Digressions on Falling: Departing from the work of Henri Michaux

Berkay Ustun

Reviewed by Ben Bascom

14 Nov 2017

Antony Gormley, DOMAIN XI (FREEFALL), 2000
6 mm square section mild steel bar. 165 x 160 x 80 cm
© The artist. Reproduced with permission.

Bal­ance is supe­ri­or to all our cat­e­gories
Hen­ry Corbin

Not know­ing what to fear more: touch­ing the bot­tom or not touch­ing the bot­tom. If I blank in touch down, then it must be a big fall. In any touch what­so­ev­er the blank evokes a fall too. What is more, falling is the most law­ful thing there is, yet it feels unnat­ur­al and unfore­seen and is expe­ri­enced as a void­ing of law.

Falling has a phys­i­ol­o­gy. Across lan­guages, falling also has a dic­tio­nary-worth of words to its name — some of them untrans­lat­able— relat­ing to its dif­fer­ent stages and vari­a­tions: cadere, decid­u­ous, case, trip, drop, Ern­st­fall, Zufall, befall, Ein­fall, and so on. Yet is there a log­ic to falling? A time, a meta­physics, an ethics, an aes­thet­ics? I guess one can only use hyper­boles to account for falling, or per­haps this is a place where hyper­boles are more appro­pri­ate, a rhetor­i­cal form of extrav­a­gance meet­ing the extrav­a­gance in the expe­ri­ence and form of spa­tial­i­ty prop­er to falling.

Can one con­trol a fall, and if so, how much so? Is there a skill or tech­nique to a fall? Get­ting bet­ter at falling-like, falling bet­ter? Not falling and the con­trol over the body that involves are famil­iar, but to what extent can falling itself be reclaimed from its ordi­nary accom­pa­ni­ment by con­vul­sive urgency, in the­o­ret­i­cal real­iza­tion, per­haps, of the car­toon char­ac­ter’s brief, uncon­cerned habi­ta­tion of the falling interval?

Falling is a logic

Let’s say, the con­cept of a falling, a uni­ver­sal­i­ty in falling, or the essence of falling, as the source, lim­it and cul­mi­na­tion of indi­vid­ual fallings, is a promi­nent insuf­fi­cien­cy of lan­guage. For falling to enter a log­ic and know­ing, if it falls into these cat­e­gories, is to intro­duce —in its own falling way — dis­tor­tions and insen­si­ble rip­ples to this form of cap­ture by the uni­ver­sal. Falling can only be a labored and endan­gered uni­ver­sal­i­ty, a labored insti­tu­tion. The sin­gu­lar falls into the type, and the type is cracked a lit­tle. The tum­ble of sin­gu­lar­i­ties can be addressed by sim­ply stat­ing that there is no one fall, even if every­thing were to fall. Falling demands the incon­tro­vert­ible pri­ma­cy of the case” over what­ev­er would tend to absorb it, know­ing that the casus, the chance, is a fall. Falling is a labor­ing of log­ic at the hands of the most irrecus­able his­to­ry, its tum­bling exam­ples always out­liers, always falling short and unequal.

The type of falling cor­re­sponds to the fact that one thinks one under­stands what’s meant by a fall, and the crack is what this propo­si­tion invites in the sense of a ver­ti­go of exemplarity.

Falling is a poet­ic physiology

Every­thing falls, yet when I fall a par­tic­u­lar and ded­i­cat­ed sys­tem is engaged in my phys­i­ol­o­gy: the vestibu­lar sys­tem that is the unap­pre­ci­at­ed” fac­tor of bal­ance, the priv­i­leged task organ” where the sense of a loss of bal­ance is con­sti­tut­ed. Accord­ing to a New York Times arti­cle by Natal­ie Ang­i­er, a spe­cial­ist named Dr. Mer­feld describes this organ” by say­ing, It’s almost the absence of some­thing rather than the pres­ence.”1 So, falling would be a sen­si­tive absence, or a lacu­nary organ being dis­turbed. Oth­er com­men­ta­tors point out how the vestibu­lar sys­tem plays an active role both in self-oth­er dis­tinc­tions and in self-oth­er con­nec­tions through empa­thy. The phys­i­ol­o­gy of the vestibu­lar sys­tem is an absence that ensures a sin­gu­lar point of view and the capac­i­ty of that point of view to open up to oth­ers, where­as its dis­tur­bance is the dis­tur­bance of the absence that ensures a sin­gu­lar point of view and its nor­mal open­ings to the oth­ers, caus­ing pos­si­ble breach­es of integri­ty through col­lo­ca­tions and mis­at­tri­bu­tions. The capac­i­ty of expro­pri­a­tion is affect­ed, with­out this mean­ing a being led back to identity.

A hor­i­zon­tal falling sense that is respon­si­ble for empa­thy gets skewed. Some research, we are told, showed that vestibu­lar self-motion per­cep­tion (mea­sured on a whole-body motion plat­form impos­ing pas­sive motions to the body) was influ­enced by the obser­va­tion of videos show­ing pas­sive whole-body motion of a body,” putting into play the loop between see­ing and this elu­sive sense of inte­ri­or bal­ance.2 More­over, this effect was cor­re­lat­ed with scores of empa­thy: sub­jects that were the most empath­ic were more influ­enced by the obser­va­tion of anoth­er body being moved pas­sive­ly.”3 An imme­di­ate take away seems to be, if too empath­ic, don’t look at any­one or any­thing dan­ger­ous­ly lean­ing.” The report sums up an ordi­nary expe­ri­ence of oth­er-sen­si­tive ver­ti­go, not iden­ti­cal with but not entire­ly unre­lat­ed to the warn­ing Lud­wig Wittgen­stein makes against play­ing with the depths of anoth­er,” turn­ing it into a much more every­day and lit­er­al risk than one realizes.

In dis­tur­bance, then, a falling of one’s own is under­gone as the falling of oth­ers — or alter­na­tive­ly, anoth­er’s fall is under­gone as one’s own fall, ulti­mate­ly rais­ing the ques­tion whether one’s self real­ly falls at all when one falls. Falling is a nat­ur­al equiv­a­lent for the sen­ti­ments of a poet like John Clare, as when he writes strange scenes mere shad­ows are to me, / Vague imper­son­i­fy­ing things” (“A Flit­ting”). A use­ful term exists for this sit­u­a­tion of con­fu­sion, instanced in falling and ver­ti­go in the place of an oth­er: syn­cret­ic socia­bil­i­ty,” adopt­ed by Mau­rice Mer­leau-Pon­ty from the psy­chol­o­gist Hen­ri Wal­lon. Mer­leau-Pon­ty writes, Syn­cretism here is the indis­tinc­tion between me and the oth­er, a con­fu­sion at the core of a sit­u­a­tion that is com­mon to us both.”4 After Wal­lon’s exam­ple, which asso­ci­at­ed this expe­ri­ence of space with a spe­cif­ic devel­op­men­tal stage for the child, Mer­leau-Pon­ty illus­trat­ed it by describ­ing sit­u­a­tions in which any atti­tude tak­en toward the child imme­di­ate­ly pro­vokes in him the com­ple­men­tary atti­tude”5 while nev­er­the­less allow­ing for late adult break­outs of the same, which is the case that inter­ests me here.

