Lionel Ruffel: A Dangerous Book
Talk organized by the research project The Contemporary Condition at Aarhus University
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Kunsthal Aarhus, J.M. Mørks Gade 13, Aarhus C
“This is a dangerous book!” Or so announced Glenn Beck on Fox News, regarding the US publication of The Invisible Committee’s The Coming Insurrection. The so-called “Tarnac case” had crossed the Atlantic. In France, the case acted as a powerful indication of the stakes surrounding the contemporary circulation of texts. The starting point was nothing out of the ordinary: a book, called The Coming Insurrection, and some criminal intrigue: sabotaged train lines. The two are linked by readers—the police, the legal system, the political world—of the “bovaryan” kind, i.e. readers who, like Emma Bovary, cannot differentiate between the fictional space opened by a book and the space of action. The book thus becomes the key evidence for a case that plays out first in the media, then in the courts. But there is a problem: this book doesn’t have an official author, except for an invisible and imaginary committee. What is summoned here is the entire modern structure of ‘the literary’, which the contemporary has thrown into crisis. What is a book? What is a book without an author? Without visibility? Without rights of ownership? How should we use it? Can a book be legal evidence? What are its borders? For the modern structure of the literary is nothing less than the modern structure of ownership—in other words, the raison d’être of capitalism. These are the actual questions of the “Tarnac case”. And they are the fundamental literary questions of the new millennium, which go far beyond literature, since it addresses the question of fiction within a new regime of hyperpublication. A month after the trial’s verdict, this lecture traces their unfolding, from Kant to Fox News, via Tiqqun and the Invisible Committee."
Lionel Ruffel is a literary scholar and publisher, and the chair of Comparative Literature at Université Paris 8 where he is the founding director of the creative writing program. He has held the interdisciplinary Research Chair ‘Archaeology of the Contemporary’ at the Institut Universitaire de France (2011-2016). Among his recent projects, he has convened (together with artist Kader Attia) “Theory Now” at La Colonie in Paris, “The Publishing Sphere” at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin) and “Radio Brouhaha” at Pompidou Center, Paris. He is the founding editor of the online literary journal “chaoïd”, and of the subsequent book series “chaoïd” at Verdier publishing house. His books include Le Dénouement (2005); Volodine post-exotique (2007); and Brouhaha, Worlds of the Contemporary (2016 French, 2017 English). Lionel Ruffel has held visiting positions at the University of St-Andrews, Boston University, Moscow State University, Bern University of the Arts, and has been a Humboldt Fellow at the Peter Szondi Institute (Freie Universität/Berlin).
The lecture is free.