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Blanchot Romantique

A Collection of Essays


Edited By John McKeane and Hannes Opelz

The work of French writer and essayist Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003) is without doubt among the most challenging the twentieth century has to offer. Contemporary debate in literature, philosophy, and politics has yet to fully acknowledge its discreet but enduring impact. Arising from a conference that took place in Oxford in 2009, this book sets itself a simple, if daunting, task: that of measuring the impact and responding to the challenge of Blanchot’s work by addressing its engagement with the Romantic legacy, in particular (but not only) that of the Jena Romantics. Drawing upon a wide range of philosophers and poets associated directly or indirectly with German Romanticism (Kant, Fichte, Goethe, Jean Paul, Novalis, the Schlegels, Hölderlin), the authors of this volume explore how Blanchot’s fictional, critical, and fragmentary texts rewrite and rethink the Romantic demand in relation to questions of criticism and reflexivity, irony and subjectivity, narrative and genre, the sublime and the neutre, the Work and the fragment, quotation and translation. Reading Blanchot with or against key twentieth-century thinkers (Benjamin, Foucault, de Man), they also examine Romantic and post-Romantic notions of history, imagination, literary theory, melancholy, affect, love, revolution, community, and other central themes that Blanchot’s writings deploy across the century from Jean-Paul Sartre to Jean-Luc Nancy. This book contains contributions in both English and French.


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Introduction: The Absolute, the Fragmentary Pas au-delà – de la religion: de la Littérature et de la politique, et même de ce qu’on nomme si emphatiquement l’éthique. — Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, ‘L’Agonie de la religion’1 Opening … an Epoch Blanchot romantique? Our title could perhaps be greeted with surprise, and certainly with a question. On one level, its provocation must remain sterile, unless one abolishes all literary-historical perspective. On another level, Romanticism does seem to singularly resist such a perspective. Whilst it refers of course to a circumscribed period or atmosphere, Romanticism also stands for the demand – whether naïve, necessary, or both – that such circumscriptions be abandoned, in favour of an all-consuming, unreason- able, infinite or absolute mode of literary experience, whereby the poetic, the philosophical, and the political (if such substantives can register some of the broader stakes raised by our title) enter into an entirely new kind of relation. It is, in brief, the presence of this demand that this volume aims to measure: in Blanchot’s work, in contemporary work on Blanchot, and as such, in what we know today as criticism, literary theory, the roman, the fragmentary, the neutre, the subject, community, affect, and revolu- 1 In Revue des sciences humaines, 253 ( January–March 1999), 227–29 (p. 229). 2 Hannes Opelz and John McKeane tion – to mention only some of the major topics explored in the essays collected here. If there is a sense in which Romanticism may still be ‘notre naïveté’ (AL, 27;...

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