November 19, 2005

Jean-Luc Nancy and Lyn Hejinian

“[E]verything,” Jean-Luc Nancy writes, is “always inscribed by change and becoming, always carrying the many marks of this inscription.”[8] Bringing Jean-Luc Nancy’s ideas and Lyn Hejinian’s writings into a space of meeting provokes a resonant and extremely productive dialogue. Both Nancy and Hejinian are concerned with the how of being, a core matter of ethical thinking; and with matters of commonality, or to use Nancy’s phrase, with situations and conditions of “being in common.”[9] Both thinkers situate their ethical inquiries alongside and within appraisals of worldliness — Hejinian examines the “in and as” attributes of our “relationship with the world,” while Nancy advances a thesis about “being-toward-the-world.”[10] I want to consider several questions that appear in a ghostly middle ground, or at a border crossing, between the inquiries of Nancy and Hejinian. What does it mean, following Nancy, to be always in-becoming, and how does Hejinian’s work face or generate that concept? Circumscribed by continual change or moment-to-moment negotiation, what might a poetics of encounter look like, and what might it offer for an encounter with ethics?
We have no other experience of living than encounters, suggests Hejinian in “Some Notes toward a Poetics.” “Points of contact or linkages” are the sites of encounter; and in complement, an encounter brings a linkage into being, while existing as a temporary moment of placement on a shifting plane. Imagined further, each encounter is an instance of mutual contextualization, and might thus be interpreted as a literal and reciprocal nexus with an other being. Perhaps, following Nancy’s explorations in a work entitled Being Singular Plural, encounters might be readily observable moments of being with-one-another (etant l’un-avec-l’autre) or being in co-existence.[11]
To Lyn Hejinian’s way of thinking, encounters consequently offer the most pleasurably rich and incontrovertible scope for an ethical poetry, and for a poetry that acknowledges and finds its community. Within an ontology of linkages, described by Nancy as a co-ontology, a ground between subjects — interrelationship itself — becomes a preeminent concern. And within our meetings and links, Hejinian writes, we might discover and make manifest “our reasons to do what we do,” our ethical codes and occupations. by Kate Fagan

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