Religion, Repetition, Media

Samuel Weber

The title of these remarks consists of the two terms that bring us together in this Workshop, "Religion" and "Media", and in the middle, not the "media" but a third term: Repetition. A term that is not usually associated with the other two but which, perhaps, contains a key to their enigmatic and yet indissoluble relationship. To think the relation of Religion and Media today is, I submit, to reflect upon the history of the notion, and term, "repetition".

I call it a "notion" and a "term" in order not to call it a "concept". For I am not sure that the family of terms associated with this word forms a concept in any rigorous sense of that word. Rather, "repetition" and its various "faux amis"--répétition, Wiederholung, Gjentagelsen to name just a few - emerge and gain prominence precisely to the extent that they mark and re-mark a certain blockage of the concept, and of the various logics and projects to which it gives rise: above all, the logic of "identity" and the project of appropriation.

And it is this blockage, in turn, that gives rise to the configuration of "religion" and "media" that increasingly demands our attention and concern. Deleuze, in Difference and Repetition, distinguishes between two types of conceptual "blockage": the artificial, which involves the purely logical difference between the two moments of the concept, its self-identity, which Deleuze describes, significantly if enigmatically, as its "extension=1", and its generality, the fact that its self-identity implies "infinite comprehension", its applicability to an infinite number of (different) cases or objects. To this purely logical, "artificial" blockage of the concept Deleuze contrasts its "natural blockage" (blocage naturel). Far from being simply logical, the "natural " blockage is a result of a certain positioning or situating of the concept, which "se voit assigner de force une place dans l'espace et dans le temps". (DR, 22) This results in a << pullulement d'individus absolument identiques quant au concept, et participant de la même singularité dans l'existence (paradoxe des doubles ou des jumeaux) >> (22). Today, one would think of clones. But Deleuze, writing some thirty years ago, gives another instance of such << pullulation >>, no less apt for its having in the meanwhile become considerably less timely:

Le mot possède une compréhension nécessairement finie, puisqu'il est par nature objet d'une définition seulement nominale. Nous disposons là d'une raison pour laquelle la compréhension du concept ne peut pas aller à l'infini : on ne définit un mot que par un nombre fini des mots. Pourtant la parole et l'écriture, dont il est inséparable, donnent au mot une existence hic et nunc ; le genre passe donc à l'existence en tant que tel ; et là encore l'extension se rattrape en dispersion, en discrétion, sous le signe d'une répétition qui forme la puissance réelle du langage dans la parole et dans l'écriture. (22-23)

What distinguishes the so-called "natural" from the "artificial" blockage of the concept, then, is the degeneration of the generality of the concept into an irreducible proliferation of atoms, or better, words. Instead of the extendedness of the concept being contained and comprehended within the compass of its unity (Deleuze's formula is "extension = 1"), the extendedness of the concept is forced to come to terms with its situatedness, its localization, with a certain hic et nunc, a certain actuality. But such actuality can no longer be taken for granted as the "other" or "opposite" of virtuality. Hence, the intrusion of a certain movement, that Deleuze designates here as << pullulation >>.

What is particularly characteristic, then, about Deleuze's account of this blockage of the concept, is that it is in no way incompatible with the emergence of a certain movement or dynamics. But this movement can no longer be described or understood in terms of locomotion. It has no point of departure or goal of arrival. It is a movement away from, out of..., in which the logical immanence of the concept is "forced" out of its confines, its "extension" no longer being equal to "1". The situation of the concept is such that the latter finds itself hors de lui as words whose generality de-generates into the proliferation and profusion of other words.[1]

In short, what Deleuze thus announces, at the outset of Difference and Repetition, is an arresting of conceptual discourse that makes way for another movement of discursivity that will be more difficult to name, at least univocally. It is this blockage of the concept, unleashing a movement of dis-cursive, de-generative proliferation that sets the stage for the emergence of the media. For the media can only emerge, gain a certain visibility, in the chiaroscuro of the concept that has always sought to comprehend and contain it - for instance, as a middle or better, as what the apex of Western philosophy was designated as: Vermittlung, "mediation". To understand the media therefore is to retrace its emergence in the place and site of this mediation.


