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Lyotard and/on Literature

Author(s): Anne Tomiche


Source: Yale French Studies, No. 99, Jean-Francois Lyotard: Time and Judgment (2001), pp. 149163
Published by: Yale University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2903249
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ANNE TOMICHE

Lyotardand/onLiterature

At firstsight,it mightseem that,throughout


his ceuvre,Lyotardhas
moreoftencommentedon visualworksofartthanon literary
ones:he
has writtenextensivelyon a numberof paintersincludingMarcel
Duchamp,ValerioAdami,ShusakuArakawa,Daniel Buren,and BarnettNewman,andon therelationbetweenthesublimeandtheavantgardein painting;he has collaboratedon numerousartists'catalogues
andhe was commissionedtoorganizean exhibitionattheCentrePompidouin Parisin 1985 (Les Immateriaux).Such relianceon thevisual
artscouldbe interpreted
as theconsequenceoftheemphasisthatLyotardhas placedon theconceptsof"figure"and "unpresentable,"
both
ofwhichnamethatwhichsubvertsarticulateddiscourseandmightbe
outsideorbeyondlanguage.
However,if one looks at the worksthatframehis career-from
Shakespeare,Mallarme,and Butorin theearlyDiscours,figure(1971)
up to Joyceand Kafkain Lecturesd'enfance(1991),and Malrauxin
Signed,Malraux (1996) and SoundproofRoom (1998)-Lyotardalso
uses certainliterary
textsas supportsto develop"philosophical"concepts(fromthe "figural"up to the "event,"the "inhuman"and "intexts.Lyotard
fancy")thathave,in return,shedlighton theseliterary
beginsPeregrinations
by tellinghow,whenhe was about twenty,he
was temptedbycreativewriting,
butquicklygaveitup: "I presumemy
novelmighthavebeensomethinglikea nouveauroman,sinceMichel
ButorandRogerLaporteweremyclassmatesat theSorbonne"(Per.,1).
The toneis slightly
nostalgic.Does ithintthatLyotard's
philosophical
andestheticwritings
havetobe readagainstthefailureofhis earlyexperienceas creativewriter?It mightbe a way to explainwhyLyotard
is so cautiouswhenhe discussesliterarytexts.Cautious and almost
ofcommenting
on lititseems.He alwaysstressesthedifficulty
afraid,
ed. HarveyandSchehr,
YFS 99, Jean-Franpois
Lyotard:Timeand Judgment,
(C2001 byYale University.

149

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150

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he alwaysunderscores
erature,
howthecommentary
is neveradequate
to theliterarytext.1It is notuntilthe 1990sthatcertaintextswill be
entirelydevotedto literature(withLecturesd'enfance,the textson
Joyceand,to a lesserextentandstillwithmuchrhetorical
precaution,
on Kafka,and then,withSigned,Malraux and Soundproof
Room on
Malraux).
LYOTARD'S LITERARY CANON
Lyotard'sliterarycanon-from Butorto Stein,Joyceand Beckettincludesa genealogyofwriterswho areheirto a Flaubertassertinghis
desireto writea "book on nothing"(livresurrien)and to a Mallarme
statingthat to writeis to assertthe absence of thingsratherthan
theirpresence.Suchwritersfocuson "nothingness,"
"emptiness,"and
ratherthanon plenitudeofmeaning.They are morein"non-sense"l
terestedin thehow ofrepresentation
thanin whatis represented,
more
interested,
indeed,in questioningthepossibilityofrepresention
than
in producingwhat Barthescalled "realityeffects."2Such literature
findsitsobjectslessinreferents
thatwouldbe outsideitthaninitsown
and in the"nothingness"thatorganizesit,in "theNothfunctioning
ing... whichin theguffawoftheAbderitenaughtis morereal."3To
putit in different
thatinterestsLyotardis a literterms,theliterature
aturewhosestakesareless to createharmoniousand beautifulforms
thanto distortandtogivevoiceto disharmony
andexcess.As he notes
in "Return,""by the time Joycewrote Ulysses,artistsand writers
knew... that... thestakesofwritingare ;. . . now explicitly)not to
createbeauty,butrathertobearwitnessto a liabilityto thevoice that,
withinman,exceedsman,nature,andtheirclassicalconcordance"(TP,
198).Lyotardevengoes so faras to write,in PostmodernFables, that
literature
is betterequippedthanphilosophyto givevoice to its constitutivevoid and nothingness:"GertrudeStein,Joyce,or Duchamp
seemlikebetter'philosophical'mindsthanNietzscheorHeideggerI meanmoreaptto takeintoconsideration
theexitlessnothbybetter,
1. Forexample,concerning
GertrudeStein:"No comments.The selectiondonefor
thepurposesofquotingis alreadyoutrageous"(D, 67);andconcerning
Kafka:"As always,
theviolenceandsimpleclarityofKafka'stextrequireno commentary.
Ifanything,
com" (TP, 176).
mentary
willdiminishthem-a facttowhichI resignmyself
2. See RolandBarthes,"L'effet
de r6el,"in Le bruissernent
de la langue(Paris:Seuil,
1984),167-74;translated
as TheRustleofLanguagebyRichardHoward(NewYork:Hill
andWang,1986).
3. SamuelBeckett,
Murphy[1938](NewYork:GrovePress,1957),246.

