Political Concepts at Brown April 11, 2015 1 of 4


So I’m Marc Redfield,
and it’s my honor to be moderating
the first panel. Jacques Khalip will
give the first talk. His concept is triumph. And he’s at Brown
in English and MCM. The second talk will
be Peter Szendy, who is professor of philosophy at
University of Paris Notaires and visiting in comparative
literature here at Brown this spring. And his concept is katechon. The talks will be a
maximum of 30 minutes. And then we’ll have I
think about an hour to– 45 minutes. 45 minutes. 45 minutes to discuss. Good morning, everyone. You can hear me? No? Better? All right, basically
stick it down my throat. All right. So there’s a passage
very early on in E.M. Forster’s Room With
a View in which the narrator pauses
to watch over the novel’s young protagonist,
Lucy Honeychurch, who is in the throes of a
seemingly competent yet wanting performance of a
Beethoven piano sonata. So with all the harsh judgment
of a back-handed and withering ally, the narrator
administers a deflating blow to Lucy’s triumph of life. And this is the first
passage on your handout. “She was no dazzling executante. Her runs were not all
like strings of pearls, and she struck no
more right notes than was suitable for one
of her age and situation. Nor was she the
passionate young lady who performed so tragically
on a summer’s evening with the window open. Passion was there but could
not be easily labeled. It slipped between love
and hatred and jealousy, and all the furniture
of the pictorial style. And she was tragical
only in the sense that she was great,
for she loved to play on the side of victory. Victory of what and over what. That is more than the words
of daily life can tell us. But that some sonatas of
Beethoven are written tragic no one can gainsay. Yet they can triumph or
despair as a player decides, and Lucy had decided that
they should triumph.” The sonata’s triumph is
also apparently Lucy’s own. And her decision occurs
minimally and unspoken, all the more reason it remains
remarkably curious. As she plays, she almost
somatically decides upon the crowning mood
of a minor triumph that has the effect of a
social intervention. It’s both primitive and
private, conforming the sonata and, in turn, her
own life to the law of what victory must be. “Victory of what and over what. That is more than the words
of daily life can tell us.” What kind of victory does a
sonata signal here for Lucy? And to cite the
narrator’s sharp question, this victory is of
what and over what? As a trope, triumph
here is not simply the sonata’s glorious endpoint. Rather, it names the fantastic
structure set in place by an anesthetic
regime of knowing that adjusts the
player to her passions as well as requires her
subordination to a triumph compulsion, as it were. A compulsion that forces
her to think the sonata must be more than the everyday. It must sustain Lucy in the
belief that whatever she is, she is on the side of triumph,
even if she can’t quite vanquish things herself. In this way we are made
to understand that, while Lucy might choose the
triumphal mode for Beethoven, she’s measured by an indenture
to the very demand that cannot but exclude her from the dark
victory that demonstrates that her triumph was
never hers to decide. Her decision has
been made for her. I take this passage
from Room With a View as crystallizing a way to
begin contemplating triumph as a political concept. What is its
historical dimension? What is its formal specificity? Who or what decides that
something is a triumph? And how is it seen? I should say at the
outset that I do not wish to trace a lexical
history of the word. And rather than presume some
kind of totalized definition, I’ll approach the concept as
an unknown and singularly open category, altering our
perspectives with competing histories, claims, and meanings. Has triumph triumphed? What has triumphed? What has been triumphed over? And what’s the difference
between a triumph of and a triumph over? So to ground us, let me give
several of the OED definitions. So in the context
of Roman history, it signals the entrance
of a victorious commander with his army and spoils
in a solemn procession into Rome, permission for
which was granted by the Senate in honor of an important
achievement in war. Additionally, it’s the
action or fact of triumphing. Victory, conquest,
or the glory of this. Also a signal success
or achievement. It’s pomp, splendor,
a public festivity, or joyful celebration,
the exaltation of victory or success. As a verb it means to be
victorious, to prevail. Etymologically, “triumph” also
derives from the Greek word “thriambos,” or a
hymn to Dionysus, song in processions that
celebrated the god, only soon to become,
according to Diodoris, another name for
Dionysus himself. In these various definitions,
we can plot a movement from an event, to a thing,
to an affect in the same way as Lucy enthusiastically
expresses triumph as the internalized
feeling of her very being. “Triumph” appears as a
word to many of us that has been steadily disentangled
from its spectacular sociohistorical
settings and become the sentimentalized expression
of personal interiority and affective performance. So when Thomas Hobbes
defines the word “glory” in his Elements of Law,
Natural and Politic as “internal gloriation
or triumph of the mind, is that passion which
proceedeth from the imagination or conception of our own
power above the power of him that contendeth with
us,” he reads glory as a subjective triumph borne
by the imagination’s projection of the self’s
power over another. In other words, if
glory is imaginary, its triumph is a responsive
and relational affect of that. And its perspective depends
on a misreading of power over something or
someone outside of us. So I hope to argue,
however, that this dynamic of misperceiving triumph
by the imagination and as an imaginary opposition
that must be at once overcome and brought to an end is
symptomatic of the triumph as an imaginary
spectacle that masters and controls responsiveness. Such control is part and
parcel of triumph’s force, both in its early manifestations
as a Roman procession and as a concept that
requires assent to the belief that something is
overcome because it has been annihilated from view. So this spectacularization
of the triumph is synonymous, again, with its
Roman beginnings, certainly. And in her eponymous
study, Mary Beard has excavated the
numinous origins, rituals, and multiple
sociohistorical contexts that both produce the triumph
as a political and cultural phenomenon, that is to
say, as a spectacular event and a mobilization
of power, but also as an organized and
organizing concept that especially in its
complex deployments frayed the edges of
its stagings and often delinked it from
the narratives that sought to frame and define it. So here are a few cliched
elements of the ceremony. Spoils carried on wagons,
on stretchers, on shoulders. Paintings and models
of conquered battles and territories. Sacrificial animals,
trumpeters, dancers. Chained slaves, victims of war
drawn along as human cargo. The figure of a
slave who famously rode behind the general,
whispering into his ear, “Look behind you. Remember you are a man.” I mean, that’s just
fantastic, really. Retrospective and
forward looking, dialectical
[INAUDIBLE] utterance. This phrase and
scenario embodies an image of sovereign
victory, recalling itself in its creaturely
form, but necessarily detached from itself. And in this fractured
form and also, of course, recalls Agamben’s image
of the sovereign who does not coincide with
his desire to institute a stay of exception. We recall that Agamben
re-reads Benjamin versus Carl Schmitt on the sovereign
decision and points to the foremost pressure on the
impossibility of decisionmaking in the baroque sovereign, for
whom power and exercise are cut. The impossibility
also, I should say, that impossibility also
glosses Agamben’s remarks and the triumph in
the kingdom of glory, which begins with
a reflection on how the entrance of the
military and the commander within the pomerium, where the
boundary of the city of Rome was an act of permeation,
otherwise not permitted by law. If a triumph is the seed from
which imperial power will develop– those are
his words– it’s a veritable extension and
manifestation of power. It dramatically
phenomenalizes the eruption of a new figure of trespass
that disturbs or transgresses the limits of Roman
power in order to establish a suspension,
one that maximizes the right to command the empirium in
the hands of the magistrate. At the time of the
republic, triumphs were granted by the Senate
to a petitioning commander. All appeals for triumphs,
moreover, were filled. After Augustus,
the triumph became the right of the emperor. It suggested the
usurping permanency of Augustine triumph. Thus, we should read the
triumph as a decision that enacts a state of exception,
a suspension of the law that has no prior legal precedent. But as a triumphal
suspension, it must then resolve itself
into something else in order to prove that it
has overcome some thing. Thus, a triumph is
definitively futural, even if– and this is
the paradox– it imagines a cessation or suspension
of affairs insofar as it has proven victorious
over some thing. Triumph implies, writes
Agamben, in determination of the difference [NON-ENGLISH],
which from the standpoint of public law distinguishes the
territory of the city from that of Italy and the provinces. We know that the magistrate
who had asked for the triumph to be accorded to
him had to wait for the decision of the
Senate outside the pomerium. Otherwise, he would
forever forfeit the right to the triumph. So as a decision, the
triumph is a speech act. As Diodorus taught
us, the decision that once attempts
to but can never be disarticulated from
the indecisions that multiply around it. Every decision can never claim
a perfectly aligned judgment. The moment of decision is
an impossibly anxious one. And the suspension
that Agamben describes culminates in the Augustine
claim to solidify it, to render it permanent. A triumph renders indiscernible
the differences between city and non-city, familiar and
unfamiliar, self and other, enemy and citizen, even
triumph and despair. And theses on the flaws of
history, Walter Benjamin notes that whoever
has emerged victorious participates to this day in the
triumphal procession, in which the present rulers step over
those who are lying prostrate. According to
traditional practice, the spoils are carried
along in the processions. They’re called
cultural treasures, and historical
materials have used them with cautious detachment. So perfectly outlining the
skeletal form of the Roman triumph, Benjamin
announces the extent to which are different from
the ancient form as spectral. As a figure of understanding
whose knowledge is infinitely differential,
deferred, and moves between presence and
absence, the triumph is the [FRENCH] that’s at
the limit of instantiation. Triumph is a spectral
vehicular structure through which a certain
kind of history for Benjamin is decided as a rectilinear,
indeed, reproductive movement. In Adorno’s commentary on
this passage in section 98, a Minima Moralia
called Bequest, he notes that the coercive
nature of dialectical thought depends upon a dynamic
of supercession that is imminent to the movement
of that logic itself. So he writes, “The existing
cannot be overstepped except by means of a universal derived
from the existing order itself. The universal triumphs over the
existing through the latter’s own concept. And therefore in this triumph,
the power of mere existence constantly threatens
to reassert itself by the same violence
that broke it. If the succession of victory
and defeat must be exposed,” Adorno writes, “it
