Nietzsche/Derrida, Blanchot/Beckett: Fragmentary Progressions of the Unnamable


Stephen Barker

School of the Arts
University of California-Irvine

Postmodern Culture v.6 n.1 (September, 1995)

Copyright (c) 1995 by Stephen Barker, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the author and the notification of the publisher, Oxford University Press.

    I. Parallax: Toward a Nietzschean Genealogy of the Paramodern Fragment

  1. To attempt any genealogy, let alone a Nietzschean one, of the kind of fragment one confronts in Nietzsche, Derrida, Blanchot, and Beckett, and to do so within the context of the faux-postmodern,[1] is to invite more and less obvious problems of orchestration, content, and performativity. Since my desire is to demonstrate the effect of the paramodern fragment and its vertiginous effect, from philosophy to "literature," I will desire here instead to move a poiesis of the conception and the use of this disruptive and transgressive site; at this site we will discover a poetic Nietzschean and a critique of what Derrida in Truth in Painting calls the parergonal, as a parasite, and thus marginal and contiguous to something -- something that may be a nothing -- ostensibly not in any margin, a fragmentary circularity.

  2. What is the work of which the marginal, the parergonal, the fragmentary, is outside? How is one to map this exchange, of terms and of texts, and how will this economy of the marginal, the transgressive, the nameless, or unnamable, operate within the aestheticized space of writing and reading?

  3. The work required to address these questions, adumbrated in Nietzsche's questions at the beginning of Beyond Good and Evil, is the work of philosophy:
    The will to truth which will still tempt us to many
    a venture, that famous truthfulness of which all 
    philosophers so far have spoken with respect -- what 
    questions has this will to truth not laid before us!  
    What strange, wicked, questionable questions! . . .  
    until we finally came to a complete stop before a still 
    more basic question.  We asked about the value 
    of this will.  Suppose we want truth: why not rather 
    untruth?  and uncertainty?  even ignorance?  (1) 
    For Nietzsche, the nature of the philosophical enterprise, which is simultaneously a poetic exercise, is imbued with the interrogation of the "strange," the "wicked," and the "questionable." The work of philosophy is a ubiquitous vielleicht, the "perhaps" of the circular question of value. In Nietzsche's own work, when "we finally come to a complete stop" we are, like Heraclitus, just beginning to revalue the stasis by which our questioning is marked. These opening fragments of Beyond Good and Evil have come to fascinate Derrida more and more in recent years, with their implicit questions not only of truth and value but of the transgressive desire for untruth that transparently shines through the cruder truth-questions with which we seem to occupy ourselves. This subtler work is addressed by Derrida as work to

    economize on the abyss: not only save oneself from 
    falling into the bottomless depths by weaving and 
    folding the cloth to infinity, textual art of the 
    reprise, multiplication of patches within patches, 
    but also establish the laws of appropriation, 
    formalize the rules which constrain the logic of 
    the abyss and which shuttle between the economic 
    and the aneconomic, the raising and the fall, 
    the abyssal operation which can only work toward 
    the reléve and that in it which regularly 
    reproduces collapse. (Truth in Painting 37) 
    But the collapse of the abyssal operation, described in such vertiginous language by Derrida (as both a fall and relève) does not and cannot occur, as Derrida shows, because of the laws of formalization beyond which the law, and the articulation of the law, cannot go, and which must therefore remain the nameless name. The fall and the relève are both consummate transgressions, by which the law of genre, and thus of aculturation, is formed. In Derrida's elliptical shard, as he economizes on the abyss, the fragment behaves as such: no grammatical sign to open, no period to close the period of its semantic passage: an imitative strategy of abyssal subversion. Thus is the shard, like fragmentarity itself, revealed as oxymoronic: as a parergon in the imperative voice; a parodic work outside the work operating, it seems, sui generis, within earshot of Blanchot's noli me legere but reading nonetheless.

  4. If, as Nietzsche declares, the world is a work of art that gives birth to itself, does it give birth wholly? In part? Can a fragment be born? What is the gestation of a fragment, on and as the margin? And how is this metaphorical and dialectical birth, split from itself as both general and regional economy, in Bataille's terms, finally transgressive?[2] Of what would such a transgressive, fragmented birth consist, and how would it delimit and define the world thus born? These questions lie at the metaphorical core of, and are perpetually addressed by and in the work of Blanchot and Beckett, as they are in that of Nietzsche and Derrida, (de)forming a web of associational vectors linking strategies of writing and reading. Any (apocryphal) core of this work is radically metaphorical, and thus a function of the connectives, the affinities and tropic tightropes, by which metaphorical associations are forged: the core is and is not a core, but always dispersed out into magnetic, imagistic constellations; meaning and value (as revaluation), so-called, are functions of this elementalism.

  5. [Stage direction: "Nietzsche" and "Derrida," voices in a conversation outside time, as though these voices were speaking into cups connected by a wire, stretched taut like Zarathustra's parodic tightrope; on this discursive filament a tropic dance takes place. Two figures appear on the wire/tightrope: a tightrope walker, sliding across the humming wire; then, second, a darkly liminal figure, who harries the first, disrupting the performance. There is danger of a fall, but always counteracted by the danger of a relève; no fall occurs. Story's end, like that of all fragmentary stories, is the (impossible) death of transgression itself -- and of the fragment; the figures suspended on the filament of discourse are "Blanchot's The Step Not Beyond (Le pas au-delà)," the tightrope walker, and "Beckett's The Unnamable (L'inommable)," the ironist.]

  6. Nietzsche and Derrida as philosophers of the fragment; Nietzsche for a poetics of aphoristic compactness, Derrida for highly-styled fragmentary and interrogative treatments of marginality and presence. Beckett and Blanchot as poets of the fragment. Beckett knew Nietzsche and Blanchot but not Derrida; Blanchot knows Nietzsche, Derrida, and Beckett. Nietzsche read none of the others; Derrida reads all. Voilà pour l'histoire.

  7. Transgression is never complete(d).

    Transgression means inherent structures and strategies of reversal and subversion in which, for example, Nietzsche aestheticizes the world ("a work of art that gives birth to itself"), but as a world of existential -- bodily -- proportions; he very strategically goes [not] beyond (another kind of jenseits, another dimension of [pas] au-delà), into a Dionysian collapsing together of aesthetic categories and genres that form the creative labyrinth of thought. This collapsing, a disordering and fragmented reconstruction of generic distinctions and definitions, is also a transgression of Derrida's law of genre, an admixture of sensory data and rational aesthetic. Codes of beauty, and even of being, threaten to shatter and fall before this Nietzschean reinscription, in becoming functions of parallax. Nietzsche's perspectivism, manifested in both "thought" and writing -- itself a synaesthetic disordering and yet the beginning of the transgressive order of the fragment -- originates in what appears to be the solipsistic madness of the anthological, in "radical, secular self-creation" and the "Dionysian impulse of self-submersion" (Aschheim, 51). Perspectivism is a function of experience in the world, of the moment of experience both Blanchot and Beckett seek so diligently and which is always chimerical. The chronicling of that metaphoric search produces the anthology of fictive selves and their stories, while simultaneously producing the generative conditions of work under which such stories can be produced. Since self-creation demands an accounting for excess in the form of that Dionysian impulse, such stories are always alien. The resultant radical synaesthesia produces incandescent fragments as enigmatic as Heraclitus's, and like the Heraclitan fragment simultaneously infused with wit and weight, with an unbearable lightness and an inconceivable portentousness.

