consideration of poetic desubjectivization in Remnants of Auschwitz, which leads him into a wider philological consideration of “a fully desubjectivized experience in the act of speech” within the Western religious traditions, bringing poetic and ontological desubjectivization into more intimate proximity. Such a foray allows Agamben to make direct links between that other famous missive of modern poetic
opposite and revelatory experiences of the nature of language as such. “it” in poetry. Rimbaud’s letter to P.36 Due to its Greek provenance. and which is aggressively attacked by the work of Badiou. If we now combine the theory of the semiotic with that of enunciative deixis we can see that enunciation also partakes of the two sides of the semiotic. The modern term for this experience or event of language as such. “it” in narrative. thus establishing a tradition of civilization based on xenoglossia as a form of glossolalia. In that they are entirely context dependent—“it” in conversation. is the phonetic transcription of languages the Greeks did not understand. before and as precondition for discourse. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians where he speaks of “lalein glosse ” or speaking in tongues (wherein ¯ ¯ the speaker speaks with no understanding of what they say) (RA.37 Additionally.39 As Agamben explains: “The experience of glossolalia merely radicalizes a desubjectifying experience implicit in the simplest act of speech” (RA.38 Bar-bar. devoid of meaning. and Lacoue-Labarthe. it hints at all post-Adorno poetics of responsibility that can be located in the work of Derrida. signs that we know are meaningful in a context but whose specific meaning we cannot glean. is glossolalia and it has risen to prominence in investigations of the outer limits of poetic experience and experimentation. Agamben. Thus glossolalia confirms the first condition of the semiotic. Demeny (“for I is another”). In glossolalia we encounter the pure materiality of language away from any possible meaning. the process of pushing discourse to its limit or the retention of a remnant of pre-discursive “pure” language. 115). glossolalia has associations with the term barbarism on which our preciously held concept of civilization hangs.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE desubjectivization. 114). It is. while xenoglossia gives us an experience of the second condition. Yet at the same time such terms 29 . it simply and materially is. which still has aesthetic and political repercussions for us today. “it” in philosophical discourse all have very different potential usages—indicative forms operate at the semantic level of discursive meaning. Nancy. in some ways. Deixis and types of indicative linguistic technique such as anaphora work differently to all other forms of signification. and another more ancient missive. In xenoglossia we do not understand an act of speech but we assume it has communicative and referential meaning for the barbarians which speak it within their context. as we know. Glossolalia and xenoglossia are. in effect.
the subject discovers that he has gained access not so much to a possibility of speaking as to an impossibility of speaking—or. deictic desubjectivization. Glossolalia. Therefore deixis stages not a fixed meaning in language but language as such as medium for meaning’s transmission. for example “I” out of context means nothing and is basically glossolalic. just choosing so. but infancy also allows us a possible route back to language. in Heidegger. just choosing so. In another it is pure contextual differentiation in that it is potentially referential but is always awaiting a context to come to mean. hating not.) “But. hating not. Agamben begins by expressing the contradiction at the heart of enunciation: “the passage from language to discourse appears as a paradoxical act that simultaneously implies both subjectification and desubjectivization” (RA. / Loving not. once stripped of all extralinguistic meaning and constituted as a subject of enunciation. and stone the twenty-first. they instead refer neutrally to the event of speech and language or what might be termed its passive taking place. the psychosomatic individual must fully abolish himself and desubjectify himself as a real individual to become the subject of enunciation. to break this task down I will progress through the page-long summary step by step. that he has gained access to being always already anticipated by a glossolalic 30 . Just as. poetic desubjectivization. xenoglossia. and the semiotic are all examples of a possible experience of pure language or a language which speaks before voice and says nothing other than it exists as pure exterior presence.” (The becoming impersonal is a central moment in Agamben’s theory of the roots of poetry in desubjectifying dictation from the mouth of the muse. rather. which is what the later sections of Remnants of Auschwitz constitute.”41 The conclusion of the updating of Infancy and History. Indicative forms of this order are not pure noise but nor are they meaningful. loving not. 116). He then proceeds to bulldozer and flatten both sides of this impasse with a Calibanesque heavy-handedness: “On the one hand. is so rich that it needs must be quoted in its entirety.40 In one sense deixis is meaningless and empty reference. so for Agamben infancy operates in the same god-like way echoing almost the sentiments of Browning’s Caliban as regards his sovereign dominion over crabs: “Let twenty pass. However. the historical “fall” of being is both the loss of being and its potential recuperation. This language as such is ruined by our having infancy and the concomitant desubjectivization of differential scission.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN are devoid of specific meaning.
insofar as it is solely sustained in a pure event of language. while as Agamben explains the subject of enunciation is composed entirely of discourse. subjectification and desubjectivization coincide at every point. 114). In appropriating the “formal instruments” of discourse. letting himself be defined solely through the pure and empty relation to the event of discourse” (RA. In enunciating the I. profound. Those well-versed in contemporary philosophy may recognize this speck of alterity at the heart of self-presence from.” for what I hope now are clear reasons in that I is always other. he concedes that it makes no more sense to say “this I-other speaks”: For. Lévinas and Derrida. and potentially devastating conclusion. and both the flesh and blood individual 31 . instead the subject finds himself “expropriated of all referential reality. and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE potentiality over which he has neither control nor mastery” (RA. Here she tunes in to white noise. which locates his work alongside Badiou as the only potential. the final facet of his conclusion makes the radical step away from alterity and the philosophy of responsibility. This is the one and only moment that the radical difference between semiotic and semantic linguistic modes that Agamben locates at the root of Western metaphysics is. “him that speaketh a barbarian” (cited in RA. Here. 116).42 However. as Paul terms it. for example. In the absolute present of the event of discourse. the subject. blurred or suspended as the subject uses deixis to access discourse only to find in place of discourse pure noise. Setebos to the subject’s Caliban. This being the case. This leads Agamben to a three-part. The sound of language as such. He cannot speak. independent of every meaning. rather he is spoken in the glossolalic language of barbarians. and Agamben is well aware of the tradition he is potentially entering here. This rather terrifying observation is crucial in our adventures under the leadership of the literary Agamben. feedback. an isle full of noises. the subject becomes. sounds. if not removed. 116).43 Explaining that “I speak” is as meaningless as “I am a poet. in seeming to access discourse (meaning) through the xenophora of deixis. this I-other stands in an impossibility of speaking—he has nothing to say. post-alterity. which is the event of language as such. wailing. and thus affirmative philosophy of our age. such as deixis. once he is inside of discourse he becomes expropriated. instead finds not meaning but the very absence of meaning.
POETIC DICTATION At the end of this remarkable passage of Remnants of Auschwitz Agamben then brings us back to our main project here. but language .THE LITERARY AGAMBEN and the subject of enunciation are perfectly silent. This can also be expressed by saying that the one who speaks is not the individual. and in the manner that he dictates within I go signifying” (cited in ST. is not a modality of intellection but the combinatory theory of language as such in the European tradition as an unattainable yet present generative space for intellection represented by the prosodic 32 . takes note. when Love inspires me. . I won’t speak of the complex theory of shame Agamben mounts here as this has been done very well elsewhere. Staying with Dante. when he mentions that it is not surprising “in the face of this intimate extraneousness implicit in the act of speech” that poets feel a sense of responsibility and shame. Love. 124). rather than speaking of the poeticization of thought. Agamben prefers the term poetic dictation. (RA.44 Repeating a quote from Dante’s Vita nuova. “Dante instead characterized poetic expression precisely as the dictation of an inspiring love” (ST. that poets need to be willing to “open to prose” the reasons for their poetry or face shame (his version of the troubadour razo de trobar or narrating of the inspiration for the composition of the work). often called inspiration or the muse. an early theorization of poetic dictation can be found in the pages of Stanzas circulating about a tercet from Dante’s Purgatorio that goes as follows: “I am one who. Agamben proffers the touchstone to my whole study. . in fact it radically calls into question the idea of language as a notation of intellection. he instead commits himself to thoughts about poetry. This relationship is marked by the experience of becoming impersonal that Agamben terms the poetic experience of ontological desubjectivization. or what he often refers to simply as poetic dictation when. 117) This experience of the powerful depersonalization of being spoken by language is a profoundly literary one. 127). as we know. 127). namely the relationship between discursive prose and poetry: logo-poiesis. poetry. Agamben notes that while on the surface this tercet conforms to the scholastic definition of language as “notation and sign of a passion of the soul” (ST. which also finds great utility in The End of the Poem (1996).
Contrariwise there is another experience in which man remains absolutely without words in the face of language.” where Agamben considers enigmatically what he calls decisive experience. (IP. to be there before being . like grammatical language. 48) It can be deduced from this that within our tradition there are two types of language-experience/usage in accordance with the 33 . but rather where the matter of words begins. Agamben says of this experience of an event that it is neither experience nor event in actual fact but matter nothing more than the point at which we touch the limits of language . 37) Having proposed a potentiality for a silent experience of materiality as such which is not unsayable but simply inexpressive and nonrepresentable presence. . matter or wildwood. as in a dream. what one might term a truly defining subjective event for which subjects habitually lack words. . (IP. The theme of poetic dictation stays with Agamben coming to dominate the early pages of Idea of Prose (1985) through a series of considerations of the challenge of the poet’s intimate experience of their ability to speak of language as such. . which the ancients called silva (wildwood). Glossing on Celan’s assertion as to the uniqueness of poetic language. [is] the language of poetry. Agamben reveals that the experience of language is always doubled: There is. this woody substance of language. even when they keep silent. the experience of language that forever presupposes words . which doesn’t pretend. in fact. . Where language stops is not where the unsayable occurs. . are prisoners of representation. The main body of the book commences with the essay “The idea of Matter. therefore. Knowing already that philosophy has fallen into the trap of misconstruing language’s neutral inexpressiveness as ineffability.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE conception of the stanza. The language for which we have no words. Those who have not reached. .45 Poetry. we now battle alongside the poet as she attempts to find a voice for her experience of the poetic word. is not a form of notation of thinking yet it is a form of notation and it does have a direct relation to thinking through its direct experience of language.46 in the essay “The Idea of the Unique” Agamben then goes on to consider in greater depth a conception of speechlessness in the face of language that is not simply unsayability.
it would seem. and reflects that such a state knows nothing of destiny. Poetry is always in the experience. 49) The easiest summation of this is that the poet would like to testify to their experience of pure language as such but they cannot because 34 . of what order is such a destiny in that. to have forever . as Agamben responds. Discursive grammatical prose does not concern itself with the semiotic and has. of course. Agamben’s great innovation here is to turn a dead end into a new clearing for thought: This vain promise of a meaning in language is its destiny. through avowing its emptiness. “Destiny is concerned only with the language that. Only the poet. irrespective of the form it takes. Elle s’expose. language stands before him. something to say of it” (IP. faced with the infancy of the world. (IP. Agamben realizes immediately the aporia at the heart of any conception of a unique language accorded to poetic dictation. . But at that point. 49). which is to say. vows to be able to encounter it. and if one has words to speak of language one no longer has language before one of which to speak. therefore. Having asserted this. . and decides to remember that emptiness and fill it. a false eschatology for in speaking of the uniqueness of language one proves its impossibility. decides for truth. it precedes words as vehicles for meaning and to whom can it occur if we are not yet speakers? Agamben. Faced with the impossibility of seeing either wood or tree. . calls this state of speechlessness before a language that precedes words infancy. If.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN traditional roles of philosophy and poetry respectively. as Celan argues. Philosophy already has the words to convey the experience and thus can never undergo the experience. uniqueness is the destiny of language. so abandoned to itself that it can no longer in any way impose: “la poésie ne s’impose plus. . Such a destiny is. as we have repeatedly seen. its grammar and its tradition. The poet is the infant who piously receives this promise and who. no means of cutting a path through the wildwood of matter to an encounter of the forest as something composed of wood. can experience the tree in terms of what it is made of. so alone. and so lacks access to the language needed to express the nature of the matter of language as such.” so Celan writes . He explains “the unique language is not one language” in that it is always already split between words without language (philosophy) and being wordless in front of language (poetry).
As Agamben notes more than once elsewhere.” or works such as Frank O’Hara’s “Why I Am Not a Painter”)47 is presented as the ontico-experiential basis of a work of poiesis describing. channelling the muse. dettato. Dictation. and that of the subsequent declamation of the experience in discursive prose: “Between the impossibility of thinking . while the razo of a poem (and a razo can often be internal to the poem such as one finds in works such as Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” and “The Solitary Reaper. amorous attachment to the present. say. it is always written after the fact and so is obviously dictated by the already existent presence of the poem. Reading Delfini and Campana Agamben summarizes dictation as the space or locale. but only occurs in the instance of its exposition. stanza. The combination of ideas of pure linguistic matter and language as subsequent philosophical discourse combine in “The Idea of Dictation. finds significant examples in the modern tradition in works such as Coleridge’s famous narrative of the composition of “Kubla Khan. a sense also to be found in the German word Dichtung that Heidegger often prefers in reference to poetry.” and is analyzed here in relation to twentieth-century Italian poet Delfini.” A useful translator’s footnote in the English tradition explains that the Italian for dictation. therefore. testing the experience through thoughtful prose. the events that led to the dictation of a poem. and this intimate divergence is its dictation” (IP. This tradition still holds for Dante. and the memory that arises precisely out of the impossibility of this love. . Dictation therefore names a midway point or tension between being as the intimacy of undergoing an experience of language. between the inability to remember in the perfect. The essay begins with the tradition of the razo or ability to recount after the fact how the poet came to compose/dictate their work. and the distanciation of a proceeding recollection of the experience. This mediality of poetic dictation explains why “the lyric—which uniquely keeps to such dictation—is necessarily 35 . and a power of only thinking.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE their experience of pure language cannot translate beyond that experience. . Such a poetic experience of language cannot impose itself in prose. cannot be narrated after the fact. between the experience of dictation as inspiration courtesy of the muse. retains an element from late Latin culture wherein the term refers to writing a literary work. means both an authoritative declaration intended for preserving transcription and a mode of poiesis. 52). poetry is always divided.
for example the Gospel of John. What I hope becomes clear by virtue of this positioning of the lyric at a moment of linguistic twilight is that like infancy. it is always transfixed on the verge of a day that has always already set . This ancient rhetoric of topics however became watered down over centuries so that the place of speech 36 . before honing in on the specificity of the relation between poetry and the poet’s life in the development of the razo de trobar. the source from which all arguments originate. withdraws from both the lived experience of the psychosomatic individual and the biological unsayability of the species” (EP. or a waking dream? Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep? This problem is reformulated in the essay “The Dictation of Poetry” in terms of the relationship between poetry and life. and love. but in this failure to recollect one is exposed to the dictatorial truth of poetry: recount and recall what cannot be said or remembered.48 In “The Dictation of Poetry” the relation of poetry to life is expressed in the more familiar and relevant question for us here: “What does it mean for a living being to speak?” (EP. in the word. inventive art was given the title argumentum because it was supposed that invention gave one access to the very place of speech as such. Agamben notes that in ancient rhetoric ratio or ars invendiendi (inventive art/argument) was juxtaposed with ratio iudicandi or truthful. and as his main theme is of course the political determinations of the category life. correctly spoken discourse. and once one is abandoned by the muse the only tale to tell is of said abandonment. which the poet produces in the poem. but a discovery through the belatedness of the razo or recounting of experience that yes. . suggesting that while it makes sense that life is the product of language it is predominantly the case these days that the obverse is taken to be true. poetry is central to the work of Agamben. 76). That said.” (IP. it is perhaps not surprising that Agamben more than once asks as to the direct relation between poetry and life going so far as to argue that: “The poet is he who. Was it a vision. 93). said experience cannot be recounted. . produces life. Life.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN empty. Agamben supports his claim that language precedes life with citations from the theological tradition of the West. As I have been arguing. poetic dictation exposes for view the speechlessness of a direct experience of language that is itself not the result of the ineffability of that experience per se. While one is in the moment of inspiration one lacks the space to speak. the stanza. 52).
and finally the novel. 79). the razo is a zone of indifference. That psychology and narrative have taken over the razo simply deflects attention from the fact that poetry presents for us the central ontological problematic of our age. and indeed our whole tradition. . can there be an experience of language as the basis of thinking being that retains language as a thing that can be said but which itself is not reduced to merely saying something? Poetic dictation. ratio iveniendi. but also that of philosophy. Rather. Modern versions of the razo can be found in the work of Freud as much as in Joyce for example. which lies at the foundation of poetry and which constitutes what the poet calls its dictation (dictamen). not only dramatizes the problematic of the emergence of human life out of language. How can life emerge from language in such a way that it is neither the specificity of a life (biography) or the unsayable nature of biological life. caught as it is between the wordless experience of language as such and the language-less process of language about language. that defies definition. is therefore neither a biographical nor a linguistic event.PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE as arche-source simply became conventional arguments used as mnemonic techniques in oral cultures. 79). ratio iudicandi. Clearly there is something about the original place of language. The brilliance of the troubadours is that they return the idea of topos back to its fundamental fount: “the troubadours want not to recall arguments consigned to a topos but instead to experience the very event of language as original topos” (EP. what the troubadours called the stanza of love.49 Agamben notes that over centuries this has given birth to the art of biography. 80). so to speak. .” (LD. in other words. from the poetic experience of language as such. as the tight unity of what is lived and what is poeticized—now becomes a giving of reasons for experience” (EP. The impersonality of dictation becoming the personal element of biography. then fable. This allows Agamben to now explain once and for all the role of the razo in poetry: “The razo. More interesting than the slippery nature of topics/razo perhaps is the relation between lived experience and the experience of language which typifies dictation. which we share in common with all life? How. for again over time the meaning of the razo was diluted in the same manner as was observed in topics so that “What for the troubadours was an experience of the razo—that is. an experience of the event of language as love. or the experience of inspiration becoming the tale of 37 . between lived experience and what is poeticized .
This is why the fact that there is language. poeticized. 38 . which is the basis of human being as both divided and potentially redeemed. cannot be addressed unless one listens with care to the dictates of the many pages that comprise the work of the literary Agamben. indifferent. ontological. is precisely the zone of indistinction between language and life that Agamben repeatedly seeks to reveal as the very place of a speechless language as such: dictated. in-fancy.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN inspiration.
FIRST EPISODE ON THE WAY TO LOGOPOIESIS .
This page intentionally left blank .
empty. the author is present in the text only as a gesture that makes expression possible precisely by establishing a central emptiness within this expression. Accepting Foucault’s dictum that the author as creating subject is dead and replaced by the author-function. THINKING THOUGHT POETIC THINKING Going against the grain of the Platonic tradition and accepting as a given that poetry thinks. From the Latin gerere it is a type of bearing or carrying. Gesture is rather an unconscious occupancy of the hands in conversation. “Father dust who rises 41 .1 a functionality that attenuates the presence of creative agency to a mere support for discursive distributions of power along lines of ownership rights and so on. Instead he retains a vestigial role for creative agency in defining the perished author as a gesture: “If we call ‘gesture’ what remains unexpressed in each expressive act. not a person as such who has the capacity for thought. Yet if the author is merely a functional facilitation or a supporting inexpressive gesture then it makes little sense to suggest that the thoughts of a poem or indeed any work of literature take place in the “mind” of said gesture. a place-holder for a subjective category convenience. Agamben is however unable to concede that there is no author as such in the text. The gesture in question is. . . Agamben wonders where precisely the thought of the poem occurs. the location of poetic thinking would ordinarily be seen to take place in the mind of an author. Foraging for the place of poetic thinking Agamben reads a poem by the famous author-function César Vallejo.CHAPTER 1 LOGOS. we can say that . after all. a meaningless action. in a recent essay “The Author as Gesture” included in the collection Profanations (2005).”2 Naturally.
contrary to one’s assumptions. .THE LITERARY AGAMBEN from Spain” (Prof.3 The place of the poem. Agamben is forced to conclude. at the same time. . Author-functions play tag with the text. suggesting rather that they most probably only came to be known to the author as he was writing. nor can a poem as object be said to think either. 98 fn. creative. can be located neither in the poem nor the author/reader-function.?” (Prof. The author is only the witness or guarantor of his own absence in the work in which he is put into play . This being the case the author-function does not facilitate ownership or authority. a similarly evacuated subjectivity. at this point. gestural agency whose sole function is to come to presence as the “creator”’ of a poem through the marked presence of their absenting themselves from the work as subjective. in occupying the space vacated by the author becomes. the author-function does not think but is a collaborating facilitator of social forces. “in the gesture through which the author and reader put themselves into play in the text and. 12). touching the text into being through an act of empty. as Foucault would have it. speculating as to the exact location of the thoughts and sentiments contained in the work. Here Agamben realizes that the reader. “will occupy the empty place in the poem left by the author. 71). 71). its actual taking place as a mode of thinking-feeling. Nietzschean. in taking up the poem to read. Influenced no doubt by his own views on dictation he refutes the possibility that they simply blew in to the poet who then wrote them down. he will repeat the same inexpressive gesture the author used to testify to his absence in the work” (Prof. Aside from it being almost impossible to stipulate the exact moment that a poet “thought” what they wrote. a reader-function. “Does this mean that the place of thought and feeling is in the poem itself . if the thoughts of a poem are not in the mind of the author-function as they cannot be. then can they ever even be said to be the thoughts of the poet? It would seem not.4 Instead.” (Prof. . but desubjectivized ontology. Agamben adroitly comes to realize that this is equally impossible for thoughts imply by definition a thinking subject. 71). . If the poem “thinks” or presents thoughts and this thinking is not to be located in the mind of an actual. therefore. must be the reader who. in effect. are infinitely withdrawn from it. The only outstanding thinking subject involved in poetry. willing agency. poetic thinking must be. then thought occurs at the 42 . in effect. The reader becomes. or indeed even later as he was rereading his work. thinking subject.
LOGOS. From being the presupposition of a thing’s truth the thing becomes the presuppositional necessity of thinking. between potentiality and actuality. thought would effectively think nothing as such. In contrast. and thus thinking being. Through this Cimmerian light one is able to discern the topos of a poetic thinking. Reading Aristotle’s Metaphysics Agamben presents the aporia of what thought actually thinks in terms of issues of potentiality and actuality. potential. They are examples of ontological deixis. The result is that the author and reader exist within the work as available subjects to facilitate thought not as actual present and thinking beings but gestures of being. but the text “has no other light than the opaque one that radiates from the testimony of his [the author’s] absence” (Prof. THINKING THOUGHT moment that subject and object. They point to the presence of beings but they do not possess actual being. The author can only come to being as the supporting gesture of the text. the work becomes the place of thought without one personifying the poem in some absurd way by declaring that it is an autonomous. Aristotle contends. touch upon each other. If thought were simply the neutral potential to think something then. It thinks a pure potentiality (to think and not to think)” (P. thought no longer thinks some thing in its advent of singularity but is effectively what must be thought about some already presupposed thing. anything. Yet if thought instead comes to actuality and thinks something. or On Contingency” Agamben is again attempting to think the place of thought through a consideration of literature. In an earlier piece “Bartleby. 72). thought and its expression. then paradoxically it ceases to be thought as such but a category subordinate to the thing. but nothing specific? Aristotle believes so and proves this by defining thought as the thinking of thinking which “is a kind of mean between thinking nothing and thinking something. available medium “to think” something. 250–1). which for Agamben is a form of language. Thought that thinks itself neither thinks of an object nor thinks nothing. this time the more familiar discipline of philosophical thought or thinking as such. Each time thought thinks some thing therefore. At this impossible point thought is reduced to being a presuppositional representation of the thing. Such a thought is obviously meaningless. bring each other into presence then immediately withdraw.5 Aristotle illustrates this rather abstract point with reference to the 43 . Does thought actually exist as such as a general. paternal.
yet generally ignored problem shared by poetic and philosophical thinking.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN figure of a blank tablet upon which thought can be written but on which it has not yet been written. Yet to think thought as potentiality leaves thought with nothing to think. which at the same time negates thinking as such. The poem and the philosopheme share powerful affiliation at this exact point in terms of their both coming to being at the moment of a productive negation.6 Let us dwell momentarily on a common. a bolstering figuration that shares a clear equivalency to Agamben’s idea of gesture as an empty facilitation of thinking. . Thus to think thought is to think both the absence of thought as a thing to be thought. In his treatise on how to establish the ideal totalitarian state Plato immortally excludes poets from the republic. surprising. The author in a text is a potential to be while the realization of her thoughts in the text seems to be an actualization. . That we flatly refused to admit representational poetry. while to think of thought as a thing in the world and thus actualize it is to subordinate the process of thinking to an actual object and demote thinking to a form of representation or writing. as we saw.”7 Thus began proceedings for what Agamben translates as the “divorce” between poetry and prose 44 . and its presence as a coming to be a thing to be thought. If the philosopher’s vocation is to think then naturally to think what thought is would be their highest calling. The same is true for the philosopher. . seemingly accusing them of false mimesis and warning of their power to convince the citizenry that their creations are better than reality itself: “the issue of poetry is the main consideration . . of what potential is a poem the actualization of ? By definition potential must be the actualization of the potential to be and yet not be the author–reader of a thought expressed in the poem body. producing an ontological caress. They touch on being and. coyly withdraw. which convinces me that the way we were trying to found our community was along absolutely the right lines . the author as individual does not exist as such in a text. or at least Aristotle passes this belief on to Western metaphysics. hand-in-hand. Both seem to founder on an aporia between potentiality and actuality. POETRY AND PHILOSOPHY Yet one would be wrong if one then declared some kind of lasting amity between poetry and philosophy. Yet if.
even radical disjuncture. that is. Agamben returns to the division imposed by Plato many times in his own work whenever he speaks of the abyss between language and thought or poetry and philosophy. 52). Aristotle was more than happy to begin the discipline of aesthetics or philosophical categorical thinking about the arts spawning a long and illustrious tradition. 68) as we have already seen. Perhaps it is in poetry that we find a concept of language that is not that of negation but rather a “reflection on the taking place of language” (LD. love. is there is another experience of language that does not depend on a foundation of unspeakability? “If philosophy is presented from the beginning as a ‘confrontation’ with (enantiosis) and a divergence from (diaphora. or even poetry’s role in thinking was. 66).LOGOS. Plato. of material pleasure. of mimesis. Not that philosophy then neglected poetry. primarily excluded from the philosophical canon. The stated intention of the Provençal poets’ razo de trobar was “to experience the topos of all topoi. Agamben suspects as much when he presents just such a possibility at the foundation of modern poetics in the razo de trobar. So much so that today it seems strange perhaps to even argue a role for poetry as a mode of thinking. but for most it is not a form of thought. THINKING THOUGHT (MWC. in particular. “And if love is presented in the 45 . but has also introduced a disastrous aporia into Western metaphysics based around the presupposed difference between poetry and thinking which. Although Troubadour love constitutes a promising avenue of inquiry. that not only typifies our culture’s response to the arts. then what is the extreme experience of language within the poetic tradition?” (LD. came to remove from poetry thinking as a form of authentic modality. the place from which all places emerge. 66). for example. an attempt to experience the very taking place of the poetic word in the form of the joy of love seems a long way from nihilism. he wonders. inevitably. the very taking place of language as originary argument” (LD. Republic 607b–c) poetry . Agamben soon uncovers a dark truth at the heart of troubadour poetics. In Language and Death. Poetry is a form of expression. They named the experience of the very advent of the poetic word. Love is not only the term for the very event and advent of the poetic word it also comes to stand for the unattainable. Defining philosophy as “the unspeakable experience of the Voice” (LD. . . this abyss weighs heavy upon our philosopher’s mind. But on the whole poetry as a form of thinking.. until Hegel. 66).
only from this common negative experience is it possible to understand the meaning of that scission in the status of language that we are accustomed to call poetry and philosophy. to understand that which. Neither is able. philosophy and poetry. to attain such an experience. resorting always to negative constructions of language as unattainability. as such. 69). (LD. as an ancient tradition of thought would have it. he is forced to conclude: Even poetry seems here to experience the originary event of its own word as nothing. but both rest originally in a common negative experience of the taking place of language. unattainable. nothingness. the subject of The Man Without Content (1970). rather. seemingly divergent yet. come together within the modern experience of metaphysics as negation detailed in Language and Death. and the stanza S [/] s. and thus. I showed this in the previous chapter by drawing parallels between algorithms for the sign S/s. These two traditions and experiences of the word as negativity. and this experience. The two empty resonators. Perhaps. and so on. also holds them together and seems to point beyond their fracture. his philosophy of indifference. seems necessarily to be marked by negativity” (LD. while separating them. and modern art and aesthetics as nihilism. and yet accessible only in this distance. so much so that Agamben is willing to hand over ontology to the “poetic” experience of desubjectivization. Thus while poetry comes very close to an originary experience of language as such. that is because the experience of the taking place of language is at stake here. Agamben admits. alone. unspeakability. in as much as the roots of European poetics lie precisely in the empty loveless stanzas of the troubadour lyric they mark the origin of an experience of poetic negativity which echoes that of modern metaphysics. 74) There is encased in this citation the basic structure that explains Agamben’s repeated return to poetry as he tries to establish a post-nihilistic philosophy of negated scission. modern metaphysics and Provençal poetics are. Both poetry and philosophy seek an indifferent experience of language as such before the moment of its division into language and voice. The poetic and philosophical experiences of language are thus not separated by an abyss.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Provençal lyric as a desperate adventure whose object is far away. These issues come to full appearance for both disciplines during the period of 46 .
157). essentially. Tracing this articulation back to ancient Greek sources. poeticize philology so that the site of the division between poetry and philosophy “becomes a conscious. In Infancy and History. In “Kommerell. That poetry and philosophy share such commonalities is not a coincidence. Stanzas concludes with an attempt to relocate a post-nihilistic idea of presence located in the very fold or articulation between signified and signifier. Again and again he returns to this theme.LOGOS. and philosophy in a characteristically ambitious denouement (P. 108) and forms the conclusion of two major essays in the collection Potentialities (1999). 85).) The abyss between poetry and philosophy occupies the last of Agamben’s thoughts in Language and Death (LD. THINKING THOUGHT modernity. gesture. He is not calling for a synthesis of poetry and philosophy here but a clear understanding of the actual conditions of their difference as opposed to those imposed upon them by Platonic exception. problematic experience rather than an embarrassed repression” (IH. or On Gesture” he brings together poetry. while in “Tradition of the Immemorial” he speaks of Hölderlin’s quest for an undivided being leading to his call for the abolishment of the “philosophy of the letter” in favour of a poetics of dictation. He cites Heraclitus in describing this harmonia as “invisible” harmony before exhorting that “the last Western philosopher recognized a hint of this harmony in a painting by Cézanne in the possible rediscovered community of thought and poetry” (ST. in the “Project for a Review” he ends the volume by calling for a radicalization of the ancient science of philology which would. the idea of a tension that is both the articulation of a difference and a unity” (ST. politics. Ending books on a call for the healing of the fracture between poetry and philosophy then becomes something of a habitual gesture.8 Agamben is moved to wonder in this regard: Are we capable today of no longer being philosophers of the letter . for example. yet the roots of their failure to find language go back several centuries at least. but rather the result of a mutual origin in thinking as such that. 163). 157). however. without thereby becoming either philosophers of the voice or mere enthusiasts? Are we capable of reckoning with the poetic 47 . he names this possibility harmonia or “the idea of a laceration that is also a suture. . . has been obscured by the Platonic tradition that Agamben habitually calls the “abyss” between poetry and philosophy. (He is referring here to Heidegger.
on the contrary. Agamben believes. Poetry. pestered endlessly by the Sicilian tyrant Dionysius to once more attend his court. that poetry should really only be philosophised” (EP. 115) I believe our point is well made. Agamben argues: “As for poetry. (P. and surrounding the two contesting ideas of thinking within our tradition. However. Or. in the “last” essay of The End of the Poem. while Agamben seeks for a true experience of language in poetry he is regularly disappointed. citing the famous Wittgenstein declaration that philosophy should really only be poeticized. that it is threatened by an excess of tension and thought.” Agamben recounts a story told by Plato in one of his letters of how. provides an opening up of the pathway towards a future for philosophy but alone it is not the destination of this track. The destination of many major works by Agamben is the revocation of the divorce between poetry and philosophy instigated formally by Plato in Republic. These two experiences form the basis of Agamben’s idea of the origin of all literature in dictation.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN presentation of the vocation that. 115). One presents to the apparently eager student the whole thing of 48 . COMMUNICABILITY. The answer to the problem of Western metaphysics can only be approached by the rehabilitation of poetry as a form of thinking but its solution does not simply emerge from poetry. Conceding this point. emerges where no voice calls us? Only then would tradition cease to be the remission and betrayal of an unsayable transmission . Rather. it resides somewhere in the division between poetry and philosophy.9 This usually takes the form of a summons to poeticize philosophy and expose philosophic prose to the semiotic presence of the poetic word. THE THING ITSELF In the opening essay of Potentialities entitled “The Thing Itself. . paraphrasing Wittgenstein. its resolution resting with neither party nor an idealized unity of the two but between them somehow. in the fold or invisible harmony that. but they also come together in Agamben’s idea of the communicability of language as such as the place between. . as a nonpresupposed principle. one could say. Plato devised an apotropaic pedagogical methodology. within. therefore. rather. has always existed in the midst of the two fundamental experiences of language in our culture: language as sustaining (poetry) and as testing (philosophy).
Having presented this reading of Plato. the thing is “nevertheless possible only in language and by virtue of language: precisely the thing of language” (P. This thing is not a thing in any ordinary sense of the term. Much of this comes down to the problem of presupposition. image (eidolon).LOGOS. there but never to be made available to presence. 32). 28) will realize the dolour of “the thing” and task their tutor no more. This thing then is not a fifth. the most difficult of all problems: the very thing of thought as such. in the pure light of its self-manifestation and announcement to consciousness” (P. otherwise those merely “tanned” by philosophy (P. a thing in the world or a thing than can be represented by language and thus known in this way. Knowledge presupposes something as already existing about which it has knowledge whose veracity it can vouchsafe through the idea truth as agreement. 31). name (onama). all are dependent on the thing as such. while language cannot say the thing as such. an arche thing impossible to retrieve. therefore. but the very precondition of being: “no longer simply the being in its obscurity. Yet. Agamben reconstitutes the thing as such as the ground or support of knowability. Agamben then performs one of his classic gestures by rediscovering through his remarkable and controversial philological method that translations of Plato have perhaps misrepresented his thoughts on this most essential thing.” but. If the student is sincere he or she will embrace this difficulty. however. is the apotropaic heart of philosophy. 33). THINKING THOUGHT thought and all difficulties attendant on that. The thing itself.10 In accordance with the logic of apotropaicism it is precisely the thing’s unknowability and nonrepresentability in language that defines not simply the thing’s obscurity. as an object presupposed by language and the epistemological process. and knowledge. its own knowability and truth” (P. definition (logos). Rather said thing is to be brought to light “in the very medium of its knowability. “that by which the object is known. If this thing is not a thing in the world nor is it. the obscure nature of the presupposition of a thing. Modern science is the archetypal epistemology in 49 . Plato concedes. Rather than the thing as such being an unsayable and inaccessible part of being. The powerfully obscure nature of the thing dissuades the thinker but in so doing also attracts them to the very basis of philosophy’s being. Agamben’s translation finds that the four bases of being which define the Platonic theory of ideas. but the basis of knowledge on this very obscurity. additional recondite element as the tradition has it.
nor is it “horribly or beautifully unreachable in its obscurity” (P. in using language as a means of accessing that about which one speaks. One of the earliest and most important essays on Agamben’s work. it would take the form 50 . we always presuppose and forget . nor a presupposition or hypothesis. reveals that: “Language sup-poses and hides what it brings to light. Communicability divided from communication. is the communicability of the very language that cannot express the thing but. If the thing is not a thing in the world. While language and knowledge presuppose the thing itself as already existing as a thing about which they can speak and have knowledge. . . nor even an arche thing forever lost to which thought aspires. and negation at the heart of epistemology. it is nothing but communication itself. Düttmann states: “Communicability always communicates itself. 34). unsayability. 33). privation. what is the thing? “It is the very sayability. The thing itself of thought. Düttmann’s introduction to Idea of Prose. Agamben strongly refutes this history of the thing.” (P. without which. why that which cannot be thought. in language. . in the very act in which it brings it to light” (P. although not the same thing at all. spends some considerable effort defining communicability through its source in Benjamin and establishing it as the heart of Agamben’s thought.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN this regard operating as the very opposite structure to that of an apotropaic thinking that is. what we are always saying and communicating .” Communication and communicability. the very open-ness at issue in language. which. the thing could not come to presence. What is the very thing of thought itself ? this tradition seems to ask. would not name the thing being communicated and so said thing would not be produced into presence and communicability never invoked and revealed. declaring that the thing itself is not “something ineffable that must remain unsaid and hence sheltered” (P. 35). more typical of modern ontology. 35). therefore. I would argue. inscribing a myth of absence. Yet communicability cannot be collapsed into communication in that in itself it cannot be communicated: “if communicability let itself be communicated. Such thinking. cannot however be thought separately. The result is that the sayability of the thing said and the knowability of the thing known are both lost to presuppositional thinking. it is what we are always disclosing in speaking. . an act of communication.11 their presupposition of the thing itself will always make said thing inaccessible.
merely that the means of encountering it are not provided by communication of something specific. Plato’s development of the thing itself as a concept is in response to the entreaties of the tyrant of Ortygia where Plato first travelled with the idea of setting up his republic and expelling. This does not mean communicability is unsayable or invisible. Returning to “The Thing Itself. Like Heidegger. The means by which this occurs is apotropaic in a historical sense in that the thing’s unsayability in philosophical language gives birth to the tradition of negativity. For example. While he has a great deal to say of poetry that is philological. Agamben’s analysis of the thing as such should therefore act as a warning. reducing itself to the simple communication of something.” one ought to note that the explicit history of this term in Plato is of no small water to our own study. however far the thing as such is from Agamben’s ideas on enjambement or poetic rhythm. and the logic of the thing as not an object of presupposition but the very basis of objectivity and subjectivity is directly inherited from “the last philosopher. which is also essential to Agamben’s ideas on poetry. would erase itself immediately.”12 Hence communicability is defined here as that which supports and facilitates communication but which itself is never communicated through an act of communication. and communication. Language cannot say the thing as such because the thing as such is the very sayability of language and knowability of knowledge (it cannot communicate communicability but it can pro-duce it. 51 . lead it forward into the light). a structure we recognize from our considerations of thinking as such. Agamben’s interest in poetry and the literary in general is only as a means of bringing him closer to language.LOGOS. THINKING THOUGHT of a thing. but at the same time allows us access to a profound realization. and his interest in language is piqued only as a way of revealing the very basis of thinking and being as such. and technical. Language is the very thing that allows thought to occur and it is thought that Agamben pursues. a chattering mime of poets along the way. and we as critics of literature can and must learn from him in these areas. In addition. one can see here that the communicability of language. It would not be possible to produce an Agambenian linguistics from it for example.” poetry is fundamentally important to thinking but not necessarily fundamentally important in itself. is not precisely a comment on language. historiographic. one presumes.
Revelation. . . . but more than that something that totally exceeds the process of human reason: this can only mean the following: the content of revelation is not a truth that can be expressed in the form of linguistic propositions about a being . Like the quasi-theology of the “big bang” theory of our universe. 40) This transparency of language within our tradition has come to be the very quality of god’s invisibility.14 is a strategy on Agamben’s part to suggest that modern metaphysics is similarly dominated by the impossible 52 . 41). Agamben explains that the beginning word. can presuppose nothing. .” he considers the influence of the concept of revelation on the Western metaphysical ideas of linguistic unsayability. The absolute presupposition is itself non-presuppositional. en arkhe e ho ¯ ¯n logos (“In the beginning was the word”). humans see the world through language but do not see language. Glossing on John. must contain within it not merely content that human ingenuity has not yet conceived of. (P. “no word for the word” (P. but is instead a truth that concerns language itself. “There is. Agamben calls this the movement of language’s “self-revelation. This is elsewhere reformulated as there being no name for the name. as a statement on the ontology of language as such. or what Lyotard defines as thinking-feeling of something happening as the very happening in question. it is noted. meaning it also does not say some thing in the world. the very fact that language (and therefore knowledge) exists. The meaning of revelation is that humans can reveal beings through language but cannot reveal language itself . Instead it says the thing as such of language. the first word of god.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN THE IDEA OF LANGUAGE In the second essay Agamben has written under the title “The Idea of Language. nothing precedes the “big word” of God.” Agamben says making a point he often returns to. a knowable thing that we did not previously know. This diversion through the tautegorical revelation. allowing Agamben to define that foundational theological declaration on language.” or a heuristic tautegorical structure that says its essence through the act of saying but saying nothing as such.13 This word/name therefore cannot say something about something as there is no something that precedes it.
says language itself and exposes its limits?” (P. Yet the Derridean idea of language as subject to the logic of the trace. if the presuppositional power of language knew no limits. then there would truly be no possible experience of the limits of language. Language. “Can there be discourse that. As Agamben says. The problem here is mapped out very succinctly. he wonders. 47). THINKING THOUGHT logic of revelation. while locating one irrevocably within language and its endless deferrals and referrals (it must be remembered that the trace defers forward by simultaneously referring back to historical contextual usages that presage its deferrals to come). for example. without being a metalanguage or sinking into the unsayable. however. Or what Plato calls the thing itself. 53 . Agamben sees the modern presupposition of language as profoundly aporetic in that it posits language as the presupposition to thought. Thus. Nothing immediate can be reached by speaking beings—nothing. 46). Agamben believes that the Idea of Greek thought is one possible way of escaping the philosophical double bind of language’s polysemantic homonymy and its anonymous finitude. forcing it always to speak of something pertaining to the epochal closure of the metaphysical project. A metalinguistic approach to language is able to think language in its finitude as a thing of some order but it must lift itself from out of language as semiotic medium to do so. as ever the quarry in Agamben’s sights here.” but nor is an Idea some thing in the world outside: “it is a vision of language itself. does not. Such language is not presupposed. The Greek sense of the Idea is not a word so cannot be named meta-linguistically. Agamben believes. that is. does not have a presence that can be named but nor is the Idea a nameless nothingness. “If every human word presupposed another word. Thus the conception of language as immediate mediation defines its communicability and reveals a possible way out of the nihilism of modern thought. On the other hand. The Idea. “this is an Idea. except language itself. which for human beings mediates all things and all knowledge. allow one to think language as such. is itself immediate. and naturally enough he comes to call this the Idea of language. as immediate mediation “constitutes the sole possibility of reaching a principle freed of every presupposition” (P. a perfect language purged of all homonymy and composed solely of univocal signs would be a language absolutely without Ideas” (P. 46–7). yet it provides no direct means of letting language speak itself. Returning to Plato. 47).LOGOS. mediation itself ” (P.
made over much of linguistic communicability. not in song but in a pure language?16 He says. perhaps. does not understand what to say. or moment in history when all division is. as yet. One name for this voluble silence in Agamben’s work is the Idea of Prose. This object is the thing itself of thought defined by Agamben not by what it can know presuppositionally but what it cannot. via the mediation of Agamben’s text: “Its language is the idea of prose itself. THE IDEA OF PROSE While an essential element of Agamben’s thought critics have. Such a mode of thinking is not lost in the mire of unspeakability as one might assume and is silent on the subject about which it must speak only because it. “Was philosophy not perhaps the discourse that wanted to free itself of all presuppositions.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN COMMUNICABILITY. Confusingly. In the pursuit of thought nothing is sacred. Similarly. the text Idea of Prose does not contain the source material of this intriguing construction that is to be found elsewhere in the third of our trinity of essays on communicability as such contained in Potentialities: “Language and History. For example. like a number of thinkers since Heidegger. Even Agamben’s own. in isolation poetry’s reserved role as the closest experience we can have of immediate mediation via dictation is not Agamben’s main point. he reminds us that the original task of thought was not to discern the presuppositional bases for thinking problems but the elimination of presuppositions. which is understood by all humans 54 . self-avowed project is negated here in true philosophical thought.” As the text opens we encounter Walter Benjamin speaking in notes for “Theses on the Philosophy of History” of the messianic world to come which he famously defines as one of integral actuality. or thought that does not find presuppositional commonalities but eliminates all presupposition leaving merely the great single object of true thinking. for a second at least. suspended. True philosophy in this way ought to be doubly silent. which is expressed in the formula ‘that there is language’? Is philosophy not concerned precisely with comprehending the incomprehensible?” (P. Silent on the problems it has solved and silent as it comprehends the problems that remain. even the most universal presupposition.15 Such a moment ought to be celebrated should it not. He wishes. alone it tells us little. 45). to solve the problem of philosophy itself rather than use philosophy to solve problems.
Thus the Idea of Prose is a system of pure and transparent naming that names one thing: the universal. nor can it refer to other names within language. In the Idea of Prose we would not return. prose would name nothing other than the fact that it can name: nominal potentiality. discourse. but in the integration of all languages into one pure language that is not written or spoken but simply celebrated. as there would be no exteriority for such endless deferral. not by taking up one single language and rejecting all others. or communicability. language. At the moment that history is redeemed from division into integral actuality. This Benjamin famously calls “freed prose. and communication. Such a language does not have a content and does not communicate objects through meanings. To put it succinctly. How can this be? Agamben himself poses this question. 48). as our tradition often has it. THINKING THOUGHT just as the language of birds is understood by those born on Sunday” (cited in P. discourse presupposes names then a name cannot be anything that would ever need discourse again. naming the world. integrated. to an impure process of attempted communication or trying to render transparent once more the opacity of signs. Such a name cannot refer to things in the world. like many thinkers. humanity will resolve the issue of the Babelian profusion of languages. and actual presence of language as such. I believe we now have an answer that we can retrieve from the mysticism of Benjamin’s wonderful prose. If.LOGOS. Discursive language is widely seen as a necessary evil to redeem the fall of language over time from a pure system of transparent signification. naming. simply to a universal system of nouns but to a totally transparent system of pure coincidence between sound and sense. “The status of this Adamic language is therefore of speech that does not communicate anything other than itself and in which spiritual essence and linguistic essence thus coincide. Language as communicability is the moment of integral actuality when the thing as such of thought touches the medium of thinking. accepts the scission at the heart of human language between pure signification. Benjamin. 52). At this moment what is 55 . he writes.” a language not tied down to communication but existing rather as pure communicability.17 What would such prose consist of ? Primarily names. instead it is perfectly transparent to itself ” (P. however. as confusion can of course lead again to a diversity of names for such things.
ironically. It has to be this way.18 choosing to stay within language rather than distance himself from the source of all thought. The destiny of perfect or pure prose. But this is exactly what they cannot do without abolishing themselves” (P. semiotic. but to say this it would have to cease transmitting immediately and choose a side. yet disregard for. and difference. seems to be promoted by an observation by Valéry that states “the essence of prose is to perish” (cited in P. 60). the poet says. or material remnant.” He finds precedents for this conception in Plato’s Idea of the thing as such that an uncited Aristotelian fragment describes as “a kind of mean between prose and poetry. That said. Benjamin’s choice of the confusing term prose. languages would have to cease to mean it. is the thing of such of thought. language as semiotic mediality. or to leave no excessive. He does not take dictation. Is his prose therefore close to the Idea of Prose? At the resolution of the essay Agamben returns to the citation that commenced the discussion and its proffering of the “Idea of Prose. philosophy. Agamben is a philosopher and purveyor of philosophical prose. 54). by actually trying to think it. He is not a poet. that is. so to speak. A language that precedes thought places language in a position of presupposition immediately negating its true essence and making it a philosophical concept. At this point it would cease to be a sustaining experience of language as transmission and would instead be a specific transmissible meaning.”19 However. Language too requires immediate mediation as Agamben explains: “to say what they mean. Agamben opts for poetry. answering the very pertinent question why he did not describe an Idea of Poetry. language. is to be totally comprehended. transmit it. given the weak choice of poetry or philosophy in the interim while we await the arrival of the Idea of Prose.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN revealed is that the medium that allows one to produce or perceive the thing as such. unity. This vision of prose’s total invisibility in the face of semantic transmission is part of a tradition that I have analysed elsewhere and has come to form the very frontier of the future of 56 . Thought thinks how it is possible for thought to think away from presuppositionality. In so doing it discovers this possibility through the very medium that momentarily facilitates this question. Which is why. The very meaning of language is its transmission of meaning as such. A thought that precedes language simply reiterates the aporias of philosophy’s reliance on.
and Heidegger.20 Accepting that there are certain presuppositional and aporetic elements to this view. But remnants of it can be perceived first in the very communicability of language as such or as pure medium. This indifference is not the result of unity or dialectic synthesis. for a messianic and impossible dream? Perhaps. Only poetry. THINKING THOUGHT poetry itself. Agamben is reaching here. The Idea of language is language that no longer presupposes any other language. resting solely on its own never having been. now simply speaks. but essentially. the Idea of Prose. having eliminated all of its presuppositions and names and no longer having anything to say. naming and signifying. which knows neither past nor repetition. are no longer in opposition but in a state of integral actuality. is forced to turn to poetry. surely. speech restored to the Idea is immediately dispersed. can no longer be pursued through philosophical prose. and finally in poetry and its complex presentation and experience of the materiality of language as such through dictation. and thus Agamben. in never having been. (P.LOGOS. if we are ever to arrive at that point. it would seem. 57 . it is the language that. like Badiou. It does not unify because it exists pre-divisively in a completely other order of thinking that has no conception of scission and opposition. can pro-duce perfect prose. As Agamben says of such prose: Insofar as it has reached perfect transparency to itself. Nancy. Confusingly. a poetry of materialized prose. It is what is continually said and what continually takes place in every language not as an unsayable presupposition but as what. insofar as it now says and understands only itself. sustains the life of language. I will here concede however that at the very least it is the dream and beyond that also the Idea of Prose that its materiality should always finish in total immaterialization. in the collapse of philosophy into a linguistic presupposition of unsayability which ironically allows us to finally think of a silent language that speaks itself. Derrida. 60) A language of perfect transparency would accept no division and therefore can be described as totally indifferent. Yet a pellucid language would not be reducible to dialectic either as the two elements. it is “pure history”—history without grammar or transmission.
does it turn a res into a res gesta” (IH. or simply the radical nature of Agamben’s claim. 154–5).” while owing much to Aristotle. He comes to define gesture. He feels confident at this stage to then immediately make the jump of almost two millennia from the Roman scholar Varro to the French poet Mallarmé and his concept of the milieu pur: “a sphere not of an end in itself. . presents a new. He first raises the issue in an essay called “Notes on Gesture” inserted into the appendices of Infancy and History. . as such. it remains difficult for us perhaps to see how poetry and philosophy could even begin to be said to share a common ground. inbuilt scepticism. gesture breaks the false alternative between ends and means . via the neo-Platonist Varro’s reading of Aristotle.22 He admits that Varro’s analysis of gesture as neither production nor enactment but “undertaking and supporting. in fact. the basis of Agamben’s presentation of form-of-life as a new mode of thinking in Means Without Ends (1996).21 This early work begins in characteristic fashion with the philosopher bemoaning the loss of gestures in modern life. “in a means. the making visible of a means as such” (IH. combining Greek scholarship 58 . are removed from the sphere of mediation without thereby becoming ends” (IH.23 This definition of a means without determinate ends. as that which resides between the two sides of Aristotle’s famous distinction between action (praxis) and production (poiesis). that potential for the gesture to interrupt it in its very being-means and only thus does it display it. 155). One solution to this problem resides in Agamben’s theory of the gesture with which we already have some familiarity from what is. however tense this dual occupancy may be. perhaps due to the Platonic inheritance. and presents means which. Astonishingly. This is vintage Agamben. Agamben’s third foray into the theory of gesture. 155). third kind of action: “if doing is a means in sight of an end and praxis is an end without a means.24 is what Agamben calls gesture: “Gesture is the display of mediation. and we will need to wait before we can fully comprehend this final leap of his imagination.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN POETIC GESTURES Although Agamben consistently affirms a common history and destiny for poetry and philosophy. 155). but of a kind of mediation that is pure and devoid of any end” (IH. this rapidly leads him to the conclusion that it is gesture as pure medium that allows us finally to understand the Kantian definition of beauty as “finality without purpose” or “without end” which is.
