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  • Without Maurice Blanchot literary theory as we know it today wouldbe unthinkable. Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, Michel Foucault, RolandBarthes, Gilles Deleuze: all are key theorists crucially influenced byBlanchots work.

    This accessible guide:

    works idea by idea through Blanchots writings, anchoring themin historical and intellectual contexts

    examines Blanchots understanding of literature, death, ethics andpolitics and the relationship between these themes

    unravels even Blanchots most complex ideas for the beginner sketches the lasting impact of Blanchots work on the field of crit-

    ical theory

    For those trying to get to grips with contemporary literary theory andmodern French thought, the best advice is to start at the beginning:begin with Blanchot, and begin with this guide.

    Ullrich Haase lectures at Manchester Metropolitan University, andWilliam Large at the College of St Mark and St John, Plymouth.


  • R ou t ledge C r i t ic a l Thinke r s : e s s e n t i a l gg u i d e s ff o r ll i t e r a r y ss t u d i e s

    Ser ies edi tor: Rober t Eaglestone, Royal Hol loway,Uni versi t y of London

    Routledge Critical Thinkers is a series of accessible introductions to keyfigures in contemporary critical thought.

    With a unique focus on historical and intellectual contexts, eachvolume examines a key theorists:

    significance motivation key ideas and their sources impact on other thinkers

    Concluding with extensively annotated guides to further reading,Routledge Critical Thinkers are the literature students passport to todaysmost exciting critical thought.

    Already available:Fredric Jameson by Adam RobertsJean Baudrillard by Richard J. LanePaul de Man by Martin McQuillanEdward Said by Bill Ashcroft and Pal AhluwaliaMaurice Blanchot by Ullrich Haase and William LargeSigmund Freud by Pamela Thurschwell

    For further details on this series, see

  • Ul l r i ch Haase and Wi l l i am Large

    London and New York


  • First published 2001by Routledge11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE

    Simultaneously published in the USA and Canadaby Routledge29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001

    Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group

    2001 Ullrich Haase and William Large

    The right of Ullrich Haase and William Large to be identified as the Authors ofthis Work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designsand Patents Act 1988

    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted orreproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic,mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafterinvented, including photocopying and recording, or in anyinformation storage or retrieval system, without permission inwriting from the publishers.

    British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

    Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication DataHaase, Ullrich M., 1962Maurice Blanchot/Ullrich Haase and William Large.Includes bibliographical references and index.1. Blanchot, MauricePhilosophy. I. Large, William, 1963 II. Title.

    PQ2603.L3343 Z673 2001843'.912dc21 00-062808

    ISBN 0415234956 (hbk)ISBN 0415234964 (pbk)

    This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2001.

    ISBN 0-203-13868-6Master e-book ISBNISBN 0-203-17688-X(Glassbook Format)

  • Series editors preface vii

    Abbreviations xi



    1 What is literature? 11Definitions 12Literary theories 15Blanchots anti-theory of literature 21

    2 Language and literature 25The informational model of language 26The materiality of the word: message vs medium 27Negation and the absence of language 30The double absence of literature 32

    3 Death and philosophy 37The philosophers death 38Hegel: man, the master of death 42The question of death in Heideggers Being and Time 45


  • 4 Death: from philosophy to literature 51Dying and death 52Singularity: the secret of being 56The anonymity of writing and death 60

    5 Literature and ethics: the impact of Levinas 67Blanchots style 67The impact of Levinas 69The il y a 72From the violence of language to the ethics of speech 74The difference between speech and writing 78The narrative voice 80

    6 Blanchot as nationalist: the pre-war writings 85Blanchots journalism of the 1930s 86The Idyll 88A first withdrawal from politics 91

    7 Ethics and politics 97The human relation is terrifying 100The loss of community 102The atomic bomb 105

    8 The literary community 111La Revue Internationale 111Politics and the face of the other 114What is engaged literature? 119Literary communism 122



    Index 143

    vi C O N T E N T S

  • The books in this series offer introductions to major critical thinkerswho have influenced literary studies and the humanities. The RoutledgeCritical Thinkers series provides the books you can turn to first when anew name or concept appears in your studies.

