‘Our Heritage Was Left To Us Without A Testament— Or Is It The Other Way Around?’
A lecture by Rebecca Comay within the programme ‘The Promise and Compromise of Translation’
Monday, 29 February 2016 / 19:00
Live audio streaming
OCA is pleased to announce the lecture ‘Our Heritage Was Left To Us Without A Testament — Or Is It The Other Way Around?’ by Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature and Director of the Programme in Literary Studies at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, Canada, Rebecca Comay. The lecture is part of 'The Promise and Compromise of Translation', a four-day platform of reading groups and lectures taking place during winter and autumn 2016 that is dedicated to the seminal theorist Walter Benjamin (1892–1940).
About the lecture
Our Heritage Was Left To Us Without A Testament. Hannah Arendt repeatedly borrows this formula (from René Char) to capture what she takes to be the predicament of revolutionary modernity. Without a testament, without any symbolic means of transmitting the event, there is no way to bequeath the ‘treasure’ to future generations – no way to harvest its energy, to prolong its impact, or even to bear witness to what happened. The heritage of the revolution remains as inaccessible as a buried treasure left to us without map, navigation tools, or operating instructions. Here’s the thought experiment Comay would like to explore: what if Char’s formula needs to be reversed? What if the predicament is not intestacy, as Arendt suggests, but rather a kind of hyper-testamentarity – not a deficit but a surfeit of testamentary protocol? It is not that the thread has been broken and the family jewels scattered and inaccessible. On the contrary: we are overwhelmed by a surfeit of testamentary material. The past confronts us as a thicket of imperatives, injunctions, promises, exhortations, incitements, excitations – obscure messages from the dead, unsigned and undated but nonetheless time-stamped and indelibly addressed to us. What if the testament itself were the heritage – or rather, if there were no heritage, no patrimonial estate to settle, but only the pressure of a demand as enigmatic as it is insistent? It’s in this sense that Benjamin will speak, in the second Thesis on History, of a secret covenant, agreement, rendezvous, assignation or appointment between the dead and the living. This talk will explore some of the manifestations of this testamentary excess in Benjamin’s writings on history.
About the speaker
Rebecca Comay is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature and the Director of the Program in Literary Studies at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, Canada.
Tomorrow, on Tuesday 1 March 2016 at 19:00 Associate Professor in Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages at the University of California, Riverside, CA, USA, Jeffrey Sacks will give a lecture at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO). This is the second lecture within ‘The Promise and Compromise of Translation’. Click here for more information about the programme.
Please contact OCA’s Communication Manager Tara Hassel for more information.
ABOUT OCA'S ‘NOTATIONS’
‘The Promise and Compromise of Translation’ is part of OCA’s continuous programme ‘Notations’. OCA's ‘Notations' unfold as a series of programmatic activities – performing, writing, thinking, fragmenting, exhibiting, moving, eating and socialising – that explore the desire for the institution to reflect upon the potential for artistic practice as an alchemical sphere of public action.