A syn­cret­ic socia­bil­i­ty is a vestibu­lar social­i­ty, a poten­tial com­mu­ni­ty of falling, and vice ver­sa, a com­mu­ni­ty of falling (not always one of grav­i­ty, mind you) can only be a form of syn­cret­ic socia­bil­i­ty: How­ev­er, one must not look too much to the top of the pines being blown by strong wind. For if one begins to imag­ine one­self seat­ed on their apex, in such a bal­anc­ing act, one could, and even more nat­u­ral­ly than if one were to find one­self on a swing (or in an elevator)…due to the strange and superb move­ment up there, feel one­self car­ried away.”6

One thing vestibu­lar social­i­ty implies is sim­ply the pos­si­bil­i­ty of sep­a­rat­ing a fall from sub­tend­ing molar, cor­po­re­al move­ment as such, high­light­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty that one can feel the fall with­out (falling) the fall. This in itself is a phys­i­o­log­i­cal con­se­quence to the extent that vestibu­lar sen­sors func­tion with­out exter­nal ref­er­ences (besides Earth’s grav­i­ty), i.e., with­out allo­cen­tric or ego­cen­tric ref­er­ences, in con­trast with the visu­al and somatosen­so­ry cod­ing of motion,” amount­ing to an absolute body motion” dis­tinct from the rel­a­tiv­i­ty of exter­nal ref­er­ences.7 In oth­er words, phys­i­ol­o­gy presents the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an absolute motion that can be acti­vat­ed with­out a mea­sure of dis­place­ment with regard to exter­nal ref­er­ences, illus­trat­ing in action what some would call an inten­sive” rela­tion. At this junc­ture, oth­er vis­cer­al derange­ments have also been dis­cussed by writ­ers whose inter­est in phys­i­ol­o­gy was not pro­fes­sion­al, but no less pen­e­trat­ing for that, because there must be such a thing as a vestibu­lar imag­i­nary after all, if one takes the word of the anthro­pol­o­gist André Leroi-Gourhan, attest­ing to how vari­a­tions of the mus­cu­lar sen­si­bil­i­ty can bring about an imag­i­nary uni­verse from which weight and bal­ance have been ban­ished.”8 As will be seen in more depth in the fol­low­ing, this imag­i­nary has a sui gener­is pro­po­nent in Hen­ri Michaux: When I eat lit­tle, I sense falls in myself [je sens en moi des chutes]. Just now, that bot­tle which was falling, I believed at first that it was me. It was­n’t me. I nev­er break. I go through the floor with­out resis­tance at the speed of a stone. Soon enough I hit a lay­er of gneiss or some bone from the Pleis­tocene, and very solid­ly, I remain there.”9 Michaux falls, then, with­out falling, at the spon­ta­neous prompt­ing of objects, as in the pines above and the bot­tle here. And he falls through time when he falls.

Antony Gormley, STILL FALLING, 1983
Portland stone. 203 x 50 x 15 cm
Permanent installation, Tout Quarry Sculpture Park, Dorset, England
© The artist. Reproduced with permission.

Falling is a time

What are the priv­i­leged forms of tem­po­ral­i­ty open to nego­ti­a­tion under falling? Michaux’s vestibu­lar imag­i­na­tion already sets the stakes quite high, claim­ing that, as much as time can sed­i­ment and take the form of earth­ly mate­r­i­al stra­ta, one can fall all the way to oth­er geo­log­i­cal ages, the rela­tion­ship and rad­i­cal non­si­mul­tane­ity there­by estab­lished becom­ing pos­si­ble only through a form of falling.

Thus, falling is some­how poised to medi­ate the most dis­con­tin­u­ous —since one only falls from a con­ti­nu­ity— and the most con­tin­u­ous forms of tem­po­ral scan­sion, along with the dif­fer­ent scales involved. The great log­i­cal prob­lem of the con­ti­nu­ity of dis­con­ti­nu­ity that engross­es dialec­ti­cians is present in non­propo­si­tion­al form in a fall.

Look­ing clos­er, among all the oth­er aspects of this scan­sion, one of the most inter­est­ing is that falling should be the expe­ri­ence of an immi­nence, or a being-toward-the-impact. A spec­u­la­tive falling, minute­ly scaled, can apply as much to danc­ing and walk­ing as the real falls one is used to nev­er being used to. This ver­ti­go of the next step, spread and dis­trib­uted across the dancer’s body was described with a cer­tain fas­ci­na­tion by Paul Valéry: She filch­es from nature impos­si­ble atti­tudes, even under the very eye of Time! […] She is divine in the Unsta­ble, offers it as a gift to our regard! […] We nev­er see her but about to fall.”10 The excit­ed response of the speak­ers in this dia­logue cer­tain­ly pre­serves some of the anx­i­eties and rush­es of the pur­port­ed child­hood expe­ri­ence of syn­cretism and intro­duces a tem­po­ral dimen­sion to it close­ly fol­low­ing the skill exer­cised in the art of gra­tu­itous pro­lon­ga­tion of movements.

The edi­tors of Valéry’s note­books inform their read­ers that Valéry suf­fered from ver­ti­go11 and thus became sen­si­tized to this dimen­sion of expe­ri­ence, which is about the twists and tor­sions of ordi­nary dimen­sions, as in the geo­met­ri­cal sense of hyper­bol­ic space, a space curv­ing away from itself. More specif­i­cal­ly, in notes of a direct­ly intro­spec­tive and phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal bent, Valéry drew atten­tion to the expe­ri­ence of space in falling and used it to give the sense of space in gen­er­al a phys­i­o­log­i­cal basis in the pylorus, the open­ing between the stom­ach and the small intes­tine, indi­cat­ing again the way falling becomes the activ­i­ty of an absence of sorts: Who would sus­pect that the stom­ach and the pylorus are foun­da­tions of space? That the rel­a­tive still­ness and over­all move­ments of things are linked to the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of these organs?”12 Thus, when Valéry’s dancer keeps return­ing from the brink of falling, she becomes the medi­um of a ver­ti­go-prone sen­si­bil­i­ty per­cep­tu­al­ly linked to this spec­ta­cle. In oth­er words, the sense of lib­er­a­tion”13 which may attend spec­ta­cles of acro­bat­ics and dance may also be tinged with a sense of a pho­bic immi­nence. The indi­rect dis­tor­tions in the expe­ri­ence of time for the speak­ers in Valéry’s dia­logue are cer­tain­ly not only intel­lec­tu­al or depen­dent on a dis­in­ter­est­ed gaze at the play of forms, but they also have an almost clin­i­cal tenor.

