Maurice Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation

Reading Group
Book: Maurice Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation
Location: Strange Haven, 281 K’rd, Auckland CBD
Fortnightly, Wednesdays, 6 – 7:30 pm
Begins: 7 June

In “The Infinite Conversation”, Maurice Blanchot sustains a dialogue with a number of thinkers, including Kafka, Pascal, Nietzsche, Brecht, and Camus, whose contributions have marked turning points in the history of Western thought and have influenced virtually all the themes that inflect contemporary literary and philosophical debate. Reflecting on the nature of language, narrative voice, the imaginary, revolution, nihilism, and Jewish identity, Blanchot brings forward what the accomplishment of dialectical thought, as well as all thought based on categories of opposition, is unable to account for. Grounded in a tradition of philosophy and thoroughly conversant with phenomenology and the Romantic and post-Romantic traditions, Blanchot addresses fundamental questions that haunt all analyses of difference. His unique manner of questioning, which itself borders on poetry, challenges the very basis on which we read and fashion the world.

When Blanchot died, Jean Luc Nancy wrote the following tribute referencing The Infinite Conversation “This title – one of the most striking of all his works – we could take as an emblem of Maurice Blanchot’s thinking. Not so much thinking, really, as a stance or gesture: a confidence. Above all, Blanchot has confidence in the possibility of the conversation. What is undertaken in the conversation (with another, with oneself, with the very pursuit of conversation) is the ever-renewed relationship of speech to the infinity of meaning that shapes its truth.

Writing (literature) names this relationship. It does not transcribe a testimony, it does not invent a fiction, it does not deliver a message: it traces the infinite journey of meaning as it absents itself. This absenting is not negative; it shapes the chance and challenge of meaning itself. “To write” means continuously to approach the limit of speech, the limit that speech alone designates, whose designation makes us (speakers) unlimited.”

Written during the struggle between Hegeliansim and anti-Hegelianism in French thought preceding poststructuralism, Blanchot’s Infinite Conversation provides a crucial link for understanding the more immediate roots of poststructuralism. Blanchot’s writings inform the thought of Deleuze, Foucault, Lacan, and Derrida, and can provide contexts for some of the more difficult concepts of these other writers.

Schedule

Week 1 : 7 June (43 pages)
Note (xi – xxiii) and
Division I Plural Speech: Chapters I – III (3 – 32)

Week 2 : 21 June (51 pages)
Division I Plural Speech: Chapters IV – IX (33 – 83)

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Week 3 : 5 July (58 pages)
Division II The Limit Experience: Chapters I – V (85 – 135)

Week 4 : 19 July (52 pages)
Division II The Limit Experience: Chapters VI – VII (136 – 193)

Week 5 : 2 August (52 pages)
Division II The Limit Experience: Chapters VIII – XI (194 – 245)

Week 6 : 16 August (44 pages)
Division II The Limit Experience: Chapters XII (264 – 281)

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We will discuss if we are going to continue immediately into section 3 or revisit that in a separate reading group

Week 7 (47 pages)
Division III The Absence of the Book: Chapters I – VII (285 – 331)

Week 8 (47 pages)
Division III The Absence of the Book: Chapters VIII – XIII (332- 378)

Week 9 (55 pages)
Division III The Absence of the Book: Chapters XIV – XVIII (379 – 434)

A pdf of the book can be downloaded here

About the reading group:
The reading group: is open to anyone who wishes to participate and we encourage you to forward this invitation to your networks. We will be reading and discussing specific sections each fortnight moving through the book. The group is facilitated by Melissa Laing [melissa at melissalaing.com] who will be learning alongside and with everyone who participates.

About Strange Haven:
Strange Haven is a work space, venue and club-house for community conversations. It currently makes its home on K’Rd at 281, opposite Artspace.