Art as Á Venir: Blanchot on Time and Anxiety
The disquieting affairs of any present can be, according to Maurice Blanchot, linked unreservedly to the nature of communication, art and future. His recently translated work (first published in France in 1959), Le livre à venir (The Book to Come), adroitly explores the issues of future and communication through a ‘philosophy of reading.’ It declares that literature can never be reduced to a unified idea, does not directly make social or political commentary and stands in consistent (if ambiguous) rebellion to a Hegelian order of the world. A Hegelian world would be one in which all contradictions (strictly understood as thesis versus anti-thesis) would find some logical unity within the enfolding arms of the synthesis. Blanchot has said in a later (1971) work, L’amitié (Friendship), paraphrasing the argument of Karl Jaspers regarding the possibility of nuclear attacks that ‘either man will disappear or he will transform himself,’ and that according to Jaspers, philosophy alone, at work within the individual, can carry out this transformation. Blanchot scrutinizes Jaspers’ argument: ‘I must change my life…become a man able to respond to the radical possibility that I bear…tied to the future by a loyalty without reserve.’ And yet, against Jaspers, Blanchot claims that philosophy has, for over 2000 years, been giving us this promise, warning us of threats. Yet, nothing seems to change, threats remain and even grow. In this presentation, I look at the relationship between art and philosophy; questioning whether either can, even ideally, indicate a future without anxiety.
Tanya Loughhead is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Canisius College in Buffalo New York.