should address itself to those things which are not
embraced by this dynamic, which fell by the wayside. What might be called the
waste products,” he says, “and blind spots that have
escaped the dialectic. It is in the nature
of the defeated to appear in their impotence
irrelevant, eccentric, derisory.” So waste products and blind
spots are interesting terms. What is left behind is precisely
what cannot be seen by us, what is not sanctioned
to appearing. With those aspects
within the triumph that are not even seen by itself
in the milieu of the dialectic. So to briefly mention a
concept I will soon return to, one might say that these blind
spots are like the Lacanian gaze, which Zizek law says
“is the point in the object, in the picture, from which
the subject viewing it is already gazed at. It’s the object that
is gazing at me. Far from assuring
the self-presence of the subject and
his vision, the gaze functions as a stain,
a spot in the picture, disturbing its
transparent visibility. I can never see the
picture at the point from which it is gazing at me.” Dialectic produces such
blind spots at every turn as it imagines finalization. But every turn is
subsequent overcoming that seeks to bring
the intentionless within the realm of concepts. Those are Adorno’s terms. What might dialectical
thought look like if we were to focus upon
the sides and the corners of the triumphal
procession in order to attend to impotency as the
excessive, constitutive feature of triumphalism itself,
the negativity that courses within power
as its unworking other? One might say that this kind of
recuperative gesture that I’m proposing is itself dialectical,
and I don’t necessarily disagree. But at the same time,
is there a worklessness at the core of the dialectic
that gnaws from inside of it? That suspends it,
that withdraws it from the manifestation
of decision? The idea of suspension
is key, then, to conceptualize the
deployment of the triumphant in strictest terms. But also the pivot point of its
manipulation for other effects. How is suspension reconceived
in its singularity? If triumph is a defining feature
of development and change, while also requiring
finality, also blocks out and objects
those elements of the pose and break the form of
that movement itself? This brings me to the
other side of the coin. Triumph is a formal problem
that stages a reckoning with the political unconscious
that cannot quite accommodate the terms that triumph mandates. Triumph is the manifestation
of a decision about a structure of overcoming. Is the imagined decision
underwritten by a blind spot that it endlessly tries
to fill and install? In the literary text and visual
objects I plan to turn to now, triumph is a frustrating
expression, a pageant, a procession, an
image, and a disaster that feverishly fails to produce
what always hopes to decide. What is at stake, I will argue,
is not merely a revolution wresting away the triumph
from its own point of view, but attempt to hinder
that point of view itself. To expose it, to
possibly impoverish it, to attend to the blind spot
as a kind of dead spot. So now I want to
turn to the fragment that I provided to you,
Shelley’s Triumph of Life. It’s number two. For sake of time, I won’t
be reading this out. I’ll just be referring to
particular lines from the poem. So in Percy Shelley’s
The Triumph of Life, the last unfinished magnum opus
he undertook before his death by drowning in 1822, the
triumph of the spectacle achieves its most powerful
post-Enlightenment critique. The vehicle the triumph, here
in debt to Petrarch and Dante, delivers the allegorical
figure of life as well as describes the
process of historical emergence that devastates the poem
through and through. So Petrarch and
Dante, let’s say, are two immediate sort
of literary backgrounds to this poem. But there are other sort of
amazing sort of, let’s say, intertext or ideas
are encrusted into it. But I can’t go into
it entirely, but say he’s also channeling
Edmund Burke’s own sort of like feverish description
of the movement of Louis XVI from Versailles to the
Tuileries in 1789, which was described by Burke
is a kind of triumph. Burke himself was in fact
responding to Richard Price earlier, who was describing
the French Revolution itself as a kind of eruption
of a kind of triumph of the people against the king. That in itself is
a kind of citation of the glorious revolution. So it’s these
multiple almost echoes that are important to the poem,
which is driven by terza rima form that oddly
almost disappears context, but,
paradoxically, remembers it through the rhyming
of that form itself. This is something that our
colleague William Keats, for example, has written on. So in brief, the poem
recounts two narratives, one dreamt by a
speaker who perceives a strange triumphal pageant
that bears various characters from history, Plato, Kant,
Catherine the Great, Leopold, for example, amongst others. And a second, which
is spoken by Rousseau, who’s encountered early
on by the speaker poet by the road, who then
recounts how he came to be engaged with and perceived
the triumphal spectacle itself. So in crude terms, the
poem is about the failings of the Enlightenment and
its traumatic after effects. While it’s impossible to
properly read it, even a small portion of
that poem today, I want to concentrate on
two points in that work. So this is the first section
that I’m referring to, the long part. So in the poem where plays of
darkness and light, visibility and invisibility,
appearance and disappearance wreak figural havoc,
the lines which compare the emergence of the
triumphal car to the new moon are especially complex. First the cold glare that
has the intensity of noon obscures the sun
as he the stars. “And as I gazed
methought that in the way the throng grew wilder,
in the woods of June when the South wind shakes
the extinguished day. And a cold glare, intenser
than the noon but icy cold, obscured” et cetera, et cetera. While the suggestion
is that this glare is as illuminating as noon
light but without the heat, the lines do more. Deprived of heat
but not of glare, Shelley evokes a dazzling
shine or an aggressive looking. This is the other
definition of glare. That hides the sun as
if by looking at it. And the sun in turn
obscures the stars, its glare canceling theirs. The dialectical play
here between objects repeats throughout the
following epic simile, which choreographs the
new moon’s emergence like the chariot’s path. But the simile works queerly
because that figural emergence of the old moon
versus the new moon, the new moon seemingly sort of
bringing along the old moon, seems like an
excess that does not encrust the subsequent figure
of the chariot of life. Put differently, if a
simile works dialectically produced the figure of the
chariot, within the simile are the mechanics of another
dialectical movement that moves in directions that
are not necessarily absorbed by the subsequent figure, as
if they’re in competition. In particular,
while the new moon trembles amid [INAUDIBLE]
air, the sleeping tempest also as an indication of
its anticipatory strength bears the ghost of
her dead mother, who’s dim form bends in dark
ether from her infant’s chair. But the turmoil
within that simile is produced as competing
attempts at overcoming something that comes after. So typically in
Shelley, what comes after, in this case the
chariot, is anticipated by virtuosic simile that seems
to suggest that everything that will happen has
already happened. So even in the very
brief sort of outline of the poem that I described,
the second almost way in which the poem is divided
with Rousseau speaking. What he describes
is his experience prior to the arrival
of the chariot, which is the first event. So with the second, as it were,
seemingly what comes before. And this is in such a way
as to perform a suspension within the simile and the
poem’s structure itself motored by the pounding force of
that terza rima, Shelley’s homage, again, to The
Divine Comedy, which enforces movement but is
in fact a kind of fantasy of the ongoing. What occurs is a
strange suspension inside the simile that has
the effect of anticipating the chariot’s movement and,
in so doing, interrupts it. Throws an impasse where the
waste products of the poem seem to accumulate as minima. Notice that in these lines
that Shelley emphasizes here, not illumination but
darkening, not blindness but rather an extinguishing
effect like a bat cave, a kind of fading coal,
which is his image from the defense of poetry
of how the imagination works. Life sits inside the
chariot, “crouching within the shadow of
a tomb and over what seemed a head, a cloud
like crape, was bent a dun and faint ethereal gloom.” This Janus-faced charioteer
strangely with four faces banded. That itself is a
kind of citation of Ezekiel’s chariot with four
creatures, each having four faces. Drives the triumphal chariot
impervious to seeing. So these various
entities do not see us. They’re almost like, one could
say, Derrida’s visor effect. Their eyes can see, but
they cannot be seen by us. Oh, the car is ill guided. The notion of all that is,
has been, or will be done seems at once
performed and to be performed by the triumphal car. Triumph, in other words, already
anticipates your decisive conclusions that those internal
to the car cannot quite make. Their decisions are
impossible, Shelley implies, yet nevertheless the
car with solemn speed goes majestically on. So the strange movement and
seeing elements and figures of the triumph
that do not see us evokes a compulsion
to perceive an assent to the spectacle and all
its dematerialized life, even as that process
of dematerialization is heavily materialized
by Shelley. The movement here is
at once dialectical moving from a thingliness to
the kind of virtuality of life, to a strange suspension of
that very process itself. But what Shelley
wants us to see here is a spectacle of a kind
of state of exception, a kind of suspension
that impossibly occurs in its inertness, its
worklessness, its passivity, its withdrawal from
triumphal manifestation. Shelley wants to
suggest that’s precisely that very impossibility that
is seen in the triumphal car at once moving on
and not moving. Kind of like a cog in the wheel,
to be very crude about it. This complex play
figures in the passage suggests infinite
nullifications, like a TV screen at 2:00 in
the morning showing absolutely nothing but static. So let’s turn to
the next passage. “Then what is life? I said. The cripple casts
his eye upon the car which now had rolled onward, as
if that look must be the last, and answered, happy those
for whom the fold of.” And this is where the
poem just entirely is a fragment of sorts, right? You can’t even imagine the
amount of critical literature on this very sort of aspect. It’s very interesting,
but can’t cover it now. The question, then,
what is life is spoken by the poet’s poet speaker. And the cripple is here
Rousseau, who early in the poem is described as
an old root which grew to strange distortion
out of the hillside and that the holes
had vainly sought to hide where had been eyes. His disability here registers
as a kind of visual impairment. But this is far too literal. There’s no sense of any
kind of impairment at all. But rather that
blocked vision is a condition here with
different kind of look that isn’t human at all. The look at the end of The
Triumph of Life is not entirely Rousseau’s. But the look that is cast
out in the enjambment. “The cripple cast his
eye upon the car.” To cast means also to throw,
as if to throw out the eye. Through the strangeness
of the syntax, the eye seems to attach to
the triumphal car itself. In this way, what the
poem indirectly offers is less the apocalyptic