"Mediation" (Mediation) is a foreign word; "repetition" (Gjentagelse) is a good Danish word, and I congratulate the Danish language on a philosophical term. There is no explanation in our age as to how mediation takes place, whether it results from the motion of the two factors and in what sense it is already contained in them, or whether it is something new that is added."[2]

This celebration of the Danish language for providing a << good >> philosophical alternative to the dominant term of Hegelian dialectics, Vermittlung, punctuates sardonically the text in which it is situated. For in order to demonstrate just how "good" a philosophical word the Danish Gjentagelsen really is, Constantin Constantius, narrator of the text commonly translated as Repetition, is constrained precisely to leave his native home, and homeland and go abroad: back to Berlin, where he, like Kierkegaard, had spent his student days. This is how he describes his situation:

When I was occupied for some time ... with the question of repetition--whether or not it is possible, what importance it has, whether something gains or loses in being repeated--I suddenly had the thought: You can, after all, take a trip to Berlin; you have been there once before, and now you can prove to yourself whether a repetition is possible and what importance it has. At home I had been practically immobilized by this question. Say what you will, this question will play a very important role in modern philosophy, for repetition is a crucial expression for what "recollection" was to the Greeks. Just as they thought that all knowing is a recollecting, modern philosophy will teach that all life is a repetition. ... Repetition and recollection are the same movement, except in opposite directions, for what is recollected has been, is repeated backward, whereas genuine repetition is recollected forward. Repetition, therefore, if it is possible, makes a person happy, whereas recollection makes him unhappy--assuming, of course, that he gives himself time to live and does not promptly at birth find an excuse to sneak out of life again, for example, that he has forgotten something. (131)

Constantin not only accurately predicts the future of modern philosophy: he also foreshadows the future of modern media, in more ways than one. Here, for example, his concluding "example", demonstrating ex negativo how repetition must make humans happy, foreshadows the litany of modern media advertising: "Stay with us ... we'll be back in a moment, after this brief message." "Don't go away, we'll be right back..." "Ne coupez pas..."

In media advertising - and such messages are increasingly inseparable from the media - the promise of happiness is tied to repetition under the same conditions that Constantin describes: the condition of staying tuned in. Recollection, he asserts, is nostalgic, elegiac, turned towards what has been, the past, whereas repetition is open to the possibility of the future, to the future as possibility. But as usual, things are not so simple, for possibility is not only a source of happiness or of hope, as Constantin's "report" will amply demonstrate. Or indeed as it has already begun to demonstrate, from its opening lines. For the book begins by retelling the strange anecdote of Diogenes' seeking to refute the Eleatics' denial of motion by the simplest of means: by moving. Or rather, by "literally stepping up" (optraadte virkelig) and "merely pacing back and forth a few times, thereby assuming he had sufficiently refuted them". And yet, for all of its literal immediacy, this optraede, like the German Auftritt, also marks an eminently theatrical gesture: a stepping up that is also a stepping out onto the stage, before an audience. It is this very particular kind of step (traede) that ushers in the strange story of Constantin Constantius, a story that is "strange" not so much because of its content - it has very little - but because of its inability to get its act together and become a true story with beginning, middle and end. What is remarkable, however, is that Diogenes optraede or Auftritt marks the story of repetition as, from its very inception, a scenario, one in which the scene, the setting and the situation are as significant as the events and figures that are depicted thematically.

