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Discours, figure (Jean-François Lyotard, 1974)

p9 : Le parti-pris du figural
p25 : Signification et désignation
p27 : Dialectique, index, forme
p53 : Recessus et surréflexion
p73 : Signe linguistique?
p91 : Effet d'épaisseur dans le système
p105 : L'épaisseur au bord du discours
p117 : Le Non et la position de l'objet
p131 : Appendice : S. Freud, la (dé)négation
p135 : L'opposition et la différence
p163 : Veduta sur un fragment de l'"histoire" du désir
p209 : L'autre espace
p211 : La ligne et la lettre
p239 : "Le travail du rêve ne pense pas"
p271 : Connivences du désir avec le figural
p281 : Le désir dans le discours
p327 : Fiscours, digure, l'utopie du fantasme
p355 : Retour, auto-illustration, double renversement

[Le figural est dans le discours, dehors, et aussi au bord]

[Il y a dans le monde une épaisseur, une différence constitutive, qui n'est pas à lire, mais à voir]

[Au bord du discours prend place un "espace de désignation" : où le discours s'ouvre sur le sensible, l'indication,
l'intentionnalité et aussi le dessaisissement]

[Il y a dans tout signe une impulsion vers le désigné, le signifié, le sensible, l'immédiat]

[La "profondeur" d'une couleur ou d'une ligne est sa capacité à susciter une attente, à manifester un sens caché]

Cézanne déconstruit l'homogénéité de l'espace

La peinture a pour impulsion souterraine le laisser-être du désir

L'art indique une fonction de la figure qui dément le discours

Il faut dissocier la "différence" (relation entre états hétérogènes) de l'"opposition" de type linguistique (écart réglé
entre termes d'un même système)

La figure-image (qui exprime le sens) et la figure-forme (hors langage) se redoublent l'une l'autre dans l'espace
figural

La Renaissance a opéré un travail de désintrication du figural et du textuel : exclure la figure du discours; produire
le visible en tant que tel

Pour dire la vérité là où l'on ne l'attend pas, où elle détonne dans le discours, il faudrait un livre qui déconstruise le
temps linguistique

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Dans toute parole ou discours, une épaisseur ou une opacité du sens se distingue dessignifications du langage
portées par le signe

Tout signe désigne quelque chose à faire voir, un invu, un objet absent que la parole rend présent

La différence est, comme le processus primaire, indifférente à l'ordre temporel; elle est la non-temporalité que cet
ordre vise à réduire

Pour la peinture moderne, le tableau est un objet où se montre l'engendrement des objets, l'activité transcendante
même

Le caractère propre du visible est la différence

La réalité et l'art ont affaire à ce qui s'est perdu lors de la déflagration initiale du langage, et qu'il faut retrouver

Entre l'espace de la signification (système de la langue) et celui de la désignation (sensible) se glisse un autre
espace, figural : celui du désir où travaille la vérité

On ne peut saisir le geste de parole qui crée la signification dans sa fonction constituante que par la déconstruction

En éliminant la différence, le champ visuel se constitue en système langagier "qui parle" par couleurs, lignes et
valeurs

Le Dieu de la physique est pur langage, texte sans ombre toujours présent à tous; l'espace n'y est plus à voir, mais à
entendre
Mallarmé montre que l'autre de la signification - le figural - peut venir habiter le discours

Cézanne désire que la montagne Ste-Victoire cesse d'être un objet de vue pour devenir un événement dans la
vision : c'est ce que le phénoménologue ne peut pas comprendre

Nous appartenons à la révolution cézannienne et freudienne des années 1880-1930 grâce à laquelle nous pouvons
comprendre celle de la Renaissance

Jean-François Lyotard, Discours, figure [1971], Paris: Klincksieck, 2002.


Jean-François Lyotard, Discourse, figure [1971], trans. Anthony Hudek & Mary Lydon, Minneapolis ,
London : University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

I. Le parti pris du figural (pp. 9-23)


The bias of the figural (pp.