undoing of the spectacle and the fantasy
of the last look. I think sort of Benjamin
thinking about love at last sight. But a look who’s imperative. So it must be the last. At once fantasizes finality
while agreeing to some kind of ongoing event that cannot
be perceived from any position. The car rolls onward. Shelley does not say
that it is a look that is linked to sensory perception,
even though the entire poem has been awash in sensory stimuli. The look is what Rei
Terada, for example, has recently called openly
absorptive yet withholds realization. A kind of open-ended,
nonresolving tarrying with the negative,
as she believes characterizes post-Waterloo
European politics and culture. A time that could
not quite make sense of the difference between
revolution and restoration, a kind of time of impasse. If the spectacle, that
term for [? de Burgh, ?] was a visible, his terms,
a visible negation of life. And as a negation of
life that has invented a visual form for itself. Non-life is a refusal of the
triumphal spectacle’s control of life as a manifestation
of something intrinsic to it and thus to investments
in progress, development, community, and exchange. Or rather, for the
assumption that there is a normative mode
of relations that exist prior to the spectacle’s
assumption and power. So this particular Shelleyan
insight, that triumphal life is self-deluded by its
spectacularization of life as manifestation. And that to think one
can break it simply by looking at it, which means
to operate within a norm that the poem already finds
impossible to free itself from. This notion surfaces
in two artworks that explore the manifest
marginal rhetoric of triumph. So what you see is a word
sculpture by Jack Pierson. It’s made of metal,
wood, and light bulbs. And this appeared in Jack
Pierson’s 2012 Los Angeles show, “The End of the World.” So it was deviously billed in
Pierson’s third person press release as his, meaning
Pierson’s own, 19th comeback attempt since his move into
big budget studio roles. And thus queerly merging
the cliched catastrophes of Hollywood stardom
and disaster movies alongside the
fictional narrative of celebrity fame, exile,
and successful overcoming. So this is sort of like
the framing narrative for this particular show of his. To give you also the
sense of the size of it, which is important. It’s 37 by 129 by 8 inches. So coinciding with the
foretold end promised by the Mayan calendar in
2012, the world catastrophe did not happen. Or if it did, the catastrophes
at Pierson’s show alludes to our less apocalyptic
end time sculptures and anxious manifestations
of linguistic cliches have become objects through
which our own fantasies are put under erasure. If the show does go on
and the end of the world does so in a way that considers
spectacularized narratives of Hollywood
blockbusters that work as lenses through
which our obsessions with the destroyed culture
persist in spite of themselves. In Pierson’s verbal sculptures
are disinterested reflections on how a queer
collector’s approximation by triumphant culture
plays with the relationship between the verbal and visual,
by rearranging the triumph’s decision of an end. Suspending words on walls
or on the floor as objects of a natural kind of making. So for example, like
the end of the world. That very title itself is
hugely constructed sentence. Out of wood and painted
in silver that literally was squeezed into
a gallery diagonal that was made of plywood. In “A Triumph,” this piece,
Pierson assembles various found letters of various sizes
and styles from a salvage yard onto the wall, waste
products to recall Adorno left to the side of
things or beyond the wall. The pomerium, remember. So like a ransom
note, “A Triumph” seems to come from nowhere,
floating signifier or emblem whose demand is uncertain. There’s no space between
the article A and triumph. And one might almost
want to read this as a kind of
necessary compression. Each letter in its
legible particularity bodes forth with a presence all
its own, harvested, perhaps, from a ravaged cinema marquee. But the meaning of the image is
discursive and emblematic here and seems to recall
Hollywood advertising. The materiality of
each letter, here I’m sort of recalling a little
bit of Paul de Man’s sense of that
term, calls to mind singular modes of
production that turn each letter
into an object that upsets the kind of emblematic
linearity of that assembled word sculpture. So as an actual assemblage,
then, Pierson turns “A Triumph” into a quotable
phrase of code letters by building the exclamation
point in quotation marks that bookend the structure. Again, those are the pieces
that he built himself. So those offer the
only sources of light, but is enlightenment
that’s around the letters rather than from them. On the one hand, citation
appears to precisely describe the retrospective gesture
that triumph cannot command. Instead of remembering
that one is a man, one remembers that
one is but a letter. In fact, one might
read Pierson’s constructed punctuation
as an illumination that suggests but also
dissembles a past one is not sure one has gotten over. On the other hand,
Pierson’s “Triumph” turns that nostalgia
of the fallen spectacle into something else. These are waste projects
that fall to the side, scavenged letters
attesting to word sculpture that conglomerates
triumph, as a thing that doesn’t anticipate
or serve as a prelude to the main attraction. Is the void, in fact. It has no gaze for us. The enunciation is
a decision, but it’s a mangled one of many parts. In its utter fragility,
the sculpture is profoundly non-nostalgic,
non-retrospective, non-anticipatory. It’s like things that go
to dust if I’m not there, something which Pierson said in
an interview about his exhibit. So final image is this. This is Peter Hujar’s
“Triumph” from 1976. It’s a silver gelatin print. This is from a series
called “Night.” Which is a fabulous
image, really. Oh. Meld. Right. There. All right, that’s the car. This is almost like this is
Shelley’s Triumph of Life, basically. So this sense of a ruined
look that’s– Meld. All right. We keep this on? OK. This sense of a
ruinous look that’s imagined from point of view
of the triumphant decision is also in Peter Hujar’s
photograph “Triumph.” It’s kind of fitting that it
keeps disappearing, actually. That will be OK. All right, thank you. So Shelley’s poem
leaves us with a look that bears no hint of
subjective absorption, but possibly a look
from the triumph. And Pierson’s wall sculpture
gives us triumph as a kind of fossilized word that
cannot look back at us. Hujar’s photo enacts that look
from another kind of Shelleyan car, in this case the
actual British Triumph, here materializing as a post-war
commodity on a sleepy nighttime street in New York City. In the photograph, another car
seems to move onward, this car, but doesn’t. Parked close to
the curb, the car is suspended between
movement and stasis, a dynamic accentuated by several
markers in the photograph. The parallel lines of the curb,
the elevated railroad above, the one-way sign, the
piece of wood or cardboard on the ground by the
tires, in the foreground, the three white strips
around the central column that bisects the photograph. While all of these
apparently point towards the right side of the
photograph and beyond its frame as if pushing the action
in that direction, the photograph silently
takes in a scene that occurs at the point
where the spectator is not. On the one hand,
the photograph could be a frame within a frame. It could be shot from within
a storefront or a window. It also seems that here
we have the instantiation of the Lacanian gaze and
marks the place of a radical materialism from where
the specter cannot be, cannot properly perceive. So recalling Elizabeth’s
talk from yesterday where perhaps something
which is not for us a kind of phenomenalization,
oddly, of that. So like life in Shelley’s car,
Hujar’s “Triumph” looks at us, but we cannot see its scene
because it’s not a proper human looking. I want to suggest here
that Hujar brilliantly attempts to think through
triumphal movement as a kind of suspended action. The car is within the city
but to side of the curb. It’s inside the city, and
yet somehow outside of it, alluding to the
subcultural nighttime queer scene of erotic exchange
through shadows. The scene is a suspension
of the decision to conclude, at once
photographing non-movement but also the strange
workless drive that withdraws from
within that photo, as if pulverizing
it of life itself. It isn’t the overcoming
here of anything but a drawn-out, depopulated
scene that radiates nothing. The suspension of a suspension. Something palpably figuring
in the small blot of light in the upper left-hand
corner, a kind of overexposed shot
of a train signal that’s possibly a yellow light
as between going and stopping. We pass the car by negligently. It isn’t the car that passes us. In Shelley, Pierson,
and Hujar, we have paralleled
triumphs that break down that end, that do not overcome. But then imagine something
else that may or may not be the resolution
of what came before. In his reading of
The Triumph of Life, Derrida offers the
possibility of reading things doubly, at once dialectically
and non-dialectically by writing a long
footnote to his essay that runs the length of
the piece as a kind of contrapuntal reflection. He says, “Let them
also read this band as a telegram or a
film for developing, a procession underneath
the other one and going past in silence
as if it did not see it. As if it had nothing
to do with it. A double band, a double bind,
and a blindly jealous double.” Going past in silence
underneath the procession a kind of subterranean
work performed not just contrapuntally
but as if neither was seen to the other. What could this mean? It’s a form of triumph that
abandons its decisions. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] I will need the PowerPoint too. Yes. It’s already– ah, yes. Will it move around too? Let’s put it full screen. I think it’s here. No, no. Yes, somewhere. So can you hear me? Yes. I’ll be showing some
quotations on the two screens. But especially for those of
you whose neck would ache, they are not
necessary to look at. Great. Yes. And I hope that these quotations
will stay there while I talk and not decide to move
around like Jacques’ images. When one looks up the
entry for the verb katecho in an ancient Greek
dictionary, let us say the Liddell and Scott,
one finds, I quote pell mell, “to hold fast, to hold
back, to withhold, to check, to restrain, to bridle,
to detain, to inhibit, to gain possession of, to be
master of, to occupy, to fill, to be spread over,
to cover,” et cetera. The list of meanings
is dizzying. The polysemy of the
word is restrained, though, or bridled
by the context in which it occurs twice. In the Second Epistle
to the Thessalonians, traditionally
attributed to Paul, the author, let us say Paul,
uses the present participle form of the verb katecho,
first in the neuter, to katechon, and then in
the masculine, ho katechon, in order to name the
restrainer, that which or the one who holds
back, defers, postpones. The passage reads as follows. I quote the New International
Version of the Bible. “Concerning the coming or
the presence, tes parousias, of our Lord Jesus Christ and
our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers
and sisters, not to become easily
unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly
from us, whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth
or by letter asserting that the day of the
Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in
any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion,
apostasia, occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed,