The sort of theater that is at work in this text is not perhaps what we might expect. Diogenes attempted refutation of the Eleatics, by walking up and down, back and forth, recalls, in English at least, the celebrated "refutation" of Bishop Berkeley by Samuel Johnson, who thought he could demonstrate the reality of material objects by kicking a stone, getting a bruised foot in the process. Whether Kierkegaard, who is explicitly concerned with Hegel rather than with Berkeley. But the abrupt jump from the story of Diogenes to the situation of Constantin suggests a discrepancy between the universal concepts of philosophy and the singular concerns of individuals. What for the Eleatics was a question of Being itself encounters Constantin in a far more immediate manner. He is, quite simply, stuck: "At home I had been practically immobilized by this question" of repetition. And so, Constantin will have to leave home and go to Berlin, back to Berlin, in the search of an answer to this question. But in returning to Berlin, he does not simply forget about "home": like Diogenes, his movement seems to describe an oscillation, back and forth, to and fro. And the more intensely he seeks an answer to the question of repetition, the more insistently he is confronted with the idea of home:

When this had repeated itself several days, I became so furious, so weary of the repetition, that I decided to return home. My discovery was not significant, and yet it was curious, for I had discovered that there simply is no repetition and had verified it by having it repeated in every possible way.

My hope lay in my home ... I could be fairly certain of finding everything in my home prepared for repetition. (171)

But in returning home, to his home away from home in Berlin, Constantin is confronted by an unexpected situation: "everything was turned upside down". His servant had taken advantage of his absence to clean the entire apartment and confronted by the sudden appearance of his master, "he did not know what to do; he slammed the door in my face. That was too much. My desolation had reached its extremity, my principles had collapsed... I perceived that there is no repetition..." (171)

Any attempt to discuss a text as complex and as disjunctive as this one in a very restricted time and space, can only add to the confusion. But as those of you who may remember this text will confirm, the disjunctive, slapstick, parodic quality of its scenario is not something that is peculiar to a selective résumé such as the kind I am presenting here: it belongs to the very tonality and texture of Gjentagelsen itself. And indeed, a major reason for this disjunctive quality has to do with this "good Danish word" itself, which can not simply be translated into English as "repetition" without losing a decisive dimension of its specificity. If the question of Gjentagelsen could have so blocked Constantin Constantius and generate so much passion, hope and disappointment, this is tied to the fact that in Danish it does not simply designate "recurrence". The word is composed of two roots, tagelse, like the English "take", and "gjen-", "again". The question(s) of Gjentagelsen: Is it possible? What is its significance? What are its ramifications? - all only come into focus when we remember that, as opposed to recollection, which "begins with loss" (136), Gjentagelsen is directed toward the future, towards the possibility of taking back. It is precisely this possibility that Constantin's "experiment" forces him to renounce:

As if my great talk, which I now would not repeat at any price [although he has just finished "repeating" and recounting it - SW] were only a dream from which I awoke to have life unremittingly and treacherously retake (tage ... igjen) everything it had given without providing a repetition (en Gjentagelse). (172)

The question, then, which immobilized Constantin Constantius "at home" and forced him to return to Berlin in the search of an answer - that question has to do not merely with repetition as recurrence, but with Gjentagelse as the possibility of taking back, of recuperating what has been lost. Constantin's "experiment" leads to paradoxical results because the question of repetition as Gjentagelsen is not susceptible of a clear-cut, univocal answer, the kind of answer that judges, and prosecutors and media journalists like to insist on, an unambiguous "Yes" or "No". Yes repetition is possible, but no, it is not possible as the re-taking, recuperating, as the reappropriation of what has been lost. "The only repetition was the impossibility of a repetition"(170) - this exasperated conclusion responds to the second exemplary site that Constantin visits in his search: not the "home" but its antithesis, the theater. And not just any theater, but the Königstädter Theater.

What is so special about the Königstädter Theater? Quite simply that it is not the traditional theater of tragedy or of comedy, but rather of a particularly disreputable (although venerable) form of theatrical performance, which is usually translated in English as farce, but which in Danish, as in German, is called Posse. In certain decisive aspects the description of the Possen at the Königstädter Theater marks the shift from the traditional aesthetic categories of art and drama to a form that foreshadows that of our contemporary media. The very word, Posse, puts us on the track of what is distinctive about this type of medium. The word comes from the French word, bosse, a dent or hump, a figure that is set off from the norm, if not from "itself". Posse or Possen thus comes to designate nonsensical, absurd, grotesque behavior, practical jokes and the like. In philosophical language, the key to the Posse, and what distinguishes it from all tragedy and comedy, is the irreducible disjunction of general and singular, what in this text is precisely designated as "accidental concretion" (163). Precisely the reunion or reconciliation of general and particular in the aesthetic work is rejected by the Posse, which thus cannot be measured by traditional aesthetic categories or expectations:

