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Impasse, Promise, and Impossible Community: Blanchot’s Community of Lovers and Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas

Impasse, Promise, and Impossible Community: Blanchot’s Community of Lovers and Kleist’s Michael... While “impasse” in politics implies deadlock or standstill, this essay examines how a counter-tradition, exemplified by Blanchot’s The Unavowable Community, treats impasse as the condition of possibility of a new form of community. Focusing on Blanchot’s conception of the “community of lovers,” the essay examines why Blanchot associates this with the events of May 1968. This association centers on the notion of an “impossible community” that challenges the very structure of the state as the realization of the community’s sovereignty. The essay then turns to Kleist, mentioned briefly in Blanchot’s treatise, as a paradigmatic case of the literary dimension of impossible community. Focusing on Kleist’s novella Michael Kohlhaas, the essay argues that the novella articulates the episodic and insurrectional element of Blanchot’s conception of community. Rather than understand the titular character’s revolt in terms of his fanatical adherence to the universality of law, the essay argues that Kohlhaas’s insurrection is predicated on the death of his wife, Lisbeth, whose post-mortem appearance in the novella introduces a promise that is structurally prior to the state’s constitution. This promise transforms impasse into enactment, impossibility into actuality. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Comparative Literature Duke University Press

Impasse, Promise, and Impossible Community: Blanchot’s Community of Lovers and Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas

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Copyright
Copyright © 2020 by University of Oregon
ISSN
0010-4124
eISSN
1945-8517
DOI
10.1215/00104124-8127427
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

While “impasse” in politics implies deadlock or standstill, this essay examines how a counter-tradition, exemplified by Blanchot’s The Unavowable Community, treats impasse as the condition of possibility of a new form of community. Focusing on Blanchot’s conception of the “community of lovers,” the essay examines why Blanchot associates this with the events of May 1968. This association centers on the notion of an “impossible community” that challenges the very structure of the state as the realization of the community’s sovereignty. The essay then turns to Kleist, mentioned briefly in Blanchot’s treatise, as a paradigmatic case of the literary dimension of impossible community. Focusing on Kleist’s novella Michael Kohlhaas, the essay argues that the novella articulates the episodic and insurrectional element of Blanchot’s conception of community. Rather than understand the titular character’s revolt in terms of his fanatical adherence to the universality of law, the essay argues that Kohlhaas’s insurrection is predicated on the death of his wife, Lisbeth, whose post-mortem appearance in the novella introduces a promise that is structurally prior to the state’s constitution. This promise transforms impasse into enactment, impossibility into actuality.

Journal

Comparative LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Jun 1, 2020

References