the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and
will exalt himself over everything
that is called God or is worshipped so that he
sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. Don’t you remember that
when I was with you, I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is
holding him back, to katechon, so that he may be revealed
at the proper time. For the secret power of
lawlessness is already at work. But the one who now holds
it back, ho katechon, will continue to do so until
he’s taken out of the way. And then the lawless
one will be revealed whom the Lord Jesus
will overthrow with the breath of
his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” End of quote. Paul’s letter inaugurates the
long and fascinating history of the katechon as a political
concept that is still producing its effects today. So many strata of interpretation
have accumulated ever since. For Tertullian, John
Chrysostom, or Augustine, the katechon is
the Roman Empire. In his apology for
the Christians, Tertullian thus very
clearly states, I quote, “there is also another
need, a greater one, for our praying for the
emperors as for the whole estate of the empire and the
interests of Rome. We know that the
great force which threatens the whole world,
the end of the age itself, with its menace or
hideous suffering, is delayed by the respite which
the Roman Empire means for us. We do not wish to
experience all that. And when we pray for
its postponement, our helping forward the
continuance of Rome.” End of quote. Divergent reading is proposed
by Jean Calvin in his commentary on Paul’s Second Epistle, where
he considers it more probable that the apostle declared, I
quote, “the light of the gospel must be diffused through
all parts of the earth before God would thus give
loose reins to Satan.” The katechon would thus be the
evangelizing mission itself. I quote again,
“This,” says Calvin, “therefore this was the delay
until the career of the gospel should be completed.” End of quote. According to Calvin,
then, we could say that the
katechontic deferral is the time the evangelic world
needs to unfold its effects. It was Carl Schmitt,
as is well known, who passed the concept on to
contemporary political theory. In a letter to Hans Blumenberg
dated October 22, 1974, Schmitt himself
recognizes in the katechon the key to his political theory. I quote, “For more
than 40 years I have been collecting materials
on the problem of the katechon or katechon– so masculine or
neuter– in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. And for all these
years I have looked for a human ear that would
listen to this question and understand it,
the crucial question of my political theology.” End of quote. Indeed, the word keeps
recurring in Schmitt’s works from 1942 onward to characterize
the most different entities or historical figures. It is used for the first
time in an article published in the journal Das Reich
on April 19, 1942, in order to negatively portray the
United States as, I quote, “a delayer of world
history,” [GERMAN], in front of the Nazi
imperial project. And then the word appears
later in the same year in the essay “Land and Sea”
to describe the Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire said
to have, I quote, “acted as a rampart,
a katechon, as it is called in Greek, against
the onslaughts of Islam.” And later again in the
same “Land and Sea,” the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf
II, depicted as being a, quote, “not an active hero but
rather a break, a delaying factor, able to delay the 30
Years’ War by several decades.” Even Hegel ends up becoming
katechontic in a 1950 article where Schmitt, discussing
Karl Lowith’s book The Meaning of History, speaks
of a force that defers the end and restrains
the evil one, [GERMAN]. I quote, “This is the katechon
of the mysterious passage of Paul’s Second Letter
to the Thessalonians. The medieval empire
of the German rulers understood itself
historically as the katechon. Luther still understood
it in these terms, whereas Calvin takes
a significant turn by no longer taking the empire
but rather the preaching of God’s words as the katechon. The conception of withholding
and deferring forces and powers can in some form
probably be demonstrated to be active for
every great historian. Nietzsche furiously
identified Hegel and the sixth sense
of the Germans, i.e., the historical sense, as
the great deferer on the way to expressed atheism.” End of quote. With Schmitt, the
differentiation in the concept’s
extension, the pluralizing of its possible embodiments,
is well under way, thereby turning the katechon into
a meta historical structure beyond the historically
identifiable forces that represent it. As Schmitt himself
put it in an entry in his Glossarium dated
December 17, 1947, I quote, “I believe
in the katechon. It is for me the
only possibility as a Christian to understand
history and find it meaningful. We have to be able to name
the katechon for every epoch in the last 1,948 years,”
which Schmitt writes in 1947. “The place has never
been unoccupied. Otherwise we would not
be present anymore. There are temporary, transient,
splinter-like, fragmentary bearers of this rule.” End of quote. In Schmitt’s
writings, then, we are witnessing a striking
generalization of the katechon. It now becomes possible to
consider the katechontic force that withholds,
as inherent to, I quote Agamben in the
time that remains, “inherent to every theory
of the state,” says Agamben. It now becomes possible to
ask, as Massimo Cacciari, in a recent book entitled
Il potere che frena and dedicated to the
concept of the katechon. As he asks, I quote him, “does
not every constituted power that is effectively in force
belong to the dimension of the katechon? Shouldn’t it have at its
disposal a katechontic energy?” Et cetera. So the katechontic
structure becomes abstracted from its initial context. In other words, it undergoes
a process of secularization, as Agamben emphasizes,
while obviously retaining something of its original
Christian logic or theologics. What emerges in the
course of this process is also a shift from the
question quid or quis est katechon, as Cacciari
formulates it. Who or what is katechon? A shift toward the
complex temporality inherent to the
katechontic as such. For the postponement that the
katechon produces or enacts amounts to a double deferral. To borrow Roberto Esposito’s
words in Immunitas, I quote, “In delaying the explosion of
evil, it also at the same time delays the final victory
of the principle of good. The triumph of evil is
held in check, true. But the divine parousia is also
delayed by its very existence. Its function, the
katechon’s function, is positive but negatively so.” End of quote. Withholding the coming of an
anti-Christ who in his turn precedes the coming
of the Messiah, the katechon amounts to
a kind of postponement of a postponement. And this is the
reason why Agamben goes as far as to
identify in Derrida, so like Schmitt
identifies Hegel, Agamben identifies in Derrida
the paradigmatic thinker of the katechontic
force of our times. I quote him. It’s not a very well-known text. It’s an introduction
to a collection of essays and interviews
by Carl Schmitt in Italian. And the text doesn’t
even have a title, but it’s very, very interesting. It’s just introduction. And Agamben writes,
“The katechon,” I quote. “The katechon
suspending and withholding the end inaugurates a time
in which nothing can really happen– a vinere in
Italian– because the sense of historical becoming that has
its truth only in the eschaton is indefinitely deferred. Schmitt’s katechontic time
is a blocked messianism– that’s also something
Agamben wrote about Derrida and deconstruction,
in the time that remains– Schmitt’s katechontic
time is a blocked messianism. But this blocked
messianism reveals itself as the theological paradigm
of the time in which we live, the structure of which is
nothing else than the Derridian difference. Christian eschatology introduced
a sense and the direction in time, katechon
and difference, suspending and
deferring this sense.” Agamben here uses an
Italian verb, dilazionare, which has distinctly
economic overtones. And I will come back
to that very soon. Dilazionare un credito
means to extend credit. I will come back to that. Anyway, he says,
“Katechon and difference, suspending and deferring this
sense, render it undecideable.” End of quote. So it is obviously
too easy to object that Derrida himself
would have protested against a formula like
the time in which we live, arguing, no doubt,
that time in general is out of joint, as the
Shakespearean motto goes, quoted over and over again in
the first chapter of Spectres of Marx. After all, even when Derrida
more than once defined deconstruction as what
happens, [FRENCH], he immediately added,
“It remains, then, to situate, localize, determine
what happens with what happens when it happens, to date it.” End of quote. So I will rather try to take
Agamben’s– and this will be the second part of my talk–
to take Agamben’s suggestion seriously, or at least take it
as a symptom worth analyzing without procrastinating
anymore, because time is flying. Indeed, you might
be wondering what I am getting at with
this long, scholarly, though at the same
time too sketchy reconstruction of the history
of the katechon from Paul to Agamben and beyond. You might even be
thinking that I keep deferring this very
question, what am I getting at, that I complacently delay
the moment when hopefully I will finally spell out
the political stakes of the katechon for today. In sum, you might
be suspecting that I am using the archaeology
of the katechon as the very katechon for my
political discourse on it. Now at the risk of
appearing paradoxical, I will try to argue that
nothing is more urgently needed than this concept
of the katechon, provided we pursue the movement
initiated by Schmitt, i.e., its abstraction, the
severing of its ties with its original
Christian context. Of course, you could
object, rightly so, that the name of this
abstracting process could well be
Christianity itself, as globalization,
or as what Derrida has called global
Latinization, or [FRENCH]. But I will leave that aside. What does it mean
that at the end of a long, historical
transformation, then, katechontic time becomes
if not identical, at least identifiable,
and indeed identified by some with difference. On the one hand, the
abstractive process that the katechon
has been undergoing seems to reach here its limit. Not only is it abstracted from
its original set of reference, the whole series of names
responding to the question quid or quis est katechon,
the Roman Empire, evangelical
discourse, et cetera. But it is also abstracted
from the very eschaton that it indirectly
procrastinated. The deferral of difference is
a deferral that does not simply defer the end. It displaces eschatology
itself as a structure. On the other hand, and on this
very limit that it is reaching, the concept of the
katechon also seems to shift from the theological
political paradigm, to which it has been considered to belong,
toward an economic field or play of forces. Derrida has always
insisted on what he calls in Difference, the
text entitled Difference, what he calls, I quote, “the economic
signification of the detour, the temporizing delay.” And if it is true,
as Agamben writes in The Kingdom and the Glory,
that Christian theology gave rise to the two antinomical
but functionally related paradigms of political
theology on the one hand and economic theology
on the other hand. Then the katechon,
in the moment when it comes to be
named or diagnosed as sharing the
structure of difference, the katechon clearly appears
as belonging at least as much to the second paradigm,
