“Notre irrépressible désir du seuil”: Theory at the Threshold, Now

As Derrida points out in his famous polemic against Agamben in The Beast and the Sovereign I, the latter’s conceptual frivolity and historical reductionism point to the essential claim to sovereignty inherent in theory itself, driven by “our irrepressible desire for the threshold.” This essay responds to Derrida’s call for a rethinking of the figure of the threshold as a way of conceptualizing our position vis-à-vis the past. The essay explores how a certain highly potent and reductive version of the concept ended up in the theory toolbox. At the same time, it suggests how other meanings in the term’s history can lead us towards a humbler threshold, one that includes a sense of stumbling, failure, and creaturely entanglement. Mobilizing a popular folk etymology of the word, these two conceptual strands might be labeled “threshing” (referring to the utilitarian, outcome-oriented movement of the threshold as deployed within a muscular narrative of radical change), and “holding” (for a less muscular mode of inquiry predicated on slowing down and lingering at the threshold, which is no longer a foundation). In fact, the essay proposes, theory in the mode of “holding” is increasingly the “way we do theory now.”

Publication Date:
Jun 20 2019
Date Submitted:
Jul 30 2019
Exemplaria, 31, 2

Note: The file is under embargo until: 2020-12-30

 Record created 2019-07-30, last modified 2019-07-30

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