Every general esthetic category runs aground on farce; nor does farce succeed in producing a uniformity of mood in the more cultured audience. Because its impact depends largely on self-activity and the viewer's improvisation, the particular individuality comes to assert himself in a very individual way and in his enjoyment is emancipated from all esthetic obligations to admire, to laugh, to be moved, etc. in the traditional way. [...] A proper theater public generally has a certain restricted earnestness; it wishes to be ... ennobled and educated in the theater. It wishes [...] to be able to know in advance what is going to happen that evening. Such unanimity cannot be found at a farce, for the same farce can produce very different impressions [...] Seeing a farce can produce the most unpredictable mood, and therefore a person can never be sure whether he has conducted himself in the theater as a worthy member of society who has laughed and cried at the appropriate places. (159-160)

The very notion of the "appropriate place" is subverted in a theater that suspends all conventional rules through the singular qualities of its performance.

Constantin describes two very different and yet related aspects of his experience of this performance which, taken in tandem, not merely frame the parameters of the contemporary experience of media, but also suggestively illuminate its relation to "religion".

The first experience is his account of one of the great actors - or rather, as he puts its, "generative geniuses" (161) -- of the Königstädter Theater: Beckmann. Beckmann's genius

Does not distinguish [it]self by character portrayal but by ebullience of mood. He is not great in the commensurables of the artistic but ... in the incommensurables of the individual. He does not need the support of interaction, of scenery and staging ... he himself brings everything along (bringer han Alt selv med) At the same time that he is being inordinately funny, he himself is painting his own scenery as well as a stage designer...

How does Beckmann achieve this remarkable quality of producing his own scenery and stage? What sort of stage-designer is he? To respond to this we have to go back to the Danish text, since what is most peculiar and significant about Beckmann has to do with the singular way he moves on the stage, and unfortunately, in the English translation at least, what tends to disappear is precisely a certain disappearance. This is the crucial passage:

What Baggesen says of Sara Nickels, that she comes rushing on stage with a rustic scene in tow, is true of B. in the positive sense, except that he comes walking. In an art theater proper, one rarely sees an actor who can really walk and stand. As a matter of fact, I have seen only one, but what B. is able to do, I have not seen before. He is not only able to walk, but he is able to come walking (komme gaaende). To come walking is something very distinctive... (163)

To "come walking" is very distinctive, because "walking" is not simply walking in Danish: not for nothing is the phrase set in italics in Kierkegaard's text. To "come walking" is, literally, komme gaaende, a phrase which, in Danish as in German, plays on the ambiguity of the word "to go", gaaen, which means both to walk and to go, leave. The use of the present participle stresses the strange temporality of this movement as a kind of virtual actuality: a present that splits off and suspends itself in a reiteration that is never complete. The present participle can therefore not be situated like the present indicative, for it entails an appearing that is simultaneously an apparition: to come going is to come leaving, to come and go at one and the same time. The theatrical, farcical, mediatic movement of Beckmann is thus very different from Diogenes walking to and fro, back and forth, or even from Constantin's oscillation, in which contradictory movements alternate: coming or going, possible or impossible, repetition or recollection. Beckmann, by contrast, only arrives insofar as he leaves and it is precisely this coincidence that constitutes his "generative genius". In coming-going, Beckman "brings with" him not just other human figures: "a wandering apprentice" for instance, but an entire world that consists as much of places and ways as of people and things: the "dusty highway, quiet noise ... the footpath that goes down by the village pond when one turns off there by the blacksmith's..."