economic theology, as to the first,
political theology. Indeed, the katechon
might be the very limit of the two paradigms where
they touch upon one another. But again, I leave that aside. Be that as it may, nowhere
are these two movements, the severance from eschatology
and the becoming economic of the theological
political, nowhere are these two
movements more apparent than in Walter Benjamin’s
fragment entitled Capitalism as Religion. The fragment that is
entirely dictated, as I would like to show now
in the third and last part of my talk, it is
entirely dictated by a katechontic logic. Even if Capitalism as Religion
was probably written in 1921, it not only belongs without any
doubt to what Agamben loosely calls the time in which we
live, but it also foretells it. It predicts or better,
even, it pre-reads the developments of
financial capitalism that we are witnessing,
governed as we are by debt. In the first paragraph
of the fragment, Benjamin writes, I quote,
“A religion may be discerned in capitalism, that
is to say, capitalism serves essentially to pacify
the same concerns, torments, and disturbances to which the
so-called religions offered answers. The proof of the religious
structure of capitalism, not merely as Max Weber
believes as a formation conditioned by religion,
but as an essentially religious phenomenon. The proof would
still lead even today to the deviation of an
immeasurable universal polemic. We cannot draw closed the
net in which we stand. Later on, however, we
shall be able to gain an overview of it.” End of quote. Now in the very moment
in which it sets out to name the theological
structure of capitalism, the fragment thus strikingly
opens with a deferral. Later, spater in German,
and a detour, a deviation, abweig in German. As if not only
capitalism as such had a katechontic
structure, as we will see with Benjamin’s
fascinatingly clairvoyant notations on that,
I will come to that. But also as if any discourse on
it had a katechontic structure. I mean any discourse
about capitalism, about capitalism as
it will soon appear in the guise of a katechontic
general indebtedness. Any discourse about
capitalism seems bound, Benjamin suggests, to be
performatively, though unwittingly, part of the
same katechontic logic that it would seek
to merely describe. At the beginning of the
long second paragraph of the fragment,
Benjamin then announces that, I quote, “nevertheless,
even at the present moment, it is possible to
distinguish three aspects of this religious
structure of capitalism.” And actually before
I read it, I would like to emphasize that for
essential reasons, as we will see, there
will be four aspects at the end of the paragraph. So the first two are intimately
linked to one another, since capitalism, being
according to Benjamin a purely imminent cult that worships
nothing else than itself, capitalism cannot anymore be
circumscribed or delimited by what it would serve. I quote, “In the first
place, capitalism is a purely cultic
religion, perhaps the most extreme that ever existed. In capitalism, things have
a meaning only immediately in their relationship
to the cult. Capitalism has no specific
body of dogma, no theology. It is from this point of view
that utilitarianism acquires its religious overtones. This concretion of
the cult is connected with a second trait
of capitalism, the permanent
duration of the cult. There are no weekdays. There is no day that is not a
feast day in the terrible sense of the unfolding of all the
sacred pomp of the utter strain of the worshiper.” End of quote. So as the cult, of
the cult that it is, capitalism then cannot stop
celebrating itself over and over, always more, 24/7,
as the catchphrase goes, without end. The third aspect of
the religious structure of capitalism, though,
seems to indicate, as you will see, the possibility
of an end, of an eschaton, even if or precisely because
this salvational extremity has to be reached after
total destruction, which is after all the very
apocalyptic logic of the anti-Christ. Reading these lines that I
will now quote at some length, let us remember that the German
word schuld that Benjamin uses also means guilt. Though for reasons that I
hope you will understand, I unilaterally
translated here as debt, drawing all the other
contextual consequences of this translational decision
on other nouns, verbs, et cetera. So I quote. “And third, this cult
indebts.” [GERMAN]. You can see the German version. “And third, this cult indebts. Capitalism is probably
the first instance of a cult that, instead
of redeeming, indebts. A vast consciousness
of debt that does not know how to redeem
itself seizes on the cult not to absolve this debt,
but to make it universal, to hammer it into the
consciousness, and finally and above all to
include God in this debt so as to finally interest
even him in redemption. The redemption cannot then be
expected from the cult itself or from the reformation
of this religion, which would need to be able
to hold onto something stable in it, or even from the complete
abjuration of this religion.” And here, remember that the
first and second aspects of the religious
structure of capitalism were the absence of a dogma
and the permanent duration of the cult. So without dogma,
there is no basis on which one could consider
reforming a cult, let alone a perpetual cult, or even abjure it. So anyway, Benjamin
continues, “It is in the essence of
the religious movement that capitalism is to
endure until the end, until the final and total
indebtedness of God. The expansion of despair
into the religious state of the world from which
salvation is expected.” So that seems to be the
traditional katechontic logic, right? What could seem at first
reading an apocalyptic logic, capitalism as a cult of
indebtedness resulting in its own ruin and hence
its possible salvation, is actually more
complex than it appears. For if the god whose cult
is celebrated in capitalism is indebtedness itself, if the
end of the capitalist cult, to the capitalist cult, is the
becoming indebted, or better, the becoming debt of divinity
itself, then this process can have no end. God can never become
completely indebted. God can never coincide
entirely with debt since an absolute
debtor is an oxymoron. If debt consists in deferred
payment, or redeeming. Redeeming comes from
the Latin redimere, to buy, imere, again, re. So if debt consists in
deferred payment or redeeming, then the cult to
debt can only be celebrated by
generating more debt, to sustain debt, to avoid
absolution from debt, or, it amounts to the same,
to avoid absolute debt. Even bankruptcy or
default, in this logic, would appear as a
provisional credit to better regenerate
or resuscitate debt. Indebtedness, then,
as the theology without dogma of
capitalistic cult has the structure of
a double deferral. Debt as deferred
payment can only be absolutized by deferring
its very absolutization. And this is the
only way, I think, we can understand the
mysterious conclusion of the long second paragraph
of Benjamin’s fragment. For Benjamin, as I said, adds
a fourth aspect to the three he had announced, as if
this unexpected sequel were a most natural supplement. I quote, “Its fourth
trait is that its god must be kept secret and
may be addressed only when his indebtedness
is at its zenith. The cult is celebrated
before an unmatured date. Every representation,
every thought of it, violates the secret
of its immaturity.” End of quote. So what does it mean for
the god of capitalism to never reach its maturity? For this divinity, awaiting
its compete indebtedness being ripe, ripe as a fruit
about to fall from the tree, it would amount to
become, as we saw, an absolute debtor, which
is a contradiction in terms. But Benjamin suggests
even more than that. Indeed, with this fourth
and supplementary trait, he takes up again
the argument that he was hinting at in the
last two sentences of the first paragraph. I quote them again quickly,
“We cannot draw closed the net in which we stand. Later on, however, we
shall be able to gain an overview of it.” End of quote. So what Benjamin implies,
then, by an added trait, a fourth trait, embodying the
very supplement or deferral that it names, is that
there is no closing of the network of debt
cult because the immaturity of the debt god is structural. There can be no
zenith, no revelation, no apocalypse of this debt
god since the very consistence or insistence of indebtedness
is its deferral by itself and in view of itself. The parousia of debt
coincides with its own delay. This fourth trait, the
supplementary trait that both describes and
enacts supplementarity itself is the internalization
of the katechon then, its immanentization in and
as the structure of debt cult. Capitalism is not katechontic
because by alternating loans and debts and deadlines
and new loans, it defers complete
indebtedness and ruin, thereby deferring also the absolving
or redeeming of debt. This would be the Paulinian
katechontic logic, or the Schmittian
one, for that matter. Capitalism is katechontic
because indebtedness defers itself as itself and for itself
because debt perpetuates itself by the very process of
delaying itself or vice versa. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] Anybody else? Hold on. It was katechon. I’m starting, yeah. These are two extremely
luxurious papers. And I don’t know how
to do this, but I would like to try to
bring them together in a kind of argument
for the importance of musical metaphors. And by doing that, go back
to the beginning, Jacques, of your paper and the reference
to Forster and Lucy Honeychurch playing the piano. So as you know, the trope
of women playing the piano, certainly from
Pride and Prejudice, goes through the
British 19th century novel and the American one too. Probably the predecessor
to A Room With a View is The Portrait of a Lady, where
Madame Merle plays the piano. And I had a three-year
conversation some years ago with a colleague
at Cornell, Dan McCall, who said he was mystified
by a change between two editions of The
Portrait of a Lady, where in the first
edition Madame Merle is playing Beethoven and
in the second edition she’s playing Schubert. And he couldn’t understand, or
he said he didn’t understand, and he was looking for a reason
for why Henry James changed the composer. And one answer, and this
is what I suggested, was that both the gendering and
the periodization of these two composers from the vantage
point of, I think it’s 1904, the second edition was a crucial
indicator for the Beethoven to Schubert transition. So the 1904 understanding
of that juxtaposition would be Beethoven as masculine,
straightforward, triumphal, and revolution. And Schubert as somehow
feminized or feminizing, not straightforward,
underhanded, and restoration. So it’s a binary that
remains for a long time. And that also has
to do with the way the performance of these work. So the style of
performing can then also choose what kind of
imposition of style is delivered into the work
so that the work becomes a function of that performance. Now the risk in this comment
is to try to bring it into the second paper. But I know there’s
something here. I’m not sure if I can do it. But it seems to me
that the musical term I’d like to use
here is syncopation. And syncopation as
a kind of not so much a metaphor but as an
actual musical performance of this problem of
deferral and, frankly, the politics of deferral. As a question of
periodization, but also as a question of
politics and economics. And so what I would suggest
is that the performance, and I’m actually talking about
material musical problems here, the performance of
a syncopated moment has to do with where one
identifies the energy of a deferred moment. Is it at the moment of delivery? Or is it a function
