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Configuring crisis : writing, madness, and the middle voice Katz, Yael

Abstract

By investigating the discursive rules of hermeneutics and diagnosis, this study seeks to problematize particular presuppositions—most notably the presupposition of sense—of the modern disciplinary hermeneutic context. Following Barthes's consideration of the Greek modus of the middle voice as a useful notion in conceptualizing the modern scene of writing, the study advances itself toward conceptualizing a configuration of the modern reading scene in its middle-voiced permutation. In such a scene, the moment a reading attempts to read itself from without its parameters, it arrives at a spatial and temporal crisis (from the Greek krin-ein; to decide) between its action and the place (of not sense and not not sense) which exceeds the parameters delimiting the action of reading itself, but which nevertheless conditions its possibility. The grammar of this crisis is the middle voice; its condition, in the context of this study, is configured as madness. Madness is thus configured as a function of interrogation, reading and diagnosis. At the nucleus of the modem reading scene itself, this thesis opens with an introduction of the terms middle voice, crisis and madness, and then offers a consideration of three permutations of reading: Chapter Two, Chapter Three and the space between. Chapter Two considers a fictional representation of writing in the middle voice through a reading of Nabokov's Lolita, a text of fiction in the form of a "mad writer's" diary, whose historical reception has been marked by acts of appropriative censorship and clinical diagnosis. Chapter Three considers a permutation of the middlevoiced reading through a reading of Gertrude Stein's lectures on writing. This consideration is framed by fragments from the writing of Maurice Blanchot, connecting reading (as conceived by Stein) to madness, figuring the convergence of reading and madness in writing. The Interchapter, between chapters Two and Three, is an aporetic space entitled "Madness Itself." By allowing a brief and partial view of the modem clinical psychiatric setting, and by calling into question the parameters of the surrounding "chapters" themselves, this section seeks to perform, structurally and thematically, a moment of crisis recalling the middle voice.

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