Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s ‘Phrase’: Infancy, Survival. By Christopher Fynsk.

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s ‘Phrase’: Infancy, Survival. By Christopher Fynsk. REVIEWS 135 unmissable for anyone interested in Piaf, France, French culture in the globalized world, and — more generally — the importance of properly understanding popular culture. HUGH DAUNCEY doi:10.1093/fs/knx223 NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s ‘Phrase’: Infancy, Survival.ByCHRISTOPHER FYNSK. Albany: SUNY Press, 2017. 110 pp. This slim volume presents a reading of Phrase, a work consisting of poems or fragments, written throughout Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s life but published only towards its end (Paris: Bourgois, 2000). Phrase is a striking text featuring autobiography, autothanatogra- phy, theatrical fragments, and citations of philosophy, opera, and the Stabat Mater. Christopher Fynsk’s reading justifiably eschews the use of heavy philosophical machinery, and also largely avoids reading Phrase comparatively within Lacoue-Labarthe’s œuvre (although the endnotes tend in that direction). What remains is something approaching a linear commentary; but this commentary is no more straightforwardly literary than it is philosophical or historicizing. It is suggested that the practice of writing represented by Phrase is defined as much by the unsaid as it is by what is said. This is where the notion of ‘infancy’ (infans, unable to speak) comes into play; it is linked to an originary exposure to death that is shared by all humans existing in the world. This infancy is therefore not co- terminous with what is normally considered childhood, although Lacoue-Labarthe does teasingly overlap the two (for instance in the figure of the ‘child with grey hair’, cited p. 59). Accordingly, the thread followed by Fynsk is that of the ‘story (histoire)ofarenunci- ation’ (p. 24), which we might broadly imagine to be a relationship to death. Whilst this is no doubt a crucial aspect, little justification is given when the reader is made to ‘hasten past’ other key aspects of Phrase (p. 58), for instance those tending towards a rewriting of myth. And it is a shame that readers must push through some rather mannered discus- sion, from the insistence upon the ‘singular’ nature of the author’s own setting (p. 1)to the claimed need to revise translations in view of ‘my experience with the texts and my relation to them’ (p. 87). This manneredness surely remains at a distance from the ‘renunciation’ at issue in Phrase, and from the increasing elegance and simplicity of Lacoue-Labarthe’s writing as he learned how to die. JOHN MCKEANE doi:10.1093/fs/knx252 UNIVERSITY OF READING Camille Laurens, le kale´idoscope d’une ´ecriture hante´e. Par JUTTA FORTIN. (Perspectives.) Villeneuve d’Ascq: Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2017. 256 pp. This monograph undertakes a detailed analysis of the œuvre of contemporary French writer Camille Laurens, exploring the ways in which her writing has developed and changed through psychoanalytic readings of a range of her texts. Jutta Fortin’s interpreta- tion draws on Andre´ Green’s notion of the ‘me`re morte’ (see Narcissisme de vie, narcissisme de mort (Paris: Minuit, 1983), pp. 222–53), giver of life but also of death, who is physically present yet emotionally absent. The figure of the ‘me`re morte’ is shown to act as (invisible and unstated) linchpin in what this study describes as the ever-changing kaleidoscope of Laurens’s texts. Fortin argues convincingly that Laurens’s writing is ‘haunted’ by both the spectre of the ‘me`re morte’ and by the repeated re-inscriptions of the death of Laurens’s baby son Philippe. A fascinating development is traced in Laurens’s work: in her early Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/fs/article-abstract/72/1/135/4782568 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png French Studies Oxford University Press

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s ‘Phrase’: Infancy, Survival. By Christopher Fynsk.

French Studies , Volume 72 (1) – Jan 1, 2018
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Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0016-1128
eISSN
1468-2931
D.O.I.
10.1093/fs/knx252
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Abstract

REVIEWS 135 unmissable for anyone interested in Piaf, France, French culture in the globalized world, and — more generally — the importance of properly understanding popular culture. HUGH DAUNCEY doi:10.1093/fs/knx223 NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s ‘Phrase’: Infancy, Survival.ByCHRISTOPHER FYNSK. Albany: SUNY Press, 2017. 110 pp. This slim volume presents a reading of Phrase, a work consisting of poems or fragments, written throughout Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s life but published only towards its end (Paris: Bourgois, 2000). Phrase is a striking text featuring autobiography, autothanatogra- phy, theatrical fragments, and citations of philosophy, opera, and the Stabat Mater. Christopher Fynsk’s reading justifiably eschews the use of heavy philosophical machinery, and also largely avoids reading Phrase comparatively within Lacoue-Labarthe’s œuvre (although the endnotes tend in that direction). What remains is something approaching a linear commentary; but this commentary is no more straightforwardly literary than it is philosophical or historicizing. It is suggested that the practice of writing represented by Phrase is defined as much by the unsaid as it is by what is said. This is where the notion of ‘infancy’ (infans, unable to speak) comes into play; it is linked to an originary exposure to death that is shared by all humans existing in the world. This infancy is therefore not co- terminous with what is normally considered childhood, although Lacoue-Labarthe does teasingly overlap the two (for instance in the figure of the ‘child with grey hair’, cited p. 59). Accordingly, the thread followed by Fynsk is that of the ‘story (histoire)ofarenunci- ation’ (p. 24), which we might broadly imagine to be a relationship to death. Whilst this is no doubt a crucial aspect, little justification is given when the reader is made to ‘hasten past’ other key aspects of Phrase (p. 58), for instance those tending towards a rewriting of myth. And it is a shame that readers must push through some rather mannered discus- sion, from the insistence upon the ‘singular’ nature of the author’s own setting (p. 1)to the claimed need to revise translations in view of ‘my experience with the texts and my relation to them’ (p. 87). This manneredness surely remains at a distance from the ‘renunciation’ at issue in Phrase, and from the increasing elegance and simplicity of Lacoue-Labarthe’s writing as he learned how to die. JOHN MCKEANE doi:10.1093/fs/knx252 UNIVERSITY OF READING Camille Laurens, le kale´idoscope d’une ´ecriture hante´e. Par JUTTA FORTIN. (Perspectives.) Villeneuve d’Ascq: Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2017. 256 pp. This monograph undertakes a detailed analysis of the œuvre of contemporary French writer Camille Laurens, exploring the ways in which her writing has developed and changed through psychoanalytic readings of a range of her texts. Jutta Fortin’s interpreta- tion draws on Andre´ Green’s notion of the ‘me`re morte’ (see Narcissisme de vie, narcissisme de mort (Paris: Minuit, 1983), pp. 222–53), giver of life but also of death, who is physically present yet emotionally absent. The figure of the ‘me`re morte’ is shown to act as (invisible and unstated) linchpin in what this study describes as the ever-changing kaleidoscope of Laurens’s texts. Fortin argues convincingly that Laurens’s writing is ‘haunted’ by both the spectre of the ‘me`re morte’ and by the repeated re-inscriptions of the death of Laurens’s baby son Philippe. A fascinating development is traced in Laurens’s work: in her early Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/fs/article-abstract/72/1/135/4782568 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018

Journal

French StudiesOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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