Shoshana Felman

The Scandal of the Speaking Body must be an update of The Literary Speech Act. Amazingly, we have the latter book in our library so I can recycle my old photocopy of it.

My notes in the margins, from the old days, say that promising turns out to be a big part of language (the book deals with Don Juan, that famous promiser). The performative is a different category of utterance than the constative; the constative utterance deals in truth and falsehood. The history of philosophy suggests that these are the only things at stake in language, but J. L. Austin says not.

There is a section starting on p. 92 called “Between Body and Language, or, What Is an Act?” Felman quotes a text of Mallarmé I have not read, “L’action restreinte,” where Mallarmé suggests that the act “is what leaves traces” (p. 93).

There are no traces without language, so there is no act without it, either. Mallarmé: “Your act always applies itself to paper.” Felman: “There is no act without linguistic inscription.”

Psychoanalysis also “explores acts as language effects” (p. 94), and a body according to Lacan “is speech arising as such” (“Le Symptôme,” qtd. in Felman, p. 94).

I should go on, but the point is to clear out files, not distract myself with new reading projects. Still I see why I held onto this photocopy for so long, and I clearly must study Felman.


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