The German defines gesture as closely tied but not reducible to. presents Agamben with a double negation typified by the use of the term gag. much reviled in Language and Death for example. Undeniably this silence muzzles the truth of human being but it is a mere interruption of amnesia whose very presence reveals the thing it promoted us to forget: language as pure medium. here becomes a positive gagging or “an exposition of the human being’s being-in-language: pure gesturality” (IH. 156). so to speak. which originates from the fact that pure mediality cannot be presented in the form of a proposition it being the unspoken base of all propositions. however. In itself it has nothing to say. namely that gesture is another name for the communicability of language as pure medium: “gesture is the communication of a potential to be communicated. is also a betrayal of its importance. a positive silence. This nothing to say. the linguistic. Thus the muteness of philosophy. because what it shows is the being-in-language of human beings as a pure potential for mediation” (IH. provides the potential for a silence to once more speak. therefore. 156). THINKING THOUGHT forays into the European avant-garde and radical re-readings of the foundations of modern philosophy all within a few sentences. Gesture’s muteness. therefore. he reads Kommerell’s own comments on linguistic gesturality. The insertion of speech into silence.LOGOS. or On Gesture” he brings philosophy closer to an art form more central to our study. poetry.25 Agamben calls such positive silence a “gag” playing on the double meaning of a hindrance to speech and an ad lib inserted into a speech by an actor unsure of her lines. The essay ends by explaining a relation the reader may already have discerned. 59 . in its solitary moments” (P. in gesture. A presence in language more originary than conceptual expression. These comments mark a fairly recognizable presaging of Agamben’s early thoughts on gesture here brought into the sphere of poiesis. while yet another example of the mute voice within our tradition is. Lamentably the gag silences but it also inserts language into a hiatus which. but in the aforementioned “Kommerell. Agamben describes philosophy’s gag as being akin to that of what he calls the gesturality of cinema.26 It transpires that philosophy speaks of silence to fill in its memory lapse as regards its true subject for speech. language as such. it is “the stratum of language that is not exhausted in communication and that captures language. 77). while a distraction from the truth of language. Defining the great twentiethcentury German critic as a “gestic” critic.
poets. becomes almost unbearable. 78). remember we have already considered Aristotle’s blank tablet. therefore. then what is at issue in gesture is not so much a prelinguistic content as. and poetry the mimetic. it tends ever to the conceptual. . Having said that there is one aspect of the philosophical tradition that echoes the pure mediality of gesturality in poiesis. so to speak. its unspeakability as pure medium that Hegel identified in the inadequacy of the deictic diese. the gestural is one of the means by which poetry and philosophy come together in Agamben’s work. He defines language as primarily conceptual and mimetic. then. It speaks not of the pre. already heightened for them by their semiotic rather than semantic use of language. Thus for those possessed of the most words. This remaining mimetic element is its gesturality or what we can also call the semiotic. Each word. graphicality. Kommerell defines speech as originary gesture leading Agamben to conclude: “If this is true .THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Kommerell. compares gestural loneliness as akin to that found in lyric poetry. according to Kommerell poetry is subject to the gestic gag or as Agamben says: “something put in someone’s mouth to keep him from speaking and. language as pure. the actor’s improvisation to make up for an impossibility of speaking” (P. to better illustrate his point. its speechless dwelling in language” (P. A proposition that allows one to draw the conclusion that in-fancy is also gestural. Kommerell proposes a decidedly odd equation of diminishing returns in this regard. . Agamben calls this the tablet and our second encounter with it. the other side of language. and a common if divergent response to their being “gagged” by language’s tendency towards muteness within our culture. Like philosophy. Not that philosophy as such is gestural. inexpressive materiality. Gesture is one name Agamben gives for the very mediality of language’s communicability. If this is the case. 78). it would seem. before assuring us that prose is essentially the conceptual component of language. noise. requires that we leave Kommerell in Germany and travel 60 .but sublinguistic support of the semiotic as such in language. there must always be something in the poem not exhausted by a reading of it in terms of meaning. He says the more we have language the greater the weight of the unsayable. Aside from the common history and destiny shared by poetry and philosophy. Quite the opposite. bears a quantum of gestic mass. the weight of language’s gestic muteness. the muteness inherent in humankind’s very capacity for language.
the ageing philosopher Damascius decided to devote his last years to an impossible work entitled Aporias and Solutions Concerning First Principles. PHILOSOPHICAL GESTURALITY In the sixth century AD. its own absolute potentiality. . . Agamben too finds the instigation of what he had been looking for since the inauguration of his great experimentum linguae. 34) 61 . 32). lengthy volume that the hand of the scribe had crammed with characters was nothing other than the attempt to represent the perfectly bare writing tablet on which nothing had yet been written. . particular referent. . how can one comprehend the incomprehensible” (IP. . the Syrian city where he was born many years before. 33). the pure potentiality of representation itself: the writing tablet! . The entire. breath. “not an image. Then. but rather.27 From this charming story of ancient times. itself unthinkable and unspeakable. an image occurred to him that would guide him towards the completion of this impossible task. . not the origin of first principles but the place where language can be thought without reducing it to mere discourse and named without tying it down to a fixed. where the winnowing fans of thought and language separated the grain and chaff of everything?” (IP. in exile. or word might eventually take place . but something like the perfectly empty space in which only image. he was in despair “because how can thought pose the question of the beginning of thought .LOGOS. it was not even a space. “Wasn’t what he was searching for exactly like the threshing floor. one night. not a place or thing. he narrates how. This site of a place reminded him of nothing so much as the threshing floors of Damascus. After three hundred days and three hundred nights of consideration. but the site of a place” (IP. with many interruptions. (IP. no matter how free of any quality. . . THE TABLET. 33). Describing Damascius setting about writing down the idea of the threshing floor. in a flash the old philosopher realized the truth of thought: The uttermost limit thought can reach is not a being. taking his hand from the writing tablet for a moment. THINKING THOUGHT back in time many hundreds of years to the court of Koshrau I of Persia where a respected and aged philosopher once set himself the task of finally resolving the remaining problems of philosophy .
in the midst of poetry and philosophy. not giving way to the extremes. what.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Courtesy of this epiphany Damascius understood that his work would be finished only at the moment he ceased writing and accordingly he broke the tablet in two. preferring the German translation “mitte” or midst. The term does not. né poesia né prosa. the precondition of all thought on the materiality of a non-expressive language. rather medio must signify being in the midst of a milieu and being a milieu of the midst. Mean here retains the sense of middleness and of sharing a common ground but 62 . This allegorical provocation is the threshold of Agamben’s first attempt to bring together the millennial project of poetry and philosophy and heal their painful divorce in Idea of Prose. therefore. The closing words of the essay speak again of the enigmatic statement of Aristotle that Plato’s “idea del linguaggio” (“idea of language”). One can see why the rather bland and non-suggestive “middle term” then is not to his or indeed my own liking. with its double sense of midst and milieu or “what takes place in the middle. as Düttmann correctly asserts. namely mean. ma il loro medio” (“was for him neither poetry nor prose. means he is unable to reconcile the conflict between writing that does not think (poetry) and thinking that cannot be written (philosophy). here represented by the medium of an as yet un-inscribed set of thoughts. “non era. Medio in this way would mean to be both in the midst of something. Düttmann’s analysis of the translation of the key phrase from “The Idea of Prose” is important here. a version of a kind of gestural or poeticized thinking. Being a thinker not a poet he thus has no option but to break the tablet of material language and abandon his philosophical ambitions. The tablet is. per lui. As Damascius discerned. Agamben has no such intentions towards a narrative of sour disavowal told by some future thinker fifteen hundred years hence and so alights with relish upon Benjamin’s Idea of Prose as a way out of perennial philosophical failure. remains surrounded by the milieu that characterizes such an intermediary state” (IP. That said Düttmann’s version seems to miss the most obvious translation of the term medio. and the medium created by the bringing together of these two terms.28 Düttmann is somewhat dissatisfied with the translation of medio as “middle term” by Sullivan and Whitsitt. 5). but their middle term”). no doubt with great bitterness (although the text of this great work was in fact written). refer to an already presupposed medium waiting to be occupied.
or On Contingency” for Potentialities. but their mean. while a consideration of ethics and community. This second volume. 1). specifically its ability to communicate nothing but its potential to communicate: whatever name. namely balance. or the mean of communicability between poetry and prose. middleness (Wall’s aforementioned radical passivity). Average is a most common meaning for medio in Italian. THINKING THOUGHT importantly it adds a third sense: the average of two terms. It commences with prophesy: “The coming being is whatever being” (CC.”29 The tablet. For that matter he is also speaking of language. suspension: “dialectic at a standstill. aptly. stillness. is also a delineation of potentiality in terms of ontology as the opening essay “Whatever” reveals.” in The Coming Community (1990). but indifferent being in that it is “such as it is. Excited by this formulation he goes on to name this the quodlibet or whatever character of being in relation to that complex philosophical term potential originating in the work of Aristotle and finding radical reinvention in Heidegger under the terms of possibility. This portentous rhetorical portal opens up a debate on the meaning of “whatever” in terms of identity and being. told twice over first as part of a co-authored book with Deleuze translated as “Bartleby. it is time to tell another story. being French or being Muslim. Singularity is thus freed from the false dilemma that obliges knowledge to choose between the ineffability of the individual and the intelligibility of the universal” (CC.” It is a story Agamben has. tension.31 with Agamben explaining he does not mean an indifferent being in relation to a common property. midst and milieu do not quite capture what is the essential experience of the Idea of Prose.30 and again in the lapidarianally entitled “Bartleby.” POTENTIALITY To draw together the diverse strands of Agamben’s theory of the medio. therefore. 1). While Agamben is talking about being and ethics here we can now clearly see that he is also discoursing on the traditionally assumed qualities of poetry (ineffability) and philosophy (intelligibility). this time the tale of different form of tablet named “Bartleby the Scrivener. is an example of a potential medium for thinking the thing of thought as such dependent on precisely this (re)translation of Aristotle’s definition of said thing as pure mediality: “neither poetry nor prose. I believe that without the concomitant implication of averaging out.32 63 .LOGOS.
not the assumed movement from potentiality to actuality which we might call “creation” or “invention. 64 .” but the chance that potential will remain solely potential—potential inaction. as indeed all makers are. Thus when Agamben goes on to define the artist. the poet the potential to not-write poems” (P. simple privation. of the poet that he or she has the potential to write poems. 179). Indeed. It ought now to be becoming increasingly clear how Agamben’s early ideas pertaining to authorial gesturality. Akhmatova is a poet at the moment of her not-yet-having-written and. is developed from the debate over what it means to have a faculty to do something and yet not be doing it. in an odd way she is less of a poet when she is fulfilling her potential and writing poems. “‘in this sense.” the actual and surprising definition of poetic being is the possession of a faculty and not using it. all potentiality is based on a choice not to do. To have a faculty to write a poem. “What is essential is that potentiality is not simply non-Being. which comes to define being as the presence of the not to be. but rather the existence of non-Being. Thus. Agamben concludes. at every moment that the poet is not writing a poem they are in a state of potential privation: they could write but they choose not to. The poet here. tabularity. the presence of an absence . the simultaneous existence of not being within the very identity of one’s being. so that potentiality is not simply actuality to be but also the refusal to actuate one’s potential. 179). means that you can write a poem but not that you are writing one or even that you ever will. we say of the architect that he or she has the potential to build. for the sake of argument let us say the poet’s potential to make a poem.” (P. . and communicability all come together here in a sustained consideration of potential as the desubjectivizing presence of absence in being. Agamben uses here the example of Akhmatova’s avowal that she had the faculty to express the horror of the Russian purges before she had written a word. non-invention. or whatever being. “Thus the architect is potential insofar as he has the potential to not-build. Being is defined in its singularity by precisely this ontological condition of neutrality and passivity. The presence of an absence for Agamben is the true definition of potentiality. in-creation. is defined in terms of being through negation or desubjectivization. .33 He notes that in Aristotle potentiality.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Agamben has said a number of times that the Western metaphysical tradition was part founded on the now generally ignored opposition between potentiality and actuality in Aristotle’s work.
the simultaneous coming to being and desubjectivization of identity that Agamben describes as the essence of the author-function. or to turn his potential into actuality. The tablet is the medium of this touch or what is touched. Gesture is the touch and withdrawal of being. Clearly Gould is a thinker in his playing potential for rather than simply being a pianist. Here gesture and tablet find a common medium in what I envisage as a tensile pairing that forms the communicability of language or the thing itself of thought. Returning to Bartleby. for those who are familiar with this remarkably prescient work by Melville. and actuality. “For if it is true that whatever being always has a potential character. it is capable of its own impotence” (CC. THINKING THOUGHT Akhmatova is a poet because she can write poems but she only has this faculty because she can also not write poems. . it is equally certain that it is not capable of only this or that specific act. Gould’s power is that “he plays. not yet being. Such a being is located in the mean or medial position between potentiality. it should now be clear that the reluctant scribe is the manifestation of potentiality embedded in his apparently self-destructive and nihilistic riposte to any request for action. Noting that true power comes from the capability for power and impotence. “I would prefer not to. he is able to consider his potential being beyond simply occupying this named position. Before being comes to be it already possess the remnant of a true being in that such a being is not full actualization but the retention of not-being even in the act of full coming to being. Being. . with his potential to not-play” (CC. therefore. he celebrates Gould’s artistic power through a consideration of his potential to not not-play. Once potential passes over into actualization however. modern “poetic” thinking. the potential not to be a poet as the very actualization of the poetic subjective state. 65 . having been. 35). must retain a remnant in each of its two manifestations. nor is it simply incapable . retains the element of blankness. Stating that any pianist can play or not play.LOGOS. the being that is properly whatever is able to not-be.”34 Agamben calls this supreme power using the figure of Glenn Gould to better illustrate the power of whatever being. there must be retained a part of potential being that is never fully realized. 36). a blankness that is never entirely blank and that. even when written upon. being in its potentiality. As such he is an exemplar of Aristotelian thought as potential and his controversial and apparently unhinged performance choices are recognizable examples of masterful. so to speak.
. but is the presence of absence within presence that both affirms and negates being. And Bartleby. This complex yet necessary logic not only dictates the potentiality of thought and willed creation but their interrelation through writing: “In the potentiality that thinks itself. this time more centrally to its relation to potentiality: “If thought were in fact only the potentiality to think this or that intelligibility . in its essence. But thought.” (CC. .35 Just as Gould can think his own potentiality by playing with its negation. 37). not thought considered as an object.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Reading De Anima. in other words. The perfect act of writing comes not from a power to write. as Agamben states midway through “Bartleby. that rasum tabulae that is nothing but its own passivity” (CC. . 37). so thought can think itself as a pure medium. is pure potentiality. but is not yet and may never be. although Agamben notes that the correct term should be rasum tabulae or the layer of wax covering the tablet which the stylus engraves. . Aristotle compares it to a writing tablet on which nothing is written” (CC. the construction of an experience of the possible as such. but not in actuality think it for as soon as it is thought. not writing but the white sheet is what philosophy 66 . Having met with this tablet once before. Agamben glosses again on Aristotle’s definition of thought. Or. rather. “but that layer of wax. stepping away from to play or not to play in favour of a position of playing to play and playing not to play. This waxen screen allows thought to turn back on itself and think itself as the thought of thought. and. simply put. writes its own passivity. Thought must have something to think. or On Contingency”: “In its deepest intention. it would always already have passed through to the act and it would remain necessarily inferior to its own object. Thought is neither presence. but from an impotence that turns back on itself and in this way comes to itself as pure act . nor some negative theological absence. 37). philosophy is a firm assertion of potentiality. Being as pure absence remains nonbeing. “a scribe who does not simply cease writing but ‘prefers not to’” (CC. as such. therefore. we can now reveal that it is the famous tabula rasa. 37). thought is no longer thought as such. written. it is also the potentiality to not think. neither an object nor its negation. as possible or material intellect. but being as presence becomes unthinkable. action and passion coincide and the writing tablet writes by itself or. is the archetype of pure potentiality as the passive writing medium upon which thought could. Not thought but the potential to think.
but as they write they murder the muse and assume her garb. They are the art of pure character. THINKING THOUGHT refuses at all costs to forget” (P. Without being facetious.LOGOS. The author attempted to merely will them into existence. Or better a dot. Agamben concludes: “To some extent we all come to terms with Genius. changes her mind. what do they see? Dressed in second-clothes. . There are the great books that were never written. a certain dim light shining from the left. depersonalizes and desubjectivizes the writer. and the works never created: Mallarmé’s Livre. a series of dots. not to write and to write.” The Magnetic Fields. Then there are the great works that were written purely through genius: “Kubla Khan. . Agamben’s La voce umana. changes her mind. as the poet sets pen to paper. to flee from him” (Prof. 67 . 17). as is the writing of pure inspiration. Poets are called by the muse to write.: “The ink. Writer’s block is a phenomenon best explained by the ontology of potentiality. On the Road. The experience of the poet can be defined in precisely these terms as poetic dictation direct from the muse or the greatest experience of potential impotentiality. the late Rimbaud. Looking in the mirror of their art. that any paper and any light will suffice” (Prof. withdraws the pen. is thought itself ” (P. 249). This white sheet is yet another version of the tablet of philosophy and the empty inscriptions imprinted upon it the gesturality that is at the basis of poetry’s experience of language as such. Agamben’s whole philosophical system of thinking as such could be reduced to the thoughtless doodling of ontology upon a blank sheet with an inkless pen. the personal and impersonal (Prof. As I Lay Dying. The impersonal is negated in the personal act of writing something specific. then opts not to . DeChirico.36 Potentiality in the writer is precisely this tension between genius and character. Duchamp. yet each act of writing. 10). with what resides in us but does not belong to us. Each person’s character is engendered by the way he attempts to turn away from Genius. however. it is useless to tell yourself that just any pen will do. 14). commences writing. Or is it to be unearthed in his description of the capricious diffidence found at the desk of every writer of genius? “If in order to write you need—he needs!—a certain yellow paper. they have become someone they are not. Going on to describe the essence of the poetic as the tension between the demands of ego and genius. the drop of darkness with which the pen writes. as we saw. a certain special pen. These works did not come into being because they were not possessed of genius. 244).
and so on. What does he contemplate? Gestures: for the first time truly his own. when genius has abandoned them? “It is the late and final stage when the old artist lays down his pen—and contemplates. . all one’s written and unwritten works as Agamben phrases it. fulfil. Here the author seemingly had little or nothing to do with writing. Some do not write and could never do so. the powerful unfulfilment of true potential being. Gesturality signs the long and chequered history of one’s being with language. 18). for Agamben. the great writers of genius. Then there are the few. or to write as not writing. They are happy with their lot and it would never occur to them not to write. that determine one’s subjective desubjectivity as a writer of potential. . The pen that grazes the page. Their destiny is otherwise. too much character in one and overabundance of genius in the other. devoid of every charm . 68 . or not to write. A blank tablet acting as mere reproach to the woman of genius. but in their ongoing and self-conscious game with writing: to write. And what of when a writer simply ceases to write. and that is the only way.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Kenneth Koch’s When the Sun Tries to Go On. There are those who can write and do so with facility and alacrity. only now does the very long unlearning of the self begin . the brush as it is lifted from the canvas not when it is applied. . inspired flow are two sides of an imbalance of writerly potentiality. . The gesture alone is meaningless and sad. Does one fulfil one’s potential in the work? Never. or not to not write.” (Prof. Writer’s block and pure. Their brilliance does not reside in what they write or what they excise or refute.
A sweating. but its wider meaning is in fact creation. but the bringing into existence something that was not there before which could be an object.” Bringing something into presence could just as easily 69 . of filmic presentations of creation such as the various versions of Frankenstein. Plato famously says in the Symposium: “any cause that brings into existence something that was not there before is poiesis. but could just as easily be a truth or observation. for the modern philosophical tradition. say. Finally. Such a view confirms the ontotheological and masculine activity of god-like invention as creation ex nihilo that has dominated modern ideas of the artist-creator. THINKING THROUGH MAKING POIESIS The Greek word poiesis1 is the origin of our term poetry explaining why. This view of creativity finds its culmination in Nietzsche’s concept of the Will to Power as Art or maker as creative genius. poiesis is “any cause” that results in creation. Yet if we pay careful attention to Plato’s words here. but is not limited to it. At the same time creation does not simply indicate the god-like making of a new object in the world. dark-browed genius does not necessarily have to work in the intermittent flashes of lightning accompanied by Wagnerian thunder and a rattling gurney to simply “bring something into presence. This includes willed creative agency therefore.”2 Within the period of aesthetic modernity extending from Romanticism to our contemporary moment it has been common to interpret this dictum in such a way that poiesis could be taken to mean simply the willed making of something: creation. the process of actually making is rather less glamorous than that.CHAPTER 2 POIESIS. poetry has come to be the archetype of all the arts.
The chalice makes one think of certain things in relation to ceremony and sacrifice. The same would be true of the statue. The chalice is to hand or possesses Heideggerian equipmentality. form. For Heidegger.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN mean coaxing. purpose. soil. and the people through a precinct where earth and sky are gathered and composed together into a world where the gods seem to dwell among us. at least not in the way in which they make the chalice.g. It may be timorous. rather than the beauty of the chalice. Rather. . through making. form. Presence need not be awful.. form. and utility. Relying on the ancient Aristotelian four causes theory of philosophy—matter. toil. making the chalice is really an afterthought following on from deep consideration on the part of the maker as to how material. . but the causality that combines all the other elements together into the coming to presence of a truth is not someone deciding to make something but someone. the erecting of a statue in the temple precinct . thinking deeply about the “that” and the “how” of material. and so on. and efficient cause (QCT 6–7)—he considers poiesis in terms of that which brings all these elements together into his chosen art object example: a silver chalice. unveiling values such as equipmentality. poiesis makes something manifest to appearance that was not manifest before. that he presents as poiesis. These four causes share the responsibility for “the silver chalice’s lying ready before us as a sacrificial vessel” (QCT. reliability. the relationship between gods. Heidegger specifically defines the bringing-forth of poiesis as that which “lets what presences come forth into unconcealment. respecting the Greek provenance. guiding.” (QCT. The statue makes one think of the materialization of a god within a temple. and their causality in such a way as they will bring to presence a truth or being that was not available for view before. and purpose will all fit together causally. Note the emphasis on the object’s availability for use here. purpose. 35). 21).” a process he defines as “producing that brings forth—e. the temple. Van Gogh’s peasant shoes “let us know what shoes are in truth” (PLT. Heidegger is careful to stipulate that the silversmith who makes the chalice is not the final and efficient cause of the chalice. 9). Beauty may be a part of poiesis but it is not necessarily the purpose of poiesis. 70 . It is what the chalice can produce for us as sacrificial vessel and all that entails. The temple. each of them must be made of matter that is formed to an end by a causality. or accompanying.
69). for the Greeks. THINKING THROUGH MAKING PRAXIS According to Agamben poiesis was opposed. That said the difference between the two terms could not be clearer. lacks the subjective agency of an artist as a maker. was a concept at one remove from their 71 . to praxis which meant to do something or to act in accordance with one’s will (MWC. It is an easy mistake to make. in that both seem to fulfil Plato’s stipulation that creation is bringing something new into existence.3 Work. that of work.” is god-like fiat and lacks the sense of passivity and modesty inherent in the term’s original definition. Poiesis has in the modern age been mistaken therefore for praxis. in contrast. voluntary. which is the Greek sense of experiencing truth as unveiling or a-letheia (un-forgetting. therefore yet today we often speak of creative production as practice and artists as practitioners. un-concealment). poiesis. Poiesis as pro-duction. for the Greeks.POIESIS. poiesis was. praxis. One of the reasons for this confusion between poiesis and praxis in the modern age relates to a third category. to confuse poiesis with praxis. an experience of the production of something absent into presence and from concealment into the light. We ought not to feel excessive culpability or remorse in this regard. by making something new and wonderful in the world. This slip of the tongue unfortunately confines creation to the very process. a person able to bend their will to create themselves into being as The Artist. 68). essentially guide or facilitator of truth. a doer. If praxis meant doing something through one’s will to do that thing. inaccurate order. wilful action. Over vast tracts of time within our culture creation has emerged from the original Greek sense of pro-duction as passive experience of something coming to presence (to pro-duce literally means to lead forward) to a definition resulting in a god-like act of will on the part of man to make something or bring about something in the world that was not there before. what one might call modern “Romantic poiesis. due to the reliance on that culture on the sustaining activities of slaves. was directly tied into the biological processes of the human as animal and. Poiesis does not share with praxis the element of practical. Poiesis of this second. As Agamben explains: “The essential character of poiesis was not its aspect as a practical and voluntary process but its being a mode of truth as unveiling” (MWC. that for many thinkers constitutes the opposite of what creation actually is.
. the original productive state of the work of art is all but forgotten except by certain poets and. Instead. pro-duction into presence. that is. this means that the emphasis shifts away from what the Greeks considered the essence of the work—the fact that in it something passed from nonbeing into being.”4 However different they are. biological existence” in contrast to the way in which poiesis “constructs the space where man finds his certitude and where he ensures the freedom and duration of his action” (MWC. it is much easier to find common ground between praxis and work understood as the basic production of all material life.” that is. Marx.” to simply “I made this. and work has been lost. Greek and modern poiesis are both similarly ontological in basis in that both bring something into being and also operate as an act pertaining to one’s own being. Heidegger. of the process through which the object has been produced . 70) As Agamben goes on to show through brief readings of Locke. Over the centuries the clear differentiation between poiesis. eventually. the shift away from truth to genius facilitated the elevation of work.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN lives. 72). 69). For we “moderns” it would seem that making is something a subject does to 72 . (MWC. As this theme develops through materialism and then through philosophy. The predominance of will over creation taken as a value of will. praxis. . At the same time a significant shift occurred typified by the modern period wherein “will” comes to overtake the unveiling of truth as the essence of artistic creation: The central experience of poiesis. of life understood as energy and creative impulse” (MWC. and the materialists. they were able to realize that work was “bare. For example. . although the Greeks did not indulge habitually in work. thus opening the space of truth (ά-λήθεια) and building a world for man’s dwelling on earth—and to the operari of the artist . the lowest of the three categories for the Greeks to. “the point of arrival of Western aesthetics is a metaphysics of the will. eventually. Nietzsche’s definition of Will to Power as Art. That said. Smith. most notably in the work of Nietzsche. . than between praxis as will and poiesis as almost passive experience. is replaced by the question of the “how. is completely opposed to the Greek sense of poiesis and is perhaps best summarized in the shift from the subjective statement “this happened to me. the highest.
as Heidegger suspects. meant that. and this confirms the artist’s being as god-like maker.” during the halcyon days of Greek culture in its ascendancy the task granted to poiesis. the second passive recipient. 10). This astounding declaration is partly founded on an earlier observation by Heidegger in “The Origin of the Work of Art” that there is a good deal of evidence that the Greeks would not have used the term art in the context of making but would prefer techne or skill. 59). the Being of beings. Art works were not enjoyed aesthetically.” As Heidegger exudes in the closing sections of his influential essay “The Question Concerning Technology. 1 flags up this problematic synonymity between poiesis and technics citing Aristotle as claiming: “Every art [tekhne] is concerned with bringing something into being. a premature seizing of the seat of the gods by presumptuous man. For them. This retranslation in effect negates the possibility that creation as poiesis can be Nietzschean. Most especially poiesis does not make what we would term “art. Greek making defines being as the experience of making. These stipulations allow Heidegger to re-translate Plato’s definition of poiesis so that “any cause that brings into existence something that was not there before is poiesis.5 TECHNE Staying with the Greeks a little longer one can see that the Nietzschean interpretation of poiesis as active. it makes a new being. 34).POIESIS. the bringing to presence of the gods. making the artist a technites (PLT. Bernard Stiegler in his influential study of Technics and Time Vol. THINKING THROUGH MAKING being. Art was not a sector of cultural activity” (QCT. For the Greeks making is something that can happen to being or the subject to produce an authentic experience of truth. poiesis does not make anything new. and looks for technical and theoretical means of producing a thing which belongs to the category of possibility and the cause of which lies in the producer not in what is produced. which is precisely the point. willed making into being is. or as Heidegger interprets the Greek sense of truth as aletheia. “The arts were not derived from the artistic. Modern making defines being as making something. it merely lifts the curtain to reveal what is behind. willed creation ex nihilo. is bringing-forth [Her-vor-bringen]” (QCT. “Every occasion for whatever passes over and goes forward into presencing from that which is not presencing is poiesis. The first is active participant.”6 73 .” becomes.
if fleeting. appearance. First. as this or that. makes art make being come to full. while it does not always make art. therefore. a form of artistic production. within what is present. techne. I believe we must accept two things at this stage. Therefore while one cannot assume that poiesis is definable as simply making something. praxis as simply doing. the unveiling of truth. in terms of letting appear” (PLT. Praxis is the physical activity and will necessary to bring this about. instead of art. he explains. Poiesis is the experience of the production or facilitation of the coming into the light of a truth. is not simply craft or skill. As Heidegger states: “to create is to cause something to emerge as a thing that has been brought forth. in this way or that way. our modern sense of creation is a muddle of these three Greek ideas. is this not a definition of art but of philosophy? For poiesis to make any sense as creative act. and the Greeks used instead the word skill. All of this hinges on a double sense of what it means to produce an art work with work referring both to the thing made and the process of its production. can one trace any actual. and techne as skilled knowing through doing. Yet surely. producing. we must come to terms with the making element of the term as well as the truth revealing or presencing element.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN If there was no term for art as we conceive of it. Second. but for the Greeks a specific type of knowing through creative making or as he says: “to make something appear. The Greeks conceive of techne. “the making of making as such” as Jean-Luc Nancy translates poiesis in its modern manifestation as poetry as the archetype of all arts. direct relation between poiesis and art as such? Heidegger believes so in that for him pure poiesis. that for the Greeks the three terms were all elements of a process of what they called bringing something into presence or aletheia. Heidegger is helpful in this regard by asserting that there can be no poiesis without techne. In this way poiesis is not making in the form of simple techne or skilful productivity—although the terms are necessarily linked and for Heidegger as for Stiegler ostensibly synonymous (chair makers for Heidegger have easily as much techne as Damien Hirst or Booker prize winning novelists)—but the activity of bringing to presence something that was not in a state of presence before: the truth of Being as such. The work’s becoming a work is a way in which truth becomes and happens” (PLT. Techne. poiesis as production of presence. there is no poiesis without making something. although alone making cannot simply will truth. 159). Finally 74 . 60).
Knowing through skilled making prepares for the possibility of presencing in that it is a process of coming to know things about the world through skilful and directed making. the gods. but certainly for a work of art to happen there needs to be work as process and work as thing.POIESIS. the work of art. THINKING THROUGH MAKING techne is an intermediary state dependent on real skill in pursuit of the truth. if only briefly and partially. If not then such a process is merely making something and is artisanal. There is no guarantee that techne will result in poiesis or the flashing bloom of truth. One might. after Heidegger makes this simple distinction: if an act of making produces being or truth by bringing it into the light. therefore. What is poietic about the shoes and the chalice is how they allow objects to become things through the process of making something. from a thing. indeed they are not they are a mere image. A thing is something in the world that composes and gathers together truths in the world. then it can be termed poietic and as such art. but again a gathering of ancient ideas of sacrifice. or mechanical production. or gathers a continuum around itself made up of all the elements of its truthpresencing.7 Yet this bringing forth of truth cannot occur without making something so that the idea of the work of art must be taken simultaneously as an activity and an object or better thing. rather its thingly status depends on the truths it makes manifest for human beings on earth: sacrifice. Even the chalice is not on object as such. The art thing as one must now call it rather than the more common art object seems to negate one of the primary aesthetic aims 75 . equipmentality. the art object in this context. is not poietic as such but resultant from poiesis.8 Heidegger is careful to state that art is not simply a delimited made object in the world. instrumental. the religious world. THE ART THING Taking all of this to be the case. but they are a thing: a point of gathering of truths about what it means to be on this earth and work this earth using equipment. It makes a small world effectively. or that poiesis will result in art. Here Heidegger attentively distinguishes an object or something with clear limits that the subject can observe and indeed make. ceremony. and so on. transmissible traditions. etc. Thus Van Gogh’s shoes are not an object. and so poiesis and techne must function together for praxis in general to become artistic practice.
Its object-status is to some degree irrelevant. to be revealed as if for the first time through their ongoing skill and thoughtful experimentation. effectively negating subjectivity and defining so-called desubjectivization as the modern experience of the poeticization of being.” a form of “knowing in the widest sense . compression. Similar gradations of abstraction are observable in the art of Picasso. representational bronze. Mondrian. If poiesis is dependent on techne.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN of modern art: that the object made comes to stand in the world in a delimited and self-sufficient manner akin to that of rocks and flowers. realistic. As an opening up it is a revealing” (QCT. what Heidegger calls “Denken. simplification. Poiesis must be hands-on. Alain Badiou speaks in a similar vein of poetry’s ability to negate the category of the object (MP. from poiesis. abstraction. colour. and the sensuous realm. to understand and be expert in it. Both forms of thinking can often think the same things. 13). techne is itself “something poietic. to be entirely at home in something. and so on. That said the art thing must subsist in matter. stuff. For critics this would be truth-revealing enough but it must be conceded that for thinkers of poiesis such as Heidegger and Agamben these quasi-truths would only be granted full truth status if they move the artist and observer towards greater truths such as the Being of beings for Heidegger or artistic desubjectivization for Agamben. Nancy speaks of poetry as the very moment of meta-making or thinking about making through making (MA. Conceptual art is as thingly as Westminster Abbey. Pollock. which is the bringing to presence of truth through making. .” which is the bringing to presence of truth. even Turner. 89–96). 3). Other philosophical themes are regularly addressed 76 . Agamben notes how modern art has thought about being and subjectivity. the poietic art thing is not art for art’s sake but art for the sake of truth and world composition. Certainly. We are now at the point where we can differentiate thinking. . each showing increasing levels of abstraction from the first. One of the most transparent examples of the interdependence of poiesis and techne is the move over time towards abstraction in a work such as “Back” by Matisse. Kandinsky. Such knowing provides an opening up. representation. In “Back” four bronze reliefs of a back are displayed side by side. In each instance the artist’s technical virtuosity does not simply allow them to make beautiful things but provides an opportunity for profound artistic truths pertaining to dimensionality. composition.
in part. The maker-thinker. death. according to Heidegger. that a flower is complete but its completion is not of the order of its physical borders. mobile. nature. the case with works of art as well. Issues such as part and whole. intuitive even. makes a thing in the world in a way which provides a powerful point of difference between thinking as such and poietic thinking. It seems obvious. growing. this used to be. I want to concentrate instead on the more complicated issue of its finitude. A non-purposive finitude allows for the work of art to partake of the perfection of a completion that is not directed towards any ends other than finitude as such and the pleasure we habitually and inexplicably gain from perceiving perfectly finished. flowers are in possession of poiesis.9 or what I will go on to name “logopoiesis.POIESIS. The finitude of a work of art in a totally transmissible. 77 . Rather than dwell here on the much-vaunted Wildean uselessness of modern art. and decaying thing. If we are to believe the philosophers. in itself ” (QCT. not least because a flower is a living. singularity. Kant’s famous definition of the art work as that which has finitude without purpose is. contested status. subtlety. poised. and balanced made things. are all thought by poietic activity. Heidegger. One could judge their completion against communally held values pertaining to what perfect and thus finished work was. and complexity of the term poiesis the artist can now be described as a “maker-thinker. traditional Greek culture such as that imagined by Hölderlin. a means by which to differentiate beauty made by human hands and the beauty of flowers and so on. and Agamben. happiness. which cannot be considered in terms of art even if. the human. after all. being in the world. His chosen example of poiesis in nature is “the bursting of a blossom into bloom. law. infinity. propriety. ostensibly. finitude. not through pedestrian description or disciplined argumentation but through a form of thinking that occurs courtesy of the activity of making. 10).” Due to the provenance. Thus a flower’s finitude is not its actual perfection but the perfection of flowers as such. and Being as such. causality. THINKING THROUGH MAKING by the arts. Such a procedure of thinking through making defines “poetic thinking” as Heidegger and Badiou have termed it.” FINITUDE A central element of the activity of poiesis is the complex issue of finitude or formal completion.
for our ability to retain the term art at all is surely testimony to the means by which we consider art not as located within a carefully crafted. not how it conforms to the model but how it is an original work that confounds modelling as a cultural process of imposed convention and cliché. For Agamben such a view is meaningless to modern. had always been. it does not. frames. Here is the first stanza of a poem by Charles Bernstein entitled “Warrant”: I warrant that this poem is entirely my own work and that the underlying ideas concepts. There is no communally held view as to what a Work of Art in general should be. and truth was. unique object.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN was not to be found around the borders of the work but the means by which the work matched the transmissible model of what art. Further. material innovations in the performativity. It would be true to say that the modern art work lacks finitude in almost direct proportion to its attainment of ever new levels of non-purposiveness. In our epoch the value of a work of art is precisely the opposite. objective.10 78 . but in the endless process of the coming into presence of the being of art in a manner entirely separate from the simple activity of making something lovely. or marginalia that surround the art object may indeed now constitute the art object. and make-up of the poem have not been taken from any other source or any other poem but rather originate with this poem. critical sensibility. and conceptuality of art works mean it is now often impossible to determine the actual. value. with delicious paradox. It was an act of mapping a perfect gestalt. Taking all this into consideration one has to conclude we live in an age of very Greek art. and would unquestionably always remain. We are also more than ever attuned to the material problems of delineating the work of art in that the parerga. virtuality. we value art for not conforming to any such model if it did indeed exist which. or material (even temporal) limits of a work of art. The frame may become the work or its faming in the museum its poiesis. Finally.
no actual delimited poem body here. beyond the deictic “this” as an indication of the presence of a poem in its legally. if this is a work of art where does its artistic being emanate from? I would argue first that the poem is art and second that its art status comes from its poiesis. MORPHE.” then we need poiesis if only to keep hold of art. . Agamben is able to admit that even nature could come under the term poiesis if it were not for a careful stipulation of Aristotle between a natural act of creation that “contains in itself its own άρχή [arche]. the process of a coming into being of an idea about art as object within the market place. SHAPE Agamben sides initially with Heidegger in calling for a return to and development of the original Greek sense of poiesis as production into presence. does not designate here an art among others. in fact. either also called “Warrant” or perhaps nameless. . and ontology. If modern and future art criticism and creation is based on a process of aesthetic judgement on nonpurposive non-objectal. As there is no poem object as such to view. of that productive action of which artistic doing is only a privileged example . The deixis of “this poem” immediately reveals pure indication.” (MWC. and that which finds its principle through 79 . but is the very name of man’s doing. but returns back to the Greek and applies his own philological skills in trying to resolve the complex problem of the exact relation of poiesis to human doing essential to his later formulations of potentiality as having the ability to do something. lineated legal prose and not “poetic” at all in any sense of profound techne. aesthetic convention. There is. poetry. THINKING THROUGH MAKING This is one of several examples of self-annihilating meta-poiesis in the work of the greatest conceptual poet writing today. Thus he declares: “Poiesis. But what is the status of the ancient Greek term poiesis in a contemporary modern art environment? This is a question that Agamben in his work on poiesis has tried to answer. that is. therefore. the principle and origin of its entry into presence” (MWC. 59). 60). illimited art things such as “Warrant. and ontologically warranted absence. That said he does not simply accede to Heidegger’s reading of the term. aesthetically. law. in that the poem being described and warranted does not exist except as something indicated within another “poem.” the one we are actually reading. and as the poetry on view is.POIESIS.
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
human productive activity instead. This second category enters into presence by virtue of techne or skill, especially at shaping, forming before our eyes the crux of the difference between nature and poiesis, and finally dispatching the idea to be found in Heidegger that nature is also poietic. Nature contains within itself the principle by which it enters into presence, what Kant terms purposiveness, while poiesis has the character of a hylomorphic and Aristotelian “installation into shape” (MWC, 60) by which Agamben explains it must take on a shape or form in order to make the transition from nonbeing into being—for example Bernstein’s ideas about the enframing of art by capital taking the shape of a poem. Poiesis then produces a shape or form but poiesis is not the creation of an object. If an art object is presented then this object is the result of poiesis. All art is, in this light, post-poietic waste product. The interrelationship between shape and poiesis production into presence is problematic for a theory of modern creation. The Greek word for shape, morphe, was associated with idea and image, as well as appearance, all essential components of the presencing or bringing forward of poiesis. What does it mean that coming to presence takes a shape in poiesis? For a Greek audience au fait with the concept of Ideal Forms perhaps such a question might never be raised. It is simply too obvious. The Form of nature which is outside of space and time comes to human perception, it appears, in particular instances of form all of which are representations, examples or manifestations of Form as such, but none of which constitute Form as such. Form, therefore, while appearing in many forms, is irreducible to its forms. Hence the question of shape/form, morphe, was easily resolved by reference back, up or out to a set of Ideal Forms for comparison. Yet within the epoch of modernity shape is not something one can have any confidence in as an unquestionable presence. Within English, for example, the many varied definitions of the term shape might lead one to conclude the term “shape” is itself rather baggy, a tad shapeless. It can mean creation and/or form, outline, the created universe as such, imaginary or ghostly forms, an indistinct person or form, the outward appearance of something, to mould, and to frame. There is as much definition in the term relating to framing and indistinctness as to moulding and forming, perhaps indicating a slow dissolution of Greek ideas of Ideal form over time resulting in a
POIESIS, THINKING THROUGH MAKING
notable indistinctness surrounding the activity of formation. Spiralling out from this word are multiple possibilities that all indicate the problematic of taking on a Greek definition of poiesis without the concomitant intellectual architecture of a theory of Ideal Forms. If one believes in Forms then it is clear how poiesis can be said to produce presence through making without actually creating or making anything new in the world. The form one’s thing takes gives revelatory access to the Ideal Form which is at the root of the Being of all beings and this determines its shape. Yet without a sustained and secure theory of Form as the foundation or lit projection of formed shape as frame any modern theory of poiesis stutters to a degree however essential it is. How can production be the conferring of form onto a presence if the very conception of form undermines itself and thus provides nothing but a leaky container for the already slippery and dissolute matter of one’s making? If poiesis is making as such dependent on an idea of shape as truthful agreement with an already existent Ideal form, what is making for us today in a postFormal world?
The question casts us back to and indeed brings together two key issues in Agamben’s philosophy: poetry and potentiality. Summarizing Aristotle, Agamben delineates how every act of pro-duction into presence, natural or man-made, has the character of what is usually translated as actual reality defined in contrast to potentiality. Agamben then explains that actual reality is a rather poor translation in that Aristotle also employs the term entelechy in relation to actuality. While entelechy is usually reserved for the very process wherein potentiality comes to actuality, Agamben philologically opens up the definition of entelechy as follows: “That which enters into presence and remains in presence, gathering itself, in an end-directed way, into a shape in which it finds its fullness, its completeness; that which, then, έν τέλι έχι, possesses itself in its own end, has the character of ενέργεια . . . means being-at-work, since the work, έργον, is precisely entelechy . . .” (MWC, 64–5). In contrast to entelechyactuality, Aristotle defines potential as that which, not (yet) being at work, doesn’t “possess itself in its own shape as its own end” but is merely available (MWC, 65). If this is the case, work as a result of poiesis cannot be simply potential because “it is precisely production
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
into and station in a shape that possesses itself in its own end” (MWC, 65). Entelechy is the final element that allows us to recuperate poiesis as a term for creation. Poiesis is a work but, according to the passages just cited, it is also the result of work. Even so, apart from modern art it cannot actually be “at work.” Poiesis as creation is made up therefore of three elements. The first is potential, the availability-for of a material and a skill that, however, without techne, cannot come into actuality. The second is actuality, which is potentiality realized in the form of being-at-work. We must define this as not being continually at work, in process, never coming to an end, but that actuality is being at and in the form and station of a work. Thus work in which there is no being is not a real work and is represented by Agamben by the industrial object. In that all objects result from potential and end up in actuality, the third term in play here, entelechy, is that which differentiates making from creation-making. Agamben’s extended definition of entelechy is complex and remains without full development in his own work, presumably because the terms are all already in play in Aristotle, but it seems essential to fully understand poiesis that we spend some time explaining these issues. As becomes increasingly apparent, poiesis is the direct product of entelechy or that which negotiates between potential and actuality. Indeed poiesis is definable as the messianic formula: potential— (entelechy)—actuality.11 Entelechy determines something that both enters into and remains in presence. Thus entelechy must emanate from nonpresence and remain in a state of presence. The Heideggerian term “gathering” is instructive in this regard in that it suggests the nature of nonpresence as disseminated or dispersed and the coming to presence of poiesis as not so much the revelation of a form hiding in a substance but the attraction of things towards and composition around a substance. The way, for example, a jug attracts issues of containment, shoes in Van Gogh concepts of equipmentality, or a statue in the precinct of a Greek temple makes manifest an ideal of the gods. All this leads up to the crucial element of entelechy as that which allows a work to find absolute finitude. Being-at-work therefore means the total coincidence of being and form, the total realization of eidos that is, as Agamben says, both full and complete. Complete indeed because the moulded shape is replete with being. The shape of the work of art, then, is all important, as the only differentiation
POIESIS, THINKING THROUGH MAKING
between potentiality and actuality is that potentiality does not possess a shape. Entelechy is the process of shape-making and shapefilling forcing upon us an unusual sense of creation. Making or poiesis consists of marshalling the energy of presence as potential work into presence-at-work or actuality. This is not the making of anything as such. Rather poiesis makes an outline or contour for being. One must presume that until entelechy is complete, and Agamben gives no definite time for this as clearly entelechy does not take a period of time but takes one from the atemporal zone of Forms to the temporality of work via his own conception of messianic temporality, this contour is not yet shaped. Until the impossible point of completion it remains shape in potential, an elasticity of an already closed but not yet finished line. As being makes its way into this lasso of work it comes to simultaneously fill and make the shape. When being touches every point internal to the line then the work is complete, full, and finished. Here we see a shift away from the definition of the work of art as the total coincidence of form and theme as is often stated, to that of an elastic and tensile coincidence of form and shape. Agamben names this “content” allowing him to define the modern artist, after Musil, as the man without content or creator away from form; shaper of shape as such; instigator of a pocket or gap within the tensile balloon of the work. Like Ulrich, such an artist is brimming over with abilities, but has no actual quality or content as he cannot apply his qualities to any one task and convert his potential into actual, subjective value and identity.12 His potential remains shapeless in other words, lacking in entelechy.
