On Jean-Luc Nancy’s “Exscription.” 

In the first page of “Exscription” (in The Birth to Presence) Nancy sets up a differend–the so-called transparent communication of the sort that is commended by general hegemonic discourse, which “serves only to obscure violence, betrayal, and lies,” and a different communication, the communication of exscription, where something like a spillage of meaning would take place.  This notion of a “spillage of meaning” becomes then what the essay must try to grapple with. 

Nancy does it through an extensive and rather cryptic commentary on the destiny of “the book,” which, he says, has been ruined by texts “bearing the names Mallarmé, Proust, Joyce, Kafka, Bataille, Borges, Blanchot, Laporte, Derrida.”  Of course these are names of the infrapolitical canon.  They set up a task: a “repetition” and a “rewriting” “of what does not have its identity imprinted once and for all . . . in the untranscribable Book:” “for the sake of deliverance.”  If the first kind of communication sets itself up as the answer to a question the second kind of communication has more to do with the response to a call.  It is always therefore an autographic move, or paspas naturel, pas ordinaire.  “The autograph walks into the abyss.” 

For Nancy this abyss marks the very possibility of community, which the book betrays: “the book never aspires to anything less than the retracing of what exceeds it.”  “At the end of books, there is the Apocalypse:” we write necessarily “according to the logic of discourse and therefore under the nostalgia of the theological logos, also speaking to make possible a communication of speech that can be decided only on the basis of a communism of relations of exchange and therefore of production.”  But, decisively, we write “yet also not speaking, but writing in rupture with all language of speech and writing:” for the Apocalypse, “an impossible, unsustainable nakedness.”

“The reasons for writing a book can be reduced to the desire to modify the relations that exist between a man and his fellows.  These relations are judged unacceptable and are perceived as a dreadful misery.”  These words open the commentary on Bataille.

Bataille places his writing in the stage–“the Christian theater of confession, absolution, relapse into sin, renewed abandon to forgiveness.”  But it is a stage:  “Bataille always played at being unable to finish, acted out the excess, stretched to the breaking point of writing, of what makes writing: that is, what simultaneously inscribes and exscribes it.”  The “interruption of discourse” is the emptying out of the Christian theater, and the emptying out of inscription, “always a murky business.”  But it is Bataille’s “movement of thought.” 

The definition of exscription comes then, and I think it must be seen as a difference with the Derridean notion of “there is nothing outside the text,” in spite of everything.  This is the fundamental Bataillean gesture that Nancy sponsors for himself, and that I think is quite consistent with infrapolitics as second-order deconstruction: “writing exscribes meaning every bit as much as it inscribes signification.  It exscribes meaning or, in other words, it shows that what matters–the thing itself, Bataille’s ‘life’ or ‘cry,’ and, finally, the existence of everything that is in question in the text (including, most remarkably, writing’s own existence)–is outside the text, takes place outside writing.”  “This outside–wholly exscribed within the text–is the infinite withdrawal of meaning by which each existence exists.”  Nancy now makes his own proposal, as I see it, linking Bataille to the thought of the ontological difference.  The “empty freedom” through which existence comes into presence and absence is “certainly not directed toward a project, a meaning, or a work.”  It only passes through them “to expose . . . the ungroundable being of being-in-the-world.  The ‘fact’ that there is being . . . this is the very place of meaning, but it has no meaning.” 

Writing and reading are therefore an exposure to the exscription of the ontological difference: “the being of existence is not unpresentable: it presents itself exscribed.”  “The heart of things: that is what we exscribe.” 

É(x)criture, then.  And through it “the implacable, joyous counterblow that must be struck against all hermeneutics, so that writing (and) existence once more can expose themselves: in the singularity, in the reality, in the freedom of the ‘common destiny of men.'” 

So writing existence is a praxis of existence, and existence is exposure to the ex-. 

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