  8. To lay out a paramodern map, then, pointing toward an aesthetic of disruption characterized by Nietzsche, clarified and codified by Derrida, implemented by Blanchot and Beckett, one might start with five propositional fragments:

    1. (Transposing the modern; the paramodern permutation): addressing the paramodern means confronting the possibilities of a transgressive permutation of the modern, subtle but radical, from a humanistic, artist-centered revolutionary viewing of the world to a para-humanist, mediatized, theorized positionality which is not a worldview. The human being, as such, beginning with the body, is placed beyond the margin of the paramodern, and what remain are surrogates, echoes, mechanized topoi of the "space of the individual" in an economy of identification and consumption that cannot return to the subjective substance of the modern, but that floats next to the tenacious, energetic modernist world, a parasite on it and its transpositions from the Enlightenment and Romanticism.

    2. (The Nietzschean World and Its Synaesthesia): Nietzsche synthesizes this permutated world in his aesthetic ("a work of art that gives birth to itself"), which consists of a strategic denigration of the Rational Positivist tradition of anthropomorphic agency written out of the elevation of reason, repression and suppression of emotion, circumscription of the imagination, and privileging of the artist-eye perspective. For Nietzsche the world consists of an absolute parallax, infinite points of view determined and defined by and within a fragmented poetic fabrication. Nietzsche's anti-representationalism sets the terms for the performative theoretical space of paramodern synaesthesia as a sensory disruption, a "euphoric disorientation" producing a "dizzying pleasure" (Auslander, 12).

    3. (The nonmoral inherent in the Nietzschean paramodern): As Nietzsche lays it out in "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense" and Beyond Good and Evil, the jenseits of the nonmoral sense transcends the longing, the guilty morality of which herd society (characterized by ressentiment) consists, and further of the apocryphal establishment of a higher plane of morality producing the ambivalent effects of, on the one hand, a soaring (and dizzying) freedom from guilty constraint (cf. "The Songs of Prince Vogelfrei") and, on the other, an acknowledgement that to be free of the constraints of conventional morality one must accept a refinement out of existence, assigning one's agency (as will-to-power) to language, narrative, and semantic/semiotic structures, which are now, in the paramodern, the loci of the primal drives-as-other.

    4. (The Theoretical Tightrope): For the paramodern, this ambivalence itself consists of the theorization of the world, acceptance that experience is indeed virtual experience, hyper-experience, self-conscious without self, in the hypothetical fabrication of a self-position from which self-operations take place within the limits of discourse. If this is all-too-familiar familiar territory, it is chiefly because we paramoderns have accepted the theoretical frame of the world in which we live. In the paramodern, this relinquishing of the apparent substance of human power out of systems of sign-formation (which is not to say of communication) means that all immediacy is theoretical/hypothetical. The world is the space of theory that gives birth to itself.

    At the same time, this is to say that it is poeticized, subject to and a function of its fabrication within that theoretical framework: "the world as a work of art that gives birth to itself;" and on which we gaze with indifferent passion, trying to understand who, where, and what we are in this discursive, theorized, and mediatized ("videated") world.

    In the guise in which I want to discuss it here, this theorizing of the world is itself a Zarathustran tightrope, and since in this pervasively theorized paramodern world of hyper-fabrication and hyper-poetics, as Nietzsche pointed out so presciently, style is everything, I want to explore the nature of a possible paramodern style, and more particularly the aphoristic/fragmentary, "parergonal" style predicated in Nietzsche's and Derrida's aphoristics, and how their contribution to paramodern disruption illuminates the work and the world of paramodern poietes whose subject-positions are named "Maurice Blanchot's Le Pas au-delà" and "Samuel Beckett's How it is."

    5. (Why and How Disruption?): But why the "disruption" of the paramodern? It is axiomatic that in the paramodern the ironic-modern becomes the parodic-postmodern, and that the permutation we generally call postmodernism concerns itself centrally with the parallel and orchestrated subversion of modernist strategies of world- and self-formation, "revealing" them as such. This is precisely what Arnold Toynbee had in mind for the term "postmodern" when, in the early 50's, he first used it: to indicate a disruption of the culminative and evolutionary humanist project of modernism which, however revolutionary and innovative its fringes might have been in the avant-gardes of the twentieth century, is always grounded in assumptions about the myth of artist-presence and the validity of the experientially-contexted poetic, however much it might be critiqued and, seemingly, undermined by the "Post-" (and this is why "Post-modern"is such a bad designation for the machinations of the paramodern-modern). Modern(ist) self-focus, that is a focus on the self, provides the culminative crisis of reality-formation that humanism fermented in the Premodern world; it requires a tendentious and strategic response. This is why Nietzsche did not "write a philosophy," as such, but always toward a philosophy of the future -- a future that could never come, since the very nature of "a philosophy," as a constellation of reasoned and ordered structures within the rational-positivist or, now, humanist, mode, is self-serving, myopic, and finally of questionable soundness, however much it may struggle to retain its validity. The paramodern, then, is disruption -- of meaning, of style, and of the philosophic and poetic project.

    The paramodern is para- rather than post- because of the collusive element at its core. The law, in this case subject-centered modernism, is in a necessary collaboration with its violation. Thus, transgression and its re-inscription are always, as John Gregg shows, incomplete: "the law always survives the infraction because the latter is in the service of the former" (13).[3] The most telling transgression in the paramodern is precisely where Blanchot and Beckett mark it: at the inception of the subject-claim they want to subvert. Gregg claims that Blanchot -- and the same is as true or truer for Beckett -- "situates the origin of reading at the very moment that the author is dismissed from the work. . . . Reading is thus the disappearance of both a personal author and a personal reader" (57). In this emergent disruption lies the origin of the noli me legere which characterizes all four of these writers' works, and which begins in the very (de)structure of the text itself.[4]

    Aphorism from the Greek aphorizein, to mark off, divide,
    from apo- (from) + horizein (to bound) = from or outside the bounds,
    across the threshold [liminal, transgressive].

    fragment from the Latin frangere, to break = (n) a part broken away
    from the whole; broken piece; detached, isolated, or incomplete part;
    a part of an unfinished whole; (v) to break into fragments.

  9. Nietzsche is said to write aphoristically -- but in fact this is rarely true. While whole sections of Beyond Good and Evil, The Gay Science, Zarathustra, and other works are "truly" aphoristic -- that is, liminal, most are fragments that not only do not close and do not aid memory, but actively thwart these -- in favor of the active forgetting required for the breakage of the fragment, not the closure of the aphorism.