ARCHE, MODERN ANTI-POIESIS
Speaking of the period of aesthetic modernity Agamben notes that during our epoch the conception of the shaping of a unitary set of objects which do not come from nature but which possess finitude through agreement between shape and form has been split by the rise of modern technology and capitalism. With the infamous division of labour came also the division of making, leading to a differentiation or scission between things “that enter into presence according to the statute of aesthetics and those that arise purely by way of τέχυη [techne]” (MWC, 60–1). This downgrading of techne to mere making without poiesis promotes Agamben to reconsider poiesis in terms of
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
the modern doctrine of art being that which is original or authentic. He purports that within modern aesthetics any made thing that does not contain its own arche or origin within itself has been called original, the term meaning not so much unique but of proximity to an origin. During the modern period therefore: “The work of art is original because it maintains a particular relationship to its origin, to its formal άρχή, in the sense that it not only derives from the latter and conforms to it, but also remains in a relationship of permanent proximity to it” (MWC, 61). What this means in real terms is that poiesis refutes reproducibility through its claim to an originality that “maintains with its formal principle such a relation of proximity as excludes the possibility that its entry into presence may be in some way reproducible, almost as though the shape pro-duced itself into presence in the unrepeatable act of aesthetic creation” (MWC, 61). In other words, an original art work is pro-duced into the light from a proximate and preceding source. As soon as one reproduces the art work, one places it an extra remove from the source and indeed cancels out poiesis as pro-duction, for now it is re-pro-duction. And, for Agamben at least, that is not good at all. Agamben concludes that reproducibility is the essence of techne and originality the essence of the modern work of art. Yet, on the other hand, outside of Greek culture what does this modern quest for the origin actually consist of ? Agamben defines the arche as “the image, which governs and determines the entry into presence” (MWC, 61). In contrast, objects made simply according to techne do not have proximity to this image but rather the image preexists as an already pre-pro-duced mould with which the product must conform. Again, this issue depends on the presumption of an eidos or arche-image. In a transmissible culture, this eidos is the already existent content of any work of art that will be reproduced. In the Greek epoch of transmission, originality therefore is simply inconceivable in relation to creation. One does not create something new as in something novel but rather one creates a new body for an already existent idea which allows one to see this idea as if for the first time. Surprisingly, according to Agamben in the modern world, there is also no new work of art because there is no work or object that can be made that conforms both to the idea and the form of poiesis. Thus Agamben argues that originality totally destroyed the idea of the artist wherein “everything that in some way constituted the common space in which the personalities of different artists met
Thus the artist brings to being the very end of the lasting concept of the artist as subject and this. the only two movements available at present for modern acts of creation. 63–4) Modern art. With the ready-made an industrial object is alienated from its context and thus raised up into the sphere of art. yet at the same time it is a comment on its rampant reproducibility. 62). The curtain is grasped but never raised. (MWC. therefore. The brilliance of Bernstein’s poem now becomes even more apparent in that he is able to demonstrate both situations in one single work. and that which is irreproducible cannot be reproduced. in a sense. became during our age simply the commonplace. suspended in a kind of disquieting limbo between being and nonbeing. Ideas held in common. testifying as it does to its singular originality. leaving poiesis as such as a place-holder of negation somewhere in between the two options: In both cases—except for the instant of the alienation effect—the passage from the one to the other status is impossible: that which is reproducible cannot become original. is modern art’s first and most lasting poiesis: artistic desubjectivization or creative self-alienation. Agamben demonstrates the paradox of modern originality brilliantly with reference to what he sees as the two most significant modern artistic investigations of the very presence of the art object. With pop art the situation is reversed in that an art object is made utilizing techne then reproduced using industrial processes. These hybrid forms of poiesis are not simply two movements in modern art. While in the past traditional values and lack of originality determined greatness as being proximate to the source of poiesis. It is pure eidos for its form and shape are irrelevant. What need is there of a warrant if the work were not in danger of unwarranted reproducibility away from and damaging of the archepresence of the poem as such? The final brilliant twist being that 85 .POIESIS. The object cannot attain presence and remains enveloped in shadow. for Agamben. they are. THINKING THROUGH MAKING in a living unity” (MWC. On the one hand “Warrant” deals directly with the archepresence of the poem. the ready-made and pop art. Pop art is all form with no proximity to the concept. is poiesis in suspension. now the artist is defined as the person who makes things that don’t fit the mould but which break with moulding.
in contrast to the poet. If it remains proximate to arche-presence it can take on no physical form and instead has to parasitically occupy an already existent. which is perhaps why shape bears close proximity to indistinctness. in some fashion. as ever. He is forced to take on the act of making as the transition from nonbeing into being and all that entails. The very shape of a work of modern art is permanently split. modern art works such as these “constitute the most alienated (and thus most extreme) form of poiesis. modernity has turned poiesis into a problem and thus made it visible for us after many centuries of easeful. including the subjective nonbeing of the artist. categorical amnesia. within the dark defiles of modern art itself. and so on). to an epochal apostrophe: “how is it possible to attain a new poiesis in an original way?” (MWC. Like most of his peers. arche-mimesis. industrial form (urinals. Perhaps Agamben should have consulted with Bernstein for. and eidos.” and thus there can be no reproduction of the work precisely because the warrant controlling this process is the work itself. If it comes to find a shape it must allow that form to succumb to the techne of modern reproducibility carrying it permanently away from its originary presence. unlike Plato and Aristotle. Modern art is either poiesis without techne or techne without poiesis. 86 . he seems locked here into a set of almost impossible aporias. 64). The answer to this question must lodge. 64). is problematized because it is bifurcated. in splitting poiesis. Agamben’s conception of creation depends on the Greek concept of poiesis. Leading him. the form in which privation itself comes into presence” (MWC. meaning he accedes to the Greek world of Ideal Forms. wheels. its becoming something. at the very least. Furthermore. he is writing in an age where the shape of the work. As Agamben says in reference to his chosen examples.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN arche-presence is undermined by there being no poem other than that indicated by the empty deixis of “this poem. While this is a lamentable state of affairs for a full. In modern aesthetic theory since Kant. the question shifts from the Greek inheritance of creation as the coming to presence of a being to the issue of being and nonbeing within coming to being. its taking shape. philosophical understanding of poiesis.
and indeed one of Agamben’s aims is the bringing of modernity 87 . This was not always the case and our dire situation will. Heidegger argues. Yet. Agamben’s work on time is indebted to but not uncritical of this model of ontological time. at some juncture. modernity. nihilistic. that is its destiny. a time that is both out of time in that it is beyond everyday linear time. historically. The Homo Sacer project and the metaphysical considerations of works such as Language and Death construct critical theories of political and philosophical modernity that are proving impossible to ignore. This duality of temporality as regards being is the basis of what one might call ontological temporality.1 Under pressure from such attacks modernity can barely be said to remain intact. and then.CHAPTER 3 MODERNITY. he has a name for the coming together of the two elements of ontological time in a moment of crisis that is first. change. he argues. is currently withheld from view in the modern age of instrumental technology because. like his great forebear. potentially productive. He too sees the temporality of human being as both immemorial ecstasy and contingent historicity and. PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS Since Heidegger questions pertaining to being are traditionally posed through two temporalities. Agamben is one of the most aggressive and suggestive critics of modernism that we have or ever will encounter. the very epoch of the epoch. The coming to presence of being in aletheia or manifestation of truth as unveiling and bringing to light typical of poiesis is a type of sempiternal event. He calls this epoch. being is also profoundly historical in a deep destinal way he calls Geschichte. Being. and “out of time” in that it sounds the death knell of the metaphysical project and dispatches being into hiding for an indefinite period of time.
Agamben will not. for example deixis.2 Yet Agamben’s realism. 5–6). along with his mid-career investigations of the gesturality and the pure mediality of thought as potential. and ending. indeed cannot abandon the dark and divided epochality of our modern age of aesthetic modernity. which is a common representation of time within modernity (TTR. This time that remains. some might call it fatalism. For this reason. Rather.” When called by ¯ ¯. the messianic the subject is called out of its current position and then required to occupy the process of its desubjectivization as its new subjective existence. This ¯sis call to vocation he defines as the “revocation of every vocation” (TTR. and dictation. while modernity is a temporal epoch it demands a reconsideration of temporality in terms of ontological epochality that must replace a simple linear representation of modern time as moving towards the eschaton of completion. subjective modernization is the realization of the radical change in the conception of time followed by the occupation of that site of transmutation as the only time left to us on this earth. 62–3).3 and his complex revision of historiography. takes the form of a messianic contracted time of remnants (TTR. desubjectivization. Rather. the issue of modern time is so central to Agamben’s work from his very earliest pronouncements to his most recent. LIVING AS IF OR AS NOT In the early pages of The Time That Remains (2000) Agamben considers the Pauline call to a Messianic vocation through a philological reconsideration of the term kle (call or vocation).THE LITERARY AGAMBEN to a form of non-eschatological resolution. or the condition of the hos me “as not. temporality. That modernity allows us access to time as a remnant that will radically undermine the eschatological and chronological categories of modern time is both the tragedy of the modern and its lasting hope. Agamben will never allow a movement from temporal modernity to ontological or subjective modernity. disallow him the simple act of finishing with the modern. 23). But more relevant to debates on modernity is the way in which the call to 88 . The messianic kle emulates many elements of ¯sis Agamben’s earlier work on language. il tempo che resta. In this way. his is a project that reoccupies the nihilised spaces of modernity through a productive negation of modern categories with the aim of moving beyond the modern by dividing it from itself internally.
the time that ¯sis remains within temporal contraction. rather than aspiring towards actual redemption. as an ontological condition. 61–78). Agamben details a history of the philosophy of “as if ” which need not concern us except that it originates in a critique by Taubes of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory which Taubes believes advocates thinking through the despair of the modern age only as if it could be redeemed.5 This has no small importance for while Agamben regularly resorts to telling stories as an alternative philosophical method he rarely speaks of the fictive and narrative as such. aesthetics. So when Agamben posits the “as not” as a positive alternative to what he calls the “as if. Rather. If “as not” is a negation of being that presages a positive coming of being to presence “after” negation (the messianic time that remains). therefore. and the arts in the most unexpected places.” ending with Gaultier’s work Bovarysm. to live “as if ” sounds initially like a creative potentiality for being. The phrases “as not” and “as if ” both play games with the idea of negation and creation. The “as not” is not negation as such. the archetypal example of living as if. which considers fiction. This alerts Agamben’s interest. but rather the now familiar suspension of actualization that exemplifies potentiality at its most powerful and creative. one can begin to see how messianic time can be of great utility to ideas about modern art. 35–40). PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS negation is not conceived by Agamben as just another form of modern nihilism but something potentially productive. as Agamben shows. not least because he finds it hard to accept that Adorno advocates an aestheticization of thought after he famously designates aesthetic beauty as “a spell over spells.4 This. this is patently not the case as Agamben is at pains to demonstrate (TTR. has not been seen to be the case by the critical heritage. Finally. while messianic kle would seem to occupy a temporality of ending. This may seem less that auspicious terrain to seek out ideas pertaining either to literature or modernity but it is typical of Agamben’s work that one encounters comments about poetics. The call does not negate subjectivity but calls subjectivity into presence through desubjectivity.MODERNITY.” typical of modern thought about aesthetics. a number of thinkers of modernity have come to see “as if ” as the great failing of thought in the modern era expressly as regards its role in aestheticization (TTR.” All the same Agamben presents a full analysis of the twentieth-century tradition of thinking the “as if.6 This then is a rare mention 89 . however.
subjective agency value? In an age when god is dead. . thinkers of the “as if ” live on the earth as if they were gods. This maudlin yet typically modern stance leads Agamben to conclude: “The fact of having missed the moment of its realization is what obliges philosophy to indefinitely contemplate the appearance of redemption. of philosophy’s having missed its moment . . in doing so one of course is pretending to be something other than what one is in that one is nothing. one pretends to be someone else because one is no one. so too fiction might be a credible category of thinking about being. . Agamben is strongly critical of this stance rejecting immediately Adorno’s negative dialectics as typifying a defeatist “impotential” that is unable to find power in weakness that he feels the Pauline messianic tradition of potential excels in. ontology is reduced to pretending-to-be as a form of double ontological negation.” in this instance “as not” rather than “as if. 37). All of these considerations return Agamben’s attention back to Adorno. Aesthetic beauty is the chastisement. he must now really live in a world without God” (TTR. so to speak. What is the Will to Power as Art except turning as-if-ness into creative. but pretends to be something. This being man’s essence. specifically his contention that “philosophy lives on because the moment to realize it was missed” (cited in TTR. 37). and second. That is why aesthetic beauty cannot be anything more than a spell over spells” (TTR. at the same time this impotent turning to the aesthetic at the point of thought’s failure is more than acceptable to him as a definition of the modern era. This ontological condition does not stand up to the test of modern ontological thinking perhaps.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN of the possibility that just as poetry and linguistics can be seen to enter the field of ontology. and Gaultier himself suggests that Nietzsche’s attempt to overcome nihilism was little more than an attempt to live the “as if ” of absent being through wilful and creative appropriation. Yet. First. According to his 90 . 42).7 while it takes a truly brave thinker to live as one “who no longer knows the as if.” Yet it is significant. Gaultier defines the essence of human being as believing one is different to whom one is. but we will come to see it as the specifically epochal manifestation of desubjectivization in general. bringing to mind Heidegger’s definition of poets as demi-gods.” Such a subject “no longer has similitudes at his disposal . . Agamben’s consideration of “as if ” is a side issue in his attempt to present a credible messianic condition of living “as. he argues.
For not only does the spell over spells cast a false veil over thinking it also misrepresents the poetic as well. In contrast to this.” that dreaded term aestheticization: aestheticization of philosophy. living as such. 39). Yet. therefore. aestheticization of politics. and this is what Agamben’s early tome The Man Without Content ventures as he makes the first of several attempts to negate negation. one needs to traverse the problems of aestheticization and replace them with a radical poeticization. the aesthetic. I would argue. PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS reading. is added to the realm of the proper. under the spell of living “as if. one first has to travel through the dread landscapes of aesthetic modernism. In each of these very modern formulations an assumed impropriety.” Living “as if. The life of the “as if ” is the modern condition of the handing over of the failure of thinking to the debilitating yet distracting pleasures of the text. as if one has being. as if the philosophical pursuits of truth and happiness could be realized.8 Nor can one live life itself for that has been reduced to horror and bareness.” while seemingly creative and thus an act of poiesis. Thus one lives as if one lives. tragic. To get to a “new” poiesis. the “as not” depicts an alternate futural moment of authentic being. as indeed it does. of art even. The great question for modern thought. to live the “as not” is far from being nihilistic. or so the argument of aestheticization goes.MODERNITY. 91 . This as-if-ness requires that one ontologize the spell over spells that Agamben later says “may even aptly describe poetry” (TTR. is: How does one travel from “as if ” to “as not”? To do this. If “as not” involves negation. turns out to be self-defeating both for thought and art. the State.” Aesthetics becomes. the empty violence of The Real. If “as if ” is a belated and blinded decadence. but potentially redeeming modern novel. considering the failure of modern thought and the horrendous nature of modern history how else can one live except “as if ?” One cannot live the truth for the truth is nothingness. One lives as if one is a character in a great. aestheticization of life. The second option is to live “as not. modern aesthetics has two potentialities available to it. The most familiar is the “as if. thought. creativity. therefore. it is itself the negation of modern negativity in the form of a messianic moment to come which is the true state of modern now-time. proving destructive and nihilistic in each instance. a living through thought as if thought could still redeem itself but also accepting that we will always miss it if it does (a subtle swipe at Badiou perhaps?).
” (IH. to the work of Walter Benjamin. specifically here highlighting a profound aporia in Benjamin’s work on the fading of the aura in modern art and culture. . . he argues. This consideration of the negation of experience in the modern is a development of what Agamben calls the end of the transmissibility of common values and experiences within our culture. to go through and to test. indeed criticism is in essence all that modernity has become. one must 92 . you will recall. the Nietzschean idea that god is dead. In the closing pages of The Man Without Content Agamben turns. due to two modern statements by the masters of modern thought. What is lacking in modernity is not the element of testing. The essays that make up this remarkable study then primarily investigate the implications of the thesis of the end of cultural transmission. a gradual decline that rapidly accelerates as the industrial process and consumer demand increases? Or would it be more accurate to state that a work is divested of its aura at the moment of its first reproduction. Rather. for modern life is replete with new and exciting experiences. Experience. or the possibility of sustaining an experience. has two meanings for Agamben. what we miss is a common experience that the modern subject can undergo.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN AURATIC TWILIGHT As we saw. In a post-transmission. another way of expressing the end of experience in post-transmissible cultures. as he so often does. Experience is never accessible as a totality and never complete except in the infinite approximation of the total social process . perhaps an engraving commissioned at some expense from a Parisian atelier or a detailed description in a traveller’s journal first handed round by close friends then published and a runaway success? In other words. and totally possess: “Thus experience is now definitively something one can only undergo but never have. 15). an idea also taken from Benjamin. reproductive age—note here how reproduction does not aid transmission of cultural value but eliminates it—what dictates the exact rate of the fading of a work’s aura? Does aura dim in direct proportion to the numerical potentiality of a work’s reproducibility. test.9 The arrest of transmissibility is. and the Heideggerian adage that art no longer dwells among us. in the debate presented in Infancy and History on experience Agamben is quick to agree with Benjamin that one of the preconditions of modernity is the negation of experience (IH. 38).
It becomes. . Pop art instead takes the process of industrial reproduction and applies it to the art object. it moves one more step away. the ready-made and pop art. like so many of the German thinker’s eclectic projects. incomplete. every text. Warhol the singularity of the work. This is to say: the work of art loses the authority and the guarantees it derived from belonging to a tradition for which it built the places and objects that incessantly weld past and present together. Not until a work is reproducible can the question of authenticity be raised for the first time by the distance introduced between original and copy by the industrial process. As we saw the ready-made confers aura to an industrial object. one might presume. comments on aura. With each copy. Agamben. probably Benjamin’s most astute and generous reader. Benjamin argues. in effect. seemingly. however. Properly speaking this is not at odds with Benjamin but is in accord with what Agamben defines as his great forbear’s messianic hermeneutic principle: “every work. PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS determine if the auratic twilight of the modern is a historical process taking place over time or an a-chronological event. Duchamp questioning the authority of the creator. Both are. perhaps the most central theory in the canon of cultural studies. a urinal is signed into being singular and thus art. besmirching them in the profanity of repetition and excess did not. The more an art object is reproduced. contains a historical 93 . becomes the very cipher of elusiveness. carries authenticity to extremes: technical reproducibility is the moment when authenticity. The best comparison here is made by Agamben himself elsewhere in this volume when he places together the two key examples of modern art. 106) It remains hard to tell if Agamben is glossing Benjamin here or totally dismissing his most influential theory. states the opposite. Agamben asserts. when he argues that Benjamin’s discovery of the loss of the auratic value of art is. a consumer item rather than a work of art. . remove the aura from the work of art: Far from freeing the object from its authenticity. the further away from the source of its authority it is carried.MODERNITY. (MWC. by way of the multiplication of the original. The technical expertise that allowed for an industrial-scale reproducibility of art works thus removing from them their sacred quality. This problem is not lost on Agamben. its technical reproducibility .
does not inhere solely in the work’s unique singularity. Indeed. the defacement of the icon simply adds aura to it within a transitional culture of transmissible intransmissibility wherein the potentiality or perhaps simply desire for authenticity still exists. The two great dicta of modern art’s destruction of tradition. we strain to see what is left of the concept of an authentic and singular work of art and in not being able to see authenticity it comes to view for the first time in a moment of tenebrous.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN index which indicates both its belonging to a determinate epoch. reproducibility along with communicability. god is dead and an art no longer dwells among us. are both comments on cultural intransmissibility. The authenticity and authority of the icon. SHOCK! Reproducibility as mass phenomenon occurs simultaneous to the end of cultural transmissibility within Western societies in the form of the negation of common experience by the end of the nineteenth century. and deface them (think of Magritte’s infamous vandalization of a reproduction of the Mona Lisa). works of auratic art. blinding anti-poiesis. an activity that 94 . What Agamben cannily reveals in reading Benjamin’s ideas on art under the heading of his ideas on history is that reproducibility is meaningless unless thought of in tandem with transmissibility. that there is only one or that it has the quality of a magical relic. Modernists have often been called iconoclasts but according to Agamben this is literally true in that they take religious relics. What Agamben realizes is that within the modern moment. the lights lowered to dissuade further fading. 145). If aura exists it only exists for us at the moment that we see it in accordance with Benjaminian hermeneutics. the religious icon say. Reproducibility contributes to this malaise only by weakening the points wherein past and present meet. Myopically peering through the murk. it also depends on the transmissibility of this quality (by transmissibility here read unquestioned status). occur together technically as the result of the same forces initially on these very islands from which I am transmitting my code to the world. both actual in terms of rail travel and virtual in terms of the mass media and new technologies such as the telegraph. as well as its only coming forth to full legibility at a determinate historical moment” (TTR.
common experience. Baudelaire was confronted with the very collapse of art as a means for the transmissibility of common cultural values and thus the end of art as it had been conceived through the whole of transmissible Western culture. the lieu commun and the eternal transient. Having to “invent a new authority. or commonplace wherein modern shock can become what we hold in common. In order to bring this mammoth prophylaxis/invention into play “the artist had to attempt to reproduce in his work that very destruction of transmissibility 95 . 106). with the famous Baudelaire lieu commun.” Baudelaire “fulfilled this task by making the very intransmissibility of culture a new value and putting the experience of shock at the center of his artistic labour” (MWC. is the missing element of Benjamin’s great theory of aura. Baudelaire’s comments on modernity here. Baudelaire’s conception of shock. In effect. Baudelaire was tasked with inventing a new source of authority for the art work. what Baudelaire attempts is to take the very value that ends tradition. PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS replaces the communal places of common art. the ability of modern life and art to shock (for shock is the result of a happening for which a culture is not preprepared) and make shock the new locale of a common. it is the one half of art. modern experience. the other being the eternal and the immutable. the contingent.MODERNITY. Agamben realizes. the fleeting. At this juncture Agamben then begins to tinker ever so slightly with the terms in play when referring to the means by which Baudelaire saved art and created modernity. Shock is defined here as the “jolt power acquired by things when they lose their transmissibility and their comprehensibility within a given cultural order” (MWC. The end of experience experienced as shocking is. along with his rumination that the modern is “the transient. our new. Baudelaire demonstrates the powerful forces at play in modernity’s embracing of reproducibility at the moment of intransmissibility by his creation of two impossible paradoxes. in other words. temple or festival. As regards the proposal of shock as the “common place” of a post-transmissible culture however. Face to face with the dissolution of aura within a society where the authority of tradition was daily under attack.”10 easily confer upon him the honour of being the great precursor to contemporary reappraisals of modernity and aesthetics. In both formulations. 106). The paradox of the eternal transient is the more well known and its oxymoronic nature obvious.
absolutely and significantly finite. in the final analysis. Shock becomes not the collapse of meaning in art but the meaning of art as the collapse of meaning.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN that was at the origin of the experience of shock: in this way he would succeed in turning the work into the very vehicle of the intransmissible” (MWC. It becomes. art was transmission. the alienation effected by the work of art. it forms the basis of the whole of the epoch of aesthetic modernity and modern aestheticization. 106). This event alone produces what we now call modern art. in this light. unrecognizable from the work of art which precedes it but at the same time it operates as the lens through which that work can be called art. The work of art must therefore cease to be an objectal work and become instead praxis or being at work whose materiality is reduced to the vehicular transportation of that which cannot be transported. and relighting of aura’s eternal flame through the epochal hiatus between transmissibility and the transmission of a communal intransmissible experience of culture. reproduction is instead reserved for the praxis of the creator. Instead of a work of art being a thing in itself whose reproduction undermines its sacral singularity effectively profaning the work. The new work of art. must be defined as a process of transmitting the very quality of intransmissibility. expunging. The alienation experienced within art serves as nothing else but the dissolution of the borders of said work through the revelation of the finitude of the work at the moment of its collapse. More than that. With the rise of reproducibility the work of art becomes severed from this community and ceases to transmit so that reproducibility is not the cause of the diminishment of aura but merely facilitates what is in fact the revelation. Attend here to the means by which Agamben repositions the meaning of the terms reproducibility and transmissibility. Art did not act as a vehicle for transmission. linking tradition with the present age. in effect. At the same moment it brings the work of art into contact with history for the very first time: “The survival of the past in the imponderable instant of aesthetic epiphany is. Previous to the moment or epoch of shock there was in effect no “work of art” as art was environed seamlessly within the very culture it was able to transmit through time. that dissolves the finitude of the art object as a delimited and valued thing through its reproducibility and conversion into praxis. and this alienation is in its turn nothing other 96 . The work becomes a moment of shock.
Thus the end of art is a recursive glance back to the transmission of art through time that only comes into full view at the moment of its cessation. Indeed one could go one step further here and propose that aesthetic modernity not only reveals tradition through negation but in fact invents it for the first time. temporal and spatial. creating a continuum between tradition and the present that all but eradicates their difference. for example. the arche-epoch of art’s very first coming into being or the conditions for art. PROFANING SCISSION Both transmission and reproduction are dependent on metaphysical conceptions of scission and separation. At this point. a recursiveprojective interplay that we will later come to term poetic structure. singularity and transmissibility. 97 . it fulfils the double meaning of epoch to be found in its etymology: epoche a point in time and a delimited period of time. effectively eradicates separation. 107). turning back to gaze over one’s fleeing shoulder. This experience of aesthetic epoche ¯ is Agamben’s definition of that epoch of epochs we call modernity. It would seem alienating shock is not the legacy of modern art but of self-satisfied traditional values. that is. of tradition” (MWC.MODERNITY. ¯. Agamben’s contention here is that the work of art in space and time is experienced for the first time in the moment of shock at the realization that the work no longer exists in a time-space continuum but is expropriated from both. occupying both the position of an event of major transition and the creation. each in violent contradiction—art is defined as the singular instance of the held in common—are seen critically for the first time. retrospectively. Transmissibility. Epoch of epochs for. of both the premodern and modern epochs of transmissibility and intransmissibility respectively. PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS that the measure of the destruction of its transmissibility. When the transmissible act of making something singular comes to replace the singularity of the work of transmissibility one is both exiting art and seeing it for the first time as art. The “now” ceases to be a moment in time but rather is the endless extension of tradition into the future. In contrast. Aesthetic modernity is the point in time when the epoch of the modern period of art is seen for the first time through its retrospective revelation via negation of the epoch of transmissibility which precedes it.
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
reproducibility removes the art object from its original authenticity establishing an impossible to traverse abyss between the idea of authenticity as origin and the work itself as literally present. Reproducibility, therefore, introduces an intransmissible space between poiesis and praxis working effectively as the destructive locum for anti-entelechy. Reproducibility is necessary for intransmissibility as such or the making permanently profane the sacred work which is the genius of modern art and its most valuable anti-poietic legacy. Yet, as we now know separation within Agamben is never straightforward and always to be questioned. In the essay “In Praise of Profanation,” for example, Agamben boldly declares that religion can be defined as “that which removes things, places, animals, or people from common use and transfers them to a separate sphere. Not only is there no religion without separation, but every separation also contains or preserves within itself a genuinely religious core” (Prof, 74). While Agamben, reading the founders of modern anthropology, defines the sacred as this passage across the zone of separation, he concedes that the differentiation profane/sacred is less important than “the caesura that divides the two spheres, the threshold that the victim must cross . . .” (Prof, 74). One of the simplest forms of such a crossing is contagion, he notes, the transmission of a disease that threatens to reproduce out of control. The “contagious” nature of separation, whose etymology is to be found in the word contact, allows us to understand the very roots of our transmissible culture in religion. Later, in the same essay Agamben is again reading a Benjamin fragment, this time “Capitalism as Religion,” wherein he finds Benjamin’s suggestion that capitalism appropriates the separating ability that defines religion and generalizes it in all domains: Where sacrifice once marked the passage from the profane to the sacred and from the sacred to the profane, there is now a single, multiform, ceaseless process of separation that assails every thing, every place, every human activity in order to divide it from itself . . . In its extreme form, the capitalist religion realizes the pure form of separation, to the point that there is nothing left to separate. An absolute profanation without remainder . . . (Prof, 81)11 This is naturally a description of commodity culture or the paradox of the separation of separation where the object becomes so profaned that it becomes impossible to profane as separation as such
MODERNITY, PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS
is negated.12 In such a culture all objects are equally transmissible and therefore, in theory, equally sacred resulting in a sacralization of the profane. The consumer object is transmission’s evil doppelganger wherein the object no longer operates within transmissible, historically located cultural values, but instead all values become ahistorical products of the object defined purely as transmissible or exchangeable.
TASTE AND TERROR
In an age of artistic singularity and transmissibility, which is not an age per se but the precursor to the age of art as art, taste and terror are not qualities that the spectator ought to admit to. Inclination and repulsion, although naturally qualities that are unavoidable when observing any phenomenon, could not, during the time of tradition, be admitted into the role of the spectator of particular art works. Certainly, one could love art and one could fear it, especially from the position of actual or aspirational sovereignty such as one finds in Plato, but always as a whole or single entity. Judging art in totality was possible and common in the form of censorship for example, however such sovereign decrees would not depend on personal inclination on what we call today taste. One could not, in a truly transmissible culture, judge a work of art or even perhaps identify it. Art would be, during such an age, extensible with culture as a whole and culture synonymous with the polis. To judge art as bad would be to judge bios as bad. Only a sovereign can do that. Like Nancy, I am uncertain if a totally transmissible culture is anything more than the nostalgic yearning of certain poets and philosophers.13 Yet, irrespective of whether a truly and totally transmissible culture ever existed without remainder, the transmissibility of art was an assumed characteristic up until the moment that the nexus between tradition and the present came under critical consideration in France in the eighteenth century with the debate between the ancients and the moderns. Kant’s third critique on judgement, of course, along with Hegel’s assertion that in the modern period art was at an end, contributed to the development of the category of taste which enters into common usage in English round about the eighteenth century. Agamben however traces its origins back to the middle of the previous century with the rise of the figure of the man of taste who was reputed to have a sixth sense for art which allowed
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
him to identify the “point de perfection that is characteristic of every work of art” (MWC, 13). As taste develops as a concept Agamben notes how the roles of and relationship between the artist and spectator change accordingly: As the idea of taste increases in precision . . . the work of art (at least so long as it is not finished) starts to be regarded as the exclusive competence of the artist, whose creative imagination tolerates neither limits nor impositions. The non-artist, however, can only spectare, that is, transform himself into a less and less necessary and more and more passive partner, for whom the work of art is merely an occasion to practice his good taste. (MWC, 15) The resultant downgrading of the role of spectator in relation to transmissible art cultures is more than apparent here. From active participant in communal culture, of the same subjective value effectively as the artist, the spectator now becomes the one who sees, gazes, gawps from a distance and then, at the end, passes judgement. I like it/I don’t like it. In contrast, the artist’s role becomes far more pronounced for art made by such a creator cannot in effect be judged it being the very dismissal of all such strictures. It comes into being much as a Kantian flower might, and can no more be judged than a flower can or its creator, god. Finally, the relation between the creator and the spectator is now one of irrevocable disjunction. They are not participants in communal culture but two entirely different subjects in relation to a new, alien form. The artist invents so as to live, to attain subjectivity of a kind. The spectator merely observes with the aim of practising or perhaps better honing their new sixth sense: taste. While the rise of taste seems to provide the creator with a god-like power which Nietzsche comes to formulate as the Will to Power as Art, like all humans who attempt to emulate the gods the results are fearful and dangerous: “The artist, faced with a spectator who becomes more similar to an evanescent ghost the more refined his taste becomes, moves in an increasingly free and rarefied atmosphere and begins the voyage that will take him from the live tissue of society to the hyperborean no-man’s-land of aesthetics . . .” (MWC, 16). Taste and invention then seem to be bound together tragically by a rule of inverse proportions: “For, while the balanced figure of the man of taste becomes wide-spread in European society, the artist
MODERNITY, PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS
enters a dimension of imbalance and eccentricity” (MWC, 16). The critic, in other words, becomes a stabilized subject by his increasingly professionalized and technically refined inclinations. The poet is gripped by holy terror. While the spectator becomes spectral through a process of endless refinement, his corporeal presence is literally attenuated into a tissue-thin membrane of exquisite judgements, it is the freedom afforded to the artist by the rise of judgement over mutuality that really opens up an uncanny landscape of diaphanous presences and gloomy open plains. The origins of this differentiation lie, according to Agamben, initially with Plato and then more recently with Nietzsche. Indeed, while we may assume that the fear of art is a contemporary issue manifested in people’s suspicious dismissal of art not as bad or even not art but as rubbish, the Greeks too felt the terror of art. The Man Without Content begins with a large tranche of Genealogy of Morals wherein Nietzsche makes his famous attack on the conception of Kantian disinterestedness before making his own case for an interested art. After this greedy bite of Nietzsche, Agamben goes on to note that Nietzsche’s attack on disinterestedness was not designed to bring about an alternative aesthetics but to purify the concept of beauty by decanting it from the sensory involvement of the spectator, so as to serve it up entirely to the pleasure of the creator. In a prophesy of modern art which Agamben goes on to debate throughout the rest of the essays in the book, modern art comes to be defined in terms of the experience of creation rather than the sensible apprehension of the spectator, as had been the case for Kant and Hegel of course. Art becomes, at this point, invention; art becomes modernism; art becomes shock. As ever with Nietzsche this is all very thrilling but there were good reasons for an ideology of aesthetic disinterestedness.14 As Agamben notes, there is a long history of repulsion as regards the rich dish of an interested and interesting art from the decree to raze the Roman theatres, the attacks of Saint Augustine on scenic games, to what Agamben calls “the first time that something similar to an autonomous examination of the aesthetic phenomenon in European medieval society” (MWC, 3) occurred (it was primarily concerned with the dangers of ars nova distracting the laity). Agamben goes further noting the infamous section of Plato’s Republic and Sophocles’ Antigone as contributors to a decidedly Greek fear/awe of art as a form of profound and politically threatening interest.
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
An art of interest is, primarily, an art of involvement, complicity, often an art of seduction. The distance of the spectator is devoured by the interest they share in the performance in front of them. They are no longer spectators but participants in the very act of pure creation. Possessed by art’s contagion they begin to live as if they were heroes, queens, gods, and monsters. While some remnant of the Greek idea of an art of interest remains in such concepts as, say, catharsis, which is the archetype of an interested experience of art, and modern debates on censorship, it is perhaps hard for us to conceive of a work by John Ashbery as capable of the literal magic, as Artaud expresses it, of an interested art. The term Plato uses to describe the inspired imagination is “divine terror” (MWC, 4), and Agamben concedes this is a rather tasteless overplaying of the effects of art on the modern spectator. That said, returning to Nietzsche and the various exponents of an interested art, terror was very much on the minds of the modern artist. Fatuous explanations for the prevalence of early death, tragedy, suicide, murder, madness, and renunciation among artists usually look to modern psychological models of manic depression and perhaps a disturbed childhood for good measure. Lautréamont, Woolf, Baudelaire, Proust, Mayakovsky, Khlebnikov, Eliot, Pound; why did they lose their life, their health, their socialization, their minds? Agamben’s insight into the madness of modern art takes up an entirely different, unexpected and, for our understanding of the arts, profound recipe than that of simple psychology. At the same time as, in modern aesthetics, the spectator is able place art at one remove by virtue of disinterest: “For the one who creates it, art becomes an increasingly uncanny experience, with respect to which speaking of interest is at the very least a euphemism, because what is at stake seems to be not in any way the production of a beautiful work but instead the life and death of the author, or at least his spiritual health” (MWC, 5). This statement results in another equation wherein the increasing innocence of the spectator’s experience in front of the art work corresponds to the degree of danger central to the creator’s experience. Agamben backs this up with many now well-known expressions of the risk of art— Baudelaire, Hölderlin, Van Gogh, Rilke—suggesting an alternative messianism in his work, that of the self-sacrifice of the modern artist at the altar of an interested anti-aesthetics of creation as subjective state.
In this once rich land of cultural transmissibility a mismanagement of the environment has lead to barrenness and conflagrations on hill-sides once renowned for their fertility and festivals. an art for artists. then perhaps we are today in a privileged position to understand the authentic significance of the Western aesthetic project” (MWC. a destruction perhaps already in place: “If it is true that the fundamental problem becomes visible only in the house ravaged by fire. These artists wish to make artists of us all. lay out foundations. commissions. this most innocent of occupations. pit man against Terror?” (MWC. not least literary criticism. PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS The death of poets leads Agamben to a typically messianic conclusion which calls for the destruction of aesthetics. Here Agamben merely hints at the now classic definition of the avant-garde to be found in the work of Burger and others. . 8) the philosopher asks. but not so as to make art transmissible in life again but rather to make life subject to the very alienation the artist feels when faced with the uncanny presence of pure poiesis. Yes. and build a new home that perhaps over time could become a city. Rather they want to burn the very dwelling of art to the ground. Having taken us across a ghostly plain we are now confronted with a burnt-out homestead. 6).15 but also easily identified in the statements of the artists themselves. 7). or perhaps more pungently. This instigates a movement from the misty nostalgia of a Heideggerian art that dwells among us to a truly modern conception of art that immolates its very dwelling on this earth. statuary.MODERNITY. Nietzsche. how can modern art subsist on the ambiguous fare of taste based on universal disinterest. and artistic scandals. The landscapes of Agamben’s thinking are always appealing and slightly appalling. with a senate.16 a nihilistic art that seeks not so much innovation as is sometimes assumed (make it new). to return art to life. but a devastation of the distanciation between art and life imposed by the presence of the spectator and the institutions that have arisen to support this concept. . and terror which is the result of interest? Taste seems to attract the spectator to participate in precisely 103 . The essay then ends by jettisoning us out onto this calcified outcrop with the words of a mad prophet. Such mad artists do not want to move to a fresh plain. museums. calling for “another kind of art . whistling about our ears. HOW TO EXIT ART “How can art. for artists only” (MWC.
8). the distinction is clearly reflective of a tendency within modern Western (anti)aesthetics or at the very least the two extremes of that most extreme epoch aesthetic modernity. kitsch. rhetoricians and terrorists. Agamben calls the terrorist a misologist. a kind of shapeless fog” leading the young Poussin to exclaim “but sooner or later he will have to realize there is nothing on the canvas!” (MWC. while terrorists “refuse to bend to this law and pursue the opposite dream of a language that would be nothing but meaning. “It is the dream of a product that exists according to the statute of the thing” (MWC. but also to commence with breaking down the differentiation between rhetoric and terrorism. In direct contradistinction.” Frenhofer invents a modern art. Agamben’s earliest work. of course. 9). like the Pygmalion myth. Frenhofer labours at his masterpiece for ten years to create a work of art that negates art and becomes. 9). indeed becomes transmissible with life. The rhetorician wishes to “dissolve all meaning into form” (MWC.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN what they cannot have. the dark face of his own beloved philology. through a reading of the character of the artist Frenhofer in Balzac’s The Unknown Masterpiece that the dream of the terrorist is to create a work that exists in the world in the same manner as objects do: block of stone or drop of water. 8). He notes. tones. a “living reality.” Yet in reality the woman he has painted is reduced to mere colours and abstract forms: “a chaos of colors. Loath as I am to succumb to the simple binary oppositions displayed in this. and death. silence. who “does not recognize in the drop of water that remains on his fingertips the sea in which he thought he had immersed himself ” (MWC. a kind of aesthetic wine-tasting where they can sample Picasso but cannot become drunk on Joyce. His is an art of abstraction which repulses 104 . Agamben traces the relation between poiesis and terror to the distinction to be found in the mid-century French writer and critic Jean Paulhan between two types of writers. the artist is allowed to be totally consumed by the desire to create and yet this same desire leads to the pure intoxicating terror of madness. allows Agamben to begin to undermine not only the quest for the absolute in terror. hesitating nuances. of a thought in whose flame the sign would be fully consumed. putting the writer face to face with the absolute” (MWC. This remainder. an art which exits art through the door marked “To Art. an art which is auto-anthropophaganous or self-devouring. in trying to create art that competes with. 9). As Agamben rightly indicates.
De Chirico’s self-parody. unpalatable masterpiece he says: “The quest for absolute meaning has devoured all meaning. he ends up with nothing in his hands but signs . Agamben mentions Mallarmé’s statement that the only gesture available to this terrorist of poetry was to have poetry surgically removed from himself while he was alive. and Duchamp’s silence. allowing only signs. 10).” (MWC. isn’t the unknown masterpiece instead the masterpiece of Rhetoric? Has the meaning erased the sign. 10). the ultimate paradox is that the act of greatest terror is precisely that of aestheticoamputation. namely. Gogol’s disappointment that Dead Souls did not liberate the peasants is matched by Mallarmé’s inability to complete Le Livre. “In order to leave the evanescent world of forms. But. meaningless forms. Instead one can only escape the matter of art by removing it from oneself entirely. rhetoric and terror. the more he has to concentrate on it to render it permeable to the inexpressible content he wants to express. set up by aesthetics. as Blanchot rightly observed. Agamben’s conclusion to the tale is a devastating and much overdue total foundering of the differentiation between form and thought. terror flings him back into rhetoric. silence? Isn’t Rimbaud’s fame divided. convert poiesis into fiat lux. Fleeing from rhetoric leads him to terror. he has no other means than form itself. PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS the disinterested spectre of Poussin (literally spectral here.MODERNITY. There are many famous examples of terrorism in modern art. between ‘the poems that he wrote and those he did not deign to write?’” Agamben then 105 . agitated and enflamed. to survive. which is the archetypal gesture of the modern artist: “But the paradox of the Terror is still present even in this extreme move. For what is the mystery we call Rimbaud if not the point where literature annexes its opposite. form. To truly exit literature one cannot make literature into a thing. Yet. a mere representation of the artist in art). the repulsion from signs becomes an impossible attraction. and the more he wants to erase it. and the appetite for signs becomes a cause of disgust. Rimbaud’s flight from art. Roussel’s collapse when La Doublure did not change the world. Such confusion over the source of the conflagration of art’s dwelling place. But in the attempt. in the very apotropaic hall of mirrors that is modern art. . . The terrorist is left. Misology becomes philology. Speaking of Frenhofer’s ever-collapsing. Returning to Rimbaud for a moment. then. or thought leads Agamben to posit the very paradox of the artist’s terror. or has the sign abolished the meaning?” (MWC.
as Badiou shows. decomposed.17 does not the material depiction of silence. over time. Bruno Schultz’s first novel. I mention this rhetorical flourish because it touches on the importance of the potential not to write that is the heart of the act of poiesis. Rimbaud and Duchamp do not merely make and then choose not to make. This is the ultimate desubjectivization of the poet. most potently. 11). surely. There is no resisting dictation in the modern age. but surely the greatest works of modernism are those which were never created: Lautréamont’s third book. becoming even kitsch? To paint absence is one thing. As soon as one actively pursues the negation of art one creates anew an art of negation as such. never made. at the very nexus between the terrorist become rhetorician and the rhetorician facing up to the terror of the absolute void.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN finally and fatally enquires: “isn’t this the masterpiece of rhetoric?” (MWC. makes him the most pathetic and powerful of all modern artists: the man who sought silence and was thus then forced to speak. Will there ever be an end to art that is itself not a work of art but a pure experience of the poetic? 106 . This is why Kafka casts such a shadow over Agamben’s work and the modern age as a whole.” As soon as one speaks of the creation of art one enters subjective negation. ignored by his “friend” Brod. for what else have we been debating here? Not the loss of being through the semiotic necessity of its enunciation but through the enunciative necessity of the semiotic. The way out of art into language is permanently barred by the very sign that indicates “Exit from Art. His decision to have all his works destroyed at his death. the most eloquent rhetorician? Who has the most fiendish savour for violence and fear? While Malevich and (late) Beckett. manifest the very condition of acsesis as both testament to the lack of events and precursive preparation for the event to come.18 He sits. the final version of Le Livre. destroyed but. risk accusations of the obvious. Nietzsche’s Will to Power? What confers true genius on the modern artist is the very failure of terror in the pure silence of an absolute and thus truly terrifying rhetoric: the work of pure silence. Which is the greatest artist. Consider the gesture we call author-function Rimbaud and Duchamp against those we call Malevich or Beckett. In their choice not to make they make their greatest masterpieces: the pure rhetoric of the semiotics of the absent sign which is the sign under which all modern art is composed. Even silence succumbs to speech it would seem.
courtesy of philosophy. the power of art over the spectator collapsed into profane secularization only to rise again in the form of shock rather than awe. as it were. that we currently live in the age of prose. art.19 and that this age is marked by its being the epoch of the end of art. Hegel’s work is perhaps most central to Agamben’s reading of art under negation. at the presentation of its own dissolution: the collapse of poetry into prose. the prosaic. These are that art is the sensible presentation of the idea. at each level of Hegelian aesthetics modern art is denigrated. through four central tenets to Hegel’s overall aesthetic theory. once the space of 107 . or an art that celebrates subordination. As Agamben shows in an extensive analysis of the history of the development of the museum from the ancient cabinet of wonder. at the moment that poiesis becomes available for full view to us for the first time since the Platonic occlusion. to accept its tripartite collapse or to turn these failings around and form from them a new lieu commun. Enlightenment democracy. poiesis arrives. that poetry is the archetypal art in that it exists between language (the sensible) and image (idea). A choice lies before modern poiesis therefore. Second it is a mere prosaic remnant of the poetic art that once dwelled among us. aesthetic double-desubjectivization which may be the only means by which art under negation during modernity might result in some form of pro-ductive poiesis after modernity. democratic.20 The final element here is of greatest importance to aesthetic desubjectivization but this thesis makes little sense without all four elements of Hegelian proto-post-aesthetics. This means that. First it is subordinate to the idea. Third its critical definition is also its negation. It arrives precisely at the moment that prose as bios or social ethics has inundated all during the period of Western. As we have seen at some point or over time in Western culture. The modern art work becomes a means of presenting that there was once art but now such work is at an end.MODERNITY. PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS MODERN AESTHETIC DESUBJECTIVIZATION The Man Without Content is effectively a conversation between Agamben and the three fathers of modern aesthetics: Kant. Kant’s theory of aesthetic disinterested judgement and Nietzsche’s conception of an interested art emanating from a god-like creator bracket the work of Hegel together forming a theory of modern. As one can see. Hegel. For Hegel modern art is a valorization of the sensible presentation of the idea. and negation. and Nietzsche.
This is the very essence of art as transmissibility. and does not need. autonomous. religion. (MWC. At the moment that the creator steps out of the transmissibility of cultural traditions her relation to her material changes. Art got one ready for god who in his turn prepared one for Geist. substantially. and to the other the free subjectivity of the artistic principle. The definition of modern art at the point of its cessation in Hegel comes from the moment when the material of the work of art is seen by the artist as material as such and as art as such.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN display of a valued object changes and the object is placed under glass the relation of the spectator to the object also changes. which soars above the contents as over an immense repository of materials that it can evoke or reject at will. prosaic objectivity goes to one side. At this moment the work of poiesis enters the world of prose: The artist then experiences a radical tearing or split. In a very basic way this idealized act of creation was neither making something nor creating art as we moderns understand these terms. At this moment works of modern art are produced through the profanation of the relic into an art object already suffering auratic aphasia. contagiously through the art work. by which the inert world of contents in their indifferent. through exterior interiority.21 They no longer pause in front of the object in religious awe but are as if rooted to the spot or transfixed by pure. rather the subject-artist simply presented in sensible form the idea of her communally held spirit within an exterior form as a necessary step towards a final interiorization. or when the creator becomes critical spectator of their own work. because it can only measure itself against the vertigo caused by its own abyss. the poem. any content. as it were. Art is now the absolute freedom that seeks its end and its foundation in itself. All of her acts were the result of her consciousness so that when she made something she made herself as a subject within a unified culture. 35) Contained in the vaunting rhetoric here of Agamben’s reading of Hegel are the various stages of his complex ideas on poetry and 108 . is revelatory in this regard. That Hegel placed art at the lowest level of the journey of the spirit from exteriority. secular shock. For Hegel this scission within the subjectivity of the spectator is first enacted within that of the creator and transmitted. Previous to that she had no direct selfconsciousness of material or making.
22 Contentless-ness: what the work of art now contains as content is the work of art as such. confounding common denominator. the only measure of art on earth is art itself. 42). Prose: at this juncture the meaning of the work becomes subject to the prose of the world. is thus definable by a conglomeration of the following quasi-events. Art becomes incommensurable in the moment that measuring art becomes possible through the Kantian discipline of criticism. Having set up Hegelian aesthetics as permanently under negation. The work of art is moved from being encased in a continuum to floating within the void.MODERNITY. purposiveness without purpose. Summarizing the four characteristics of aesthetic judgement as Kant delineates them he finds a single. or the moment at which the artist becomes her own spectator or the spectator becomes the judge of art. Height: the subjectivity of the artist is now defined as that of being above the territory of art’s dwelling on earth. Freedom: defined here in a Nancyian manner as a nonfoundational self-founding. floating in the sense that it both soars above and is endlessly falling away. . and normality without a norm “it seems . that every time aesthetic judgement attempts to determine what the beautiful is. Art is no longer measurable against culture as either being of the same standard or co-extensive. universality apart from concepts. as though its true object were not so much what art is but what it is not” (MWC. Materiality: the work becomes a commodity fetish or non-utilitarian choice of the object purely for the sake of exchange. Modern art. This shadow of art is the modern experience of 109 . . Scission: art is no longer defined through its place in the continuum but through its being excerpted from the continuum. it holds in its hands not the beautiful but its shadow. PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS modern art. Central to the definitions of the object of aesthetic judgement as disinterested satisfaction. Incommensurability: the much touted incommensurability of postmodernity hounded by Habermas in particular23 is surely simply an overstatement of the spatio-philosophical paradox of sublating negation that Agamben sets up here through his reading of Hegel. Therefore. namely that of Kant. which is art as such defined by Agamben as art under erasure. Agamben then turns to the very aesthetic system from which Hegel’s work emanates but also seeks to depart from. so that the semantic is handed over to prose and meaning becomes the absence of meaning. At this point perhaps the greatest paradox of modern art comes into view as we float or plunge above the void of self-founding self-negation.
nothing can be known” (MWC.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN inexperiencible art which is. 43). the tautegorical aesthetic shares in the weakness of this strength” (LAS. . The tautegorical nature of reflective judgement is to be found in the relation of judgement to the sensation which. is that judgement is the affect of the sensation of thinking. 44). therefore. . presents a critical synthesis of Kant and Hegel here to provide a model for creation (Hegel) and judgement (Kant) that is based on the commencement of the art object from the moment of its selfnegation. Considering Kant’s famous paradox that the judgement of taste is not based on concepts as it could be subject to proofs and yet that it must be based on concepts otherwise we would not quarrel about it (it would not in fact be taste). In Lyotard’s remarkably detailed reading of the third critique he begins by telling the traditional story of Kant’s theory of judgement as the bridge between theoretical and practical knowledge. The moment that we engage the faculty of judgement we are negating the very object we are judging. . This reading undermines the assumed legislative power of judgement and leaves it instead as a reflective faculty whose strength resides precisely in its legislative debilitation: because judgement cannot legislate it can supplement the contesting legislations. . from which . We can recognize in this concentration by Agamben on the paradox of judgement as a non-knowing concept parallels with Lyotard’s reading of reflective judgement as tautegorical. or as Lyotard says: “The strength of reflective weakness can be explained by the heuristic function of reflection. put simply. judgement merely operates between practical reason and understanding which is judgement’s famous heuristic capacity. Reflective thinking 110 . which is the quintessence of taste. the only experience of art and also the first experience of art as a thing in itself. or of discovering natural beauty defined as finality without purpose (objective perfection without teleology). Agamben. He thus concludes that “our appreciation of art begins necessarily with the forgetting of art” (MWC. for us. which is the indication to thought that it is taking place. This led to a widespread acceptance of the term judgement as finding the universal in the particular based on the regulative idea of the finality of nature. of understanding and reason. In finding the universal in the particular. so to speak. The act of judgement produces the feeling of the activity of judgement. Agamben then moves to Kant’s dictum that judgement is “a concept . 6).