What cannot be tamed is art as silence. The position of art is a refutation of the position of discourse.
The position of art indicates a function of the figure, which is not signified - a function around and
even in the figure. This position indicates that the symbol's transcendence is the figure, that is, a
spatial manifestation that linguistic space cannot incorporate without being shaken, an exteriority it
cannot interiorize as signification.(p. 7, fr. p. 13)

Only from within language can one get to and enter the figure. One can get to the figure by making
clear that every discourse possesses its counterpart, the object of which it speaks, which is over
there, like what it designates in a horizon: sight on the edge of discourse. And one can

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get in the figure without leaving language behind because the figure is embedded in it. One only has
to allow oneself to slip into the well of discourse to find the eye lodged at its core, an eye of
discourse in the sense that at the center of the cyclone lies an eye of calm. The figure is both without
and within. This is why it holds the secret of connaturality, but at the same time
reveals this connaturality to be an illusion. Language is not a homogenous environment: it is divisive
because it exteriorizes the sensory into a vis-avis, into an object, and divided because it interiorizes
the figural in the articulated. The eye is in speech since there is no articulated language without the
exteriorization of a "visible," but it is there because an exteriority exists
which is at least gesticulatory, "visible," deep within discourse, which is its expression. (pp. 7-8, fr.
pp. 13-14)

the language-system [langue], does not speak.What speaks is something that must remain outside of
language as system and must continue to remain there even when it speaks. Silence is the opposite of
discourse, simultaneously violence and beauty; but silence is the very condition of discourse since it
is also on the side of the things of which one must speak, that one must express. There can be no
discourse without this opacity in trying to undo and restore this inexhaustible thickness. Silence is
the result of the ripping-apart that allows discourse and its object to stand vis-a-vis each other, and
the work of signification to begin; it is the result of the tear, integral to language, where the work of
expression occurs. Such violence belongs to the depth of language. It is its starting point, since one
speaks in separation and the object must first be constituted as lost for it to have to be signified.
Violence therefore ratifies the birth certificate of the problem of knowledge, forces one to desire
truth as the interiorization (completed signification) of (the object's) exteriority. (p. 8, fr. p. 14)

Discourse is always thick. It


does not merely signify, but expresses. And if it expresses, it is because it too
has something trembling trapped within it, enough movement and power to
overthrow the table of significations with a quake that produces the meaning.
Discourse too opens itself up to grazing, and not only to understanding. It too
appeals to the eye; it too is energetic. Let us trace the eye's paths in the field
of language, capture the fixed-trembled, espouse the hillocks of the metaphor,
which is the fulfillment of desire: only then will we see how exteriority, power,
and formed space can be present in interiority, in closed signification. (p. 9, p. 15)

If l show that in any discourse, in its underground, lies a form in which an energy is caught
and according to which the energy acts upon its surface, if I can show that this discourse is not only
signification and rationality but expression and affect, do I not destroy the very possibility of truth?
[…]the apparent signification of discourse never will exhaust its meaning (p 10, p. 15)

this other discourse that you do not speak but which speaks from within yours (p. 10, p. 16)

inter-monde / interworld (Klee), transitionnal object / objet transitionnel (WInnicot) – p. 13, p. 18

Building meaning is never anything other than deconstructing signification.(p. 14, p. 19)

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Simultaneously, the figure finds itself displaced: no longer simply the image of presence or of
representation, but form of the mise en scene, form of discourse itself, and, more profoundly still,
phantasmatic matrix. At this point Freud's lesson supersedes Husserl's. (p. 15, p. 20)

The body is not the culprit of language's dismay: something else can disturb both language and body.
(p. 18)
Ce n’est pas le corps qui trouble le langage, c’est autre chose qui peut troubler et le langage, et le
corps. (p. 22)

II. Dialectique, index, forme


Dialectics, index, form

linguistic reference points to the depth of the visible. On the other hand, how would this depth itself,
constituting things in thickness, with a front and a back, be at all possible were there not in human
language an arbitrary principle, the self-sufficiency of a system entirely dependent on its internal
intervals, and thus capable of provoking and supporting the separation of discourse from its object?
Would one see if one did not speak? (p. 22, p. 27)

There are other modes of negativity, as well as other forms its labor can take in language. There is
the distance that discourse clears in front of itself and where it objectifies for itself its reference, a
distance that brings us back to the experience of vision. (p. 25, pp. 28-29)

negation is at the heart of seeing as distancing. There is nothing to see without distance, without the
separation between seer and visible; nothing to think ifi know what there is to think; nothing to paint
if l cannot remove myself from the game the world plays with itself on my body. By constituting
both object and subject, this scission is exacdy what endows them with a hidden side, with a
"background" slipped under their figure, thus instituting them as signs with the power to manifest
and conceal themselves, with their depth. (p. 28, p. 31)

There must be communication between the No of language [langue], which is that of the object, and
the No of discourse, which is that of seeing.(p. 30, p. 33)

