This article proposes that the point of literature is its excessiveness, whatever eludes ready-made categorization – political, aesthetic, or otherwise. No tight fit between any particular approach to literature and its object should be sought but rather recognition of incompatibility and incongruence. Between two powerful superfluities – of language and of the real – this article situates the poetic text in the space made by a pincer movement. First it discusses linguistic excess – the realization that there is nothing outside text, that reality is always linguistically mediated. Next it argues that the notion of excess must also be studied the other way around, by looking into the excessiveness of the “real.” This amounts to an effort to cross the uncrossable divide between words and things to find out where literature “cuts” the real, creates affects and sense vibrations, where it nevertheless “approaches” the real. This reading follows In Excess by Jean-LucMarion, whose thought also comes “from the opposite direction” when he considers how we perceive something of the real as “saturated phenomenon.” Following linguistic excess and the excess of the real offers a challenge to the discipline of literature today, suggesting a way out of reductive readings. Literature, beyond any profit-and-loss economy, is wasteful and profligate, yet it is precisely this that makes it indispensable. Engaging a mode of attention to and experience of nonunderstanding and excess, it has a vital role in the humanities and thinking processes in general.
The Discipline of Literature as Superfluity
Hanna Soker-Schwager is senior lecturer in the Department of Hebrew Literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. Her work is dedicated to researching and teaching modern Hebrew literature and critique theory. She is the author of The Conjuror of the Tribe from the Worker’s Quarters: Yaakov Shabtai in Israeli Culture (2007). She is the editor of Mikan: Journal for Hebrew and Israeli Literature and Culture Studies.
Hanna Soker-Schwager; The Discipline of Literature as Superfluity. Poetics Today 1 March 2019; 40 (1): 81–103. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7259901
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