47). concepts that could be known. Agamben identifies the central point of his thesis on modern art. This scission submits all art to the law of the “degradation of artistic energy” which states that once one has passed judgement on a work of art. The person whose job it is to shed light on modern art. the scission between genius and taste which defines aesthetic judgement and gives birth to modern criticism. “What he sees of himself in the work. Pure reflection is first and foremost the ability of thought to be immediately informed of its state by this state and without other means of measure than feeling itself ” (LAS. At this juncture. 11). PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS is. namely. In contrast. we do need a concept of what the work of artistic beauty should be “because the foundation of the work of art is something other than us. the content he perceives. not on thinking something. Judgments of taste are based. therefore. Natural beauty does not require a regulative concept. 46). the spectator-critic. indeed for Kant nature is the regulative concept for aesthetic beauty—the very thing Hegel takes issue with. Yet while judgement seems almost to blame for the end of art thesis. there is no way to return to it by way of the reverse path of taste” (MWC. the free creative-formal principle of the artist” (MWC. . thought’s thinking of itself as thinking through sensation: “Any act of thinking is thus accompanied by a feeling that signals to thought its ‘state. he brings with him nonbeing and shadow” (MWC. is the very person who commits art to the realm of dark non-art: “whenever he exercises his reflection. .MODERNITY. but on the sensation of thinking thinking. and which therefore he can legitimately believe himself capable of expressing” (MWC. that is. it is in fact the content-less nature of the modern work of art that results in perhaps the ultimate. therefore.’ But this state is nothing other than the feeling that signals it . most powerful irony of modern aesthetics wherein the critic sees in the work of art the very contentless-ness that defines the subjectivity of the modern man without content. appears to him no longer as a truth that finds its necessary expression in the work. 45). or “once the work of art has been produced. 46). Having established this fundamental quality of the tautegorical nature of critical judgement Agamben then differentiates judgements of taste from those of natural beauty in Kant. “one can never return to it from a state posterior to its creation”. The very self-presence of the spectator is the pre-condition of the work of 111 . but rather as something of which he is already perfectly aware as a thinking subject.
is the very basis of his theory of the potentially productive nature of the historically contingent. and at the same time immediately as itself. to use Hegel’s term. perverts any relationship between the genius of creation and the communality of culture. he must split 112 . but the critic cannot share in it. at the same time the spectator is by definition not the artist. Thus the alienation of art is their subject. The pure creative principle results in the alienation of art and the critic not only recognizes this theme-less theme. being-as-nonnart but not being art.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN art without content. and yet what they know is what they can never be. The result of this on all of us is devastating: “In the aesthetic judgement. The annihilation of content may be familiar. Agamben’s explanation of this double negation. desubjectivized being of the critic/spectator : If the spectator consents to the radical alienation of this experience. What they see in the work of art is what they already know. it is the pure split and lack of foundation that endlessly drifts on the ocean of form without ever reaching dry land” (MWC. he has no other way of finding himself again than wholly to assume his contradiction. it belongs with them. being-for-itself has as its object its own being-for-itself. but there is one simple fact separating the two. they are of course part of what makes it possible. the critic cannot. and agrees to enter the circle of absolute perversion. leaves behind all support. What we can conclude from aesthetic modern contentlessness is that the moment the spectator and the artist become two separate entities (the archetypal event of modern aesthetic metaphysical scission) ironically the artist no longer has anything new to say to the spectator for the spectator was party to the very scission that facilitated the shift from art to nonart that the artist thought they had created ex nihilo. but as something absolutely Other. 48). but the critic does not make modern art placing them/us in a doubly untenable position. the critic knows all. There is nothing the artist can teach the spectator. existing in both positions without any means of bringing the two together again. The genius makes art. The critic identifies her being in the alienation of the work which rejects or. The presence of the critic makes possible modern art. The subject of judgement finds itself both subject and predicate of their judgement. Yet. as Agamben says both absolutely Other and immediately itself. That is.
. he cannot neglect the other half: artist as god-like creator. 54) Such a dire conundrum strands the artistic subject in a doubly desubjectivizing quandary. (MWC.MODERNITY. that artistic subjectivity is absolute essence. everything is a lie” (MWC. negate his own negation . split from any content. Yet even if one chooses to live the split. 48) The position of the modern spectator. however. however. for Agamben at least. 55). If she places her faith in a specific content she realizes she is lying as her own pure subjectivity is everything. “trying to make of the split that inhabits him the fundamental experience starting from which a new human station becomes possible” (MWC. the pure creative-formal principle. Of the creative. Having dealt with one half of modern aesthetic desubjectivization. Nietzschean genius he says: What the artist experiences in the work of art is. In this alienation he owns himself. the heroic modern artist. Faced with this alternative. . . in fact. Yet here Agamben takes on critical desubjectivization and proposes at least a desire to convert ontological negation into a productive category. beside his reality” (MWC. and Agamben here names Rimbaud and Artaud as exemplary in this regard. without content. . there is no escaping the fact that. for which all subject matter is indifferent. to live the epoch or to live outside of it. (MWC. 55). Yet. “outside of this split. 54). is the absolute abstract inessence. if she then embraces pure subjectivity and ceases to seek for content she finds herself embracing her subjective inessence: “content in what is mere form” (MWC. 54). which is the subjective position all but of a few of us occupy in front of the art work (perhaps indeed all as in modernity even the artist becomes spectator to their own poiesis) is akin to that described by Hegel as the selfannihilating nothing of Romantic Irony. PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS asunder his own split. the artist is always living on what he calls “this side of his essence . Thus the modern artistic subject can be defined as a radical split. and in owning himself he alienates himself. Which annihilates and dissolves every content in its continuous effort to transcend and actualize itself. can attempt to totally inhabit the split and try to live this violence. Hence Agamben’s conclusion: “The artist is the 113 .
And finally third. It opens up to us the importance of tradition and transmissibility which we now see. who has no other identity than a perpetual emerging out of the nothingness of expression . 114 . as is indeed. First as an example of poeticized desubjectivization. Modern aesthetic double desubjectivization provides us with a prototype for the following three propositions in Agamben’s overall system. critically. are as pure subjective inessence. the critic/spectator and the artist are both examples of self-annihilating nothings.24 The end of art as art results in a double desubjectivization. Either art is pure content without form. This has various benefits of course. for the very first time. or all form without content. . and certainly there is no greater negation than self-annihilating nothingness. . modern art. Here one can see the importance of aesthetic modernity to Agamben’s wider philosophical project. modern art presents us with the most credible and challenging model of “poetic” desubjectivization as a solution to the failings of nihilistic ontology. The critic possesses knowledge of an entity they have no experience of and the artist experiences a process of which they can have no knowledge. thoughts about art. as if for the first time. Modern art is art that is under negation through the act of coming to view. how negation as such. For Agamben. Second in revealing the structural interdependence of philosophy and poetry in this process: formless thought or contentless form. 55). most significantly in a manner only hinted at in the pages of The Man Without Content but which comes to full fruition over the intervening decades. perhaps predictably. Yet.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN man without content.” (MWC.can result in a productive category hinted at in the terms of such a double negative: modern nonart as the potential for an exit from art into a futural and sustainable poiesis. in accordance with Benjamin’s hermeneutic principle.
SECOND EPISODE ADVENTURES IN LOGOPOIESIS .
This page intentionally left blank .
This cannot be helped. and by their occlusion of the fact that their inter-division is a false divide which.CHAPTER 4 LOGOPOIESIS. And so I present for general perusal and 117 . an ancient by-way thicketed by prejudice. or as we will come to see him comparative. the compound. expropriating appropriative methodology. THINKING TAUTOLOGY The title of this volume proposes a compound construction or double thesis. Such a di-thetic approach runs the risk of being doubly unpopular in that for those who believe Agamben to be a philosopher or. thinker requires a compound and demonstrative term to present these tonal issues. The tension between the philosophical and the literary in Agamben is the central animator of his whole intra-metaphysical. At the same time. Neither a thinker of philosophy nor poetry alone and unable to succumb to any of the traditional modes of thinking division. however. my suggestion that no understanding of Agamben’s indifferent ontology is possible without recourse to the literary might even seem frivolous. and the visual arts is merely as a means of approaching a post-nihilistic metaphysics. a political philosopher. For reasons which I believe now are more than apparent it is not possible to overview the work of Agamben without accepting that his project will always resist being reducible to one side of the ancient division philosophy–poetry. novels. the happy few who have come to understand that Agamben is one of the greatest thinkers of the arts in our tradition may be dismayed at the suggestion that all his talk of poetry. that Agamben is “literary” and that the literary Agamben opens up a clearing around thinking through poetry/ poiesis that I am calling logopoiesis. more pointedly. they must accept and actively live through. while at the same time striving to reveal how both traditions first fail to lift thinking out of negation by virtue of their being subsumed by scission.
any designation of thought that hands over thinking either to philosophy or poetry is not properly “poetic” thinking but is in fact metaphysical thinking about poetry. like Heidegger before him. While this gesture is important and marks the roots of the term in the work of Heidegger. or thinking through making. and poiesis. for Agamben at least thought is or must be poeticized and poiesis is a mode of material thinking. as we saw. or not entirely. There may be others. which is why logos and poiesis alone are not sufficient designations even if. convenient possibility. it does not accurately reflect the sophistication and tensile balance I intend to convey in the term logopoiesis. Having now dealt in some detail with logos. Agamben proposes various names for this alternate or “new” form of thinking. Jacques Derrida. uses the term “poetic thinking” to describe the centrality of poiesis to a new form of thinking that exceeds that of Heidegger in some fashion (HI.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN perhaps initial scepticism or even weary derision my theory of logo-poiesis. 20). indeed the inserts into such a narrative are sparse and inconclusive. or not solely. I do not intend here to establish a strict canon as logopoiesis is still in its nascent stages and presented here as little more than a provocative. As we have seen. I will not here present a history of logopoiesis. we are now in a position to propose logopoiesis as not merely a viable compound term but more significantly as a complementary coupling or comparative tonality. beyond stating that it was the later work of Heidegger and its emphasis on poetry and poetic thinking that commenced the tradition that was able “to hand philosophy over to poetry” as Badiou states it (MP. A fully worked out vision of logopoiesis would require detailed reading of all their work in conjunction with that of Agamben. One would not want to neglect Blanchot in this regard also. The simplest definition of such poetic thinking is a turn to poetry to assist thinking to overcome the aporias of modern thought. nor is it a type of poetry that thinks. While. thinkers who accept the centrality of Heidegger but also look to poetry as a way beyond his ontology. 74). Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and. and some comments would be reserved for the work of Deleuze. as is now apparent. would include Jean-Luc Nancy. Other contemporary logopoietic thinkers therefore. or thinking thought as such. perhaps more contentiously. one which thinks the very basis of thinking as such in the pure mediality of language the most 118 . Poetic thinking is not thinking about poetry. Badiou is also a great logopoietic thinker of course and he.
The definition of the terms in play.2 As such “poetic thinking” is destined to be a problematic and misleading designation whereas logopoiesis presents a balance between the philosophical and poetic elements of such modes of thinking even if the harmony is an uneasy one. I have opted for the more obscure but also productively suggestive term. Heidegger tells us. Thus logopoiesis is essentially tautological in essence.1 While sporadically mentioned by critics. One cannot blithely produce neologisms and not expect certain repercussions. Poetic thinking it could be logopoiesis it is. It first came to the fore as a term for a thinking poetry in Pound’s ABC of Reading in contrast to melopoiesis or the poetry of pure semiosis. however. he does not hone in on one particular name or ever actually advocate a “poetic thinking” at all. None of the thinkers I have mentioned do so. and neglects the possibility of a poetry that thinks. THINKING TAUTOLOGY authentic experience of which is the poetic word (I hesitate to call it new. 119 . In contrast “poetic thinking. Poetic thinking ultimately stresses a form of thinking that relies on and appropriates poetry. much debated and contested terms is unwise. a full understanding of categorical thinking and the problems of naming. THE LOGO-POIESIS TAUTOLOGY The creation of a compound term out of two ancient. has found significant currency within philosophy. For this reason. and how indeed two terms can be placed in relation to each other simply by spatio-linguistic proximity are all issues to be taken rather seriously.LOGOPOIESIS. As should be the effect on both terms when placed in a zone of bound proximity. as its novelty resides in the manner in which something original has been totally forgotten and then rediscovered centuries later). Certainly he does not use the term logopoiesis. essentially name the same process of bringing to appearance. balanced proximity giving way to a hierarchical topography and so on. Yet logopoiesis is not a neologism. logopoiesis has not come to be a developed rhetorical or critical term. One term will naturally seek dominance over the other. especially considering the dangers of duality inherent within our tradition.” which would be the translation of logopoiesis. and the fact that poetic thinking really names a form of philosophy that considers poetry. witness Halliburton’s book on Heidegger of the same name. The dangers are heightened further when it comes to the combination of two terms such as logos and poiesis which.
How. the manifest” (BT. he ponders. concept. 120 . relation. 22). definition. quite the contrary he is a thinker of obfuscation). therefore. meaning something that shows itself to indicate something else that does not show itself. poiesis makes something manifest to appearance that was not manifest before.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Heidegger explains that for the Greeks the term logos. and so on. 26). If we now return briefly to Heidegger’s foundational work on the term poiesis. makes logos and poiesis appear as synonymous and thus the term logopoiesis as tautological. which effectively means speech. to let them be seen as something unconcealed (alēthes). rather it means that something makes itself known which does not show itself. 29). judgement. Logos makes appear something in precisely this way: “to take things that are being talked about in legein as apophainethai out of their concealment. rely on the mediation of speech: making something appear which is hidden and remains so. Appearance. has come to be translated/interpreted variously as reason. “does not mean that something shows itself. judgement. the self-showing. to discover them” (BT. Logos means speech as a means of bringing something out of concealment and making it appear not as the thing as such but as the concealed thing. Yet the means by which poiesis does this differ from those of logos. concept. This is facilitated by the root of logos being Legein or the making present of something: “the simple apprehension of something objectively present in its pure objective presence” (BT. can speech be speech and also mean all of these other things that effectively form the very basis of discursive. but what does it mean to make something appear and how is this affected by mediation through language? Heidegger believes that the term appearance in the context of “what shows itself. It makes itself known through something that does show itself ” (BT. Heidegger specifically defines the bringing-forth of poiesis as producing something into presence. bringing forth. and relation. Therefore the fact that logos can simultaneously mean mediation and knowledge is revealed not as a possibility but in fact a necessity (it also negates once and for all the misconception that Heidegger is a thinker of revelation. The knowledge generating powers of logos as reason. 25) must be interpreted effectively as a symptom. presuppositional philosophical thought? The answer he gives is that logos really means deloun or to make manifest what is being talked about in speech. Thus logos is definable as making something appear in speech. Like logos. its definition as presencing. ground.
and could indeed use another form of mediation. This difference becomes clearer if we re-consider the role of production or techne in relation to presencing. Thus logos means making something manifest through the mediation of speech. Yet in later Heidegger the emphasis has changed. apportions itself into the revealing that brings forth and that also challenges . The difference between philosophical and poetic thinking. 29). while poiesis is that form of revealing that “ever so suddenly and inexplicably to all thinking. Yet to do so runs the risk of obfuscating the truth that logopoiesis is essentially a form of tautological circular thinking. is that in philosophy truths are produced through the support of linguistic mediation. Most certainly thinking and poetry produce truth in a different manner. while free techne or poiesis exceeds the frame and produces freed thinking. What is important here in early Heidegger is simply that the mediation indicates that the production of truth is not the production of a thing as such but of truth’s appearance as something concealed. . Here language is merely symptomatic of truth. THINKING TAUTOLOGY whereas logos mediates presencing. To sum up. Perhaps it is more illuminating to write the tautology out thus: (logos) the truth of production—(poiesis) the production of truth. Yet logos merely utilizes speech as a mediation. but ultimately logopoiesis says the same thing twice: the production of truth—the production of truth. logo-poiesis is primarily tautological as both logos and poiesis are mediating modes of producing truth. Enframed techne produces something to the dictates of the age in which it is produced. production as instrumentality which he terms challenging-forth. Truth is now produced into presence by virtue of techne.” (QCT. Techne is the active process of bringing something to presence through making. . he differentiates two forms of producing forth. while poiesis means producing something into presence through the act of making. As Heidegger’s work progresses and he becomes convinced of the restrictions of producing based around enframing (Gestell) or a predisposition within production that forces techne to serve pre-ordained dictates rather than facilitate free appearing. which he also translates as presencing. Gestell is instrumental and pre-ordained production. When one makes something the actual thing. therefore. making. one makes is not the thing produced by poiesis.LOGOPOIESIS. while in poiesis they are produced through making. It could also be accused of using speech instrumentally as a form of Gestell. rather in making something poiesis brings something that was hidden to presence. 121 .
260). “Bartleby.” He then proceeds to explain: “Not only science but also poetry and thinking conduct experiments. . These experiences are without truth. emulating as it does Heidegger’s own late tautological style in such formulations as the “language itself is language” and a thing’s thinging (See PLT. the most profound experience of which belongs. 174 respectively) and indeed the centrality of the hermeneutic circle. perhaps indeed singularity of the projectiverecursive circular mode of thinking that is the quintessence of logopoietic thinking—itself a tautology we can now dispense with as logopoiesis names a modality of thought—and which. I would also call this an archetypal definition of logopoiesis: a form of thinking that is without truthfulness. Agamben declares that this ought to be the “paradigm for literary writing. as I said. tautology is true to the Heideggerian roots of the conception. Damascius’ consciousness of the tablet. to recognize the Being of something as something” (P. as we shall now go on to see. we are repeatedly assured.” Here he speaks of the prose of Robert Walser which the critic Walter Lüssi called “pure poetry” because it “refuses in the widest sense. tautology names the specificity. These experiments do not simply concern the truth or falsity of hypotheses . Third. it disallows philosophy or poetry to totally appropriate the term. but which produces truth as the very precondition for thinking. Akhmatova’s ability not to write and Benjamin’s Idea of Prose are all. is inimical to philosophical thought. THE EXEMPLARY TAUTOLOGY OF LOGOPOIESIS We have already seen some examples of logopoietic thinking. for truth is what is at issue in them” (P. First. at the same time. 260). 122 . before or beyond its determination as true or false. Second. it touches on the debate as regards the tautegorical nature of logopoiesis.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN The tautology of the term is relevant for several reasons and thus must be retained. Such a truth resides in the fact that there is language as pure medium. with the poets. it cannot be proved right or wrong by testing it for agreement in relation to concepts or things in the world. Finally. they call into question Being itself. rather. in their way. models for logopoiesis. or On Contingency. Glenn Gould’s playing with not-playing. 190 and OWL. . Perhaps it would be useful here to adumbrate a few more examples provided by Agamben in that central essay in the canon of logopoiesis.
who “replaces the physical ‘I’ with an empty and inessential being that is only its own ways of Being and has possibility only in the impossible” (P. This is not. being. as we saw. He is a scrivener. He remains a scrivener with the potential to write mimetically.LOGOPOIESIS. he ends with Heidegger. if I may but temporarily coin that rather horrendous-sounding neologism. He describes Condillac’s introduction of a statue to the sense of smell and Dante’s desubjectification of the “I” of the poet into the third person. and most significantly. Of course he then recounts Rimbaud’s declaration “I is another” alongside Kleist’s use of the marionette as paradigm for the absolute. power.” Here he experiments with issues of will. THINKING TAUTOLOGY Agamben then goes on to list a history. I believe. Each of these thinkers conducts an experiment in being which we should now recognize as that of desubjectivization. He is a scrivener. all logopoiesis produces life out of desubjectivization or. but when asked to copy or write by his boss he replies that he would “prefer not to. 260). That Agamben uses precisely the same phrase when explaining that the importance of poetry is that it produces life (EP. Finally. but as we saw desubjectivization is a central tenet in Agamben’s conception of the relevancy of poetry to philosophy and being. the transformation of limbs that changed it into a bird” (P. the moment when the subject “withdraws from both the lived experience of the psychosomatic individual and the biological unsayability of the species” (EP. Speaking of these notable poietic experiments with existence he says: “Whoever submits himself to these experiments jeopardizes not so much the truth of his own statements as the very mode of his existence. Rather he does not want to. he undergoes an anthropological change that is just as decisive in the context of the individual’s natural history as the liberation of the hand by the erect position was for the primate or as was. and potential. the father of logopoiesis. This is what Agamben calls the “irreducibility of his ‘I would 123 . of remarkable logopoietic thinkers. effectively. 260).” He speaks of Cavalcanti’s description of the poetic experience of being like an automaton. 94) indicates how integral in actuality is his vision of thinking and poetry. All poetic thinking. He mentions Avicenna’s imagining of an eviscerated and dismembered being that can still state “I am. the only experiment to be conducted by logo-poets. this is his form of life. but a scrivener whose potential never arrives at actualization. 93). It is not that he cannot copy. for the reptile.3 Agamben stresses that Bartleby’s experiment with being and potential is of this kind.
261). or better. Agamben goes on to describe how the green screen (another version of the tablet perhaps) that isolates Bartleby’s desk “traces the borders of an experimental laboratory” wherein the scrivener who can copy but chooses not to frees himself from the principle of reason: either one is a scrivener and one copies or one is not and does not. Potential shares with tautology the same truth-testing aporetic base in that its truth cannot be appraised not because it is always true but because it constitutes the very experiment or test of truth. Bartleby’s ontology of unfulfilled potential can not be submitted to truth conditions not because it is always true but because it is simultaneously true and not true. “The formula that he so obstinately repeats destroys all possibility of constructing a relation between being able and being willing. another name Agamben gives to this ontology is life. Logopoiesis therefore must be a construction dependent on the logic of potentiality as Agamben finesses it. 255). potentiality thus creates its own ontology” (P. 259). form-of-life (HS. between potential absoluta and potential ordinate. “Emancipating itself from Being and non-Being alike.4 INFINITE POETRY While illustrative these examples. The ontology of potentiality can also be termed that of logopoiesis confirmed by Agamben’s subsequent comments on the relation of the Bartleby’s formula to tautology “a proposition that is impenetrable to truth conditions on account of always being true” (P. but.” poetry thrives on it. Philosophy cannot abide the tautology. are somewhat dissatisfying. In that this ontology withdraws subjectivity from actual identity and biological indistinction. A tautology is a form of thinking whose truth cannot be tested because it is always true. 188).THE LITERARY AGAMBEN prefer not to’. For a start Melville’s story seems to merely recount the conditions of potential in an allegorical or analogous form. as all illustrations are. he argues. Logopoiesis is a truth-testing tautology that can only occur outside the realms of philosophy. he would simply prefer not to.” It is not that he does not want to copy. In the end there is little difference between this presentation of truth 124 . It is the formula of potentiality” (P. Such a process is in effect heuristically tautegorical in that one can only attest to the truth of its taking place through the sense of its taking place or not taking place. Similarly. as Keats demonstrates in the final line of “Ode on a Grecian Urn.
” with “this hedgerow” becoming converted later into “that. While the use of deixis is fascinating Agamben rightly asks what we can learn of the poem’s reliance on deixis as indicating the instance of discourse. THINKING TAUTOLOGY and that found in Plato’s dialogues or the fabulous Nietzsche. Yet Agamben is not to be accused. like Hegel.” At this point. most specifically the circular tautological nature of thinking under the auspices of logopoiesis.” Author-function Leopardi is then struck by a sense of “interminable spaces” in the distant beyond. the impersonal genius of the wind interjects and “I find myself comparing to this voice / that infinite silence: and I recall eternity. / and this hedgerow that hides from view / so large a part of the remote horizon. and dialogue have all been used by philosophy to make a point. is this specific use of deixis singular to the poem when innumerable poems use the same technique? Agamben believes that Leopardi. And how. of merely allegorizing literature in the service of philosophy. in particular his reading of Leopardi’s poem “L’infinito” proceeding directly out of the analysis of the troubadours’ noble if failed attempt to think the place of language as such—the ultimate logopoietic adventure for Agamben I would suspect. which it undoubtedly does in the poem. This is best illustrated by the centrality he gives to poetry in Language and Death. indeed. specificity to generality. along with an interesting interchange between “this” and “that.5 His is a truly engaged logopoiesis that gives as much attention to the operations of poetic thinking as to philosophical thought processes. always conceives of the sense-certainty assumed by the “this” as always already “universal and negative.” moving one from proximity to distance. faced with the “immensity” of both infinite space and infinite time. “L’infinito” begins: “This lonely knoll was ever dear to me.” Naturally. as some have of Heidegger and Badiou. Narrative. He notes the deictic “this” is repeated six times in the poem’s fifteen lines. and back again.” so that while we may assume that Leopardi did 125 . This is logopoiesis in its weakest state.”6 Agamben’s analysis begins in technicalities which indicate the sincere philologer within him.LOGOPOIESIS. poetry. that moves beyond what we have already learnt of deixis from other sources. marked by “supernatural silences. absolute silence and “the living presence and its sound” the poet is overwhelmed: “And so / in this immensity my thought is drowned: / and in this sea is foundering sweet to me.
also converts the ontic object of the text as such into mere text-function.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN once perceive a knoll in his home town of Recanati. The place of poetry is therefore always a place of memory and repetition. is modified to become the more vague and distant “that. (LD. second as to how poetic structure. More precisely the instance of discourse is assigned to memory from the very beginning.” and then “this” for “that” suggests that. here his analysis of poetry is exemplary and paradigmatic.” The rapidity and alacrity with which the poet abandons a noun for “this.7 He is reading a poem by Leopardi but. the knoll. he is immediately transforming the sense-certainty of the poem into a set of universal qualities revealing. that the memorable is the very ungraspability of the instance of discourse as such (and not simply an instance of discourse determined historically and spatially). however. reducing both subjectivities to mere gesturality. referentiality in poetry is always already moving away from reference to an actual thing towards 126 . the hedgerow. converting with haste Leopardi the existent-being into Leopardi the author-function gesture. he believes. serving as the basis for the possibility of its infinite repetition. and third how poetic thinking differs totally from that of philosophy. in such a way. Agamben’s use of prose was illustrative. that the procedure of author-function becoming reader-function. What are these qualities that typify the place of poetry. and into other realms of generality. reference. 76) Although a consideration of one short lyric this is also an observation of great significance. In the Leopardian idyll. in the instance of discourse that the habitual use of deixis indicates. as in the Hegelian analysis of sense-certainty. Poetic language takes place in such a way that its advent always already escapes both toward the future and toward the past. in other words where and how poetry thinks? First. This. Previously. beyond the last horizon. a That). already referentially deficient but still intimate. I believe. is indicated for example by how soon the “this” in the poem. the “this” points always already beyond the hedgerow. first as regards the now fully fleshed-out conception of dictation. like the poet himself. and the wind in the poem have immediately moved beyond referentiality to an existential fact. and rhythm work. toward an infinity of events of language. here the This is always already a Not-this (a universal.
Finally.” There was a knoll but in the poem there is no knoll. A poem can never be an event. namely. 69). This invention of an encounter or happening is in fact an act of false memory. as the object referred to in the poem is the very ungraspability of existential reality the poem is quickly transferred from a specific description of a lived reality. there was a Grecian urn but in the poem there is no Grecian urn. Agamben’s first conclusion from this astonishing reading is itself somewhat predictable but essential all the same. Its advent is both pre-cursive and reflective. is truly an event in that it negates the very possibility of its ever occupying this space and being termed as such. and thus available for perpetual repetition. universal. or conceptually through such considerations of space and time that we find in “L’infinito. there was a solitary reaper but in the poem she has already fled. frog-spawn. Although the lived experience always precedes the act of mimesis in our tradition. the poietic poem. The poem deals with a truth that is always already in place before the poet ever even wanders lonely as a cloud. The poem. Third. fourth. This is a point he also makes in reference to the razo de trobar. Second. THINKING TAUTOLOGY the thing first standing for something else and then finally an indication of the thing of language as such. or has always already been converted from singular event to universal quality.LOGOPOIESIS. the uncertainties of memory down by the station early in the morning. to a universal precondition of experience as such. At this point the poem shifts from being a specific instance of discourse to the truth of discursive ungraspability ceasing to be singular in becoming general. a gesture conjured up to support to presence of the poem as such (LD. and yet as soon as the poet encounters daffodils. that the taking place of language is unspeakable and ungraspable. the fiction of the razo creates lived experience simply to support the event of writing a poem that is long past. The event as such is either always already prepared for.” located as it is beyond the knoll in 127 . Reference in poetry therefore is always an indication of the taking place of language either in actuality through use of heightened semiotic devices. poetic referentiality is always marked by a belatedness transferring all poetic temporality into memorialization. this allows Agamben to make a truly profound revelation as to the nature of poetic structure. therefore. He says that the poem “expresses the same experience which we saw as constitutive of philosophy itself. something singular to the poet. a poem is therefore always profoundly evental. they have already entered into a field of repetition.
that they will return again. comes about in such as way that its advent necessarily remains unsaid in that which is said” (LD. from verto. Literature points to itself as an instance of discourse not merely when it plays games with reference and deixis but as soon as it takes place as a work. . of course. is an essential part of poetry. not quite. thus. That said if philosophy is marked by language as negation then poetry too cannot escape this metaphysical nihilism. There are blessings and curses to be gleaned from this analysis.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN interminable silence (LD. 77). He adds: “The word. to return. This is. 128 . the act of turning. for this reason. as in prose) signals for a reader that these words have always already come to be. Thus literature can get there first. to coincide perfectly with the philosophical experience of language” (LD. and that the instance of the word that takes place in a poem is. although in later studies he refers to it as the semiotic. 77). 77). This element is what he calls here poetry’s “super-shifter . The utilization of metrical forms in poetry. This is no more the case than in the poem which demands to be read then re-read. Well. if philosophy has already indicated this surely all that is left for poetry is to back philosophy up. For a start Agamben excitedly notes in relation to Bartleby that Melville’s observations on will precede those of Nietzsche by three decades. Its role as a functioning meta-deixis although not often enough remarked upon is central to the literary experience as a whole. However the true significance of poetry is not that of winning a metaphysical race but lies elsewhere in the semiotic element of verse that philosophy simply cannot match. to proceed directly. Agamben’s definition of language’s sayability as pure medium being perpetually silenced by the instance of the Voice. weaving a complex planar and tabular matrix of anaphoric and cataphoric elements that are the essence of its form. in all poetry even contemporary mainstream free verse and experimental poetics. . In addition. Thus he is able to conclude in a phrase of some significance to my own theory of logopoiesis: “The poetic experience of dictation seems.8 As Agamben says in response to this obvious yet seemingly invisible fact: The metrical-musical element demonstrates first of all the verse as a place of memory and repetition. 77). The verse (versus. taking place in time. the metrical-musical element” (LD. Poetry and philosophy are most certainly linked in terms of how they think language. as opposed to prorsus.
poetic language commemorates its own inaccessible originary place and it says the unspeakability of the event of language (it attains. philosophical discourse cannot. it performs or at least demonstrates that the very place of poetry. but the commencement of a possible shift away from the aporias of both logos and poiesis. finally. however. in what I have called logopoiesis. and while my formulation of logopoiesis advocates 129 . Does it not. THINKING TAUTOLOGY ungraspable. Through the musical element. Philosophy’s prose proceeds but poetry’s verse returns and this constitutes their essential difference. THE HABITS OF THE MUSE Agamben’s conclusion to his reading of Leopardi is complex and subtle. indeed. While philosophy is able to speak of the unspeakable giving us insight into negativity but no means of overcoming it. Thus the poem is able to take possession of the unattainable as the positive basis for its own self-generation. 78) This is the essence of the nature of poetry for Agamben. poetry seems to prepare a portal through which one could emerge into a post-nihilistic world or word that philosophy does not have at its disposal. counting as one of the most profound reflections on the literary ever penned in any language at any time. There is. he believes. philosophy and poetry.LOGOPOIESIS. no quick solution to this problem. modern poetic dictation is just as marked by negation as modern philosophical thinking. This is prosody as such or poetry’s reliance on repetition in terms of stress. the unattainable). remain unclear in the detail as to why poetry’s reliance on semiotic repetition is able to potentially save the whole of Western metaphysics? I would suggest so. reference and. But this placelessness has a place to be found in prosody itself. structure. This is not the solution to our metaphysical problems. (LD. You will recall that although poetry and philosophy both share as their object the unattainability of language as such. that is. is by definition a placeless one. where poetry thinks. sound. and has always already taken place and then begun again before you even get to the end. which is something philosophical language can never do unless it becomes poeticized. in poetry the unattainable is its very essence. This allows poetry to take possession of language’s unattainability in a way. lineation. As the poem is always already in place before you even come upon it.
is.” This in fact is not a remarkable observation. symphonies. the second harks back to the first. for Agamben. Just as the poem never ends always returning our attention back to that first line. its restless habitus. Consider rhyme as a simple example of this.” and the emphasis on dearness/sweetness. an adventure indeed.” Here always. All that Agamben is really looking for is an honest experience of linguistic/ontological unattainability or the definition of poeticphilosophical being as by definition the unattainable. First.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN this productive position for literature I cannot say at this point that call it anything more than a projection on my part. is also referred to directly by the first line of the poem which in Italian reads: “Sempre caro mi fu quest’ermo colle.” Agamben traces the etymology of sempre to the Latin semper which he first fractures into two elements.” a common enough construction of the experience of the always.” “This lonely knoll” and “this sea. the habit of its reversal. although always there in the metricalmusical element. Thus he defines the roots of always as meaning “once and for all.” Two elements at the poem’s end recall. The first rhyme already recalls the second. placed at the head of the poem composing the poem’s advent word from which the verse is launched as always already being in place. Second. He then suggests: “The sempre that opens the idyll thus points 130 . it never begins either commencing always on “always. For now we must satisfy ourselves with Agamben’s final point in relation to “L’infinito” as regards what might be called poetic habit. This is the place of poetic thinking.is the Indo-European word for single. the poem form is dominated by the advent-finitude tabular matrix. turning. novels. going backwards to go forwards. He thinks he finds this at the end of the poem where the poet admits his thought is drowned in the immensity of the unattainable before adding the proviso: “and in this sea is foundering sweet to me. of which he finds the sem. and films recall their commencement in their ending. its advent. unlike in the English translation. sem-per. The poem proceeds through verse. sempre. progressing only to refer back. so many lyrics. if one is always proceeding and returning? One never is. In “L’infinito” the habitual. Every couplet is in miniature the ontological potential of the poem to save thought. When is one ever in the poem spatially or temporally. combined with a positive potential. “was ever dear to me” and “sweet to me. This is not unique to this poem. the use of “this.
Agamben believes this change in situation as regards thought is dramatized in “L’infinito” through the figure of drowning: “Thought drowns in that about which it thinks: the unattainable taking place of language. the that of the knoll or its endless repetition through its prophylactic and transmissible encounter in poetic language. to measure its dimensions” (LD. fully experiencing the unattainable of the place of language. Agamben now rereads the whole poem as an attempt to seize the habitual. here.9 that is. it represents the initial sempre as an interminable multiplicity . invention in Derrida. yet the process of being named is the very thing that robs any event of singularity for the name allows the event to be reiterated and transmitted through space and time.LOGOPOIESIS. as is ever the case at least since Plato’s time. . 79). 131 .” the poet instead founders in the multiplicity of potential experiences of the knoll. The singular cannot be attained except through its being named in language. This “voyage” taken in the poem is “truly more brief than any time or measure. Yet we know that in trying to have the knoll the poet is instead cast into the interminable space that dismays his heart. the rupturing of a habitual dwelling into a ‘surprise’ . by the poet’s trying to haveever-dear the experience of the knoll. seeks to think. In trying to inhabit the experience of the knoll. . cedes to thought its sovereign power in affairs of the mind but is wrong to do so. to occupy its singular once-ness for all time indicated in the “this. It departs from a habit and returns to the same habit” (LD. But the drowning of thought in ‘this’ sea now permits a return to the ‘ever dear’ of the first line. THINKING TAUTOLOGY toward a habit. 80). Yet in a later poem. a having (habitus) that unifies (once) a multiplicity (all times): the having ever dear this knoll” (LD. because it leads into the heart of the Same. . Habit cedes to a thought that ‘feigns’. 80–1). The thought is a movement that. will even kill him if he is unable to change his situation. “Il pensiero dominante” he seems to embrace thinking which. to hold this unattainability in suspense. Agamben’s second conclusion on the poem therefore is as follows: “The experience at stake in the idyll is thus the breaking apart of a habit. the perpetual place of always. and the event in Badiou. This is perhaps why in an early letter Leopardi writes of the way in which thought makes him unhappy. This is in a way a restatement of the logic of the name in Heidegger. 80). Poetry. although dominating is also sweet. . the habitual dwelling with which the idyll began” (LD.
here thought cannot measure trapped as it is in the tautology of the same. Both seek to grasp that original. Agamben believes Plato is correct in his calling philosophy supreme music and its muse the true muse. a project of which I think we can say Heidegger is the greatest master. Here. philo-poiesis. he explains. Previous to this analysis Agamben draws ancient parallels between poetry and philosophy through the figure of the muse which as we know he also terms dictation. radically productive uselessness. Wildean. Use of the poetic word in fact is an expropriated appropriation in that one is possessed by the muse. in a nutshell. the habit. Plato. anti-poiesis. the circular journey immortalized by The Odyssey becoming a foundational recursive and tautological structure of so much Western art to follow. For Plato the meaning of the most beautiful song is “to demonstrate that poetic words do no originally belong to the people nor are they created by them” (LD. that it says nothing of worth. the circular structural basis of all logopoiesis. in the Ion. that it takes us nowhere. its utter. inaccessible place of the word. thus.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN In contrast to our previous definition of thought as that which takes measure of the dimensions of the unattainable. 78). is the highest stake” (LD. Periplus describes. is responsible for giving the poetic word the character of being an eurema Moisan or invention of the muses. The name of this technique in poetry is the periplus. one encounters Plato’s problem with poetry as identified by Lacoue-Labarthe in his recent response to Badiou’s critique of his work on poiesis: competition. amity. he sees a rival to his claim for thought’s sovereignty. therefore. Muse. Agamben’s reading goes even further than this however: “The ‘confrontation’ that has always been under way between poetry and philosophy is. “so that it necessarily escapes whoever tries to speak it” (LD. 78). Periplus as a term marks the structural pointlessness or meaninglessness of art. The circular journey to nowhere brings to the fore the darkness of the poem. which. and instead of appreciating filiation. is the name the Greeks gave to the “ungraspability of the originary place of the poetic word” (LD. 78). 78). for speaking man. much more than a simple rivalry. just sails around. nothing that can be tested as being true in terms of agreement or reasoning.10 Plato sees the community between poetry and philosophy. In that “philosophy too experiences the place of language as its supreme problem (the problem of being)” (LD. he claims. spoken by it. 78). nothing new. Agamben believes philosophy was born out of the very need to 132 .
Plato argues in Phaedrus. sets out from only to return back to the same. by transforming muse into spirit or Geist. Perhaps only language in which the pure prose of philosophy would intervene at a certain point to break apart the verse of the poetic word. no sooner launched the logopoietic bark is inundated by the cruel seas of the infinite and drowns. In parentheses as if an after thought which in fact is the advent of this whole impossible yet unavoidable enterprise. tautological logopoiesis. The second the establishment of negative. the most beautiful voice of the muse is voice without sound marking the origins of two essential and ultimately destructive events in Western thought. to Leopardi Agamben ends what is surely one of the great additions to the science of aesthetics in considering a logopoietic thinking that finds no measure of the infinite but is captured instead. 133 . Agamben inserts the following: (For this reason. Thought now experiences. as is often the case in such salty tales of the sea. he argues. will ever be able to accomplish their millennial enterprise by themselves. Who will save us: poetry or philosophy? The answer is neither and both. and thus freed.”’ At sea. you recall. in the periplus logic of tautological habitudes. Yet. once and for all time. thought has many adventures during which thought’s silence and interminable nature miraculously ceases to be “a negative experience. Yet. would be the true human language).” Thought has been truly poeticized by being sucked into the vortex of poetic periplus. THINKING TAUTOLOGY liberate poetry from inspiration or to retrieve language from mystical music-making and return it to statements of truth. (LD. Yet. along the way. and in which the verse of poetry would intervene to bend the prose of philosophy into a ring. thought “in its drowning” is “now truly lost forever . neither verse not prose. Thought in the poem. Returning one last time. The first is the scission of poetry from philosophy echoed by the bifurcation of language in the theory of the sign and dramatized in poetics through the development of the stanza. . once and for all. vocal silence at the very heart of being.LOGOPOIESIS. 78) With this parenthetical wondering Agamben gives birth to the new discipline of logopoiesis. the trans-planar and tabular experience of the anaphoriccataphoric matrix of poetic recursiveness. It does this. lost at sea as we say. that is. . perhaps neither poetry nor philosophy.
The result is the “extinguishing of thought. This logic is the tautological logic of poetic thinking. Yet the circularity of logopoiesis goes even further than this. 134 . time between times or between chronological time. Logopoiesis is the turn of verse in all senses of the word. the very testing of truth through its own alienation. its having-been and its coming to be . negativity as the breaking and making of the habit or of a poetic. At this point the metaphysical and poetic Agamben will once more come together and take the measure of each other. however. its habit and its versus. and the very turn of poetry as a formidable alternative to the traditional modes of thinking which renounce the circular in every instance in favour of moving ever forward towards the truth. for different yet related reasons. Logopoiesis in its tautology names a certain experience of truth that emulates that of potential. and reflect on how far we have come. For now.” its drowning and its tautological negation so that “in the negative dimensions of the event of language. Everything hangs on the temporal-spatial essence of poetry. the figure of humanity’s having emerges for the first time in its simple clarity: to have always dear as one’s habitual dwelling place. a truly original idea of language and thought that exceeds all the traditions of thinking from Plato as far as Heidegger by simply escaping the craft of thinking through drowning in equivalence and pointlessness. its having been. Through the projectiverecursive nature of poetic structure we are gifted with a model for a truly tautological mode of thought that draws together all the strands of Agamben’s attempt to think beyond the metaphysics of scission and negation. dry off. in the exhaustion of the dimension of being. its versification of language. and yet how much further we still have to travel.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN in the poem. 81). Later when we return to poetic structure we will see how Agamben’s recent work has come to name this in-between time messianic time. as the ethos of humanity” (LD. . literary singularity born out of structures of repetition. and eschatological futural time. In both tautology and potentiality. it suffices to pull ourselves from the ocean and back onto the shore. Both the ability of poetic language to turn (projective-recursion) as a potential for a pro-ductive philosophy to come. its coming to be. The result of this is a form of radical desubjectivization. . without resorting to arche-presence of the false imposition of unity. the truth of a statement cannot be tested.
interests him only in as much as it provides singular and privileged access to thinking the thing of thought as such: language.CHAPTER 5 ENJAMBEMENT. without remaining unsaid in what is said” (EP. Like all other identities in Agamben. he concludes on material seemingly at one removed from the technical concerns of prosody: “The poem thus reveals the goal of its proud strategy: to let language finally communicate itself. consider the conclusion of the short essay on poetics entitled “The End of the Poem.” Having spent several pages defining poetry in terms of lineation. interruption. 135 . the end of the poem. recurrence. 115). In Agamben’s hands the poem may be reborn into the service of a profound shift in metaphysics but at a certain cost to its own self-identity. (BT. All of which gives a certain piquancy to his avowed project here. 96) If it were not already apparent that there is a profound interdependence in Agamben between thinking. Never more powerfully apparent than here is it that Agamben is both negligent of the singularity of literature and yet entirely dependent on it. the poem must die through a process of self-alienation to become what it is destined to be. language. and the arts. THE TURN OF VERSE THE DEFINITION OF POETRY Bare space is still veiled. From this we are now in a position to ascertain that the prosodic element of poetry which concerns so much of Agamben’s work on literature. and finitude.
here in the scission between phone and logos. (EP. Thus we can see that differential opposition. between the semiotic and the semantic sphere. is to define a poetic institution that has until now remained unidentified: the end of the poem. To do this.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN The essay. and poetry is the archetypal tensile linguistic form. we now realize. This may indeed be a truism for all entities the result of the metaphysical tradition. like all tension. this is. 109) This deceptively simple definition of poetry as reducible to the prosodic technique of enjambement that does not even belong with Agamben1 establishes a set of preconditions for poetry which. begins in a rather pedestrian vein that gives little indication of the direction it will eventually take: My plan. not the case. The fact that the poem comes to an end both allows 136 . It is notable that the essay title and Agamben’s initial declaration both refer not to the internal tension of the poem but its cessation: the end of the poem is the true definition of poetry. which was originally a paper presented in French. must also be those for thought. negative metaphysics. I will have to begin with a claim that. although widely attacked by Agamben cannot simply be eradicated. If this tension were easy to maintain. by definition. happens to emulate precisely the tension at the heart of modern. that between the semiotic and the semantic. not least because the non-relational relation between two terms in a zone of indistinction that typifies the Agambenian method is best described as a tension. And so it becomes possible to see how this tension which occurs in the technicalities of prosody will open up for Agamben a possible route out of negation into pro-duction. perhaps Agamben might rapidly find what he is looking for in poetry but. namely that such a scission demands separation and relation. yet as we saw poetry has a special place in this tradition. but also that the specific tension of the poetic. Rather the definition of poetry exists precisely in the ambivalence to be found at the heart of all structures of differential scission. strikes me as obvious—namely that poetry lives only in the tension and difference (and hence also the virtual interference) between sound and sense. This is not merely due to the repulsive attitude of first philosophy to poetry. as you can see summarized in the title of this lecture. source of the tension he mentions here. without being trivial.
No wonder it is “as if for poetry the end implied a catastrophe and loss of identity” (EP. yet it implies consequences that are as perplexing as they are necessary. while a potential for thought. Verse is verse because it will at some point cease to be verse defining a structure of identity based on self-alienation we are now more than familiar with under the wider ontological heading of desubjectivization.2 Yet there would be no tension without this probable eventuality. if poetry is indeed this tension. a gap which words can pause before and then overleap as in enjambement. poetry alone cannot be thought’s substitute. only pure. Thus the final “verse” of any poem cannot be poetry for the tension is asymmetrically poised above a permanent rather than transitory space. This fact is certainly trivial. it is inevitable that if the sequence cannot recommence then the thing in question at that point no longer exists. it follows that the last verse of a poem is not a verse. Does this mean that the last verse trespasses into prose? (EP. Agamben wonders: what happens at the point which the poem ends? Clearly. For if poetry is defined precisely by the possibility of enjambement. here there can be no enjambement in the final verse of a poem. the abyssal presence of absence edging all poetry into being. The poem is tense because it must end. not least because without finitude there can be no poem. because at this point the whole texture of poetry. and instead becomes a true abyss of philosophical proportions. teetering on a ledge above an abyss of pure space or universal prose. THE TURN OF VERSE one to define the potential of its internal tensions and to understand how. 137 . If poetry subsists in the tensions it calls up between semiotic and semantic forces. not a preference for the semiotic over the semantic but the balancing of one precariously against the other. then.ENJAMBEMENT. 115). most marked at the end of the line where semiotic demands of metrical counting and rhyme undermine the semantic expectations set up within the progress of the serial syntax previous to this point of transition from one line to the next. This space. ceases to be a facilitator of poetic tension. 112) If something is defined by a tensile dynamic between arrest and sequential recommencement. starts to unravel. ongoing poetry of an impossible or virtual nature. carefully woven according to Agamben from the tensile interchange of semiotics and semantics.
composed of alinear but sequential marks. certainly suggested at the end of each line whether it runs on or not. losing its footing on a slippery way it must follow to its death. tension. foreshadowed in the worrying gaps between stanzas. in other words. if it indeed ever does begin as such and not simply strike up again on its guitar or lute. vacancy is just as present before the poem begins.” because Agamben is speaking here of deathly negativity. its uncanny angst. from this obvious if not trivial definition. and hence poiesis. outside the collection or book? Is it actual space. but rather the already inscribed future failure of poetry. This other tension is the tension of philosophical finitude. inevitable at the poem’s final footing on the edge before the abyss. not space at all but un-inscribed or zero-marked matter. the famous Agamben tablet of potential? The end of the poem raises more questions than it answers but what is certain is that it is not precisely the tension between semiotics and semantics that allows the poem to come to presence. and finitude. or the fake space of the blank page. Surely the essay would be better named “The Death of the Poem. questions begin to be asked of being. one might also wonder what happens at the point of incipit or the very birth of the poem. Is the space before the poem the space between poems.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN If. but also disseminated or contaminated across the stretch of the line in the gaps between the words and the fading of certain syllables in the service of others. between the title and the poem body. before the title. Poetry is tense because it is permanently buffeted by recollected 138 . the beginning of the poem. indeed all creation precisely in the terms of Heidegger’s beingtowards-death. Is prose. Poetry is not marked by finitude. implied before the poem has even begun. by its ending. He comes to define poetry. For poetry is perpetually fading. or is it merely the period when there is no poetic tension? Where does this space end into. This is the source of poetry’s Stimmung. which is also a being-away-from-birth. meaning that poetry is the natural or normative state of language and prose merely its interim interruption? Such an argument is historically supportable in the work of Godzich and Kittay. its mood or attunement. to be perpetually born to presence. dissolving. but rather is the experience of projective and imminent finitude as such. If space looms at the end of the poem. Just as being-in-the-world can only be disclosed through an admission of finitude so too the poem in the world is only a poem by virtue of its eventual negation by the Hegelian “prose of the world” of the everyday.