of anticipation? Which seems somehow a
way of understanding the relationship of
two moments in time and where the power
resides in an act of what could be withholding
of power, or what could be a kind of
deferral of delivery for some kind of later moment. So sorry for all that, but
it’s a function of excitement. Thank you. So I think what’s explicit
in your question is, how does gender,
for example, emerge alongside triumphant
musical examples that you’re talking about. With bookends, that particular
passage in Room With a View is the narrator talking
about the kingdom of music as a place that allows
the commonplace man to aspire to kind of an
empirian virtuosic performance, something that the narrator says
decisively Lucy could not do. So what is the other side
of that passage which I showed was that
the audience for her there was itself sort of small. And there’s only one other
character, Mr. Beebe, that finally looks
and gazes upon her. And as it were hails her. And I think what’s
interesting about those two, let’s say if we think of
those concepts as bookending that particular fragment
that speaks to what you’re suggesting, is that they
structurally develop a kind of deferral,
anticipation, and decisiveness about
the question of gender as emerging there as
a kind of difference, but also that which
is deferred, actually. And is something that if Lucy
performs it and seemingly performs it on its
own, the narrator makes it quite obvious
to us as readers that it is not hers to choose. So there’s somewhat something of
a kind of almost carceral logic to that kind of, let’s say,
coming of age narrative, as it were. I think the other
aspect of it is to say, what is the role of
the aesthetic in thinking through its alignment with
something like triumph, as it were? I think that’s
part of what I was trying to think
about it in relation to a particular visual image. I would say that
one example I would give to you, which
is not musical but is intriguing in terms of
the question of gender again emerging as a kind of symptom
of this kind of logic of triumph and performance. I should say as a kind of
performance, which itself is a kind of an appropriation
of Beethoven, an attempt to play the Beethoven
as it is written but as it is usurped by
the pianist, so to speak. This apocryphal
story of Cleopatra when she killed herself. It was a suicide
so it was not to be put into Octavian’s Triumph. And her image was
painted so there was a representation
of Cleopatra in that triumph itself. And there have been some
interesting ways of thinking about that precisely
as a kind of moment where gender, as
it were, emerges as a symptom of some
kind of control. But oddly through the suicide
itself as a kind of withdrawal from that. Not a triumphalist
counternarrative, but rather pointing
to that kind of way in which the question
of anticipation, withdrawing,
control are kind of, to put it bluntly,
very convoluted. Temporality is
very much important to the logic of the
triumph, which is linked to the question of gender. I find it very, very
appealing, in a way, your idea of transposing
categories from the, or concepts from
a musical practice like syncopation or,
what’s the word in English for contretemps? Which is not exactly the same
as syncopation or anacrusis. I mean, all these modalities
of deferral, anticipation, tension, et cetera. They all refer in a way to
ancient rhythmic theory, arsis and thesis. And so where do you put
the emphasis, the rest? What holds in rhythm, et cetera? Or what withholds? But obviously the
question that remains implicit in your suggestion, and
I don’t have an answer to that. The question is, who would be
the pianist or the performer? What is the score? Is there a score? And above all, I
was thinking, trying to improvise quickly
the consequences of such a transposition. If we think of
syncopation as having to deal with arsis
and thesis, then what comes after the
withholding of syncopation so the strong accent,
let’s say, is pre-written, so it is already
included, in a way, in the very movement
of syncopation. So I’m just trying to
elaborate on the suggestion. This would, in a
way, correspond more to a classical, traditional,
Paulinian, Schmittian version of the katechon, no? Withholding the
German pianist, yeah. And whereas a sort
of radicalization of the concept of
katechon would have to lead us to try
to think, what would be a syncopation without
resolution, a syncopation that is its own deferral,
own postponement? And you don’t find the thesis. You have only the arsis. Which would be interesting. Thank you. I want to take just a
moment for housekeeping because I wasn’t sure if I got
the names in the right order. And you’ll forgive me
where my sight went. I have Jacques, I have Tim. And then Ravit, were
you on that first list? No, actually, but I would
like to be added to the end if there’s room. At the end, then. If there’s time. I have Bonnie, then
Gerhard, Michael Sawyer. I know, but I have
to go in order, OK? David Wills. And then Kir and Charlie. OK, I have Gerhard. I’m sorry. I have Jacques, Tim, Bonnie,
Gerhard, Michael Sawyer, David Wills, Ravit, Kir, Charlie. Have I missed anyone? No. All right. Lunch. Forward. We’ll be here until lunchtime. Chuck. So first a question for Jacques
about the question of triumph. Is a way, it would
be, how do you account for the
radical transformation of the notion of triumph? Because no one,
especially I think, in French and French
politics, for instance. You know, triumph is a very
negative term, you know. So there is always this
idea, I will not be too much, not be triumphalist, you know. But which means that you
mustn’t anticipate a victory, and even when there’s a victory,
we must not make it a triumph. So if you think of
what happens when we discuss with our
politicians, you know, when they win the
elections, it’s exact countrary way of the
[INAUDIBLE] of the victory. So how do you account for
this radical, in fact, disqualification of
the term triumph now? Now I have two questions
or so for Peter. One is about the doctrine
of secularization. Because there’s always this
idea about the religious has become secularized. But at the end of the day where
when you speak about debt, you can think after
all, you can think it’s the other way around. But whether religious it’s
a form of free rephrasing with the forgiving of the
debt, those notions of debt and paying your debt,
et cetera, of course existed much before Paul. So one question is,
are we obliged whenever there is very much
debt, to think of it as a kind of consequence
of the secularization of the religious? That’s my point. And then I will add a
provocative question because it’s a question
that people always ask to me at the end of my talks. And I say, of course,
I cannot answer, which is a question
of, what must we do? So the point is,
you know, the point is, of course, in
debt there is a god and a [INAUDIBLE] delayed. But at the same time, you
know, there are, you find, and people, as you know,
moments when you have to pay. Or to decide to
pay or not to pay. And of course, we have
a famous example now with the Greek debt. So is it possible, so
it does, in fact, does the theological economy and get
something, give some advice, on the point where you
must not pay your debt and on what conditions? Just be brief just
for the sake of so we can turn all the questions. Thank you. I mean, the question of the
deployment of, let’s say, triumph is obviously different
from one political context to another. From what you were describing
was, if I think abstractly, I mean, it’s sort
of katechontic, I think, in the way
that you describe it. In that it’s a withdrawal. But I would argue
that it is still a maintaining of the
potentiality of the logic of the triumph,
kind of overcoming, as it were, occurs in stealth. Whereas I think the
kind of withdrawal, the triumph that I’m intrigued
in, in the Shelleyan, the two art pieces, is precisely
a kind of withdrawal of that very
potentiality itself. Even thinking of that
can even be held. Because I think that even the
idea that one can withdraw is a decision. So it’s almost a quasi
sovereign decision. And I would say, a kind of
notion that you can still claim victory but be quiet
about one’s own triumphalism speaks precisely to that. To a kind of way of
in some way trying to worry about the
anxiety of the triumph as a kind of decision, as
a manifestation which is meant to be given or withdrawn. This is funny, but
it’s interesting. And this reminds
me of an example that Bonnie had given to me a
few months ago of a photograph of AIDS activists in
Paris several years ago who had draped a huge condom
down the Arc de Triomphe. Which is kind of
a literalization of a certain kind of necessary
withdrawal, as it were, of triumph. So a claiming of potentially an
act of triumph over the Arc de Triomphe itself. But in draping that object
actually literalizing a kind of not mere sexual withdrawal. If it were just that, it
would just be a pathetic joke. But an actual very
sophisticated withdrawal of thinking of pulling away. The notion of a
kind of idea, let’s say, of development,
a reproductive almost like a futurity there, of
which the condom in some way pulls back from. Thank you, Jacques, for, I don’t
know if I have to thank you. Because these are so
difficult questions in their apparent
simplicity that I don’t seem but I feel very embarrassed. Just a joke before
I answer seriously. I noticed that your first
question on secularization, doubting or questioning
the very idea or concept of secularization. When you were
asking it, you used the expression, the idiomatic
expression in English, “at the end of the
day,” which is a very– Normal end. Normal end. At the end of the day
because it’s a conclusion. It’s not delayed. So seriously, I
totally agree with you that the question
of debt existed, as you said, well before Paul. And I was recently reading David
Graeber’s monumental history or anthology about debt. What’s the title? Debt, 5,000 Years of History
or something like that. Which is much more than the
1,948 that Schmitt mentions. So that’s absolutely true. At the same time, I would argue
that the globalization of debt as a mode of government, as what
people like Maurizio Lazzarato have called governing by debt. This globalization,
I would still argue that it is
what Derrida has termed a global Latinization. So it’s not that debt is a
Christian, secularized concept as such, or indebtedness. But the very power that
it has acquired worldwide as a governing force. That may have something
to do with the history of Christianity. And then, of
course, the terrible question, in a way the
apocalyptic question, of what must we do now? You say that people often
ask you that question. Well, I was asked it too. Usually when one doesn’t
know what to say, one would argue more or
less like the way I will. So when so many discourses
seem, or solutions, seem exhausted, while
hope may lie in the idea that this is precisely the
moment when we have to invent something totally unheard of. OK, I know, that sounds like
you don’t have any answer. What I would argue
maybe more concretely, though I still believe
in what I said. What I would argue
is that insolvency, does that exist in English? Insolvency. So being absolved from the debt
or deciding to declare default. And these are very, very
contemporary, very close questions. We hear about that every
day about Greece, et cetera. Obviously, insolvency can
always be interpreted, and we have examples of this
in the history of economics, as a way of preparing
further indebtedness. So that’s the very
katechontic logic of capitalistic indebtedness. But this doesn’t absolve
us, if I may say so, of inventing strategies,
always local strategies, of insolvency in
