The final programme for the symposium will follow shortly. Click here to book your place.
Judith Still (University of Nottingham)
‘Refusing Consumption and Querying Genre: a partial reading of Maryse Condé and Marie NDiaye’
Even thinking (at) the border of thought (semi-theory?), or writing or speaking words, images, dreams (perhaps semi-fiction) inevitably raises questions of genre and how we read – what is the effect of the words (syllables, letters, sounds), what is the affect? Does the phrase ‘unidentifiable literary object’ help us imagine both the impossibility of identifying, deciding, and also the inevitability, need or desire to figure something out? The dialogue between Jacques Derrida and Hélène Cixous is sometimes framed as an encounter between a man and a woman, friends for life or ‘till death do us part’. What’s the difference? Cixous, Derrida says, does not believe in death – while he keeps reminding her of the inevitable parting too soon – which of course she knows, and writes about, very well. I shall track these questions in some contemporary ‘women’s writing’. There is plenty of food for thought (of life, of death) in NDiaye’s La Cheffe, roman d’une cuisinière (2016) and Condé’s Histoire de la femme cannibale (2003). These novels perversely stage creation by variously the cooking of a dead chicken (which eventually becomes the serving up of the imaginary of a chicken by gazing on living chickens), and painting what is to be named ‘(The) Cannibal Woman’, something which might be a self-portrait of the creator, who has chosen to say yes to life and art, or, and at the same time, an image of a woman who, accused of a cannibalistic murder, has killed herself. Consuming flesh and consuming words or stories, the gift of creativity,
intersects with genre in both its meanings – I shall try to do justice to the complexity of the textual e/affects.
Sarah Wood (University of Kent)
‘And a Rat that Could Speak’: a Curiosity
These telepathic rats are they the heroes or the enemy? Is their apparition unnarratable, despite the fact they appear in a story? Dickens is clear who is responsible for introducing into him the ‘utterly impossible’ but ‘none the less alarmingly real’ places and people among whom came, first the rat, then another and another: his nurse, Mercy. They are everywhere, once they are anywhere. What do they do and how is it on the side of liberation? It is, Dickens says: ‘frightfully intimate.’ They come into the bargain, par-dessus le marché. They infiltrate, they transfer, they secrete themselves, part of, without being part of, every agreement, every espousal you thought you were free to contract. That’s the thing when it’s time to sell yourself, whether you are a shipwright, an artist, or a traveller of the uncommercial sort: 1) it’s always to some Devil, and 2) no matter how much you think about it or how you consider it, you are never able to abstract or extract yourself from the effects of non-coincidence, iterability and listen! Extra rats! They are then, and now; in the time of the story and the time of a telling and rat a future time and perhaps also in a time to come. And they can all speak to one another, and you understand what they say.
Clare Connors (University of East Anglia)
Novel Criticism: or ‘certain naive movements of identification’
I’ll take up two aspects of the call for papers in my talk: first the invitation to think further about Derrida’s writing on identification, in relation to critical reading and writing; and second the prompt to work further with and on ‘creative criticism’ – a disciplinary phenomenon with which I am myself identified, for good and ill, insofar as mine is one of the names on the cover of a book with that title. As a bridge between these two concerns, I want to consider Derrida’s rather provocative remarks in his interview with Derek Attridge, that he has never taken any great enjoyment from fiction – novels, for example – ‘beyond the pleasure taken in analyzing the play or writing, or else certain naive movements of identification’. What kind of novel criticism might such naive movements of identification prompt us to invent?
Marie-Dominique Garnier (University of Paris VIII)
The Attack of the Flying Leaves
At Cerisy, Derrida’s sci-fi inspired narrative of his encounter with Cixous’s ‘unheard-of speech’ is not primarily an encounter with the unknown or the bizarre: it is an encounter at the Balzar, the Paris café where they first met after she sent him a postcard, a ‘very hasty word, from afar’. Derrida insists on the scheduling of their first meeting as ‘nothing but a date inscribed on the wood of a tree or on a flyleaf in order to begin before the beginning, something like that special ‘plea’ or ‘prayer’ on the ends of books that is called a prière d’insérer [author’s note]’. Once equipped with a prière d’insérer, a book becomes an articulated machine with a lighter roving/reading vehicle: a flyleaf.
Following the Cerisy 88 encounter —Zone 88 — Cixous’s successive books published with Galilée have embarked an LRV model onboard —a Literary, if not Lunar, Roving Vehicle. Equipped with a detachable appendix, a paper rocket of sorts, the literary object becomes a flying object, or, depending on local gravity conditions, a falling object with unpredictable crash sites.
Following the trail of Hélène Cixous’s fly-leaves, from the strange bipartite vessel of Partie to the latest spacecraft of Défions l’augure (‘the closest some of us will ever get to heaven’), this reading attempts to revisit Cixous as a literary vessel in which the space of an ‘x’ (in the Space X of her name) requires exploration from a non-humanist, post-anthropocene angle. As ‘ci-fi’ or sci-fi, HC’s writing is engineered to ‘defy’: to anticipate, fold time, invent new accelerations, unheard-of geometries, exotic constructs and carbon-free material for the ‘fouture’, to quote Partie (1976).
If Cixous Ci-Fi requires a few special craft, it embarks on no colonial trek, aboard no Enterprise. It requires a virtual plane: ‘To make a plane take off, you must make it happen out of sheer will, with each and every force required for the take-off (…) A plane ! Let me have a plane (…) Let me have a plane and limited time. I shall lift up the earth (…) I am absorbed by the difficult task. The plane is taxying (…) In three minutes it will capsize” (Portrait du Soleil).
‘All wards’ is a paper about creative and critical writing, Shakespeare, Cixous and Derrida, focusing on the nature of contemporary fiction, the concept of character and novelistic practice in what Mark McGurl has called the ‘program era’.
Laurent Milesi (Shanghai Jiao Tong University
De-monstrating Monsters: Some Unmastering Strategies in Cixous and Derrida
Monsters cannot be announced. One cannot say: ‘Here are our
monsters,’ without immediately turning the monsters into pets
(Derrida, ‘Some Statements and Truisms…’)
Published at the dawn of that then tentative, hybrid genre called the ‘novel’, Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews often pairs together thematically ‘master’ and ‘monster’, stating in the programmatic ‘Preface’ (1742) his claim to a ‘kind of writing[,] which I do not remember to have seen hitherto attempted in our language’. Throughout this ‘comic epic-poem in prose’, the issue of the generic is conflated with the genetic, as in the famous disquisition on the perception of the male sex by woman: ‘at the age of seven or something earlier, miss is instructed by her mother, that master is a very monstrous kind of animal […]’
Often reviled for trespassing generic boundaries and creating hybrid products through their writing, Cixous and Derrida share an interest (or inter-est) in the ‘entre’: writing in-between genres and genders (both genres in French) in order to let go of a kind of mastery in style and language associated with classical, hegemonic paradigms of literature and philosophy (cf. their exchanges in the Barcelona seminar Lengua por venir / langue à venir). Thus, de-marcation (the removal or problematization of gendered/genetic/generic marks) often leads to ‘de-monstration’, a word as well as a practice often resorted to by Derrida to counter domesticated modes of philosophical reasoning, including by not allowing the monstrous to be pinned down by a confident, masterful act of showing or monstration.
Looking at a few representative passages from both thinkers/writers featuring such a dialectical tension between master and monster, monstration and de-monstration, this paper will attempt to sketch the genealogy of a ‘novel writing’ between Cixous (praised in H. C. for Life, That Is to Say… for ‘showing the finger’ to expected acts of designation) and Derrida.