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151

ingnesstheWestgavebirthto in thefirstquarterofthetwentieth
century;andby'philosophical,'I mean,ifit is truethatphilosophizing
is
a matterof'style,'whatPaul Valeryconcludes. .. inLeonardoand Philosophy"(PF,23).
Ultimately,Lyotard'sliterarycanonis constitutedofwriterswho
are moreinterestedin wordsthemselvesthanin narratives.
Justas in
thefieldofvisual arts,Lyotardprivilegesa traditionofnonrepresentationalpaintingthatgoesback to Cezanne'sgreateremphasison color
in theliterary
thanon forms,
fieldhe privilegesa tradition
thatis more
interested
in wordsthanin plots,forhe drawsa parallelbetweencolor
as the "matter"ofpaintingand wordsas the "matter"ofwritingand
thinking:"Perhapswords themselves,in the most secretplace of
areitsmatter,
itstimbre,itsnuance,i.e.,whatit cannotmanthought,
age to think....

As Gertrude Stein thought, to write is to respect

[words']candorandtheirage,as CezanneorKarelAppelrespectcolors"
interestin thenonnarrative
proseofStein,
(Inh,143).Hence Lyotard's
Joyce,or Butor.Yet evenwhen dealingwithShakespeare,Lyotardfocuses on wordsratherthanon thestory.At theendofDiscours,figure,
he introduces
whathe callsa "Shakespearianepisode"todiscussHamlet.However,he doesnotfocuson thescenariooftheplaybuton what
he readsas thelapsus madebyone ofthecomedianshiredbyHamlet
to perform
Priam'smurder:"But who, 0! who had seen the mobled
queen" (386).The term"mobled,"towhichHamletreacts,is takenby
tofunction
as thetraceleftuponwordsbytheoperationsofthe
Lyotard
primaryunconscious(i.e.,condensation-of"mob," "motley,""mobile,"and "mother"-and displacement,
fromHecuba to Gertrude).
It seems equallysurprising
to see Lyotardfocuson a "narrative"
writersuchas Malraux,thatis,a writerinterested
in content,plot,and
does
meaning,andtosee himdevotetwobookstosuchfigure.4
Lyotard
not hide,however,thatthe pointofhis studyof Malraux's"antiesthetics"is tohavehimincludedin a canonofmuchless narrative
writers such as Celine, Bataille,Artaud,and Joyce.He concedescertain
"compositionalshortcomings"
(traversd'ecriture)on Malraux'spart,
whichhe identifies
as an inclinationforepicwriting,
theeloquenceof
a publicfigure(CS,20),thefactthat"narration
... evokesrealities.. .,
uses wordsas a functionoftheircontentand arrangesthemfromone
4. SigngMalraux(1996)is whatLyotardcalls a "hypobiography,"
while Chainbre
sourde(1998)focuseson Malraux'sesthetics,
orrather"anti-esthetics"
(thebook'ssubtitle).

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end to theotherofthenarrativewiththeaim ofprovidinga meaning


foran eschatology"(CS,64).However,in spiteofthese"compositional
shortcomings,"
all ofwhichhave to do withtoo muchnarrativity
and
too muchfocuson theconstruction
ofmeaning,and in orderto bring
Malrauxintohis literarycanon,Lyotardemphasizestwo dimensions
ofMalraux'sesthetics:abjectionandinarticulation.
The abjectis that
which is at the veryfoundationof Malraux'swriting,that against
which writingstrugglesbut that which is constitutiveof writing.
Hence theemphasison theputridin thefirsttwo chaptersofSoundproofRoom,on whatLyotard,
afterMalraux'sLazarus,calls "dread"
within"(CS, 25). Focusingon
(epouvante),whose "horrorproliferates
abjectionputsMalrauxin thecompanyofCeline,Bataille,andArtaud.
The conceptofinarticulation
thatLyotardhas explicitlydevelopedin
Lecturesd'enfanceas well as in "Emma," and whichis inseparable
fromtheconceptofarticulation
developedin TheDifferend,
takeshere
the formof what Lyotard,afterMalrauxhimself,calls "stridency":
is notcommensurable
withspeech,perhapsnotevencom"stridency
mensurablewithsomephone" (CS, 98). Lyotardevengoes so faras to
compareMalraux'svoicein his speechforJeanMoulin'sfuneralin the
PantheontoArtaud'svoicein his 1947radiobroadcast"To Have Done
withtheJudgment
ofGod."5Ifindeedone mightcomparethe excess
in Malraux'sand Artaud'svoices and theirabilityto modulatean incrediblescale ofsounds,thecomparisonseemsmuchless appropriate
whenone considersthestakesofbothdiscoursesand thestakesin the
veryuse ofthevoice. Lyotarddoes not tryto push thecomparisonin
thatdirection.Yet to put Malrauxin the companyof Artaudcould
meangoingso faras identifying
thelyricismand thecall forpathosin
Malraux'sspeechforJeanMoulin withArtaud'santilyricalrumbles
andglossolaliaintendedto disruptbotharticulateddiscourseandsuch
values as "thenation"or "God."
Does theprecautiousauthorofjust Gamingdo justicetoMalraux's
ceuvre?Whatevertheansweris,he does do justiceto a certain
literary
whichhe has alwaysprivilegedwhenhe turns
conceptionofwriting,
literaturethatquestionsnine"Malraux"intoa nonrepresentational
a literature
modalitiesofrepresentation,
thatsubverts
teenth-century
5. Andr6Malraux,"Transfert
des cendresde JeanMoulinau Panth6on,"in CEuvres
completes,vol. 3, 948-55. AntoninArtaud,"Pouren finiravec le jugementde Dieu"
[1947]in CEuvres
competes,vol. 13 (Paris:Gallimard,1974),67-118; translated
as "To
& Rack
Have Done withtheJudgment
ofGod" byClaytonEshlemanin Watchfiends
Screams:WorksfromtheFinalPeriod(Boston:ExactChange,1995),281-307.

