This article analyzes the notions of clarity and obscurity in the work of Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten and Maurice Blanchot, arguing that the latter’s thought of the “other night” proposes a radical reversal, indeed, a corruption, of Baumgarten’s founding of aesthetics as an ocularcentric discipline governed by clarity. Baumgarten, laying the groundwork for much of the “distribution of the sensible” that dominated the field of aesthetics after him, conceives of the poem as the paradigmatic instance of an aesthetic cognition of the sensible that is founded on the triad of clarity, attention, and liveliness. He thus opposes the poem to both the obscure fundus animae, the ground of the soul, and to utopian poetry, neither of which can be poetized. By contrast, Blanchot’s literature dissolves this triple foundation into a writing of obscurity, distracted fatigue, and a “death resurrected”; literature opens aesthetics to that which had been constitutively excluded at its founding moment. The clarifying powers of the poet-aesthetician are replaced by passive “fascination” and a “passion of the image” that delimits a radically different, countercosmic, and thus utopian space of literature.

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