There is no time today to follow the peculiar response that this singular performance elicits in Constantin, an "unheimlich" experience of "sitting alone in your box" in a theater that seems "empty"; of feeling totally isolated and yet totally at home: "You have gone to the theater not as a tourist, not as an esthete and critic but, if possible, as a nobody, and you are satisfied to sit as comfortably and well, almost as well, as in your own living room." And yet, it is a strange and uncanny living room indeed, for "everywhere I looked there was mainly emptiness. Before me the vast space of the theater changed into the belly of the whale in which Jonah sat...I could see nothing but the expanse of theater, hear nothing but the noise in which I resided" (166). The coming-going of Beckmann takes place in a theatrical space that is as exhilarating as it is anxiety producing. The Biblical reference seeks to incorporate the emptiness as the belly of the whale, scene of a story. The uncanny spaciousness of the theater, the coming-going of Beckmann, incite Constantin to abandon himself and his body, as though it "were an abandoned hiking stick," lost in a laughter that blinds rather than sees: "Only at intervals did I rise up, look at Beckmann, and laugh so hard that I sunk back again in exhaustion alongside the foaming stream." The situation here is quite literally that of being alongside, beside oneself, just as Beckmann's dancing and laughing places him "completely beside himself" (164).

It is this experience of space as the medium which is beside itself, as space itself being beside itself, that was at the heart of Walter Benjamin's initial attempt to think the "mediality" of language as what he called, in German, Mitteilbarkeit, im-part-ability, thus designating the possibility of a medium (here: language) to divide and distribute itself, and in so doing, to im-part itself. The so-called "communicability" of the medium, its ability to communicate, is predicated upon its capacity to "come-going," to arrive-leaving, to with-draw. This constitutes a very different approach to the question of the medium, and the media, from that which had dominated Western philosophy from Aristotle to Hegel. The main tendency of the Aristotelian concept of the medium, (( ((((((, is that of an interval, a space between constituted and preexisting poles or points: a space, in short, whose emptiness is framed by that which is not empty, such that a continuum results. Aristotle's notion of medium is thus oriented upon a certain interpretation of visual perception, which is clearly demonstrated in the following passage from Book II of his treatise On the Soul (Tes Psyches):

Democrates is mistaken in thinking that even a mite in the sky would be clearly visible if the medium were empty; this is impossible. For sight consists in the capacity of seeing being affected; since this capacity cannot be affected immediately by the color that is seen, only the medium is left to make it possible. This is why there must be a medium. And indeed, if the space in between were empty, sight would not only not be more precise: it would be impossible. (II, 419a)

Aristotle thus introduces the notion of the medium as a condition of continuity and constancy - exactly what Constantin Constantius would like to define as the possibility of repetition. But instead of such continuity, he encounters disjunction and doubling in the theatrical "coming-going" of Beckmann. The clear-cut separation of "recollection" and "repetition" breaks down with all other distinct oppositions, producing an uncanny, unheimlich home that is empty in its very plenitude, isolated in its separateness.

If this uncanniness describes the first trait or feature of the "media", whether that of performances in the Königstädter Theater, or that of the electronic media of our time, Constantin's response to it points to the second parameter that serves to frame, and contain, the uncanniness. It takes the form of the recognition of a figure, directly vis-à-vis from where he is sitting in the theater:

Then in the wilderness surrounding me I saw a figure that cheered me more than Friday cheered Robinson Crusoe. In the third row of a box directly across from me sat a young girl, half hidden by an older gentleman and lady sitting in the first row. The young girl had hardly come to the theater to be seen ... She sat in the third row; her dress was simple and modest, almost domestic. She was not wrapped in sable and marten but in a voluminous scarf, and out of this sheath her humble head bowed... When I had watched Beckmann and let myself be convulsed with laughter ... my eyes sought her and the sight of her refreshed my whole being with its friendly gentleness. Or when in the farce itself a feeling of greater pathos burst forth, I looked at her, and her presence helped me to yield to it, for she sat composed in the midst of it all, quietly smiling in childlike wonder. (166-167)