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andtransgresses
"laws" ofnarrativity
andrationally
linkeddiscourses.
In that sense-because of Lyotard'semphasison the transgressive
powerofsuchliterature
andon thewayitquestionslinkages-, his approachtoliterature
resonateswithsomeofthephilosophicalconcepts
he developson the basis of his readingsof Kant,Wittgenstein,
and
Freud:thefigural(Discours,figure),
the event(The Differend),
or the
inarticulatephrase(TheInhuman,Lecturesd'enfance).The question
thenbecomes:Whatis thestatusoftheliterarytextin relationto the
philosophicalconceptwithwhichit "resonates"?
LITERATURE AS ILLUSTRATION
In the 70s and 80s,fromDiscours,figureto The Differend,
literature
seems to functionin Lyotard'stextsto illustratephilosophicalconcepts. In Discours,figure,the analyses of the visual dimensionof
Butor'stextsillustratethe operationsofthe figuralwithindiscourse
(360-75);thefirstplayer'slapsusin Shakespeare'sHamletis usedtoillustratethe tracesleftin articulateddiscourseby "a fragment
ofprimaryunconsciousspace" (386). EIluard'sand e.e. cummings'spoetry
comesintoplayin thebookto illustratetheworkofcondensationand
thetransgressive
natureofpoetry(324-26).In TheDifferend,
Gertrude
Stein'sstatementson sentencesin How to writeare quotedand commentedonas illustrations
ofLyotard's
conceptof"phrase"as eventand
ofthequestionoflinkagefromone phraseto thenext.6
To limitouranalysisofthe statusoftheliterarytextin Lyotard's
workto its illustrative
functionwould,however,be reductive.For,as
theexampleofLyotard's
readingsofButorshowswithparticularclarity,theveryquestionof"illustration"is calledintoquestionbytheliterarytextsLyotardanalyzesand bytheconceptitself(i.e.,thefigural)
thatthey"illustrate."Indeed,in orderto "illustrate"theworkofthe
withindiscourse,LyotardcomparestwotextswrittenbyButor
figural
both of which have to do with the "representation
of the United
States":a textentitled"L'appeldes Rocheuses"(thecall oftheRockies),publishedin thejournalRealitesand presentedas a commentary
on fourphotographs
byAnselAdamsand EdwardWeston;thesection
in IllustrationsI entitled"Les MontagnesRocheuses" (the Rocky
Mountains)withthesubtitle"on 4 photographs
byAnselAdamsand
EdwardWeston."WhatLyotard'sreadingshowsis how fromRealites
6. Lyotard's
phraseis an event,an occurrence:"A phrase'happens"'(D, xii).It is a
quod,thefact"thatithappens"beforeall determination
of"whathappens."

