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The Pleasure in Drawing

Jean-Luc Nancy

Publication Year: 2013

Originally written for an exhibition Jean-Luc Nancy curated at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon in 2007, this book addresses the medium of drawing in light of the question of form--of form in its formation, as a formative force, as a birth to form. In this sense, drawing opens less toward its achievement, intention, and accomplishment than toward a finality without end and the infinite renewal of ends, toward lines of sense marked by tracings, suspensions, and permanent interruptions. Recalling that drawing and design were once used interchangeably, Nancy notes that "drawing" designates a design that remains without project, plan, or intention. His argument offers a way of rethinking a number of historical terms (sketch, draft, outline, plan, mark, notation), which includes rethinking drawing in its graphic, filmic, choreographic, poetic, melodic, and rhythmic sense. If drawing is not reducible to any form of closure, it never resolves a tension specific to drawing but allows the pleasure of drawing to come into appearance, which is also the pleasure in drawing, the gesture of a desire that remains in excess of all knowledge. Situating drawing in these terms, Nancy engages a number of texts in which Freud addresses the force of desire in the rapport between aesthetic and sexual pleasure, texts that also turn around the same questions concerning form in its formation, form as a formative force. Between the sections of the text, Nancy has placed a series of "sketchbooks" on drawing, composed of a broad range of quotations on art from different writers, artists, or philosophers.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-vi

Translator’s Note

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pp. vii-x

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Preface to the English-Language Edition

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pp. xi-xvi

Drawing: this word in English suggests drawing out, stretching, and extracting. One can draw a line and draw a lesson. In French, one can draw out [tirer] a line or a lesson, but it is impossible to draw [dessiner] a lesson. Or rather,

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pp. 1-4

Drawing is the opening of form. This can be thought in two ways: opening in the sense of a beginning, departure, origin, dispatch, impetus, or sketching out, and opening in the sense of an availability or inherent capacity. According...

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pp. 5-9

But what is it, then, that we call form? It is imperative to take up this problem, since drawing represents par excellence the element of form, or a form—and, as we have suggested, not only within the domain of the visual arts but in all artistic domains, since in all these domains one...

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Formative Force

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pp. 10-14

Drawing is therefore the Idea—it is the true form of the thing. Or more exactly, it is the gesture that proceeds from the desire to show this form and to trace it so as to show the form—but not to trace in order to reveal it as a form already received. Here, to trace is to find, and in order to...

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The Pleasure of Drawing

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pp. 15-19

Due to its nature, no doubt, drawing is represented, experienced, and experimented with as a compulsion, like the effect of an irresistible impetus. Vale´ry writes that drawing constitutes ‘‘perhaps the strongest temptation of the mind,’’ and a number of painter’s lives show a precocious and...

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Forma Formans

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pp. 20-24

Homo, animal monstrans—animal designans. This designation responds to what our culture calls mimesis. Mimesis is neither a copy nor an imitation that reproduces. It reproduces, in the sense that it produces the form (i.e., the idea or truth of the thing) again—in other words, like...

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From Self Toward Self

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pp. 25-30

But in this intimate combination of the two gestures of birth and ostension, the one can never separate from the other—birth cannot simply remain an interminable process (a mark must be traced), nor can ostension simply present a formed or closed form...

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Consenting to Self

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pp. 31-36

There is no art without pleasure. This does not mean that art is foreign to strain, anxiety, or pain in all values of the word. But it does mean that art always proceeds from a tension that searches for itself [se recherche], that enjoys reaching out, not in order to reach the goal of relaxation...

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Gestural Pleasure

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pp. 37-43

That classical aesthetics was an aesthetics of pleasure should not lead us to believe that pleasure has no place outside aesthetics. In truth, no aesthetics is exempt from a pleasure principle (whether related or not to Freud’s ‘‘pleasure principle,’’ which indeed we will have to address)...

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The Form-Pleasure

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pp. 44-53

To address more directly the pleasure at issue, let us draw on an analysis from Freud’s work on the subject of aesthetic form. What is at issue is in no way a question of entering into a psychoanalysis of art. On the contrary. But it happens that Freud—as we will see, in spite of himself...

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The Drawing/Design of the Arts

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pp. 54-58

Allow me to add here a brief remark that will expand on several scattered notes in the previous pages concerning the plurality of the arts. What Freud has allowed us to designate as a counterpoint played out, according to a sexual...

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pp. 59-65

There are two fundamental attitudes toward mimesis, in other words, toward this notion for which we retain the Greek word in order to avoid any confusion with imitation, with simple and (as one often says) ‘‘servile’’ imitation. Indeed, the distinction between servility and mastery...

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Pleasure of Relation

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pp. 66-72

If this is the case, and if there is pleasure there, it is because pleasure in general is tied to a relation, to the perception of a relation or to its enactment, two possibilities that, no doubt, intersect or even come together. Pleasure is in the relation that tends toward its prolongation or its repetition...

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Death, Sex, Love of the Invisible

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pp. 73-80

If pleasure stems from the relation of the thing to itself—as itself, and as this ‘‘its self ’’ is not given once and for all, nor conforms to any use of the thing—then this pleasure is always a new version of the relation of the thing to its...

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Ambiguous Pleasure

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pp. 81-89

Signs of an ambiguity essential to pleasure have appeared on several occasions in the preceding pages, over and beyond the diversity of meanings that the word pleasure can convey. This ambiguity should be addressed directly...

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Purposiveness Without Purpose

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pp. 90-97

The formula with which Kant characterizes the specificity of aesthetic judgment—that is to say, purposiveness without purpose—remains the matrix for all investigation into the subject of the beautiful or art. ‘‘Aesthetic judgment’’ here designates the judgment that declares...

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The Line’s Desire

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pp. 98-108

The line that divides and draws a form is similar to the arrow fired by a bow. The bow’s tension is discharged in an instant, in a release of forces. But the relaxation of the bow manifests itself in the release [jet] of the arrow, as the relaxation of the sexual organ is expressed in orgasm...


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pp. 109-116

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250950
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823250936
Print-ISBN-10: 0823250938

Page Count: 128
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth