Oct. 14: Norton Batkin’s passages

Here are the passages that Norton Batkin (Vice President and Dean of Graduate Studies, Bard College) will speak about at Thursday’s celebration of the publication of Stanley Cavell’s Little Did I Know: Excerpts from Memory (Stanford University Press):

Panel on Little Did I Know

“Stanley Cavell and Literary Studies: Consequences of Skepticism”

All three passages are from Part 14 of Little Did I Know:

  • Early in The Writing of the Disaster, Blanchot opts etymologically, hence metaphysically (sometimes distrusting this Heideggerian conjunction, but generally admitting its appeal) for the significance of “disaster” as marking our being dissociated or disconnected or disengaged from the pertinence of the stars rather than, as a dictionary will correctly give its use, to invoke the exclusive inflection of ill-starred. Then for Blanchot disaster is revealed metaphysically to be, or to have become, the normal state of human existence, marked by the release from our ties to the stars, say from our considered steps beyond, a release that partakes of an oblivion of the transcendental draw of words, of their openness to a future, their demand for continuity with past and present. Empirically this aura of disruption is manifested in human-driven, absolute catastrophes, ones that, perhaps we can say, have strangled the imagination of God, catastrophes named, let us say, the Gulag, the Holocaust, Hiroshima/Nagasaki. (522)
  • … if what disaster means [for Blanchot] is “being separated from the star … the decline which characterizes disorientation when the link with fortune from on high is cut” (Writing of the Disaster, p. 2), then I suppose it follows as part of the disaster that consideration is no longer a usable mode of thought. Consideration (and reconsideration) speaks of a careful attention to the framework of stars, but Blanchot tells us that the bearing of stars no longer holds for us. There is now no sidereal orientation. (529)
  • … The mode of thinking I am calling consideration, placing a constellation of ideas within whatever other constellations you divine (reading intertextually, in its various modes, would produce examples), not with the idea of choosing one over the other but of expanding each inflected by the other, combining equations, seems to me something Blanchot means to capture in his idea of the neutral, saying neither yes nor no to a proposal, particularly a proposal of one’s own. (I often characterize this as speaking without assertion, said otherwise, without attempting to advance theses.) (530)

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