SCARCELY ON THE WAY: THE STARKNESS OF THINGS IN SACRAL SPACE
If indeed "some form of exile…is intrinsic to dwelling" (Rigby 56), inhabiting a place becomes a matter of finesse, or the exposure to strangeness and absence might itself be open to another modulation: humans find themselves at home scarcely, though this can be enough to deflect any counter-privilege of exile in favour of the non-plenitude of what is simply given. If givens are scarce but not systematically absent, they can also be open to an over-determination by which they relate to the sacral idea of gift, and so exceed the purely frugal.[i] It's not that things in the world are minimised, but that their overflowingness is at once fragile and scarce of access: they are both defeasible and "reserved."[ii] This essay explores both the complexity and leanness of inhabiting an abundant world at a time when common associations have become weaker and the gauntness of unmediated objective existence starker. What we understand as "natural" is naturaliter on the way towards exceeding any functional economy, but also touches on a condition which is one of plenitude obstructed, a woundedness potentially creative but simultaneously muffled in self-diminishing damage. Scarcity at the heart of excess is what insists on both positive and negative relationality, rather than sheer surplus. It is just this which can form a part of the problematics of the sacral as what both upholds and challenges the "thereness" of things.
If ecological writing can celebrate the givens surrounding and interrupting us, it has to be in terms of how they open onto an insecure horizon of any capacity for relation, however much one proposed by insistent hyperboles arising from finitude itself.[iii] Such a scarcity in the face of an intuited plenitude is not just "an oscillation between epiphany and blankness" or "the inevitable incompletion of any 'final' result" (Buell 113) but suspends incompletion itself as incontrovertible effect. Rather than a fantasy of completion in the other as sacred compensation, it glimpses a completion otherwise to any mode of finite self-sufficiency (which itself has sacral implications, though of a starker kind).
Steven Winspur is interested in how contingency intervenes in subject-object relations. He inquires how writing can give voice to places in their non-hierarchical plurality of infra-relations which transforms lyrical subjectivity towards a more outward-going scrutiny of the networks and circuits of place. It is not the meanings things might have but their sheer existence which can be highlighted by the poetic. A poem of place is not a re-description of any scene but activates a chain of summoning launched by the elements of place, so inviting readers to locate themselves also within this circuit of callings and witnessings (108). Whatever provides this circuitry is assumed by Winspur to betoken sufficient inter-relatability, but the very desire to call or address can open up an insufficiency of relation, though just as exposed to the world's givens. That exposure, intensified when such givens appear to be given to a place, also entails a calling on gift, one paradoxically simultaneous with the limited capacity of givens to emplace themselves definitively. A scarcity of intentional possibility is reoffered to and through the encompassing finitude which sustains and provokes it, and in part denies it. So it is less a matter of suspending dualism than of developing a greater sense of the fragility of what enables the relations of "between"[iv]; in particular, of what passes between often hostile givens and the poetic capacity to call on them across the insecurable ground of engiftment. This sense of fragility articulates the particular relational tension which desire for the sacral brings into play.
Timothy Morton's "dark ecology" is sceptical of attempts to blend subject-object relations together in an ideal plethora. He resists any pious shuttling back and forth but which ends amid a blur which he calls "ambience" (15). Instead of trying to ride over the distinction, Morton prefers to "dance with the subject-object duality, to love…the more objectified quality of the object, its radical non-identity" (185-6). This non-identity connects to a "negative desire" or a saturation of "unrequited longing", one that "maintains duality, if not dualism (186). Even more radically, Morton continues: "We don't know whether the physical world, or even animals, are subjects…yet. And that is precisely the slit, the gap, the space for which ambience does not account" (202-3). I read Morton as detecting an ontological poverty (in order to reinforce a critical acumen), which though meagre of ground is open to an expectation of what has already been given to this poverty (how is it possible in the first place to intuit animals could be subjects, even if we then backtrack?). Morton is right to complain of nature "as a closed system in which everything is ultimately recycled" (109) which does indeed operate as a side-effect to any seamless multiplicity of givens.[v] Such an uninflected multiplicity risks a more vicious version of excess, an infinitely-finite closure blanking off the given and no longer open to the scarce counter-pulsing of giftedness within it.
Adam Potkay notes that Old English does not restrict the "thing" to a material object. It can designate a "narrative not fully known" or gesture toward the "unknowability of larger chains of events" (394). The drift to the later usage of "thing" to designate a non-human material object remains caught up in connotations at once hostile and haunting. To the extent the thing persists as the res of nature, George Hart can remark: "The physical eye sees material nature, but is reductive; the spiritual eye sees ideal nature, but is totalizing" (189-90). This is a predicament where ecopoetry wants to intervene, and Hart acknowledges how British Romantics like Shelley and Wordsworth have already made a difference. Colin Jager claims that for Wordsworth "Nature does not have to be wrenched into Poetry; instead, Poetry arrives as the gift of Nature itself" (170). The status of the eye is regarded as playing a central part in The Ruined Cottage. To no longer "read the forms of things with an unworthy eye" is for Jager "a reading technique able to turn the raw materials of nature into images of spiritual truth" (170). This readability inhabits a realm between raw physicality and any emergent spiritual profile, one involving more than sheer discernment but an intervening sense of scarceness:
Be wise and cheerful, and no longer read
The forms of things with an unworthy eye.