  10. The fragment is will-to-power as art, "itself" consisting of difference and of the dialectical tension between general and regional economies, consisting further of not will, not power, not a step beyond, distilled in the fragmentary, as these nearly-contiguous fragments from Nietzsche ("The Will-to-Power As Art") demonstrate:

    	The work of art where it appears without an 
    artist, e.g. as body, as organization. . . .  To what 
    extent the artist is only a preliminary stage. 
    	The world as a work of art that gives birth 
    to itself. 
    	The phenomenon "artist" is still the most 
    transparent -- to see through it to the basic instincts 
    of power, nature, etc.!  Also those of religion and 
    	"Play," the useless . . . . 
    	All art exercises the power of suggestion over 
    the muscles and senses. . . .  The aesthetic state 
    possesses a superabundance of means of communication, 
    together with an extreme receptivity for stimuli and 
    signs.  It constitutes the high point of communication 
    and transmission between living creatures -- it is the 
    source of languages. 
    	The artist who began to understand himself would 
    misunderstand himself. 
    	One is an artist at the cost of regarding that 
    which all non-artists call "form" as content, as "the 
    matter itself."  To be sure, then one belongs in a topsy-
    turvy world: for thenceforth content becomes something 
    merely formal--our life included. 
    	We possess art lest we perish of the truth. (The 
    Will to Power 796-822)	 
  11. Nietzsche's thematic, fragmentary coagulations across the white patches on the page, fragmentation whose weight and meaning collapse in on themselves, is an interrogative critique. Nietzsche's paramodern consists of the step (not) beyond what Heidegger calls "the quest for the proper word and the unique name" to a topos "without nostalgia" (though not without memory); "that is," as Derrida says, "the outside of the myth of a purely material or paternal language . . . in a certain Nietzschean laughter and a certain step of the dance." (see Margins of Philosophy, 27). This is the tightrope logic of Nietzsche's paramodern fragment. Extra-aphoristic liminality underlies the contestation of Apollinian particulars "existentially made comfortable to what can be known," as Ofelia Schutte points out (21). The Dionysian principle of dynamic continuity is violated to such an extent that Dionysus' only recourse is to take revenge on humanity "by condemning it to perpetual fragmentation" (21). Fragmentation, then, is the Dionysian threat in reaction to reason and the Law.

  12. In Nietzsche, this Dionysian threat becomes a transgressive practice, in which fragmentary style is part of an effort to "atomize" poetic discourse and philosophy, to "return" it to its basic semantic and grammatical ingredients. Only interpolations of sense emanate from the noli me legere of Nietzsche's fragmentary logic, marking a portentous opening from and to a void. Fragmentation is for Nietzsche an inescapable solipsism, carefully and energetically distinguished from and in contradictinction to what he calls "philosophy so far." His aphoristic and fragmentary works are themselves, as he calls them in The Gay Science, freigeisterei, "free-spirit works," thus marking their extra-moral sense and their play on (and away from) the surface. In this transgressive (non-) designation in which the aphorism, or the fragment, is to be seen as the free spirit, at the same time one must remember that the freigeisterei, in their flight from reason and the Law, must accept in that flight the slippage that makes them "vogelfrei," "free-birds," as in the Songs of Prince Vogelfrei with which The Gay Science concludes. These "free-bird songs" begin with a short poem "To Goethe," the first stanza of which declares that,

    Das Unvergängliche 
    Ist nur dein Gleichnis! 
    Gott der Verfängliche 
    Ist Dichter-Erschleichnis . . . 
    [The intransitory 
    Is but your parable! 
    God the ineluctable 
    Is poetic pretension . . . ] (Gay Science, 350) 
    Here Nietzsche borrows shards and fragments from Goethe's Chorus Mysticus at the conclusion of Faust, Part Two, where Goethe makes precisely the opposite claim: "what is destructible is but a parable." Nietzsche's appropriation from and parody of Goethe's parabolic song, here in the song of the free-bird, compounds the transgressive nature of the vogelfrei, who is not only a freigeist but also (as Nietzsche points out) an escaped criminal, a bird who has broken free and who can (and should) be killed on sight; that is, whose freedom is dramatically curtailed by the sentence of death and marked by a double transgression, commission of a crime and escape from prison.[5] The freigeist is a quintessentially liminal figure adumbrating those in Blanchot, Beckett, and the paramodern.

  13. Thus the outcome of Nietzsche's strategic fragmentation is a radical atomism insisting that we "cannot legitimately group together individual momentary experiences or sensations" (McGowan, 72), but then do just that, precisely to show that the "legitimation"of such a grouping is always its illegitimacy, its danger, the manifestation of die treibe, the "drives" (Nietzsche's word, not yet Freud's) both within and (not) beyond writing. This atomism is echoed in the elementalistic language strategies of Blanchot and Beckett, in which the most fundamental elements are examined for inclusion and rejection.

  14. But in a reversal of expectation as dramatic as anything in these texts, the Nietzsche-position on the fragment and thus to the nature of meaning can present itself in all of its duplicity, as these two contiguous fragments from Beyond Good and Evil demonstrate:

    (222) Poet and Liar. -- The poet considers the liar 
    a foster brother whom he did out of his milk.  Hence 
    his brother remained weak and wretched and never even 
    attained a good conscience. 
    (223) Vicarious senses. -- "Our eyes are also intended 
    for hearing,"said an old father confessor who had 
    become deaf; "and among the blind he that has the 
    longest ears is king."
    This juxtaposition emphasizes the atomism and synaesthesia -- the poetic violence -- of the Nietzschean disruption which, as a disruption of the senses, is for Nietzsche a gateway to pre-semiotic writing drives, and at the same time a strategic and parodic juxtaposition of (not) logical discourse, another step (not) beyond. Thus art, for Nietzsche, in its very subjectivity is an exploding of the subject as chimerical aesthetic object, an ontological de-realizing that undermines and destroys the law-as-subject and replaces it with the tension of and in language-as-other(ing), a "reduction of the subject to an effect of antagonistic forces" (Slöterdijk, 16), the drives by which writing operates.

