Maurice Blanchot: The Refusal of Philosophy

February 23, 2021
Maurice Blanchot: The Refusal of Philosophy

As a novelist, essayist, critic, and theorist, Maurice Blanchothas earned tributes from authors as diverse as Jacques Derrida,Giles Deleuze, and Emmanuel Levinas. But their praise has told uslittle about what Blanchot's work actually says and why it has beenso influential. In the first comprehensive study of this importantFrench writer to appear in English, Gerald Bruns ties Blanchot'swritings to each other and to the works of his contemporaries,including the poet Paul Celan.Blanchot belongs to the generation of French intellectuals whocame of age during the 1930s, survived the Occupation, andflourished during the quarter century or so after World War II. Hewas one of the first French intellectuals to take a systematicinterest in questions of language and meaning. His focus in themid-1930s on extreme situations—death, madness, imprisonment,exile, revolution, catastrophe—anticipated the later interest ofthe existentialists. Like Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Adorno,Blanchot was a self-conscious writer of fragments, and he has givenus one the most developed investigations that we have on thefragment as a kind of writing.In a series of close readings, Bruns addresses the philosophicaland political questions that have surrounded Blanchot and hiswritings for decades. He describes what is creative in Blanchot'sreadings of Heidegger's controversial works and examines Blanchot'sconception of poetry as an inquiry into the limits of philosophy,rationality, and power.