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to Illustrations,
Butorproblematizes
theillustrative
relationbetween
textand image.7
In Realites,Butor'stextspreadsover fourdouble pages,each of
whichshows a photograph
the textualcommentary
illustrating
(the
GrandTetonsRange,Yosemite,Death Valley,andMountWhitney,
respectively).
Althoughtherelationbetweenthetextandthephotograph
is problematized
bythenatureofthetexts(descriptive
forsome,poetic
ormythicalforothers),thewrittentextandthephotograph
remainoutsideeachother:thereis an imageoftheUnitedStatesandthereis a text
"commenting"it. The relationbetweenthewrittentextand thepictureis a relationofexclusionbetweentwoheterogeneous
spaces.InButor'sIllustrations,
on theotherhand,thereareno photographs.
However,onthefirstpageofthesectionontheRockyMountains,onereads:
"Captions: 1/TetonRange;2/YosemiteValleyin the winter;3/NationalMonumentofDeath Valley;4/Roclky
Chaos withMountWhitneyin thebackground."The firstpagethusliststhetitlesofthephotographsthatwere presentin Realites.And the written"text" that
follows"illustrates"the absentphotographs
by Adams and Weston.
Indeed,althoughthereis no pictureorphotograph,
theorganization
of
thistext"illustrating"
absentphotographs
is governedbyvisual considerations:thetypographic
formsfunctionnotonlyin thesystemof
oppositionsofthegraphiccode ofwritingbutalso as elementswitha
plasticvalue (determined
by the densityofthe characters,
theirsize,
theirnature-italics,bold,etc.As Lyotard
notes,ifonereplacedtheletterswithdifferent
intensitiesofblackcorresponding
tothedensity,
nalettersand of the blank intervals,one
ture,size of the typographic
woulddiscovera figureclose to a Mondrianpainting).
Whereasin Realites the figures(i.e.,thephotographs)
are outside
thediscoursethatcommentsonthem,inIllustrations
thefigure
is now
withindiscourse.Furthermore,
the relationbetweenfigureand discourseunderminesmimesis,representation,
and lineardiscursivity.
Indeed,whileall thewordsthatconstitutethebodyofthewrittentext
in Illustrationsbelongto thetextthatappearedin Realites,theirorganizationand distribution
on thepagesis such thatthereis no longer
anylineardiscourse.The fullsentencesofRealiteshavebeencutup in
7. "Representation
oftheUnitesStates"is thesubtitleofButor'sMobile(Paris:Gallimard,1962);translated
as Mobile:Studyfora Representation
oftheUnitedStatesby
RichardHoward(New York:Simonand Schuster,1963);Realitgs197,specialissue on
America(June1962):76-83; MichelButor,Illustrations
I (Paris:Gallimard,1964),91105.

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fragments
and are now distributed
on severalpages;a givenfragment
is partofa spatial,ratherthana syntactic,
construction
withfragments
ofotherstatements.The movementfromthefigurephotograph
outinsidediscourse(Illustrations)
sidediscourse(Realites)tothefigure
coof communicativeand representaincides with the deconstruction
tionaldiscourse.The linesofa givenpagedo notfolloweach otherbut
as on
constitutestatementsthathave to be producedsimultaneously:
a musicalscore,whereeach instrument's
linesarejuxtaposedin order
tobe readandperformed
in Butor'stextthelineson a
simultaneously,
In particpagemustbe readsynchronically
ratherthandiachronically.
ular,threelines ofdiscourseare juxtaposed:one line thatrunsat the
oftheRockyMountainsfor
topofthepagesdevelopsthesignification
thefirstwhitepioneerswho discoveredthem;a secondline thatruns
in themiddleofthepagesdevelopsthesignification
oftheMountains
forsomeoneflying
overtheminan airplane;andthethirdlinethatruns
atthebottomofthepagesdevelopstheirsignification
forsomeonedrivingina car.Becauseoftheparallelismoftheirdistribution
onthepages,
thesethreediscourses,whichbearon threedifferent
ages ofAmerica,
areplacedsidebyside.The effect
producedis thatofthesynchronicity
ofthesethreeagesandofthecollapseofdifferent
times.Different
times
aresetin parallelas aredifferent
spaces:whereasin Realites each double page featureda givenspace (theGrandTetonsRange,Yosemite,
in Illustrations,
Death Valley,MountWhitney),
oftextdefragments
scribingeach oftheseplacesarejuxtaposedon a givenpage.The effect
oftimesbutalso of
producedis thusnotonlytheparalleljuxtaposition
spaces.
WhatinterestsLyotardin Butor'sIllustrationsis notsimplythevibutalso thefactthatsuchvisual qualityofthetextualorganization,
ofthetext,in Lyotard's
results
sual quality(thefigurality
terminology)
and deconstruction
oflinear
fromthedestabilization,
fragmentation,
and communicativediscourse.By showinghow Butorproblematizes
theveryconceptandpracticeofillustration,
Lyotard's
analyses"illustrate"theconceptofthefiguralwithindiscourseas preciselythequestioningoftheconceptof"illustration."
LITERATURE AS TESTIMONY
Butor'stextsfunctionless as illustrationsthanas "testimony":they
theotherofdisto thepresencewithindiscourseofthefigural,
testify
it. Literature"testifies"morethanit illuscoursethatdeconstructs

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trates.Indeed,fromDiscours,figureto The Differend,


theconceptual
emphasisshiftsfromthevisualto thequestionofbearingwitness.
TheDifferend
openswiththequestionof"how to bearwitness"to
whatfunctions
in thebookas theparadigmatic
situationofdifferendtheFinalSolutionand thegas chambers:
To have"reallyseenwithhisowneyes"a gaschamber
wouldbe the
tosaythatitexistsandtopercondition
whichgivesonetheauthority
suadetheunbeliever.... The onlyacceptableproofthatitwas used to