  15. Derrida, like Nietzsche, plays within the forcefield of those enigmatic and antagonistic treiben; Derrida's writing recapitulates the vogelfrei-position taken a step (not) beyond Nietzsche's. In Derrida's quasi-aphorisms it is impossible to discern what the fragment's "trajectory" might be: it is always a function of the parergon of declaration, semiotically marginal or liminal. The fragment, as Derrida says,

    knows of no proper itinerary which would lead from 
    its beginning to its end and back again, nor does 
    its movement admit of a center.  Because it is 
    structurally liberated from any living meaning, it 
    is always possible that it means nothing at all or 
    that it has no decidable meaning.  There is no end 
    to its parodying play with meaning, grafted here 
    and there, beyond any contextual body or finite 
    code . . . .   Its secret is rather the possibility 
    that indeed it might have no secret, that it might 
    only be pretending to be simulating some hidden truth 
    within its folds.  Its limit is not only stipulated 
    by its structure but is in fact intimately con-fused 
    with it.  (133)
    For Derrida, as for Nietzsche, the fragment's fragmentation is both limit and ineluctable transgression of the limit. Derrida's playful anthropomorphism in this passage operates as a paramodern reminder of the modernist notion of immanent meaning, itself fragmented in the paramodern and pointing toward an evolutionary developmental step (not) beyond Nietzsche: as Derrida remarks, "if Nietzsche had indeed meant to say something, might it not be just that limit to the will to mean which, much as a necessarily differential will to power, is forever divided; folded and manifolded" (133). The "differential will to power" to which Derrida points finds its difference (and of course its différance) in the gulf between text (as other) and decoder of text, but also within the tensions and textures of difference within the fragment-heap of the paramodern text itself.

  16. To investigate both the inner and outer differential wills to power manifested by the paramodern text, we must return to the Nietzschean notion of the vogelfrei and its appropriation in Derrida's articulation of "les paroles soufflées," words spirited away from (and to) the law, mots volés. For Derrida, word theft (sometimes euphemistically called "appropriation"), by reader, writer, and text "itself," by the paramodern vogelfrei in language and culture, and thus within experience itself, is the theft of a trace. Thus the transgression is an act outside the law that enforces the law. The poetic logic of the fragment and its disruption in both Nietzsche and Derrida is the theft of a trace from any quasi-originary source and from any telos of value or meaning. For the free-bird, this theft, and its resultant mortal danger (that is, the return of the Dionysian) produces, to cite a Nietzschean fragment, "the greatest danger that always hovers over humanity, and still hovers over it," which is "the eruption of madness -- which means the eruption of the mind's lack of discipline." If for a moment we seem to have come full circle to an echo of Platonism, Derrida immediately adds that this greatest danger, madness, is not to be eradicated nor suppressed, but rather needs to be "eternally defended" (The Gay Science, 76), as the very core of the paramodern disruption. Nietzsche's reference to a lack of discipline alludes not to chaos nor nihilism but to "an uninterrupted, well-mannered war with and within poetry, in which poetry (and poiesis), as the art of making and of making whole) is "continuously avoided and contradicted" (The Gay Science 92). All such (anti-) poetry theory and practice (what Nietzsche calls "everything abstract") becomes the parodic focus of a strategic re-incursion into the modernist agenda, and "wants to be read as a prank against poetry and as with a mocking voice" (The Gay Science, 92).

  17. For Derrida, as for Nietzsche, this "madness" is a question of death and of the disruption of a theoretical topoi without hysteria, the transgression of the law that is the law. For Derrida, fragment-thinking insists on its radical liminality and leads to the most abyssal of dialectically encrypted thoughts. Here Derrida takes up the genealogical baton and creates conditions for a paramodern poiesis:

    How are we to think simultaneously, on the one 
    hand, différance as the economic detour which, 
    in the element of the same, always aims at coming 
    back to the pleasure or the presence that have been 
    deferred by (conscious or unconscious) calculation, 
    and, on the other hand, différance as the relation 
    to an impossible presence, as expenditure without 
    reserve, as the irreparable loss of presence, the 
    irreversible usage of energy, that is, as the death 
    instinct, and as the entirely other relationship 
    that apparently interrupts every economy? 
    (Margins of Philosophy, 19)
    In this impossible simultaneity of thinking, what I have called fragment-thinking, lies the seed of the "impossible presence" which, as "irreparable loss of presence," reveals the death instinct as a theoretical condition at the center of every human exchange, every "economy." Thus the death instinct is not merely nihilistic nor morbid, which would be but another inscription of modernism, but a parallel or virtual subject-position for the concept, as Derrida has shown:

    The signified concept is never present in and of itself, 
    in a sufficient presence that would refer only to itself.  
    Essentially and lawfully, every concept is inscribed in a 
    chain or in a system within which it refers to the other, 
    to other concepts, by means of the systematic play of 
    differences.  ( Margins, 11) 
    Any play of differences must of course involve both space and time, and must involve the re-theorization of the space in which it occurs. In "Aphorism Countertime," some reflections on writing, time, and the fragment within the context of a critique of the proper name in Romeo and Juliet, Derrida disfigures the proper name of aphorism by calling attention to the fact that the apocryphal originary whole of any fragment is built not only on the death but on the denial of the/any whole and on the destruction of sequential logic, even while recalling a sequential logic that hovers like a shadow across the texts Derrida's aphoristic fragments from "Aphorism Countertime"show:

    1. As its name indicates, aphorism separates, it marks dissociation (apo), it terminates delimits, arrests (horizo). It brings to an end by separating, it separates in order to end (finir) and to define (définir). [inherent in the end is the difference by which we know that an end cannot occur, a Law that defies the Law.]

    2. An aphorism is an exposure to contretemps. It exposes discourse -- hands it over to contretemps. Literally -- because it is abandoning a word [une parole] to its letter. [The word is thus always stolen.]

    3. The aphorism of discourse of dissociation: each sentence, each paragraph dedicates itself to separation, it shuts itself up, whether one likes it or not, in the solitude of its proper duration. Its encounter and its contact with the other are always given over to chance, to whatever may befall, good or ill. Nothing is absolutely assured, neither the linking nor the order. One aphorism in the series can come before or after the other, before and after the other, each can survive the other -- and in the other series.

    4. This aphoristic series crosses over another one. Because it traces, aphorism lives on, it lives much longer than its present and it lives longer than life. Death sentence. It gives and carries death, but in order to make a decision thus on a sentence of death, it suspends death, it stops it once more.

    5. There would not be any contretemps, nor an anachrony, if the separation between monads only disjointed interiorities. (Attridge, 416)

    Not only so-called interiorities are disjointed by fragmentary separation; the law of the fragment is not one of absolute disintegration nor of erosion but of proliferation and expansion. The paramodern fragment is a network transgressing without transforming, opens without ending, just as the last aphorism in a series is not closed but hangs suspended, as Nietzsche and Derrida show, truncated and never concluded. As Nietzsche so emphatically declares, any seeming finality of content is undermined and synaesthetized by form.

    Enter the tightrope walker.

  18. Content synaestheticized by form: this is what Blanchot refers to as the step (not) beyond, le pas au-delà, and which in the book of that enigmatic name forms the central strategy of juxtaposition, looping, and pharmakon-logic.

