Robin Camille Davis
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Engulfment

October 09, 2010
Tags: books

Disclaimer: I know that a blog post that quotes a passage from Barthes warrants an eye roll. But ever since reading Camera Lucida in my first (and only) Modern Culture & Media class, I've thought that Roland Barthes was kind of the David Foster Wallace of French critical theory — totally brilliant, and totally human. (Though admittedly much harder for me to read and understand than DFW.) I've been meaning to read A Lover's Discourse (1979) for a long time. It's a series of fragments, arranged alphabetically, of the different aspects of a lover's perspective. The fragments are "figures" like angoisse, anxiety; comblement, fulfillment; fou, mad; mutisme, silence; vouloir-saisir, will-to-possess. Each fragment is inspired by sources like Goethe, Zen, his friends, his own life, etc etc. Admittedly, I've only read 11 pages so far... But I'm really enjoying it. Some of it moves me in the way that things I only understand 1% of can move me.

from s'abîmer, to be engulfed:

2. The crisis of engulfment can come from a wound, but also from a fusion: we die together from loving each other: an open death, by dilution into the ether, a closed death of the shared grave.

Engulfment is a moment of hypnosis. A suggestion functions, which commands me to swoon without killing myself. Whence, perhaps, the gentleness of the abyss: I have no responsibility here, the act (of dying) is not up to me: I entrust myself, I transmit myself (to whom? to God, to Nature, to everything, except to the other).

Translated by Richard Howard.

In other news, I spent an hour and a half today reading about this: ☞