The Body of Trauma: Some Thoughts on Jean-Luc Nancy


Usually, I have been trying to make a new post at this blog-site three times weekly, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  However, this week, because of the Memorial Day weekend and a brief trip that will take me away from my computer till week’s end, I am making this post on a Tuesday morning–and it will be the only post I make until next Monday, June 1.

The entries below, which I first wrote in my philosophical journal on the dates indicated last fall, concern contemporary French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy’s book Corpus:  The Raising of the Body, translated by Richard A. Rand (New York:  Fordham University Press, 2008).


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Jean-Luc Nancy, Corpus.  The title essay is given bilingually.  Nancy argues that/articulates a vision whereby body is spacing of space =  place (lieu) as such = disjunction, etc.  In  effect, to use my own way of trying to put it:  body, the there of being (so much is also in Nancy’s own wording), is the external as such and as the always externalizing.  As so (self-)externalizing, body (which = the self itself as this = at all), so “self,” is never “itself.”  Hence, p. 28 (in the French, 29 in the facing English):  “Mais corpus n’est jamais proprement moi” (which Rand renders in English as:  “But corpus is never properly me“).  Body, and therefore self as this self (the only possible “self” itself), has no “own” (propre) to own.  It is, as such, the ex-propriated,  the dis-ap-propriated.

Yet Nancy’s own analysis goes on to articulate the expropriating dis-appropriation (cf. Luce Irigaray, by the way) as the very own-most of body/self as such.  It is here (= as body) in and as the externalization of itself, that self/body is its own, its proper (propre).  So, for example, p. 32:  “L’aséité–l’à-soi, le par soi de subject–n’existe que comme l’écart et le départ de cet a–(de cet à part soi) qui est le lieu, l’instance propre [!!!] de sa présence, de son authenticité, de son sens.”  [Rand’s translation, p. 33:  “Aseity–the a-se(lf), the to-itself, the by-itself of the Subject–exists only as the swerve and departure of this a–(of this a-part-self), which is the place, the  moment proper of its presence, its authenticity, its sense.”]

(Although, at least so far,  Nancy does not address this point, this treatment of  self-withdrawal as the body is already there in Heidegger’s treatment of “the thing.”)


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nancy, Corpus, p. 63 (in Rand’s English translation): 

The image [and, therefore the body, which is image–as in “image of God”] . . . has no link to either the idea or, in general, to the visible (and/or intelligible) “presentation” of anything at all.  The body is not an image-of.  But it’s the coming to presence, like an image coming on a movie or a TV screen–coming from nowhere behind the screen, being the spacing of this screen, existing as its extension . . .


P. 66:  “Lorsqu’on commence, il y a déjà une antécédence absolue.”  [Rand’s translation, p. 67:  “As soon as one begins, there’s already an absolute antecedence.”]  Cf. how the new real, the event, creates back behind it its own possibility, as though that possibility preceded the reality–in Bergson.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Nancy, Corpus, p. 99 (in Rand translation):  In effect,he says, there is no “proper body,” body is never “proper,” yet–

Nor is this [that is, the “weighing” of (which is) body] appropriation. . . Nevertheless, this in no way removes the possibility of still  naming the events of appropriation (or nonappropriation) either as kairos (or luck) or as “revolution” (or as rage, and a challenge thrown against the inappropriable [compare Améry]).  A body isn’t “proper,” it’s appropriating/inappropriating.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nancy, Corpus, pp. 106-108 (French text): 

En un sens, la création du monde des corps est l’impossible même.  Et en un sens, . . . c’est l’impossible qui a lieu.  Que le sens et the sang n’aient pas de schème commun . . . , que la création soit un incontenable écartment, une catastrophe fractale architectonique, que la venue a monde soit un irrépressible rejet, voilà ce que veut dire corps, et voilà ce que desormais sens veut dire.

[My translation:  “In one sense,the creation of the world of bodies is the impossible itself.  And in one sense, . . . it is  the impossible that takes place.  That sense and blood should not have a common schema . . . , that creation should be an uncontainable gapping, a fractal architectonic catastrophe, that coming to the world should be an irrepressible rejection, that’s what body would mean, and that’s what from now on would be the meaning of sense.”]

Thus, body–the being there of Being “itself”/no-self–is trauma, to use my language.

After a break, in the next paragraph, he goes on to write of such a thought:  “Cette pensée:  hoc est enim, voici, le monde est son propre rejet, le rejet le monde est le  monde.  Tel est le monde des corps:  il a en cette désarticulation, cette inarticulation du corpus . . . un corps ‘parlant’ qui ne fait pas ‘sens,’ un ‘parler’-corps qui ne s’organise pas.”  [Rand translates:  “This thought:  hoc est enim, here, the world is its own rejection, the world’s rejection is the world.  Such is the world of bodies:  it has in itself this disarticulation, this unarticulating of the corpus . . . a ‘speaking’ body that doesn’t make ‘sense,’ a ‘speech’-body that isn’t organized.” Rendered literally, that last phrase in Nancy’s French says “. . . that doesn’t organize itself“–which I would prefer here.]

Thought and body–thought of body, body of thought:  dis-em-bodiement, perhaps–as trauma traumatized and traumatizing:  Event.


P. 112:  Neither body nor thought belong to the order of “knowledge”–or,  then, of any corresponding “not-knowing.”  Thought, then, is no knowledge; rather: 

La pensée est l’être en tant qu’il pèse sur ses bords, l’être appuyé, ployé sur ses extremités, pli et détente d’étendue.  Chaque pensée est un corps.  (C’est pourquoi, à la fin, tout système de pensée se désagrège en soi-même,  et il n’y a que corpus des pensées.

     Chaque pensée est (ou bien:  dan Chaque pensée l’être est–c’est ici que Parménide énonce “c’est même chose être et pensée”. . .) . . . Une pensée ne dit pas “hoc est,” mais une pensée est “hoc est,” position sans présupposition, exposition.

[Rand’s translation: 

Thought is being insofar as it weighs on its own borders, being supported, bending onto its extremeties, a fold and release of extension.  Each thought is a body.  (Which is also why, finally, every system of thought is disagregated within, and thoughts form only a corpus.)

Each thought is (or else:  in each thought being is–what Parmenides states as “Being and thinking are the same thing” . . .) . . . A thought doesn’t say “hoc est,” but a thought is “hoc est,” a position without presupposition, exposition.]

Body is the trauma of thought, as thought is the trauma of body.


P. 118:  “Joie et douleur sont les opposés qui ne s’opposent pas.  Un corps est joui aussi dans la douleur (et cela reste absolutement étranger à ce qu’on nomme masochisme).”  [Rand:  “Joy and pain are opposites unopposed to one another.  A body is also enjoyed in pain (and this remains absolutely alien to what gets called masochism.)”]  Later, same page:  “Le corps joui jouit de soi en tant que ce soi est joui (que jouir/être joui, toucher/être touché, espacer/être espacé font ici l’essence de l’être).  Soi de part en part étendu dans la venue, dans l’allée-venue au monde.”  [Rand:  “The delighted body delights in itself insofar as this self is enjoyed (as delighting/being delighted, touching/being touched, spacing/being spaced make, here, the essence of the being).  Self extended through and through in the coming, in the coming-and-going into the world.”]

Strangely, estrangingly in such passages Nancy, who extols the body as externality, touches and is touched by [Michel] Henry, the apostle of interiority.

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