'I see nothing: that is neither visible not sensible in any way one can imagine, nor intelligible. That makes it painful and heavy not to be able to die. . . . Images of ecstasy and betray. What is there has the dimensions of terror, terror makes it come. Such a violent clash is necessary for that to be there. (IE, 122)
Pain and dread—or ecstasy and laughter—even in the absence of anyone who could experience that pain or that ecstasy, give it words and make it his or her own. All the images and ideas are repellent idealizations, impositions of meaning, when in fact there is nothing “I” can see or understand, and no “I” to register such seeing and understanding. Language presupposes intentions, and therefore at least a virtual (grammatical) subject; but the feeling of what is there has no such specificity. Language also posits a degree of universality and interchangeability, since no signification is entirely singular; but the feeling of what is there has no such generality. Affect precedes language, just as it precedes the constitution of a subject. It is the unbearable extremity of passion, and not the alienating intervention of language, which is asubjective and nonintentional. The “interior experience” radically disrupts self presence. The subject seeks ecstasy, seeks to pass out of itself. Yet its existence as a subject can be defined only as its continuing endeavor to preserve itself. And so “il existe un irréductible dé saccord du sujet cherchant l’extase et de l’extase elle-même [there exists an irreducible discord between the subject seeking ecstasy and the ecstasy itself]” (OC, 5:75; IE, 60).

Désaccord (discord), déchirure (laceration), un violent fracas (a violent clash). . . . Not the cogito, but communication. Not self identity and self recognition, but contingency and “improbabilité infinie [infinite improbability]” (OC, 1:89, OC, 5:84; VE, 130, IE, 69) define me. “Car si la plus infime différence était survenue an cours des évé nements successifs dont je suis un terme, à la place de ce moi intégralement avide d'être moi, il y aurait eu ‘un autre’ [For if the tiniest difference had occurred in the course of the successive events of which I am the result, in the place of this me, integrally avid to be me, there would have been ‘an other’]” (OC, 1:89; VE, 130). Nothing is more random, more fragile, more inessential than my “identity.” I am “irreplaceable” precisely because any experience of change is an experience which no longer happens to “me,” in which I am no longer “myself.” Hence the primacy of affect—of a raw, asubjective experiencing of change—over consciousness or language. How reductive of psychoanalysis to reject the notion of unconscious affect, on the grounds that “it is hard to see how the term affect could remain intelligible without some reference to self consciousness” and the ego (Laplanche and Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-Analysis, 14). For if the history of past affects is what makes the singularity of the “me” possible, it is equally apparent that—as long as this history continues—affect cannot coincide with that “me,” or be present to it beyond a certain threshold. Language is a tool of social order, assigning a circumscribed “position” to the self-conscious subject, whereas the violence of affective experience depositions the subject, exceeding its awareness, continually making it other. I become aware of my ecstasy only in retrospect, and even then only “comme la sensation d’un effet venant de dehors. . . . En vérité je suis agi [like the sensation of an effect coming from the outside. . . . In reality, I am acted upon]” (OC, 5:75; IE, 60).'


Steven Shaviro, Passion and Excess: Blanchot, Bataille, and Literary Theory, publisher: University Press of Florida

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