The imperative to write: destitutions of the sublime in Kafka, Blanchot, and Beckett
Fordham University Press, New York, 440 pp.
Is writing haunted by a categorical imperative? Does the Kantian sublime continue to shape the writer's vocation, even for twentieth-century authors? What precise shape, form, or figure does this residue of sublimity take in the fictions that follow from itand that leave it in ruins?
This book explores these questions through readings of three authors who bear witness to an ambiguous exigency: writing as a demanding and exclusive task, at odds with life, but also a mere compulsion, a drive without end or reason, even a kind of torture. If Kafka, Blanchot, and Beckett mimic a sublime vocation in their extreme devotion to writing, they do so in full awareness that the trajectory it dictates leads not to metaphysical redemption but rather downward, into the uncanny element of fiction. As this book argues, the sublime has always been a deeply melancholy affair, even in its classical Kantian form, but it is in the attenuated speech of narrative voices progressively stripped of their resources and rewards that the true nature of this melancholy is revealed.
-- Kafka. Kafka's teeth: the literary gewissenbiss
-- The ecstasy of judgment
-- Embodied violence and the leap from the law: "in The penal colony" and The trial
-- Degradation of the sublime: A hunger artist
-- Blanchot. Pointed instants: Blanchot's exigencies
-- The shell and the mask: L'arrêt de mort
-- The dead look: The death mask, the corpse image, and the haunting of fiction
-- Beckett. Beckett's voices and the paradox of expression
-- Company, but not enough
-- Conclusion: speech unredeemed: from the call of conscience to the torture of language.
Jeff Fort is Assistant Professor of French at the University of California, Davis. He has translated a number of books by authors including Maurice Blanchot, Jean Genet, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jacques Roubaud.
Estas ilustraciones pertenecen a Kafka for Begginers (Kafka, La Cúpula, Barcelona. 2010, 180 pp. ISBN: 978-84-7833-898-6) la novela gráfica ilustrada por Robert Crumb con textos de David Zane Mairowitz