Spiritual Antimetaphysics With Derrida #2

Okay, here’s the quote from Dissemination again, with comments by me: “In the Notes and Documents that follow the chapter entitled Toward a Dialectics of Totality, Richard fans out the array of feathers (including the fan) in a series of pages of great beauty, moving from their angelic (seraphic) value to their “Luciferian, or at least Promethean, signification” (p. 445).

(Comment: It’s the reference to Prometheus and all of it’s filmic connotations that started to scare me here with this deconstructive play with meaning in Derrida’s text on the poem by Mallarmé called A Throw of Dice.

the lost manoeuvre with the age
implying that formerly he grasped the helm
of this conflagration of the concerted
horizon at his feet

that readies itself
moves and merges
with the blow that grips it
as one threatens fate and the winds
the unique Number which cannot be another
to hurl it

By deconstructing the limits of human intelligence through language, one searches for a meaning older than mankind, and deconstruction is not a religion nor a theology, in that case a negative one, which leads nowhere but to the abyss (Mallarmé: “by the same neutrality of abyss”). And that reminds me in a harrowing way of an evil older than mankind which is one of the most important ingredients in lots of horror stories.)

Near the end of this extensive note (which is almost four pages long), following a parenthetical remark concerning the “phallic allusion” that Robert Greer Cohn “sees in the feather,” Richard expresses some mistrust of a certain extension of polythematicism. Here is his justification: “For the word pillme {feather} has also been understood to be the plume [pen} of the writer, and it is particularly upon this analogy that R. G. Cohn has founded his whole exegesis.

(Comment: So it goes, one of Mallarmés lines with plums (feathers:

a solitary plume overwhelmed

untouched that a cap of midnight grazes or encounters
and fixes
in crumpled velvet with a sombre burst of laughter

I started thinking about the fold, which Derrida elsewhere writes about in Dissemination, a fold that never unfolds anything but a new fold, like the plums being only pens with ink, writing nothing but new words without logocentric meaning.

This relation, which is certainly possible, appears to us, however, to remain unproven: the analogy seems excessively conceptual, both in its origin and especially in the details of its consequences. It seems to me difficult, and contrary to the genius of Mallarme, to read A Throw of Dice as a literal allegory (even if, as Cohn would have it, that allegory is charged with spontaneous echoes and more or less conscious ambiguities).”

Yeah, that’s one way to sum it up, Derrida doesn’t agree with this criticism, to decipher what he thinks about it, read Dissemination.


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