- From the Editor: Is Today Aujourd’hui?
Today, in French, is aujourd’hui, a word whose etymology relies on a pleonasm, since jour and hui are synonymous. A banal expression in “contemporary” vernacular French—au jour d’aujourd’hui, or “in the day of today”—even adds a third layer of repetition: it stutters in order to make the now of the present even more tangible. In French and other languages, we have to insist on what is at hand (or maintenant) since we are already, and presently, affected by the fleetingness of the now. There may be “nothing new” in such a remark, and Augustine, for instance, already developed several paradoxes of temporality. At the same time, it looks like a particular phraseology of the contemporary is currently gaining ground. In its academic guise, this phrase is both powerful and contradictory, encompassing the celebration of the fashionable as well as the era of the generalized “post–,” the death of the past as much as the reign of the archival.
Back in the years of its emergence, “theory” was certainly presented as a new way of thinking for “today,” and it is no accident that the subtitle of diacritics is “a review of contemporary criticism.” Now, most prominent authors (later) identified with “theory” would rather have put the emphasis on a much more intricate and divided conception of time, or history. Différance, the illusions of reference, the function of rupture and discontinuity were all widespread concerns among philosophers and critics of the last few decades. It may be time for us to renew these problems by displacing (rather than forgetting or “correcting”) them, and to exploit the virtues of anachronistic thought to make the origin(s) even more inconsequential, or to go after the afterward. This is no doubt not a proper topic for today’s editorial notes, but a discussion for another day.
In this issue, both Pedro Erber and Joshua Kates directly address the intellectual category of the now. They do this in dialogue with the oeuvres of Giorgio Agamben (for Erber) and Gilles Deleuze (for Kates). One situates the hindrance of messianism; the other notices the undervalued role of historicity. Tyler Williams and Cynthia Chase deliver scrupulous readings of two very different “theorists.” Williams offers a critical review of Catherine Malabou’s recent publications on the plastic brain and what some call the “neurohumanities” to come. Chase comments on Paul de Man’s interpretation of Hölderlin’s poem “The Rhine” in a 1959 lecture that—with some contretemps—was published in its entirety for the first time in 2012 by diacritics. It goes without saying that these four articles also perform the kind of research this journal aims to push forward, for “the day of today,” and beyond. [End Page 3]