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Title: Exposures to silence : Barthes, Beckett, Nancy, Stevens
Author: Gould, Thomas Raymond
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 0412
Awarding Body: King's College London
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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The influential final proposition of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus defines silence negatively, as the other of language. Contrary to this externalising trend of thought is the theme of silence as a quality of interiority and intimacy, as with John Cage’s anecdote of an anechoic chamber, wherein silence became the ceaselessly sonorous plenitude of the body, as opposed to an absence. What unites these two contrastive accounts, however, is a logic of exposure: with the former, language is exposed to its outside; with the latter, exposure takes place as auditory auto-affection. I ask how this underlying logic of exposure—silence as exposure and exposure as silence—might be recuperated and strategized against prevailing discourses of linguistic inescapability. The first chapter negotiates two opposing modalities of silence in 20th century philosophy and literary theory, that is, ‘apophasis’ (or negative theology) and ‘reticence’ (which I understand through Heidegger’s use of the term Verschwiegenheit). Apophasis corresponds to a silence of ineffable transcendence, whereas reticence, keeping-silence, implies a silence of immanence. From this dichotomy, I develop the figure of a paradoxical ‘silent voice’, the trembling interminability of the possibility of speech anterior to speech, which conforms to Jean-Luc Nancy’s liminal figure of ‘transimmanence’. Chapter 2 develops the term ‘silent voice’ through a reading of Samuel Beckett’s prose piece Company, whose narrator is exposed—rather than interpellated—to silence, itself, as a phatic address. In chapter 3, I develop the notion of phatic silence through a series of comparative readings of Roland Barthes and Jean-Luc Nancy, through which I analyse the dynamics of silence, community (or ‘being-with’) and singularity, with particular methodological emphasis on Barthes’s unpicking of the binary of silere (pre-lingual, inviolate silence) and tacere (verbal silence, silence exposed to language). In chapter 4 I shift to a discussion of poetry, and analyse how Wallace Stevens stages the exposure of poetic language to three interrelated determinations of silence: anterior silence, external silence, and animal silence.
Supervisor: Kollias, Hector ; Ffrench, Raymond Patrick Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available