    Blanchot's is a fragmentation of oscillatory complexity, a play of arching connections and non-sequituurs that inserts itself into the textual space and into narrativity, producing there a virtual narrativity and a radically undermined mimetic theory of literature and of narrative. Blanchot enters the marketplace of reversal in which "nothing is absolutely assured, neither the linking nor the order, that "gives and carries . . . a sentence of death" but which at the same time "suspends death, . . . stops it once more." This space is prohibition and transgression, denial and passing (not) beyond of the subject, just as Nietzsche's paramodern aesthetics enacts at once the prohibition/denial and the transgression/displacement of the subject/artist. We see before us the potential for a metalepsis to the "sentence of death:" if subjectivity is now a "contained, agonistic entity" (Slöterdijk, x), then any pretense to representation is the result of this agonistic, a function of the inherent tensions between forces, and is not mimetic. Here, the positionality named "aesthetic subject" or "aesthetic object" is a purely dialectical constellation emphatically not a mirror or reflection of a "self" emphatically not "unified" but unrepresentable and contaminated.

    II. Blanchot's Fragmented Subject

  19. Good reasons exist for the historical suppression of play/différance/writing. They entail terrible burdens: the frisson of "absolute loss," death, dissolution, anxiety -- in Nietzschean terms, the forgetting of Apollinian order and reason and the remembering of Dionysian suffering. Thus literature, in the paramodern, reveals what it conceals: its movement toward and play with its own disappearance in silence, at the threshold of discourse. This movement is a forgetting and forgetfulness of the subject-position; in Derrida, it is the advent of différance and the liminality of the Law and its transgression; in Beckett, it is the approach to silence and its corollary, the parodic gesture of the impossible heap of meaning. Absence in and of the text, and of the textual subject.

  20. Blanchot manifests this absence by radically fragmenting the subject position: "'I' never arrives there, not as an individual that I am, this particle of dust, nor the me of all that is supposed to represent the absolute consciousness of self: but only the ignorance that incarnated the I-that-dies in accessing this space where, dying, he never dies as 'I,' in the first person" (Gregg 16). Impossible to know who is speaking (no "who" is speaking), an inevitable outcome of the perpetual and ubiquitous failure of any metaphoric leap to the Übermensch. Thus, Blanchot's text (Le pas au-delá) is testimony to the absence, the impossibility, of testimony; quasi-testimony as fragment, tracé, always performative evidence of a poiesis.

  21. Signs of the simulation of testimony by a quasi-subject pervades Le pas au-delá, such that any page is characterized and marked by its appearance, from the diamond-shaped bullets marking each fragment to the page's "look" of fragmented sparcity. Characteristics of this double page as emblematic of the work are such things as multiple voices, lists, key terms and obsessions, complete diffusion of subject-position:

  22. Blanchot's text is, as Derek Attridge points out, a "turning back on the literary institution, . . . linked to the act of a literary performativity and a critical performativity" attempting to "question, analyze, and transform this strange contradiction, this institutionless institution" (41). Like Nietzsche's and Derrida's, Blanchot's text explores the aphoristic click of différence and the fragmentary ellipsis of differance with an obsessive regard for contretemps and the ramifications of dissociation. Blanchot has listened to Derrida echo Nietzsche in admonishing that writing is "a performance of theoretical propositions in the poetic 'space'" (Kamuf 144), just as Derrida has listened to Blanchot the (paramodern) poetic formalist in exploring the "invention" of an aesthetic "truth" by remembering and appropriating poiesis (meant here as "invention," in the Greek sense) as a simulacrum. Paramodern poiesis sees that literary "truth" is the discursive theoretical link between Derrida's confrontation of aphorism/fragment in "Aphorism Countertime" and Blanchot's similar confrontation in Le pas au-delà. The spaces of poetry and of philosophy (or, as here, theory) circumscribe each other and "take each other's measure" (Kamuf, 145).

  23. In so doing, these spaces enact their own tightrope walk of steps taken and not taken. Blanchot is obsessed in this text with both the texture and the tendentiousness of additive fragments oscillating within a strategic slippage. For Blanchot in Le pas au-delà, this slippage takes a particularly Nietzschean form recalling and offering testimony to Zarathustra and the tightrope:

    Transcendence, transgression: names too close to 
    one another not to make us distrustful of them.  
    Would transgression not be a less compromising 
    way to name "transcendence"in seeming to distance 
    it from its theological meaning?  Whether it is 
    moral, logical, philosophical, does not transgression 
    continue to make allusion to what remains sacred 
    both in the thought of the limit and in this 
    demarcation, impossible to think, which would 
    introduce the never and always accomplished crossing 
    of the limit into every thought.  Even the notion 
    of the cut in its strictly epistemological rigor 
    makes it easier to compromise, allowing for the 
    possibility of overstepping (or of rupturing) that 
    we are always ready to let ourselves be granted, 
    even if it is only a metaphor. (27)
    Blanchot is here troubled by the dialectical tension not only of impossible transcendence and impossible transgression but also between the fragmentary elements of Blanchot's book (i.e. its contiguity) and whatever "message" the text offers us (i.e. its continuity). This particular fragment occurs in a section of the text exploring the notion of "luck," and is immediately followed by the statement, at the beginning of the next fragment, that "it is not only with the law that luck has a remarkable relationship" (27). Blanchot goes on to point out, very much within the context of his suggestion of the slippage of "transcendence" into "transgression," that desire and luck operate within the ineluctable slippage between law as limit and transgression, the transgression of the law being the inception of another law, etc,. as Derrida so clearly points out.[6]

  24. This play of transcendence and transgression, luck and desire, inevitably finds its way into the parodic play of "voice" in Blanchot, which amounts to "the obscure combat between language and presence, always lost by one and by the other, but all the same won by presence, even if this be only as presence of language" (31), given that, as "Blanchot"'s "voice" "tells" "us,"

    I am not master of language.  I listen to it only 
    in its effacement, effacing myself in it, towards 
    this silent limit where it waits for one to lead 
    it back in order to speak, there where presence 
    fails as it fails there where desire carries it. (30)
    Blanchot's impossible claim of "self-effacement" ("I efface myself in language, and therefore am and am not its master") occurs in the discursive play of desire, luck, and transgression.

  25. Fragmentarity speaks directly to the ontology and teleology of the text. But this paramodern fragmentarity remains without referent to a whole, as a non-representational space emblemizing and echoing Nietzsche's atomistic dispersion; the space of the simulacrum. Blanchot:

    The fragment.  There is no experience of it, in 
    the sense that one does not admit it in any form 
    of present, that it would remain without subject 
    if it took place, thus excluding every present 
    and all presence, as it would be excluded from 
    them.  Fragments, marks of the fragmentary, referring 
    to the fragmentary that refers to nothing and has 
    no proper reference, nevertheless attesting to it, 
    pieces that do not compose themselves, are not part 
    of any whole, except to make fragmentary, not 
    separated or isolated, always, on the contrary, 
    effects of separation, separation always separated, 
    the passion of the fragmentary effects of effects.  (49)
    Here, early in Le pas au-delà, Blanchot has read the fragment-world as Beckett will read it, as a virtual series, a Möbius strip that demonstrates the "passion of the fragmentary effects of effects" and is always the "effect of separation." In this passage, Blanchot narrates the enervation of the fragmentary, down to the helix of self-referential repetition: since the fragment cannot take place in any present, it cannot be part of experience and, further "would remain without subject if it took place." This future conditional is the most unreliable of markers, a double exclusion, refusing presence and to be present. Its referent: nothing. "Nevertheless," Blanchot teases, the non-reference of the paramodern fragment (which we are reading; a double immersion in subject-denial) continues to "attest" to reference in "pieces that do not compose themselves" and "are not part of any whole."