She sleeps in the calm earth, and peace is here.
I well remember that those very plumes,
Those weeds, and the high spear-grass on that wall,
By mist and silent raid-drops silver'd over,
As once I passed did to my heart convey
So still an image of tranquillity,
So calm and still, and looked so beautiful
Amid the uneasy thoughts which filled my mind,
That what we feel of sorrow and despair…
Appeared an idle dream that could not live
Where meditation was. (ll. 510-20;523-4)
The final sleep of Margaret, the cottager abandoned by her husband, is filtered through the re-naturalised signs of ruin about her cottage; the weeds are both out of place but restorative of a tranquillity which doesn't modify the tragic human predicament but does bring it to a site at once bare and shareable, a consolation and a non-resolution, where a glimpse of what is (now harmlessly) co-present offers some scarce relief from absolute isolation.[vi]
It is daring of Wordsworth to interpose the given "thisness" of the spear-grass at a juncture where the human ethical crisis is not in doubt: the poet knows this is no moment for aesthetic distraction but risks it in order to experiment with something else. Jan Zwicky takes "thisness" to be in itself "a relational property." The power of the experience of the "this" involves extreme compression but becomes "commensurate with everything it isn't," not so as to experience everything else within a plurality of connections but "as though the weight of the universe were balanced on a single point" (42-3). Zwicky catches how the intensification of the thing doesn't implicate a network of relata but a more asymmetrical poise at once singular and universal which must be entered. She sees this as "ontologically dimensionless" (4) where I prefer to tease out an ontological scarcity promising implicit but threatened relation outside any circuit of secured connections: the bare presence of the spear-grass is a given that re-gives, not from symbolic amplitude but out of a shareable fragility leaving common predicaments not so much "in place" as at the place. Even presence in that form is in excess of naturalistic indifference, though without the power to reconfigure the blankness in which it is set, or to which it comes, both as fate and differential call. It is possible to see in the spear-grass an implosion of material particularity, one lacking universal symbolism but obstinately risking itself beyond its surd objectivity. The spear-grass lingers outside its own significance, at once ahead of itself in not opposing what deeper concerns recede from it but equally unable to offer any privileged recourse to its own blindness which might recruit it as a counter-symbol. The spear-grass's givenness clarifies through a faint intermediation by which it is available to more than itself, or what as gift can be called out of a first-order naturalism. Any given-to is also a given-from, a scarce freedom within incalculable relation rather than a zero-freedom that has already neutralised any experience of plurality. For Winspur, the Romantic vector from a here towards an elsewhere is subverted once our coming into nature no longer has the effect of drawing us closer to an ideal spot but, on the contrary, distances us from ourselves and our illusions. (147). In Wordsworth's spear-grass image a finesse distinguishes between what is ideal and what is more keenly ontological, in this case an ontic approach to the sphere of gift at once exceeding the ontic and "enscarcing" the gift without severing concrete relation. The spear-grass recalls whatever is given as not conclusively normative, is no blank absorber of existence, to the point the weed's own self-insistence becomes mysteriously provocative. Our recognition of the "is" of the plant is a way of paying it excess attention and risks being culpable in such a fraught context. Relegating the spear-grass to pure description no longer helps once Wordsworth arouses an expectation of additional presentation, where excess is schooled to an accession, a poverty fully exposed but not equally deprived. Poetry can claim an intuition of non-meaning,[vii]r but in that case we only experience freedom from meaning via an excess of appearance (which then figures an entire absence of meaning), whereas a given object acutely particularised before an horizon of gift glimpses a relational increment more starkly inflected than any riot of absence.
Sylvia Benso speculates a pre-economical horizon in which "things can be encountered in their facialities and tendered – that is treated with tenderness – because of the generosity of their self-giving, as if alterity were a gift" (quoted in Potkay 401). From the perspective of the scarce, tendering is indeed a self-offering but its ground remains tenuous – no machinery of adequation comes with the gift. Alterity oscillates between alienation or boon, hesitates to surrender the blankness of the given and maintains a hostility to invitational relations. Wordsworth in his poem is not offering to overcome this effect, though he sharpens its ambivalence. The predicament of any pure presence or absence has been averted, however, not by way of an "ambience" but via a between not of our own making which clings perilously to the brink of the hyperbolic. Here is a lesser-than (what is given remains less than Margaret's tragic narrative) no longer calibrated as a degree of naturalism. The "lesser-than" figures a mutual asymmetry whereby an exterior over-reaches an interior and vice versa, which is enough to suspend the naturalistic reading of place, however multiple or wave-like in its circuitry. This asymmetry can't be reintegrated into a pattern of pressure-relations but induces questions of gift, voice, offering and a scarcely realised dedicatability. The horizon of what is there (an aura of the unknown intimately contiguous with the known but not fully contextualised by the latter) is not just distributing the given between a physical here and an ideal there but does so across the incommensurability of givens and what gives.