This image of a young girl, sitting "directly across from" Constantin, calms and reassures him, gives him a point of reference and of orientation, as though her appearance were protected, by its voluminous wrappings: by the "sheath" of her "scarf", sitting in the third row, barely visible, and yet all the more striking. This feminine figure of youth and innocence fascinates Constantin Constantius who sees in it the very constancy that he fails to find in or as repetition. The image of the girl returns to him as a source of consolation and repose, promising a life without loss and a time without trace:

Fortunate the one who can rise from his bed as if no one had rested there, so that the bed itself is cool and delicious and refreshing to look at, as if the sleeper had not rested upon it but only bent over it to straighten it out! Fortunate the one who can die in such a way that even one's deathbed, the instant one's body is removed, looks more inviting than if a solicitous mother had shaken and aired the covers so that the child might sleep more peacefully. Then the young girl appears and walks around in wonderment... (168)


Since my time is growing short, I will try to come quickly to a conclusion. Without being able to argue it at length, I will simply assert, as a hypothesis for investigation, that the yearning for repose and consolation that Constantin describes here, and that he identifies with the figure of the young girl, marks the point where the experience of the modern media converges with a certain "return" of the religious, if not of religions. Like all technology, the development of the electronic media follows the ambivalent law, or graphics, of prosthetic supplementarity: an "extension" of human capacities, it simultaneously distances and undermines what it extends, exacerbating the vulnerabilities of the finitude that it seeks to alleviate and protect. Long before the actual emergence of specifically electronic media, its advent was prepared by a notion of theatrical writing: of writing as theater and theater as inscription, as Posse, effacing the contents of its representations in a movement of media was being articulated, as here by Kierkegaard, that was specifically tied to a practice of writing and a performance of theater. Not a theater dominated by the teleological narrative of a plot, nor one dependent upon the dialectic of dramatic conflict, but a theater of farce, of Posse, in which performance ceases to be primarily representation and becomes linked with transport, passage and partition. In this movement, the place of the spectator, audience, takes on a constitutive significance and it is this address to the other that links writing and theater to what we call "religion".

"Religion": a word that, as Jacques Derrida has recently reminded us (in "Foi et savoir...") is anything but simple or unambiguous. It has at least "two sources" and those sources are situated "at the limits of mere reason". In his Vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes, a text cited extensively by Derrida, Emile Benveniste insists on the absence of any single origin or unified lexical antecedent to this term, religion. Instead, he recalls that two semantic fields are generally considered to be the origins of the Latin, religio, dividing scholarship from classical times to the present: the Ciceronian interpretation deriving religio from legere, to gather or assemble (<< cueillir, rassembler >>) and the version of Lactance and Tertullian, explaining "religio par ligare, << lier >>, II, 268. Without being able here to pursue further Benveniste's fascinating elaboration and transformation of these two competing origins, which in turn is reworked by Derrida in the text we will be discussing tomorrow morning, I want only to suggest that despite the age-old dispute between these two possibilities, legere and ligare can both be seen as mutually dependent aspects of the singularly aporetic configuration of repetition we have begun to discern in Kierkegaard: A configuration that stages the "possibilities" of repetition as dimensions of an experience that is both theatrical and scriptural: theatrographic, if you will.

What Benveniste completely ignores, however, is precisely what Derrida, in Foi et savoir...calls attention to: " Finalement, c'est dans le lien à soi, marqué par l'énigmatique << re-<< , qu'il faudrait peut-être tenter de ressaisir le passage entre ces différentes significations (re-legere, re-ligare, re-spondeo. >> And Derrida cautions: "Toutes les catégories dont nous pourrions nous servir pour traduire le sens commun de ce << re-<< seraient inadéquates, et d'abord parce qu'elles -introduiraient ce qui reste à définir comme déjà défini dans la définition. >> (FS, p. 51-52) Unless, perhaps the category itself re-marks its own necessary relation to a certain re-turn, to what Derrida calls "la loi d'itérabilité".

