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Matters of Time

Material Temporalities in Twentieth-Century French Culture


Edited By Lisa Jeschke and Adrian May

Matters of Time provides an unorthodox array of perspectives on materialist thought and representation in twentieth-century French intellectual culture. Time is figured as the quintessential revolutionary concept, through key historical moments from Jean Jaurès’ orientation of the socialists at the turn of the century to the inter-generational conflict and politicization of everyday life in May ’68. Essays on dialectics and theories of teleological progress are placed side by side with accounts of the existential turn in Marxist thought in France. Contributions on Heidegger and Sartre inject meditations on human mortality into considerations of a new politics of finitude. The volume also emphasizes the inseparability of aesthetic and political thought for the French avant-gardes: chapters on Sade, Artaud and Jarry place Marx’s theories of production and commodity fetishism into contact with bodily abjection. The manipulation of time in cinema and matter in painting are examined as a testament to the twentieth century as a period of continuing experimental tension between form and signification. Generational futurity is explored through Genet’s spatial representations of filiation and Verlaine’s proto-ecological attunement to nature. The volume as a whole constructs a necessarily fragmented timeline of the breaks, tensions and antagonisms in twentieth-century French thought, culture and politics, with particular focus on questions of late capitalism and political, intellectual and aesthetic progress and regress.
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A Stitch in Time: Temporal Threads in Jean Genet


← 260 | 261 → JOANNE BRUETON

‘A stitch in time saves nine’ / ‘Un point à temps en vaut cent’: English proverb expressing the benefits of timely prevention, the advantages of minimal correction; anagram for ‘this is meant as incentive’.

—Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, Adagies and Proverbs,Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern,Foreign and British (1732)

In his autobiographical essay on the production of the veil, ‘Un Ver à Soie – points de vue piqués sur l’autre’, Derrida explores time as a material construct: lateness, delay, being behind or over time, treated as synthetic problems and dealt with by material solutions. Derrida opens his musings by insisting that he weave before it is too late, striving to make a stitch in time

avant le verdict, le mien, avant que, tombant sur moi, il ne m’attire avec lui dans la chute, avant qu’il ne soit trop tard, ne point écrire. Point final, un point c’est tout […]. Souvenir d’enfance: en levant les yeux au-dessus de leurs fils de laine, sans en interrompre ni même ralentir le mouvement de leurs doigts agiles, les femmes de ma famille disaient parfois, me semble-t-il, qu’il fallait diminuer […] qu’il fallait procéder à la diminution des points ou réduire les mailles d’un ouvrage en cours […]. Et, par ce maillage désormais imprenable, laisser encore la rhétorique s’approprier le vrai du verdict.1

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