killis thatonediedfrom
it.Butifoneis dead,onecannottestify
thatit
is onaccountofthegaschamber.
[D,3]
and paradoxically,
it is thusbothimpossibleand ethically
Ultimately,
In thecontextofthisethical
necessaryto bearwitnessto thedifferend.
necessityto testify
and bearwitnessto thedifferend,
suchis precisely
the role conferred
by Lyotardupon art and literature.
It mightseem
is theFiforthedifferend
curious,atfirst
glance,giventhattheparadigm
nal Solutionand the gas chambers,that the literarytextsthat,in
tobearwitnessto a differend
Lyotard's
analyses,function
areneversurvivalnarratives.
orelsewhere,
One findsno mention,in TheDifferend
ofRobertAntelme'sTheHumanRace,PrimoLevi'sIfThisIs a Man,or
Elie Wiesel'sNight,to giveonlya fewexamples.It mightbe thatsuch
textsarestilltoonarrative
area placewhere
forLyotard.
Fornarratives
"Themultitude
ofphraseregimens
differends
andofgengetneutralized:
resofdiscoursefindsa wayto... neutralizedifferends,
innarratives"
(D,
orless narrative
158).Ratherthannarrative
texts,itis a "nonnarrative"
literature
thatserves,inTheDifferend,
thepurposeof"bearing
witness":
Joycetestifiesto "the conflictover the mode of linking"(151) and
Gertrude
Steintriestolinkphraseswithoutrulesoflinkage(67-68).
Lyotardselectsa numberofassertionsfromGertrudeStein'sHow
to write,and morepreciselyfromtwo chapters:"Sentencesand Paragraphs"and "Sentences."The quoteshe reproduces-thereare about
twentyofthem-are juxtaposed;on twooccasions,in Lyotard'sjuxtapositionof quotes fromStein,a parenthesisis openedin which the
quoteis commentedupon.The firstassertionquotedbyLyotardis: "A
sentenceis not emotionala paragraphis." In a parenthesis,
he then
comments:"(Becausethefeelingor the sentimentis thelinkage,the
passage.Does thishappento fall,or what?Or nothing,but nothing
wouldbe too much:A phrase,and and)" (67).Followingthejuxtaposition of quotes,is a seriesofnine remarksintroducedby: "No comments.The selectiondoneforthepurposesofquotingis alreadyoutra-

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geous.Anotherremarkor two" (67). The questionraisedby Lyotard's


"use" ofGertrudeStein'sHow to writeis preciselya questionoflinkage: How to linkthequotes?-By juxtaposingthem.Andhow to link
onthequotes?-In twoways:first,
bycommenting,
clarifying,
rephrasingthemin thetermsusedin theargumentation-suchis thefunction
oftheparentheses,
whichtransform
Stein's"A sentenceis not emotionala paragraph
is" intoa discourseon thelinkageofphrases("the
feelingor the sentiment is the linkage . . ."); second, by refusingthe

theseriesofquotes,Lyotard's
firstsentence,"No
commentary-after
to commentareincomment."Juxtaposing,
orrefusing
commenting,
writes:"The differend
deedmodesoflinkage.So whenLyotard
is reintroducedintotheheartofwhatoughtto regulatethelitigation,
in-betweenthelaw and thecase underquestion"(D, 67,myemphasis),this
second remarkmade concerningthe verynotion of paragraphalso
holdsforthelinkageofhis own discoursewithStein's.A paragraph
is
a division:it separateswhatit unites.At thesame time,a paragraph
is
madeof"ands,""nmoreovers,"
andso forth:ituniteswhatit separates.
Becauseofthisheterogeneity,
thedifferend
is constitutive
oftheparagraph.In Lyotard's"remarks"about GertrudeStein'squotes,the differendis also reintroduced
between"thelaw" ofthenecessarylinkage
fromone phraseto thenextand GertrudeStein'sstatementsas "case
underquestion."The "law" means that"forthereto be no phraseis
impossible,fortheretobe And a phraseis necessary.It is necessaryto
on theotherhand,are
makelinkage"(66).GertrudeStein'sstatements,
"
suchas torenderall comments"outrageous."Linkingis "outrageous
andat thesame timeitis impossiblenotto link,evensaying"no comin the
ments"is a wayoflinking:thedifferend
is indeedreintroduced
very"conflict"betweenlinkingand not commenting.
Literarytexts
suchas GertrudeStein'sthusbearwitnesstothedifferend
notbecause
theytryto describeornarratetheparadigmatic
experienceofthedifferend(theShoah)butbecause in theirverywritingtheyquestionthe
traditional
linkageofone sentenceontothenext,based on causality,
andlogic.
continuity,
Ultimately,
beyondthestatusoftheliterarytextwithinLyotard's
work(an "illustration"or a "testimony"thatputs into questionthe
theissueraisedbyLyotard's
andtestimony),
verynotionsofillustration
is thatoftheimpactofLyotard'sreadingsoflitrecourseto literature
eratureon literary
criticism.
Itseemstome,as a literary
critic,thatthe
he helpsus think
interestofLyotard's
is two-fold:
readingsofliterature
thepowerofnegativity
at workin certainliterary
texts;he has opened

