Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2008


Read only masterpieces; write only rubbish. Read only masterpieces; write only. Read only masterpieces; write. Read only masterpieces. Read only. Read!

Agamben's Idea of Prose and Derrida's Writing: Are they the same thing?

Met with Sean Gaston in Oxford yesterday and we spoke for a couple of hours about Derrida's Signsponge. Towards the end I raised an issue about Derrida's conception of the event of literary inventiveness leading on from issues discussed in Signsponge.

If, as Derrida says elsewhere, there is very little literature, and yet if, as he says in Signsponge, Psyche and Shibboleth, the moment of invention is intrinsic or potential in all inventive/literary language, how can it be that it happens so rarely. The logic of invention, that singularity immediately is disseminated into generality and yet in doing so generality is destabilised by the presence of non-translatable singularity either as a trace or a potential, means that invention is fleeting certainly, but not as Badiou would have it, rare.

I suggested to Sean that the issue was that while invention is a potential in all writing,it occurs only rarely at which point its effects are inscribed within the text, effectively infectin…

Reading Derrida

It behoves upon us to read Derrida as he would have read Derrida if he were not Derrida.

If Derrida were alive now, in his thirties, faced with the massive presence of the dead Derrida's ouevre, how else would he read him than in a "deconstructive" fashion?

The only respectful way to read Derrida is to read against the grain of his texts. Anything else is mere hagiography.

Badiou's criticisms of Derrida are, as are all such criticisms, poorly judged based on a representation of his work which is simplistic and misleading. Yet his criticism of the reliance of post-Heideggerian philosophers on a certain rhetoric of late Romantic defeat and melancholy is a point well made.

Not that Derrida cannot also be a funny and affirmative philosopher, but there is an over-reliance on the derelict topographies of melancholia and loss. Spectres, prosopopeia and the like are extremely attractive tropes in Derrida's work but perhaps Badiou is right and they suck him into a Romanti…


There has been a bit of a break since my last post. I am working on a book and my wife is expecting twins so it has been a buy time. I suspect that future posts will be sporadic for a time, but of great quality when they do arrive!

Incommensurable Poetics

Incommensurable: adjective 1 not able to be judged or measured by the same standards. Commensurable: adjective 1 measurable by the same standard. 2 (commensurable to) proportionate to. 3 Mathematics (of numbers) in a ratio equal to a ratio of integers.
— ORIGIN Latin commensurabilis, from mensurare ‘to measure’.

This has been an age, and ours has been a discipline of incommensurability.

Modernism and the Avant-Garde
Modernism itself was based on a simple, avant-garde gesture, which was a willing of art to become incommensurable. The rejection of aesthetic values, of the very idea of aesthetic evaluation by professionals or class-privileged individuals, a core value to modernism in all its manifestations, is the taking on of an incommensurability: my poem is not to be measured against or judged by your standards of either prosody, or literature. This was the gamble of the avant-garde incommensurable artists: reject the standards of existing art and in doing so reject the ve…