Last Steps: Maurice Blanchot's Exilic Writing
Writing, Maurice Blanchot taught us, is not something that is in one's power. It is, rather, a search for a non-power that refuses mastery, order, and all established authority. For Blanchot, this search was guided by an enigmatic exigency, an arresting rupture, and a promise of justice that required endless contestation of every usurping authority, an endless going out toward the other. "The step/not beyond" ("le pas au-dela") names this exilic passage as it took form in his influential later work, but not as a theme or concept, since its "step" requires a transgression of discursive limits and any grasp afforded by the labor of the negative. Thus, to follow "the step/not beyond" is to follow a kind of event in writing, to enter a movement that is never quite captured in any defining or narrating account. Last Steps attempts a practice of reading that honors the exilic exigency even as it risks drawing Blanchot's reflective writings and fragmentary narratives into the articulation of a reading. It brings to the fore Blanchot's exceptional contributions to contemporary thought on the ethico-political relation, language, and the experience of human finitude. It offers the most sustained interpretation of The Step Not Beyond available, with attentive readings of a number of major texts, as well as chapters on Levinas and Blanchot's relation to Judaism. Its trajectory of reading limns the meaning of a question from The Infinite Conversation that implies an opening and a singular affirmation rather than a closure: "How had he come to will the interruption of the discourse?"
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acquiescence afﬁrmation afﬁrmed afﬂiction aleatory already anguish appears articulation au-dela autrui Bataille brings death deﬁned Derrida difﬁcult disappearance discourse dying effacement Emmanuel Levinas encounter engagement essay Eternal Return ethical event evoked exigency experience exposure fatigue fear ﬁctive ﬁgure ﬁnal ﬁnally ﬁnd ﬁnitude ﬁrst fragment friendship Gérard Granel gives Heidegger Heidegger’s human identiﬁed imperative impossible indestructible Inﬁnite Conversation insistence instant interlocutors interruption Jacques Derrida Jewish Judaism language Levinas Levinas’s limit literary Madness manner Maurice Blanchot meaning motif movement narrative narrator neutral neutre never notion offers opening other’s passage passion passivity perhaps phrase political possibility present question radical reading reference reﬂection refusal relation remains response Robert Antelme seeks sense sentence Shoah signiﬁcant silence space speak speech statement Step suffering temporal thought tion Torah trace transgression truth turn underscore witness words writing young names