    Each book will equip you to approach a key thinkers original textsby explaining her or his key ideas, putting them into context and,perhaps most importantly, showing you why this thinker is consideredto be significant. The emphasis is on concise, clearly written guideswhich do not presuppose a specialist knowledge. Although the focus ison particular figures, the series stresses that no critical thinker everexisted in a vacuum but, instead, emerged from a broader intellectual,cultural and social history. Finally, these books will act as a bridgebetween you and the thinkers original texts: not replacing them butrather complementing what she or he wrote.

    These books are necessary for a number of reasons. In his 1997autobiography, Not Entitled, the literary critic Frank Kermode wrote ofa time in the 1960s:

    On beautiful summer lawns, young people lay together all night, recovering

    from their daytime exertions and listening to a troupe of Balinese musicians.

    Under their blankets or their sleeping bags, they would chat drowsily about the

    gurus of the time What they repeated was largely hearsay; hence my

    lunchtime suggestion, quite impromptu, for a series of short, very cheap books

    offering authoritative but intelligible introductions to such figures.

    There is still a need for authoritative and intelligible introductions.


  • But this series reflects a different world from the 1960s. New thinkershave emerged and the reputations of others have risen and fallen, asnew research has developed. New methodologies and challenging ideashave spread through the arts and humanities. The study of literature isno longer if it ever was simply the study and evaluation of poems,novels and plays. It is also the study of the ideas, issues and difficultieswhich arise in any literary text and in its interpretation. Other arts andhumanities subjects have changed in analogous ways.

    With these changes, new problems have emerged. The ideas andissues behind these radical changes in the humanities are oftenpresented without reference to wider contexts or as theories whichyou can simply add on to the texts you read. Certainly, theresnothing wrong with picking out selected ideas or using what comes tohand indeed, some thinkers have argued that this is, in fact, all wecan do. However, it is sometimes forgotten that each new idea comesfrom the pattern and development of somebodys thought and it isimportant to study the range and context of their ideas. Against theo-ries floating in space, the Routledge Critical Thinkers series places keythinkers and their ideas firmly back in their contexts.

    More than this, these books reflect the need to go back to thethinkers own texts and ideas. Every interpretation of an idea, even themost seemingly innocent one, offers its own spin, implicitly orexplicitly. To read only books on a thinker, rather than texts by thatthinker, is to deny yourself a chance of making up your own mind.Sometimes what makes a significant figures work hard to approach isnot so much its style or content as the feeling of not knowing where tostart. The purpose of these books is to give you a way in by offeringan accessible overview of these thinkers ideas and works and byguiding your further reading, starting with each thinkers own texts.To use a metaphor from the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein(18891951), these books are ladders, to be thrown away after youhave climbed to the next level. Not only, then, do they equip you toapproach new ideas, but also they empower you, by leading you backto a theorists own texts and encouraging you to develop your owninformed opinions.

    Finally, these books are necessary because, just as intellectual needshave changed, the education systems around the world the contextsin which introductory books are usually read have changed radically,too.What was suitable for the minority higher education system of the

    viii S E R I E S E D I T O R S P R E F A C E

  • 1960s is not suitable for the larger, wider, more diverse, high tech-nology education systems of the twenty-first century. These changescall not just for new up-to-date introductions but new methods ofpresentation. The presentational aspects of Routledge Critical Thinkershave been developed with todays students in mind.

    Each book in the series has a similar structure. They begin with asection offering an overview of the life and ideas of each thinker andexplaining why she or he is important.The central section of each bookdiscusses the thinkers key ideas, their context, evolution and recep-tion. Each book concludes with a survey