  26. Fragmented, atomized, but never isolated. The paramodern fragment transgresses even separation to become a "separation always separated," the division of division, for which no cure exists. Here the paramodern death wish surfaces again, and will not conceal itself. The "fragmentary effects of effects," tending toward the Beckettian heap, circles on itself in a stasis of language that is at once still and in motion. Like the paramodern fragment, the fragmentary effect (which is death itself, an effect that cannot take place) piles itself before us relentlessly and limitlessly. As for Nietzsche and Derrida, for Blanchot the acknowledgement of the paramodern fragment produces the death-effect in and of language, as a threshold or fold of a slippage in which each proper step (pas) is a misstep.

    The "pas" of the completely passive -- the "step
    /not beyond"? -- is rather the folding back up, 
    unfolding itself, of a relation of strangeness that 
    is neither suffered nor assumed.  Transgressive 
    passivity, dying in which nothing is suffered, 
    nothing acted, which is unconcerned and takes on a 
    name only by neglecting the dying of others.  (122)
    In "folding" itself, that is in its articulation, the slippage of the paramodern fragment, the pas or ne pas, unfolds itself, revealing itself as a nonreferential space whose relativism is "completely passive" and internalized with no duration and no presence. What Blanchot calls the "transgressive passivity" of the fragment and of fragmentivity, as a constitutive "dying in which nothing is suffered, nothing acted" brings us abruptly face to face with the fragmentary strategy of The Unnamable. In "taking a name only by neglecting the dying of others," the liminal and transgressive step onto the tightrope of the paramodern, then, signals the entrance to the realm of the unnamable, the paramodern jester.

  27. As though bearing the weight of Baudrillard's dead hand of the past, Blanchot has been a co-visionary in Beckett's unnamable cosmos. While Beckett's The Unnamable operates through an alternative logic of excess, in which another use is made of the liminal language of the fragment, it is closely related to Blanchot's strategy in the last two fragments we have considered.

  28. Beckett, however, sees the fragment in a more microscopic (elemental) way: in The Unnamable the fragment is part of a sea of undifferentiated fragments in which the play of différance is minutely interstitial, dramatically demonstrated in the syntactic structuration of the page itself and its denial of the subject-position of the writer or the reader. Blanchot has demonstrated some of this: segments that seem to flow together eventually swirling around themselves until they begin to chase their own momentum, finally achieving a kind of static circularity that denies syntactic progression and the "period" of prose or poetry in its duration as writing and for the consciousness of the reader. The expected release of information in the fragmentarity of Blanchot, as in Beckett, is halted, indeed imploded, and yet goes on: it can't go on; it goes on. The Unnamable consists entirely of these unstructured and yet highly structured reversals of expectation, bringing character, substantiality, and any veracity of narrative radically and unresolvedly into question.

    III. Beckett's Unnamable Meaning to Mean

  29. Beckett's récit (or is it actually a novel?) consists of eighteen paragraph-like divisions, the first seventeen of which are caught, like Blanchot's, Derrida's, and Nietzsche's, on a tightrope somewhere between fiction and abstract discourse. They tell a story -- without telling a story; they mark or trace a virtual story in what must be called the "storyesque." We can recognize the genealogy of the story-fragment through Nietzsche in these sections, and the taxonomy of the story/theory aphorism through Derrida. But for Beckett, these short, first-person narratives then develop into something quite different. The eighteenth quasi-paragraph, the final one in the text, is 157 pages long, and goes through a series of disintegrative steps (pas) that turn the "paragraph" increasingly in on itself until its very punctuation disintegrates (the final three pages are without full stops -- with the exception of the final enigmatic period, the mark of closure with [the book stops] and without [satisfaction in the conclusion of the narrative is withheld] closure). This last section consists of a series of often-aphoristic phrases linked together by commas, which syntactically connect all the phrases into appositives even when they seem to "represent" full-stop positionalities, and seem to indicate, in their (non)sense, sentence-divisions.

  30. If Beckett is playing, as are Nietzsche, Derrida, and Blanchot, with the energization and enervation, the exhaustion and exhilaration, of style, his poetics of disruption and fragmentation requires an energy opposite to that required of the reader in Nietzsche's aphoristic experiments. His style is subtly and powerfully anti-representational, rewriting the relationship between the individual word and image and their cumulative result, seemingly attempting to form an additive agency (to "amount to something," as in Beckett's image of the impossible heap in Endgame and elsewhere) but always problematizing that agency through a fragmented aphoristics that denies morality, "author," subject, and telos, fabricating a solipsistic prose.

  31. The very idea of the first-person, with all of its claims to agency, is undermined in Beckett, who uses it to confess the absolute conundrum of the paramodern storyteller. "Where now? Who now? When now?" (3) the text begins, setting out the terse, journalistic conditions by which the quasi-narrator will proceed. Then, a few lines later, "What am I to do, what shall I do, what should I do, in my position, how proceed? By aporia pure and simple?"

  32. As the Nietzschean logic of the fragment has shown us, "aporia pure and simple" is impossible. On the other hand, we have seen the way in which impossibility discourses with possibility chez Blanchot, and that this aspect of tightrope logic is a seminal aspect of the transgressive texts of Blanchot and Beckett. To recall Libertson's words, since paramodern art is "a mobilization of possibility which . . . realizes too late its essential rapport with impossibility, and realizes that its unwavering trajectory toward failure is its only 'authenticity,'" the impossibility of aporia becomes more than possible; indeed, it becomes the general economy of failure through which Beckett operates, and within which the discourse of "possibility" and "impossibility" is the mark of the regional economy of criticism attempting to do it justice. This is what Blanchot means when he declares, in L'Entretien infini, that "l'interdit marque le point où cesse le pouvoir. . . . Elle désigne ce qui est radicalement hors de portée: l'atteinte de l'inaccessible, le franchissement de l'infranchissable" (308). This outside-of-reach-ness to which Blanchot refers is the aporia of possible/impossible within which both Blanchot and Beckett write.