The next locus to vis­it in this exam­i­na­tion of falling and time is an exten­sion of a topos of non-simul­tane­ity, a con­cern that already appeared in Michaux’s strange episode of trav­el through rock lay­ers. This time the main inter­locu­tor is the philoso­pher and lit­er­ary crit­ic Mau­rice Blan­chot, who was try­ing to read signs of the rel­e­vance of Sur­re­al­ism in a time that seemed to deny the very rel­e­vance of those signs. In fact, falling has a strong res­o­nance for Sur­re­al­is­m’s attempts to alter the rela­tions between desire, dreams, and the real. As Jed Rasu­la also not­ed, André Bre­ton’s vivid under­stand­ing of the depths and stra­ta of dreams reg­u­lar­ly emerged in the form of a plea for a dimen­sion­al shift or expan­sion that includ­ed falling. In the man­i­festoes Bre­ton declares I pre­fer to fall,” antic­i­pat­ing Gas­ton Bachelard’s insight­ful for­mu­la­tion that the fall, even before any moral metaphor inter­venes, is a con­stant psy­chic real­i­ty.”14

In his appraisal of Sur­re­al­ism, Blan­chot also drew atten­tion to the cen­tral­i­ty of the fig­ure of falling in bring­ing the mar­velous into the ordi­nary, revis­it­ing Bre­ton’s use of an old mod­el of chance attrib­uted to the philoso­pher and math­e­mati­cian Antoine Augus­tine Cournot, in which chance con­sists of two inde­pen­dent lines of causal­i­ty inter­sect­ing in a giv­en point, a good illus­tra­tion of that being get­ting struck by a falling flower pot before one has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence any exquis­ite vestibu­lar social­i­ty. Blan­chot wants to offer anoth­er read­ing of this famous illus­tra­tion and mod­el, at once under­min­ing and recoup­ing it: The encounter: what comes with­out advent, what approach­es face on, and nonethe­less always by sur­prise, what requires wait­ing, and what wait­ing awaits but does not attain.”15 His inter­ven­tion aims to dis­rupt the implic­it assump­tion of the des­tined arrival at a uni­tary and shared space and time, which would be the con­di­tion of the encounter, be it with an object of desire or an insti­ga­tor of cheap, acci­den­tal dying:

At the point of junc­ture — a unique point — what comes into rela­tion remains with­out rela­tion, and the uni­ty that thus comes to the fore is but the sur­pris­ing man­i­fes­ta­tion (a man­i­fes­ta­tion by sur­prise) of the ununifi­able, the simul­tane­ity of what can­not be togeth­er; from which we have to con­clude, even should this ruin log­ic, that where the junc­tion takes place it is dis­junc­tion that reigns over uni­tary struc­ture and caus­es it to shat­ter.16

In oth­er words, the junc­tion presents nei­ther the final­i­ty of the object of encounter for one’s pow­ers and readi­ness to meet it — since one was not ready and there was no ante­ri­or promise — nor mere­ly mechan­i­cal­ly inter­sect­ing causal lines — since there is the expe­ri­ence of the ununifi­able and an impos­si­ble com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The junc­tion is not an exhaus­tion of the pos­si­bil­i­ties of this moment by the past, but the future open­ing in the con­ver­gence between the par­tic­i­pants momen­tar­i­ly falling beside or behind themselves.

Falling also involves vari­a­tions in tem­po, accel­er­a­tions and dila­tions, of course. Peo­ple who fall from a great height report­ed­ly expe­ri­ence time in dila­tion, get­ting a sense of end­less­ness in the space of a few met­ric sec­onds. Take Chuck Berry, a sky­div­er, who had a non-vol­un­tary free-falling expe­ri­ence due to a para­chute fail­ing to open, a sit­u­a­tion dis­cussed by Clau­dia Ham­mond in her apt­ly titled book Time Warped. Not unre­lat­ed to the phys­i­o­log­i­cal under­pin­nings of falling, this effect might have some­thing to do with the puls­es get­ting faster,” and thus time get­ting slow­er,” Ham­mond argues, in the process sug­gest­ing a periph­er­al rem­e­dy to the pos­si­bil­i­ty that there may be no sep­a­rate locus or ded­i­cat­ed organ for time­keep­ing in human phys­i­ol­o­gy oth­er than a dis­persed assem­bly of prox­ies — mean­ing, not an inter­nal clock, but a vestibu­lar sense that works like a dan­ger­ous diver­sion of a nonex­is­tent one.17

Final­ly, to return to the con­text of lit­er­a­ture, there is at least one writer who man­ages to com­bine a falling behind one­self and a falling time dila­tion (cf. Ham­mond about Berry) across two dif­fer­ent sketch­es with around forty years of writer­ly activ­i­ty sep­a­rat­ing them. It is no acci­dent that he is the author respon­si­ble for the sal­vo of vestibu­lar imag­i­nary above. Hen­ri Michaux nev­er stopped think­ing about falling.

In 1927, Michaux wrote a short, and self-con­tained frag­ment about a char­ac­ter named Ben­son, who threw him­self from the 62nd floor of Kree Kas­tel in Broad­way”: Only his body falls. He, Ben­son, draws back, remains in mid-air oppo­site the fifty ninth floor or between the fifty-ninth and six­ti­eth, and watch­es the body which descends, descends, com­pletes its descent and lands in pieces. Then slow­ly, Ben­son (the soul of Ben­son) begins to descend, sees his body up close and that it is no longer hab­it­able; he begins to watch the crowd with an air of embar­rass­ment […].”18 The delay from fear that sep­a­rates the soul from the body, which crash­es in rag doll style, while the soul floats in an out-of-body expe­ri­ence, tak­ing in the details on the ground and wor­ry­ing over the incon­ve­nience its body cre­ates, makes for a char­ac­ter­is­tic instance of Michaux’s ear­ly dark humor. Yet that there is some­thing more to it is brought home in anoth­er frag­ment, this time borne out by an instance in his Mei­dosems” in Life in the Folds [La Vie dans les plis] (1951). Mei­dosems are Michaux’s imag­i­nary species of pro­to­plas­mic drifters. They have a built-in inca­pac­i­ty to be sep­a­rat­ed from their bod­ies, and, since they are also Michaux’s exper­i­men­tal test case for a sen­so­ry econ­o­my that fore­grounds bal­ance, it is no sur­prise that they fall, grace­ful­ly, in one of the sec­tions of the text devot­ed to their adven­tures: Falling for the sake of falling, they pre­fer to fall qui­et­ly, slight­ly adrift. No they aren’t wor­ried, descend­ing calm­ly, calm­ly, arms and legs ful­ly extend­ed. No sec­ond thoughts. Why wor­ry yet? They’ve still got a few more sec­onds before the crash.”19

Michaux returns to the sub­ject of falling in 1971, with his book Tent Posts [Poteaux d’An­gles]:

From high in the sky a man is falling. His speed is accel­er­at­ing, speed for which he has no brake what­so­ev­er.
The time he has left drib­bles away in silence.
Falling now, noth­ing but falling.
The ground below begins to lose remote­ness, show­ing irreg­u­lar­i­ties, shad­ows in places — what def­i­nite­ly implies a com­ing togeth­er, a fear­some com­ing togeth­er [rap­proche­ment].…
The rel­a­tive com­fort of high alti­tudes has dis­ap­peared.
Com­ing events begin enter­ing the sphere of the present.
The ground — oh, how much in a hur­ry the ground sud­den­ly is — to meet a man, just one, since there isn’t anoth­er in the air right now, at least not in sight. No one shoots at him any more. No need. None at all. Pri­vate S. clos­es his eyes. He’s seen enough for now. In a way, Pri­vate S. has been falling for years.20

Cer­tain­ly, apart from the minute descrip­tion of the moments toward impact, bespeak­ing an extra­or­di­nary will­ing­ness and abil­i­ty in the imag­i­nary scan­ning and inhab­i­ta­tion of a falling per­spec­tive, the enig­mat­ic close is what seals the unique­ness of this late frag­ment. But equal­ly note­wor­thy is that every­thing seems to be hap­pen­ing simul­ta­ne­ous­ly to the telling, since only in the end is the present tense aban­doned, which makes the writ­ing itself take on some­thing of the ver­tig­i­nous expe­ri­ence and its irreversibility.

