From the post-War writings of Sartre and Blanchot to the post-structuralism of Jacques Derrida and Julia Kristeva, French philosophers have consistently debated the poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé, almost as a rite of passage. Alain Badiou, Jean-Claude Milner and Jacques Rancière — three of the most important philosophers alive today — are no exception, having written extensively about the poet since the 1960’s and 70’s up until today. This book contains a series of interviews with these three figures on Mallarmé, as well as an extended introduction that places their thought on literature into dialogue. Speaking about their personal and philosophical relationships with each other, on methods of reading, on poetry and politics, and poetry and mathematics, each philosopher reflects on their life-long engagement with Mallarmé, as well as on the different, often incommensurable, images of the poet their philosophies have generated. As Rancière, Milner and Badiou point to the past importance and future directions Mallarmé gives to thought, these interviews lend credence to Barthes’ remark that “all we can do is repeat Mallarmé – and it is good that we do so”.
Introduction: The subject to which everything is attached / 1. “A singular invention of language and thought”: Jacques Rancière / 2. “I believed I owed Mallarmé the truth”: Jean-Claude Milner / 3. “Mallarmé said it all”: Alain Badiou / Further Reading / Index
Robert Boncardo has completed a doctorate in French Studies at The University of Sydney and Aix-Marseille Université.
Christian R. Gelder has completed a Master of Arts in English Literature at The Centre for Modernism Studies in Australia, The University of New South Wales.
“Mallarmé said it all”: these conversations with three of France’s leading philosophers explore the complexity of the poet’s thought, moving from the broadly humanistic to the more overtly political. By tying each interpretation to the personal evolution of each thinker, the two editors enhance our understanding both of these readings of Mallarmé and of the philosophers themselves.
The interviews conducted by Robert Boncardo and Christian Gelder with Alain Badiou, Jean-Claude Milner and Jacques Rancière are invaluable, and for more than one reason. They confirm that Stéphane Mallarmé is an unsurpassable figure in the French literary and intellectual field for whoever reflects with even the slightest seriousness on the relations between literature, philosophy, science and politics. They provide a very illuminating overview of the mental universes of some of the greatest contemporary French intellectuals, and prove in passing that, no, they have not yet completely disappeared. And finally, they suffice to show that, in a period of academic regression in literary studies, it is possible to assign this discipline tasks far more exhilarating than what today’s reigning neo-philology can imagine.
When properly conscious of Mallarmé at all, the Anglophone world has rarely if ever registered the astonishing variety of the thought he has provoked in modern France, and his crucial importance for a range of philosophical, linguistic, political, aesthetic and mathematical debates. With a long and well-informed introduction, these searching and absorbing interviews tell us much, not only about how Mallarmé has mattered and continued to matter to his compatriots, but about why he should matter to ourselves.
The interviews with Badiou, Rancière and Milner, as occasioned and recorded in this important new book restore Stéphane Mallarmé to the world of real artistic, political and scientific events and actions, and hopefully contribute towards further emancipating the great poet’s work from perceptions of inaccessibility and obscurity.
[Le livre] a le grand mérite, d’abord, de rappeler que le poète est encore à l’origine de pensées abstraites, malgré la domination depuis une bonne dizaine d’années, dans un champ toujours en expansion, de l’approche socio-historique.