  33. For Beckett, this discourse of fragments in their liminal heap requires something more than aporia, since the gaps by which we recognize the paramodern are held in place by the gestures of a poetic prose operating in the tightrope logic of poiesis we have visited in Blanchot. This "something more" Beckett immediately provides: "I should mention before going any further, any further on, that I say aporia without knowing what it means. Can one be ephectic otherwise than unawares?" Aporia compounded by aporia. Once we have looked it up, discovering that ephectic means "lost in rhetoric" -- can one indeed be lost in rhetoric otherwise than unawares? -- and that the aporia is deepened (if this were not impossible) by Beckett's qualification and explanation of it, one is forcibly reminded of the radical resistance to readability Beckett's noli me legere presents, keeping all questions unresolved, in flux, in a perpetual agon inhabiting, Beckett seems to tell us, the very nature of language itself. This is to be "one's" "experience" of it. But Beckett goes on:

    Can one be ephectic otherwise than unawares?  I 
    don't know.  With the yesses and the noes it is 
    different, they will come back to me as I go along 
    and how, like a bird, to shit on them all without 
    exception.  The fact would seem to be, if in my 
    situation one may speak of facts, not only that I 
    shall have to speak of things of which I cannot 
    speak, but also, which is even more interesting, 
    but also that I, which is if possible even more 
    interesting, that I shall have to, I forget, no 
    matter.  And at the same time I am obliged to speak.  
    I shall never be silent.  Never.  (291)
    To be silent (further echoes of Hamlet), one must possess a silent "I," or cease to operate in a world of différance; one must erase the differend. Alternatively, one might float at the very edge of silence with impunity, even transgress its law. And indeed, Beckett has here produced not paragraphs, not aphorisms, but paragraph-elements declaring that if meaning is in the surface of the text (if it is anywhere), if the representative or mimetic quality of the text is truly eradicable while not eradicating the text itself, as Nietzsche called for (i.e. if the subject disappears, leaving only the "base metal" of writing itself), then this is the result: an insular, hermetic, self-conscious prose that, while radically self-aware, remains subjectless and interstitial. Or, as the characterless voice of the unnamable occupying the subject position in The Unnamable says:

    I'm all these words, all these strangers, this 
    dust of words, with no ground for their settling, 
    no sky for their dispersing, coming together to 
    say, fleeing one another to say, that I am they, 
    all of them, all of those that merge, those that 
    part, those that never meet, and nothing else, 
    yes, something else, that I'm something quite 
    different, a quite different thing" (386)
    This "I" to which the writing in The Unnamable refers, as "a quite different thing," is in fact something quite différant, inscribed as other, precisely as Beckett indicates in his non-characterological narrative. Important, further, to remember that The Unnamable is written in the "first person impossible" Beckett adopts for his subject-less texts of liminal subjectivity in which the upright pronoun does not represent any subject but the voided subject position, "this dust of words." Indeed, Beckett further inscribes the otherness of the subject-position in this dizzingly detached anti-space by going on (without going on):

    . . . I'm something different, a quite different 
    thing, a wordless thing in an empty place, a hard 
    shut dry cold black place, where nothing stirs, 
    nothing speaks, and that I listen, and that I 
    seek . . . .  (386)
    Et que j'ecoute, et que je cherche. . . A poetics of desire, of remnants and remains. Here, any notion of the transcendental teleology of aphorism is eradicated; what remains, as remains, is the impossible heap, in equivalency, transmuting and permutating before our eyes into their own negations, authorizing the page on which they are to be found, and simultaneously, opaquely, remaining behind, earthbound yet afloat. Beckett operates here as the ironist on a tightrope of paramodern discourse, a perpetual-motion machine poised at the threshold of the abyss yet always slipping on away from it, forcing us to rely on these substantial and insubstantial words. And why? Toward what end?: the storyesque, as we have confronted it in Blanchot:

    . . . to have them carry me into my story, the 
    words that remain, my old story, which I've 
    forgotten, far from here, through the noise, 
    through the door, into the silence, that must 
    be it, it's too late, perhaps it's too late, 
    perhaps they have, how would I know, in the 
    silence you don't know, perhaps it's the door, 
    perhaps I'm at the door, that would surprise me, 
    perhaps it's I, perhaps somewhere or other it 
    was I, I can depart, all this time I've journeyed 
    without knowing it, it's I now at the door, what 
    door, what's a door doing here, it's the last 
    words, the true last, or it's the murmurs, the 
    murmurs are coming, I know that well, no, not 
    even that . . .  (413)
    Beckett's pseudo-teleology here, the death-wish parodied into the word-wish for silence beyond the door, the threshold, of words which, like the door of the Law in Kafka's parable, cannot be and cannot but be transgressed, permits only the slippage of discursive permutations back into the fold of words, even if they take the form of quasi-words mechanically anthropomorphosed -- murmurs, always "far from here" and always "too late," but with the tendentious possibility of "carrying me [the objective pronoun] into my story," always in the future conditional. In this notion of the transgressive fragmentation of language, the door of sense can only be opened (transgressed) in the storyesque, and always operates to occlude the subjecthood of experience that would cross over. This dialectic of limitation and limitedness, of the possible and the impossible, points toward the nameless non-transcendence of the fragment. Indeed, as Beckett concludes, "how would I know?"

  34. To be at the threshold of those longed-for end-words, behind which might be the impossible silence; to define, as Beckett's quasi-protagonist does, that space ("what's a door doing here, it's the last words, the true last"); and then to slip (not) beyond that defining certainty into the contingent fragmentarity by which story is (not) in the storyesque ("the last words, the true last, or it's the murmurs, the murmurs are coming") in murmurs that are "here," and then not "here," and then not known at all. . . . This unnamable condition is the resistance to synthesis, the unreadability of what Bataille calls "supplication sans espoir" (L'Expérience intérieure, 47). No wonder Beckett ends (and begins) The Unnamable with a critique of "going on," finishing with "I can't go on, I'll go on," having started with "Keep going, going on, call that going, call that on." As Derrida says,

    There is no name for it. . . .  This unnamable 
    is not an ineffable being which no name could 
    approach. . . .  This unnamable is the play 
    which makes possible nominal effects, the relatively 
    unitary and atomic structures that are called 
    names, the chains of substitutions of names.  
    (Margins of Philosophy, 26)
    "The chains of substitutions of names" define Beckett's strategic effacement as the signature of a radically problematic presence of law as separation in the condition of an eternal simulacrum. For Nietzsche, Derrida, Blanchot, and Beckett, poiesis is unavoidable simulacrum, what Derrida calls ineviterability. The othering at the center of paramodern poiesis, and its inscription of the unnamable, is, Derrida claims, "prenomial"(Margins, 26), ineviterable, transgression that "dislocates itself." Thus Beckett's impossible heap, what Linda Hutcheon calls "a flux of contextualized identities" (A Poetics of Postmodernism, 59), wanders, refusing to follow lines of symmetrical and integral inverses, at play, announcing or testifying to "the unity of chance and necessity in calculations without end" (Margins, 7).