That Pri­vate S. has been falling for years, seems to tend toward an era­sure of the dif­fer­ence between the fear­some urgency of a lit­er­al falling and a drawn out metaphor­i­cal falling, yet it also under­lines a rep­e­ti­tion, con­ti­nu­ity and struc­ture embed­ded in the lit­er­al falling that calls its self-con­tained, secure­ly instan­ta­neous qual­i­ty — pain and fear are brief — into ques­tion. The drawn out time of the lit­er­al fall, stretched by the details of the obser­va­tion tak­en in dila­tion, spills and com­mu­ni­cates with day-to-day liv­ing at large. A cer­tain famil­iar­i­ty with an abyssal loss of con­trol rather more exten­sive than the purview of this episode emerges thanks to the expe­ri­ence of the fall — an expe­ri­ence that is itself a stand-in for oth­er forms of falling beside one­self, or expe­ri­ence with­out expe­ri­ence,” from Mon­taigne to Rousseau.21

One can live for years lives in a cer­tain detached and aim­less way, but appar­ent­ly one can keep falling, too. Words Blan­chot and Der­ri­da made much of, like abeyance” and instance,” which com­bine the fleet­ing and the inces­sant might be appro­pri­ate to the para­dox­i­cal tem­po­ral­i­ty the frag­ment brings out of the fall. Thus, there is anoth­er rap­proche­ment at stake that is about not only the rapid­ly con­verg­ing fea­tures of a land­scape rush­ing toward the falling man, but also the con­ver­gence that brings togeth­er an abeyant and lit­er­al­ly sus­pend­ed time, a ques­tion of irre­versibil­i­ty, and final­ly the implic­it accel­er­a­tions and dila­tions of a mod­i­fied phys­i­o­log­i­cal scan­ning, all mak­ing for a com­pendi­um of falling temporality.

For a writer who warned — in the same book, Tent Posts— against look­ing for a writer’s real ten­den­cies in the words he uses instead of in the more instruc­tive omis­sions —“Look instead for the words the author avoid­ed”22—the medi­a­tion of the dis­con­tin­u­ous and the con­tin­u­ous falling estab­lished here also cor­re­sponds to anoth­er rap­proche­ment, this time inside his writ­ing career. It can eas­i­ly be argued that what Michaux was look­ing for in the fall was noth­ing oth­er than that desire for kin­ship with the infi­nite” that came to be an iden­ti­fy­ing mark­er of his work, espe­cial­ly around the expe­ri­ence of con­tem­pla­tion— aid­ed by drugs or not, an expe­ri­ence itself typ­i­fied by dis­tor­tions involv­ing dila­tion. What Mar­cus Boon writes in rela­tion to Aleis­ter Crow­ley applies here too: Con­scious­ness appeared to expand because of the time and space need­ed to process this excess of per­cep­tion.”23 Yet, by the same token, falling can also be repo­si­tioned as one of the priv­i­leged forms tak­en by Michaux’s infinite.

The ques­tion of con­tem­pla­tion and the infi­nite, segues into anoth­er one. The time of falling, strict­ly speak­ing, is the sub­ject of the fore­go­ing. Yet there is cer­tain­ly a pre-fall and a post-fall that car­ry out the real medi­a­tion between con­ti­nu­ity and dis­con­ti­nu­ity. As Gilles Deleuze once wrote, the dai­ly atti­tude is what puts the before and after into the body, time into the body, the body as a reveal­er of the dead­line.”24 In talk­ing about falling, is one talk­ing about a move­ment that can­cels this inter­nal tem­po­ral span­ning by sheer force of grav­i­ty, there­by trip­ping falling” into mere suc­ces­sion? Is there no way to rec­on­cile the dai­ly atti­tude” with insights from falling? To think through these ques­tions, it is worth look­ing into how the before and/​or after are insin­u­at­ed into the body astride a fall. And when talk­ing specif­i­cal­ly about a pre­fall, it is hard not to think about a panora­ma or a panoram­ic vision, unless one is falling through a tube or an ele­va­tor shaft— and that only if the ele­va­tor shaft is not in a dream.

In this respect, it is pos­si­ble that the sen­so­ry and con­cep­tu­al scram­bles engen­dered by a falling inter­val can­not be grasped ade­quate­ly with­out a thought of panora­ma that would mark the pre-fall. Although one would not want to say falling is just an excuse for the mere­ly visu­al expe­ri­ence of a panora­ma, a more expan­sive sense of falling needs to con­sid­er the pos­si­ble share of a pre­vi­ous­ly absorbed panora­ma, its order, still­ness, dis­tance and even a cer­tain seren­i­ty to be lost, in the over­all con­sti­tu­tion of falling time. Mere falling and its urgent lack-of-dis­tance-despite-a-cov­er­ing-of-a-dis­tance, its blus­tery imme­di­a­cy, only finds a place in a net­work of rela­tion­ships and expe­ri­ences that go through that moment of engross­ment before, to reach the com­pos­ite time — defined by a super­im­po­si­tion of non-simul­tane­ity, stay­ing sus­pend­ed behind one­self, and dila­tion in irre­versibil­i­ty— of the fall prop­er (but how prop­er?) only later.

At this junc­ture, it may be appro­pri­ate to turn to Roland Barthes, who once sug­gest­ed the fol­low­ing equa­tion: panora­ma: con­trac­tion of time down to its era­sure: one minute of panora­ma = pow­er­ful med­i­ta­tion on a detailed time —> trans­po­si­tion or exchange between space and time.”25 Thus, one nec­es­sar­i­ly falls from a rel­a­tive­ly uni­va­lent phase and form of tem­po­ral­i­ty deter­mined by panoram­ic con­trac­tion and com­merce with space into anoth­er tem­po­ral­i­ty deter­mined by a com­po­si­tion of dif­fer­ent rhythms, anoth­er adjust­ment between time and space, a dom­i­na­tion by dila­tion and acute polyrhyth­mia. More­over, these times are in mutu­al envel­op­ment, the panora­ma being nec­es­sar­i­ly ver­tig­i­nous and dila­to­ry all the same, just like falling inevitably extends the seren­i­ty of the time before on a cer­tain, elu­sive level.

Strat­e­gy from… where exactly?

This leads to an inter­est­ing twist regard­ing the spa­tial deter­mi­na­tions of falling, a twist con­cerned with falling as the swirling and dis­so­lu­tion of the sta­ble hori­zons” of the panorama.