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a pathforthinking
therelationbetweenpsychoanalysis
andliterature
in termsotherthana psychoanalyzing
ofcharactersorauthors.
LITERATURE AS THE POWER OF NEGATIVITY
Giventheemphasisplacedon thequestioningofrepresentation
itself
ratherthanonitscontent,itis notsurprising
that,accordingtoLyotard,
whatmattersinpoeticworkis nottheconstruction
ofbeautifulforms.
Poeticworkis a negativepower,andall thetermsthatLyotarduses to
and shiftsthey
designatethepoeticfunction-withall thedifferences
entailthroughout
his ceuvre-convey,throughtheirprefixes,
thisemin Discours,figure,"poeticityhas to do withdephasison negativity:
construction"(thisis thetitleofone ofthework'ssubsections[32426]);in TheInhuman,the "inhuman";and in Lecturesd'enfance,the
"indubitable,"the "inarticulable,"the "inappropriable"
or the "intractable,"all designate"infancy"-thatwhichcannotbe spokenbut
towhichwriting
triestogivevoice;in Signed,MalrauxandSoundproof
Room,the"unheard-of"(inoui)whose "relationshipto theaudibleis
merelyapproximate"(CS, 99).
As earlyas Discours,figure,
Lyotardopposedthestructuralists'
approachtopoeticityconceivedin positivetermsas an operationofconstruction.
Accordingto Jakobson,
"poetrybringsout theconstructive
elementsofall linguisticlevels,fromthenetworkofdistinctivetraits
oftheentiretext."8The poeticfunction,
up totheorganization
defined
accordingto the two axes thatconstructdiscourse(theparadigmatic
andsyntagmatic
axes),producesmeaningthrough
an operationofconIn particular,
thetropesofmetaphorandmetonymy
struction.
have to
be understoodin termsoftheirfunctioning
alongtheaxes ofselection
and combination.Contraryto Jakobson'sanalysis,Lyotardsuggests
that"whatmatterstopoetryis deconstruction,
thepresenceofa force
otherthanthe law oflanguageand of communicationin discourse"
(DF,323-24). This doesnotmeanthatpoeticworkis necessarilya work
ofdeconstruction,
thatall tropesaretransgressive.
Ratheritmeansthat
literatureallows Lyotardto definepoeticworkas the workofforces
thatdeconstruct
communicativeandarticulateddiscourse.
WithTheDifferend
and the"philosophyofphrases"thatit setsin
place,theemphasisshiftsfromenergyand forcesto phrasesand their
linkage.A phraseis articulateinsofaras it presentswhatLyotardcalls
8. RomanJakobson,
Questionsde poetique(Paris:Seuil, 1973),487, myemphasis
andtranslation.

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a "universe":a referent
(thecase),a meaning(whatis signifiedabout
thecase),an addresseeand an addressor.That a phraseis inarticulate,
on theotherhand,meansthatit does notpresenta universe.It is thus
a non-signifying,
non-referenced,
non-addressing,
and non-addressed
phrase.However,itpointsto a meaningthatis onlyofone type:a feeling. The inarticulatephrasethus does not "speak of" anythingbut
"says" withoutarticulating
thatthereis something,
withoutsignification,reference,
or address.FromDiscours,figureto Lecturesd'enin remainson thesideof
fance,theliterature
thatLyotardis interested
negativity-inhuman,
infans,intractable,
andso forth-butitis a negativityconceivedless in termsofforcesthanin termsofa differend
betweentheinarticulateand articulation.Such literature"testifies"to
the "presence,"withinarticulateddiscourse,of the non-articulated,
thenon-linguistic,
indeedto the"presence"ofsilence,void,andnothingness.Hence,concerning
Joyce'sUlysses,Lyotardwrites:" Ulysses
is one ofthegreatestworksdevotedto, consecratedto inoperativity.
The Odyssey'sframework
returnsin it onlyto be deconstructed
and
leaveroomforthevoidofinterpellation"
is stilltalk(TP,198).Lyotard
ingaboutdeconstruction
(andhe evenwrites:"The work'sconstructiononlyservesas a spurfordeconstruction,"
[TP,1931),butin terms
oflinkageratherthanin termsofforces.The problematiclinkageis
bothbetweenHomer'stextand Joyce's,and also withinJoyce'stext.
The effectof Ulyssesis to call intoquestionthelogicofthebook and
to renderit inoperative:"Whilethebeautifulclassicalformcloses in
uponitself,concludes,and thusmakesitsreturn,andwhileit is in itselfthereturn,
itis essentialthatJoycean
writing
placethecyclicalmotifunderthe rule ofits disordering
and its inconsistency"(TP, 194).
as does
Throughout
Lecturesd'enfance,Joyce,
Kafka,andValerytestify,
andinarticulation.
Itis the
Freud,tothedifferend
betweenarticulation
orargumentative
presencewithindiscourse,thatis,withina narrative
text(Ulysses,"The Penal Colony,"L'introduction
a la poetique,The
-be it called "inappropriable"
Ratman),of something"intractable"
"indubitable"(Kafka),"disorder"(Valery),
"ph6ne"(Freud).
(Joyce),
EvenMalraux'sstyleis turnedintoa call to listento theinaudible,
theunheard-of:
"styleinventsformsforcapturingtheunheard-of
(inand
its
material
Style
relentlessly
works,
undoing
reshaping
ou..)....
in orderto snatchitfromthespiralofthesensible,to subvertand offer
it up to thecall oftheunheard-of"(CS, 108).Whileinsistingon subversions,ruptures,
heterogeneities,
paratopisms,and parachronisms
in Malseemsperfectly
legitimatein Joyce'scase,it is moresurprising