It is the refusal of a certain meaningfulness, of a certain narrative teleology as the constituent of self-contained meaning, that marks the theatricality of the farce, of the Posse. But at the same time, and inversely, it is the search for a certain meaning, to attribute to such farce, that marks, according to Nietzsche at least, the invention of the Gods. From the Genealogy of Morals:

What really makes suffering intolerable is not the suffering itself but its senselessness: but neither for the Christian, who interpreted an entire secret salvation-machinery into suffering, nor for the naive person of ancient times, who sought to explain all suffering with reference to spectators or perpetrators of suffering (for neither of these) was suffering meaningless. In order that hidden, undiscovered, unwitnessed suffering might be banned from the world and honorably negated, one was at that time virtually obliged to invent Gods and hybrid beings (Zwischenwesen) in the depths and the heights, in short, something that also moves about in hiding, that also sees in the dark and that is not liable to miss an interesting, if painful, spectacle (Schauspiel). [...] The Gods construed as friends of cruel spectacles - oh, how far does this venerable notion extend into our European (culture of) humanization (Vermenschlichung).[3]

The ,,spectator" thus emerges as the aporetic site not just of legere as gathering-together, and ligere as binding, but of the ,,enigmatic re-,, that binds and collects such a movement of binding and collecting, but only by at the same time separating them from themselves. And this, perhaps, explains how Benveniste can arrive at his conclusion, that "au total, la religio est une hésitation qui retient, un scrupule qui empêche," (270), and also how Derrida, interpreting and modifying this position, can suggest that a certain tendency of interruption and suspension, a certain "halte", might constitute "non pas << la Religion >>, mais une structure universelle de la religiosité >> (FS, 66-67, my italics - SW).

For the position of the spectator, as in the Königstädter Theater, but also as "audience" of the modern media, is marked by such incompatibility. The spectator is called upon to frame the spectacle and give it meaning, but at the same time the spectator is only a part of the show and never the whole. And above all, the spectator is never merely a spectator, any more than merely a performer, and at the same time, a bit of both.

Were there time, it would have been illuminating, perhaps, to follow out the role of the spectator-narrator, Constantin Constantius, as he moves from the discovery of the "impossibility" of repetition to the account, ostensibly more positive, of his "nameless friend's" encounter with Job, beginning with his wonderment at the latter's words, "The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord". We would perhaps have been able to follow how the division into spectator and actor, nameless friend and named mentor, poetry and religion, farce (Posse) and trial (Pr(velse) - how all these apparently clear-cut oppositions break down progressively, or regressively, or digressively, and in their wake how something akin to Nietzsche's Zwischenwesen emerges; just as Constantin acknowledges, in his bitter recognition of the impossibility of repetition, that nothing really distinguishes him any more from his interlocutor, the "anonymous" young man: "indeed, it seemed as if I were that young man myself."

What announces itself, in such dubious acts of recognition, is not so much a new self-consciousness as the emergence of that which defies all self-consciousness: those Zwischenwesen that mark not merely hybrid beings, but the growing sense that being itself must be thought as hybrid and heterogeneous. The "return of the religious" both confirms and reacts against the increasing power of the Zwischen. Its reaction is often, but by no means always, dangerously destructive, seeking to reinstate the priority of identity, the pure, the "unscathed", but in the process demonstrating and documenting the depth of the transformation it seeks to resist. The hallmark of this more easily identifiable reactive quality of the "return of the religious" is its tendency not to reject the media simply but rather to seek to instrumentalize them and thereby to bring them back into the framework of the Aristotelian interval, the englobing Zwischenraum rather than the Zwischenwesen. But if this is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the "return of the religious", it is surely not the only one. We will want to investigate very carefully alternative "responses" of such a complex and variegated phenomenon. But whatever questions we raise, the notion of the "between" can perhaps serve as a useful guide in judging the nature of such responses, of such "returns", mindful of the fact that the question of the Zwischen entails an organization of space and of situation even before it does one of things, places and people.

Paris, December 14, 1997 Samuel Weber

[1] Note on snak, Chatter, Fenves...Genet quote.

[2] S(ren Kierkegaard, Repetition, p. 149. Gjentagelsen, SO, XXX

[3] Nietzsche, Werke, Bd. II, Hanser Verlag: 1960, S. 809-10. My translation - SW.