Reflection re: Flaubert, Blanchot

3/19/20232 min read

“Too many things, not enough forms.” Flaubert. Blanchot adds immediately: too many forms. “there is always too much of what we never have enough of” on Blanchot’s understanding of literary language, and perhaps language in general.

There are ample terms, in some respect. Ample terms to describe the world well enough; to achieve our tasks. And many words refer to the totality of things, or to large swaths of things. These are not the kinds of forms (words) that allow us to grasp things. Words fall short here. But words were never meant to grasp, to capture. Sentences capture, and we have an INFINITE set of sentences available to us. Sentences characterize.

Poems can (be used to) characterize too, in a different way. The expansion of (or, more generally, the treatment of) meaning in poems allows descriptions which more specifically characterize a specific state of affairs. The description is more specific; relatedly, the situation it describes is more singular.

Furthermore, we regard poems in a meta-way, which allows us to regard—with the poet—the activity of speaking as tenuous, robust, successful, failing, etc. As capturing or failing to capture. Certainly, people are led to believe that certain poems really capture a situation.

Blanchot: speech’s lack allows it to “be more and more." Language can never be more. But speech can always be more.

We think of the meaning of the words and the sentences, the poem, and what is meant by the narrator, and what is meant by the poet. Even if, in a poem, the words and/or sentences are not treated explicitly as objects, the meaning is held in view, independently of that which is spoken of. And, independently of the ordinary uses of the terms and sentences, in some respect.

But not in every respect. Words have been used to communicate; but whenever I read a sentence, I am not witnessing the communication; I am witnessing what is communicated. The act must fall away, I think. But only in the immediate comprehension of the words as meaningful on the page. Directly from the lips, it might well be another matter. From the lips, it might be that the word and the speaking are not separated at birth.

Language is rock. Speech is living. Speech is an announcement of meaning, perhaps, of someone that means to communicate, and an announcement to the effect that “meaning is here.” Speaking is a mark of meaning, a mark of a meaner, and a conveyer of meaning. Speech is a sign of meaning, and it creates tokens of signs of meanings, repetitions of meaningful signs. A string of jibberish is meaning-bound when spoken, even if the signs created in such speech are meaningless on their own. It is bound to meaning because it is spoken; saying is meaningful. A string of jibberish is also meaning-bound in this way when written, insofar as this instance of writing announces itself as the product of a meaner. But written language can be severed from speech, is only living when it is attached to primordial uttering.