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Tag: Rimbaud

Waldenfels’ Egocentric Reading of Rimbaud

Bernhard Waldenfels wrote Phenomenology of the Alien (Grundmotive einer Phänomenologie des Fremden) in 2006 and a translation into English was quickly made available by 2011. As the original title suggests, this work is a groundwork that lays out the basic motifs of a phenomenology that focuses specifically on the “alien” (Fremd). While the translators have rendered Fremd as “alien” according to the standards of Husserlian scholarship, it must be kept in mind that it could also mean stranger, foreign, or, at times, Other (although the translation of Fremd as Other will soon be complicated).

This work contains constant references to Waldenfels’ previous books. In the introduction, he correlates each chapter with some previous book that he has written (only one of which is available in English). The text is thus not only an outline of the basic motifs of a phenomenology of the alien, but also a survey of Waldenfels’ corpus. Given that Waldenfels is a scholar of Edmund Husserl, it is no surprise that Husserl’s name appears more frequently than any other in the book. What is surprising is that one of the other most mentioned names is that of the French poet, Arthur Rimbaud. Specifically, Waldenfels repeated refers to a line from a letter that Rimbaud wrote when he was 16. What does the gossip of a teenager have to do with transcendental phenomenological science? Waldenfels believes there is an important link and, while he may be right, he is right for the wrong reasons.


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Derrida on Rimbaud

[Translator’s Note: The following brief letter was written by Jacques Derrida as a response to an “investigation” made by Roger Munier. It was written sometime between September 1973 and March 1974. The goal of the investigation was to determine the contemporary significance and reception of Arthur Rimbaud’s work. Fifty participants, primarily poets, were asked to reflect on six questions regarding this topic. Other notable respondents were René Char and Martin Heidegger. The questions mainly asked about the notion of silence as it existed in Rimbaud’s work and as a signifier for his departure from poetry. One in particular remarks that Rimbaud seems to be “stretched to the future,” which Derrida indirectly refers to below. Although the goal of the investigation was to tap into the “spirit of an epoch,” this letter gives a great deal of insight into why Rimbaud, a great opponent of dominant Western conceptions of subjectivity, is not directly engaged with throughout Derrida’s corpus.]

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Dear Roger Munier,

Thank you for your gesture and your proposal. I must avow [avouer], very stupidly, that I do not know Rimbaud: reading for me [that is] almost “prehistoric.” I do not doubt the necessity of doing it or of attempting a return. Perhaps it would be shocking. Then, I must avow, most stupidly again, that I do not currently have the strength, availability, etc. Perhaps it is already there to answer you that I am closed to the FUTURE, that I do not have time for the future.

                                                                                                                               my faithful friendship.

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Translated by Jake Nabasny.

Source: Jacques Derrida, Aujourd’hui, Rimbaud…: Enquête de Roger Munier, ed. Roger Munier (Paris: Lettres Modernes, 1976), 42.

Sia: Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Other, Becoming-Imperceptible

On May 19, 2014, Sia Furler performed her song, “Chandelier,” on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” It has been said that the performance was a recreation of the music video, complete with a replica of the set. Even the dancer, Maddie Ziegler, is represented as imitating Sia’s appearance. It is quiet easy to understand this relationship to be analogical. Ziegler performs in place of Sia because Sia does not wish to be a public figure. However, to establish a correspondence between Zeigler and Sia, there must already be a difference in identity between the two people. Contrary to the imitation interpretation, Sia’s performance suggests a challenge to the presupposition of fixed identities. Our current task is to understand this challenge and its implications.

This task will play out in three acts. In the first, we will look at how Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari critique imitation in their concept becoming-animal. They provide us with philosophical and scientific reasons for believing that difference precedes identity, thus making imitation secondary to the more primordial processes of becoming. The second act magnifies the role of Ziegler in the performance. Continuing on the theme of becoming-animal, we will link Ziegler’s role to Arthur Rimbaud’s doctrine of the seer. Ziegler does more than interpret Sia’s song in dance; she reinvents it. Finally, the closing act unveils the affirmation at the core of becoming-animal and Rimbaudian becoming-other. We argue that it signifies more than the rejection of identity and its law of resemblance or imitation. To this end, we graft Hakim Bey’s logic of disappearance onto Sia’s theatrics. Ultimately, we seek to prove that the wig fashioned after Sia’s hairstyle is an invitation to become other than oneself within a general economy of alterity. Read the rest of this entry »