Prepositional Existence, Or Perhaps Only a Preposition can Save Us
"Through conceptual phrases that mobilize that very preposition, namely Levinas’s “face to face,” Derrida’s democracy-, justice-, and hospitality- “to-come,” Irigaray’s I love to you,” and Nancy’s “being-to,” I will draw out the preposition’s ontological, ethical, and political stakes. That is important today for our contemporary world, which, on the one hand, is so globally connected, and on the other, ironically splintering, given that more and more communities, countries even, are becoming inward-looking, closing themselves in, with alt-right ideologies, populist politics, anti-immigrant sentiments, and violent hate crimes. Clearly, we need a rethinking of existing in the world that reminds us of the multifarious reticulations of every existence with all others, one that reopens us to others and differences. I argue that the preposition “to” might do just that, wherefore we could begin to speak of “prepositional existence,” where “prepositional” can, or even must, also be understood as pre-positional, which recalls a mode of existing in its free and fluid movement prior to the taking up of any position, resisting the closure of existence within the walls of a fixed position that shuts out the rest of the world."
- Irving Goh
Irving Goh is President’s Assistant Professor of Literature at the National University of Singapore (NUS). He was Franke Visiting Fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University in the fall of 2018, and served as the Royal Society and British Academy’s Newton International Fellow in the Department of French at the University of Cambridge prior to joining NUS. He is the author of L’existence prépositionnelle, published by Galilée (2019), and The Reject: Community, Politics, and Religion after the Subject (Fordham UP, 2015), which won the MLA 23rd Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for French and Francophone Studies. He is currently completing Touching Literature, or the Experience of the Limit for Cornell UP, and a conversation book with Jean-Luc Nancy, provisionally titled The Deconstruction of Sex. His new project is on failure spanning twentieth and twenty-first century French thought and contemporary affect theory.
Co-sponsored by the Department of Comparative Literature and the Department of French Literature, Thought, and Culture