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raux's.For,discussingMalraux's"anti-esthetics,"
Lyotardprivilegesa
1920 articleon cubistpoetry("Des originesde la poesie cubiste")to
overemphasizewhat Malraux'sstrategyas a writerowes to deconstruction
ratherthanto construction.
He turnsMalraux'snotionofliteraryorartistic"fact"intohis own conceptofa "pureevent,"thatis,
intothepresentation
ofa quod withoutquid,a non-addressed,
non-des"it happens":Malraux'swritingmeditates
tinedand non-referenced
theenigmaofwriting.It strivesto revealthewonderofthefact,be it
fromnothingliterary,
artistic,historical"(CS, 65); "in nothingness,
thatthisnothingness... exists"
ness,withtheindubitablecertainty
canonofwritliterary
(CS, 67). Malrauxbecomesone amongLyotard's
erstrying
tolendformto a textthatwouldbe "freedas muchas is possible fromlinkages,significations,
transferences,
separated,without
message,devoidofinsandouts" (CS, 54).Malraux'stextsopenup a listeningto theinaudible:"the kindofvalidity.. . thathis own poetics
aims at . .. correspondsto . .. a listeningto the inaudible" (CS, 37).

LITERATURE AND PSYCHOANALYSIS


workon literFinally,one ofthemostinteresting
aspectsofLyotard's
aturelies in thepathhe opens,fromDiscours,figureto Lecturesd'entherelationbetweenpsychoanalysis
andliterature.
fance,forthinking
It is not a relationin whichpsychoanalysis
is used to psychoanalyze
authorsorcharacters,
to locate,labelandanalyzesymptomsin thelitsceerarytextorto rewriteit accordingto thevariouspsychoanalytic
so
forth.
narios,be it thatofOedipus,ofcastration,
and
Lyotardbegins
thelastsectionofDiscours,figurewitha critiqueofpsychoanalysis
apis theexteriorpliedto literature:"theworkis a symptom,literature
constructions.
Freudhimselfhas
izationin wordsofdeepfantasmatic
notalwaysavoidedsuch a reductiveattitude,especiallyin his studies
ofgivenworks"(355).Lyotard's
targetsarestudiessuchas MarieBonaparte'sanalysisof EdgarAllan Poe, and Charles Mauron's of Mallarme-the latterproceedsbyexaminingthemesin theceuvre,theformerbyexaminingtheauthor'slife.9IfLyotard
bringssomethingtothe
itis inandpsychoanalysis,
oftherelationbetweenliterature
thinking
9. Cf.MarieBonaparte,
EdgarPoe: sa vie,son ceuvre.Etudepsychanalytique
(Paris:
DenoeletSteele,1933);translated
as TheLifeand WorksofEdgarAllanPoe byJohnRodker(New York:HumanitiesPress,1971)andCharlesMauron,Introduction
a la psychas Introduction
tothe
analysede Mallarme(Neuchatel:La Bkconniere,
1950);translated
Psycho-Analysis
ofMallarmgbyArchibald
Henderson,
Jr.andWillL. McLendon(Berkeley:University
ofCaliforniaPress,1963).

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deednotin sucha direction.'0FromDiscours,figureto Lecturesd'enfance,he drawsan analogybetweenthe functioning