There is no way to separate significations from signifiers. (p. 79, p. 79)

Opacity is in the object, not in the word, nor in its distance to the object. Words are not signs, but the
moment a word appears, the designated object becomes sign. For an object to become sign means
precisely that it conceals a "content" hidden within its manifest identity, that it withholds
another side of itself for a different glance upon it, a glance that might never be taken. For it to
become sign requires that it be afflicted by a dimension of absence. (p. 82, p. 82)

Words or linguistic units are not signs through signification, nor are they signs through designation,
rather they produce signs with the objects they designate (make visible) and signify (make
intelligible), and from which they are separated; presence and absence together become world on
their margins. Motivation is the other of discourse, its other assumed to exist outside of itself, in
things-signs. (p. 83, pp. 83-83)

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the fact that signification itself passes as sign only serves to indicate that there is a power of the sign,
a power of the being-sign capable of investing the object with any referential relation. A compulsion
of opacity exists that requires that what one speaks of be declared lost. (p. 102, p. 104)

p. 107 Ce que nous exprimons par un signe est sa signification, ce que nous désignons, sa référence
By means of a sign we express its sense [signification] and designate its reference
(wir driicken mit einem Zeichen dessen Sinn aus und bezeichen mit ihm dessen
Bedeutung)."(p. 105)

Thus we find ourselves in the presence of three instances of the No: the negation of the grammarian
and the logician, which comes across in negative statements; the discontinuity of the structuralist and
the linguist, hidden in language [langue], which holds the system's terms apart from one another and,
by respecting the invariances, integrates them into a whole; and, lastly,
hidden in speech, the lack acknowledged by the logician and the analyst that runs through discourse
and grants it its referential power. Syntactic negation, structural negativeness, intentional negativity
(p. 119, p. 121)

Romanesque as well as (to put it hastily) medieval organization assimilates the textual to the figural
through the coding of visual representation, and the textual to the figural through the narrative
(mythical) configuration of canonical discourse. (p. 175, p. 179)

Between opposition and difference lies the difference of the space of the text to that of the figure.
This difference is not of degree; it constitutes an ontological rift. The two spaces are two orders of
meaning that communicate but which, by the same token, are divided. Rather than space of the text
one should speak of textual space; instead of space of the figure, figural space. This terminological
distinction is meant to underscore the fact that the text and the figure each engender, respectively, an
organization specific to the space they inhabit. (p. 205, p. 211)

define textual space, then, as the space in which the graphic signifier inscribes itsel£ As for the
space of figure, "figural" qualifies it better than "figurative." Indeed the last term, in the
vocabulary of painting and contemporary criticism, opposes the space of the figure to "non-
figurative" or "abstract." The relevant feature of this opposition resides in the analogy of the
representative and the represented, and in the spectator's ability to recognize the latter in the former.
This feature is secondary to the problem at hand. The figurative is merely a particular instance of the
figural, as we saw in the window that Renaissance painting opened for us. The
term "figurative" implies the possibility of deriving the pictorial object from its "real" model through
an uninterrupted translative process. The trace on the figurative painting is non-arbitrary.
Figurativity is thus a property that applies to the plastic object's relation to what it represents; it
becomes irrelevant if the picture no longer fulfills a representational function, i.e., if it is the object
itself. The object in this case is determined by the signifier's organization alone, which oscillates
between two poles. It can be either letter or line. (p. 205, p. 211)

The letter is the support of a conventional, immaterial signification, identical in every respect to the
presence of the phoneme. Moreover, the support disappears behind what it upholds, since
the letter occasions only instantaneous recognition, in the service of signification. The graphic (as
well as phonic) signifier owes this evanescent quality to its arbitrary nature. However, the sense in

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which I employ arbitrary here no longer applies to the relationship between the purported linguistic
sign and the thing it is meant to indicate; rather, it applies to the relationship
between scriptural space and the reader's own body. (pp. 205-206, p. 212)

When a trace owes its value to this ability to induce bodily resonance, it inscribes itself in a plastic
space. But when the trace's function consists exclusively in distinguishing, and hence in rendering
recognizable, units that obtain their signification from their relationships in a system entirely
independent from bodily synergy, I would claim that the space in which this trace inscribes itself is
graphic. (p. 206, p. 212)

The blanks in the text transcribe, at the level of writing, the gaps separating and constituting the
terms laid out on the grid of language [langue] .They have no more individual consistency than these
terms themselves: the blanks are segments, while the terms are their extremities. (p. 209, p. 215)