In an arti­cle that dis­cuss­es falling from a more artis­tic per­spec­tive, Hito Stey­erl writes, Our tra­di­tion­al sense of ori­en­ta­tion — and, with it, mod­ern con­cepts of time and space — are based on a sta­ble line: the hori­zon line. Its sta­bil­i­ty hinges on the sta­bil­i­ty of an observ­er, who is thought to be locat­ed on a ground of sorts […] a ground that can be imag­ined as sta­ble.”26 Here, the func­tion of pay­ing atten­tion to the undo­ing of this tra­di­tion­al sense, as Stey­erl invites, is not to evoke a trite pathos of ground­less­ness, although the rhetoric nec­es­sary for this pathos is some­times hard to avoid. I take this tack only with the hope to advance or fur­ther stray in think­ing about falling. Let us note that Stey­er­l’s sto­ry of the undo­ing of lin­ear per­spec­tive, as well as of the sta­ble line of hori­zon through var­i­ous inno­va­tions in media makes some famil­iar stops (from J. M. Turn­er to aer­i­al sur­veil­lance, to cin­e­ma and oth­er het­ero­ge­neous, curved, and col­laged per­spec­tives” across the board) to lead to a more sub­jec­tive sense of free fall: Time is out of joint and we no longer know whether we are objects or sub­jects as we spi­ral down in an imper­cep­ti­ble free fall.”27 This obser­va­tion by Stey­erl, emerg­ing as it does from a con­sid­er­a­tion of asym­me­tries of social pow­er, gets charged with fur­ther impli­ca­tions when it meets a more con­densed coun­ter­part in what Michel Fou­cault offered: Hori­zon is a pic­to­r­i­al, but also a strate­gic notion.”28

To take bear­ings then: 1) Hori­zon was. 2) It is no longer. 3) Hori­zon was strate­gic when it exist­ed. 4) There­fore we are con­front­ed with a void of strat­e­gy that is at the same time a free fall.

I am not sure if Fou­cault had this in mind, but strat­e­gy, in mil­i­tary and logis­tic par­lance cor­re­sponds to an exces­sive but nec­es­sary fore­sight, exhaus­tive pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures, the mak­ing of pro­vi­sions against con­tin­gen­cies, and dis­pen­sa­tion rel­a­tive to advanced tech­niques to guar­an­tee these out­comes, such as state of the art track­ing equip­ment, radars, and long dis­tance every­thing, cre­at­ing redun­dan­cies —for exam­ple, using 300 planes where 200 would be enough for an attack on the enemy…Strategy is all of these. For­mu­lat­ed in terms of its strate­gic sta­tus, falling evokes a dis­tinc­tion made by Alexan­der Kluge.29 Kluge con­sid­ers strat­e­gy described in this way as a strat­e­gy from above”; in con­trast, the strat­e­gy from below cor­re­sponds to a more bot­tom-up orga­ni­za­tion, with mod­est scales, lit­tle fore­sight and few advance oppor­tu­ni­ties to plan any­thing; some­what lucky, with lim­it­ed resources depend­ing on indi­vid­ual inge­nu­ity: like solic­it­ing help, using infor­mal chan­nels, draw­ing on reserve strengths for sec­ond wind, being unsquash­ably resilient or like the Taoist’s crooked tree, unfit to cut.

The prob­lem here, how­ev­er, is not exact­ly a strat­e­gy from below but, rather, a falling strat­e­gy, not an oblique strat­e­gy but, instead, a head­long cadent. What would it be? Pray to the ground not to take you or pray to the sky not to give you up? Take heart from the thought that what you are falling from is noth­ing to miss any­way (a lousy strat­e­gy, I agree). Lose con­scious­ness. Make a phone call (there is Jason Statham in the film Crank). It is not that coun­ter­in­tu­itive, real­ly; as long as there are sit­u­a­tions where it is bet­ter to fall than to stay upright, the act of falling can be a strat­e­gy (if one lis­tens to Adam Phillips, who said there are sit­u­a­tions in which it is more dan­ger­ous to keep your bal­ance than to lose it”30), although, admit­ted­ly, it may be trick­i­er to find a strat­e­gy from with­in the time of falling.

Even here, it is pos­si­ble to con­sult peo­ple with some expe­ri­ence. I do not think expert” is ever the right word here. But one of these peo­ple with a cer­tain expe­ri­ence is the remark­able sky­div­er Felix Baum­gart­ner, who ful­filled in real life some of Michaux’s strangest dreams and made a cos­mi­cal­ly sur­re­al adven­ture of falling from space back to Earth, risk­ing his life for a cause the great­ness of which is obvi­ous — his enter­prise and suc­cess is world his­tor­i­cal — but which is hard to define.

As is well known, in the short video released of his breath­tak­ing tum­ble to earth, Baum­gart­ner falls into a vio­lent spin” that takes way too long for a man falling from space, and we hear him say: seems like I have to pass out,” and per­haps, for a sec­ond there, he does pass out while falling. A stretch of noth­ing with too much atmos­pher­ic resis­tance or insta­bil­i­ty oth­er­wise is put in per­spec­tive,” and a deci­sion of res­ig­na­tion that is at the same time the only wise thing to do, comes to Baum­gart­ner’s aid. I think this counts as a strategy.

Split screen still showing multiple perspectives of Felix Baumgartner’s freefall on October 14, 2012 as he nears the sound barrier, as well as G-force orientation, speed, altitude, and heart rate data. Photo: Red Bull Stratos / Red Bull Content Pool. Reproduced with permission.

A meta­physics

Writer Charles Juli­et made a book out of his talks with Samuel Beck­ett.31 In that, he brings up at a cer­tain point how Beck­et­t’s vision and writ­ing have a qual­i­ty that embraces a glob­al view of the whole.”32 Very per­cep­tive­ly, Juli­et talks about a look and grasp that impos­si­bly com­bines an immer­sion into the con­cre­tion of the most insignif­i­cant details with a fix­a­tion of the gaze on the star Sir­ius. Juli­et then reports Beck­et­t’s response to his obser­va­tion in the fol­low­ing way:

Yes,” he says, nod­ding… You must be here,” he says, point­ing towards the table, and also,” point­ing his index fin­ger upward, mil­lions of light-years away. All at the same time…”
A long silence.
The fall of a leaf and the fall of Satan: it’s all the same.”
He laughs hearti­ly; his whole face laughs:
Won­der­ful, isn’t it? The same thing.”
Long silence.33

Total­i­ty in the mode and con­ju­ga­tion of a fall is not that strange, per­haps, since, in a more direct­ly mate­ri­al­ist vein the Epi­cure­ans also had a sim­i­lar vision with the rain of atoms, the swerves of which account for every­thing. Yet there is some­thing that escapes that mate­ri­al­ism in this rela­tion to total­i­ty instanced in Beck­et­t’s words: A cog­nizance of dif­fer­ence at its most acute, the dev­il and the leaf, divine judg­ment and the imma­nence of decid­u­ous trees, and a uni­ty — let’s not say monism, giv­en its asso­ci­a­tions with a lev­el­ing ontol­ogy — on the lev­el of that which does not have a gen­er­al­i­ty, a uni­ty on the lev­el of falling. Falling is like being, except it is falling, and falling hap­pens to every­thing divine and small in the same way, because every­thing falls.