39) This is taken from Idea of Prose. from this standpoint. But we shall call poetry the discourse in which it is possible to set a metrical limit against a syntactic one (verse in which enjambement is not actually present is to be seen as verse with zero enjambement). after all.ENJAMBEMENT. quasi-scientific formulation and the more complex rhetoric of “The End of the Poem” allows Agamben to add 139 . Prose is the discourse in which this is impossible. and Agamben’s plan for the institution of the end of the poem is born out of his obvious yet remarkable observation that: No definition of verse is perfectly satisfying unless it asserts an identity for poetry against prose through the possibility of enjambement. will meet at a third and mutual point (in perspective the vanishing point). simply listing actions. (IP. is a geometric term pertaining to the point where any two lines meet one’s line of sight at the perpendicular and form a twodimensional flat surface or plane diminishing in accordance with perspective. maps out a planar surface. at some point of extension. those two lines each made of two points. and the intervening ten years between Agamben’s initial. BOUSTROPHEDONICS I will take Agamben at his word and read “The End of the Poem” as a plan for a poetic institution of foundational instability. A plane occurs whenever there are three points or where there are two lines which are not parallel for. Any line therefore at a slant—tell the truth but tell it slant—holds within it an invitation to some future assignation wherein its linearity will become planar. None of which is at all trivial. Such plans always implicate the formation of a plane. rhythm. however obvious it may seem to be. provide sufficient criteria. among other things. for example. THE TURN OF VERSE premonitions and intimations of mortality. Quantity. A plan. A plan. and the number of syllables—all elements that can equally well occur in prose—do not.
resulting in the perfectly sensible and violently contested idea that the voice precedes writing. of course.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN one additional element to this formula. and in phonology one cannot hear “words. and leaves the world to darkness and to me. as you may have recognized when you 140 . for.3 Let us scientifically and geometrically proceed with this for a moment. are all composed of successive series. which is a grammatological differentiation.” They are not. There is. by which I mean the simple appearance of the words does not reproduce stress. Latin.” These two realms rely on very different modes of sensation resulting in cognition of a language which remains permanently bifurcated and at odds with itself. metrical iambic rhythm. The brain that cuts up this continual stream into single units identified as “words. The first of these observations is. while the phonematic difference cannot contain the grammatological. a designation which includes Italian. Let us take a random and innocent syntagm in English to better illustrate the issue: “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day. The grammatological difference cannot contain the phonematic. the lowing heard winds slowly o’er the lea.” There are two clear levels of segmentation.4 So in grammatology one cannot “see” stress. English. although free verse has made the potential for this differentiation available in principle to all syntax with Agamben’s theory backing this up to some degree. notice how hard is the conception of the phonetic as a line and the grammatological as a stream. however. which is phonematic. alphabetic languages which are written although not necessarily spoken. and the regular. a third level of segmentation available to only a very limited number of syntagms. undifferentiated utterance. although of all of these mathematics also has a tabular potential. dare I say it. one utters a single. Western. rather they are electrical impulses giving an impression of words. at least until one pauses for breath. and mathematics. the adoption of the terms semantic and semiotic to place atop of the initial bare skeleton of prose and poetry. in that speaking the words does not reproduce textual spacing or planar dimensionality. There is a fundamental disjuncture in such successive series between words as they are heard and how they are written. the ploughman homeward plods his weary way. difference. This third difference is enjambement. rather obvious. The second is less so and is based on scientific work on phonemes which establishes that when one speaks a stream of syntax. words in any real sense. and articulation charted here: the space between the words.
THE TURN OF VERSE saw my example or felt when you read it.5 So goes famously the first stanza of Gray’s exemplary “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. is the fold that gathers and divides all things in the ‘putting together’ of presence.ENJAMBEMENT. as proven by my example that until those breaks are spatially imposed the sentence in question holds off from become a verse. The first pertains to Agamben’s more general work on language and in particular his radical critique of Derrida’s theory of the trace conducted through Agamben’s own problematization of the idea of the gramma. The ploughman homeward plods his weary way. As one can see from my little experiment in linguistic presentation. Is such a break a grammatological or phonematic occurrence? The way Agamben presents it remains permanently unclear. And leaves the world to darkness and to me. The first is the line taken by Agamben that without the line-breaks after every ten syllables this sentence is prose. And the human is precisely this fracture of presence” (ST. 156). . The remaining evidence is much more empirical. so I have to extrapolate from his evidence the possibility that it is both and neither. but in the fold of the presence on which they are established: the logos . This leads to Agamben’s contention that gramma (writing) rather than destabilizing the pre-eminence of phone (voice) as full presence is actually the pre-condition or reverse face of such a pre-eminence: “the originary nucleus of signification is neither in the signifier or the signified. there are a number of reasons why this cannot be the case. revealing not simply Derridean différance but also the “topological game of putting things together and articulating” (ST. neither in writing nor in the voice. 156). . Agamben summarizes this ancient ontological counterpositioning in terms of the bar (/) that we found articulated the ban and articulation of the sign. While attestation suggests Agamben conceives of enjambement grammatologically. The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea. The second takes us into a much more complex question as to what is actually meant by a line-break. the extract in question is more traditionally inscribed thus: The curfew tolls the knell of parting day. enjambement is neither purely grammatological nor phonological.” There are two levels of analysis to present here. True one needs in 141 .
Enjambement in this manner demonstrates perhaps the only instance in language where the rivalry between the immediacy of speech and the mediation of writing is transformed into a constructive. But if one reads the four lines as one line. While prose fills a planar page space.6 this is not essential but merely a contingency of 142 . All of which brings us back to the poetic plane. this time not between poetry and prose (philosophy) but between speech and writing. In fact you do not need to read the poem to visually apprehend it is a poem nor do you need to see the poem when you are reading it to know or feel it is a poem.here page the of side hand left the at line the up takes then It This maps out three points: the beginning of the line. and perhaps finally. until one has one’s suspicions confirmed by the graphical plan of the poem before one. while at the same time one can feel enjambement but it remains as discarnate as a feeling or uncanny sensation. one still finds oneself pausing every ten syllables. the use of zero enjambement facilitated by terminal caesurae at the end of every subsection of ten syllables. for indeed one cannot understand enjambement unless one understands the semantic content of the lines in view. and its recommencement. Certainly you can see a line-break or feel it. Enjambement therefore not only establishes a tension between semantics and semiotics but it simultaneously eases or even eradicates another ancient antagonism. its ending. . more intangibly. entente. which can be presented graphically as follows: Geometrically speaking. the almost genetic inclination of English speakers to allow their speech to fall into iambs organized into groups of ten syllables or so. This is due to the perfection of the metrics here widely recognized as one of the most superlative and thus static examples of traditional English prosody. if strained.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN some sense the spatial presentation of the break for the poem to be immediately perceptible as the visual entity called poem. poetry is the becoming planar of an endlessly extendable two-dimensional field we call prose. but its full force comes through the combination of the two. Enjambement artificially breaks the sequential line of language at the right hand side of the page here.
that it abandons sense for the abyss of grammatical. (IP.7 the verse finds that its very identity as verse is lost at the precise point of its being 143 . I would argue.ENJAMBEMENT. as it were. . referring to the rhetorical term echoing the passage of an oxen along and between the furrows it ploughs wherein you write first from right to left and then from left to right. distribution. of poetry . namely sense. enjambement brings to light the original gait. In this way. interrupted by the paragraph certainly but never for anything other than stabilizing semantic dictates within this line. Yet at the very point. The paragraph. It hints at a passage of prose with the very gesture that attests its own versatility. organization. the purely sonic unit of verse transgresses its own identity as it does its own measure. Here voice shouts down writing. spatial absence (the jagged abyss that looms at the right-hand edge of all poetry) the break is softened into a bend. Paradoxically Agamben terms this accommodating recuperation a “dive into the abyss of meaning” for in recovering a state of stable continuity through the renunciation of the cut for the hinge. it is irresistibly drawn into bending over into the next line to lay hold of what it has thrown out of itself. Poetry affirms its identity at the very moment that it breaks the line indicating a preference for semiotic metrics and rhyme over semantic clarity and continuity. although the closest entity in prose graphematically to the property of enjambement does not interrupt the dimensionality of the prose line into a poetic planar surface. Most avowedly the paragraph is not a stanza. Writing scribbles down voice. As Agamben argues: In the very moment that the verse affirms its own identity by breaking a syntactic link. and reclaims that which it had the temerity to eject. 40) Agamben’s phrasing itself constructs something of a boustrophedonic folding logic. and it is a point. . but boustrophedonic. Poetry is the moment in which the plane of writing is opened through the addition of an extra point to the bi-punctal line of prose. By this headlong dive into the abyss of meaning. The cut folded back on itself always becomes a hinge except for the very last verse which remains severed not bent. and transportation of prose writing. In abstract terms the line of prose is always one single line. neither poetic nor prosaic. THE TURN OF VERSE the development of the book as a technology for the preservation.
colonization. rely on temporality. the way it always refers both forwards and backwards. to refer to the activity of enjambement. This experience of space produced by the boustrophedonic transition from line to plane. poetry is continually and permanently born to presence and withheld from view. something that writing does. an essential logopoietic opening up of space for thought in a medium that.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN founded. immediately closed down again by the cut becoming in an instant a fold. Between the cut and the fold.8 opening up a planar space in writing that is the very basis of the grammatological. as a surround or framing device. Students of metaphysics will be more than aware of how considerations of time become those of space. to poetry as the tensile effect of this activity. since Plato certainly. and finally excision of an opening for suprasensuous thinking within the sensible body of a “work” of art. One of 144 . cannot be cleared until the issue of time in poetry is resolved. At the point in the line when the line becomes a part of a plane the poiesis of poetry is revealed. while poetry as such is poiesis. THE MESSIANIC AS NOT The space of thought within the poem. as a threshold. and vice versa. one can see a dramatization of this dynamic in the grammatological presentation of the work while partially occluded in the phonematic in which voice unfolds in time. – KLE SIS. This plane of language first and foremost introduces writing to a fundamental experience of space as opposed to the simple activity of differential spacing: space as a second dimension. “Poetic” remains therefore at the level of praxis. More importantly we find here in the becoming planar of the line of sense an internal bifurcation in the category poetry as Agamben shifts from the adjective poetic.9 Students of poetry will be more than aware of how considerations of space. What poetry makes happen in the birth to plane is nothing other than thinking. indeed poetry as such is based on the fundamental number three. and abyss. allows the poetic to become poetry. What poetry “makes happen” geometrically is that it adds a third point. therefore. If we take the structural shift of the metricalmusical element of the anaphora-cataphora projective recursive tabular matrix of poetic structure. has suffered a ban. or something that the poetic makes happen or brings into presence. revealed and concealed or vice versa. such as the becoming planar of the cut/turn at the end of the poetic line.
Map-less but with guidance we will commence with the call of the messianic vocation. and the quest for a post-nihilistic theory of productive thought about art that did not succumb to the metaphysical-epochal designations of ending. of course. Agamben has only been able to resolve these issues. There are two central epochal moments in Agamben’s messianic The Time That Remains which we are already. Yet such is the nature of the adventure. The second is kairos as an alternative time to chronos presenting to us a possible historical existence that is neither chronological nor eschatological but between and incisive of both. negation. space becoming time. If we are to move from lineation to the space of poetry. silence. as regards Agamben’s own philosophy of indifference. but also the possible solution as to how a future for thought can be found in the technicalities of prosody. Indeed the whole project of the early formulation of the Idea of Prose depends upon complex interactions with temporality such as Benjaminian now-time and messianic redemption. and the messianic strand of potential.10 The combination of these two terms not only involves an even more ontological radicalization of enjambement as the obvious definition of the poem. and so on. the epoch of modernity.ENJAMBEMENT. temporal. THE TURN OF VERSE the prime reasons for the retention of the gramma within the phone of the poem is to allow access to the spatiality within poetic temporality and resist poiesis becoming simply an apparent privileging of some arche-vocal presence. In our considerations of Agamben’s interventions on art in general we saw how in his critique of aesthetic modernism he was committed to a rather different temporality of epochal ending. familiar with. and progress in our task of a logopoiesis in which poetry is an essential partner in the indifferential thought to come. resolve the aporias of modernity. the medium or supportive gesturality of language as such makes little reference to temporality. To move from boustrophedonics to a logopoietic philosophy of indifference that finds its clearing in the very space of thought within the poem requires a considerable and remarkable diversion of the way through these entangled and ancient defiles. 145 . in part. Yet its essential combination with the theory of potentiality is. in one of his recent and most important works The Time That Remains. Finally. we must pass through the distorting hall of temporal mirrors that is the complex and brilliant theory of messianic time to be found in this volume. poetic temporality. The first of these is kle ¯sis or calling as a surrogate to epoch as event.
The call.” Agamben focuses on the seemingly tautological phrase en te kle he ekle ¯. deixis. or to remain within the dynamic of calling indicated by the logical and linguistic operations of anaphoric deixis. Such a use of anaphoric deixis is peculiarly tautegorical because not until the call is recalled. and thus it is from Paul that Agamben extricates the idea of kle as the calling to the messianic vocation. Clearly it presents a modification of Heidegger’s idea of the poetic as the calling of calling (PLT. Here the “he” is an anaphoric designation of the previous kle ¯sei. This occurs through a technical application of that. 257). “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. 22). is that the commencement and completion of the vocation of the messianic all occur within the temporality of the act of calling. 198 & 209). 19). Agamben argues the problem is that the phrase is not tautological. What deixis indicates here. is one which commentators have struggled for centuries to render in their respective languages. and establishing an impossible to ignore parallel between negative modern criticism and a possible positive outcome of this vocation through the act of messianic calling to the call.” can be read intertextually in relation to three areas of concern for logopoiesis. To be called to the messianic vocation is to be called to the call. therefore. can the referent or call can be said to call at all. 7:17: 17–22. until the deictic indicator refers back to its previous referent. fictive subjective as-if-ness that we have already delineated. repeating the same logic we found in play with aesthetic judgement. usually translated as “the ¯ ¯sei ¯the same calling wherein he was called” (TTR. messianic calling is first presented in the “Second Day” of The Time That Remains bracketing the debate of modern.11 In terms of it being the logic of “as not” it is a modification of the sceptical “no more than” that Agamben places at the heart of poetic potentiality and epochality (P. but a “peculiar tautegorical movement that comes from the call and returns back to it” (TTR.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN Kle ¯sis. wherein the repeated term can only be presented as a term to be repeated 146 . one might redefine this form of anaphora as tautegorical cataphoric anaphora. most familiar linguistic operator. now. While the tautology of this phrasing. is instigated and completed only after the fact of when it is called to call. therefore. or the call of the previous calling. the calling of being called. Indeed. the messianic “calling. The Time That Remains is a sustained philological analysis of the Pauline canon of messianic texts. Reading specifically a ¯sis sentence from 1 Cor. Finally.
. As Agamben says with more admirable clarity than I can muster: “Kle indicates the particular transformation that every juridical ¯sis status and worldly condition undergoes because of. and indeed there is increasing room for Benveniste here and in other later works. yet cannot be repeated until it has occurred.” he says.12 Calling or kle is first of all an empty ¯sis revocation of every vocation. . a form of indication that “may apply to any condition. but not called to a new vocation. Precisely because such a remaining “signifies the immobile anaphoric gesture of the messianic calling. We are faced here therefore not with a matter of eschatological indifference. 23)— immobilized by the confounding circular logic of the tautegorical. as though it were an urgency that works it from within and hollows it 147 . One is called away from one’s vocation. “calls for nothing and to no place . Tautegorical. it revokes a condition . for example called to criticism as the critical tautegorical nullification of criticism. Think of this if you will as anaphoric deixis that refers to no particular thing but merely refers to its own operations. the classic definition of deixis. its relation to the messianic event. 23). almost an internal shifting between each and every single condition by virtue of being called” (TTR. Citing Paul when he says that kle involves ¯sis operating “as not having” a condition. Jew. of having a condition as not having a condition. This being the case the messianic vocation has no specific content. the vocation calls the vocation itself. but instead are called into the nullification of one’s vocation as one’s vocation. referring to the first half of the Pauline formulation. the “Ho s me ” of the Pauline text. to another. its being essentially and foremost a calling of the calling” (TTR. 23). You are not called from one vocation.” (TTR. . and only because of. apostle. Thus one is called to remain in the negation of vocation as a form of vocation. “Why remain then in this nothing?” Agamben asks. 22). . . but of change. negatively heuristic kle is the first part of the mes¯sis sianic which structurally and technically emulates the process of deictic desubjectivization we saw in Agamben’s appropriation of Benveniste. The messianic vocation is the revocation of every vocation . THE TURN OF VERSE after it has first been repeated. Agamben calls ¯ ¯ this the “ultimate meaning of kle ¯sis” (TTR. . Instead one is called into the subjective state of vocational desubjectivization (whatever vocation) as Agamben confirms in his follow-up analysis of the “as not” of the messianic vocation. but for this same reason. “Vocation.ENJAMBEMENT.
“unless you become as children. In the messianic parable signum and res significa approximate each other because language itself is what is signified. if it exists at all. but makes it pass. seed meaning seed and logos. Traditionally a parable is assumed to have a double meaning but Agamben views this not as a signifier having two signifieds. it sets itself up against itself in the form of the as not: weeping as not weeping” (TTR. Agamben concludes from this form of comparison: “In pushing each thing towards itself through the as not. the difference between the signum and res significa thus tends to annul itself without completely disappearing. the parable. 24).THE LITERARY AGAMBEN out. As he says: “In the parable. is that of a thing with itself in the form of non-self-identity. that of the messianism of a temporality to come. as the operation of language as such to such a degree that in many languages the word for language originates from the parable. . not until he starts to speak of figurality is one able to see how these comments pertain to modern aesthetics. 24–5). He first uses the example of the technique of comparison within Paul.” Like the comparison the parable. noting how in the Bible the parable comes to stand for the word of god itself or logos. 23–4). “but rather they interpreted the comparative as an (intensive or remissive) tension that sets one concept against another” (TTR. The comparison. In Paul’s comparative explanation of the subjective effect of kle weeping ¯sis is pushed towards itself as not weeping. they do not resemble children. the messianic does not simply cancel out this figure. nullifying it in the very gesture of maintaining and dwelling in it” (TTR. for it does ¯ ¯ not push a concept’s semantic field toward that of another concept. . but are placed alongside children. Instead. . Speaking specifically of the parable of the sower where seed represents logos of course. from the Greek 148 . 24). While apparent that Agamben here is speaking of the mediality of language in another register. it prepares its end” (TTR. “The Pauline hos me seems to be a special type of tensor. if I may refer to such a thing. If this is true then for Paul men are not as children. At the end of this section Agamben speaks of the process “as not” in terms of another classic form of rhetoric.” and how this form of comparison was analysed by Medieval grammarians in a particular fashion as not a form of identity or resemblance. Agamben identifies how a whole tradition of the parable develops that takes paraballisation. but of the duality of language itself imposed upon it by human speech. rejoicing pushed towards not rejoicing.
how does that differ from the messianic figurality of anaphora. In the language of messianic time comparisons and parables exist not in terms of linguistic comparison. Language operates does it not as if it referred to the world at large when we discovered in fact that such deictic acts merely reveal is a temporal belatedness in terms of referentiality? “As not. The question therefore remains if modern “as if ” aesthetics finds its archetype in art for art’s sake. that which stretches from creation to the end of time. a consideration of a third form of figuration. He explains that while Paul regularly uses eschatological time when speaking of the two Jewish time traditions. and to take us from negative modernity to productive poiesis we must turn to the second Pauline term. . The messianic condition of “as not” is the movement of scission within language from being within the sign to being between the sign and itself. “it is a remnant. works in a manner which places figuration alongside itself.” (TTR. Agamben’s argument in The Man Without Content. kairos. indicates a process of internal division (as well as creating tabular space). and parable? These constructions are also self-regarding but in a manner that Agamben believes is truly redemptive. as I said. Glossing on the traditional representation of time as a line along 149 . “As if ” would seem to be figuration as such. The sign is not a system of difference and similarity but of a non-selfcoincidence as identity. in relation to what he sees as a common misrepresentation of apostolic messianic time as eschatological. comparison. but so as to put “each being and each term in tension with itself ” (TTR. when the division of time is itself divided . eschaton. and the atemporal eternity that extends after the end of time. occasion or now. the time that remains between these two times. signifier and signified. To negotiate this subtle and complex difference will take the rest of my study here on the conception of poiesis. messianic time is neither of these epochal designations. MESSIANIC KAIROS Agamben first addresses the term kairos. This shift from comparison to parable brackets. . the “as if. 43).ENJAMBEMENT. Rather. Language does not refer to the world but to language as such. THE TURN OF VERSE para-ballo to place one thing next to another.” however. chronos. 62).” The historical conflict he maps out between “as if ” and “as not” can now be situated around familiar territory pertaining to language and figuration.
or we concede the thinkable nature of time and all its complexities. B the messianic event. Agamben hones in on this gap between representable and thinkable time by adopting the linguistic concept of operational time. is not a dot on the line of time but a segment or stanza within the divisions of epochs along this line. he explains that this linear model is. stratifications. and dimensionalities.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN which one situates epochs. Thus he reconstitutes the time line by adding a segmentation which removes position B from the line and instead locates it as a caesuric interruption of the line: A C Of this model and its reappraisal of messianic time he suggests that we take “messianic time as a caesura which. As Agamben says. in this instance messianic time. Messianic time. 150 . insufficient to capture the complexity of time. Be not afraid. extends epochal time into the postepochal and post-epochal time back into epochal time. but accept such a time is unrepresentable. as ever. in its dividing the division between two times. introduces a remainder [resto] into it that exceeds the division” (TTR. for example A—B—C wherein A is creation. although the time of the now. Of the time line consisting of assumed strings of points. The result is a caesuric division between an epoch’s cessation and the resumption of the new epoch. 64). nor a synthesis of all three tenses in a manner that emulates Bergson’s influential theory of modern time. being neither point nor extension but the precondition and deconstruction of both. interruptions. he notes that such a line has never accorded with the human experience of time. Kairos. in regard of linear time. here represented as between the two vertical dotted lines. Such caesuric time operates as part of the epoch of chronos while exceeding it. the classic representation of time since Aristotle. As such it operates with precisely the same logic as the term epoch. Kairos adds futurity to the past and pastness to the future but it is not the moment or instant. therefore. and C apocalypse. either we are confronted with a model that is representable but unthinkable as actual experience of time. Agamben is aware that this messianic time presents a powerful challenge to our human consciousness of time and indeed the general difficulty of thinking time. reiterations. and as part of the eschaton while exceeding that.
that prevented him from perfectly coinciding with the time out of which he could make images and representations. to achieve our representation of time” (TTR. 68). for Agamben figuration is a structural 151 .ENJAMBEMENT. The benefit of operational time is that it adds “a projection in which the process of forming the time-image is cast back onto the time image itself ” (TTR. This interior time is what Agamben means by messianic time: “the time that time takes to come to an end. another time is implied that is not entirely consumed by representation. 66). Rather. 67). 66) which. This time that remains is the messianic kairos. formation. (TTR. and having been constructed. are both examples of the figural nature of the messianic for Agamben. 67). It is as though man. Agamben concludes that In every representation we make of time and in every discourse by means of which we define and represent time. THE TURN OF VERSE Operational time originates from the work of French linguist Gustave Guillaume. produced an additional time . as we know. Whatever experience of time they undergo they are able to come to represent it as this idealized model in their minds subsequently. Agamben argues. Kle ¯sis and kairos. more precisely. Instead. 67) Such an “ulterior time” as he initially calls it is not a supplemental time added onto the exterior of chronological time but a “time within time—not ulterior but interior” (TTR. . tautegorical calling and self-constructing temporal representation. perhaps only an instant but a period all the same. or. By this we do not mean they are simply rhetorical forms. converts time from a linear to “three-dimensional” entity by which he means it conveys the three moments of temporality: potentiality. insofar as he is a thinking and speaking being.13 He then adds a modification to this defining messianic time as “the time we need to make time end: the time that is left us” (TTR. . the subject’s experience of time is constructed by the subject in accordance with this ideal representation. Guillaume ingeniously explains that the time line past—present—future is naturally too perfect and operates as if such a time line were always already constructed for the subject. and Guillaume calls this operational time or “the time the mind takes to realize a time-image” (TTR. This process of temporal construction takes a period of time. the time we take to bring time to an end.
that of recapitulation. as Agamben says. typos and antitypos. although. ple ¯ ma ton kairon. Agamben is now able to add a third figural term. in an inseparable constellation. not a third epoch following the past (typos) and future (antitypos) but the way in which these two epochs are brought face to face with each other by means of their caesura or “zone of indiscernibility. as he considers Paul’s explanation of how all that is past will come to be taken into account at the end of time. while kairatic time places time’s constructed nature against its representation of non-constructed and proper perfection. what concerns us is “a tension that clasps together and transforms past and future. The messianic is not just one of two terms in this typological relation. The calling of the “as not” places one’s subjectivity alongside its negation. the antitypos. all things are recapitu¯ro ¯ lated in the messiah. typos. “messianic ple ¯ ma is therefore an abridgement and anticipation of eschatologi¯ro cal fulfilment” (TTR. it is the relation itself” (TTR.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN process wherein two conditions are placed alongside each other in a nonrelational fashion. 74). This tendency to think of time as a past prefigurement of a future yet to arrive. 76). such a correspondence existed prominently throughout the medieval period. 74). This means that each instant of messianic 152 . Rather. We have already considered comparison and parable in this regard. This is the epoch of the messianic. A good example of this is Adam whose sin acts as a typos or prefiguration of the coming of the messiah and the negation of sin. Paul adds one more final figural notion. Agamben argues. in which the past is dislocated into the present and the present is extended into the past” (TTR. typosantitypos. At this stage then our extended debate on the epochal time of the messianic and our technical considerations of prosody also start to turn to face each other at long last. the two elements are heterogeneous. he tells us. is not important as a “biunivocal correspondence” (TTR. Paul explains that at the messianic moment of total fulfilment of time. and yet in a manner in which their proximity naturally calls up some attempt at relation in the form of tension. 74). Without getting too lost in the theology of this suffice it to say that if in the messianic kairos there is in the typos a prefigurement of the antitypos. To this typological caesuric figuration. the most famous example of which is that between zoe and bios in Homo Sacer. so too in the antitypos there is a compacted summation of the typos or. This results in what might be called the relational tension of the nonrelational.
must first consist of a summation of all that went before. This example. The same goes for eschatological time. and the structure of the poem. Any theory of temporal extended linearity must contain some idea of completion and any theory of temporal completion must complete on something. and then in relation to poetry. by virtue of the metrical-musical element. in fact. 78). THE TURN OF VERSE kairos effectively fulfils the eschatological moment of immediacy with god rather than conforming to this as a one-off event that occurs at the end of time. the temporality of poetry. chronos or temporal extension. each moment of chronological time is prefigured by its completion. and eschaton or temporal finitude. as the very location of poetic thinking: logopoiesis. In the kairos of operational time two incommensurable epochs or conceptions of epoch lie alongside each other. At this point Agamben wisely decides to give “something like a concrete example.ENJAMBEMENT. If we step back now from theology entirely we can first explain this more generally in terms of our experience of operational time. anaphora and cataphora that is the basis of any poem structure and which we have already defined. and even he concedes this may be surprising. As soon as Agamben 153 . The law of figuration means that because messianic kairatic time extends the eschaton into the chronos. 78). able to restate this fairly logically away from the theological philology of Agamben’s text. One is. or an act that demands the called subject “seize hold of his own being seized” (TTR. “The tension toward what lies ahead is produced on and out of what lies behind” prompting Agamben to call this the “double tension” of messianic calling. the greatest of which is surely modernity itself. This situation is expressed by Agamben as Pauline messianic tension conveyed in the complex term epekteinomenos or straining forward in tension towards something which Paul uses to describe the effect on the subject of kairos due to kle ¯sis. a kind of small-scale model of messianic time” (TTR. A structure such as the kairatic kle depends ¯sis on the precise mix of occurrence and reiteration. MESSIANIC RHYME Perhaps now it does not surprise us. As messianic time extends chronos into the eschaton all narratives of completion. something that is now past. Everything about messianic time recalls the figurality of the poetic. is the poetic convention of rhyme.
A kind of eschatology occurs within the poem itself. for example the sonnet. I have argued in my own study of this phenomena in modern experimental poetry.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN describes the poem. Agamben’s example is taken from the twelfth-century poet Arnaut Daniel but I have also written some years ago about the use of sestina in John Ashbery. You begin to recognize the pattern. But for the more or less brief time that the poem lasts. although to describe it as analogy. repetition. in the penultimate stanza one can predict the distribution of the final end words without reading the stanza simply by looking back at their distribution in the previous six stanzas. every poem unfolds in linear time semiotically marking this out with great clarity by using artificially ended lines which graphically demonstrate chronos much more adeptly than in any other art form. in the case of rhyme. insufficient. Put simply. it has its own time” (TTR. look to how the next stanza will recombine the six fixed elements and thus one is always reading both forwards and backwards. only organized in different combinations. Thus in the sestina. the closed form means that in every line the end is prefigured. The final stanza or tornada is then only three lines long but repeats all six end-words placing two per line and always ending on at least one of these. all usages of the words thus far are 154 . and variance of the use of homologous rhyming end words. a fact made most apparent in that rather rare stanzaic form the sestina. he argues. At the same “hermeneutic” time one also picks up on the interplay. For example. in each case. or model is. it has a specific and unmistakable temporality. as one moves towards the predictability of the end. example. 79). This is especially true. That said every poem is also a recursive or reiterative structure. A sestina is made up of seven stanzas. Agamben’s analysis of the rhythm of the sestina while most apparent in this poem form is. and he is truly gifted in his appreciation of the technicalities of prosody along with the implications of poetic ontology. a foundational quality of all poetic structure. The first six stanzas are each six lines long and the six end words are always the same in each stanza. from the very start. This reading back however comes most to the fore in the tornada where. which necessarily will come to an end as determined by the rule of the form: “The poem is therefore an organism or a temporal machine that. Thus he says of the closed rhyming lyric form.14 The form still operates on occasion in modern poetry in other words. one can begin to see how wonderfully this analogy works. strains towards its end. effectively.
every poem—is a soteriological device which. in any case the eschaton already fulfils that role. “on the contrary. especially his most recent work Inland Empire whose very title expresses the reliance on his work on precisely this anaphoric-cataphoric internal matrix of developmental reiteration. what we have is the same time that organizes itself through its own somewhat hidden internal pulsation. or indeed leitmotifs in Wagner. in order to make place for the time of the poem” or what he also calls its “cruciform retrogradation” (TTR.ENJAMBEMENT. . Such a tabular-planar structure. post-chronological time. of course. poetic structure is far from a mystery. The same process is discernible in the rhythmic distribution of lines and colours in Pollock. 82). which I have already posed as the 155 . Agamben explains: “The sestina—and. First he notes how the poem produces an internal disruption of linear time that is not an alternative “poetic time” to replace chronological time. as we saw. Agamben’s insights take the tabularity of poetic structure far beyond anything anyone else could have imagined. and. converting the poem from a linear-horizontal entity to a tabular planar form. Nor is the philosophy of time handed over to poetic time. and the narrative structures of the films of David Lynch. 83).15 In miniature therefore we have the whole basis of Agamben’s logopoiesis. THE TURN OF VERSE recalled in their final combination. This matrix I have called the anaphoric-cataphoric matrix of every poem. on a shifting interrelational tensile comparative combination between temporal-structural projection and recursion.16 This aside. the time of the end. but it does have its own time. model or not. transforms chronological time into messianic time . . Poetry is not an example here or not solely exemplary. in this sense. AN ENDLESS FALLING INTO SILENCE Agamben’s insights into the relation between poetic structural tabularity and a post-nihilistic modality of indifferent thinking depend. The poem does not create a new. This is the time of the messiah. While Agamben calls the sestina a “model” of messianic time this same process is observable in the reiterations of symbols in Joyce’s work of novelistic epiphany. through the sophisticated mechane of the announcement and retrieval of rhyming end words (which correspond to typological relations between past and present). While I have worked for some years on this project. the time that the poem takes to come to an end” (TTR.
Having assured us that poetry is a “prolonged hesitation” between sound and sense. quasi-universal. in a phenomenological reading. evental element. what is hesitation in thought without the knowledge of an experience of hesitation in the world? Or to pose the issue in different terms.17 This difficulty pertaining to the actual nature of the experience of hesitation. hesitation true for all time as it were. categorical hesitation. but also structurally at the two extremes of the poem body. and propositional hesitation. and return to our original debate on poetic. and tabular structure. most notably music. for hesitation as theme and/or category. Yet philosophical. stems for the most part from the well-documented and complex relation one finds in poetry between the sensuous and the suprasensuous which differentiates it from philosophy and other arts that share with poetry the emphasis on semiotics. is dependent on the permanent tension within the poetic line certainly. recursive. advental finitude. Hesitation is not the localized emotional experience of hesitating yet. if only to confirm that enjambement is a recursive rather than unique. one is likely to have recourse to a line-break and an example. but you do need to have experienced a line-break to think this way and to be sure of experiencing it at least more than once. and when one wants philosophically to speak of hesitation as such. For an unveiling of philosophical. a trace of psychological pause. betimes. a philosophical hesitation. as a thinker. for a time. one must first experience hesitation as sensation. lodged within the trans-psychological definition of hesitation such as it is or ontological hesitation. It leaves. in particular through a consideration of the ends or limits of the poem and their dependence on certain ideas of silence. affective or intellectual.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN way in which poetry thinks. Agamben immediately asks the question: What is a hesitation if one ceases to think of it psychologically? A hesitation of such an order. must surely be beyond an actually felt hesitation such as one experiences at the end of a line of poetry. We must now remove ourselves from messianic time. 156 . tension. Rather this felt hesitation moves one into another realm of hesitation as such. you do not need to experience a linebreak every time you wish to think about prolonged hesitation. When one does experience a line-break one is likely to experience the opening up of the truth of hesitation. Then one must dismiss hesitation as sensation without entirely dispensing with it. cannot be separated from the original experience of hesitation that one undergoes every time one reads poetry.
not a physiological voice imprinted on a psychological capability. psychologically-actual and philosophical-conceptual. The conceptualization of poetry in philosophy is never tied either to a particular poem or any one of its singular effects manifested in a clear set of differentiations: poetry is not in the poem per se. between the dying away of a voiced vibration. Of all the philosophers in this rowdy school of logopoiesis Agamben carries the burden of post-Heideggerian tragic philosophy closest to the truth-freedoms of verse. but the Voice as such. a word heard and its meaning.19 This is an unadmitted but now quite familiar aporia in modern philosophical work on poetry. at which point he behaves almost like a literary critic. while simultaneously sailing the ship of truth most perilously proximate to the ruining rocks of sensation. THE TURN OF VERSE Heidegger clearly states that aletheia. Badiou. from sensation. This is an issue that occurs repeatedly in Heidegger. are not separated by a caesura or clear-edged cut but are two strands of a single folded line whose essence resides not in the event of a hesitation as such but in its prolongation. the science of sensation. in this way. sensation.18 Certainly truth precedes. the two hesitations of verse. A prolonged hesitation between sound and sense. yet truth always proceeds from the sensible at the same time. and then by using these techniques to mount a post-nihilistic metaphysics of indifference. Yet the pathway to poetry. is laid out through precisely the reading of specific poets and their singularly inventive effects. Although Agamben denies it. is not dependent on aiesthesis. say as an inventive mode of bringing truth to presence. First by applying a philosophical category to the technical specifics of prosody. yet it always proceeds from a poem in Heidegger and all his students. truth. not literally from a voice. Derrida. the poem. such a delay between voice and meaning which Agamben likens to a katechon 157 . He applies truth to poetic sensation so as to be able. and poiesis is not necessarily poetry. and Nancy and their use of what one can term epistemological exemplarity in relation to their reading of certain poems by certain poets as exemplary of the general conditions of poiesis.ENJAMBEMENT. to clear a future pathway for truth in what is a high-risk yet now essential intellectual strategy. because after all sounds as such do not interest Agamben but voiced sounds. Poetry has nothing to do directly with the object. sensation. a project so vast it all but overwhelms his slight work on prosody. is not the name to be given to twentieth-century work on poiesis. and that aesthetics. definable at the very least as a thing.
Poetry is not silence per se but instead consists of the abyss into which poetry is thrown by the very possibility of its own being. universal but not generalizable. 110). and between actual opposition and possible or potential opposition. Thus a poem. general but not universal silence. The poem is. as they pause on the precipice of their own self-conscious. 158 . For example. a single body of work which means that it must and indeed already has come to an end. a perception of the tension of poetry. 114). Instead poetry can be defined as the prolonged hesitation. Agamben progresses towards the point of silence that is the end of the poem. If this is. fulfilling the time of poetry and uniting its two eons. repeatable. unlike poetry or at least its tension. self-willed. and the poem. semiotic and semantic. and almost in intermittent dispute with—sonorous (or graphic) units and semantic units” (EP. This being the case poetry is not precisely the opposition between sound and sense but the possibility of the opposition between two types of hesitation. singular and impossible to repeat. between sound and sense. the sounding cataract is any thing but mute. between two units. Even as the poem is falling into a profound silence at its material and generic limits.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN or “something which slows and delays the advent of the Messiah. it remains in full as the hesitant voice within these impossible limits. the poem of a silence which is not local but over there. nothing is said therein. that is. that is rendered mute. self-dissolution. differentiations between the poetic. is defined by a silence brought about by its finitude meaning that poetry is never silenced. is silence. he points out that the poem is “grounded in the perception of the limits and endings that define— without ever fully coinciding with. and what poetry is as that which goes on in the poem but which is not susceptible to or reducible to the poem. This would require here a differentiation between what the poem is as ergon partaking of an impossible. would destroy the poetic machine by hurling it into silence” (EP. Through such careful distinctions between orders of silence. a kind of silence. namely the opposition between metric and semantic pauses. then there must be at least two orders of silence. poetry. having stated that “all poetic institutions participate in this noncoincidence” of which we speak here. for poetry cannot survive its own finitude. of him who. as poets teach us. self-negating finitude. as I contend. Yet the poem is also an ergon. Poetry partakes of a local. according to this. Such an abyss is not to be mistaken for silence either for.
A boundary condition of a hexagonal crystal. a part of the body of the poem on the page or in the book but not a part of the poem body as such. The body as such of poetry does not exist without that body suffering a moment of cutting or caesura.ENJAMBEMENT. it simultaneously exists through the bottom line á la Pacman. THE TURN OF VERSE I must speak of silence but. that the poem body is constructed from the accumulation of poetry’s delaying of the arrival of silence at its limits from which the ergon is born. as I said. Although. a space which is inarticulate. or a tail. The ergon is nothing other than the production of delaying time-space within a space opened up and delimited by the imposition of an exterior to the poem in the form of the parergon of silent space. then the ergon could not continually come to 159 . A plane only becomes a surface when an actual cut is made in the infinitely extendable plane. all the same a space of a similar structural order can be said to exist in some form internal to the poem. This means that the second sense of ergon is continually born to presence from the already existent presence of the par-ergon. Without the internal space. this can only be an illustrative analogy. hesitantly. a silent space that is not silence. like the poet. for the poem to know of its finitude and be complete. that jagged chasm to the right of the poem. surfaces were invented by the devil. Space must be present for enjambement to occur for example. for example. We can deduce from this line of reasoning that the ergon of the poem is defined by two concepts uncomfortable in each other’s presence and yet not contradictory. The poem must be cut-off in order to be complete. A plane is always defined as being imaginary because it is infinitely extendable in every two-dimensional direction. as if one has to somehow hack off a limb for the human body to be complete.” A plane becomes a surface when the boundary condition is suspended and the edge of a structure bounded by a vacuum occurs. As the physicist Pauli was fond of saying: “God made the bulk. First that ergon is brought to its limitation and finitude by the infinite presence of the parergonal space-place which is also the time of its completion. It may be useful analogously to think of this in relation to what physicists call a “boundary condition” when studying planes. and locally cutting off. This is another way in which one could read Agamben. states that if something enters through the top line of the structure. but this space is of the order of a boundary condition: the line exits on the right and always enters to the left. I am always delaying its arrival. Poetry must be ceaselessly. some remnant of our animalistic past.
There is. First. then. this consonance which was previously forgivable is harder to support. The perception of this double deconstructive presence of absence within the ergon of poetry is what the poem as such is reducible to. by which one can only mean space. it would seem. In speaking of silence. The ergon of the poem body. relies on two competing convocations with its borders. silent sense. either a profound error on the part of the philosopher or we are still considering silence psychologically and not philosophically. but no silence as such. however.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN being. This is the moment of the plane becoming a surface. gestural support. the unpronounced and the uninscribed. Is there any actual silence within the body of the text? I would argue not. Nor is it even space as such but simply the uninscribed medium. Surely the silence of sound is an actual silence while the silence of the grapheme. Second. is either thinkable and unrepresentable. which the poem invites into its body so as to expel it and thus allow itself to endlessly be born into being. utilizing messianic time. enjambement as boundary condition. the potentially endless and thus infinite fake silence between one line and the next. the body puts off by its extension and yet invites by the structural necessity of its completion. or represented in unthinkable fashion. merely perceptions of silence. There are pauses. while differentiating the semiotic and semantic unit does not make a clear distinction between sonorous or graphic semiotics unearthing a rare moment of indistinction in his meticulous work. alinear prose? Agamben. Agamben suggests that true silence only occurs once one has exited the text and entered the abyss of sense which has no requirement of 160 . like time. is not silent at all but simply unpronounced. or as-yet blank tablet. What is silence? Was that it? Is it after the question mark or between these lines? Is it even possible to encounter silence within a text such as this so clearly an example of discursive quasi-philosophical. A finitude which. constructions of the representability of an idealized construction of a concept that. the final moment of finitude that is singular and plunges the ergon of poetry into infinite.
the becoming visible but remaining silent word is. he is the only creature capable of not having language. by which I mean the quality which allows it definition and availability to our apprehension. because man is the sole animal who learns language through infancy. the infinite language of nature and placing himself for a moment in front of mute things. Here Agamben defines silence not as the suspension of discourse. This complex negotiation with a silence which exposes philosophy to a period without name which is not. not in other words as the cessation of speaking (surely what he means by a psychological hesitation).” has engaged with the silence of philosophy. the name of poetry. “but silence of the word itself. human living being as such through the faculty of language: Only the word puts us in contact with mute things. rather. “The Idea of Language. in a Heideggerian gesture. The inviolate rose. Only the human animal can establish the quality of exteriority as regards language. an entity beyond the trivial differentiations of sonorous versus graphic. of interrupting words with the as-suchness of the word of language whose defining quality. exists only for man. it endures the without-name. 111). Only the human knows of the quietude of the caesura. however. is the conclusion of the essay “The Idea of Silence.” an essay which only speaks. The word as such. incessantly speaking and responding to signs even while keeping silent. the idea of the rose. without finding in this its own name. in what is almost a cryptogram: “In silence. 113) Paradoxically. This silence is the silence of philosophy of which Agamben says. absolutely without identity. only man succeeds in interrupting. philosophy’s word leaves unsaid its own silence” (IP. 113). to me at least. an exteriority of the word that Agamben. describes as silence. or an utterance.20 This being the case one must engage with the profound and complex conception of the idea of word in Agamben. once the following essay.ENJAMBEMENT. in the word. We now know that this encounter most powerfully occurs at the end of the poem. sensibly. While nature and animals are forever caught up in a language. (IP. THE TURN OF VERSE textuality to exist at all. philosophy stands exposed. the becoming visible of the word: the idea of language” (IP. is silence. Here then we finally understand what Agamben means when he states that animals are always within language. which is anything but a sign. Silence is not its secret word—but rather. 161 .
after a prolonged hesitation. for at the end of the poem. pure impurity as indicated first by the way he structurally treats the semantic and the semiotic as ostensibly of the same order. If one were to think back to the Derridean conception of invention. in the final verse. but it is an unavoidable reality however unpleasant. TENSION: THE ONE LINE The impurity of poetry surely seems an untenable position within a post-Heideggerian theorization of poetic singularity as a mode of thinking such as I am proposing here. Yet Agamben is a thinker of another order of perfect. only to be literally interrupted and superseded at the line’s outermost point.21 will continue its demonstration of deconstructive energies almost as an illustrative tool for Derrida’s work. ironically pure semiotics does not hold sway. no pure poetry. There is. thus granting us finally access to the realm of pure poetry. At this point where the semiotics of the poetic line are unable. but which is often termed deconstruction as a form of intellectual short-hand in quasitranscendental self-critical thought. which is also always the final line. Poetry is literally elevated above its dyadic other at the end of the line. to resume the semantic stream. the end of the poem is marked by a change in the tension between the units of semiotics and semantics which is poetry. is itself an impurity between poetic techniques and prose. Poetry. and leaves them suspended in an almost endless dynamic of supersession and negation. and Agamben’s work seems similar in the way he establishes two oppositional concepts. Left to its own devices the poetry machine. there is no enjambement. and literally collapses back into this alterity as the next line commences.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN As Agamben says. One could almost argue that the concept of enjambement in Agamben’s work is a graphic and thus grammatological presentation of what is unpresentable in Derrida’s work as a whole. They are both units within an “almost intermittent dispute. in fact. rather. semiotics and semantics. Certainly Derrida is the thinker of a certain type of pure impurity. one condition always simultaneously the pre-condition and impossibility of the other. one is struck by how singularity is always immediately ruined by its repeatability. Prose literally overwhelms poetry in the following line. as I have termed it elsewhere.” While clear that the semiotic and the semantic are both radically heterogeneous and of differing 162 .
but intermittently. for Agamben they can both be fitted to a pattern of similar units. (EP. favouring instead a one dimensional and yet also trans-dimensional single line. The semantic can just as easily occupy the unit of the line as the semiotic. there is but one line that is simultaneously traversed by the semantic current and the semiotic current. dianoia and poiesis. Both are equally out of their element in the line. Rather. then a machine. repetitious mechanistic element of prosody with which we are all familiar. issues that would be strongly foregrounded by Derrida. (Sound and sense are not two substances but two intensities. two tonoi of the same linguistic substance). Interestingly. for example. and finally a tension or tone. what we can be certain of is Agamben seems to take the geometric presence of poetry backwards away from two (three) dimensions. rescinded. a model which echoes Agamben’s own description of operational time. suggesting that Agamben does not so much ignore the radical incommensurability between sense and matter. the caesura for the semantic) constantly.ENJAMBEMENT. as commit an act of violence to both so as to make them enter into the prison of the line with the promise of parole (enjambement for the semiotic. The machine of poetry referred to here is not simply the technical. potentialityformation-having been constructed. at the moment of deus ex machina. incipit-interruption-continuation. The metaphor of flow is a well established one in reference to prosody and is essential to sustain the interruptive power of enjambement’s “sharp interval” in the form of mechane. a line which metamorphoses first into a current. the machine 163 . 114) Here Agamben gives supporting evidence to my earlier claim that the planar essence of poetry means that it must always be thought of as a two-dimensional plane consisting of the three points of the poetic line. strictly speaking. And between these two currents lies the sharp interval obstinately maintained by poetic mechane. but also the ancient Greek origin of the term in relation to the end of a play. two series or lines in parallel flight. THE TURN OF VERSE orders of magnitude. which in reality means very uneasily. which somewhat misleadingly he calls three-dimensional. Without quibbling over an extra dimension here and there. Agamben naturally frames the issues with greater facility when he eloquently states: Everything is complicated by the fact that in the poem there are not.
and its obviation in the recommencement of the line within the planar territory I am calling the poem. I am giddy. and metre of verse. In addition. thus it allows a literalization of a kind of localized transcendence. the zone wherein language can communicate itself “without remaining unsaid in what is said?” Is this a certain philosophical silence as linguistic substance as such? Agamben’s theory of enjambement is as complex as it is obvious. first that it marks out an axiom for poetics which we scholars of poetry can recognize. that way they can never become truly entangled. The semiotic and the semantic are not differential terms but two tones within one single linguistic substance. or the moment when the material copy of essence is abandoned and essence alone remains: Deus. Second that it is a theory of the obvious and its obviation. which are separate strands but not different from each 164 . the lines with get entangled.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN of art was regularly used both to end the work and also to allow characters to fly. my lines and cues. We will plunge to our death unless the tension in the lines is maintained.22 Yet unlike Derrida the impurity of the line is permanently under question. Its complexities lie first in the apparent proximity of this theory and the work of Derrida. tension. Don’t come too close. Tono in Latin is the tone. I feel the tension of the tonoi of the line of poetry as it suspends me above the plane of the stage below. flying. but what does Agamben mean by suggesting that the semiotic and the semantic are not radically heterogeneous and different also in magnitude. Keep up the tension in the line. Am I flying through the second act or being carried beyond the play entirely and into the realm of the gods at the end of the third? I look across and I see you also suspended by the bodiless limb of a crane. of the obstacle to sense that the premature line-ending constructs. enmeshed as it is into the very lines of prosody. they may form knots. that instead they are two tones/tensions/stresses within the same linguistic substance? What linguistic substance can this be? Is this the language of which he speaks at the end of the poem. and a figuration of the literal implied transcendence at the end of every Greek work of art. especially in relation to invention and the trace. unlike the deconstructive mechane. I have forgotten everything. and like the trace it is a theory of intermittent and almost interminable spacing. I need a gag. No wait. enjambement puts forward a theory of necessarily betrayed purity. the tonoi of poetry. Like invention. Obvious in two ways.
