The Absolute Milieu: Blanchot’s Aesthetics of Melancholy

In: Research in Phenomenology
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  • 1 University of Southampton

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Unlike his other fictional works Blanchot’s 1953 narrative Celui qui ne m’accompagnait pas has received comparatively little attention. The reasons for this would seem to lie in the intense abstraction of his writing in this work, which is forbidding even by his own standards, but as I will show, this intensity can be understood as comprising a singular topography of the experience of writing. Blanchot’s narrative thereby becomes a very precise and concrete form of aesthetics, which can be usefully compared to the understandings of melancholy developed by Benjamin and Adorno, but transposed into a more stringent modernist context.

  • 1

    M. Blanchot, Celui qui ne m’accompagnait pas (Paris: Gallimard, 1953); translated by Lydia Davis as The One Who Was Standing Apart From Me, in The Station Hill Blanchot Reader: Fiction and Literary Essays, ed. George Quasha (Barrytown, ny: Station Hill, 1999); hereafter cited as cq, followed first by French then English page numbers. Although available English translations of French and German texts used in this essay will be cited, translations have been amended throughout.

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  • 10

    Blanchot, Faux pas (Paris: Gallimard, 1943), 10; translated by Charlotte Mandell as Faux Pas (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001), 2. I have explored this essay in more detail in “Dead Transcendence: Blanchot, Heidegger, and the Reverse of Language,” Research in Phenomenology 39, no. 1 (2009): 79–86. See also, Raymond Bellour, “Blanchot, ‘solitude de l’œuvre,’ ” Magazine littéraire 290 (1991): 43–47.

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  • 12

    Christophe Bident, Maurice Blanchot, partenaire invisible (Seyssel: Champ Vallon, 1998), 322.

  • 13

    Rainer Maria Rilke, “Sonette an Orpheus,” in The Poetry of Rilke, edited and translated by Edward Snow (New York: North Point, 2009), 358–59. “Sonette” first published 1923.

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  • 14

    Rilke, “Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes,” in The Poetry of Rilke, 202–3. Poem first published ca. 1907.

  • 15

    Blanchot, “Le compagnon de route,” Botteghe Oscure 10 (1952): 39–53. In the English translation of the récit, this extract corresponds to pages 263–73, 279–81, and 296 of The Station Hill Blanchot Reader.

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  • 17

    Hermann Schweppenhäuser, “Quipus,” in Zeugnisse. Theodor W. Adorno zum sechzigsten Geburtstag, ed. Max Horkheimer (Frankfurt am Main: Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1963), 281 (“Melancholy is the feeling that accompanies the thinking that thinks to the end”).

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