Eliminate the presence of the speaker, you end up with writing the relevant feature here is the
relationship between subject and discourse. The figural, on the other hand, opposes the discursive
through the trace's relationship to plastic space; in this sense, recordings on wax cylinders or
magnetic bands are already forms of writing. (p. 211, p. 217)

the less "recognizable" a line, the more it becomes visible, and thus the better it is at eschewing
writing and the closer it sides with the figural. However, this rule remains negative; its only
value is to clarify the relationship between the figural and the act of waiting, by pitting it against the
graphic's complicity with the eye's racing. […]And what about the patience or even the passivity that
the figural space calls for: is it nothing more than that time supplement necessary for the "never
seen'' to become visible? (p. 211-212, p. 217)

Drawing's function consists in making sensory space speak in geometric figures. (p. 218, p. 224)

An imaged text is a discourse that is very close to the figure. It will be necessary, then, to analyze the
different ways in which such a proximity may be established: the figurative power of a word, or
course, but also the rhythmic power of syntax, and at an even deeper level, the matrix of narrative
rhythm, what Propp called form. (p. 244, p. 249)

Figure:
1) at the lexical level, the figure is given as outside the word
2) at the level of syntax, the figure is the rhythmical schema. We are no longer in the domain of the
visual. Here language communicates with dance by diffusing its range and frequency throughout the
body of the reader: recitation, declamation, song are intermediaries between reading and dance.
3) at the stylistic level: the figure is submerged in the words but only
in order to support and control the articulation of the large units of the
narrative. There is no longer anything visible, only the visual haunting narration.
We are approaching the matrix.

It is clear that the notion of figure leads to image, configuration, form, and therefore a lexical and/or
syntactical, but also stylistic, proximity, because there are figures that correspond to words, figures

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of style, of discourse, in each case, the figural surrounding the substance of language and permeating
it. (p. 244-245, p. 249)

This remote action, which takes place in the body of the work, is the very principle of form: all along
the linear body of a text, an utterance or a piece of music, flat on the plane surface of a picture, in the
volume of a sculpted object or a building, it is form that establishes communication between the
parts, in keeping with certain constraints, and in order for it to be form, these constraints must not be
inscribed in any language. (p.245, p. 250)

it is futile to attempt to bring everything back to articulated language as the model for all semiology,
when it is patently clear that language, at least in its poetic usage, is possessed, haunted by the
figure. (p. 246, p. 250)

the rules of scenic space are no longer those of sensory space. (p. 273, p. 277)

The figure-image is that which comes into view on the oneiric or quasi-oneiric stage. The figure-
image deconstructs the percept, taking effect in a space of difference. We can articulate it precisely:
what it deconstructs is the silhouette's outline; it is the transgression of the contour [tracé
révélateur].(p. 274, p. 277)

The figure-form is the figure that upholds the visible without being seen: the visible's nervure. It can,
however, be made visible itself (p. 275, p. 277)

And finally, the figure-matrix. Not only does it remain unseen, but it is no more visible than it is
legible. It belongs to neither plastic nor textual space. It is difference itself, and as such does not
suffer that minimum of oppositionality that its spoken expression requires, of image- or form-
conditioning that its plastic expression entails. Discourse, image, and form: all equally pass over the
figure-matrix, for it resides in all three of the spaces. (p. 275-276, p. 278)

Such are the fundamental modes of complicity that desire entertains with figurality: transgression of
the object, transgression of form, and transgression of space. (p. 276-279)

We identified two sets, each composed of three terms: on discourse, the signifier / signified /
designated triad, and on the figure, the image / form / matrix triad.[…] The two axes of signification
and designation, upon which the three terms signifier, signified, and designated are positioned, are
involved simultaneously in actual discourse. The second group of terms concerns the rows of
figures. The criterion used for classification is that of visibility: seen, visible; unseen, invisible. The
first term applies to the image of an object with its outline; the second, to the form (Gestalt) of the
visible, which can be brought into relief through analysis even if it was not seen at the outset; the
third, to a still deeper configuration to which analysis could possibly come near, but that can never
become object either of vision or signification. (p. 279, p. 283)

the existence of the space of signification - with its properties of autonomous, non-derived, and
invariable system - is also what enables us to constitute the visible as lost; to touch the object
remotely without possessing it; to uphold absence; to posit or assume the other face of the given, the
face that it does not turn toward me; and to constitute the given as thick sign. (p. 280, p. 284)