order to outplay or try to outplay,
which amounts maybe to deferring but maybe
to more, I don’t know, this very logic of debt. I mean, there is no step,
simple step outside. There is no outside, clearly. Especially since, and this
relates to your first question, especially since
the logic of debt is not simply Catholic
Christian logic. But maybe it’s more urgent than
ever to be aware of this logic and to invent local strategies
to outplay it how one can. So we may be able to get
all through the questions if everyone is very focused. So I have Tim and then Bonnie. Sorry. Thanks so much. Thanks for two
extraordinary papers. It’s occurred to me
throughout the conference that in each paper there’s
a kind of manifest concept and a kind of hidden concept. And I’ve been trying
to chart those. And it seems to me
that the hidden, I mean, often the hidden
concept is maybe the katechon, and sometimes the hidden
concept is the eschaton. And sometimes that’s inverted. So this concept of the katechon
has been very fascinating. I thought I was being very
focused, and now I’ve– Anyway, so for
example, the cinematic has a kind of hidden concept of
the indexical, it seems to me. And similarly,
reclamation, there was a kind of hidden
concept of nature there. And so this seemed to be very
much true of these two papers as well. Jacques in particular,
when you produced out of this very fascinating
analysis of triumph first of all, Benjamin’s thesis
on the philosophy of history and, secondly, Adorno’s very
fascinating reading of that. Concluding with this
incredible sentence, Benjamin brings
intentionlessness into the realm of concepts. So I was thinking
there that triumph, the hidden concept
of triumph, may be, then, intentionlessness. Or possibly literature would
be the other hidden concept. And I suppose my question
to you coming out of Peter’s very
fascinating paper would be, which one is the katechon,
triumph or intentionlessness? And one of the
reasons I ask that is that I have found myself often
reading somebody’s manifest concept as the eschaton,
when in fact they mean it to be the katechon. So just yesterday. And then, Peter, I was
thinking about your, again, fascinating analysis, which
almost seems to kind of escape this oppositional logic. I was not sure what
the hidden concept was, unless it doesn’t
seem to be eschaton because of your very careful, in fact,
concluding deconstruction of that. So deconstruction, in fact,
may be the hidden concept. But then I now think that, in
fact, your really interesting response to Jacques’
question, that insolvency may be the hidden concept there. But also I was wondering
whether there’s a relationship to be made between your
concept of insolvency and Jacques’ concept
of intentionlessness. OK, just to be brief. Thank you, Tim. I would say intentionlessness,
in some ways, I would agree with you. That’s kind of like the
hidden concept, as it were, rather than let’s choose
which of these two. I would say,
particularly in my paper, even though there’s an argument
to think beyond a certain kind of dialectical movement. I didn’t want to exactly, as you
propose, that entirely itself is a kind of decision
of sorts, because I think in the text
and visual objects that I was looking at, that
in itself is a huge problem, especially for
Shelley in his poem. But I would say that
in some way there’s a kind of, in that piece, a
feverishness with the kind of notion that I have an
intentionless image, which one could say is actually like
the romantic image, as it were, where that concept has been
itself thought through, through various kinds of
critical vocabularies. That’s what I think is
Shelley’s way of thinking through a withdrawal
within triumph. But oddly enough, the
poem has a certain kind of triumphal compulsion that
still drags the intentionless along with it. So these are these impossible
forwards and backwards movements. OK, I’ll try to answer. And the idea that deconstruction
might be the hidden concept? Actually I thought of another
conclusion to my talk. Or rather there was one
paragraph more, but I cut it. But now is maybe the occasion
to partly restore that. Because I have problems with
Agamben’s identification of katechon and difference,
which at the same time I find fascinating. Now, and I was thinking, what of
deconstruction in this process? I mean, what does it mean? And I was reminded of
a fascinating moment and very puzzling moment when
Derrida in the last years, it was, I think, in 2004
in the roundtable on money, on his writings on money. It’s included in a collective
book entitled [FRENCH]. And he says two apparently
contradictory things. On the one hand he says
“there is no,” I quote, “there is no deconstruction
without the possibility of capital.” Which is not new as
an idea in his work. Not without the possibility of
speculation, of what he calls, borrowing the Artistotelian
term “chrematistics,” et cetera. On the one hand,
no deconstruction without the possibility of
capital, which immediately adds is not capitalism. Is not the same,
capital and capitalism. And then another sentence,
maybe a page further, he says, “there is a self-deconstruction
of capitalism.” So I guess if we think of,
and this is really puzzling. I mean, it should give us pause
to think because what does it mean that there is a
self-deconstruction of capitalism? What kind of consequences
can we draw from that? Does it mean, is it to logic
that is close to the one that I tried to describe? In terms of debt
deferring itself. This is very puzzling. Just to say that I
would agree with you, that deconstruction here
is the hidden concept. But then I do not have, in the
present state of my thoughts, I do not have any
further directions about how to pursue
starting from this idea. I’m puzzled. So thank you both for
two very good papers. My question is for Peter. So I’m thinking about
a way of describing your paper is to say that you’re
telling us the story of how the katechon became catatonic,
which I think is what you did. And also maybe there’s a way out
of that catatonic state, which would involve something like
katechon but without eschaton. And this can only
happen, I’m thinking, once the deferral
of the redemption, which is the
original katechon, is replaced by the redemption
of the deferral, in a way. Which has to happen. So this is where my
question is coming. In order for that to happen,
the redemption of the deferral, we have to take away a
kind of unitemporality that I think Benjamin
wants to trouble, this idea of a
single temporality. So in both Schmitt and
Benjamin, though, there’s only one temporality,
either suspended in Schmitt, there is a hiatus of
the single temporality, the eschatological, or in
some way self-consuming. It’s more in Benjamin like that. So now the difference. I also was bridling, as it
were, at Agamben’s appropriation of difference for katechon. And so I was thinking, OK,
so what’s the difference? And it seems to me that in
deconstruction, the commitment would be, but not only
in deconstruction, to two or more temporalities
in some sort of friction and disturbance. In some sort of relation of
friction and disturbance. Versus one temporality, which
is subject, as I was just saying, to suspension. Which leaves us with a kind of
just keeping busy on the way to something else,
a delaying tactic. But also a kind of flow
towards an end, which is both desired and feared. And in that sense it has still
this messianic structure. So if I want to think through
what the two-temporality option is, because this is the
one I think that provides an alternative to the
place where Benjamin and Schmitt converge, right? They have this
unfortunate convergence on the single temporality. And the example, it’s also
something I’m working on, the example it seems to
me comes from Rosenzweig, who talks about the
time of Sabbath. This is eternal time, but
it punctuates every week. So it’s in friction
with the everyday. It’s also, I think, what
Benjamin has in mind in that passage when he talks about
the loss of the workday. The workday postulates the day
of festival, which is discrete, not the festivalization
of the everyday that you get under capitalism,
but the discrete, once-a-week Sabbath. Which, as I say, is a
different temporality which intersects with the
temporality of the everyday. And so then to bring it all
together, in reply to Jacques, you said, when everything
seems exhausted, we invent something
totally new or unheard of. I agree. That’s one possibility. The other possibility is
to go back to something that we jettisoned as
garbage, to reclaim it like the “Triumph” sign, and
find something valuable in it. Which could be Judaism
for Hegel and Schmitt, or the idea of Sabbath,
which comes and brings to us also the idea
of debt sabbatical. So that in the Judaic
tradition, you have Sabbath is a device of
debt cancellation, which comes to us through Jewish law. So the question
has to do with what you think about the
difference between hiatus, both in the Benjamin and in
different sense in Schmitt, versus the more, I think,
Derridian deconstructive idea of competing, rivalrous,
frictionful, but also supplementary temporalities,
multiple ones. One of which I’m saying
could be named Sabbath time. But it could have
other names too. Thank you. There are lots of
questions in one. Maybe to take up your word
that it’s not only a bon mot, I think, that katechon
has become catatonic. Actually I don’t know if I
agree with that because in a way katechon has never
been so thriving and so resilient or resistant to
all the antibiotic treatments that we try to apply. The main difficulty I see,
it’s a conceptual difficulty, a difficulty for thought
that I see in your question, and it makes your
question so important, is precisely in a
way the disagreement between Derrida and Agamben. Agamben in a way is
arguing that history must have a meaning,
a sense, a direction. That if you cut the
eschaton, then history becomes pure deferral,
undecidable, et cetera. Whereas if you read
carefully Derrida, more carefully than
Agamben did, you see that there are
a few times when he risked what he calls a risky
definition of deconstruction as what happens. And then he immediately adds
in the passage that I quoted, that you have to think of
what happens to what happens. So what are the conditions of
possibility of the event, et cetera, et cetera. So there is
definitely, let’s say, a historical
thinking in Derrida. It’s just not the
one that Agamben seems to mourn, in a way. But this, of course, brings
us to your question concerning single temporality, two or
more temporalities, you said. and the time of Sabbath. I know that you’re
working on the Sabbath. And I’m very curious about this. Maybe that’s the hidden concept. Especially since you told
me, and I learned from you that the question of Sabbath is
also how to absolve the debt. And so I think that
definitely this should be an aspect, an
overtone of Benjamin’s text that should be explored. Obviously he’s playing with
that kind of overtones. Then single temporality,
two or more temporalities. I’m always tempted to
also think that there is more than one temporality and
go in the Derridian direction, time is out of joint, et cetera. But then there is also the
sort of recall that, OK, what about urgency? What about now? What is happening to
us now, et cetera? So I cannot really answer that. It’s like two voices
that continually call you in one direction and the other. Obviously, the
apocalyptic or katechontic in the traditional sense
of, OK, let’s decide now. We have to do something
now, et cetera. It’s not always
the best strategy. That’s on the one hand. But on the other hand,
thinking local, the difference of temporalities, et cetera. Somehow you, at a
