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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Pause for Thought. Derek Attridge on the Creative Act-Event

Most of the wisdom I derive from the work of Derek Attridge has been of a literary-critical or theoretical nature, (see here and, more recently, here) but just now and then he offers something for the poetics of writing, as when he describes ‘invention’ towards the end of his new book The Work of Literature.

‘The inventive artist is one who is fully in command of the materials and conventions of his art-form, or techne, but rather than simply producing a rearrangement of that material finds a way of making a space for the new, the other, the hitherto unthinkable or unperceivable. The scenario is exactly that of the hospitality of visitation: rather than inviting some already known idea or formal arrangement or quality of feeling into the work in progress, the successful artist finds a way of destabilizing the fixed structures of knowledge, habit, and affect, so as to make a visitation possible, and seeks to welcome the other, the arrivant, in a work that does justice to its singularity. Innumerable accounts by writers, painters, musicians of the way their best achievements happened testify to this process. In ‘I Have a Taste for the Secret’, Derrida uses the notion of hospitality to talk about the writer’s responsibility to future readers – a responsibility not to give the reader something that is wholly and immediately intelligible, but to leave a space open for individual interpretation. (31-2). Most philosophers would no doubt disagree, but most writers of literary works would have no difficulty with this idea.’ (Attridge 2015: 304)

Attridge. Derek. (2015) The Work of Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Access The Meaning of Form project here.