There's simply too much to say about Blanchot's The Space of Literature right now except that I love it and want to write about it (in terms of form, style, the author, Wallace, Beckett...the list goes on). Despite finding selections from The Infinite Conversation quite difficult last year in a graduate seminar, The Space of Literature is comparatively lucid, especially because it seems to follow so closely from Heidegger's What is Called Thinking?, which I've read very closely, adore, think about weekly if not daily, and generally have found intellectually transformative. So having the Heidegger ready-at-mind, so to say, has made Blanchot much easier than he otherwise might have been.
What is Called Thinking? was published (as Was heißt Denken?) in 1952, and Blanchot's The Space of Literature (L'Espace Littéraire) was 1955; I've realized just now how incredibly tight a turnaround this would be. Did Blanchot read the Heidegger before (or while) writing Space? Did he work from an earlier knowledge of Heidegger that conceptually led down (unsurprisingly) similar paths? I'm not sure, but this article by Stephen Alan Schwartz attests to the immense importance of Heidegger for Blanchot, so I'm reassured despite the lack of a reception history, and the fact that Schwartz dates WiCT as 1954 (would this have been a French translation? But Blanchot assuredly read in German?)
This isn't to say that Blanchot directly translates Heidegger from the Being of beings to the Speaking of speech; in fact, I see B leveling a productive critique of H's obsessive desire for "unconcealment," to the extent that B makes a Derridian move and says "unconcealment might be good; tapping into the murmurs might be what true literature requires; but it's only meaningful and significant insofar as we are at other times doing something else." B affirms that it's okay to be in a state of "inauthenticity," suggesting instead that we can only move between these two situations. So - where is Blanchot between Heidegger and Derrida? In some weird, middle, triangulated position. He feels more pure, in some way, than Derrida: more of a monist. But compared to Heidegger, he feels different, like an uncle to de Man: walking on the off-beat, driven by a singular way of thinking, committed to his own...sort of...aestheticism. And I see a possible influence of Empedocles on Blanchot, too, so that's another term I'm trying to juggle: how love&strife with their configurations of repulsion and attraction inform B's discussion of "intimacy," negation, etc., for instance.
These things are also helping me richen my sense of "medium" as the go-to concept for all of these figures: whether it's Heidegger's "Being is beings" (that "is" is transitive, by the way, according to a helpful Amazon reviewer of H's later Identity and Difference), Heidegger's "Language speaks" ("Die Sprache spricht," 1950), Blanchot's language murmuring, Adorno's language which "speaks itself" (or at least so says Wikipedia- I don't know this one), Massumi's account of art in Thought in the Act, Luhmann...everything is just a thing operating on itself. Isn't it all so terribly Hegelian? What happened to the human in this mess, and am I the lone humanist existentialist who cares? This is why I like Benjamin, because he keeps the thinker front and center as the location of perceptive action. (Tho see here for an account of Benjamin's influence on Blanchot- I looked because their language of a realization "flashing" or "flashing up" was similar enough to spark a suspicion, and Blanchot's also into monads, which seems likely he got from Benjamin.)
(That Adorno-Blanchot connection is a little intriguing, too. Negativity, negativity!)
All of this just makes me want to get back to reading, and I've moved on from Blanchot to William Gaddis's The Recognitions (a desire to think Blanchot through long, long novels and maybe also to stay in the 1950s). The order of my reading list is completely ad-hoc, and I do like it that way, because I can follow my intuitions about strange combinations. And boy is Gaddis 1) funny 2) Joycean-- but American-- but weirdly European 3) brilliant. Yes, I'm keeping a word-list for this one, and it includes things like "fainaiguing" (shirking, reneging, being shady), "remontant" (blooming or producing a crop more than once a season -- used by Gaddis to describe a goddess), and "chasuble" (outermost liturgical vestment worn by clergy for the celebration of the Eucharist).
Finally, dear reader, I do apologize for the scattershot manner which this post has taken, and I blame it on Blanchot, who taught me that form is defined by restriction and elimination, and I'm simply feeling too capacious right now to stop murmuring the many murmurs flowing through my mind.