Every­thing falls, says the Mas­ter of Ho. Every­thing falls, already you wan­der in the ruins of tomor­row […] Every­thing hard­ens, says the Mas­ter of Ho, every­thing hard­ens and returns to the skull.” Michaux’s poem Sphinx” from which these lines orig­i­nate, is part of a short but fas­ci­nat­ing series of poems with the same speak­er, the Mas­ter of Ho, an immemo­r­i­al, sage per­sona and a prophet­ic voice of a Blakean grandeur used by Michaux to embrace visions of total­i­ty very sim­i­lar to what Juli­et attrib­uted to Beck­ett. Among all the ques­tions the poem gen­er­ates on its own (e.g., who is this Sphinx Michaux evokes, writ­ing, the man who talks to you is Sphinx. The man who you were, the father that you had, was Sphinx. And then, what did you under­stand of the Sphinx who made you sub­mit?”), I expe­di­ent­ly latch onto the eas­i­est: the hard­en­ing and return­ing to the skull, and the polar­ized par­al­lel it con­sti­tutes with a fall. Both are changes under­gone, rather than active­ly pur­sued on some lev­el, and, as borne out Michaux’s oth­er writ­ings too, falling may con­verge with hard­en­ing through a cer­tain use of time: already in the ruins of tomor­row,” one only inhab­its what is falling and crum­bling, and in a time-lapse suf­fi­cient­ly long, every­thing is disintegrating.

But per­haps what devi­ates from Beck­et­t’s baf­fling equa­nim­i­ty in the pre­vi­ous exam­ple regard­ing the dif­fer­ences of scale, is Michaux’s con­cern with free­dom and sub­mis­sion. As if not falling could be the mat­ter of a cer­tain resis­tance or bet­ter, integri­ty… and this not in a sim­ple sense of course: He who does not dis­solve the one who comes to him, a Sphinx, grows there and it is from this Sphinx that one dies.” Here as well it is all very imma­nent, one falls and dies from what comes to one, and what comes to one is one­self (the man who you were was Sphinx) among the oth­er parts of that long his­to­ry, includ­ing fathers. Although it may look like a free­dom from falling, it is not that or free­dom from what decom­pos­es in the way of falling that is sought; rather, the empha­sis is on a ges­ture not car­ried out in rela­tion to what could not but fall any­way: The incom­plete ges­ture, the fal­ter­ing of the heart, the remark that strikes the ear is him, it is he him­self, not under­stood, who will wound you and who, in time, will obstruct you, end­less­ly, with hard rocks.” End­less­ly obstruct­ing hard rocks, a fur­ther vari­a­tion on the skull, have their ori­gin in an innocu­ous fail­ure to respond, the reper­cus­sions of which have the inex­ora­bil­i­ty of a fall.

A becom­ing wor­thy of the falls and the heartleaps that beset one is only pos­si­ble when one finds a readi­ness to dis­solve one’s cal­ci­fi­ca­tions, and this is con­sti­tu­tive­ly a reverse falling, the exi­gency of keep­ing a cor­ro­sive curios­i­ty a bit like grace, a very world­ly grace with­out any room for the anes­the­sis of automatism.

Falling an ethics

Ear­li­er, I referred to a syn­cret­ic socia­bil­i­ty and its pos­si­bil­i­ties of incon­ti­nent, imper­son­i­fy­ing” and prodi­gious empa­thy. And there is no rea­son why one should not inquire into the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an ethics that takes account of falling and its sense, its organ” that is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly like the absence of an ordi­nary organ. In one of his end­less­ly sur­pris­ing and gen­er­ous essays, Diderot wrote, I have nev­er doubt­ed the great influ­ence of our sens­es and organs on our meta­physics and morals,” and he won­dered, how imper­fect, to say the least, would our moral­i­ty seem to a being who had one more sense than we do.”34 Yet, as it turns out, we are beings who have one more sense than we ordi­nar­i­ly believe we have, which, in this case is the vestibu­lar: Aris­to­tle famous­ly count­ed five human sen­so­ry modal­i­ties: vision, hear­ing, taste, smell, and touch. Since then, his list has been expand­ed to include such poten­tial­ly nov­el modal­i­ties as pro­pri­o­cep­tion (our sense of the rel­a­tive loca­tion of our limbs) and the vestibu­lar sense (the sense of one’s ori­en­ta­tion with respect to grav­i­ty).”35

The per­cep­tu­al-rela­tion­al tack of syn­cret­ic socia­bil­i­ty is not the only one to take around this ques­tion, and giv­en an under­stand­ing of ethics as a dimen­sion of prac­tice, train­ing (paideia), and learn­ing, it is not impos­si­ble to make of virtue a cer­tain flex­i­ble skill as philoso­pher and sci­en­tist Fran­cis­co Varela and oth­ers have already insist­ed. But is not a skill for falling a falling skill?

On this score, Peter Slo­ter­dijk, the patron saint of hyper­bole, who drew atten­tion to fal­ter­ing skill as a depri­va­tion­al rev­e­la­tion of the train­ing basis of ethics, rep­re­sents a poten­tial­ly instruc­tive case, espe­cial­ly giv­en the cen­tral way falling fig­ures in the reflec­tions con­tained in his book You Must Change Your Life (2013). In fact, the scope of Slo­ter­dijk’s vision of West­ern paideia is noth­ing less than onto­log­i­cal: Exis­tence as such is an acro­bat­ic achieve­ment, and no one can say with cer­tain­ty what train­ing pro­vides the nec­es­sary skills to mas­ter this dis­ci­pline.”36 From this per­spec­tive, the long his­to­ry of spir­i­tu­al prac­tices, the pos­i­tive cul­ti­va­tion of habits and the neg­a­tive restraint of pas­sions in var­i­ous forms of saint­li­ness and virtue are under­stood as the prod­ucts of an imag­i­nary pull from above.”37 Add to this Slo­ter­dijk’s illu­mi­nat­ing read­ings of fig­ures such as the psy­chol­o­gist Lud­wig Bin­swanger, in whose work artis­tic achieve­ments of sub­jec­ti­va­tion are con­cep­tu­al­ized in rela­tion to a pre­car­i­ous ver­ti­cal­i­ty: the dra­mas of intel­lec­tu­al and artis­tic self-real­iza­tion are most­ly locat­ed in the dimen­sion of depth and height.”38

Falling then enters the scene when the foot­ing gained as a result of long-term poten­ti­a­tions of prac­tice is con­front­ed with insta­bil­i­ty and tot­ters from its strange attrac­tion posi­tion to anoth­er and lowli­er basin of attrac­tion of medi­oc­rity: It is only upon advanc­ing into the unmas­tered and unse­cured that the prob­lem of a fall aris­es — whether the pro­tag­o­nist under­takes some­thing at their own risk for which they lack the tech­nique, or attempts some­thing new that they can­not have mas­tered by virtue of its untried nature” — and again, Only if non-abil­i­ty or non-con­sid­er­a­tion of the bound­ary con­di­tions for abil­i­ty inter­feres, as with the flight of Icarus, does a fall become like­ly.”39

While Slo­ter­dijk is right in his own exag­ger­at­ing fash­ion, his account needs to be com­ple­ment­ed with a clear­er acknowl­edg­ment of how an abil­i­ty is gen­er­at­ed out of and main­tained against its impos­si­bil­i­ty. Abil­i­ties are noth­ing with­out their lim­its and their con­sti­tu­tive fini­tude. In spec­u­lat­ing on the sce­nario of an apha­sic in whom emerges the act of speech in lan­guage, an acephalous being in whom emerges the act of think­ing in thought,”40 Gilles Deleuze insight­ful­ly for­mu­lat­ed this type of fini­tude, or a falling in stand­ing. After all, some­times falling and the very absence of skill — maybe a skill for an absence of skill, a skill for mov­ing on the edge with­out acro­bat­ic mas­tery — is pre­cise­ly what is need­ed to stum­ble across oth­er values.

