Performance of Negation, Negation of Performance: Death and Desire in Kojève, Bataille and Girard BO EARLE Horatio, I am dead, Thou livest. Report me and my cause aright To the unsatisfied. —Hamlet. V, ii. If philosophies of modernity characteristically invoke themes of loss (of God, traditional social authorities, epistemological and discursive norms, etc.), much modern philosophy is distinguished by a kind of discursive reflexivity, or poetic license, that allows such loss to be rhetorically re- hearsed, and its subtler implications probed, rather than merely lamented. Nietzsche’s Fröhliche Wissenschaft, to take a paradigmatic case, does not simply proclaim the death of God, but puts the proclamation in the mouth of a “crazy man” who also, in snowballing self-contradictions, continues to “seek God” by the light of a lantern held out to illuminate “the bright early morning.” To neglect such rhetorical texturing of doctrine is to overlook the distinctive elevation in significance philosophical discourse has won in the wake of modernity’s loss of stable epistemological and moral norms. As Nietzsche’s account of the “crazy man” attests, what- ever may be the truth of the modern predicament, at stake in assessments of that truth is not only doctrinal validity, but also the
Comparative Literature Studies – Penn State University Press
Published: Feb 1, 2002
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