At which point. for example at the end of the line. presents us with a messianic event of events. Rather the messianic temporality of the interval is the interruptive event of the cessation of the temporal succession chronos-eschaton.ENJAMBEMENT. chronological silence. who himself admits to a sparse number of events. the time it takes for finitude to come to a point of tension or dissolution. not the end of time or even the very last event. is inserted into time as such or everyday vulgar temporality as Heidegger calls it. In a form of agreement with Badiou. eschatological silence. however. something will happen. for Agamben poetry is in preparation for the event to come. for Agamben this event will be the final event. unlike perhaps in the work of Derrida. The poem excels in messianic temporality. but the occupation of the time it takes time to end. we experience messianic silence as the prefigured anaphora of absolute finitude of each local ending. will come to an end as the poem must also come to an end. Unlike Badiou. in the endless falling into silence that defines the end of the poem. This is not to be conceived of eschatologically as one last event of course. therefore. and the recursive cataphora that the poem experiences at the very moment of its negation through finitude. and of which we have a local example at the end of each line that is a psychological hesitation different in kind from silence as such but somehow its key. a messianic event. Between silence in the line. 165 . in enacting an endlessly falling into silence rather than a structural point of cessation. For time to come to an end it must find within itself the interval between prefigurement and recursiveness brought about by the impossibility and yet necessity of a local and structurally final relationship with silence. Instead in each instance of time the time of the end. and silence at the end of the poem. This end. Its unique combinatory structure of prefigured recursiveness is meaningless without a direct and complex relation with an absolute point of finitude: the end of the poem. THE TURN OF VERSE other.
the element that arrests the metrical impetus of the voice. He takes Penna’s horse to be the voice or the word as utterance whose measured equine progress can only be arrested by the logos. more fundamental or alternate mode of thinking. namely thinking as such.” Agamben’s first attempt to define poetry in terms of enjambement is entitled “The Idea of Caesura. this thought is another. Agamben remarks on the “breaking action of the caesura” (IP.” Speaking specifically of the Italian poet Sandro Penna. 43). We now have a clear answer to a question I posed earlier.CHAPTER 6 CAESURA. the caesura of verse.”1 Invoking an ancient European exegetical tradition which takes the horse to represent the “sound and vocal element of language” (IP. the caesura—for a little—thinks. is only the transport of itself. As he says in caesuric cadence: “The rhythmic transport that gives the verse its impetus is empty. This allows Agamben to note that “For the poet. Rather. Agamben declares this couplet to be a treatise on the subject of the caesura before composing one of his many allegories. while for an instant the horse of poetry is stopped” (IP. Voice here is not the transport 166 . 43). 44). is thought” (IP. holds in suspense. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT THE CAESURA The essay proceeding directly from “The Idea of Prose. Yet thought within the context of the poetic line is not of equal measure to that of the thinking of philosophy one finds at the line’s limits as the semiotic steed of haltered poetics gives way to the license of discourse. 43) represented by the couplet from Penna “I go towards the river on a horse / which when I think a little a little stops. as pure word. And it is this emptiness which. The place of thought in the poem is the caesura.
awakens and contemplates for an instant the inspiration that carries him—he thinks nothing else but his voice”’ (IP. considering that the Latin origins of the term caesura inculcate it into the violent rites of cutting and separation. is any word ending that did not coincide with the cessation of a metrical foot. and the end of the poem. 104). arrest. However its most common usage is of course the imposition of an audible pause within a line often but not always indicated by punctuation (in the Penna verse not for reasons peculiar to Italian prosody). thought ventures forth” (IP.CAESURA. Thus caesura was originally any displaced footing within the seamlessness of prosodic flow. and ecstatic thinking is presented in such a way that later in the book. thought is not semantic discourse. a little sign remains suspended. the most common representation of caesuric pausing itself often reproduced in prosody by the so-called double pipes ||. here asleep on his horse. Thus the interplay between flow. Poetry is presented here as the sleep of thought and yet not until the poet is lulled by the cadence of hooves on grass and road can they be woken into thinking as such and that only when the horse of verse is arrested. If the voice in the poem is gestic transport as such the interruption of pure transport by thought is simply a moment wherein thinking is able to think the pure word without the imposed differentiation of word and world that so troubles the end of the line. mid-line. On nothing other than that. As we are well aware this is all Agamben craves and we might now name this as the essential precondition of all logopoiesis. Surprisingly. One such little sign in prosody is the comma. Similarly. for example. in the essay “The Idea of Thought. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT of expression nor the silent Voice of metaphysical nihilism. hesitantly. where breath is lacking. This congeniality within prosodic flow to its own negation except at poetic 167 .” Agamben is able to conclude thus on thinking: “Where the voice drops. This pause most commonly occurs at the medial position. but a much more “poeticized” idea of thinking. but the infantile voice of language as such. prose as we might name it. The classical definition of a caesura. “The poet. the only venues within a line of poetry inhospitable to the caesura are at the beginning of the line. Yet the comma is not a necessary element of caesura. 44). and that it effects the ultimate violence to prosody by its interruption of linear flow. including the poem’s incipit. but there are also initial caesura that are imposed close to the beginning of the line and terminal caesura which occur close to or at the end of the line. not a pause for thought so much as a slight stumble.
2 The first “male” line uses caesura to emulate the poise of the couplet unit within the line balancing the oppositions of eighteenth-century bios: business and pleasure. But ev’ry Lady would be Queen for life. demonstrating prosodic femininity here as “Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear. Indeed the lack of caesura at the line’s incipit is simply a form of conventional display for. terminal caesura can also be taken for true initial caesura. to allow time for thought to think the conditions of its own transport and its dependence on arrest. ecstatic space. enough to open a gap in flow. In enjambement flow overtakes meaning and the space at the right hand side of the poem is negated by linear.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN advent and total formal finitude suggests that caesura is an internal concern of the poem body. In a sense this is the most perfect example of the tonos of poetry. but its greatest application is surely the double duality of the classical couplet revived in the English tradition by Dryden and Pope as the Heroic and eventually antithetical couplet. The presupposed flow of the poetic line is interrupted by the imposition internally of semantics so that stress is cut across by meaning through regularized and predictable caesurae. quiet and strife. then bound together by rhyme to a second line which may echo the antithesis of the first or. But ev’ry Woman is at heart a Rake. and in this momentary. Over the many thousands of years of European prosody the caesura has been used to various effects. here. some to Quiet. operate as antithesis to the antithesis. transversal exuberance. In the ideal antithetical couplet a line is divided exactly in two by a caesura.” each “odd” line eradicates harmony in terms of balance by making demonstrative an excess of one quality (pleasure) or unrealistic demands for which there can be no compromise: all women would be sovereign over a kingdom devoid of subjects. in effect. Yet. By contrast in the caesura the steady and irresistible progress of verse is suspended by the merest hint of a sign. some to Pleasure take. Here is a particularly misogynistic and yet prosodically perfect example from Pope’s “Epistle to a Lady on the Characters of Women”: Men. some to public Strife. some to Bus’ness. Thus the place for thinking is a space within verse that works directly in opposition to enjambement. Then semiotics 168 . Men.
and its temporal-spatial matrix is the ultimate tonos of poetry in the service of the transport and arrest of thinking. terminal enjambement of the perfectly balanced Heroic couplet designed to halt and formalize the profligacy of the endlessly over-running Miltonic couplet. the implied separation between lines that occurs due to enjambement. in our culture. one of the first and most instructive observations to be made is that the concept never gets defined as such. The resumption of the line would then seem to be a victory for thinking. at the same juncture prosody. When with the second cut discourse is able to impose a damn on flow and pause for thought. then between interruption and flow. Yet at the instance of the cut we now know that meaning is interrupted not prosody. And yet. Meanwhile. of course. its transport. with rhyme introducing a projective recursion that. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT is reinstated as flow commences and the artificiality of the line ending reminds one that the poem is more horse than waking.CAESURA. a temporal-spatial self-consciousness is mapped across the neutrality of these two terms. As he says of the problematic of life as a definition of being in The Open: For anyone undertaking a genealogical study of the concept of “life” in our culture. If flow is the presupposition of the poem then the first caesura negates the semiotic in favour of the semantic. takes hold of the line and refers meaning back against the current to the preceding end word. At the same time. Agamben uses the term caesura regularly in his essays when speaking of the numerous and problematic acts of scission performed by negative metaphysics. The most fully developed and perhaps important of these caesurae is that to be found internal to the very definition of human ontology. The verse unit is born of a tension first between flow and interruption. the next line is ready to burst its stops and race ahead. yet immediately in the second line flow inundates sense. a three-way tension indeed. through the agency of rhyme. life were what 169 . arrest and flow. . as we now know. everything happens as if. even the zero. . This tension. between thought. this thing that remains indeterminate gets articulated and divided time and again through a series of caesurae and oppositions . Then. is indicative of messianic time but also the tabular trans-linear dimensionality not just of poetic structure but of poetic thinking as a whole. life. is undermined by the coincidence of sound across two syllables and/or words located each time at the final point of the line.
Yet. in this manner. yet at the same time no caesura is momentous either. resumption suspension.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN cannot be defined. must be ceaselessly articulated and divided. This more developed definition of caesura as a mode of thinking division in terms of relation now allows us to return to prosodic caesura and see that when Agamben uses the term caesura in metaphysics he is being more than simply metaphorical.3 First the caesura divides the line. for example. Human life for Agamben. the first division. indistinction. The same indeed is true of the end of the line and its relation to enjambement. No caesura is. In terms of the act of caesura within the poem we perceive that there are always two cuts. rather than defining the term life here. namely in-definition or. permanent. The caesura is not possessed of finitude any more than of inventiveness or evental 170 . is meaningless and indeed inoperative until that division is divided from itself and cast back into linear flow. as he more commonly terms it. and yet as his comments show the essence of the caesura is not simply scission. The caesura initially performs a negative function directly at odds with his earlier valorization of the term as the basis for thinking thought. Life ceases to be a definition of something and instead. precisely for this reason. (O. Rather the caesura in separating a term off with the desire of imposing definitional distinction instead inculcates said term into a mechanism of division and articulation which. and rather stands for its own inability to take on definition as the energetic source of its ongoing productive presence in ontology as the basis of that which both divides and articulates. through the operations of the caesura as that which both divides and conjoins. the cut and the cut of the cut. except at the moments of poetic advent and finitude. In the poem body suspension always results in resumption. 13) The caesura Agamben is considering here is that between the human and the animal. The interruption of thinking. something we observed in relation to the (/) or barred caesura in the sign between gramma and phone. then it articulates lineation as the transport of thinking. does not define human life per se but the idea of human life as both separate from and intrinsically linked to the animal. imposes upon it a permanent indistinction. Life then comes to stand not so much for something like biological existence. yet. it comes to be the very definition of the problem of definition as such. if we look again at the definition of life in terms of caesura we find a productive negation.
and look green in song: These. And where. harmonious oxymoronic implied semantic caesura “harmoniously confus’d: / Where order in variety we see”. result in classical poetics in a perfectly balanced. should be like in fame. the section in question also provides the perfect razo de trobar of prosody summarized by the phrase “harmoniously confused. enjambement. seem to strive again. harmoniously confus’d: Where order in variety we see. Here earth and water. were my breast inspir’d with equal flame. Here hills and vales. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT status. should be like in fame”. “like them in beauty. 20) Here we can observe basic antithesis across a caesura. Aside from being a masterclass in the extendibility and power of caesuric prosody. / Here earth and water. tho’ all things differ. (line b) caesura. tho’ all things differ. at the same time every two lines 171 . the caesura always cuts in the midst. and the same is true of life. enjambement. the woodland and the plain.CAESURA. the woodland and the plain. Live in description. (SP. Like them in beauty.” While Pope conjures for us a world of balance encased in the harmony of the bi-linear couplet. vanish’d now so long. harmonious whole. One is always already in the midst of poetry. and finally the caesuric cut of the cut internalized in the space of one line. This is both true of poetic caesurae and the general logic of the caesura such as one finds in The Open or indeed between zoe and bios in Homo Sacer and State of Exception (2003). “And where. the cut and the cut of the cut. double caesuric antithesis. these two acts of violence. all reliant on the counting and positioning of stress: (line a) caesura. “Here hills and vales. all agree.” This last is perhaps the best prosodic-graphematic demonstration of the stanza of messianic time in that the antithesis is embedded within an extended caesuric zone between the first and second comma. all agree. But as the world. This world of harmonious tension is both described and performed in the opening lines of Pope’s “Windsor Forest”: The groves of Eden. The tone of balance resides in the perfect tension of the four combined and yet separate units. seem to strive again”. the medio or mean point. Not Chaos like together crush’d and bruis’d. Unexpectedly perhaps. Rather.
in French Alexandrines. while enjambement is equal to chronos in that at the point of the line’s eschaton it overleaps finitude and imposes a retrograde return to sense. and yet also recursive. sura cannot occur is within the word (as I have just demonstrated). If every second caesura is more forceful in that it cataphorically holds back flow. at the moment of reading on into meaning development one always lags behind in some manner in sonic. the couplet contains the very basis of poetry’s capability to think through the tabular-planar metrical agency of a continuation that contains within it the projection of its ending and a cut or completion that. Unlike the caesura where thought interrupts poetry. unless one ends the poetic line with the first sy/Llable and commences the next with the second. in rhyme thought and language combine to produce a word-based semiotics that is both predictive. however. The caesura represents the eschaton. Left to their own devices. but 172 . it provides the semiotic rules to sense what the next rhyme might be. Yet the inclusion of rhyme suggests instead a messianic moment that does not rise out of this stuttering continuum but uncovers a solution to the metaphysical logic of the caesura internal to the poem itself. semiotic consonance. The only place internal to the poem that a cae. For rhyme. The caesura of classical prosody tends to what is called the medial but this is not compulsory as. and indeed that is all they are gestic and meaningless prosodic devices. interruption and flow retain poetic tonos. What is significant here is the means by which rhyme provides the potential solution to the tensile cut of the cut of the caesura– enjambement matrix. is dependent on semantics to perform. gathers within itself the recursion of that which went before. and thus the shifting of the metrical–musical element between semiotics (langue) and semantics (parole) becomes the metrical–musical–semantic element.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN there is a moment of cataphoric recursion as the second rhyme is tabulated backwards to its previous rhyme partner. but in most sophisticated prosody there is a wide use of initial and terminal caesurae. say. before the push and pull of lineation can continue. in that it interrupts the linear progression of the line. or enjambement where the obverse is true. while powerfully semiotic. Although Agamben does not consider it in these terms. concomitantly the first caesura is always a touch weakened in that one is already thinking ahead to its rhyme and also the strong sense of local completion the couplet always provides. The caesura of English tends also to the medial rising to a degree of compulsarity in Old and Middle English verse.
these at the moment of advent and finitude. two forms of exterior space to the poem body. in this light. only two operative interdictions on caesuric scission. never before it. Logopoiesis is an internal affair that occurs inside verse but which does not delimit verse. perpetually meeting and departing from their assignation. and two forms of silence cocooning the voice. a miniaturized rule of some value when one comes to consider the very limits of the ergon. a frame at all for it has no continuity. The caesura is the essential complement to enjambement. is interrupted by thought or by the silence that is apparently endemic to contemporary thinking. a cyclical loop. If they are in possession of finitude then not of this order. is not a pause but an endless falling into the silence of philosophy on the part of poetry. therefore. even if they are poems in a sequence. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT even this is that peculiar form of terminal caesura called enjambement. If enjambement instigates the event of the poetic by interrupting discourse with voice and semiotic material rhythm. poems are not of the same order as flowers. Poems are not rocks. even if the poem is part of a sequence.CAESURA. There are. the parergon will always slice open the finitude of the ergon. or the line. The poem as a whole or thing is not. therefore. Therefore. The two edges of a poem’s frame will never meet. the presence of messianic time within the poem is dependent on a traditional and to some degree problematic designation of the poem as a strictly delimited body. There are. so that the point of the end of the line is radically dissimilar to its incipit. The spacesilence made parergonal frame around the poem is not. Where the poem begins is of another order to where it ends and the two edges of its finitude will never meet. so too the beginning of a poem does not take up the line from the end of the last poem. similarly voice. For those of us well versed in prosody this is highly satisfying as it is true that an enjambement 173 . as we have seen. In this way. Also of some significance is the fact that all caesuric cuts occur “after” flow. Just as the end of the line has no commonality to the incipit due to the ban on the caesura at the point of the line’s inception. This is in contradistinction to the end of one line and the commencement of the next which are always in communion with each other. contrary to its internal structure. or a meta-linear version of its localized prosodic effects of flow and interruption. What does the terminally or edge-restricted mobility of the caesura tell us? Certainly that the poem’s advent is not a continuation or a type of universal poetic flow. Similarly the end of the poem.
its ripples spreading out through the lines and the calm surface of the poem taking some time/ lines to settle down once more. either to thought or to poetry. the next. a caesura midline leaves few syllables in the line to commence a new thought making another enjambement very probable. or the next. The line broken at the end then is the influx of the voice inundating thought and for a moment erasing it. intermittent and hesitant silence. stopping the flow and for a second eradicating the voice entirely with a momentary. The line arrested in the centre is the reversal of this flood of semiotics. APOTROPAICS Lurking in the final words of Stanzas is Agamben’s early summation of his appreciation of the necessity to turn to poetry to resolve certain issues pertaining to negativity that had scuppered the great hulk of metaphysics in its journey towards the thing as such of thought. the idea of a tension that is both the articulation of a difference and unitary” (ST.4 Agamben’s reasoning for this symbiotic relation between interruption and overflowing would be that both caesura and enjambement stem from different pathways to the same.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN more likely than not either follows from or is followed by a caesura. As is regularly commented on. You will recall he is speaking here of the tensile harmony to be located in the work of Heraclitus. for example. This hesitation is two-fold because the manner in which language has been lost to us is double. Thus enjambement works like a stone cast into a still pool. event: the prolonged hesitation between sound and sense that constitutes poetry. 157). momentarily held. of the parallelism of the comparison. This simple consonance of oppositions is now clearer to us being typical. It also conveys the messianic moment of a stilled 174 . A control of this rhythmic effect is an additional prosody still relatively mysterious to literary criticism which I have termed “line measure” or the metrical counting of the line as a rhythmic unit rather than solely the syllable. Concomitantly. or even in the case of real thinkers such as Milton and Wordsworth. Enjambement only occurs at moments when the thought is too big for the line pushing the caesura into the middle of the next line. the ideal of the poetic line is the exact match between syllables and thought so that all caesurae occur at the end of the line. leading Agamben to look to the Greek sense of harmonia as “a laceration that is also a suture.
Within the visible realm of being—being has always been confined in our tradition to a monstrative and (in)visible entity—there was the harmony between being as concealed and its momentarily appearing. when thought and poetry. and remember harmony here means just as much division as it does unification. I am speculating. Then there was the harmony between the monstrative and acoustical harmonies with. the cut that is cut. “back” then. in the passage from the visible to the acoustic aspect of language.CAESURA. locating harmony as a basis for being in concealment within the visible realm. still belongs to the tactile-visible sphere. (ST. He then adds: That this articulation. whose signification had appeared to the dawning of Greek thought 175 . were not placed on either side of a false bar or division as is articulated in the theory of the sign. but also the rule of poetry which is defined by the tension between interruption and flow. “Faithful to this apotropaic project. should then be transferred to the numericalacoustic sphere. One can now also see that harmony not merely names an ideal state of being in the universe as it did for the Greeks. if I read this compacted section correctly. where it is still possible to discern the solidarity between signification and metaphysical articulation. There was. Of this Agamben says. speaking of Heidegger’s rediscovery of the harmony of harmonies between philosophy and poetry. Harmony names. the harmonious confusion of caesura as a division that combines. is the Idea of Prose that is manifest in the early work and reconstituted first as potentiality and then as messianic time in the later. While within the acoustical realm—the originary voice of poetry before it was split. and poetry invisibility/flow. it transpires. therefore. for Heraclitus. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT dialectic. then silenced by philosophy—there was the harmony between interruption and flow. Thus there was philosophical harmony mirrored by poetic harmony and then a harmony between the two. not the eradication of division and unity but the tensile suspension of the metaphysical foundational categories of difference and identity. testifies to a decisive turn in Western thought. the visible and the acoustic. This harmony of harmonies. which. Speaking of the term harmony in Heraclitus Agamben notes that for the Greek the idea of harmony pertained precisely to its invisibility. a double harmony. philosophy playing the role of visibility/interruption. 157) There was a time. appropriated.
shares a good deal in common with the more familiar rhetorical designation of the enigma. we cannot but approach that which must. ratified in the discipline of philosophy. Aletheia’s unveiling of truth moves one to the very heart of the almost awkward formulation of truth as unconcealedness which so dominates Heidegger’s work. the enigma of the order of a sign. as Agamben concedes. Considering the story of Oedipus and the Sphinx in Stanzas. for the moment.5 We are now more than familiar with the fracture of presence alluded to here. For truth to be unveiled it must first have been obscured by a sheet or material barrier. but a mode of speech in which the original fracture of presence was alluded to in the paradox of a word that approaches its object while keeping it indefinitely at a distance” (ST. which also explains why poetry matters to Agamben and also helps clarify his many valuable comments on the technicalities of prosody. The presence of the sign is. For the truth to be unveiled it must first be transmitted through a sheet or material barrier. In this instant full presence becomes unavailable to view and the Greek activity of aletheia commences the strange affiliation called philosophy. crucial to his overall overcoming of metaphysics as I hope I have now shown. If there were no secret then there needs must be no solution. 157). is based on an impossible filiation therein to the fact that presence comes to philosophical thought as already divided. The sign is of the order of an enigma. 138). Thus every truth is a form of enigma facilitated by the double 176 . is the apotropaic structure of all logopoiesis. The apotropaic. Logopoiesis names little more than this at this stage in its development: an apotropaic harmony between poetic flow and philosophical interruption. called up at the moment that presence as such is split in two. The relation between poetry and thinking in Agamben. that which attracts and repels. Agamben is unhappy with the way that the enigma of the Sphinx has been placed beneath the transparent sign of the Oedipal interpretation: “What the Sphinx proposed was not simply something whose signified is hidden and veiled under an ‘enigmatic’ signifier. It makes perfect sense. Speaking of the foundation of philosophy Agamben notes that the Western experience of being. remain at a distance” (ST. If the labyrinth is as an open plane then the thread of its solution and dissolution need not be painstakingly unspooled in the terror of darkness.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN as a mode of speaking that was neither a gathering nor a concealment.
Like the labyrinth. to a protective power that repels the uncanny. the light From the lighthouse that protects as it pushes us away. As the wrecking ball bursts through the wall with the book shelves Scattering the works of famous authors as well as those Of more obscure ones. Early in the Morning. . Agamben goes on to state: The ainos (story. by attracting it and assuming it within itself. is a poetics of the enigma as that which is not available for solution. like the Gorgon. The dancing path of the labyrinth. One of the great contemporary works of logopoietic apotropaicism is John Ashbery’s much-admired “Down by the Station. and an extraneous babble from the street Confirming the new value the hollow core has again. has valorized the very quality of interpretation over the fact of the enigma as such. therefore. fable) of the ainigma is not only obscurity. is the model of this relation with the uncanny that is expressed in the enigma. An apotropaic verse. which he has misinterpreted by interpreting its apotropaic intention as the relation of an oblique signifier and a hidden signified” (ST. the enigma belongs to the sphere of the apotropaic. Agamben suggests.6 177 . that is. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT hindrance of matter. Presupposing the enigma as a sign that needs to be made to signify. and Western thought since then. Oedipus’ sin was not incest but “hubris toward the power of the symbolic in general . 138). a philosophy dependent on an idea of language has totally missed the glaring fact that the power of the enigma lies elsewhere in the presence of the semiotic within the enigma of the sign. prosodic. and like the Sphinx that utters it. and books with no author. structural. . The name of both these obstructions is rather obvious: the sign. Returning to the enigma now. 138) If this is the case.” that ends with a shocking apocalypse for such a poet of tonal. (ST. which leads to the heart of that which is held at a distance.CAESURA. and conceptual even-ness: And so each day Culminates in merriment as well as a deep shock like an electric one. but a more original mode of speaking. letting in Space. or a maze which has no centre point or any point of exit/entrance. Oedipus.
then one is drawn towards the core and simultaneously repelled.” an extraneous pure semiotic noise the result of the collapse of the single. and nonsense. labyrinthine structure of the wrecked library. That the resumption of the semantic in the next line should comment directly on the semiotic “space” is typical of the profound boustrophedonic verse only rare writers can perform. space. remembering. / And nothing does. while dense. The poem. it would appear. and the almost enjambed terminal caesura in the penultimate line suggests precisely this. and even then / It may not have existed” (W. Indeed are not all enigmas thus doubled-up? The image draws you in. I have laboured over both the enigma that is Ashbery. Ashbery admits into the work the essence of the poetic: the semiotic. Or is Ashbery merely revealing the enigma of the very fact of the warning or the apotropaic nature of 178 . The manifestation of the lighthouse is a double enigma.” This work. and more specifically in classrooms around the globe the enigma of the poem “Down by the station early in the morning. form and theme merge into harmony precisely through their being manifestly at odds. as in all eidos it literally calls your attention to it and by implication suggests that it is a metaphor for the hollow core of the decimated. for years. and yet the poem’s final image seems to resist an endless falling into silence. in a moment of supreme post-modern self-consciousness. Indeed. always leads my students and myself interminably across two verses which. Here it takes the form of enjambement. as the line folds back on itself. The line break after “letting in” admits the essential material presence of space foundational to poetic tension. to the sudden collapse of all pedagogic certainty in the final stanza cited here. a deliberation on impermanence. until you name it. “a dull crinkled leather that no longer exists. ontology.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN As can be seen here Ashbery’s verse has always been marked by that which Agamben terms the apotropaic order of the enigma. If the hollow core is as the lighthouse. Following on from space comes the loaded term “babble. I feel I can guide a passage through. babble) and the semantic which typifies Agamben’s axiom. 14). memory. In some senses Ashbery has found the only solution to the paradox of the end of the poem. space. and the enigma of naming. Babelian tower of language. like Oedipus and Ariadne trapped in some terrible union neither dares to seek annulment for. Here. is a comment on the tension between the semiotic (enjambement. As the wrecking ball demolishes the walls of a book-lined labyrinth of enigmas one presumes is a library.
. which protects us and seems almost to gather us to its bosom. within the enigma one finds the only instance within signification wherein the semiotic and the semantic are suspended without falling into silence all due to the presence of the semiotic. . remembering . until you name it. The poem neither concludes nor.CAESURA.” cyclically resumes at the poetic incipit. Certainly the bar divides poetry from thinking in a manner Agamben finds repulsive. but that there can be an unresolved relation between the two. The first is of the order of the enigma. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT the enigma? In drawing attention to itself. He says in relation to that which no longer exists “And nothing does. nor that there is a solution. What the uncanny unearths is not that there is no solution.” combining the impossibility of logos preceding phone (nothing exists until you name it). . the light of the lighthouse. to be more precise. gathers us by actually rejecting us. In an enigma one encounters the mystery of the uncanny in the form of a rebus to which not only is there no solution but whose very puzzlement is its truth. The enigmatic in verse. Ashbery’s comments on ontological inexistence are “instructive” in this regard in the way they maintain the impossible to resolve caesura between phone and logos to be found in the sign and emulated in prosody. as many works do such as “L’infinito. and yet also the enigma of how phone can precede logos if it is a recursive act of memory: naming something as a prophylaxis against the inexistence we are all moving towards. but it also gathers them together in the same parallel space of stanzaic comparison revealing what may have already been suspected that the bar of the sign (/) and the double pipes of the caesura || are in fact of the same grammatological order. Just as the issue of the suspense of the endless deferral of signification occurs within the poetic line expressly at the moment of its finitude. This leads to my second comment on the sign as fundamentally apotropaic in structure or. I would attempt to say three things about this blinding moment of logopoiesis. As regards the apotropaic structure of the enigma the elegance of Agamben’s formulation remains a thing of beauty. Rather. The third and final point is that by ending with an apotropaic Ashbery is able to endlessly defer the end of the verse while simultaneously suspending the poem within the very tension that Agamben suggests it is impossible to be suspended within. the bar within the sign between phone and logos. of which Ashbery is the master. the possibility 179 . is indeed as Agamben suggests not there to be solved but persists so as to retain within itself the presence of the problem as such.
Speaking of the inheritance of Oedipus Agamben divides our epoch into two tendencies. At the point when one reaches one’s final state and fulfils one’s own destiny. This glimpse first opened up by the enigma is the very harmony between poetry and philosophy essential to prosodic harmony and the wider apotropaic comparison of logopoiesis as such. Those who seek to define signification as that which occurs as a relation between code and solution. They seek to exit the maze into which they wished they had never been entered by their masters. semiotics and semantics are post-Oedipal thinkers. refusing the model of Oedipus. focuses its attention above all on the barrier between signifier and signified that constitutes the original problem of signification” (ST. What is most proper to every creature is thus its substitutability. one finds oneself for that very reason in the place of the neighbour. There is. a fourth order of space in Agamben’s work located to the side of the poem in a space that does not quite mark the limit of the text nor quite exist interior to the line either. This enigmatic. Meanwhile: “under the sign of the Sphinx must be placed every theory of the symbol that.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN of this proposition rests upon a second line. In The Coming Community the short essay “Ease” speaks of the Talmudic tradition of the reservation of two places for each person in Eden and Gehenna (Hell). that which can be found internal to the poem and of course Derridean spacing as such in the form of the trace. Agamben in this early treatise provides a “glimpse of what a semiology freed from the mark of Oedipus and faithful to the Saussurian paradox would finally bring to the ‘barrier resistant to signification’” (ST. its being in 180 . 139). 139). EASE: THE PROXIMATE SPACE Thus far we have spoken of space in terms of that which surrounds borders the poem. in the full sense of the term. Citing specifically the “Hericlitean project of an utterance that neither ‘hides’ nor ‘reveals’ but rather ‘signifies’ the unsignifiable conjunction (synapsis) between presence and absence” (ST. that which exists between the signifier and the signified within the sign. The first is more than familiar to we Oedipal decoders of poetic and literary Sphinxes. however. Agamben notes that the topology of interest here resides not between Eden and Gehenna but within “the adjacent place that each person inevitably receives. 138–9). space is what he describes as the space of ease. signifier and signified.
One crucial factor is that the space of ease brings together the technical aspects of prosodic space as we have been analysing with earlier debates on poetic desubjectivization. common space of singularity. as well as Derrida’s post-Lévinasian ethics of alterity and hospitality and. at one’s ease (slowly). the space adjacent (ad-jacens. the topography of kle or the vocation of ¯sis subjective revocation. but rather on the universal substitutability of singularity as non-representable (lacking in individuality).7 In the space of ease. He then traces this idea in reference to a Christian community founded in the last century by Arabist Louis Massignon called Badaliya whose name was derived from the Arabic for substitution. but it is necessary to allow one to comprehend the centrality of space in Agamben’s ideas on poetry. They move to one side of who they are to a space of singular self-negation. The space of ease delineates. such as it is. the work of Blanchot. Further useful consonance between prosodic space and considerations of desubjectivization and language arrives in the mode in which Agamben goes on to describe the origins of the word ease: “The term ‘ease’ in fact designates. An avenue of enquiry that moves Agamben to a conclusion that Badaliya and the Talmud allow for a possibility of a community based not on non-substitutable individuality. although I am sure these issues are not unfamiliar. according to its etymology. in a semantic constellation where spatial proximity borders on opportune time (ad-agio. its being whatever—in other words. 23). moving at ease) and convenience borders on the correct relation” (CC.CAESURA. 25). under sail or beneath the effects of music. adjacentia). therefore. Forgive this digression into the biopolitical realm of the ethics of alterity. which soon enough we will locate within the poem. Ease is the proper name of this unrepresentable space” (CC. The ostensible purpose of this essay is clear within a collection on community that takes up dialogue with Nancy’s work on the coming community and being-with. This leads to the potentiality of a new ethical topography no longer delineated around oppositions and individuals. This semantico-etymological constellation excavates for us the relation of the opportune to the location of the harbour in favourable winds to which one moves. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT any case in the place of the other” (CC. 181 . 25). for good measure. the subject as individual is alienated from identity without succumbing to biological indetermination. but describing a complex. the empty place where each can move freely. “the coming to itself of each singularity.
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
It also presents the original meaning of convenience as coming together or natural fittedness of things with other things. Thus ease is a temporal, spatial space to the side that gives one time/space to come to things, to step to one side, gain time, make space and so on. This sense of ease as a proximation and facilitation, opening up, making space for space, taking time to experience time, explains the centrality of the term for the origins of European prosody. Agamben therefore goes on to explain: “The provençal poets (whose songs first introduce the term into Romance languages in the form aizi, aizimen) make ease a terminus technicus in their poetics, designating the very place of love…not so much the place of love, but rather love as the experience of taking-place in whatever singularity” (CC, 25). Now we can begin to see that ease is supportive facilitation in the manner in which we have come to see love for the troubadour tradition. Love here is unattainable precisely because it is the medium, support, or space to the side that facilitates attainment as such but which itself, therefore, can never be possessed. Agamben speaks of a similar experience when he considers stil novist poetics, in particular Dante’s famous pursuit of the subjectposition called Beatrice. Beatrice is the name of the amorous experience of the event of language at play in the poetic text itself. She is thus the name and the love of language, but of language understood not in its grammaticality but, rather, in its radical primordiality, as the emergence of verse from the pure Nothing . . . It is because of its absolute originality that speech is the supreme cause and object of love and, at the same time, necessarily transient and perishable. (EP, 58) Such an understanding of speech as primordial, transient, and perishable relates, in Agamben’s work, to Dante’s reformulation of a central Humanist debate over the vernacular and grammar “that is, between the experience of the originary and secondary status of the event of language (or again between love of language and knowledge of language)” (EP, 54).8 Moving backwards through the arguments of the essay “The Dream of Language” where these quotes are couched we find ourselves gazing on an obscure fifteenth-century text, the Hypnerotomachia Polifili (1499), an image from which adorns the English translation of The End of the Poem. Agamben
CAESURA, THE SPACE OF THOUGHT
focuses our attention on the later debate around the language of this text which seems to be made up from a fusion of grammar (Latin) and the vernacular (what was to become modern Italian). The result, he assures us, is an awkward mismatch of Latin grammar and vernacular lexicon of which Agamben comments that the singularity of this text “is a matter not of agrammatical discourse but rather of a language in which the resistance of names and words is not immediately dissolved and rendered transparent by the comprehension of the global meaning; hence the lexical element remains isolated and suspended for a few seconds, as dead material, before being articulated and dissolved in the fluid discourse of sense” (EP, 46). Agamben usefully likens this effect to the use of the word in Mallarmé before going on to note the qualities of the vernacular that make it so central to the role of the space of ease as love in all poetry. Glossing on Dante’s Convivio he remarks that “the vernacular can only follow ‘use’ not ‘art’; and it is, therefore, necessarily transient and subject to continual death. To speak in the vernacular is to precisely experience this incessant death and rebirth of words, which no grammar can fully treat” (EP, 54). What Agamben is tracing here along admittedly obscure defiles, aside from the complex simultaneous development of the idea of language and poetry within European culture from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, is the double stream of language which we have already become familiar with, only this time reconfigured away from the becoming-planar of the line towards the point of the word. The vernacular in the Hypnerotomachia Polifili resembles Mallarmé’s verse as I said in that “words stand out in isolation while their semantic values are suspended” (EP, 46), precisely because the vernacular lexicon has not yet been assimilated into a vernacular grammar. This will not happen until Latin truly becomes a dead language and the vernacular becomes a grammar at which point one gazes on two senses of what it means for a language to die. For Latin it means that it becomes a kind of pure langue or a complete grammar that has no actual usage. In contrast, the vernacular is pure parole in that words are used for the love of language, the words themselves, before they are reformulated in relation to definition and syntax. Love, therefore, is to experience the imminent vernacular in all language, a primordiality of pure usage before grammar died wherein words rise up and then die away again. This is an atactic language freed of grammar, for
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
what is grammar but an obviation of the need for syntax? Grammar is pure structure in which the specificity of the sign is totally irrelevant. The development of the vernacular into grammar by the death of grammar in the form of Latin allows us to see, as if for the first time, words for their own sake as purely vernacular. All of which forces us to now reconsider Agamben’s definition of the stanza as the “capacious dwelling, receptacle,” or womb of art. The stanza like a room is gifted with a certain set of spatial co-ordinates it being an enclosed space within a wider enclosure of space, the house, which is itself an enclosure of space surrounded by an illimitable space, the world, founded on the earth. The stanza, therefore, is a ventricle within the very conception of interiority and just as lineation rehearses the abyssal event of the end of the poem, so the stanza seems to act out the irresolvable aporetic relationship between interiority and exteriority which is, of course, modern philosophy. The stanza contains within its walls a double paradox. It is the material marking of an enclosure of space and also occupies the inside of the inside providing us now with a third messianic structure, not that of time as such, nor poetic time, but the interiority of space between space as enclosure (“eschatological” space) and space as endless extension and continuum (“chronological” space). While Agamben calls this the womb, he could, of course, have designated it with the Greek name chora.9 Now we are at our ease, our work here nearly done. Primed as we are to exit art and finally crack the puzzle of the maze of thought, let us pause for a moment on the complex entity that is called, in our tradition, the poem. What is a poem? A poem is made up of poetry that exists within the tension between the semiotic and semantic that occurs at the premature interjection of space as both temporal pause and spatial presence creating the line. This gesture of interruption is then reversed in boustrophedonic mode so that the seamless flow of metre is interrupted by the caesuric pause of thought. Thus a poem consists of the movement between two syntaxes, ignoring for now which take precedence: prose—poetry—prose and poetry—prose— poetry. Also overlooking the further complexity that spacing is a precondition for all writing and exists in equal measure between each sign and within each sign, we now advance propositionally to the centrality of the end of the poem, wherein the micro tensile oscillation of poetry is writ large and catastrophic. Agamben is clear that
CAESURA, THE SPACE OF THOUGHT
the end of the poem is the end of verse which means also always the end of a verse or stanza. The end of the poem is, therefore, triply the end of poetry, the end of lineation, and the end of stanzation. As can be seen by this definition the end of the poem cannot come to an end as a propositional statement without a full understanding of the stanza. The first thing to note in this regard is that the end of the poem occurs, paradoxically, in a medial position by virtue of the stanza (as I said the end is central). The end of each line is different from the end of the last line, Agamben assures us, and so too must it be the case that the end of the stanza is an ending of a different order. It would be tempting to ascribe the end of the stanza as a miniature disaster and in a semiotic sense it can seem as such, but in fact the stanza is not a vertical form. The space at the end of the stanza is only one quarter of the relevant space for a stanza must have four walls revealing that the spatiality between stanzas is not one of finality but proximity. A stanza, in fact, is not a unit of poetry at all but a unit of sense, part of the syllogistic globalization of meaning promised by the poem and ruined by its finitude.10 As such there is a different relation to space in the stanza to that of the poem as verse or line. The stanza is known, therefore, for what it can contain, for its jug-like capaciousness, and as a receptacle it transcends or somehow avoids the temporal-spatial linearity of versification providing an internal, fractal, Chinese-box nested form of spatiality that endlessly defers ending by the act of turning in on itself in a process of almost endless reduction and insertion. The stanza provides the space of ease but where does this spatiality reside within the receptacle or around it? Is its spatiality that of the page/tablet, the parergonal forces of title, frame, and so on; or is it literally over there, to the side, located in the semi-mythical righthand margin of the Western poetic tradition?11 Thus far I have summarized the relation of poetry to space around four spatialities: frame space, the pause at the end of the line, spacing as such, and the space into which the poem is endlessly falling that Agamben terms silence. There is, however, a fifth space here located in no one location within the poem but which cuts across and is inserted into all spacing. This space is what I am terming the space of ease as facilitated by the technicus terminus of the poem as such as determined by the pure love of the word as such, as mere matter, pure signification, dead stuff . . .
THE LITERARY AGAMBEN
CORN: IN THE CORNER OF THE ROOM
In the essay “‘Corn’: from Anatomy to Poetics” Agamben traces the philology of an obscure term used in troubadour poetry: corn, or arse (specifically a woman’s). Agamben, alive to the rather suspect humour here, also shows that how, over time, a term referring to the female anatomy, corn, comes also, as cors, to represent the metrical unit of poetry as such. This odd transformation, although no odder than many similar semantic shifts, possibly stems from the tradition of equating the woman’s body to that of the poem, which we have already commented on in relation to the stanza as a kind of womb. Over time the term corn has come to stand for what is called the unrelated rhyme wherein an apparently unrhymed word in one stanza is later found to rhyme with a word in a subsequent stanza. This may seem obscure, indeed it is for Agamben the philologist who works hard to recuperate the meaning of this term, but as the essay progresses we come to realize that corn is an essential companion to the verse which, in relation to enjambement, has become so crucial to us in this discussion. If the etymological meanings of verse in the Latin versus explain so much about poetry, so too the potential meanings for corn as “tip,” “extremity,” “corner,” and “angle” open up a whole new aspect like an interior wall removed to flood a dull space with light. Now we can freely state that verse is the folding back of the line on itself, while corn is the retention of the line break as a break or exteriorized caesura. Corn allows one to see the extremity of the line at the same time as one sees it folding over to become, at least momentarily, prose. So what is corn? It is both verse and not verse, resembling something more like a remnant of verse at the moment of verse’s collapse into sense. Corn as a term retains the cut or tear in the fabric of meaning from which poetry attains its lasting power and significance but it is not verse as such. Corn is the corner of the room, what is left over as the line breaks. Undoubtedly it presents risk for the poem as it interrupts the semiotic precedence with that which is neither semantic nor apparently semiotic, which is why Agamben asserts that for the corn to function meta-strophically it must find its rhyme later in the poem. If corn did not find its rhyme it would cataphorically be revealed to be, after the end of the poem, in some sense a premature end resulting in the tension of verse dissipating prematurely and yet also, belatedly in its retrospective realization.
Corn distributes the tension of the poem across two different spatialities that accord. by thus rupturing the closed unity of the strophe. of course. Of Arnaut’s sestina Agamben asserts “he is the poet who treats all verses as ‘corns’ and who. it can find only a formal correspondence?” (EP. opening up a level of harmony.CAESURA. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT Corn is the poetic term for what can otherwise be termed structure. The harmonic effects of corn. 31). The rhyme is still there but located at what has traditionally been called the harmonic rather than melodic level. every rhyme is delayed. because of this. No poem can 187 . One thing this observation allows is a more prominent place for rhyme within Agamben’s linear definition of poetry: “What is rhyme. In addition. Structure is the trans-tensile containment of the obviousness of the poetic definition Agamben furnishes us with. As the corn delays rhyme until a later stanza it. the importance of corn is not merely related to the means by which we can bring structure into the work for it also ushers in the predominance of writing into poetry. disenchanted. between orality and writing. The greater the distance between the first instance of the rhyme and its second. transforms the unrelated rhyme into the principle of a higher relation” (EP. cannot be heard and therefore must ultimately be read. a writer who elevated corn to a metastrophic dominance in the development of the stanzaic form of the sestina in which. by definition. such that the mind searches for an analogy of sense in the very place where. if not a disjunction between semiotic event (the repetition of sounds) and semantic event. 35). It takes us away from the localized issue of the line break versus the abyssal logic of the end of the poem. of course. namely. and graphematics. with a wider understanding of what poetry is. in a wider sense referring to any larger structural unity within a work. and allows us to move through the poem at a point between local and apocalyptic. the harder it becomes to hear the rhyme. I am calling this higher relation structure here because it cuts across the localized effects of the semiotic/semantic tension. 34). that between sound and sense” (EP. Taken within this context corn becomes an essential point of transition not only for poetry but also Agamben’s overall philosophy. Agamben proceeds to look at the work of Arnaut in this regard. Then again. as Agamben goes on to concede an understanding of corn as a rupture of the poetic body based on disjuncture between first harmonic and melodic textures and then. weakens the rhyme. structure. “cannot be understood if it is not situated in the context of a different formal register.
This is most readily found in poetry specifically in the material presence of an articulate space at the right hand of every lineated poem. which of course calls to mind the womb. intellectual and aesthetic rooms within rooms. This space. partial units” (EP. 188 . vertical space of the poem as a global entity. the bodily metaphor of the lap “For just as the canzone is in the lap of its subject-matter so the stanza enlaps its whole technique” (EP. At this juncture we must return one more time to Dante and his discussion of the structure of the canzone cited by Agamben. The unrelated rhyme forces one to concede that the poem exists in space and time beyond the power of its voicing. we can say that the space of ease opens the subject to the potentiality of their own singularity shared in common with all other self-alienated and thus singular beings. yet at the same time it requires that one consider the poem as consisting of lines within stanzas. Ease is also a superlative example of logopoiesis. With enjambement we have lineation. the fifth trans-poetic tabular space. almost in astonishment. asserts: “Dante thus conceives of the structure of the canzone as founded on the relation between an essentially semantic. Aside from the obvious observation that all poetry is embodied it leads one to a realization that there is a particular spatiality within the poem that simultaneously allows one to see the poem and to see language as such. the closed formal womb of the stanza. along with the impact of lineation. Ease requires the thinking of proximate space as precondition for singularity. multi-dimensional. Overviewing Dante’s remarkably prescient comments Agamben. 35). where he opposes cantio as a unit of sense (sententia) to stanza as a purely metrical unit (ars).THE LITERARY AGAMBEN be complete unless. and his later choice to call the unrelated rhyme or corn the clavis or key. . one does not take into consideration the means by which words are distributed through the poem based on alternative patterns. with the caesura we have discourse. the unrelated rhyme (the corn!) constitutes a threshold of passage between the metrical unity of ars and the higher semantic unity of sententia” (EP. sequential level into the tabular. . 35). Based on two metaphors Dante utilizes. To sum up this long and complex series of arguments. we are informed. global unit and essentially metrical. is likened in traditional poetics to the spatiality of the womb or semiotic chora. and with corn we have the word. 36). Agamben is finally able to conclude that “Insofar as it opens . This is the space of ease or that space into which the poem moves at the local.
” I am unable to assert that all the matters pertaining to poetic structure as a mode of thinking come together in this essay.CAESURA. synecdochic view of a certain part of a collection of elements being the supra-elemental part. however having come so far we can leave aside the Heideggerian terminology and concentrate instead on what this essay reveals in terms of a harmony of all the different elements pertaining to prosody and logopoiesis lodged within that most difficult yet essential poetic term: rhythm. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT RHYTHM Agamben is a sporadic and yet profoundly consistent writer. 97). they cannot as it precedes all such work. and third (a point central to the work of Badiou) explain how this element exterior to one’s set can be 189 . Internalized structure assumes structure to be something more than its elements and yet at the same time reduces this additional thing to the prime element “the ultimate quantum beyond which the object loses its reality” (MWC. Yet the second view proposes that structure is something that is external to the ensemble in question which means first that one must go in search of it. The first thing to accept here is that these contesting views of structure are either based on an internal. and his most recent work on temporality harks back to his earliest work on the poem which itself presages the more sophisticated work to come. or an external gestalt-based view that structure is something outside of the ensemble that is added to it to make it what it is. The essay is a fairly unreconstructed Heideggerian reading of poetic rhythm. stanzas a poem. in other words how do parts cohere into a unified structure: lines become a stanza. second explain its essential role to the very collection it is radically exterior and other too. 96). Both positions are problematic. I am speaking here of the dense chapter in The Man Without Content entitled “The Original Structure of the Work of Art. Agamben begins his treatise on rhythm by considering the age-old problem as to what constitutes structure. but rather we are able now to look back on that essay and see in it the basis of all that is to come. and so on? Structure is always a gestalt in that the parts cohere into something that is in excess of the particulate and yet which gives the particulate a single quantum: such and such a thing. The two traditional answers to this question are either that structure is an essential and irreducible element of the thing or it is what causes the “ensemble to be what it is” (MWC. Aristotle asks in The Metaphysics what causes a collection of elements to be more than a mere aggregate.
how in both cases the elements that function in harmony to create the work’s rhythm also provide us with an atemporal. 98). This. 100). Yet this rhythm—as we commonly understand it—appears to introduce into this eternal flow a split and a stop” (MWC. measure as the coming to presence of being on the earth (Heideggerian Measure) and measure as a countable number of units or quanta. Agamben. supra-spatial ecstatic moment that he 190 . One can already see here the value of such a definition of structure as rhythm at least for the art work. At the point that the rhythm stops we are launched. . . . and lines in the poem. is a double measure. That which flows does so in a temporal dimension: it flows in time . in other words. Agamben defines these two positions as number.” and rhythm “that which causes something to be what it is” (MWC. that which is outside of a work and makes it what it is (Form). words. outside the work of art into the place of ecstasy and are gifted with a view of what art is before falling back into the incessant procession of the rhythm of the work below. This centrality is further perpetuated when Agamben attempts to define the essential and original definition of rhythm by explaining how the interruption of flow in art is an ecstatic arrest of rhythm which. initially struggling to comprehend this statement. Agamben argues. as in the case of water.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN a set-defining element and yet itself escape the problems of infinite regression and bad infinity intrinsic to set theory. now feels after Aristotle that he can define rhythm as that which negotiates between the very principle of presence. for the sake of argument syllables. He gives examples here of music and painting. How can this “additional thing” exceed the very structure of aggregation it defines? After Aristotle. decrepit Hölderlin: “Everything is rhythm . to flow. inaugurates and announces the very existence of rhythm: “The word ‘rhythm’ comes from the Greek . Rhythm. at the same time. the one preferred by Aristotle. This second element. and everything swings from the poeticizing lips of the god” (Cited in MWC. 94). . yet at the same time rhythm is directly dependent on the elements that make up the work of art. . every work of art is one rhythm. the Greek philosopher renames Form. This debate is promoted by a comment by a momentarily lucid. and measure as such as a calculable number. “element and minimal quantum. is the tantalizing gift and reserve of art. for a moment. . 99). Rhythm is the unquantifiable “extra” element that makes a thing a work of art. the very structure of art “that is at once as Gestalt and number” (MWC.
