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Programme of Events 2019-20

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CRPLA Seminar

Location: Room S0.11, Social Sciences Building

Abtract: In L’Animal que je suis donc Jacques Derrida suggests that the question of what would be proper to the animal should “change tune.” At stake is a chromatic inflection of pitch that would pivot the tonality flatwards. I read this extraordinary passage, in which Derrida calls for us to lend an ear to an “unheard-of music” that neither emancipates the non-human nor condemns it to inarticulate noise, in conjunction with the nexus of animality, telephony, and the cri de la littérature that unfolds in Hélène Cixous’s writing. I explore the significant role assumed by the sonorous in these descriptions of non-human life. For Cixous, the telephonic power of near-instantaneous substitution and of prostheticity is inseparable from the sounds produced by the coterie of animals that populate the writings of these two authors: cats, dogs, wolves, lions, ants, bees, worms, swans, other birds, elephants, and even the mythical half-human, half-animal faun. What is intriguing is that this bestiary is almost always said with a certain homonymy or homophony. Hence this paper traces what I want to call a homofaunie echoing the series of puns and neologisms such as “(t)elefaun” and “(t)elephantasy” in Cixous’s Anankè which is so striking as to capture Derrida’s attention in H. C. pour la vie, c’est à dire…. I ask what is at stake for theorizing non-human life—not just animal but also plant and so-called inanimate life—if the mode of questioning is to be redirected by a specifically aural attunement in which listening itself is retuned under the guidance of untranslatable homophony. This has the effect of turning the multiplication and dissemination of non-human life—Derrida’s animots—towards the singularity of the idiom such that homofaunie complicates any attempt to draw boundaries between different forms of life as much as it unsettles all transferences.

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