certain point you also want to say, to put it very
simply and naively, I know. You also want to
say, OK, but there is something like an urgency. There still is. Well, tell me what we should do,
[? Otty. ?] We’re out of time. We have seven people. We can go I think until 1:00. Seven minutes. Gerhard. Maybe gather the questions. Collect a few questions
and have someone answer. We could take a number
of questions at once. Why don’t we do that? Why don’t we collect
some questions? And, of course, please
let’s make them sharp and to the point. Being on Marc’s list is being
on the katechontic train. But thank you both to Jacques
and Peter for two immensely rich and thought-out papers. My comments will be for Peter. Your suggestion of
emphasizing the katechon in the capitalism
as religion fragment strikes me as very fruitful. There’s a whole tradition
in the Benjamin scholarship on commenting precisely
on this enigmatic piece. But I think focusing
on the katechon opens up a set of
relations here that both to some of the
other concepts that we’ve been thinking about and perhaps
also to other aspects of what Benjamin may be up
to when he thinks of capitalism as religion. So I really have
only two comments. And the one pertains
to the concept that I was trying to say a few
things about yesterday, also with relation to Benjamin. The question of
inheritance and the things that he says about Epps
in his reading of Kafka. And when you were
talking about one way of making these or
putting these concerns into syntactical
relation, let’s say, is to think about that
other meaning of Schuld that you consciously
bracketed for good reason. But that is nevertheless there. Namely, Schuld, also
meaning guilt, as you know. So in German we only have this
one word for debt and guilt. And of course, a
debt is something that you can inherit as well. It is something
that is passed on. It’s not always
fortuitous inheritance that comes your way. It can be something monstrous. It can be a debt. But it can also, for Benjamin,
it can also be a guilt. And this goes back to Epps
and to the primordial, the inherited
primordial guilt that comes my way precisely
by being inscribed into a certain genealogy. So I wonder if then, allowing
for both echoes of guilt and debt, allows us
to think of this debt that Benjamin has in mind. Also in terms of a
certain inheritance, this preoccupation
with Erbschaft and a certain kind
of temporality, too, of that inheritance. And so the second
point that I wanted to, observation that
I wanted to make is the question, the idea of
a false or a fake katechon. And maybe, if you could
just for one second, put up the last
Benjamin quotation. Because something
very interesting happens in the language there. Here it is. Yeah, there it is. So when you look at this,
Benjamin says [GERMAN]. And the English says, the
secrets of its immaturity, which I think is
how you interpret– But it’s actually the opposite. Benjamin says the opposite. It’s the secret of its maturity. I mean, immaturity fits with the
argument that you make better. But I think maturity is
actually much more interesting for this Benjaminian twist here,
to the extent that, or what is dissimulated by the secret
is precisely the fact that it is a form of maturity, that
it has come to pass, that it has become an
episteme or that it rules. That it is something like
a hegemonic status quo. And it just pretends to
be part of a katechon. So then what critical
thought would need to do is to attend to
that dissimulation as katechon of something
that is really anything but. And so one would have to
ask how something like this could be thought. But if you were to
put this into a text that he wrote about at the same
time, the [GERMAN], and this is my last point. The task of the
translator, where we hear about a certain
nachreifung, this after ripening. So whether it’s some
static non-katechontic form or an apparently non-katechontic
form that nevertheless, through my engagement with
language, through translation, through something that points
to the internal difference of language itself, also
effects an after ripening and introduces that
moment of something that is deeply ossified
to the katechon itself. So these are just two
spontaneous observations. And I just wanted to
send them your way. Long ago in a
galaxy far, far away I was a JPMorgan bond trader. So I feel the need
to kind of, if not preach the gospel of debt, to
at least defend its upside. My question, and
I’ll be brief, right? Using the term bond helps here,
because the basis of the bond is good faith and credit. So I’m wondering where
faith introduces itself in this conversation. And then to think about the
kind of constant accumulation of faith as itself
a type of religion. And when faith fails
and the structure fails, so it’s kind of a
question of insolvency. It would mean a
failure of faith, which would mean a
failure of the theological in certain kinds of ways. Second question would
be, structurally, to get at this question
of how to fix this. Who are the parties to
this debt instrument? I have a difficult time. Who owes what to whom, and
what is it that they owe, is primarily the question. I think faith kind of
marches behind that or is a component
of that as well. We collect more? Or what should we– Just collect ones. It’s OK. Collect the questions and
leave them unanswered. David, you’re next. I’ll be very brief. Peter, this is mostly
addressed to you. Although if I had
the time, I think I’d probably find a similar
version of it for you, Jacques. First of all, I have an
answer for Tim’s question about the latent
content of your paper. You began in Greek, but
when you got to debt, you talked in German. But that’s not my question. My question is about I was
reminded in the Benjamin passage of Nietzsche’s On
the Genealogy of Morals, right, his whole discussion
of Christianity in relation to indebtedness. And so what I was
thinking about was whether there’s some
sort of katechon going on between
Christianity on the one hand and religion in general. Or maybe in the first
case between Christianity and Judaism, but then,
more generally by the time you get to the Benjamin, between
Christianity and religion. Is there a sense
in which, I guess this is the essence of the
question to be very brief, is there a sense
in which you can read what Benjamin is
saying about religion as not Christianity? Is there a sense in which his
comments are about religion? Or is there a sense in which,
whenever we talk about debt, indebtedness, and so on, not
just because of Nietzsche but in general and because
of Weber and all the rest, we cannot be talking about
Christianity in particular? Shall we take an answer,
or shall we– We’ve got– Collect all the questions. We’ll just collect
the questions here. How many questions. Mute. Oh, Ravit, I’m sorry. Thank you both for great papers. And very hopefully
brief question for Jacques, which is
about kind of building a little bit on Tim’s thought
about the hidden concept. And to me, the
hidden concept that seemed relevant to
your paper is document. Something about the move
from the fate or state of the document in
your exploration of a concept that was
largely performative. And I take this
both from something like the document in Lucy
Honeychurch’s performance being the Beethoven,
being that text, literally the score that she’s
interpreting and interpreting triumphantly. But also, of course, Benjamin’s
so oft-quoted other part of the Theses on the
Philosophy of History, there’s no document
of civilization which is not at the same
time a document of barbarism. So that the idea of these
triumphalist performances that are a kind of, as you’re saying,
an overcoming in stealth that evaporate or get
transformed seem in some way undercut
or supplemented by this thing that
won’t go away. The sort of stubborn,
coercive waste product, as you call it in another place,
but not referring to a document but to the triumph. These things that aren’t
by nature performative. And I thought about
this again when you talked about
Pierson’s “A Triumph,” which you refer to so
wonderfully as being like a ransom note. So in a sense a
kind of re-creation of some kind of document
that’s both barbaric and also coercive. A receipt for some kind of
a transaction of a barbarism or brutality that balances out
or cuts through or in some way compromises the
triumphalist performance. I have Charlie and I have
Elizabeth as my last names on the list. I have a question for Jacques,
I guess, or just an observation. I was struck by the
motif on tragedy in the first quotation, which
occurred to me to follow when you first said, out of
the etymology of triumph that there’s this connection
with Dionysus and the tragic. And so it’s quite striking that
at the end of that sentence, she’s playing. The sonatas of Beethoven
are written tragic, but they can be played as
triumphant or despairing, as the player should decide. So with this kind of
voluntary decision. And she decides that
they should triumph. So it suggests
somehow that tragedy is outside the alternative
between triumph and despair. And that in a certain
way when one plays, one plays on one
side or the other. But one misses what is tragic
that’s written in Beethoven. And at the beginning
Forster also says she was not the passionate
young lady who performed so tragically. So she doesn’t
perform tragically. One can’t perform tragically. She was tragical
only in the sense that she was great,
for she loved to play on the side of victory. So she’s tragic
only in the sense that she fails to be tragic,
if I’m reading that correctly. So I was interested in that. And then it occurred to me that
Aristotle says in the Poetics that tragedy descends
from panegyric, which is a hymn written to celebrate
the victory of a general returning from war. Panegyric is a song of praise. Comedy descends from invective,
which is cursing or blame. But when tragedy
arises, it’s no longer inside the economy
of praise and blame. Because you have the
tragic hero who fails, but he still is in the lineage
of great men that we celebrate. But we celebrate a failure? So there was something
there that I just noticed and that I thought
was interesting. And then maybe secondly,
just for the Shelley passage, since the tragic here
is connected with music, it struck me that maybe
something similar goes on in the Shelley passage
where you follow this long kind of exposition
of sun and shadow, the light and obscurity, the
visible and the invisible. And then there’s
a strange moment on the second page in
the first tercet, where the shapes were lost, you have
blindness, gloom, obscurity. The shapes are lost. And then this one moment
when Shelley says, “I heard alone on the air’s
soft stream the music of their ever moving wings.” So as if in the play
of light and darkness, music somehow also seems
to escape the alternative between light and darkness. That something comes through but
not in the order of the visible and the invisible. So just that maybe in a way
elaborating on Tim’s suggestion that the hidden concept
is the aesthetic or is the literary
in tragedy and music, something along those lines. This is very fast. For Peter, thank you for this,
thank you for both papers. But for Peter. Derrida’s comment on capitalism
deconstructing itself. Of course, I don’t know
what he’s talking about. But if we were to think
about the Marxist notion of the developing
contradiction, capitalism would take care of itself
through the developing contradiction. And isn’t there a little
bit, what Michael was saying, isn’t there a point
where insolvency is absolute bankruptcy? So that’s all. That’s just a
little bit of hope. Well, maybe that’s a
good note to end on. Thank our participants. [APPLAUSE]

Maurice Vega

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