Writing in fragments is often held to be one of the most distinctive signature effects of Romantic, modern, and postmodern literature. But what is the fragment, and what may be said to be its literary, philosophical, and political significance? Few writers have explored these questions with such probing radicality and rigorous tenacity as the French writer and thinker Maurice Blanchot.

For the first time in any language, this book explores in detail Blanchot’s own writing in fragments in order to understand the stakes of the fragmentary within philosophical and literary modernity. It attends in detail to each of Blanchot’s fragmentary works (Awaiting Forgetting, The Step Not Beyond, and The Writing of the Disaster) and reconstructs Blanchot’s radical critical engagement with the philosophical and literary tradition, in particular with Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Heraclitus, Levinas, Derrida, Nancy, Mallarmé, Char, and others, and assesses Blanchot’s account of politics, Jewish thought, and the Shoah, with a view to understanding the stakes of fragmentary writing in Blanchot and within philosophical and literary modernity in general.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: A Turning
1. A spectre
2. Writing the future
3. From fragment to fragmentary
4. The limits of nihilism
5. Radical suspension

Chapter Two: The Demand of the Fragmentary
1. A gift
2. A double voice
3. Presence without present

Chapter Three: An Interruption
1. From threshold to threshold
2. A step further
3. The law of return
4. Voice without voice
5. A politics of the fragmentary
6. Burying the dead

Chapter Four: Writing — Disaster
1. What is called disaster?
2. Another epoch
3. What happened
4. The youngest day

Chapter Five: A Change of Epoch



Leslie Hill,
Leslie Hill is Professor of French Studies at the University of Warwick, UK. He is the author of Beckett’s Fiction: In Different Words (Cambridge University Press, 1990), Marguerite Duras: Apocalyptic Desires (Routledge, 1993), Blanchot: Extreme Contemporary (Routledge, 1997), Bataille, Klossowski, Blanchot: Writing at the Limit (Oxford University Press, 2001) The Cambridge Introduction to Jacques Derrida (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and Radical Indecision: Barthes, Blanchot, Derrida, and the Future of Criticism (Notre Dame University Press, 2010). He is also the co-editor of After Blanchot: Literature, Philosophy, Criticism (University of Delaware Press, 2005).


"Maurice Blanchot and Fragmentary Writing is a remarkable study of the most extraordinary and enduring literary figure in twentieth-century France. An acknowledged authority on Blanchot and his peers, Leslie Hill guides the reader through some of the most difficult and exciting writing produced after the Second World War: his remarks on the imbrications of literature and philosophy are never less than illuminating. Any new book by Leslie Hill is an event in French Studies, and this one is no exception." -- Kevin Hart, Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Christian Studies in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia, USA

"What are fragments? Chips, flecks, scraps, orts, bits, grinds, clasts, shards, sherds, slivers, splinters, crumbs… a potentially infinite list, which is the point made by Leslie Hill's subtle and forceful meditation on Blanchot’s practice of the literary fragment. Such pulverulence contaminates everything, every whole comes undone until we face a more open future since it, too, is fragmentary." -Jean-Michel Rabaté, Vartan Gregorian Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania

"The importance and originality of the writings of Maurice Blanchot within French literature and thought over the last seventy-five years cannot be overestimated. In this timely new study, Leslie Hill turns his attention to Blanchot’s fragmentary writings, which are among the most challenging and hitherto least examined parts of Blanchot’s work. In this book, Hill succeeds in making Blanchot’s philosophical, literary, and political thinking concrete. With painstaking attention to text, context, and intertext, he illuminates Blanchot’s work with exceptional knowledge and insight. This outstanding book is at once the interpretation of a remarkable body of texts, the reconstitution of an epoch in thinking, and a sustained exploration of a literary form that, being fundamentally indeterminate, bears affirmative witness to the future." - Christophe Bident, author of Maurice Blanchot, partenaire invisible (Champ Vallon, France, 1998), professeur des universités at the Université de Picardie – Jules Verne

"Characterized by impeccable scholarship and profound theoretical and philosophical reach, Maurice Blanchot and Fragmentary Writing is the most sophisticated and advanced reading of Blanchot's later thinking and writing available. This book brings Blanchot's latent presence in contemporary thought to the foreground and advances it attentively and powerfully. It is an exemplary piece of critical reading and thought: endlessly insightful in relation to Blanchot's works and masterful in its movement between Blanchot and authors such as Husserl, Heidegger, Derrida and Klossowski. It takes critical engagement with Blanchot to a new level." -- Professor Christopher Fynsk, Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Thought, Director of the Centre of Modern Thought, the University of Aberdeen, UK

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