Title: Literature an the Profane Community in Jean-Luc Nancy's 'Being singular plural'
Authors: Philipsen, Bart
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Routledge
Series Title: Routledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature
Host Document: Singularity and Transnational Poetics pages:27-46
Abstract: In his contribution, Bart Philipsen reads Jean-Luc Nancy’s Being Singular Plural not just as a theoretical − philosophical, ontological − treatise which might be a useful methodological
frame if we wish to look at a literary corpus and if we want to investigate literary practices of
writing in which the problem of singularity in the context of cultural hybridity and heterogeneity
is addressed. As the article stresses, Nancy’s extensive essay addresses Literature as the
discursive mode par excellence to consider singularity in the context of cultural hybridity and
heterogeneity, as a practice of reading and writing that testifies of this being singular plural.
As Nancy writes: ‘“Literature” means the being-in-common of what has no common origin but
is originally in-common or with.’ (2000, 90)
Philipsen first situates this seemingly ‘emphatic’ notion of literature in Nancy’s work as a
whole as well as within a certain modern philosophical tradition. He then goes into the specific
function of Literariness in relation to the stakes of Being Singular Plural. What has literature
got to do with the almost aporetic attempt to address a ‘we’ that is not determined by a myth,
which means for Nancy ‘the infinite presupposition of its own identity and authenticity’ (158)?
Within the scope of this volume, it is crucial to stress Nancy’s attempt to think and speak of
‘an earth and a human such that they would be only what they are − nothing but earth and
human − and such that they would be none of the various horizons often harbored under
these names, none of the “perspectives” or “views” in view of which we have disfigured
humans [les hommes] and driven them to despair’ (xii). Under such premises, the ‘we’ can
only be the name of a reality that addresses the singular plural by thoroughly questioning
such strategies that envisage a whole through projection onto an origin and anticipation of a
final horizon of community. Literature seems to be the name of a language that is ‘the plural
touching of the singular origin’ (14). It refuses any eschatological − religious or secular,
transcendent or immanent, mythological or institutional − appropriation and signification of the
finitude of the singular plural, affirming the fact that there is ‘no meaning beyond this very
Being of the world: singularly plural and plurally singular’ (xiv). ‘Literature’ therefore articulates
a community that is utterly profane
ISBN: 9781138775787
VABB publication type: VABB-4
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IHb
Appears in Collections:Text and Interpretation, Leuven (-)

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