The caress of futurity: a study of the ontological status of art and language in the works of Levinas, Blanchot, and Agamben
Wall, Thomas Carl, 1954-
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In general, our study is an attempt to communicate with recent work on mimesis, differance, and affect in the belief that this work has radicalized and generalized the concept of communication and, hence, of community (politics, ethics, and art). We will observe, as our most consistent point of reference, that the very term 'artwork' has come to be oxymoronic. Yet the term is still the obscure memory of a profoundly unaccomplished time that particular works of art freeze into an icon. That is to say, the work of art retains an untimeliness too young to be yet thinkable, or so purely diachronic as to be always already no longer thinkable. What is more, art is "able" to communicate this untimeliness. That works of art exist at all is, in this study, evidence of a communication irreducible to cognition.Beginning with Emmanuel Levinas's description of art as reality's "shadow," or "allegory," we attempt to think the artwork as an ontological enigma. In our third chapter we will pursue the paradoxical logic that attaches to that which has no self as it speaks even more enigmatically in the writings of Maurice Blanchot for whom language in general is withdrawn from power into a pure potentia, or "profound depth." This characteristic--no identity--is also a Levinasian theme and we wish to show, in our second chapter, that his ethical language both is and is not "equal" to a rapport (without rapport) with that which escapes identity (without escaping). In short, we will conclude that there is no autrement qu'etre but we will notice the outlines of an infinite delay or an empty totality that does and does not hearken to the call of Being. With this in mind we will turn to Giorgio Agamben for whom "being-in-language" is the very other experience of time hitherto attested in the stupefied immobility of the icon. To make this argument, we will rejoin Kant's obsession with the transcendental apperceptor and we will ask, simply: Who is there?
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