Ronell quotes

From Stupidity

Back Blurb by Christopher Fynsk:

Avital Ronell has dared to approach a topic that effectively undoes any ‘knowing’ or analytic posture, even any questioning stance. Advancing in full awareness of her vulnerability (and demonstrating constantly how this vulnerability exceeds awareness), she confronts the philosophical, psychosomatic, and ethico-political effects of her non-object through brilliant readings of a host of writers for whom stupidity (or idiocy) has become a haunting obsession or a kind of ambiguous promise.


Pop Quiz on page 162:


  1. If Paul de Man undermined the possibility of true autobiography, why does the author include autobiographical material about herself?
  2. What is the relationship between stupidity and unintelligibility?
  3. Does the author establish a link between singularity and unintelligibility? If so, how does this link affect Gasche’s argument?
  4. Can Schlegel’s kick in the ass be read allegorically?
  5. What is the author’s point of view concerning de Man’s disciples?
  6. What is the relationship between allegory and history?
  7. How can the author imply that de Man both refused to offer a reading of stupidity and was responsible for inscri9ing its implications and performance?
  8. What is at stake in the works of Schlegel, .Bataille, and de Man in terms of the, figure of testing?
  9. Why does the author make claims for the radically democratic underpinnings of scholarly and philosophical journals? Are these principles upheld today? Give an example.
  10. Discuss the relationship of friendship and nonunderstanding, using the instance of Schlegel and Schleiermacher’ as your starting point.
  11. Show how Friedrich Schlegel’santihermeneutics of friendship illuminates what Blanchot and Derrida have to say about the politics of friendship.



  • Semia means meaning, it’s where “semantics” comes from. And classical reading reads for meaning, with meaning, according to what seems to be explicitated as meaning.
  • Anasemia, on the other hand, calls for a kind of reading that would be against meaning; that is, against the grain of established or recognized meaningfulness.


Page 6:

Relinquishing the codified mythemes of heroic poses, “Blodigkeit” finally divulges the blunted, bludgeoned being of the poet that goes to meet its task, stands up to its calling. To all appearances a deflation, this is another flex of muscle, an internal restraining order holding back the values associated with the intelligence of doing, the bright grasp of what is there. Poetic courage consists in embracing the terrible lassitude of mind’s enfeeblement, the ability to endure the near facticity of feeblemindedness. (6)

Page 9:

The gesture of traversing peril and running a risk–a risk that does not know and cannot tell where it’s going–points in these poems not to a morph of the action hero, quick and present to the task, sure of aim, but to the depleted being, held back by fear or indifference (we are never sure which), a being from the start stupefied, nonpresent–“not all there.” No one has been able to account for that which is missing, not there, in poetic origination, but the poets have in their way avowed the secret experience of stupidity, the innate experience of writing (henceforth not simply innate since stupidity names a structure of exposure), and have left it concealed in the open space of a title, a mantelpiece, like a purloined letter. (9)

Page 90

Love signals the “permission granted” status of shared stupidity, a descent into the bestial abandon of an ecstatic language. As sheer surrender, love opens the channels for the imbecilic effusions of being-with. Laws legislating social intelligence and sense-making operations are suspended for the duration of language-making scenes of love. This could also mean that you have to get real down and prodigiously stupid to fall for love, or that stupidity is a repressed ground of human affectivity that only love has the power to license and unleash. (90)

Page 283

Because, don’t forget, ever since Kant, as Heine and Nietzsche remind us, in order to be a philosopher one has to write badly. This became part of the contract, an obtrusive imperative of the Kantian text. Owing to Kant’s legacy a true philosopher henceforth will have to be a poor writer or rhetorically strung out,syntactically boorish, impoverished in terms of diction – in sum, decisively unliterary. The concept could not be made to appear in pink ballet slippers: it was to show up scientifically, that is, rhetorically adorned. There is a powerful advocacy on Kant’s part for the substitution of art by science, of the values of a readable displeasure of the scientific elaboration with its attendant markers of dry, laborious, bitter working through: “The truth thus demands science, laborious and without style, without sugar coating.” . . . Philosophical exposition was to be downed without honey (283).

Page 289

If this Abraham already had everything, then something had to be taken away from him,”at least in appearance: this would be logical and no leap” (43). Where is the famous leap of faith, the rumor, promoted by Kierkegaard, of a sudden, unaccountable narrative breakaway? The logic of sacrifice seems too close to calculative simplicity here, resembling in a prefigurative way the sacrifice of Job, from whom so much was taken.”lt was different for the other Abrahams, who stood in the houses they were building and suddenly had to go up on Mount Moriah; it is possible that they did not even have a son, yet already had to sacrifice him. These are impossibilities, and Sarah was right to laugh” (43). But Sarah’s laughter is not addressed to the most ridiculous of possibilities, only to impossibilities that make sense and fail to produce a leap. What makes sense? There were Abrahams who were called before they were ready, that is, before their houses were readied, much less built. These were pure sacrificial beings who were prepared to surrender that which they did not have. This sacrifice, following the logic of the parable, is greater even than that of the Abraham who had someone to give up to a higher power. These Abrahams gave what they could not offer. Hence Sarah laughs at the gift that, never having been given, is already, “suddenly,” given away and somehow redeemed. She laughs at the peculiar nothingness of the gift, the danger and disruption of the gift that bears no present. (289)