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Dream Images and Text As Matter


Text selected by Lizzie Homersham


Wednesday 3 December, 2014


We will have read and will be discussing:


- Maldoror (First Canto), in Maldoror and The Complete Works of the Comte de Lautreamont, translated by Alexis Lykiard. Cambridge: Exact Change, 1994. (Original French: ‘Les Chants de Maldoror. Chant premier (1868)’ in Lautreamont: Oeuvres completes. Paris, Editions Gallimard, 2009.) text


- “The Experience of Lautreamont” in Blanchot, Lautreamont and Sade, translated by Stuart Kendall and Michelle Kendall. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2004.  (Original French: Blanchot, Lautreamont et Sade. Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 1963.)  text


This session will consider Maldoror’s attempts to transcend human subjectivity and embodiment, becoming, in his dreams, an "irreducible mixture of dead matter and living flesh"*. It will also consider Lautremont’s plagiarism and quotation – one of the ways in which text is treated as matter.

*Taken from Blanchot, pp. 119


“I will not be seen, in my last hour (I write this on my deathbed) surrounded by priests. I want to die cradled on the waves of the stormy sea or standing on a mountain… my eyes aloft – no: I know my annihilation will be total. Besides, I would have no remission to hope for. Who is opening the door of my funeral chamber? I had said that none should enter. Whoever you are, keep away. But if you do discern some mark of sorrow or fear on my hyena’s face (I use this metaphor although the hyena is handsomer than I, and more pleasant to look upon) – be undeceived. Approach, then. A winter night it is, with the elements clashing on all sides: man is afraid, and the adolescent contemplates some crime against one of his friends, if he is as I was during my youth. May the wind – whose whinings have saddened humanity since wind and humanity existed – bear me (a few moments before my death-throes) on the bones of his wings, across the world, eager for my death. Once again I shall secretly gloat over the numerous examples of human wickedness (a brother loves to watch unseen the deeds of his brothers). Eagle, crow, the immortal pelican, the wild duck, the wandering crane, waking, shaking with cold, will see me pass in the glow of lightning, a horrid and happy apparition. They won’t know what it means. On earth, the viper, the toad’s vast eye, tiger, elephant; in the sea, whale, shark, hammerhead shark, shapeless ray, the tooth of the polar seal—all will wonder at this deviation from the law of nature. Man, trembling, groaning, will glue his forehead to the ground. “Yes, I outdo you all in my innate cruelty—cruelty whose suppression does not lie within me. (…) Supporting winds, raise me higher: I fear perfidy. Yes, let’s gradually disappear from their sight—once again completely satisfied witness to the consequences of passion. I thank you, O rhinolophus, you whose snout is topped by a horseshoe-shaped crest, for having woken me with the motion of your wings. Indeed, I perceive it was unfortunately but a fleeting sickness, and with disgust I feel myself restored to life. Some say you approached me to suck what little blood is to be found in my body: why is this hypothesis not reality!” Maldoror, First Canto, pp.43-44


"[T]he power of the image never ceases to be at work in [Lautreamont], the power by which words are detached, detached from their temporal origin, from the memo­ries that animate books, and caught up within the movement of an immense dream memory, the plastic mother of nightmares and of certain paintings." Blanchot, 'The Experience of Lautreamont', Lautreamont and Sade, pp. 57


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