This being the case rhythm is not a single event. but the ongoing process of the evental interruption of flow.CAESURA. being-in-the-world. As I mentioned. gives and holds back . 100). “In his authentic temporal dimension. as well as providing an early prototype for the Idea of Prose and its subsequent reformulation as potential. sinks into the past” (MWC. What matters for us at this late hour however is how he relates rhythm to poiesis for. rhythm grants men both the ecstatic dwelling in a more original dimension and the fall into the flight of measurable time” (MWC. Yet rhythm is spoken of here in the very earliest work in terms of the Greek word epoch. and as flow. an interruption in the incessant flow in instants that. Agamben translates epoch as meaning “both to hold back. 100) before attempting a somewhat “violent” retranslation of the term as rhythm. as soon it is raised up out of the structured continuum. Through the act of pro-duction via entelechy. as we saw. Yet this process of pro-duction is not entirely processual. . Even if epoch and rhythm are not actually synonymous they hold clear structural synonymity in that both speak of a moment outside of something which confers on that something its unified thing-status. he argues. falls back into said continuum. human being is able to exist in the transition from presence as origin to presence as thing in the world. third meaning for epochal rhythm in the Greek. both the cut in time and the definition of a period in time. This then explains a final. . . however. 99). Thus Agamben concludes: “rhythm holds. not on ongoing flow. namely the perpetual movement between time as origin. because it is poiesis that founds for him the original space of his world” (MWC. to present. Clearly rhythm conceived in this way is the basis for Agamben’s later construction of messianic time. and to hand over. Man has on earth a poetic status. 101). Being’s destiny and authenticity. While it certainly takes time and is composed of three stages 191 . rhythm in defining art also defines the basis of being’s temporal existence in the world. ecstasy. centring in on issues of Measure. coming from the future. Both epoch and rhythm therefore are the making of a unity through a radical act of disjunctive ecstasy which. . that is. Agamben’s main argumentative thrust here is Heideggerian. for example modernity. day-to-day vulgar time. the poetic status of man on earth finds its proper meaning. namely “to be” in the sense of to dominate or to hold on to a place. to offer” (MWC. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT describes thus: “we perceive a stop in time . The same is true of epoch in relation to the definition of a period. to suspend.
often by willed skilled acts of artistic making or artistic experience of the made thing. Rather. poetic 192 . is not however simply an erratic or intermittent. It determines how. architectonics par excellence” (MWC. “In the experience of the work of art. man stands in the truth that is. is revealing. Here is where poetic structure. As he says: “That art is architectonic means. being breaks with the continual and enters into the ecstatic. does not commence or cease but is perpetually in operation giving and holding back in a space or medial zone interior to the work of art. is pro-duction (τίκτω) of origin (άρχή). still very much in a Heideggerian strain at this early phase in his career. interruption (caesura). 102). stuttering singular dimensionality. in the origin that has revealed itself to him in the poietic act” (MWC. Rather. poiesis. between past and future his present space” (MWC. which would simply carve time up into the traditional aporia of moments along a single line. As we now know in terms of the spatiotemporality of the poem there is flow (enjambement). Poiesis is rhythmical structure. does not dispense with the continuum below. any more than the continuum permanently disallows the epoch. and man recovers. 102).the term process does not convey the complexity of its operations. Agamben names this overall combination of elements into the rhythmical structure of the work of art that also determines human being through the means by which they make a space for themselves on the earth as productive beings in and out of time. itself simply archetypal of innumerable such structures across all the arts and beyond. 101). we can now reread this in a more Agambenian fashion. So that when Agamben concludes. It dictates how human being exists in the essentiality of chronological time and space as a continuum. a process wherein “in the work of art the continuum of linear time is broken. etymologically: art. Poiesis. therefore. Said architectonics is a structure now extremely familiar to us across all that we have perused here.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN (poiesis–entelechy–praxis). rhythm is the perpetual interplay between flow and its arrest. flowarrest-flow-arrest. Yet this epochal moment. art’s architectonic basis. This interplay. art is the gift of the original space of man. In one final report from the great Aristotle. and there is the architectural organization of these two elements into a third element which is the projective-recursive spatiotemporality of structure (what Agamben terms the metrical–musical element). and perhaps this is the truly original and poetic part of Agamben’s thinking. at various points. wherein the human sees its origins.
under pro-duction also. association. This projective-recursive. defines poiesis as ongoing. negates simple processional temporality. spatiality. due to the very logic of the epoch. and suddenly surprising. and temporality–. Poetry is able to save metaphysics from itself by providing another way of thinking. in the modern epoch. Rather rhythm–. we fall.CAESURA. which is the name for this process. through poiesis. is why poetry matters to Giorgio Agamben. Poiesis as the ultimate architectonic of our being on this earth as potentially productive beings within the supportive medium of language as such. recurrence with modification (torquing). is a tabular-planar dimensional way of being always already projected towards a finitude that in turn always casts us back to an origin. in rhyme but also in numerous other elements of poetry such as referentiality. being and thinking are under negation they are also. we progress. simply put. we make. particularly the tabular-planar element of anaphoric– cataphoric projection–recursion that one finds. This. productive mode of tabular thinking is logopoiesis. projective. being. we return and in doing so. recursive. for example. and so on. the name we now give to the whole structural process of logopoietic thinking. If. 193 . We rise. patternation. THE SPACE OF THOUGHT structure.
As would the designation the “political” or “metaphysical” Agamben or even a composite of the three. literary . In my unwritten book I see that until the various strands of Agamben’s thought are presented as a whole. particularly metaphysical differential scission. Within our culture. The literary Agamben is simply a device to get the critical fraternity to take their eyes off the Homo Sacer project and its impressive extension. like so many titles. metaphysical. I must attest to being unhappy with such a designation even if it is my own. he has made it his life’s work to overcome difference through the creation of a productive philosophy of indifference. it goes against the very spirit of his work. Therefore as to the actual existence of a clearly definable “literary” Agamben. it is for this reason alone. (it would be premature and presumptuous to reduce his work to just three categorizations). The enforcement of a “literary” Agamben is not simply reductive. is as strategic as it is descriptive. as most assuredly I have. And while he concedes the omnipresence of division.RECURSION. The inaccurate entitlement of this book. . To propose a certain identity or division within Agambenian philosophy is ill-advised and. every book demands a title: The Literary Agamben: Adventures in Logopoiesis. If I have neglected the political elements of Agamben’s work. This must now stand as my written book on Agamben. self-defeating. our understanding of this most remarkable thinker is incomplete. His is a philosophy that resists identity in favour of neutral singularity. political. Yet here at least I have made a start. for entirely mysterious and conventional reasons. . THE TURN OF THINKING At the end of a great adventure the intrepid in repose often set down their encounters and observations in the form of a book. commenced with the adventure of reinstating the literary in the form of 194 .
desubjectivization due to linguistic depersonalization. that exists within our tradition. neglect to say the very thing that is most on your mind to your loved ones. This being the case the fact that poetry and philosophy suffered a powerful separation at the hands of first philosophy means that philosophy’s attempt to think the very basis of its continuing existence through an investigation of language cannot be completed until this rift is once more bridged. extrapolated out across larger. word. visas to apply for. 195 . and rhythmical structure as an alternative model for thinking. These five conditions of poeticized ontology. or the press. but also across the whole of the rhythm of poetic structure. Similarly I feel now that I never at any point clearly expressed why literature. or inexpressive medium for expression. you forget to take the one thing you need most of all. At the same time. experience. why poetry in particular is of such importance to the work of Agamben. As our departure is delayed here a few more pages due to an oversight in some paperwork. The rift may indeed be part cause of the modern philosophical collapse into negativity. Poetry produces the closest experience of language as such. proximity to language as such. the semiotic basis of depersonalizing desubjectivization is most readily presented and investigated by poetry’s emphasis on the material effects of language at the expense of rational discursive meaning. intimacy with the semiotic. Sometimes when you set out on an adventure and you have a tight deadline. That must suffice. a process of depersonalization at the hands of language. has for centuries being attributed to the poetic experience of inspiration. historical relation between poetry and philosophy. and structure that make it the essential complement to philosophy in the quest for the meaning of the existence of language as such as indifferent medium for thinking. I am fortunate enough to have the time and perspicacity to correct this. For Agamben there are five conditions of poetic language. and line. THE TURN OF THINKING a sustained analysis of poetry into the heart of Agamben’s indifferent thought. the funding committee. The predominance of semiotics in the poem is felt at the level of the syllable. providing an archetype for a mode of thinking dominated by naming that does not name anything specifically. Or in taking your leave. combine together to establish poetry’s role as one half of a mode of post-nihilistic productive thought such as I have repeatedly presented in Agamben’s work. The fundamental experience of ontology via language being that of desubjectivization. discursive structures. connections to make.RECURSION.
An analysis so profound. Nancy. museums. saw Agamben as a supporting figure in a grand narrative of the turn to poiesis in the work of Heidegger. I dropped it. I am reminded of Ozu’s great film Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice where the story of the rebellious niece is supplanted by the consideration of her actions on the relationship between her aunt and uncle. and the relation between the larynx and the syrinx. Logopoiesis. I am certain many books are like this. “The Invention of Literary Singularity. All great adventures work this way. and ultimately Agamben. As this happened the previous disorder of the chapters froze into a pattern that came to seem as almost predestined. That book. the stanza and poetic dictation specifically. Badiou. and a character who at the beginning seemed one part of a great ensemble took over the story all but negating the early narrative.1 196 . and unexpectedly normal that when the niece and her new beau reappear back on screen at the film’s end you have all but forgotten who they are. The order of the remaining chapters was endlessly changed. The actual book was lost along the way. The Agamben chapter got out of hand. However aesthetic modernity provides a strong example of anti-poiesis that has two key effects. It brings to presence the predominance of negation in all elements of metaphysics.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN It is inevitable that one will lose one’s way and in losing it find one’s true way. Derrida. His recourse to literary examples in this regard. The ancient antagonism established between poetry and philosophy is first revealed and then in part resolved by the rehabilitation of the category of poiesis.” now forever unwritten. dictation in poetry. The initial interest I had in Agamben’s ideas on linguistic materiality faded from view until finally I understood what it was I was writing about: thinking as such through poetry. is not illustrative but a fundamental part of his thinking. In my case the usual: chapters which were central were removed entirely. Language as such as neutral medium and support for thought and being allows Agamben to rethink the very thing of thought and move beyond productive metaphysical negation. I admit that. Mine has been no different. The history of modern metaphysical nihilism is matched by the history of aesthetic modernity dissuading us from looking for solutions in poiesis alone. real. suprasensuous and sensuous. as well as revealing a potential way out of this great abyss through the alternative modes of poietic thinking. This is not the book I set out to write. thousands of words on the category life.
as common as marriage when seen through the thinking lens of Ozu. There are certain elements of Being and Time as a work of written thinking that tell us a good deal about thinking as such. syllogistic. The book essentially remains unfinished as the “third division” was never written and the second division was not all it could have been as Heidegger was forced to add it in haste. That Heidegger then turns away entirely from the categories of this book in the later work on poetry. However a powerful example of the presentation of thinking before thought exists in Heidegger’s unfinished work Being and Time. The structure of this thinking. Being and Time therefore. THE TURN OF THINKING Bringing together thought and poetry I was able to propose the tautological compound logopoiesis. The tensile rhythmic interchange between enjambement and caesura provides the medium for logopoiesis. it has been observed that the second division takes up the issues of the first and in reconsidering them undermines them so that the powerful forward thrust of Heidegger’s propositional. Indeed. Such a situation is. Mostly writers recount their thoughts but not their thinking. culminating. a turn or kehre he denies and 197 . People have called it thinking. summarizing. and teleological thought is weakened as it progresses to its conclusions. I suspect. like the dark and yellowing illumination of the sky above you as you set out. is a combination of the premature cessation of the flow of meaning through the imposition of a semiotic beak and the interruption of semiotic flow by the interjection of the space of thought. narrativizing. This conclusion voyages far from my original intention. is a powerful lesson in self-deconstruction in part obviating many of the critical studies of the work to come. deductive. We have arrived at the quintessence of the logopoietic thought process.RECURSION. threatening a storm that in the midst of such a swashbuckling tale might indeed be welcomed even if it poses real danger. but as a mode of thought it is meaningless without the combination of these elements into a trans-linear anaphoric–cataphoric tabular-planar projective–recursive structure which Agamben names rhythm as such. aside from its myriad other merits. This is not simply thinking through the appropriation of the arts but the very structure of poiesis as an alternate and complimentary mode of thinking to that of the metaphysical tradition. Rhythm is the very ground upon which all future work on logopoiesis must be based. revealed by Agamben to be that of poetry as such. Heidegger of course casts an ambiguous shadow over the work of Agamben.
feeling. . Add into this Heidegger’s claim that language “is never primarily the expression of thinking. and in that way simultaneously turns counter to the truth of its coming to presence. As the translator’s footnote informs the English edition of Heidegger’s text. . . and willing. with this turning. “the primal dimension within which man’s essence is first able to correspond at all to Being . or stay. He then adds: “As the danger. the truth of the coming to presence of Being will expressly turn in—turn homeward—into whatever is” (QCT. means both to turn in and to put up at an inn.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN yet which is all too apparent. Being turns about into the oblivion of its coming to presence. In the text Hölderlin’s Hymn “The Ister” Heidegger establishes an ontological rhythm of cruciform retrogradation that we found was central to Agamben’s theory of the relation of poetic rhythm to thinking as such. he defines this coming to presence of being as enframing as danger. therefore. . Speaking of the contemporary destiny of being in terms of instrumental.2 A similarity further confirmed when Heidegger adds: “In the coming to presence of the danger there conceals itself . A turn from dispute into stasis and stillness. This primal corresponding . to alight. suggests that turning away from and towards was. einkehren.” but. one can recognize here the basis of Agamben’s methodology. but the process of the turning from the negative to the positive by virtue of the negative. 41). an interiorization of thinking. 41).” Although Heideggerian negativity is the destinal ontology Agamben wants expressly to turn away from. The influence is neither negative nor positive. the verb used here to express the activity of the “turn in” of thought. particularly his study of the hymn “The Ister” and the periplus logic of the river developed there. ever his method of thought and that the second division is not a failure but a triumph of recursive thought. . turns away from this coming to presence. the possibility of a turning in which the oblivion belonging to the coming to presence of Being will so turn itself that. . 198 . As the river departs from the source one can describe is as both homely and unhomely. In the 1949 essay “The Turning” Heidegger comes to define thinking precisely in terms of recursion. Thus the act of turning is not simply turning back or away from the present but a turning in. and framing technology. is thinking” (QCT. As they rightfully go on to explain this is of no small importance to Heidegger’s work on Hölderlin. It recalls always the source. and we can see the profound influence Heideggerian thinking has had on Agambenian thinking. objectivizing.
This rhythm is the essence of thought as a form of turning embedded in my choice of the tautological term logopoiesis to express this mode of poetic thinking. From poetry. In contrast Heidegger’s reading of “The Ister” concentrates on the meaning of the river as expressed by the semantic base of Hölderlin’s great hymn. While finally expression of the river as both flowing out into the uncanny and always being called back to the familiar source combines all these elements into an internalized poetic structural rhythmic periplus: Agambenian rhythm. through philosophy to language. Thus the poem remains. This is an essential development in logopoietic thought from its origins in the later. but only in departing from it. which is also essential to Agamben’s theory of messianic time. Indeed much of Agamben’s work on poetry is prefigured in this text. the river drains into the ocean whose amorphous nature recalls the installation into shape of the source. archetypal. It exemplifies thought but it is not thought as such in my opinion. great work of the last philosopher. rhythm. the reason why so many great cities are on the banks of rivers. First because of Agamben’s powerful critique of Heideggerian Being as based on mute negation. and specifically singular in relation to thought. Similarly as the river journeys it also provides the essential natural elements for settlement. illustrative. This is not the case. Agamben’s main concern is the definition of human being in terms of desubjectivization brought about by the profound depersonalization of the human being in the face of language as neutral medial support for thinking 199 . And second because Agamben is able to draw out the turn of thinking in poetics through detailed analysis of prosody as such. In attaching the river to the ancient sea-bound periplus. The manner in which the river flows and yet is also arrested by locality echoes the stop–start interplay of caesura and enjambement in Agamben. Heidegger brings another interiorization into poetic ontology and thinking. Thinking as rhythmical turning by virtue of poetry is my first thesis in relation to logopoiesis. The ocean works very well as the endless falling into silence of poetic finitude. My contention here is not that Heidegger had already said what Agamben goes on to say. to a degree. The river therefore is both a locality or founding of a place and an endless journeying. allegorical.RECURSION. THE TURN OF THINKING the homely. In contrast Agamben demonstrates that the very definition of poetry in terms of semiotic rhythm is the quintessence of turning as a form of thinking in the form of the verse.
by flowing and interrupting said flow. exhaustive. This is not our concern. but also thought about other categories that I have yet to address such as objectivity. In such a model. my own sensibly founded modesty forbids me from venturing any further than a total reappraisal of all the arts in terms of their being a form of thought. I have understood it as the following: a modality of thinking through making and all that this entails.3 it already prefigures its development and cessation. and eventually conclusive mode of progression through logical cumulative analysis. and full development of what literature is through its definition as a means of thinking through intimate experience with the semiotic materiality of language as such. On one side is a sepia image of the Rome of his childhood. The first instalment of which is a consonance between the very structure of poetry and that of thinking. our aims are more modest. teleological. Later. and the sensuous. desolated by modernity and yet still eternally wonderful. I can now understand why you coin the term logopoiesis to indicate this complex compound of ideas although initially I was unconvinced. rummaging through my capacious pockets for some gizmo for gouging stones out of the hooves of horses. What I summarize as thinking through making.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN as such. is a way-station along the obscured tracks of a greater mission. Written on the back in Italian is the following enigma that I have translated the best I can: As to your delightful tale of logopoiesis. temporality. Thus if Agamben wishes to access the linguistic basis for all being. prosaic. I find a postcard from Giorgio. Such a thought is definable by precisely the same structure as that of the poem for which read all works of art. Certainly thought about being in terms of the subject. As it progresses it does so by always simultaneously going on and looking back. If for Agamben poetic thinking. That is: a self-consciously self-indicative anaphoric-cataphoric tabularplanar field or linguistic medium for thinking that is a projective recursion. progressive. as the poemthought commences due to the presence of semiotic conventional rule-based constraint (I enjoyed very much your article on this by the way). Logopoiesis names the rehabilitation. deductive. logopoiesis. logopoiesis is the tautological turn of thought. by submitting thought to 200 . as far as I can tell. objectal-instrumental. redefinition. Rather than a syllogistic.
Quite so. never comes to an end. Finally. You are not quite there yet but you are certainly moving towards very provocative territory. trans-linear space. to come into existence. mono-dimensional space but also architectonic. poetic thought turns. inside and outside. part and whole. space and time. Some ideas seem out of place. THE TURN OF THINKING a constraining linearity and exploding linearity through a translinear tabular-planar rhythmic structure. it is the turn of verse. The last philosopher has spoken his final words. indeed all the arts. Not everything is as it should be. The linear extension of the semiotic and its interruption are both temporal. A poetic thinking shares this structure. subject and object. That said the poem never comes to an end because the cataphoric-recursive element always folds the poem back on itself. As in thought so in art. as indeed must all logopoietic thinking. it must at the same time be turning back on itself and away from summation. By the same gesture as it seems to move towards its conclusions. For now at least. a moment wherein categories such as beginning and end. Rather than defining a problem and then seeking to solve it conclusively. it is always already within the problem. Such a thought exists both in space and time you suggested at one point. thought and language. This rhythmical space is also the rhythmical temporality of thought. In being dispossessed of the very thing which takes hold of us we turn from thinking about being to the turn of being as thinking. It must end. but not for all time. language. and perpetually ends (did I get this right?). we are held by that which possesses us. but which we cannot take hold of. our habitual place. Philosophy has now passed. Finally then in the tensile interchange between having to end and being unable to end you have the perpetually adventurous finitude of poetic thought as such. philosophy and poetry. in on itself.RECURSION. put on hold. Yet the grammatological space required to actuate the caesura in the line reveals the dependence of linearity on not merely interruptive. I will need time to think more about it. As ever. as the poem ends it both comes to an end. structural. are suspended in every sense of this word. Very interesting. In the same manner the poem never commences. let’s say the problem of being. Beware the sloughs of negative despond by the 201 . If traditional thought advances. verse. It is for this reason that we call poetry. Just as human life can only come to life by ending the category of life and the tension therein.
You will find his conversation and company very stimulating even if at first he seems obscure. There. There are always benefits to be accrued from looking back along the way you have come.THE LITERARY AGAMBEN way. By the way. Giorgio 202 . He is a close associate of mine although we do not always see eye to eye. Remember to take the right turn there. Hope we meet again some time in the future but I believe we may not as my destiny is beyond those cliffs which are treacherous. Good luck with your next guide. I have finished what I have to say. ignore the example of Orpheus. It’s your turn now. upon an empty plateau about which they say great danger finds its dwelling.
trans. ‘The Political Life in Giorgio Agamben. “The Ripe Fruit of Redemption. NC: Duke University Press. Dominick LaCapra. Rainer Maria Kiesow. “Law and Life. henceforth cited as SAQ. see Erik Vogt. 135. henceforth cited as SL. 2003). Georgia Albert (Stanford: Stanford University Press. Arianna Bove. Agamben’s first published work begins with a consideration of the uncanny as the ability of literature to produce desubjectivization. 1–7. 11. 112–13. The Man Without Content. Benjamin Noys. See Giorgio Agamben. 1 (2008). 1999). 44. Antonio Negri. Henceforth cited as MWC. Negri reiterates this critique in Antonio Negri. “The Enigma of Giorgio 203 . and Time for Revolution. “Cutting the Branches for Akiba. henceforth cited as PMD. 92.generation-online. 70. “Witnessing the Inhuman: Agamben or Merleau-Ponty.” trans. ed. and Ernesto Laclau.org/t/ negriagamben. and Eleanor Kaufman. Nicholas Heron. and Robert Buch. Matthew Calarco and Steven DeCaroli (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 117–18.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 107. ed. no. ‘Bare Life or Social Indeterminacy?’ SL. 2005). 57. 2 (2007). Catherine Mills. Siting Agamben. “Giorgio Agamben: The Discreet Taste of the Dialectic. Jean-Philipe Deranty. “Time of Death.” SAQ. No study of the uncanny is complete without reference to Nicholas Royle’s magisterial and unsettling The Uncanny: An Introduction (Manchester: Manchester University Press. The first critical concession of the three Agambens can be found in Justin Clemens. 2007). 38.html. “Approaching Limit Events. no. “Whatever Politics. “Seeing the Impossibility of Seeing or the Visibility of the Undead: Giorgio Agamben’s Gorgon.” in Sovereignty & Life. Andrew Norris (Durham. “Playing with Law: Agamben and Derrida on Postjuridical Justice. 175.” Angelaki 7. Colin McQuillan. 254.” SL. 190. 2 (2002). Agamben’s Critique of Derrida.’ Kritikos 2 (2005). “The Saturday of Messianic Time.” SL. no. “S/Citing the Camp. Negri’s provocation has been picked up by Jenny Edkins. SAQ. www. See Adam Thurschwell. trans.NOTES EXOTERIC DOSSIER: THE LITERARY AGAMBEN 1 2 3 4 5 6 For various criticisms of Agamben’s supposedly dual methodology.” PMD. 27. unpaginated.” SAQ. 173.” PMD. Metaphysics and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. Kaufman.” The Germanic Review 82. Matteo Mandarini (New York: Continuum. and Alex Murray.” in Politics. 2003).
and again in LD. The importance of the literary has finally been conceded by some critics. Giorgio Agamben. 3. Henceforth cited as WWB. Justin Clemens.” William Watkin’s Blog. http://williamwatkin. The End of the Poem. “Introduction: The Interim. The Open: Man and Animal. and ontology. 90. See for example Justin Clemens. the question behind the “political” texts comprising the Homo Sacer project in terms of the relation of the human to the animal. 119. Giorgio Agamben. Henceforth cited as EP. 163–79. Henceforth cited as IH. Liz Heron (London: Verso. 1998). See Catherine Mills. Mills defines as a crucial element of Agamben’s thought the faculty of having or capacity to do something. See Giorgio Agamben. For a consideration of the status of the unwritten in Agamben see Andrew Dillon. For more on the role of animal voice to poetry see William Watkin. 10. Nicholas Heron. trans. Henceforth cited as QCT. 62–75. 2000).” in QCT. trans. 2008). 2008). 29–30. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. “The Role of the Shifter and the Problem of Reference in Giorgio Agamben. 84–5. Henceforth cited as MWE. Henceforth cited as LD. 6. bare life. 1991). 2 (2002). 140. 59. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life.” Paragraph 25. 1993).NOTES Agamben. 33–8. Means Without Ends.” SL. 1999). the inhuman. Henceforth cited as Para. biological life. 107. “Introduction. Henceforth cited as HS. Henceforth cited as O. This is. & 187–8. 3. 3–52. IH. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press.” in The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. 1977). trans. blogspot. PROJECTION: THERE IS LANGUAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Giorgio Agamben. 109.” and “The Turning. See “The Question Concerning Technology. 43. See for example Giorgio Agamben.com/. trans. “Article: Syrinx / Larynx: A Full-Throated Ease. Life. 1–11. For more see Matthew Calarco. Karen E. 204 . Henceforth cited as PA. Language and Death: The Place of Negativity. trans. see William Lovitt. Henceforth cited as WGA. Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. The Question Concerning Technology. “Jamming the Anthropological Machine. Literature.” WGA. social life. Lovitt’s introduction is also useful. For example. The Philosophy of Agamben (Stocksfield: Acumen Press. This is the function of the “anthropological machine” that Agamben describes in The Open. trans.” in the collection Martin Heidegger. ed. and Alex Murray. essentially. xxviii–xxxvi. Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience. Daniel HellerRoazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press. no. Pinkus with Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Kevin Attell (Stanford: Stanford University Press. See Giorgio Agamben. It also forms the basis of a whole chapter in The End of the Poem. William Lovitt (London: Harper Perennial. later in the main body of the book. trans. 2004).
messianic conception of post-humanism: O. trans. Theory & Critique 45. It is widely assumed that Heidegger’s interest in Dasein wanes as. 1995).” Culture. “As If the Time Were Now: Deconstructing Agamben. 187–210. and The Open (O. “Linguistic Survival and Ethicality: Biopolitics. On the Way to Language. Key moments come in the following texts Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture. Thought.” in Derrida. especially in the later texts on poetry. trans. David E. Potentialities. Affect and the Politics of Style. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper & Row. See also Lee Spinks. 39–77). 86–7. Idea of Prose.” P. trans. 1 (2001). Ronald L. HS. PMD. 110–14. 2002). For largely negative comments on Agamben’s critique of Derrida see Thurschwell. Martinez (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Agamben’s critique of Heidegger spans the volumes Language and Death (LD. but it is certainly true that analysis of the world gives way to considerations of earth in later texts such as “The Origin of the Work of Art. 61–2. Johnson. 2009). 90–2. “Beyond Spectacle and the Image: the Poetics of Guy Debord and Agamben. Daniel Heller-Roazen (New York: Zone Books. For a consideration of this argument see Thomas Docherty. RA. 87–135. and The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans. and is inevitably itself criticized by others. For more on this topic see Catherine Mills. “Potential European Democracy.” Textual Practice 15. 173–97.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 106. Michael Sullivan and Sam Whitsitt (Albany: SUNY Press. 34–53. 2 (2007). 12. 44–5. trans. 205 . Lévinas and Agamben. The ontico-ontological difference refers to the division in Being and Time between Dasein or everyday being in the world and Being as such which he sees as epochally in withdrawal in the modern age. His most veiled but sustained critique is to be found in the essay “Pardes: The Writing of Potentiality. Henceforth cited as RA. and Sean Gaston. 155–6. 53–7. PA. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press. Patricia Dailey (Stanford: Stanford University Press. The conclusion to The Open sets out a more positive. 103–4. Heidegger disputes this easy division. 54–64). Peter D. henceforth cited as TTR. and Testimony in Remnants of Auschwitz. 164–9. 1 (2004). “After Humanism: Agamben and Heidegger.” SAQ. Language. no. 200–2 and again Mills in PA. for example Krzysztof Ziarek.” in Martin Heidegger. 15–88. henceforth cited as OWL. see for example Martin Heidegger. no. 1993). 1971). Henceforth cited as PLT. his commitment to Being as such waxes. “Thinking the Post-human: Literature. 102–4. Poetry. 44–6. see Alex Murray. 23–46. 266–90. and Colin Davis. henceforth cited as IP. 1999). post-kehre. 2005).” Para. henceforth cited as P.” in PMD. trans. trans. “Absence as Pure Possibility. no. 129–30. 1971).NOTES 13 14 15 16 Also Giorgio Agamben. 205–19. “Can the Dead Speak to Us? De Man. henceforth cited as ST. Mills. For a useful analysis of the relation of Agamben’s thought to that of Debord’s concept of the spectacle. trans. Hertz (San Francisco: Harper Collins. Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive. Literature and War: Absence and the Chance of Meeting (London: Continuum. His critique of Derrida is more sporadic yet insistent. Subjectivation.” WGA.
atactic. 3 (2008). John Milton. 137 & 159–62. ” (P. 206 . com/36/watkin-duplessis. 1989). Henceforth cited as RP. James Ellroy.” SAQ 121–44. see John Lyons. See M. 7–26. 114–23. ed. Agamben later speculates on various grammatological punctuation marks in relation to his theory of nonrelational harmonic articulation that is neither “hypotactic nor paratactic but. the colon. http://jacketmagazine. Nihilism: The Uncanniest of Guests (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. For an analysis of deixis. “Except for Law: Raymond Chandler. “‘Draft 33: Deixis’ / Notes on ‘Deixis’: a Midrashic Chain an exchange of thoughts. and “Geschlecht I: Sexual Difference. .1 (2006). II. and ellipsis dots in the title of the Deleuze essay “Immanence: A Life . 2004).shtml. 152–8. Ontological Difference. Philosophy. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. M. 2008). Three essays which are not germane to my argument here in that they attempt to apply the ideas of Homo Sacer to literary analysis but still worth considering are Lee Spinks. and William Watkin. is implied but never fully developed in Agamben’s work.” in relation to the hyphen. Vol. See Shane Weller. Henceforth cited as LPN. Paradise Lost (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Jacques Derrida. This is Agamben’s specific criticism of Derrida in Stanzas. 181–92. 1987). 1977). and Rachel Blau DuPlessis. 50. no. See for example HS. Bakhtin. See also Wall’s ground-breaking analysis Radical Passivity: Lévinas. 221–3). For a full consideration of all these issues see William Watkin. Caton. Agamben. 2008). The relationship between the banning of poets from the republic and the figure if the homo sacer as desubjectivization under the ban of the sovereign. 4. Silliman and Agamben. Weller is somewhat scathing of this narrative of overcoming nihilism which he says typifies our tradition in relation to nihilism since Nietzsche. 129–30. Semantics Vol. Shklovsky. Blanchot and Agamben (New York: SUNY. Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press. “Dismantling Theatricality: Aesthetics of Bare Life. 636–7. “Coetzee.” WGA. no. Steven C. and the Passion of Abu Ghraib. “The Materialization of Prose: Poiesis versus Dianoia in the work of Godzich & Kittay. Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (Chicago: Chicago University Press. trans. See ST. 271–3. 1999).” Jacket 36 (2008). 344–64. The Emergence of Prose: An Essay in Prosaics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.” in Jacques Derrida. so to speak. Henceforth cited as MofP.” American Anthropologist 108.NOTES 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 See Derrida’s two remarkable assaults on Heideggerian difference. and the Politics of Exception. Psyche: Inventions of the Other.” Paragraph 31. . 1981). For a remarkable history of this process see Wlad Godzich and Jeffrey Kittay. The Dialogic Imagination (Austin: University of Texas Press. and Barbara Formis. Literature.
1982). Eduardo Cadava. This admits into sovereign domination a double weakness. Mary Elizabeth Meek (Coral Gables: University of Miami Press. In Agambenian terms much cultural imperialism is based on the false division between xenoglossia (bios) and glossolalia (zoe). and Peggy Kamuf (New York: Columbia University Press. and the subsequent denuding of xenoglossia under the sign of glossolalia. See O. trans. 198–226. Xenoglossia implies both a culture as developed as one’s own and a lack of facility within the dominant culture: I know they are making sense but I do not have the capability to understand it. The Coming Community. The importance of passivity and neutrality for Agamben’s post-metaphysical ontology has been noted by a number of critics. trans. 32–5. See Jacques Derrida. See Michel De Certeau. but the first serious study of the issue was Thomas Wall’s Radical Passivity.” PMD. In contrast glossolalia suggests a reductive animalism and a position of epistemological dominance based on an ontological certitude: they speak like animals and I can designate the significance of this as their being “as animals” confirming my status as civilized and thus human. The English translation incorrectly names John Woodhouse as Keats’ addressee. Henceforth cited as CC. “Vocal Utopias: Glossolalias. Second Edition. The Letters of John Keats. Henceforth cited as M. Norman Madarasz (Albany: SUNY. 92–4. See for example Wall. self-conscious being. 1989). Henceforth cited as IPP. “Au Hasard.” in Margins of Philosophy. 1971). and my own analysis of these issues in relation to poetry in William Watkin. Alan Bass (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf. Henceforth cited as MP. as glossolalic. 2001). See also RA. See Alain Badiou.NOTES 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 For the relation of anaphora to deixis in Agamben see Giorgio Agamben. 63–70 where Agamben considers Heidegger’s ideas pertaining to animal captivated being as fundamentally at odds with human privative. I am thinking most specifically of the arguments put forward in Jacques Derrida. 227. What barbarians utter is mere noise. trans. 28–32.” Representations 56 (1996). trans. Problems in General Linguistics. For more on this see William Watkin. PA: Bucknell University Press. On Mourning: Theories of Loss in Modern Literature (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. In the Process of Poetry: The New York School and the Avant-Garde (Lewisburg. See Emile Benveniste. Cecile Lindsay. Memoires for Paul de Man. 1993). 137–8. trans. Jonathan Culler. 2004). 1999). 217–30 & 35–40 respectively. 53. in other words. 29–47. therefore they are alive without being human. John Keats. Maurice Buxton Forman (Oxford: Oxford University Press. is surely the basis of much cultural chauvinism and imperialism through the ages. “Signature Event Context. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. a meaningless noise. Manifesto for Philosophy. The wilful treatment of xenoglossic alterity. ed. 307–30. 207 . 1935). a language equal to our own in every way except the specificity of its material signification.
“Spacing as Shared: Heraclitus. Henceforth cited as SE. 131–2. “Soulblind. Henceforth cited as R. “Particularity and Exceptions: On Jews and Animals. For further readings of the razo in Romantic and contemporary poetics see William Watkin. “Philosophy of the letter” is the term used here for philosophers who use language merely as a transparent instrument without any regard for its presence as semiotic materiality or its mediality. Profanations. State of Exception. 5–8. Jeff Fort (New York: Zone Books. Debating the origin of the inter-relation between the ancient legal terms auctoritas and potestas. See Zaraloudis. CHAPTER 1 LOGOS. In fact Plato does not simply “exclude poets” in a single gesture but whittles away at the representational and mimetic bases of the arts within 208 .” also my preference. 211. trans. What Agamben defines as the pseudonymical nature of written selfenunciation. trans.” Para. Giorgio Agamben. PMD. 167. Thurschwell. “‘A Different Insignificance’: The Poet and Witness in Agamben. For an interesting consideration of love in Agamben see Julian Wolfreys. 36–51. Republic. PMD. 203. Selected Poems (London: Penguin.” Para. 149–63. 144. the Other in Love. Henceforth cited as Prof. 188. and Robert Eaglestone. “Agamben’s Potential. RA. concluding: “Every creation is always a cocreation. De La Durantaye goes so far as to claim they are the same. 85. PMD. 186. PMD. Henceforth cited as AP. Josh Cohen. “Face to Face with Agamben. Badiou’s manifesto for “affirmative thinking” is mapped out in MP. here Heller-Roazen opts for “mean. See Mills. 13. Vogt. and Mills.” PMD.” in WGA. Mills.” WWB. For criticism of Agamben in relation to otherness see Andrew Benjamin. For a consideration of this term and its relation to the semiotic in Agamben. 2008).” WGA. 141–2. 76.” SAQ. 86. Plato. Agamben approaches the issue of the collusive nature of creation from a different angle. no. see Leland De La Durantaye. or. 66. “On Giorgio Agamben’s Holocaust. trans. 113–38. PA.NOTES 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 Robert Browning. 2 (2000). Pertinent to a later debate on the actual translation of the key term medio. Andrew Benjamin. 2005). Robin Winterfield (Oxford: Oxford World Classics.” Giorgio Agamben. 344.” Diacritics 30. Kevin Attell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. “Article: Poetic Dictation. 2004). Pindar. a consonance I would be hesitant to endorse. just as every author is always a coauthor. 90–1. AP. 2007). 64. For a consideration of the relation of life to poetry see WWB. Agamben. THINKING THOUGHT 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 See earlier comments on Foucault and desubjectivization in RA.
I do not have space to develop here. 117). and metaphysics come together.” CC. In a rare but central moment for Agamben scholarship.” CC. Jean-François Lyotard. 123. For more on pure.” SL.” WGA. 41 and again does not provide the citation.” WGA. see R. See Bruno Gulli. 60–1. Benjamin’s idea of a pure language finds an analogue in his conception of pure violence. which in turn defines the concept of the pure medium of mediality in SE. Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press.NOTES 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 Greek culture. Add into this Agamben’s definition of living in the category form-of-life as thinking as such (MWE.” (SE. “The Ontology and Politics of Exception: Reflections on the Work of Giorgio Agamben. 241–2. 107. 88). P. “Idea of Poetry. would correspond an action as pure means.” P. poetry. but says only itself. 131. Peter Osborne (London: Taylor and Francis. revealing a parity between the political and literary Agamben that. and the three main strands of Agamben’s work. The Aristotelian saying something about something. post-juridical politics in final page of State of Exception: “To a word that does not bind . 105. 169–231.” in IP. where this argument is developed. See MofP. The political implications of this occupy Means Without Ends (MWE. 70–102. See also Wall’s analysis RP. 84–8. 2004). and “Homonym.” IP. Alexander García Düttmann. “Article: Ontological Whisperings. primarily in an attempt to reject tragedy from the republic. this definition of the Idea of Prose comes together with Agamben’s liberationist. “Notes on Media and Biopolitics: ‘Notes on Gesture’. . “Integral Actuality. ed. 97–107. “On the Messianic Structures of Walter Benjamin’s Last Reflections. For a sustained reading of this essay see Deborah Levitt. 11–12). politics. This relentless degradation and attenuation of poiesis occurs in the fourth book of Republic. For more on Agamben’s consideration of the logical aporia that “Discourse cannot say what is named by the name. “Pseudonym. see RA. See also Düttmann.” WWB. 107. 4–6. see Nicholas Heron. 193–211. For a consideration of knowability and sayability in relation to desubjectivization. see also “The Idea of the Name.” WGA. “Politics and Poetics of Divine Violence: On a Figure in Giorgio Agamben and Walter Benjamin. 1994). 1–28. Henceforth cited as LAS. trans. 11–13. without any relation to an end. For a consideration of pseudonym and homonym in literature see William Watkin. . 59–62. He also mentions this fragment in IP. Idea of Prose. For an insightful consideration of the origins of the Idea of Prose in the work of Benjamin.” in Walter Benjamin: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory. unfortunately. 71–8. Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime. IP. divine violence see Anne De Boever. 209 . which shows itself. An excellent consideration of the messianic and the term integral actuality can be found in Irving Wohlfarth.
26–43. CHAPTER 2 POIESIS. as well as his description of the threshing floor of the ineffable as “a light. MWE. he notes: “But here it is as if this anaphora were absolutized to the point of losing all reference. or On Profanation. I have decided not to italicize the term and so in effect neologise the very term for the formation of neologisms. while a Greek word. now turning.NOTES 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 In Means Without Ends Agamben defines “form of life” as the ontic prefigurement of the specific life you will lead in a self-consciously critical manner. The final word however rests with Agamben and the relation of this. 83. liberating future destiny. the ultimate statement of potentiality. 177–271. 248–1 & 309–10.” in WGA. . 2006). Potentiality and Law: Deleuze and Agamben on ‘Bartleby’. so to speak. See Martin Heidegger. 231. 110. back toward the phrase itself— absolute anaphora. is thought.” Angelaki 10. 1996). 223. “Soulblind. 2002). to anaphora. P. 134–8. 35–8. Bartleby: La Formula della creazione (Macerata: Quodlibet. 9. and Giorgio Agamben. 375–85. This being the case. 76. Henceforth cited as BT. “Resistance. 2008). 27–32. and because I am arguing for poiesis as a contemporary term covering issues around making as pro-duction into presence. trans. has also entered into English via the OED which defines it as creative production as well as being a technical term in psychology for the formation of neologisms. HS. no. 85. 3 (2005). See also P. 140–44. For further deliberations on this conception of Genius. It is indeed the origin of the political and its potential. THINKING THROUGH MAKING 1 Poiesis. Conceding the “to” refers to some act that preceded to which Bartleby refers. 210 . Idea della prosa (Macerata: Quodlibet. Joan Stambaugh (Albany: SUNY Press. see Thanos Zartaloudis. Being and Time. spinning on itself . 116–8. 21. See Gulli. 112). See O. MWE. and Slavoj Zizek.” (P. Henceforth cited as N. He speaks of potentiality in most of his major texts with major statements in CC. 1993). SL. Giorgio Agamben. “A Sense of Loss: Whatever it May Be. which he calls formof-life. See Giorgio Agamben and Gilles Deleuze. 79. . The archetypal activity of authentic being. Ninfe (Torino: Bollati Boringhieri. See Edkins SL. 255). and Marc Froment-Meurice. smooth glowing in which no point can be distinguished from any other” (P. See also his comments on the Hegelian grund or ground in this regard in P. Alexander Cooke.” Para. 72–3. Thought is not just another form of life but form-of-life as such: MWE. The gag comes to relate to later considerations of the use of the mask in drama which Agamben also defines as a gesture. The Parallax View (Cambridge MA: The MIT Press. 45–7 & TTR.
Actuality = recursive eschaton. 57. 557. trans. 172–3. trans. 62–3. Handbook of Inaesthetics. and entelechy = chairatic interiorization. 165–86. Alberto Toscano (Stanford: Stanford University Press.” Thus Colebrook’s critique of Agamben’s theory of poiesis as both masculinist and theological is incorrect. Modern art would. 1991). “Agamben: Aesthetics. encompass Romanticism and contemporary “postmodernity. . Synposium. the hardest thing is being capable of annihilating this Nothing and letting something. 44. 1997).php?articleID=216. PRODUCTIVE ANTI-POIESIS 1 2 A solid overview of Agamben’s anti-modernity can be found in William Rasch. and Alain Badiou. The Man Without Qualities. Edith Hamilton and Huntingdon Cairns (Princeton: Princeton University Press. See Derek H. Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike (London: Picador. where Agamben makes clear that his messianic temporality and overall method is not eschatological. “Poiesis and Art-Making: A Way of Letting-Be. Whitehead. from Nothing. The key term here is “letting.” SAQ. One and Two. 205b.NOTES 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Plato. trans. Nietzsche. Vols. Richard Beardsworth and George Collins (Stanford: Stanford University Press. and Life. refuting a criticism often 211 . trans. ed.” SL. See Claire Colebrook. The Collected Dialogues. trans. As Agamben says most clearly in relation to the theological tradition of creation ex nihilo out of the void of the abyss: “the hardest thing in this experience is not the Nothing or its darkness . CHAPTER 3 MODERNITY. See PLT. accessed 17 September 2008. 1998). especially the phenomenological thick description of jug-ness as thing. Henceforth cited as HI. 253).contempaesthetics. I consistently use the term modern here in the manner in which Agamben takes the term. Girly Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 9. 2005).” as opposed to praxis or a willed doing. 2006). 19–20. See the essay “The Thing” in PLT. in Plato. We will find exactly the same structural model in terms of messianic temporality later on so that Potentiality = projective chronos. 110 & 115. Cited in Bernard Stiegler. Potentiality. Technics and Time: The Fault of Epimetheus. 95. David Farrell Krell (New York: Harper One.” www. Ostensibly the modern epoch commences in the eighteenth century with the rise of Enlightenment rationalism and continues up to our present moment. . therefore. be” (P. 105–6. Charles Bernstein. “From Sovereign Ban to Banning Sovereignty. Heidegger famously and importantly differentiates an object which can be the party to subjective statements of knowledge and truth agreement from a thing which composes a phenomenological world around is being. 1961). Robert Musil. See TTR. This is the basis of the thesis of Martin Heidegger. Michael Joyce. and indeed many others.org/newvolume/pages/article.
” PMD. of Voice: Bataille.E. PMD. Transmissibility is one of Agamben’s earliest. In Potentialities cultural traditional transmissibility is founded first on linguistic transmissibility (communicability). Charles Baudelaire. 40). 4 (2006). While both are important. no. Henceforth cited as EHP.NOTES 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 and misguidedly levelled at his work. trans. 19–20. “Linguistic Survival and Ethicality. P. 139 & 156. 64. See Wall. Alberto Toscano (Cambridge: Polity Press. While in The Time That Remains it is asserted as the defining feature of tradition: “That which makes each history historical and each tradition transmissible is the unforgettable nucleus that both bear within themselves at their core” (TTR. And Martin Heidegger. “The Sovereign Weaver: Beyond the Camp. 1972). Paul Hegarty. P. 120–4. Mills.” PMD. See Marin Heidegger. David Fraser. Badiou defines the century as defined by the violence of The Real in Alain Badiou. 97–100). “The Nazi Genocide and the Writing of the Holocaust Aporia: Ethics and Remnants of Auschwitz. most troublesome categories. 110–12. trans.’ trans. “Supposing the Impossibility of Silence of Sound.” PMD. 2007). tautological indication of the anaphoric act of indication as such. they pertain more directly to the work around the Homo Sacer project which I have chosen not to dwell on in this study. saying something as something. 397–417. This I believe is Negri’s final criticism of Agamben in SL. For considerations of Agamben’s use of Levi. 74–106. “The Painter of Modern Life. 36–51. centrally important and. no. 104. 4 (1999). Agamben and the Holocaust. 198–221.” International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 12. Charvet (Cambridge: Cambridge UP. Such a process negates the age-old consideration of language as primarily metaphoric-symbolic. “Dead Man Walking: Law and Ethics After Giorgio Agamben’s Auschwitz. 31. where he takes Agamben’s commitment to productive thought and declares it effectively fatalistic and unproductive. This debate can only be fully appreciated with reference to Agamben’s earlier consideration of “as” in the ontological mainstay “as such” as a form of anaphoric. 1996). See for example Andreas Kalyvas. and Esther Norma Marion. “As such” here names the relation itself of relation between denotation (semiotics) and meaning with such-ness being the exposition of as-ness as tensile relation. see Vogt.” in Selected Writings on Art & Artists.. I turn to the critical material around the Kafka story presently. 2000).” MLN 121. 73–83. to my mind. 212 . Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry. but of saying the suchness of as itself (CC. Keith Hoeller (New York: Humanity Books. Two of the most infamous analyses of literature in Agamben are his consideration of Kafka’s “Before the Law” in Homo Sacer and his reading of the work of Primo Levi in Remnants of Auschwitz. PMD. 403. Cohen. Henceforth cited as C. 222–47. William McNeill and Julia Davis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. The Century. Hölderlin’s Hymn ‘The Ister. trans. Para. Clearly a development of the idea of sacrifice in HS. 1009–22.
” SAQ. pro-verted. “Myth Interrupted. 84–5.” trans. For considerations of the relationship between the two texts. 1991).” PMD. Peter Connor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Glossing Hegel on philosophy after its end he speculates on “a humanity that. 115–48. The Experience of Freedom. 13–27. trans. 181–220. 19–31 See Badiou. is now truly prose (that is pro-versa. 1984). 31–5). Andrew Benjamin. 18. For an excellent recent study of this classic theme. 135). Bridget McDonald (Stanford: Stanford University Press. Culture and Politics 15. See Jean-Luc Nancy. See my own consideration of this issue in IPP. 55–7 for his comments on Malevich. see Sean Gaston. no. HS. 1992). Acts of Literature. C. 98.” in WGA. 36. “Playing with Law. 1993). Derrida’s reading of the same text is to be found in Jacques Derrida. See Jürgen Habermas.” Postmetaphysical Thinking. 213 . 156. CHAPTER 4 LOGOPOIESIS. See Vogt. ed. PMD. See my own analysis of avant-garde manifestoes in IPP. trans. Up until this point the most sustained engagement with the “literary” Agamben concerns his reading of Levi in Remnants and his of Kafka’s “Before the Law” in Homo Sacer. trans. “Friendly Little Communities: Derrida’s Politics of Death. having fulfilled its past. In this second reading. “Spacing as Shared. “Law of Friendship: Derrida and Agamben. and my own consideration of these issues in William Watkin. turned forward” (P.NOTES 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 An early related analysis of the consumer object can be found in Stanzas where Agamben speaks of fetishism (ST.” Strategies: Journal of Theory. 62 (2007).” New Formations. HS 40–4. THINKING TAUTOLOGY 1 2 Ezra Pound. Peter Connor in The Inoperative Community. 89–105. see Simon Morgan Wortham. 1992). and The Decline of Modernism. 2005). See Jean-Luc Nancy. “The Unity of Reason in the Diversity of Its Voices. ABC of Reading (London: Faber. 49–62 Agamben pits his reading against Derrida’s influential interpretation.” WWB. 146. Agamben’s most recent posting into this dossier is Giorgio Agamben. 1951). see William Watkin. William Mark Hohengarten (Cambridge: Polity Press. 1982). For a detailed analysis of Agamben’s theory of the museum. 1992). Poetic Thinking: An Approach to Heidegger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. and Mills. “Article: Under Glass. For Weller’s argument in this regard see LPN. 43–70. See Peter Burger. 2 (2002). 219–37. Derek Attridge (London: Routledge. Derrida and Disinterest (London: Continuum. “K. ed. 19–34. Nicholas Walker (Cambridge: Polity Press. trans. Michael Shaw (Manchester: Manchester University Press. Theory of the Avant-Garde. See David Halliburton.
