reading | writing | translating
...and, what's love got to do with it
Instructor: Jeremy Fernando
If you want to read, jump, do not set yourself so much as a comma.Hélène Cixous
The act of writing takes place at the moment when Alice passes through the mirror. At this one instant, the glass barrier between the doubles dissolves, and Alice is neither here nor there, neither the one thing nor the other, though at the same time she is all of these at once. At that moment time itself stops, and also stretches out, and both writer and reader have all the time not in the world.Margaret Atwood
Every translation signifies the space-between, the gap, the historical chasm or the repression of history; translation is the most cautious form of communication since there is always the inherent admission of a certain departure and an uncertain arrival.Hubertus von Amelunxen
This seminar meditates on the relationship between reading and writing; specifically on our encounter with texts we are reading, even if it is a text we might have written. For, if reading is the openness to the possibility of a text, this means we can never quite be sure of not only what we have read, but if reading itself has even taken place. And since one can only know of writing through reading one might always be “writing in white ink”, as Hélène Cixous would say. Where every encounter might be haunted by blindness, even premised on a certain unknowability.
Much like love.
And since a connection is always both a link-to and a break-from, it involves a movement (trans-): thus, brings with it the question, what goes and comes-over (lātus), alongside, what is left-behind? Which also means that every encounter, even when done with as much care as possible, always also transforms the text: where the reader inevitably writes on over into the text (s)he reads, translating it, changing it in ways that might fundamentally alter it, reform it, inform it, deform it.
Where the one reading writing loving translating is always also potentially a traitor (traduttore, traditore).
Who (s)he betrays though — the text, herself, the other, their relation — might well remain the question.
Image: Yanyun Chen, ‘Salamander’, 2011
This course will be rescheduled for early January, 2024.
- There is no requirement for people attending this seminar to be familiar, or have formally-studied, literature, philosophy, or the arts. What they should be, though, is interested in closely-reading texts, to teasing out possibilities in them — and, through doing-so, questioning what literature, philosophy, and the arts might be.
- Seminarians should come with weekly questions, statements, thoughts, notions, impressions, opened by the readings of the week, or any other thing(s) that come to mind. These will not only be raised during the seminar, be contributions towards the thoughts that develop during the session, but also allow you to incubate your thinking throughout the course of the seminar.
- Hence, you should have a notebook: a place, space, in which your own scribbles, thoughts, questions, remarks, marks that you make, annotations can be germinated, cared for … in other words, your notebook is a seminarium. Not only will this help you generate ideas, both for discussion and your personal work, it will also be a trace of your thoughts … to be read, recounted, re-encountered.
And if you’re not certain if this seminar is for you, read this text: if you like it — and, more importantly, are curious to explore it, read it carefully, think alongside it — this might well be your cup of tea.
- This seminar speaks to anyone who is interested in the intersections of literature, art, and philosophy. More specifically, to readers, writers, translators, who are keen to explore the question of our relationship with a text, of what happens when we encounter a text (regardless of whether we are reading in our maternal language or not; in fact, one of the potential questions that the seminar addresses is ‘what is a mother tongue?’). In essence, anyone who is open to meditating on reading as a question.
- Anyone who wishes to explore the aesthetics of this encounter, of our relationship with texts as sensual-experiences (aisthesis).
- While the questions raised in this seminar are philosophical in nature, our language will not be technical, even less so academic — I will certainly not be hiding behind jargon.
For if love is one of the notions — questions — we are exploring, then surely it should be as open as possible.
In this seminar you will be exposed to an approach to reading writing translating (the three intertwined but never reduced to the same) in which the text is intimately entangled with its manifestation, its materiality; in short, where the conditions-of, alongside both the moment and result-of, making and attending-to a work are indivorceable from its structural, cultural, material, philosophical, conditions. This will hopeful open our sensitivities to the aesthetics of our encounter with texts, to the possibility that our relationship with texts are sensual-experiences (aisthesis).
Some of the registers that we will be opening together include:
In particular, the focus will be on the notion of craft: where to read to write to translate is to bring forth something into the world — something that might not have existed prior to its conception. Thus, also opening a new possibility to be encountered, alongside all its consequences: as un éclat, an explosion, even a possible event.
Throughout the seminar, a question that will remain with us is that of: what is considered writing. And why might it be that some forms of writing are considered scribblings, notes, markings, graffiti, vandalism, whilst others are conferred the status of writing. This comes alongside the question of one’s status as a writer, let alone that of being an author (which brings with it the question of who has the authority to anoint one as author?).
If one questions the traditional separation of one’s mind from one’s body — the mind-body dualism that has haunted thinking, certainly Western philosophy, literature, and morality — alongside the notion that these tekhnē bring forth something into the world, one then also opens the possibility that as one is reading writing translating, one is potentially also not just inscribing on one’s body, but creating, generating, manufacturing (where is the hand, who has a hand, manus, in all of this?), one’s very self.
Nietzsche constantly reminds us that each moment of writing (schreiben) is quite possibly also a scream (Ein schrei): not just to be heard, even as that might be important, but also potentially a cry against injustice, a scream for justice. If this is thought alongside the notion that writing brings forth, perhaps even engenders, something in the world, then writing cannot be thought-of separately from the question of — the question that is — ethics.
Since making entails bringing forth, this suggests that one has to care for — curae, curate — not only the content of one’s creation, nor just its potential audiences, but also the manner in which one makes, that is one’s approach to making itself. Thus, one of the underlying questions throughout the seminar will be the manner in which one engages both one’s work and the works of others: in other words, what is at stake is our approach to encounters with otherness, with what is potentially strange, makes us uneasy, unsure of ourselves, calls our very self into question, of the encounter with the stranger (xenos) at the threshold; where encounters — even if with our own work — be the site of the possibility of ethics.
Readings | echoes | texts (primary readings)
- Introduction(s): of the seminar, of our selves … first encounters …
- Hélène Cixous, ‘Laugh of the Medusa’, translated by Keith Cohen & Paula Cohen
- Heinrich von Kleist, ‘On the Marionette Theatre’, translated by Idris Parry
- Maurice Blanchot, ‘L’instant de ma mort / The instant of my death’, translated by Elizabeth Rottenberg
- Valerie Solanis, S.C.U.M Manifesto
- Judith Butler, ‘Doubting Love’
Keep in mind that the supplement is both an addition to and always already part of — inherent-in and also external-to — what it is supplementing
- Yanyun Chen, Tracing Etymology: origin and time; monsters and demons
- Hélène Cixous, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, translated by Sarah Cornell & Susan Sellers
- Jacques Derrida, Demeure: Fiction & Testimony, translated by Elizabeth Rottenberg
- Virginie Despentes, King Kong Theory, translated by Frank Wynne
- Anne Dufourmantelle, Éloge du risque.
- &emdash;, ‘Desire & Sovereignty’
- Marguerite Duras, La maladie de la mort
- Jeremy Fernando, Reading Blindly
- —, ‘(Not) my writing desk’
- —, ‘The risk of friendship’
- Chris Kraus, I Love Dick
- —, Aliens & Anorexia
- Julia Kristeva, ‘A new type of intellectual — the dissident’, translated by Sean Hand
- Cookie Mueller, Walking Through Clear Water In A Pool Painted Black
- Paulene Rèage, Histoire d’O, translated by Sabine d’Estree
- Lucía Sbardella (dir), 'Exercise against oblivion', 2018