[-empyre-] love and sacrifice

Owen J. Ware owen.ware at utoronto.ca
Tue Oct 7 11:21:31 EST 2008


Let me try to address your first question about the 'superfecundity'  
of love.  There's something of a paradox here.  On the one hand, there  
is what we might call the 'tyranny of love' as a force of speech or  
signification that, as you put it, 'assaults' us from every direction.  
  This is the threat I see Barthes struggling with: the threat of love  
becoming cliches.  For Barthe, love-cliches are a symptom of a deeper  
exclusion, perhaps the exclusion of an excess that animates love and  
its discourse.  The other half of the puzzle is that it doesn't seem  
there is anything else to love than its repetition.  So the force of  
repetition in love, the condition of possibility for love becoming  
banal, common-place, dead, is also the condition of possibility for  
its life and affirmation.

In my article, this is what I identify as the "Nietzschean" quality of  
love discourse.  For Barthes, it is the fact that "I love you" must  
also somehow mean "Let us begin again."  It must always be the  
affirmation of a repetition--not, however, the repetition of the same,  
but the repetition of the different.  This, then, would mean that love  
(as a discourse) has no 'content', unless we want to define that  
content in terms of an eternal return.  Perhaps this connects to your  
other questions.  Is the logic of sacrifice bound up with eternal  


Quoting Nicholas Ruiz III <editor at intertheory.org>:

> The signs of love are ubiquitous...we are assaulted by
> 'love'...it's superfecundity...perhaps this, alone, is
> its content?  Or else, we might ask, why hasn't it
> already disappeared, like, some might say, God?
> The love of exclusion by sacrifice, a sort of
> scapegoating, can be traced at least as far back as
> the ideology of ancient near east...via the scapegoat
> sacrifice, where the love or desire for a certain
> outcome is ensured by sending an animal off to its
> destruction, or of course, more directly, by bleeding
> an animal or human sacrifice.
> Considering some theses that posit 'love' as tainted
> with exclusivity of a religious variety (e.g. Girard's
> 'Violence and the Sacred,' Bataille's 'The Cruel
> Practice of Art' or Nirenberg's 'The Politics of Love
> and its Enemies' Critical Inquiry, V.33, No.3, 2007)
> that is, love generates enemies by exclusion; the
> loved excludes the unloved...we might ask: does love
> render solely an aporetic circumstance of human
> existence?
>> forwarded by our guest contributor, Owen Ware:
>> "Once a discourse is thus driven by its own momentum
>> into the backwater of the 'unreal', exiled from all
>> gregarity, it has no recourse but to become the
>> site,
>> however exiguous, of an affirmation."
>> - Roland Barthes, A Lover?s Discourse
>> Thirty years after Barthes wrote these words, we
>> must
>> ask: Can theory carry out this task of affirmation
>> today?  What conceptual resources are now available
>> to
>> bring love and its discourse back from exile?
>> The resources are multiple: we can speak of the
>> experience of love (phenomenology), its performative
>> forces (speech-act theory), its tensions in ethics
>> and
>> politics (feminism, Marxism, deconstruction).
>> But how do these resources become a site of
>> affirmation?  That is the question - and perhaps the
>> task - of thinking through the various
>> meanings, practices, and performances of love.
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