Norris.” SAQ.” Lingering. which in part refutes the criticism of Agamben’s use of “extreme examples” such as one finds in Alison Ross. 109. unfairly I believe. 1969). All English quotes taken from Giacomo Leopardi. it is no mere vacillation. CHAPTER 5 ENJAMBEMENT. as “The poem—this prolonged lingering between sound and sense” (EHP. 50–1. Heidegger and the Politics of Poetry. “Idea of Poetry. Para. thoughtless hanging around. Selected Poems (Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks. “The Role of the Shifter. 2007). trans. 108–10.11–134.NOTES 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 See Colebrook. by Froment-Meurice. Σηµειωτιχη [Semiotike]: Recherches pour une Sémanalyse (Paris: Éditions du Seuil. 114). THE TURN OF VERSE 1 2 3 Agamben’s elegant formula for poetry is borrowed from Valéry via Jacobson and attributed by Heller-Roazen to Milner (Heller-Roazen.147–8. “The Exemplary Exception. 1960). 3–4 and clarifies such issues as Norris’s exemplary examples. Signatura rerum: Sul metodo (Torino: Bollati Boringhieri. Here “Heidegger” retains the caesuric and thetic nature of Valéry’s prose by translating prolongée in terms of the more suggestive “lingering. ed. is a significant change to prolongation which suggests stretching as an act of willed extension. trans. Idea of Prose. 2008). Giacomo Leopardi. 214 . such lingering has its own lofty resoluteness. The English here. Jeff Fort (Urbana: University of Illinois Press.” is misleading in relation to the Italian. 111 & 117. SAQ.” which really means tricks me or feigns for me. 17–37. 75. “Beauty is truth. truth beauty”. Jean-Pierre Barricelli (Boston: 1986). cited in LD. 274–6. not due to indecisiveness (vacillation) but an authentic desire to listen to poetry’s call. For an introduction to some of these concepts see Heron. Jean Hytier (Paris. see Clemens. The self-same formula is also placed in a position of some prominence in Heidegger’s essay ‘Hölderlin’s Earth and Heaven’ where Heidegger’s translator has him translating the Valéry dictum defining the poem: “Le poème: cette hésitation prolongée entre le sens et le son” (Paul Valéry. Para. 2008). Lingering in comparison calls to mind an almost passive. of course. This is a criticism levelled. I first came across the idea of the tabularity of poetic structure in Julia Kristeva.”’ WGA. 637). See Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. For a summary of the arguments. “Introduction.” allowing him to conclude: “the listening to the poem. “thought conceives. “mi fingo. see the first chapter of Signatura Rerum entitled “Che cos’è un paradigma?. 176). 177. Oeuvres II. lingers even longer than the poem itself. After all. and even the thinking which prepares such listening. 85–6.” in Giorgio Agamben.” WGA. For a consideration of Agamben’s contentious use of the paradigmatic example. John Keats.” PMD.
NOTES 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 See Stephen Pinker. “The Virtual Codex from Page Space to e-space. This logic resembles in miniature the logic of the epoch and of messianic time in a quite remarkable and universal fashion. SL. PMD. 231. A useful consideration of silence can be found in Hegarty. See TTR. Celan. See Gulli. 21 This useful term for the material space of the poem usually juxtaposed to e-space or virtual textual space is most often utilized in the work on contemporary poetics in the work of Johanna Drucker. ogni immagine anticipa virtualmente il suo svolgimento futuro e ricorda i suoi gesti precedenti” (N. 83–117. the essence of poetic structure which is also the basis of our being able to claim that poetry “thinks” has been known for many centuries but had simply dropped out of common usage. 26. does not come to view as double until a third element occurs to confirm this duality.” he calls it Greetings. . no. yet in each case said reading works to develop what is effectively a quasi-universal or transcendental truth about poiesis as such. 269–80. “Poetry Machines: Repetition in the Early Poetry of Kenneth Koch. 35–6. See Jacques Derrida. 81–2). See BT.” EnterText 1. Agamben uses the example of Bill Viola’s 1995 work “The Greeting. 53–4 & 74–5. 117. SAQ.” http:// www. The Language Instinct (London: Penguin. [Every instant. See for example Johanna Drucker. 119 & 132. It is typical of all logopoietic thinkers that their analysis of poetry depends on a core of significant examples covering a canon of logopoietic poets. 203–6.” WGA. 29–69. See Johnson. caesura. 266. 215 . 2008).com/drucker/. 17–19. Thomas Gray. 222–47. enjambement. See William Watkin. 9–10). stress-unstress. . It was the poets themselves who called this “retrogradatio cruciata . 2000). and Giorgio Agamben. Mallarmé. As one can see. For his initial conception of calling see BT. IPP. while Agamben gives an example of the caesura he never provides examples of enjambement as such. 29 for the commencement of a career-long attack on aesthetics in Heidegger. “Ousia and Grammē: Note on a Note from Being and Time. and rhyme are all dependent on an idea of duality which. 1994). The essential bases of poetry. 1981). For an indication as to how this technical prosodic effect could be interpolated into Agamben’s wider political analysis see his consideration of the hinge in “K. Il sacramento del linguaggio: Archeologia del giuramento (Roma: GLF.” M. an alternation between inversion and progression” (TTR.philobiblon. however. 158–91. of which he says: “Ogni istante. Rilke. Hölderlin. 1 (Dec. therefore. every image anticipates virtually its future unwinding and recalls its preceding gestures] Interestingly. Selected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet.
For more on the gender implications of the appropriation of terms such as womb/khora. Selected Poetry (Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks. Here the hemistich in the second line breaks it into two clearly separate entities. For my own analysis see MofP. 2008). 2 (2003). See also MWE. 2007). John Ashbery. Julia Kristeva. 355–8. before and after thought (penso). OM. see Leland De La Durantaye. Alexander Pope. 89–130. Similarly. no. see Mikhail Leonovich Gasparov. Revolution in Poetic Language. 69–70. see Sean Gaston. even if this is not marked grammatologically.” Diacritics 33. see Ron Silliman. 1984). 38–59. For more on Italian versification. 1996). 84–119. 216 . WGA. CC. the trace is not synonymous with language. although for Agamben at least. ‘Khōra.NOTES 22 For by far the best and most penetrating explanation of spacing and the trace in Derrida. Henceforth cited as W. Margaret Waller (New York: Columbia University Press. of course. CHAPTER 6 CAESURA. Thomas Dutoit (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 101. see Watkin. “The Suspended Substantive: On Animals and Men in Giorgio Agamben’s The Open. While I do not have space to deal with the trace in detail it should be obvious from my comments here and earlier in the text that the trace is not reducible either to time or space.” the presence of being to the side. 7–9.106. A Wave (Manchester: Carcanet. CC. 25–30 and 239n11 (for her critique of Derrida). trans. Henceforth cited as SP. See De Boever. which he also terms the halo. 53–8. Gerald Stanton Smith and Marina Tarlinskaja (Oxford: Clarendon Press. For a brilliant attack on the omnipresence of end-directed syllogism as an unquestioned and damaging convention of poetic and prosaic structural coherence. 122–4. 90–1. ed. 43). but is the endless collapsing of the traditional metaphysical distinction between the two. 14. see Jacques Derrida. 1984). On the relation of this to the Benjaminian concept of the division of the division and the caesura. Derrida’s conception of language is problematically ensconced within the differing and deferring logic of the trace. See IPP. trans. A History of European Versification. What he names “a paraexistence or a paratranscendence that dwells beside the thing. Starting with Derrida (London: Continuum. For more on the right-hand margin in poetry. and. 200–6. 1987). 1995). THE SPACE OF THOUGHT 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 The original Italian is as follows: ‘Io vado verso il fiume su un cavallo / che quando io penso un poco un poco egli si ferma’ (IP. The New Sentence (New York: Roof Books.’ On the Name.
THE TURN OF THINKING 1 2 3 For an analysis of poiesis in relation to modernity see Colebrook. 108. 499–529. Could it be he knew of my work even before we met? It seems unlikely. 4 (2007). see LPN.NOTES RECURSION. SAQ. Weller is in agreement. to my piece “‘Systematic rule-governed violations of convention’: The Poetics of Procedural Constraint in Ron Silliman’s BART and The Chinese Notebook. I believe. 217 . no.” Contemporary Literature 48. 142. He refers. although I do not remember ever mentioning it.
Torino: Bollati Boringhieri. Giorgio. Michael Sullivan and Sam Whitsitt. Trans. 2008. Vicenza: Neri Pozza. — La potenza del pensiero: Saggi e conferenze. 218 . 2008. Literature. New York: Zone Books. 1993. London: Verso. — Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience (1978). Daniel Heller-Roazen. Macerata: Quodlibet. Trans. Trans. 2002. 2007. — Profanations (2005). Karen E. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.BIBLIOGRAPHY Agamben. — Potentialities (1999). — Idea of Prose (1985). 1998. — L’amico. — Il sacramento del linguaggio: Archeologia del giuramento. Daniel Heller-Roazen. 13–27. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Nicholas Heron. — Language and Death: The Place of Negativity (1982). Trans. Pinkus with Michael Hardt. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Vicenza: Neri Pozza. 2008. 2007. Liz Heron. 1991. Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino. 2008. — Ninfe. 2000. Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Trans. 2002.” In The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. Ed. Che cos’è il contemporaneo? Roma: nottetempo. — Idea della prosa. 1995. Jeff Fort. New York: Zone Books. 2006. Roma: GLF. — Che cos’è un dispositivo? Roma: nottetempo. Roma: nottetempo. Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press. — Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (1999). — Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1995). 2007. Trans. 1999. — Means Without Ends (1996). — Il Regno e la Gloria: Per una genealogia teologica dell’economia e del governo. and Alex Murray. — “K. Albany: SUNY Press. 2005. Justin Clemens. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Trans.
Trans. “Particularity and Exceptions: On Jews and Animals. Andrew Norris. Patricia Dailey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Trans. Derek Attridge. 1971. Bartleby: La Formula della creazione. 219 . Durham. — The Century (2005). London: Routledge.” In Politics. 1999. NC: Duke University Press. 145–172. Giorgio and Gilles Deleuze. 1993. Emile. Norman Madarasz. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Trans.BIBLIOGRAPHY — Signatura rerum: Sul metodo. 1999. New York: Penguin. Austin: University of Texas Press. — The End of the Poem (1996). Stanford: Stanford University Press. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Georgia Albert. 2005. 1992. Ed. 2004. 2007. — The Open: Man and Animal (2002). — State of Exception (2003). Martinez. Macerata: Quodlibet. Charvet. “Introduction: Derrida and the Questioning of Literature.” In Jacques Derrida. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Michael Hardt. Kevin Attell. Trans. 2005. Andrew. — The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans (2000). Charles. Baudelaire. 1999.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 107. The Dialogic Imagination (1930s). Trans. 2005. Trans. 1993. — The Coming Community (1990). — “Spacing as Shared. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri. Coral Gables: University of Miami Press. Acts of Literature. Benveniste. Trans. Alberto Toscano. 2008. 1–29. Trans. 71–88. 1981. Selected Writings on Art & Artists. Derek. Trans. Three Poems. — Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture (1977). Stanford: Stanford University Press. Alberto Toscano. Problems in General Linguistics (1966). E. Ronald L. Mary Elizabeth Meek. 1972. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. M. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Badiou. Ed. John. Trans. Kevin Attell. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Metaphysics and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. P. M. Handbook of Inaesthetics (1998). Trans. — Manifesto for Philosophy (1989). Bakhtin. Cambridge: Polity Press. 1993. Alain. Trans. no. Attridge. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Benjamin. Ashbery. Agamben. Albany: SUNY Press. 1 (2008). 1993. 2005. — The Man Without Content (1970).
Nicholas Heron and Alex Murray. Matthew Calarco and Steven DeCaroli. Nicholas Heron and Alex Murray. 43–65. Caton. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Girly Man. Ed. 2004. Davis. Life. Cohen. Colin. 1 (2008).BIBLIOGRAPHY Bernstein. Justin. Clemens. 2007. 2 (2007). “Jamming the Anthropological Machine. Justin Clemens. “Seeing the Impossibility of Seeing or the Visibility of the Undead: Giorgio Agamben’s Gorgon. Justin.” American Anthropologist 108. Robert. The Decline of Modernism (1988). Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press. no. Life. Trans. Peter. 163–179 Colebrook. Literature. no. Manchester: Manchester University Press. — Theory of the Avant-Garde (1974). Alexander.” Paragraph 25. Calarco. Nicholas Heron. Justin. Ed. Selected Poems.” The Germanic Review 82. Life. 79–89. Lévinas and Agamben. “Resistance. no.” In The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. Clemens. “Can the Dead Speak to Us? De Man. London: Penguin. Buch. Burger.” Culture. 2 (2002). Ed. Agamben. Cooke. Josh. Browning. no. and Alex Murray. Justin Clemens. 114–123. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. and the Passion of Abu Ghraib. Calarco. 36–51. Potentiality and Law: Deleuze and Agamben on ‘Bartleby’. and Alex Murray eds. Charles. “Agamben: Aesthetics. Trans. Justin Clemens. Matthew and Steven DeCaroli eds. Literature. De Boever. 2007. The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. Sovereignty & Life. Potentiality and Life. 107–120.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 107. 2008.” Angelaki 10.” In The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. 77–89. 1 (2006). 1984.” In The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. Nicholas Heron. “The Enigma of Giorgio Agamben. 3 (2005). Anne. 2006. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Literature. Stanford: Stanford University Press. “Coetzee. no. Michael Shaw. Claire. “‘A Different Insignificance’: The Poet and Witness in Agamben. no. 2008. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Robert. Clemens. 1992. 2008. 179–196. Theory & Critique 45. 220 . Literature. Nicholas Walker.” In Sovereignty and Life. Matthew. Steven C. 1–12. 1 (2004). “Politics and Poetics of Divine Violence: On a Figure in Giorgio Agamben and Walter Benjamin. Cambridge: Polity Press. Ed. “The Role of the Shifter and the Problem of Reference in Giorgio Agamben.
Jonathan Culler. — Psyche: Inventions of the Other. Alexander García. no. 2007. Ed. and Alex Murray. I. Stanford: Stanford University Press.” Diacritics 30. Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg.” Diacritics 33. Ed. “The Virtual Codex from Page Space to e-space. Albany: SUNY Press.com/drucker/ DuPlessis. “Agamben’s Potential. 1–28. Andrew. Thomas Dutoit. — Psyche: Inventions of the Other. Trans. 1989.com/36/watkin-duplessis. 1992. New York: Columbia University Press. Giorgio Agamben. — Margins of Philosophy (1972). Ed. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 2 (2002). 1982. 2008. Dillon. II. “On Giorgio Agamben’s Holocaust. Stanford: Stanford University Press.shtml.” http://www. “Introduction: The Interim. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Vol. “Witnessing the Inhuman: Agamben or Merleau-Ponty. 165–186. Robert. 2 (2003). Deranty.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 107. 1 (2008). 1–15. Ed. Drucker. “Potential European Democracy. 2 (2002). — On the Name. 16–35. 2 (2000). Rachel Blau and William Watkin. Docherty. no.” Paragraph 25. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Eduardo Cadava. — “The Suspended Substantive: On Animals and Men in Giorgio Agamben’s The Open. Ed.philobiblon. Alan Bass. Vol. Leland. — Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question (1987). Trans. Cecile Lindsay. 2–9.” Paragraph 25. Thomas. 1995. Düttmann. no. Derek Attridge. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. Michael Sullivan and Sam Whitsitt. 2008. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf. London: Routledge. Eaglestone. 1995. 221 . Jacques. 3–24. Derrida. and Peggy Kamuf. — Memoires for Paul de Man: Second Edition.” Jacket 36 http://jacketmagazine. 82–96.” Paragraph 25. Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg. 52–67. no. Trans. Acts of Literature. “‘Draft 33: Deixis’ / Notes on ‘Deixis’: a Midrashic Chain an exchange of thoughts. no. Jean-Philippe. “Integral Actuality. 2 (2002). Trans.BIBLIOGRAPHY Nicholas Heron.” In Idea of Prose. 1989. De La Durantaye. no. Johanna.
Jürgen. Martin. 70–91.” In Postmetaphysical Thinking (1988). London: Continuum. Barbara. Bruno. Marc. Trans. — Derrida. — Elucidations of Hölderlin’s Poetry (1981). Gray. Poetic Thinking: An Approach to Heidegger. Trans. Literature. London: Continuum.” In Sovereignty and Life. Heidegger. Andrew Norris. no. 219–242. 1996. A History of European Versification (1989). Albany: SUNY Press. 1981. Trans. 2005. 2007. “The Unity of Reason in the Diversity of Its Voices. Trans. Matthew Calarco and Steven DeCaroli. Halliburton. “Whatever Politics. Habermas. Manchester: Carcanet. of Voice: Bataille. William Mark Hohengarten. 2007. Literature and War: Absence and the Chance of Meeting. 1992. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Cambridge: Polity Press. 1996. Nicholas Heron. — Starting with Derrida. 1987. Matthew Calarco and Steven DeCaroli.” In The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. “A Sense of Loss: Whatever It May Be. 181–192 Fraser. London: Continuum. David. Gulli. “Supposing the Impossibility of Silence of Sound. Froment-Meurice. Gasparov.” Paragraph 25. Selected Poems. 397–417. 222 . 1982. Hegarty. Metaphysics and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. 2007. 2009. The Emergence of Prose: An Essay in Prosaics. David. Agamben and the Holocaust. Gaston. Thomas. 2005. “The Ontology and Politics of Exception: Reflections on the Work of Giorgio Agamben. 68–91. Gerald Stanton Smith and Marina Tarlinskaja. 4 (1999). “Dead Man Walking: Law and Ethics after Giorgio Agamben’s Auschwitz. Formis. New York: Humanity Books. 2000. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Ed. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ed. Joan Stambaugh. Being and Time (1953). 2008. NC: Duke University Press. Ed. Ed.” In Sovereignty and Life. Justin Clemens. Jenny.” International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 12. 222–247. no. Life. Sean. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Derrida and Disinterest.BIBLIOGRAPHY Edkins. 2 (2002). Durham. “Dismantling Theatricality: Aesthetics of Bare Life. 115–148. Wlad and Jeffrey Kittay.” In Politics. and Alex Murray. Mikhail Leonovich. Paul. Keith Hoeller. Godzich.
New York: Harper Collins. New York: Columbia University Press. Andreas. Ed. Literature. Nicholas Heron and Alex Murray. 126–162. Thought. 2008. Matthew Calarco and Steven DeCaroli. 37–54. 266–290. William Lovitt. — Poetry. 2007. Nicholas. “Law and Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1971. 2005. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Julia. Life.” In The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. 107–134. Albert Hofstadter. “As If the Time Were Now: Deconstructing Agamben. no. Ed. 2008. Trans. Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks. New York: Harper & Row. 2007. Durham.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 107. 1969. Paris: Éditions du Seuil. Kaufman.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 106. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Lacoue-Labarthe. Trans. LaCapra. Dominick. Metaphysics and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. no. Jeff Fort. — The Question Concerning Technology. — Nietzsche. 1 (2008). “Idea of Poetry.” In Politics. One and Two (1961). — Revolution in Poetic Language (1974). Rainer Maria. 11–22. Ed. 2005. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 223 .” In Sovereignty and Life. Idea of Prose. “Bare Life or Social Indeterminacy?” In Sovereignty and Life. “Approaching Limit Events: Siting Agamben. Laclau. Kiesow. 1984. 2 (2007). Hertz. 2007. Andrew Norris. Margaret Waller. Kristeva. Peter D. San Francisco: Harper Collins. Heidegger and the Politics of Poetry (2002). London: Harper Perennial. NC: Duke University Press. Language. Kalyvas. Σηµειωτιχη [Semiotike]: Recherches pour une Sémanalyse. Eleanor. Heron. Durham. Selected Poems. Ed. Justin Clemens. Ed. Trans. 1977. 1996. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 1935. Oxford: Oxford University Press. John. Philipe. Ed. — On the Way to Language (1959). Trans. Trans. 248–261. Vols. David Farrell Krell. 1991. Metaphysics and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. “The Saturday of Messianic Time. William McNeill and Julia Davis. Keats. 1971. 97–133. Ernesto.BIBLIOGRAPHY — Hölderlin’s Hymn ‘The Ister’ (1984). Trans. “The Sovereign Weaver: Beyond the Camp. Andrew Norris. Johnson. Matthew Calarco and Steven DeCaroli. NC: Duke University Press. David E. Trans. — The Letters of John Keats. Maurice Buxton Forman.” In Politics.
4 (2006). 43–70. Muses II. Justin Clemens. NC: Duke University Press. Colin. Musil. Lovitt. John. Paradise Lost. — “Myth Interrupted. Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (1991). Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike. Peter Connor. Lyotard. Ed. no. no. 2005. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Alex. and Alex Murray. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Durham. — The Philosophy of Agamben. Simon. Deborah. Ed. Lyons. London: Harper Perennial. “Introduction.” In Politics. Jean-François. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2008.” New Formations. The Man Without Qualities (1978).” In The Question Concerning Technology. Marion. William Lovitt. and Testimony in Remnants of Auschwitz. 1997. Ed. unpaginated. Esther Norma. 62 (2007). McQuillan. 193–211. 1991. “The Political Life in Giorgio Agamben. 89–105. Mills. Milton. Stocksfield: Acumen. London: Picador. Literature.” In The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. Trans. Andrew Norris. — “Playing with Law: Agamben and Derrida on Postjuridical Justice. 198–221. Life. 15–36. 1977. Ed.” Kritikos 2 (2005). i–xxxix. Ed.” Trans. Murray. Nicholas Heron. 2008. William. 2. Elizabeth Rottenberg. “The Nazi Genocide and the Writing of the Holocaust Aporia: Ethics and Remnants of Auschwitz. Life. “Beyond Spectacle and the Image: The Poetics of Guy Debord and Agamben. 1977. Robert. Justin Clemens. “Notes on Media and Biopolitics: ‘Notes on Gesture’. 224 . Nicholas Heron.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 107. Trans.” MLN 121. “Law of Friendship: Derrida and Agamben. Subjectivation. John. Peter Connor. Literature. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Morgan Wortham.BIBLIOGRAPHY Levitt. 164–181. Simon Sparks. 1009–1022. Metaphysics and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. Semantics Vol. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Trans. 2004. “Linguistic Survival and Ethicality: Biopolitics. Catherine. Multiple Arts. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Nancy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. In The Inoperative Community. 2008.” In The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. and Alex Murray. 1 (2008). Jean-Luc. 2006. 1994.
121–144.” In Sovereignty and Life. William. Pound. Silliman. Negri. — “The Ripe Fruit of Redemption. 2008. Andrew ed.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 107. Ed. Pinker. 51–59. Ezra. Benjamin.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 107. Selected Poetry.” Angelaki 7. Kelly. The Collected Dialogues. 2007. Stephen. Lee. Edith Hamilton and Huntingdon Cairns.” In Sovereignty and Life. Ed. 1994. Politics. Durham. Stanford: Stanford University Press. New York: roof Books. Noys. 109–125. Ron. www. Rasch. Neilson. no.” Trans. Spinks. Durham. 1961. 2008. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Alison. Trans. Nicholas. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2005. Antonio. Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks. The New Sentence. 1–14. 1993. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Robin Waterfield.org/t/negriagamben. 225 . 2007. The Uncanny: An Introduction. — Republic. Plato. Ed. Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics. Metaphysics and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. and the Politics of Exception. 1–23. The Language Instinct. — “The Exemplary Exception: Philosophical and Political Decisions in Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. Biopolitics. 2 (2007). “Potenza Nuda? Sovereignty. no. generation-online. “From Sovereign Ban to Banning Sovereignty. Matteo Mandarini. “Giorgio Agamben: The Discreet Taste of the Dialectic. 92–108. Arianna Bove. Matthew Calarco and Steven DeCaroli. Bridget McDonald. 2003. New York: Continuum. 2 (2002). Royle. Stanford: Stanford University Press.” Contretemps 5 (2004). Capitalism. — Time for Revolution. 2005. 1 (2008). “Stopping the Anthropological Machine: Agamben with Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty.html. 63–71. ABC of Reading. London: Faber. 2003. James Ellroy. “Time of Death. Pope. London: Penguin. Brett. Trans. 1987. Ross. Andrew Norris. Oliver. Metaphysics and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. “Except for Law: Raymond Chandler.” In Politics.” Phaenex 2.BIBLIOGRAPHY — The Experience of Freedom (1988). no. Matthew Calarco and Steven DeCaroli. “Introduction. NC: Duke University Press. Alexander. no. 262–283. NC: Duke University Press. Trans. Norris. 1951. Ed. 1 (2008).
Paris: Bibliothèque de la Pléiade/nrf Gallimard. Affect and the Politics of Style. Trans. http://williamwatkin. Culture and Politics 15. 23–46. Weller. Whitehead. Oeuvres II. 1960. Tzara. Stanford: Stanford University Press.” In Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 2008. 1 (2001). Ed. Literature. NC: Duke University Press. Bernard. Durham. Technics and Time: The Fault of Epimetheus (1994). — “‘Systematic Rule-governed Violations of Convention’: The Poetics of Procedural Constraint in Ron Silliman’s BART and The Chinese Notebook. Trans. no. 226 . no. Shklovsky.” Contemporary Literature 48. Andrew Norris. 1992. London: Calder Press.BIBLIOGRAPHY — “Thinking the Post-human: Literature.” EnterText 1. 2001. Agamben’s Critique of Derrida. 74–106. Durham. — On Mourning: Theories of Loss in Modern Literature. no. Thomas Carl.php? articleID=216 accessed 17 September 2008. Richard Beardsworth and George Collins. — In the Process of Poetry: The New York School and the Avant-Garde. 3 (2008). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 219–237. Blanchot and Agamben. Wall. “Cutting the Branches for Akiba. — William Watkin’s Blog.contempaesthetics. Paul. Adam. Andrew Norris. 2004. 83–117. 4 (2007). 344–364. 2000). Metaphysics and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. Silliman and Agamben. Radical Passivity: Lévinas. William. Seven DADA Manifestos and Lampisteries. Nihilism: The Uncanniest of Guests. 2 (2002). Philosophy.” Paragraph 31. 1998. PA: Bucknell University Press. Watkin. Tristan. “Poiesis and Art-making: A Way of Letting-be. no. “S/Citing the Camp. Thurschwell. Metaphysics and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer. Barbara Wright.” In Politics. 2005. Lewisburg.blogspot. 1 (Dec.com/. Valéry.” Textual Practice 15. 173–197.” www. Vogt. no.” Strategies: Journal of Theory. — “Poetry Machines: Repetition in the Early Poetry of Kenneth Koch. Shane. New York: SUNY Press. Derek H. Erik. — “The Materialization of Prose: Poiesis versus Dianoia in the work of Godzich & Kittay. 1999. 2005. Ed. NC: Duke University Press. Stiegler. 499–529. “Friendly Little Communities: Derrida’s Politics of Death.org/newvolume/pages/article.
or.” In The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. 132–147.” In The Work of Giorgio Agamben: Law. Nicholas Heron. 2004. Cambridge. Ed. 2008. London: Taylor and Francis. “After Humanism: Agamben and Heidegger.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 107. Justin Clemens. Krzysztof. or On Profanation. Peter Osborne. 187–210. 149–163. and Alex Murray. 227 . Thanos. Zizek. Wolfreys. Ziarek. Literature. Zartaloudis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Life. and Alex Murray. Irving. “Soulblind. Justin Clemens. Literature. “On the Messianic Structures of Walter Benjamin’s Last Reflections. MA: The MIT Press. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Ed.BIBLIOGRAPHY Wohlfarth. the Other in Love. Ed. Nicholas Heron. 169–231. 2008. 2006. no. Slavoj.” In Walter Benjamin: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory. “Face to Face with Agamben. Life. The Parallax View. 1 (2008). Julian.
This page intentionally left blank .
207n. 25.22. 206n. 122–4.11. 204n. 123. 212n. 206n. 54–64. 5.18. 204n. 161. 203n.13. 213n. 89. 98. 71–2. 210n.33. 205n. 100–14. 213n. 205n.35.5 Homo Sacer 1. 209n. 212n.1 Il sacramento del linguaggio 215n. 196 as poetic spacing 137–8.n.1. 209n. 48.33. 213n. 166–7. Theodor 29. 208n. 216n. 89.18. 61–2. 123.15 Adorno. 206n. 208n.3. 47–9. 72.12.12. 204n.21. 111. 211n. 216n. 209n. 205n. 146. 212n.12 State of Exception 171. 212n.29 The Open 5.24.2. 204n. 59.10. 124. 206n. 47. 126–34. 209n. 143–4. 204n.13. 209n.7. 24. 64–6. 47.4.16. Giorgio Bartleby 210n.32.31.7 The End of the Poem 32. 67.10.18 Agamben. 20–2. 205n.8 Ninfe 210n. 210n. 209n. 187–8. 45. 30. 209n. 210n. 67–8. 213n.5. 205n. 83–4. 210n. 54.5. 58–9. 141. 100–9. 91–7. 157. 205n.10.25.15. 36–7. 204n.7 Language and Death 2.5 Means Without Ends 58.7 Stanzas 14–126.96.36.199 integral actuality 54–7.23. 207n. 92. 91. 174–80. 7–12.12 Infancy and History 4–5. 95.18. 182–3. 158 actuality 43–4. 32. 215n.15. 152. 81–3. 189–92.34. 171. 204n. 212n.1. 209n. 206n. 210n. 209n. 209n. 205n.29 Potentialities 43. 215n. 8–9. 79–86. 169–71. 212n. 149. 213n. 13. 163.15. 229 “K” 213.6 The Man Without Content 45–6.9. 188.8.131.52. 210n.27. 208n. 209n. 37. 204n. 87.30 The Coming Community 63–6 180–2. 135–9.2 Remnants of Auschwitz 26–32. 204n.13. 209n. 212n. 133.4.18. 210n.22 Idea della prosa 210n. 148–9.26.18 Signatura rerum 213n.19.28 Idea of Prose 33–6. 206n. 89–90 aesthetics 16.4.15. 206n.19 Profanations 41–3.18 .33. 158. 204n.15. 125. 209n.6. 216n.15. 211n. 18. 210n.19.12.15.INDEX abyss between poetry philosophy 45–7. 113. 208n. 12–13. 45–7. 143.
146–7. 161. 170.42. 83–6 arche-presence 86. 171. 16. 204n. M.32.2 Cohen. 3. 146–54. 211n. 105. 152 ¯ ¯ Ashbery. 120. 73–5. 207n. 146–7 . 134.17 Bakhtin.33. 216n.4 Burger. Charles 95.9 Cooke. 91. 117. 31.10 lieu commun 85. 82 Hos me 88–94.30 Bernstein. Peter 103.15 Akhmatova.1.15. 196 apotropaic 48–51.19 Celan 33–4. 189–92 Arnaut. 110–13.18 aura 92–7. 215n. 168–72 creation 16. 174–80 appropriation 7. 119. 164. 98. 215n. 210n. 144–9.12. 95. Robert 30. 12–13.38. 41–4. 206n.39 anti-poiesis 83–114.6 Colebrook.4 anaphora/cataphora matrix 21. 106. 31.4. 108 Badiou. 215n. 166–93. 205n. 207n. 27.34 Baudelaire. 155. 176 anaphora 21. 48–51. 200 animal 5–8.19 Clemens. 142. 135. 64. 111.4 criticism 16. Alain 29. 120–1 Browning. 213n.9 Caton. 101–2. 216n. 50. 87. 212n. John 102. 109.24. 92–3. Andrew 207n. 175.15. Matthew 204n. 215n. 211n. 149 as not 68. 59–60. 161. 207n. 193.1 communicability 6. 107.29.8. 144.10. 60. 128. 94. 86. 79.10 biopolitical 1. Giorgio (Cont’d) The Time That Remains 88–94. Alexander 210n. 95 Benjamin. 132. Charles 78–9. 132. 163. 211n. 216n. 133. 212n. 213n. 68–9. 154.3. 27–8. 159. 157. 125. 76. 58. 63–5. Walter 9. 132. 83–6.3 Calarco. 79. 146.3. 178. 95.34 corn (tip/corner) 186–8 couplet 130. 86. Anna 64–5. 165. Derek 213n. 122 aletheia (truth as unveiled or unconcealed) 28. 98. 156–7. 90. 43–5. 73. 63. 209n. 131. 181 bios 1. 207n. 71. 57. 65–6. Émile 23.17 Benveniste.44.2. 53–7. 204n.4. 211n. 29. 206n. 108. 150. 184 bringing forth 70. 102. 214n. 150. 69.43. Robert 203n. 146.9.6. 165. 189. 92. Justin 204n. 70–4. 70–4. 16. 81–2.6 Attridge. 106. 196.18 Benjamin. 98.41 Buch. 215n. 199. 212n. 149. 99. Steven 206n. 152. 103. 97. 159. 102. 210n. 137. M. 62–6. 212n. 197. 98.26 230 Balzac. 66. 138. 206n. 197 arche (authentic origin) 49–50. 210n. 54–5. 71–6.15 caesura 13–14. 145 Aristotle 17.9. 210n. 152. Josh 208n. 209n. 168. 118. 210n. 147. 18.20. 153. 64. 197.39 boustrophedonic 139–45. 122. 187 artist 16. 212n. 77. 157. 212n.8. 128.INDEX Agamben. Honoré de 104 Bartleby 43. 213n. 20–5. 122–4. 178–9. 211n. 207n. Claire 211n.17. 201. Daniel 154. 79–91. 10. 206n. 208n. 100–14 as if 88–94.
Anne 209n. 54. 145. 188 Edkins. 42.5 gag 59–60. 205n. 57. 86. 185. 135–66. 210n. 156. 215n.2. 213n. 207n. 208n. 24–37. 215n. 113.19 Foucault. 213n. 67.24 Formis. 15. Jacques 12.1 Gaston. 30. 150. 192. 41–3. 149.17. 207n. 19. 160.1 framing (parergon. 165. 141 Dillon.8. 210n. 27. 123. Marc 210n. 211n. Sean 205n. Andrew 204n. 215n. 147. 134. 106–13. 205n.24 Düttmann. 118. 8–13. 105. David 212n. 215n. Marcel 67. 73. Barbara 206n. 88. 109. Johanna 214n. 203n. 33. 186.18. 107.21.10 dictation 28. 173–4. 79. 26–7. Alexander García 50. 208n. 97. 121. 57. 117. 164 finitude 20.6. gestell) 78. 47–8. 106.1. 92. 51. 153.16.14. 43. 35. 60. 122 Dante 32. 137–8. 88. 76. 173. 210n. 94–7.31 enigma 176–80 enjambement 14. 64–5. 67–8. 128–9. 211n. 128. 205n.9 desubjectivization 23–32.4 experience 4. 156. 199. 208n. 29–32. 182. 45–8. 188. 47. 141.31. 209n.15. 157. 106 Drucker.36 gesture 20. 209n.4 Derrida. 31.4 epoch 53. 146 figural 148–53. 131. 212n. 206n. 80–1. 131. 170.5. 53. 216n. 53. 178. 170. 94. 98. 25.5 De La Durantaye.32 genius 67–9.6 Froment-Meurice. Colin 205n. 195. 208n. 180–1.15 Eaglestone. Robert 207n. 186 Davis. 126. 132. 126. 46. Jenny 203n.24. 206n. 127–8. 96.INDEX Damascius 61–2.12 De Boever. 179.3 disinterest 101–3. 144. 85. 134. 96–7. 165. 31. 93. 145–6. 29. 88–90. 193. 210n. 208n. 201 form-of-life 58. 56–7. 106. 159. 162. 19. 107.22.14 Docherty.18. 82–3. 106. Leland 208n. 106. 137. 164–5.29 Deranty. 209n. 109.12. 29–31. 106. 198 Fraser.26 .3 deixis 20–3. 72. 215n. 191–2. 53–4. 13. Michel 41. 152–3. 123.33. 58–65.46. 127. 24–5. Rachel Blau 206n.14 Duchamp. 42. 172–3.9. 168. 182–3.11 231 enunciation 6. 146. 149–50.34.16. 168–75. 206n. 199. 195 expropriation 31. 215n. 46. 158–60. 87–8. 208n. Mikhail Leonovich 216n. 216n. 130. 88. 6. 147.6 DuPlessis. 181. 67–8. 182. 124. 62. 197.26 Gasparov. 209n. 203n. 130. 185. 191. 132 fiction 89–90. 29. 145. 196 différance 13. 212n. 23–5. 191 ex nihilo (creation) 69. 112. 105.4. 187. 196. 216n.17 entelechy 81–3. 125–6. 77–9. 126–7. 123. 22. 125. 42. Thomas 205n. Jean-Philippe 203n. 192. 135. 129.15. 111–13. 37. 67.42 ease 180–5. 192. 199. 32–8.18.8 event 24.
70. 113. 125 see also desubjectivization and dictation indifference 17. 12. 34. 107–13. 37. 205n. 32. 102. 204n. 47.16.32 Hölderlin’s Hymn ‘The Ister’ 198–9. Jürgen 109 habit 129–34.8 Halliburton. 205n. 63. 90. 77. 161 inspiration 32. 87. 211n. 125–6.15 Johnson. Thomas 141 Guillaume. 25–6.34. 214n. 55.17. 117. 107–11 Kaufman.7.8. 118–25.9 Hölderlin 47. Julia 214n. Rainer Maria 203n. 18. 122 gramma (grammatology) 140–1. 135. 70–9. 212n. 213n.27 Gould.4.32. 196–9. 146 Kafka. 190.39 Godzich. 77. 216n. Bruno 209n. 215n. 54. 79. 80. 210n. 170. 204n.9 The Question Concerning Technology 12.6. 101. 77.3 232 hesitation 156–8.10 judgement 11.2 Kant. 133. 210n. 214n. 157. 216n. 205n. 38.INDEX glossolalia (babble. 37–8. 73. 161. John 26–7. 210n. 99–101. 33. 76. F.8. 57. 22. 25. Gustave 151 Gulli. 52–4. 67.27 infancy 6–17.9 . 214n. 37.15. Max 47. David E. 59–60 Kristeva. 145–8. 63. 148. Paul 212n. 215n.1.27.19 human 5–15. 19. 178. Glenn 65–6. 201. 215n. 87. 22–6.6. 178. 207n. 120. 147.1 Gray. 207n. 215n.8. 161–2. 71. 45. 77. 165.1. 51. 206n. 197. 169–70. 59–60. 124. Immanuel 9. 77. Thought 70. 96. Franz 106. 203n. 20.13 Habermas. 174 having see habit and appropriation Hegarty.1 kle sis 88–9. 211n. 124 Kiesow. 16. 58. 36. 153. 36.39 Ideal Form (eidos) 80–6. 157. G. 143–5. 211n. Eleanor 203n. 159. 213n. 133–4. 20–3. 151. 205n. 57. 122.17. 211n. 120.36. Babel) 29–31. 99. 63. 145. 210n. 199. 162. 205n.15. Martin 12–14. 198–9. 28. 201. 165. 155. 131–2. 100–1. 20.16. 207n. 99.7 On the Way to Language 122. 138. Wlad and Jeffrey Kittay 20. 152.19 Heidegger. 67. 60. 134. 113. 46. 212n. 74. Nicholas 209n. 138. 54–7. 179. 20. Language. 100.11 Heraclitus 47. 215n. 206n. 94. 57.18 Kalyvas. 212n.16. 86. 212n. 204n.16 Poetry. 141. 121. 73. 38.1 history 8. 214n. 190 impersonality 30. 198.22. 194–5 indistinction 1.11. 146. 35. 195 integral actuality 54–5. 20–3. W. 50. 170 see also indifference ineffable 9–13.18 Being and Time 22. Andreas 211n.1. 181 ¯ Kommerell. 30. 107–12. 204n. 35–8. 207n. 17. 205n. 206n. 209n. 136. 174.4 Keats. David 119 harmonia 47. 167. 210n.32.25. 108. 174–5 Heron. 205n. 30.6.20 Hegel. 75. 191–2. 22. 98.22.
Ernesto 203n. 69. 107–14. 123–4.8. 206n.15. 92–4. 110 Malevich 106. 208n.6 Matisse. 203n. 136. 48. 129. 208n. 65. 21. 196. 117–34. 72–3. Simon 213n. 113. 141. 57. 206n. 211n. 67. 182–5.21 Musil. 216n. 128. 26. 157. Catherine 26. 191. 195–7. 67. 197.18 morphe 79–81 Murray. 195 experimentum linguae 4. 82. 143. 107. 91.3 Nietzsche. 213n. 41–68.1 Morgan Wortham. 209n. 35–7. 63.1 Laclau. 117.20 . 157. 160. 200. 207n.2 measure 97. Stéphane 58. 213n. 128–9. 32.13 Muse 27.6. 54. 54. 145.16 that there is 4–40. Giacomo “L’infinito” 124–34.13 Nancy. 211n. 213n. 118–21. John 169. 148. 44–6. and subjectivity 25–8. 209n. 63. 89. 10. 179–80. Jean-Luc 29.6. 90. 165. 103. 45–7. 147. 212n. 129. 195–6.2. 196. 145. 13. 76.44. 149. 209n. 25.45 Lovitt. 199. Jean-François 52. 211n.19 logos 8. 173. 92. 160. Phillipe 29. 82–3. 50–1. 210n. 22. 158. 103–4. 57. 30. 16. 8. 215n. William 204n. 211n. 36–8. 8. 215n. 214n. 174 233 messianism 16. 20–3. 69.21 life 1–2. 76. 153. 183. 131–4. 114. 198–9 and modernity 85. 16–17.11.24 Lyotard. 55. 209n. 100–3. 176–7. 45–6.8 Mills. 35–7. 166. 132. 179. 209n. 203n. 203n.1 Lacoue-Labarthe. 204n. 144–6. Alex 205n.13. 196. 167.INDEX LaCapra. 83–116. 196. 129–34 museum 78. 117. 88–93. 12. 166.19 Marion. 193.3.3. 91. 196 Leopardi. 106. 169–70. 128.48. 215n.10 language experience of 10–11. 96–8. Dominick 203n. 106–7. 11. 105. 122 thing of thought as such 49–50. Colin 203n. 45. 193. 103. 131.12. 85–6. 135. 17. 195 Negri. 15. 67. 55–66. 76–9. 128.18. 72.15. 33. 32. 101–14.17 Mallarmé.20. 210n. 188–9. Robert 83 name 9–10. 201. 6 as medium 53. 144. Henri “Back” 76 McQuillan.24 logopoiesis 77.3 modernity 1.12. 74. 6. Antonio 2. 204n. 155. 167. Deborah 209n. 133–4. 191. 125.1. 199–201. 196. 53. 118. 6. 56. 64–7. 179 love 14.2. 89.5 nihilism 3.18 Milton. 11. 49–52.42. 204n. 122. 169. 144–56. 212n. 184. 88. 87–91. 118.22 negation/negativity 2–3. 167. 89. 145. 35–6. 57–8. 9. 102–3. 47. 174 modern art 46. 211n. 204n. 16. 90. 179 Levitt. 208n. 213n.1. 28. John 206n. 80. 169–71. 155. 204n. 25. 153. 171–5. 99. Friedrich 42. 160.11 Lyons. 157. 20. 99. 136. 108–9. Esther Norma 212n.
79. 195. 138. 17. Andrew 214n.18 Rasch. 67. 140–1. 5.8 Rimbaud.27. 69–87.40. 178–9. 55.11 234 poiesis 3.4. 100. 192 poem body 44. 129.11 Pound. 198–9 philology 2. 79–81. 11. 17. 29. 31. 172. 145–6. 207n.4 Pacman 159 parable 148–9. 103–8. 175. 69.39.3 Idea of 54–7. 207n. 215n. 137–40. 114. 135. 145. 191–3. 210n. 113. 45. 214n. 153. 184–7. 112. 81. 152 passivity 30. 133. Stephen 214n. 209n. 51. 21. 88. 33. 163. line 79. 32. 34–5. 180. 191.7 Noys. 167. 186 phone 8. 211n. 28. Arthur 26–7. 44–8. 86. 87–90. 30–1. Ezra 102. 47. 52. 93 Pope. 163–4. 210n. 8. 169–70. 198–9. 61. 144.4 presupposition 9. 155–62. 192. 24. 96.47 ready-made 85.17. Alexander 168–72 potential 13. 120. 129–31. 91. 74–5. 23–8. 117–18. 51.87–116 pop art 85. 49. 214n. 145. 183–92. 178–9. 139. 211n. 173. 178. 113 . 94. 144. 195–7. 142–4. 90. 126. 44–5. 207n. 186–8. 208n. 156. 206n.27. 154–74. 200. 154. Benjamin 203n. 153.1 razo de trobar 32. 67. 128–9. 27.1 praxis 58. 172. 62. 88–92. 143. 197. 195–6 planar 128. 167. 123–4. 164–5. 179 Pinker. 210n. 151. 188.1.4 Plato 14. 213n. 141. 137.1 anti. 113–14. 71–3. 58–9. 170.1 prose 15. 160. 132. 62–3. 44. 53. 163. 92–8 revelation 52–3 rhetorician 104–6 rhyme 14. 49–57. 167. 209n. 48. 107–9. 197. 130. 88. 35–7.34.40. 83. 186. 12–13. 210n. 43.1 Paul 29. 211n.6.INDEX Norris. 63–6. 146. 129. 71–5. 79. 20–1. 170. 170. 104–5. 155. 125. 171. 98. 204n. 117–18. 175. 137. 124. 136.33. 133. 86.19.1 ontology 5–6. 105–6. 140. 106. 208n. 213n. 193. 195. 144–5. 173 poetry and philosophy 14. 216n. 152–3 periplus 132–3. 60. 166. 58–60. 149. 144–5. 127. 79. 169 production 58. 146–9. 43–4. 35. 206n. 183. 134. 122. 101–2. 208n. 191. 50.9. 157. 137–46. 42–6. 184. 172. 60. 22. 81–3.1. 122. 72. 121. 37. 137–43. 71–2. 215n. 132–4.9 poetry advent 126–33. 79. 28. 120–1. 128–9. 99. 200–1 recursive-projection 21. 168–9. 28. 162. 97. 156. 153–5. 211n. 192–3.19. 32. 169. 214n. 144. 17. 193. 138. 197. 63–8.16. 134. 132. 173 end of 135–9. 58. 181. William 211n. 13. 211n. 159–60. 205n. 206n. 102. 201 metrical-musical element (poetry) 128.25. 63–4. 93 reproducibility 84–6. 48–9. 130.
131. Ron 206n. 155–62. 21. 156. 48. 12. 197. 173 eschaton 88. 154. 167. 136–9. 47–8. 212n. 201 tone/tonos 163–4 transmissibility 30. 165. 179. 124. 46. 67. 211n. 177–80. 122. 71. 9. 122. 56.INDEX Romanticism 69. 11. 133. 108–9. 46. 184–9. 184. 19. 85. 125. 32. 45–6. 199 semiotic 6. 53.3. 173. 20. 150. 111–12. 121 tension 35. 178–9. 125. 48. 117–18. 188. 37. 122. 127. 182 tablet 44. 194. 196 235 state of exception 1 Stiegler. 174 Thurschwell. 32–3. 208n.6 Spinks. 30. 97. 125–8. 143. 151 tautology 6.20 Silliman. 159–60. 216n. 150. 161. 206n. 169. 140. 31. 169. 169. 136. 172. 181–3. 65.4. 162. 155. 149–53 linear time 87. 216n. 110–11 tautegorical 52. 80. 212n. 28. 113. 149. 172. 46. 195. 137–8. 56–7. 158–64. 154. 144. Lee 205n. 149. 157–8. 6. 166–93. 133. 158. 32. 197. 63. 133–4. 35–7. 199–201. 108. 208n. 185 tabular 64. 27 scission 2.47. 124. 150–4. 133. 57. 141. 28. 197. 93–7.19 stanza 13–17. 106. 160–9. 94–104. 19. 149.15. 152–65. 138. 173–5. 149–50. 83. 127. 136–43. 92.4 terror 99–106 thing. 26–32. 105–6.10 singularity 5. 84. 60. 188. 149. 153. 187 shock 94–7.11 kairos 145. 136–44. 186 turn see enjambment and verse . 186–7. 199. Adam 203n. 75. 144–5.4 techne 73–86. 215n. 207n. 199. 51–2.6 stil novist 14. 43. 110–11. 120–1. Nicholas 203n. 211n. 178–9. 192. 127–9. 214n. 70. 149. 167. 109. 32. 23. 60–8. 194 semantic 27–9. 149.5 Saussure. 144. 34. 131–2. 80. 182.4 sestina 154–5. 56. 114. 105–6. 199 sovereignty 1–2. 160.46. 127. 27–8. 199–201.3 Royle. 63–4. 146. 77.8 taste 99–103. 192 operational time 150–3. 201. 97–8. 175–9. 97–9. Ferdinand de 17. 131. 214n. 184 silence 8. 210n. art 75–7 thing as such of thought 49.12. 192. 171–2. 84. 142. 30.21. 163 and space 20. 164–5. 57. 128. 135. 212n. 131. 211n. 125. 185. 197. 83. 165. 172. Bernard 211n. 178–88. 140. 117–34.11 ergon 158–60. 60. 207n. 170. 35. 61. 55. 28. 188.27. 54. 130. 55–6. 24. 205n. 174–5. 145. 99. 99. 197.42 time/temporality chronos 145. 77–8. 172–4. 133. 184–8. 196. 167–72. 22–3. 150. 13–19. 134–5.9 Troubador 14–17. 155–6.39 space 14. 59. 131. 32. 107–8 sign 17–22. 117. 201. 142. 193. 72. 146–7. 171. 160. 154. 206n. 17. 200.
Erik 203n. 199. 28. 216n. 213n. 204n. 125. Robert 122 Warhol. 206n. Andy 93 Watkin. 207n. 33.39 Zartaloudis. 7. Paul 56.6. 208n.5 Valéry. 12. 201 Vogt.20 voice 3–8. Vincent 70. 75.INDEX uncanny 2. Krzysztof 205n. 128.44. 133.2 whatever (quodlibet) 63–5 Whitehead. Slavoj 210n. 21–5. 59.5 Walser.37. 102 Varro 58 verse as versus 128–34. Julian 208n. 152. 30. Shane 206n. 199.24. 135–65.1 van Gogh. 184.108.40.206.21. 216n. 179.11 Weller. 211n. 212n.10 Wall.45 work see praxis and entelechy writer’s block 67–8 xenoglossia 29–30. 103. 205n. 209n.15 Wolfreys. 177. Irving 209n. William 204n. 212n.34 zoe 1.39 zoon logon echon 5. Thomas Carl 207n. 82.1. 8 236 .36 Ziarek. 171. 186. 173–5. 213n. 157–8. 168.21. 207n. 208n. Thanos 210n. 215n.10.36. Derek H. 207n. 140–4.15 Zizek. 206n.20.7 Wohlfarth.13. 214n. 207n. 45–8. 166–7.