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Beyond the Limits of Language

Apophasis and Transgression in Contemporary Theoretical Discourse


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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How would what still comes to us under the domestic, European, Greek, and Christian term of negative theology, of negative way, of apophatic discourse, be the chance of an incomparable translability in principle without limit? Not of a universal tongue, of an ecumenism or of some consensus, but of a tongue to come that can be shared more than ever?

Jacques Derrida, Sauf le nom

In his 1971 landmark essay, “Irony as a Principle of Structure,” Cleanth Brooks identifies irony as a crucial trope of his age, arguing that as “an acknowledgment of the pressures of context” it best reflects a host of historical circumstances:

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