Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Cixous seminar

Yesterday I had the pleasure, the gift, of attending Hélène Cixous’ monthly seminar, at the Cité Universitaire. Which is also where I am staying So I didn’t have far to walk through the park.

Her topic this year is “Les irréparables.” I won’t summarize her prospectus, because it’s impossible for me to translate, let alone summarize. Her reading list includes:

Shakespeare Macbeth, King Lear, Dostoïevski Crime et Châtiment, Derrida Circonfession, Pardonner, Edgar Poe Tales, Thomas Bernhard Le Naufragé, Proust Jean Santeuil, La Recherche du temps perdu, Hélène Cixous Homère est morte.

Yesterday she had added Blanchot, “L’instant de ma mort.” The instant of my death. I could actually understand much of her discussion. She takes her time with words (as she does in writing itself), and ideas, which is good for a French learner. She repeats and stays on a topic, goes down certain pathways, byways, then circles back again. I took many notes. This seminar is 6 hours long, with one coffee break. Today, I was thinking how you would never see this in Canada, a professor speaking for 6 hours. Perhaps it is unique in France too. No audience dialogue, no powerpoints—a person sitting at her desk, deliberately speaking, moving along in thought, narrative, reflecting in text. There were periods of "close reading," a literary practice I am not 'trained' in, but now understand more of after listening to her do it. How to stay with, and on, one page. It is mesmerizing to follow her trails—time gives you the gift of time, of listening, of being inside the movement of literature and thought (hers and your own).

This is a blog, not a paper. I won’t try to make sense, but interestingly, she started with the question of “arriving”—and the instant of death. Once occurring (our own), we can never tell of the instance of this instant. In Blanchot: le mort n’arrive pas - un presence suspendu. Death did not "arrive," it was a suspended presence, with duration (he was not killed by the firing squad). We moved through the biblical Abraham and Isaac (the almost instant of the father killing the son). Derrida on paradox as the moment/instant of—un temporalité intemporel. Questions of violence and non-violence, as in le rêve de Martin Luther King. And there is the problem of l’esprit de l’exclusion that continues to exist in society. And more, much more. Joan of Arc appeared, in her insistence on listening to God (my 'vision' of yesterday in Notre Dame) as Kafka, Kierkegaard, hovered closely in our ears.

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