What Is There to Say?

Synopsis

Herman Melville's Bartleby, asked to account for himself, "would prefer not to." Tongue-tied Billy Budd, urged to defend his innocence, responds with a murderous blow. The Bavard, by Louis-René des Forêts, concerns a man whose power to speak is replaced by an inability to shut up. In these and other literary examples a call for speech throws the possibility of speaking into doubt. What Is There to Say? uses the ideas of Maurice Blanchot to clarify puzzling works by Melville, des Forêts, and Beckett. Ann Smock's energetic readings of texts about talking, listening, and recording cast an equally welcome light on Blanchot's paradoxical thought.