Blanchot and Literary Criticism

By | October 5, 2011
Maurice Blanchot’s writings on literature have imposed themselves in the canon of modern literary theory and yet have remained a mysterious presence. This is in part due to their almost hypnotic literary style, in part due to their distinctive amalgam of a number of philosophical sources (Hegel, Heidegger, Levinas, Bataille), which, although hardly unknown in the Anglophone philosophical world, have not yet made themselves fully at home in literary theory.
Blanchot and Literary Criticism by Mark Hewson (University of Melbourne, Australia), available now in the US and coming to the UK in November, aims to remedy this situation by making visible the coherence of Blanchot’s critical project. To recognize the challenge that Blanchot represents for literary criticism, one has to see that he always has in view the self-interrogation that characterizes modern literature, both in its theory and its practice. Blanchot’s essays study the forms and the paths of this research, its solutions and its impasses; and increasingly, they sketch out the philosophical and historical horizon within which its significance appears. The effect is to revise the terms in which we see the genesis of the modern literary concept, not least of the manifestations of which is literary criticism itself.
"Hewson’s book offers a highly lucid introduction to the literary criticism of Blanchot. Beyond that, however, it is also a quite exceptional introduction to a certain Western European Modernism. Along the way he also broaches a series of larger questions: What is literary criticism? What is the relationship of modern literature to philosophy?  What is remarkable is the way in which Hewson makes his text accessible to those who have yet to read deeply and widely in Blanchot while maintaining such a high level of intellectual reflection that those who know Blanchot well will be fascinated and find they have a great deal to learn from the carefully traced readings." — Carol Jacobs, Birgit Baldwin Professor of Comparative Literature, Yale University, USA

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