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f o u r Plot and Intrigue: From Being’s Other to the ‘‘Otherwise than Being’’ (Language, Ethics, Poetic Language in Levinas) Is it possible to write the other without assimilating or reducing it to the same, to an object or a thing, to concepts, categories or descriptions? What is this O/other that at times is my neighbor and at times wholly other (tout autre), whose alterity issues from infinity or even God? Levinas ’s works suggest that the interruption of the subject’s power, ‘‘I have no power over the other’’ (je ne peux pas pouvoir) (TI 39), is a precondition for welcoming the other, but of course this does not happen as a resolution willfully taken by a free and autonomous subject. Writing the other is impossible if the focus or point of departure is an ego or consciousness, but even if the power of consciousness were to be relinquished or interrupted , there is still something that resists comprehension. Psyche (psychisme), the trope that defines the preoriginary intrigue of the other in the self in Otherwise than Being, is the ‘‘form of a peculiar dephasing (déphasage) of identity’’ (AE 86/OB 68). The other is an event that exceeds the grasp of consciousness and of its present-oriented temporality, thus overflowing the frames of narration. The approach of the other comes to haunt sensibility, a ‘‘subjectivity without subject,’’ according to Blanchot; PAGE 85 85 ................. 16243$ $CH4 11-27-06 10:49:20 PS 86 Intrigues: From Being to the Other it is the traumatism of ‘‘the other than being’’ (Levinas) constitutive of a subjectivity, unable to give itself to itself in the present, and unable to bring this preoriginary affection into the present. The other is a ghostly event, or the other’s temporality is the ghostly temporality of the event. A subjectivity unable to catch up with the other’s affection and to reduce the past of this affection to the present of recollection becomes the knot of substitution (the one-for-the-other), the emphatic trope of the other’s welcoming. This trope organizes the ‘‘arrhythmia’’ of an intrigue overflowing the spatio-temporal frames of narration that Derrida renders with the French future anterior, ‘‘he will have obliged’’ (il aura obligé) (P 38–39). This tense escapes the time of the present because it simultaneously points towards a future and a past. The subject of the phrase, heit (il), is not copresent to himself; the subject contracts an obligation that comes from a past and whose response does not assimilate the past to the present of consciousness. The response unfolds in a future that bypasses presence while its spatiality is that of a nonsequential writing that attests the other’s affection of the same in an ‘‘après-coup.’’ This affection produces a reversal of the middle, beginning and end of narratives. In fact, no plot can do justice to this intrigue, to its inextricable and dispossessing force; intrigue names what Blanchot calls ‘‘the unstory’’ (le non-récit), ‘‘that which escapes quotation and which memory does not recall’’ (ED 49/ WD 28). It is therefore important not to overlook the distinction between plot and intrigue.1 Following Levinas, plot refers to the correlation of consciousness with a represented content: ‘‘a present represented, a theme ‘placed’ before it [as] a perception of a presence in ‘flesh and bone,’ a figuration of an image, symbolization of a symbolized, a transparency and a veiling of the fugitive and the unstable in an allusion’’ (AE2 46/OB 25). Totality and Infinity narrates the plot of a return to a ‘‘profond jadis’’ by which memory seizes time, while Otherwise than Being takes a step back from this ontological plot and conceives time in terms of proximity’s ‘‘immemorial past.’’ Subjectivity thus becomes a ‘‘preoriginary intrigue’’ with the other. However, in both cases it is a question of an opening, a breaching, that takes the form of a relation with a surplus always exterior to totality (being). PAGE 86 ................. 16243$ $CH4 11-27-06 10:49:20 PS Plot and Intrigue: From Being’s Other to the ‘‘Otherwise than Being’’ 87 I reserve the term intrigue for the inextricable diachronic structuring of subjectivity as ‘‘the other in the same.’’ For Levinas proximity is a difference , a non-coinciding, an arrhythmia in time, a diachrony refractory to thematization and to the reminiscence that synchronizes the phases of a past, where ‘‘the unnarratable (l’inenarrable) other loses his face as a...


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