of the psychic
apparatusandthefunctioning
oftheworkofart.Whiletheanalogybetween art (and literature)and the unconsciousremainsthroughout
Lyotard'swork,the shiftfromforces(energetics,
multiplicity,
transgression)to phrases(phrastics,
singularity,
interruption)
bearson the
natureoftheanalogy.
In energeticterms,thepoeticworkperformed
bythefigural
within
thetext,a workthatundoesdiscoursewithoutdestroying
meaning,is
also theworkofdreamsas Freuddescribedit: "at firstglancethe'language'ofthedreamseemstobenothingmorenorlessthanthelanguage
ofart" (DF, 260). This does not mean thattheworkofartis a dream.
The workofartdoesnotinterestLyotardinsofaras it mightbe thefulfillmentoftheartist'sdesire-that is, in termsofits "content"-but
ratherin termsofits work:ifthe"language"ofthedreamis thesame
as thatofart,itis becausewhatis similaris theworkofdeconstruction
effected
byboth.Indeed,condensationand displacementin thedream
do notconstructarticulateddiscoursebut "dis-articulate"
it: "Take a
textwrittenona sheetofpaperandcrumpleit.The elementsofthediscoursetakeon relief,in theliteralsense.Imaginethat,beforethegrip
ofcondensationcompressesthedream-thoughts,
has redisplacement
certainzonesofthetext,so thattheyresistcontraction
inforced
andremainlegible"(DF,247). Like condensation,
displacementis theresult
of the pressureofa forcethat,farfromconstructing
articulateddisand syntagmatic
coursealongtheparadigmatic
axes, deconstructs
it,
units
them
with
and gives
volume. Lyotardagrees
compressesits
Jakobsonthatthereis an analogybetweenthe poetic workand the
I ButwhereasfortheJakobsontheanalogyfunctionsin
dreamwork."
forLyotardit is in termsofdeconstruction.
termsofconstruction,
10. Exceptin thefirsttwochaptersofSigned,Malraux,whichreadas psychobiographyor appliedpsychoanalysis.
When "dread"and "horror"function,in Soundproof
Room,in a verygeneralway-Malraux's "dreadis withinus" is cited(CS, 25)-as the
conditionofpossibility
forwriting
at thesametimeas thatwhichwriting
fights
against,
thereaderfamiliar
withLyotard's
workhearstherean echoofother"concepts"already
Moresurputforth
concerning
Bataille,Artaud,orJoyce
tonamethepowerofnegativity.
prisingto thesamereaderis when,in Signed,Malraux, thesamequotecontinuesandis
used to psychoanalyze
Andre'srelationto his motherBerthe-"a peculiarterrorwas
brewing.... Thatdreadwas hatchedinBondywhilehelaysnaggedinthewebwovenby
Berthe's
beautiful
hands.Thatdreadas wellas a terror
ofpenetrability,
ofbeinga woman's
wombandremaining,
likethem,hostageofthatwomb"(SM,5).
11. In his essay"Two aspectsoflanguageand two typesofaphasicdisturbances,"

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162

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Fromtheangleofhis "philosophyofphrases,"Lyotard"rephrases"
theanalogicalrelationbetweenthe"language"oftheunconsciousand
thatofart,whichhe had elaboratedin Discours,figure.This relation
force,butratheron their
no longerrelieson theirworkas transgressive
statusas inarticulate
phrases.The conceptionoftheunconsciousas an
accordingto the rules not of articulateddisapparatusfunctioning
coursebutofa mechanicsgiveswaytoa conceptionoftheunconscious
a
as a phrase not an articulatedphrasebut a phrase-occurrence,
phrase-"ithappens,"a phrase-quod(thefactthatsomethinghappens)
ofwhathappens).Withtheunconbeforeall quid (thedetermination
scious conceivedin termsofa phrase,the questionoflinkagearises,
shiftoffocusin hisreadanditis a temporalquestion.Hence Lyotard's
to
ingsofFreudfroman analysisofthedreamwork
(inDiscours,figure)
afterThe Differend(in particularin
an analysisofNachtraglichkeit
Heideggerand "thejews," TheInhuman,and "Emma").Rephrasedin
"phrastic"terms,theFreudianscenariobecomes:something-an "afthepsychicapparatusbut cannotbe registered
fect-phrase"-shatters
and linkedontothepreviousand followingphrases,hence cannotbe
constitutesa "first
presentedto themind.This failureofpresentation
the non-articushock,"whichis the clash-the differend-between
affectphrase,on the one
and non-referenced
lated, non-addressed,
effect,"
whichconon theother.The "deferred
hand,andarticulation,
ofthe
is thepresentation
effect,
stitutesthe"aftershock"
(apre's-coup)
each timethe affectrefollowedby its re-presentation
affect-phrase
anything.
representing
peatsitself,butwithouttheaffect-phrase
is a remembrance
ofthingspast
In thatsense,thetaskofliterature
norevenpreandlost,notinsofaras thetimelostwouldbe represented,
ensuresa passagetowardthe"essence"
sented,butinsofaras literature
as pasoftimelost,towardthequod oftheinarticulate
phrase:"writing
sageoranamnesis"(Inh,56*)canbe comparedtotheanalyticworkingthrough(whichconsistsof "prickingup one's thirdear" [Inh,56],of
workin a floating
abandoningestablishedsynthesestoletthesignifier
thewhiteofthepaper,blanklike
toinscription
way)becauseit "offers
theneutrality
oftheanalyticear" (Inh,56). No morethanthefigural
of
andthestructure
notesthatthereis a relationbetweenthepoeticfunction
Jakobson
to the
the unconscious.Indeed,he extendshis analysesofmetaphorand metonymy
ofthedreamwiththesameoperaofdreams,andhe associatestheoperations
structure
on theparadigmatic
ofmeaningas theoperationsofsubstitution
tionsofconstruction
vol. 2 [TheHague:
axis (SelectedWritings,
on thesyntagmatic
axis andofcombination
Mouton,1971],258).

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couldbe identified
withthedreamfromthepointofviewof"content"
(yetcouldfromthepointofview ofwork)can writingas anamnesisbe
identifiedwith analytictreatmentfromthe point of view of "content"-stakes, ends,purposes.The comparisonbearson thenatureof
the work-the working-through-which
consists,in both cases, in
openinga listeningfortheineffable,
theinarticulate,
theinaudible.

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