The work of friendship : Blanchot, Bataille, Hegel
In this thesis I argue that friendship holds a unique and unusual place in the work of Maurice Blanchot (1907-). It traces the appearance of this relation in his essays during the period from 1946 to 1962. Key to his work at this time, j argue, is the work of his friend Georges Bataille (1897-1960), whom he met in 1940. The influence of each writer upon the work of the other, I argue, is inseparable from the thought of friendship which both pursue, albeit in different and apparently conflicting ways: Bataille figures the relation to the friend as complicity, a term which he presents in terms of a quasi-ontological determination 'the labyrinthine constitution of beings'; and Blanchot locates friendship in terms of a movement of discretion or discontinuity which interrupts being in order for there to be relation as such. It is shown how both thinkers reinscribe friendship into their work in general through these figures, which allow them to articulate questions of memory, death and the 'work'. It is in this sense that friendship, for both writers, is 'at work' within their work. Central to this determination of 'the work' is G. W. F. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, which had been introduced into French intellectual life principally by two commentators, Alexandre Kojeve and Jean Hyppolite. The figural differences between complicity and discretion are traced to their respective readings of Hegel. Bataille's debt to Kojeve's interpretation forms the starting point of this linkage between the question of friendship and the status of the work. The pivotal role which Kojeve ascribes to the relation of mastery and slavery - the emergence of self-consciousness as the work of recognition [Anerkennung] - is used to draw out Hegel's genetic account of intersubjectivity (in recognition, love, and friendship). I show that Bataille's conception of sovereignty not only seeks to oppose this dialectic of mastery ... Hegelianly ... ; it also situates itself within this dialectic at the very moment which Kojeve defines in terms of the limited aniniality of friendship and love. As a result, Bataille's thought of friendship extends to characterise the impossibility into which this dialectic is inevitably collapsed. Yet the question remains as to how far his reliance upon Kojeve puts this strategy of collapse under an ever-present threat of having to repeat those 'Hegelian' strategies which he claims to have 'undone'. The final chapter in the thesis, therefore, sets out a characterisation. of Blanchot's reading of Hegel. Against the grain of most Blanchot commentaries, I show that Blanchot's reading cannot be derived solely from Kojeve. By linking the pivotal function of terms such as 'disquiet' ['Unruhe'] and key passages from Hegel's texts, it is argued that he draws extensively upon the commentaries and translations of Hyppolite: this approach allows him to amplify the importance of language in the Phenomenology of Spirit; and to identify in this text key questions of ambiguity - such as the relation of language and negativity; the place of memory in the work of art; and the fate of art in the modem world. It is Hegel's ambiguous linkage of friendship with the latter which leads to his own effacement of Bataille's relation between friendship and art, and to the definition of a 'work of friendship' in the self-effacement of discretion.