On Pain of Speech: Fantasies of the First Order and the Literary Rant

On Pain of Speech: Fantasies of the First Order and the Literary Rant

On Pain of Speech: Fantasies of the First Order and the Literary Rant

On Pain of Speech: Fantasies of the First Order and the Literary Rant


On Pain of Speech tracks the literary rant, an expression of provocation and resistance that imagines the power to speak in its own name where no such right is granted. Focusing on the "politics of address," Dina Al-Kassim views the rant through the lens of Michel Foucault's notion of the biopolitical subject and finds that its abject address is an essential yet overlooked feature of modernism. Deftly approaching disparate fields--decadent modernism, queer studies, subjection, critical psychoanalysis, and postcolonial avant-garde--and encompassing both Euro-American and Francophone Arabic modernisms, she offers an ambitious theoretical perspective on the ongoing redefinition of modernism. She includes readings of Jane Bowles, Abdelwahab Meddeb, and Oscar Wilde, and invokes a wide range of ideas, including those of Theodor Adorno, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Judith Butler, Jean Laplanche, and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.


Je veux bien qu’on n’entende plus rien, mais on parle, on
crie: pourquoi ai-je peur d’entendre aussi ma propre voix?
Et je ne parle pas de peur, mais de terreur, d’horreur. Qu’on
me fasse taire (si l’on ose)! Qu’on couse mes lèvres comme
celles d’une plaie!

Georges Bataille, L’Expérience intérieure

We are dealing … with a discourse that turns the tradi
tional values of intelligibility upside down. An explanation
from below, which is not the simplest, the most elementary,
the clearest explanation but, rather, the most confused, the
murkiest, the most disorderly, the most haphazard.

Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended

The very “I” is called into question by its relation to the one
to whom I address myself. This relation to the Other does
not precisely ruin my story or reduce me to speechlessness,
but it does, invariably, clutter my speech with signs of its

Judith Butler, Undoing Gender

In the fall of 1983, only months before his death the next summer, Michel Foucault delivered the lectures that would later appear as Fearless Speech and which propose “to construct a genealogy of the critical attitude in Western philosophy.” Appropriately, this discourse took place on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, where two decades earlier the student-led Free Speech Movement successfully militated to lift the ban on political speech and to protect . . .

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