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The Imperative to WriteDestitutions of the Sublime in Kafka, Blanchot and Beckett$
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Jeff Fort

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823254699

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823254699.001.0001

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The Dead Look

The Dead Look

The Death Mask, the Corpse Image, and the Haunting of Fiction

(p.248) Chapter 7 The Dead Look
The Imperative to Write

Jeff Fort

Fordham University Press

This chapter builds on the previous chapter’s discussion of remnants of death as emblems of ghostly temporality. The death mask in Blanchot’s Death Sentence (L’arrêt de mort) is placed at the center of a constellation of texts in which the image of the death mask is linked to Kant’s transcendental schematism (Critique of Pure Reason) and thus to the very possibility of image and world. Jean-Luc Nancy’s essay “Masked Imagination” (in The Ground of the Image) is discussed in terms of Heidegger’s analysis of the schematism together with the reference to a death mask found there. These analyses are in turn linked with Blanchot’s essay “Two Versions of the Imaginary” in which the image of the corpse is given a privileged ontological status, reinforcing the connection between the remnant (dépouillement) of the death mask and the corpse (dépouille) as emblems for the constitutive hauntedness of writing. The notion of haunted fiction is explored further in reference to Henry James’ tale “The Turn of the Screw,” phrases and images from which are repeated in Blanchot’s When the Time Comes (Au moment voulu). Reference is made to the mass produced death mask known as l’Inconnue de la Seine, a copy of which Blanchot hung on the wall of his writing space. Finally, an analysis is offered of Blanchot’s essay on Kafka’s Letters to Milena, “Milena’s Failure” (“L’échec de Milena”).

Keywords:   Blanchot, Kant, Heidegger, Jean-Luc Nancy, Henry James, Death Sentence, Ground of the Image, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, transcendental schematism, imagination, death mask, Inconnue de la Seine, corpse, haunted fiction, Kafka, Letters to Milena, “Milena’s Failure”

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