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Blanchot’s L’ârret de mort: Allegory and the Trauma of History
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2968-4867
2016 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Blanchot’s L’ârret de mort (1948) has long been recognised as a seminal modernist text, but after Derrida it has tended to be read for its ‘writerly’ qualities. Perhaps for this reason, while scores of readings have focused on Blanchot’s meditations on questions such as the nature of writing, on the figure of night and language, and on parallels to his monumental ‘La Littérature et le droit à la mort’ (1948), the question of history as it is developed in the récit (the spectre of the Holocaust, ‘nach Auschwitz’) has been discussed (e.g. Hess 1999; Rothberg 2000) but not fully examined, nor have the ways in which L’ârret de mort may be reread after the publication of the semi-autobiographical L’instant de ma mort (1994). This paper will examine Blanchot’s translation of history and trauma in the récit, framed through a theoretical discussion of the nature of allegory as translation. Comparing Benjamin’s influential discussion of allegory in his Trauerspiels (1928) with Blanchot’s discussion of similar themes (somewhat differently) in ‘Le langage de la fiction’ (1949), the idea of allegory as a response to historical trauma will be introduced to challenge the idea that ‘there is simply no place for hermeneutical or rhetorical considerations’ (Shaviro 1990) when reading L’ârret de mort. The text operates as an allegory not simply of traumatic French political history (the Munich Crisis, Operation Paula, and more obliquely, the Holocaust), but of Blanchot’s own traumatic history, his experience of surviving a firing-squad recounted in the later récit. It is precisely insofar as Blanchot’s allegory refuses simplistic metaphrase (for instance, in the ways in which the very precision of the text’s dating is displaced - was 13th October 1938 a Wednesday or Thursday?) that we know it to be allegory as such: it is only thus that we know that what is at stake here is not simply a question of mourning but melancholia, the trauma of history, of a wound (τραύμα) which can never be fully healed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016.
Keyword [en]
Maurice Blanchot, Walter Benjamin, allegory, trauma, L’ârret de mort, death
National Category
General Literature Studies Specific Literatures Philosophy History
Research subject
Literature; Translation Studies; History; Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-146588OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-146588DiVA: diva2:1137901
Conference
Translation and Modernism: Twentieth-Century Crises and Traumas, Warwick, UK, January 22-23, 2016
Available from: 2017-09-01 Created: 2017-09-01 Last updated: 2017-09-06Bibliographically approved

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