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Beyond the Limits of Language

Apophasis and Transgression in Contemporary Theoretical Discourse

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Agata Wilczek

The book explores the way in which apophatic discourse of negative theology has illuminated contemporary critical theory. It demonstrates the significance of apophasis both in Jacques Derrida’s search for a «new language», responsive to singularity and alterity, and in the analyses of the experience of transgression, developed by Maurice Blanchot, George Bataille and Michel Foucault. Following Derrida’s understanding of negative theology as a transgressive concept that transcends the linguistic, historical and religious contexts from which it arises, the book proves that apophasis is not merely a discourse on language restricted to one theological tradition, but should be viewed as a mode of dialogue and openness, essential to all responsible thinking.

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Introduction .............................................................................................................9 Part One: (Un)saying God: Jacques Derrida’s Dream of “New Language” ........................................................25 Chapter One: Derrida’s (Negative) “Theological Turn”?........................................28 1. “Theological Turn” or Political Comeback? ...................................................... 28 2. Religious Readings of Deconstruction .............................................................. 33 3. Deconstruction and Negative Theology ............................................................ 42 Excursus: Mode and Idiom .......................................................................................63 Chapter Two: Dialogue ..............................................................................................67 1. Two Voices, Two Visions, Two Powers: Together and/or Separately.............. 69 2. Responding to the Call: “After-writing” and Rethinking God ........................ 80 Chapter Three: Silence ...............................................................................................98 1. Silence as a “Modality of Speech” ..................................................................... 100 2. Speaking Of and Within Promise..................................................................... 105 3. Keeping God’s Silence ........................................................................................ 110 Part Two: Language and Beyond: Apophatic Transgression ....... 121 Chapter Four: The Linguistic Turn of Transgression.......................................... 124 1. The Step/Not Beyond ......................................................................................... 126 2. Nothing Except Nuance: the Neuter ................................................................ 128 3. Language as Non-Vision ................................................................................... 138 4. Writing as the “Essential Experience” .............................................................. 145 5. Apophatic Theology and the Space of Literature ........................................... 155 8Chapter Five: Transgression and Transcendence ................................................ 163 1. Transgression and the Sacred ........................................................................... 164 2. Transgression as the Path to God ..................................................................... 169 3. Transcendence and the Sense of Transgression ............................................. 173 Conclusions ......................................................................................................... 181 Bibliography ........................................................................................................ 185

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