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71KE COHPAnATIST ROQUENTIN AND THE METAPHYSICS OF PRESENCE: PHILOSOPHY, LITERATURE, TEXTUAL PLAY Zahi Zalloua Diary Writing and the Primacy of Perception After a note from "the Editors," in which Sartre parodies an eighteenthcentury literary convention meant to guarantee the authenticity of the text at hand, La Nausée begins with "undated pages." They reveal the circumstances which led Antoine Roquentin to keep a diary in order to "voir clair" (13), 'see clearly' (1). In quest of a lost and more stable state ofbeing, Roquentin meditates on his present condition while seeking to understand why everyday things suddenly appear uncanny to him. The diary's essential function is to help him impose some order upon his fluctuating reahty. Fearing that something may escape him, Roquentin does not take anything for granted. Adhering to the phenomenological reduction , Roquentin brackets all presuppositions about the nature of the external world and undertakes to represent things as he perceives them, as they are revealed to his consciousness in their "pure" immediacy. Perception, clearly, wiU play a primary role in his quasi-phenomenological investigations; indeed, Roquentin announces nothing short of a reduction of the external world and of its objects to the visual, to the perceiving subject: "Ne pas laisser échapper les nuances, les petits faits même s'ils n'ont l'air de rien, et surtout les classer. Il faut dire comment je vois cette table, Ia rue, les gens. . ." (13, emphasis added), 'Let none of the nuances or small happenings escape even though they might seem to mean nothing. And above all, classify them. I must tell how I see this table, the street, the people, my packet of tobacco. . .' (1). Iris Murdoch, herself a philosopher-novelist of some distinction, while attempting to disclose the novel's intended meaning (vouloir-dire), interprets La Naus ée to be primarily an investigation into the nature of perception, a prelude to Sartre's more elaborate treatment of the subject in L'Être et le néant: essaie d'ontologie phénoménologique; indeed, according to Murdoch , the interest of La Nausée lies unquestionably in its philosophical reflections upon "the real nature of perception" (9-10). Roquentin's visual metaphor for knowledge, his commitment to the primacy of the visual, situates him firmly within the logocentric tradition as defined by Jacques Derrida. In his seminal essay, "Structure, Sign, and Play," Derrida contends that all of Western metaphysics has reflected a desire for a center: Le centre reçoit, successivement et de manière réglée, des formes ou des noms différents. L'histoire de la métaphysique [. . .] serait l'histoire de ces métaphores et de ces métonymies. La forme matricielle en serait [. . .] la détermination de l'être commeprésence à tous les sens de ce mot. On pourrait montrer que tous les noms du fondement, du principe ou du centre ont Vol. 25 (2001): 133 ROQUENTINAND THE METAPHYSICS OF PRESENCE toujours désigné l'invariant d'une présence (eidos, arche, telos, energeia, ousia [essence, existence, substance, sujet] alethia, transcendantalité, conscience , Dieu, homme, etc.). (L 'Écriture et la différence 410-1 1) Successively, and in a regulated fashion, the center receives different forms or names. The history of metaphysics [. . .] is the history of these metaphors and metonymies. Its matrix [. . .] is the determination ofBeing aspresence in all senses ofthis word. It could be shown that all the names related to fundamentals, to principles, or to the center have always designated an invariable presence—(e/i/cw, arche, telos, energeia, ousia [essence, existence, substance, subject] alétheia, transcendentality, consciousness , God, man, and so forth). (Writing and Difference 279-80) Moreover, Derrida designates as "logocentric" any thought that identifies Being as "presence": "Le logocentrisme serait donc solidaire de la détermination de l'être de l'étant comme présence" (TJe la grammatologie 23), 'Logocentrism would thus support the determination of the being of the entity as presence' (Of Grammatology 12). Perception reflects "un point de présence," "une origine fixe" (L'Ecriture et la différence 409), 'a point ofpresence,' 'a fixed origin' (Writing and Difference 278), something that is present in and of itself, referring only to itself. No longer feeUng at...


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