  35. Progressions of the unnamable, proceeding from Nietzsche's elementalism, which initiates the critique of narrative as well as of truth. In the paramodern, such legitimation is always its own illegitimation and its danger, "the manifestation of the drives beyond and within writing" (McGowan, 72), revealing an "originary violence" (McGowan, 117) repressed by the metaphysics of narrativity in an effort to "embody a logic of self-preservation," while "différance points toward self-dissolution," stepping (not) beyond the master/slave dialectic of disrupted representations endemic to discourse itself. "Progressions of the unnamable," "poetics of disruption"; these are themselves oxymoronic literary spaces of contradiction, since to "make" such a "poetics" must be to step (not) beyond poiesis, an internal call for another limit there on the tightrope of paramodern discourse, the step (not) beyond.


  1. I have explored, in a series of essays, the strategic parallel strategy of subversion within the so-called modern, at least from the Enlightenment to the present. Because this mapping clearly shows the dialectical nature of a subversive parallel aesthetic texturality at work, I have jettisoned the common "postmodern," as a ruinously-flawed méconaissance, and adopted the more accurate "paramodern," which also contains, as shall become increasingly obvious here, the reverberation of the parasite, which is precisely the way in which the paramodern should be read.Back

  2. No discussion of Blanchot, Beckett, the marginal, and transgression can proceed without reference to Bataille who, throughout his work, explores the nature of excess and the creative negativity of the margin. Bataille's discussion of the economy of transgression (general and regional) can be found in the Oeuvres complètes VII-VIII. See also Joseph Libertson's Proximity: Levinas, Blanchot, Bataille and Communication (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982), Chapter Two, for a discussion of transgression in Bataille and Blanchot.

    One must distinguish between Bataille's notion of transgression as general economy and of "failure as a virtue" (Gregg 15) and Foucault's notion of transgression, as laid out in his "A Preface to Transgression," published in 1963. For Foucault, as Roy Boyne points out, transgression is "magnetic, wonderful, unnameable, and waiting to reveal the face of the absolutely unacceptable" (Boyne 80-81). Many of the themes developed in this essay are adumbrated in Foucault's transgressive which, though it at first appears to be a metaphysical or transcendental phenomenon, is finally an issue of identity and madness: "our face in an other mirror, not the face of the other seen through our mirror, the mirror of reason" (Boyne 81). For Foucault as for Bataille, an uncrossable limit cannot exist except as a "non-positive affirmation," which is just the sort of abyssal space Blanchot and Beckett introduce.Back

  3. Gregg has a good deal to say, very usefully, about the relationship between the transgressive and the economy of the law. His Maurice Blanchot and the Literature of Transgression (Princeton, 1994) is a fine study of the ways in which Blanchot relates, through Bataille's regional and general economy, to the Nietzschean world of contingency. Gregg adumbrates a thorough sense of the paramodern in his work, particularly in his sense of the vertiginous inherent in Blanchot's writing. Gregg states that at the heart of the aesthetic experience is the transgression of the law. This is emblemized in Orpheus' turning -- for the second time -- to look at Eurydice, thus losing her forever. That turn is the unavoidable, endemic transgression of the divine law, the turn "marks the point at which power and mastery cease to be his overriding concerns and are replaced by the dispossession of fascination" (47). This turning symbolizes for Gregg the central elements of transgression: impatience and desire. Orpheus' glance is in fact the success of the aesthetic process, since in it he maintains the distance between the impossible figure of Eurydice and himself, producing the perpetual "approach to an ever-receding horizon that remains perpatually out of reach" (47). This transgression of success itself -- the "failure"of art is indeed its success, as Gregg shows Libertson pointing out, renders art a "mobilization of possibility which . . . realizes too late its essential rapport with impossibility, and realizes that its only unwavering trajectory toward failure is its only 'authenticity'" (146; Gregg 48). This inversion of so-called success and so-called failure is an emblematic marker for both Blanchot and Beckett, as it is for Nietzsche and Derrida.Back

  4. As a parody of the noli me tangere with which Jesus confronts Mary Magdalene immediately following the resurrection, this noli marks the exclusion of any possible "writer" from any conceivable text. If Christ is the inspiration for the transgressive nature of the disruptive texts of Nietzsche/Derrida/Blanchot/Beckett, Mallarme is the catalyst: "the volume takes place all alone: done, been" (Gregg 57). As both limit and unavoidable invitation to transgress the limit/law, the text circulates between these poles in a series of looped returns concentrated in the aphorism.Back

  5. For Blanchot and Beckett, the issue of transgression and the fragment is integrally enmeshed with the theme of death. Transgression, in writing, is a spectacle in which culture witnesses the illegal without committing it. But the transgression -- the "text itself," and in the texts in question this is compounded by the paramodern strategies of fragmentation and parody -- leads finally to sacrifice, in which death itself is transferred to a figurative other [See Gregg 14]. The fragment takes the form of the emblematic sparagmos, parodying the nature of the sacrifice without giving up its agency.Back

  6. For Blanchot, as we have seen, "transgression" is a "less compromising way to name" "transcendence," since "transgression" always re-introduces the notion of the limit and the law "into every thought." In this circularity, every advance is a regression, every success a failure, every completion another opening. The same strategy of reversal takes place in Beckett's work.Back

Works Cited

Auslander, Philip. Presence and Resistance: Postmodernism and Cultural Politics in Contemporary American Performance. Ann Arbor: The U of Michigan P. 1992.

Bataille, George. L'Expérience intérieure. 1943.

-----. Oeuvres complètes VII-VIII. Paris: Gallimard. 1973.

Beckett, Samuel. The Unnamable. New York: Grove Press. 1958.

Blanchot, Maurice. L'Entretien infini. Paris: Gallimard. 1969.

-----. The Infinite Conversation. Trans. Susan Hanson. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. 1993.

-----. The Step Not Beyond. Albany: SUNY Press. 1992.

Boyne, Roy. Foucault and Derrida: The Other Side of Reason. London: Unwin Hyman. 1990.

Derrida, Jacques. 'Aphorism Countertime.' Jacques Derrida: Acts of Literature. New York: Routledge. 1992.

-----. Margins of Philosophy. Trans. Alan Bass. Chicago: U of Chicago P. 1972.

-----. The Truth in Painting. Trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod. Chicago: U of Chicago P. 1987.

Goethe, Johan von. Faust. Trans. Philip Wayne. Baltimore: Penguin Books. 1962.

Gregg, John. Maurice Blanchot and the Literature of Transgression. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP. 1994.

Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York: Routledge. 1988.

Kamuf, Peggy. A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds. New York: Columbia UP. 1991.

Libertson, Joseph. Proximity: Levinas, Blanchot, Bataille, and Communication. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. 1982.

McGowan, John. Postmodernism and Its Critics. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP. 1991.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books. 1966.

-----. The Gay Science. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books. 1974.

-----. Thus Spake Zarathustra. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books. 1966.

-----. The Will to Power. Trans and ed. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books. 1968.

Shutte, Ofelia. Beyond Nihilism: Nietzsche Without Masks. Chicagoy: U of Chicago P. 1984.

Slöterdijk, Peter. Thinker on Stage: Nietzsche's Materialism. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P. 1989.