Ulti­mate­ly, as some­thing that could be tak­en as a sim­ple mechan­i­cal hap­pen­stance, falling can also be an occa­sion for reflec­tion on age-old ques­tions like the rela­tions among chance, neces­si­ty and final­i­ty. With­out the grand metaphorics of his­tor­i­cal down­falls and declines, falling is already too much of a liv­ing modal­i­ty” to brook log­i­cal indif­fer­ence, demand­ing a pro­lif­er­a­tion of equiv­o­cal tens­es and personae.

If it can be built, it can be top­pled, and it is already col­laps­ing. Being in the fall does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean being pinned to the imme­di­ate; rather, it means inhab­it­ing a tran­si­tive­ly blus­tery sit­u­a­tion shot through with transin­di­vid­ual dif­fer­ences, dif­fer­ences of scale (mete­ors fall too), and even more meta­phys­i­cal trans­fers between dai­ly con­ti­nu­ities and ruptures.

Per­haps on some lev­el, falling shores up human excep­tion, by high­light­ing the depri­va­tion of sophis­ti­cat­ed capac­i­ties of bal­ance and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Yet, falling also, sure­ly, flat­tens any excep­tion, thanks to its par­tic­u­lar chal­lenges to exem­plar­i­ty. It at least points to a nar­row win­dow where abil­i­ties and set respons­es are in sus­pen­sion and abeyance, offer­ing scat­tered glimpses of shared expe­ri­ence on the fly, against a bro­ken horizon.


By Ben Bascom

The begin­ning and end of Ali­son Bechdel’s Fun Home are framed by the Icar­i­an iconog­ra­phy of falling. It starts with young Ali­son bal­anc­ing on her father’s feet as he extends his legs and rais­es her into the air — a game they called Air­plane” — before she top­ples on the floor, and it con­cludes with an image of Ali­son leap­ing from a div­ing board into the wait­ing arms of her father. In our par­tic­u­lar reen­act­ment of this myth­ic rela­tion­ship,” Bechdel writes, it was not me but my father who was to plum­met from the sky.”41 Fun Home has been read as Bechdel’s com­ing to terms with the mean­ing of her father’s queer sex­u­al­i­ty, a rev­e­la­tion made to her when she came out as a les­bian dur­ing col­lege, just a few months shy of him jump­ing in front of a mov­ing truck.

Can one con­trol a fall,” Berkay Ustun asks, query­ing if there [is] a skill or tech­nique to a fall?” before digress­ing deep­er into falling by fol­low­ing a series of philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions. Ustun con­cludes with an homage to Peter Slo­ter­dijk, who he calls the patron saint of hyper­bole” (which, in my assess­ment, is a gen­er­ous if slop­py kiss to the messi­ness of metaphor) and who in his own aside — as with the flight of Icarus” — makes the point that a fall is a fall because of its rela­tion to that unsta­ble cat­e­go­ry we call abil­i­ty. Every self-help and moti­va­tion­al poster I have ever seen sud­den­ly flash­es before my mind’s eye with its at once earnest and asi­nine state­ment about how suc­cess is not about nev­er falling but is rather about always get­ting back up each time you fall. What spe­cial skill does it take to fail at falling or to fall at failing?

Metaphors are best when they are messy. Bechdel con­cludes her graph­ic nov­el with a mis­matched trans­po­si­tion of sto­ries, where one is uncer­tain about which per­son is Icarus — she or her father — and hence who, in the end, falls: But in the tricky reverse nar­ra­tion that impels our entwined sto­ries, he was there to catch me when I leapt.”42 Bechdel cre­ates a queer dis­rup­tion to the Icarus myth, one that sig­nals a change from con­ven­tion even as it charts out new nar­ra­tives. That recast­ing of Icar­i­an fig­ures comes to a strange clar­i­ty on the penul­ti­mate page: What if Icarus hadn’t hur­tled into the sea? What if he’d inher­it­ed his father’s inven­tive bent?”43 In oth­er words, falling is both the break­ing of con­ven­tion and its affir­ma­tion, and Bechdel deliv­ers a superbly failed mixed metaphor, dis­ori­ent­ing in its spa­tial con­fu­sion as daugh­ter becomes father who becomes son.

Moments of dis­ori­en­ta­tion are vital,” Sara Ahmed writes in her book that queers phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy.44 Dis­ori­en­ta­tion as a bod­i­ly feel­ing can be unset­tling, and it can shat­ter one’s sense of con­fi­dence in the ground or one’s belief that the ground on which we reside can sup­port the actions that make a life feel liv­able.”45 Let’s keep falling and fail­ing and see­ing what new, queer depths we might plum­met. If it can be built, it can be top­pled,” Ustun reminds, and it is already col­laps­ing.” Col­lapse away, I say.



Natal­ie Ang­i­er, A Look at the Vestibu­lar Sys­tem, Keep­ing Us in Bal­ance,” The New York Times (Oct 272008).


Diane Der­oualle and Christophe Lopez, Toward a Vestibu­lar Con­tri­bu­tion to Social Cog­ni­tion,” Fron­tiers in Inte­gra­tive Neu­ro­science 8, Arti­cle 162.




Mau­rice Mer­leau-Pon­ty, The Child’s Rela­tions with Oth­ers,” The Mer­leau-Pon­ty Read­er (Evanston, IL: North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2007), 149.


Ibid., 170.


Hen­ri Michaux, Con­seil au sujet des pins,” from Épreuves, Exor­cismes [Tri­als and Exor­cisms], trans. Louis Lan­des Levi, Toward Total­i­ty II (Vers La Com­ple­tude) (Green Riv­er, VT: Long­house, 2006), accessed online at Long​house​po​et​ry​.com (April 172017).


Der­oualle and Lopez, 1.


André Leroi-Gourhan, Ges­ture and Speech, trans. Anna Bostock Berg­er (Cam­bridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1993), 286.


Hen­ri Michaux, Chutes,” in Oeu­vres-Com­plètes, vol. 1 (Paris, France: Gal­li­mard, 2004), 86.


Paul Valéry, Dance and the Soul,” in Dia­logues, trans. William McCaus­land Stew­art (Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1989), 58.


Paul Valéry, Cahiers=Notebooks, vol. 3 (New York, NY, and Frank­furt am Main, Ger­many: P. Lang, 2001), 592.


