Towards the Impossibility of Childhood: Maurice Blanchot’s ‘(A primal scene?)’

Guilding, Beth. 2017. Towards the Impossibility of Childhood: Maurice Blanchot’s ‘(A primal scene?)’. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis traces a subtle, but central, concern of
Blanchot’s works: that of childhood and its relation to
the silence in language. Beginning with an in-depth
analysis of the commentary surrounding the fragment
from Blanchot’s text, The Writing of the Disaster
(1980), titled ‘(A primal scene?)’, our introduction and
first two chapters examines the way that Freud and
Blanchot come into conjunction with one another
through their shared focus on the importance of the
origin and its relation to the silence of the Other.

From here, we move into an examination of
Blanchot’s use of fragmentary writing. Our aim is to
demonstrate the manner in which the ‘secret’ in which
the child of ‘(A primal scene?)’ shall ‘live henceforth’
enters into a relationship with the ‘nondialectical’
Other; the Other that (or who) for Blanchot enables
language to be possible within the realms of the

This will lead us into an examination of the
theme of childhood as it occurs more generally
throughout Blanchot’s oeuvre. Examining the works of
Louis-René des Forêts alongside Blanchot’s texts ‘The
Last Word’ and A Voice from Elsewhere, we will argue
that, when Blanchot writes that childhood is the period
of ‘the impossibility of speaking’, he is gesturing
toward the way that childhood and death are
incorporated into the adult’s language through the
silence that both maintain within the Self.

We will conclude by arguing that, for Blanchot,
the reason that ‘every poet is Narcissus’ is because
every poet is turned away from herself in the act of
writing, thereby allowing the silence of childhood and
death to come forth as the ‘secret’ of language.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Additional Information:

Awaiting an edited version of the thesis with third-party copyright material removed. Printed copy of thesis will be available for reference in Goldsmiths library in due course (check catalogue).


Blanchot, primal scene, childhood, Freud, Levinas, Louis-René des Forêts, death, birth, psychoanalysis, philosophy, disaster

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

13 Feb 2017 11:37

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:12


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