Ibid., 267.


Leroi-Gourhan, 286.


Jed Rasu­la, Mod­ernism and Poet­ic Inspi­ra­tion: The Shad­ow Mouth (New York, NY: Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2009), 163194.


Mau­rice Blan­chot, The Infi­nite Con­ver­sa­tion, trans. Susan Han­son (Min­neapo­lis, MN: Min­neso­ta Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003), 414.


Ibid., 415.


Clau­dia Ham­mond, Time Warped: Unlock­ing the Mys­ter­ies of Time Per­cep­tion (Edin­burgh, Scot­land: Canon­gate Books, 2012). Kin­dle edition.


Michaux, Oeu­vres-Com­plètes vol. 184


Hen­ri Michaux, Mei­dosems: Poems and Lith­o­graphs by Hen­ri Michaux, trans. Eliz­a­beth R. Jack­son (San­ta Cruz, CA: Mov­ing Parts Press, 1992), 57.


Hen­ri Michaux, Tent Posts, trans. Lynn Hog­gard (Copen­hagen, Den­mark: Green Inte­ger, 1997), 103.


On this, Lau­rent Jen­ny’s L’ex­péri­ence de la chute: de Mon­taigne à Michaux (Paris, France: Press­es uni­ver­si­taires de France, 1997) and Phillipe-Lacoue Labarthe’s End­ing and Unend­ing Agony: On Mau­rice Blan­chot, trans. Hannes Opelz (New York, NY: Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2016) are both helpful.


Michaux, Tent Posts, 155.


Mar­cus Boon, The Road of Excess: A His­to­ry of Writ­ers on Drugs (Cam­bridge, MA: Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2005), 147.


Gilles Deleuze, Cin­e­ma 2: Time Image, trans. Hugh Tom­lin­son and Robert Gale­ta, (Min­neapo­lis, MN: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press, 2007), 189.


Roland Barthes, The Neu­tral: Lec­ture Course at the Col­lege De France (19771978), trans. Ros­alind Krauss and Denis Hol­lier (New York, NY: Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2007), 163 – 164


Hito Stey­erl, In Free Fall: A Thought Exper­i­ment on Ver­ti­cal Per­spec­tive,” e‑flux Jour­nal 24 (April 2011): 3.


Ibid., 8.


Michel Fou­cault, Ques­tions of Geog­ra­phy,” in Power/​Knowledge: Select­ed Inter­views and Oth­er Writ­ings, 1972 – 1977, ed. Col­in Gor­don (New York, NY: The Har­vester Press, 1980), 68.


Alexan­der Kluge, The Air Raid on Hal­ber­stadt on 8 April 1945, trans. Mar­tin Chalmers (Chica­go, IL: Seag­ull Books, 2014).


Adam Phillips, On Bal­ance (New York, NY: Far­rar, Strauss and Giroux, 2010), xiv.


Charles Juli­et, Con­ver­sa­tions with Samuel Beck­ett and Bram van Velde (Cham­paign, IL, and Lon­don, Eng­land: Dalkey Archive Press, 2009).


Ibid., 38.




Diderot, Let­ter on the Blind,” quot­ed in Kate E. Tun­stall, Blind­ness and Enlight­en­ment: An Essay (New York, NY: Con­tin­u­um, 2011), 180.


Fiona MacPher­son, The Sens­es: Clas­sic and Con­tem­po­rary Philo­soph­i­cal Per­spec­tives (New York, NY: Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2011), 224.


Peter Slo­ter­dijk, You Must Change Your Life: On Anthro­potech­nics, trans. Wieland Hoban (Lon­don, Eng­land: Poli­ty Press, 2013), 63.


Ibid., 64.


Ibid., 175.


Ibid., 176.


Gilles Deleuze, Dif­fer­ence and Rep­e­ti­tion, trans. Paul Pat­ton (New York, NY: Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 1995), 165.


Ali­son Bechdel, Fun Home: A Fam­i­ly Tragi­com­ic (Boston, MA: Houghton Mif­flin, 2006), 4.


Ibid., 232.


Ibid., 231.


Sara Ahmed, Queer Phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy: Ori­en­ta­tions, Objects, Oth­ers (Durham, NC: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2006).


Ibid., 157.


Berkay Ustun is an aca­d­e­m­ic from Turkey and a Ph.D. can­di­date in the Depart­ment of Com­par­a­tive Lit­er­a­ture at Bing­ham­ton Uni­ver­si­ty (SUNY), where his work has been sup­port­ed by a Ful­bright Grant. At Bing­ham­ton, he has also worked as an instruc­tor in the Depart­ment of Com­par­a­tive Lit­er­a­ture teach­ing cours­es on world lit­er­a­ture, sci­ence fic­tion, and the prob­lem of spa­tial ori­en­ta­tion in its rel­e­vance to lit­er­a­ture and aes­thet­ics. Ustun is cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing his dis­ser­ta­tion, titled Appren­tice­ships in Ten­der Abstrac­tion,” which focus­es on the rela­tion between sub­jec­ti­va­tion and for­mal exper­i­men­ta­tion in the works of the writ­ers Hen­ri Michaux, Paul Valéry, and William S. Bur­roughs. In that project, Ustun argues that var­i­ous modes of proces­su­al aes­thet­ic or semi­otic pro­duc­tion can trans­fig­ure the ordi­nary inter­plays between abstrac­tion and con­cre­tion as well as habit and cog­ni­tion, result­ing in new equi­lib­ri­ums between human capac­i­ties. His gen­er­al inter­ests extend to a broad­er area includ­ing spec­u­la­tive phi­los­o­phy and non­propo­si­tion­al” thought, crit­i­cal the­o­ry, the ques­tion of meta­phys­i­cal expe­ri­ence, and the under­ex­plored impli­ca­tions and uses of var­i­ous types of non­nar­ra­tive forms (dia­grams, cog­ni­tive map­ping, and gestalt pat­terns). Email: bustun1@​binghamton.​edu

Ben Bas­com is a teacher and schol­ar of ear­ly and nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture and queer stud­ies. His schol­ar­ship uses queer as a crit­i­cal heuris­tic and polit­i­cal mode that inter­ro­gates the inter­sec­tions of pow­er and desire, sub­jec­tion and iden­ti­ty, to rethink the nar­ra­tives that sta­bi­lize our under­stand­ings of ear­ly nation­al U.S. lit­er­a­tures. He received his Ph.D. in Eng­lish at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois at Urbana-Cham­paign and is cur­rent­ly an Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Ball State Uni­ver­si­ty, where he teach­es lit­er­a­ture and gen­der stud­ies cours­es. His pub­li­ca­tions have appeared in Ear­ly Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture, Papers on Lan­guage & Lit­er­a­ture, and Com­mon-Place: The Jour­nal of Ear­ly Amer­i­can Life. He is at work on a book-length study that offers an alter­na­tive account of repub­li­can belong­ing in the ear­ly nation­al Unit­ed States through focus­ing on failed books and the mas­cu­line con­ven­tions used to but­tress desires for cul­tur­al sig­nif­i­cance. Email: bdbascom@​bsu.​edu