For Merleau-Ponty, questioning our experience to know how it opens towards what is not ourselves doesn't exclude finding there "a movement toward what could not be…present to us in the original and whose irremediable absence would thus count among our originating experiences (159). This might suggest the sacral is not an object in our world but is what turns contingency onto its given side. Rather than being absent, its overt lack of presentability is in the mode of the scarce rather than the negative, at the horizon of experience but not bound into it. Merleau-Ponty sees philosophy as refusing the facilities of the world with a sole entry or even with multiple ones, abiding rather at "a crossing of the avenues" where any passage from self to the world is effected (160). Here he is refusing both univocal and equivocal approaches in favour of something resembling William Desmond's "plurivocal" realm, understood as discourses which overhear each other from within their own incompleteness rather than surpassing or subverting one another: so poetry might listen out for the ethical, while philosophy keeps patience with the religious.[viii] Discourses interrupt each other in unassimilable ways and so experience themselves becoming "less" as they open informally rather than remain pre-emptively absorbent. Finally, according to Merleau-Ponty, by opposing to the experience of things the spectre of another experience not involving them, we force experience to say more than it has said, which is to pass through the detour of names where non-recognition as well as recognition can come into play (162). This might suggest that to name or call is to be enabled to call from, to be offered a perch in the midst of what the world itself is among, a way of calling on the world's horizons and not just appointing that world to its own naturalism. For Jean-Louis Chrétien, any call is already a response to a more primordial call but which is only embodiable from within the non-correspondence of any answer (6). This shift equally involves a self-diminishment, for, in order to constitute, the call also destitutes, challenges any self-sufficiency of naturalistic being. The beauty of the world itself lacks nothing, not even lack, since it is turned toward our own lack, and its call opens up a breach within the human voice of response (11). In Chrétien's eyes, this breach has an ecstatic quality, which from the perspective of scarcity will also entail an encounter with the damage implicit in all world-relations, so that our capacity to be creatively wounded is subject to impairment: an active poverty arises as a limited access to the very ground of that sublimation. Whatever comes to us as gift is already badly received and a re-enchantment of the world begins from that liability. Jean Luc Marion acknowledges that the very excess of gift can assume the character of shortage: what is given without reserve nonetheless respects the finitude of the given-to (his version of Dasein) which can never adequately receive something so unconditional (246; 309). The embodied nature of response is not in question, and for Chrétien the senses still make sense after humans have turned towards what we regard as spiritual (34). This connects with John Milbank's vision of "weaving across the sensory boundaries where there is in fact no sensory space available" which he identifies with the sensus communis of Plato and Aristotle proclaiming the reality of mind and spirit, something appropriate, Milbank asserts, to the "bastard sphere of poetry" whose creativity depends on just this "original illegitimacy" (4). This is the human situation of living on the frail surface of the earth, physically vulnerable on a thin crust of organic matter and a still thinner crust of the spirit (2). Poetry is a voice of calling but how is that realisable? Any "ascent" is never purely vertical but a diagonal composed of "all the seemingly meagre provisions of the horizontal: of the fragile, tenuous green surface of the earth" (4). Pointing above a horizontal surface towards vertical transcendence can never leave the earth behind but "always carries itself with itself in every ascent." Milbank emphasises that it is precisely poetry which "attends to the resultant human diagonal" (2). As a "scarce" object of desire, nothing less than the vertical can be engaged with as it is here the condition of finite resistance is both called out and re-accounts for itself in a falling-short no longer relegated to a natural diversity of experience as such. As Marion confirms, what the gift it given to remains open to the abandoned (ie what is given without reserve) even if what is given is only given as lack, but it is not a lack absent as such (312). William Desmond views finite existence as open to a porosity of being from an inter-mediating between not reducible to finite self-mediation, so rendering nothingness open to divine invitation.[ix] Such an openness, I suggest, figures the condition of scarcity: how the embodied resistance of the world to meaning is not identical with any self-ascription of that non-meaning to naturalistic sufficiency.
Regina M Schwartz describes how, in the context of Marcel Gauchet's The Disenchantment of
the World which explains human meaning as arising out of the figure of the Other and subsequently from the Self, there is today a shift away from the modern Self back towards the Other, one inflected philosophically as given-ness and theologically as gift (139-40). This can be compounded by Chrétien's insight that humans can never appropriate for themselves how they are included in the origin (20). Any call for an ethics of responsiveness to the other as integral to biosemiotic and ecocritical concerns (Wheeler 145) might well include a response to why any question of origin is so difficult to afford, why it exposes us to a scarcity of means; and this not as part of a regression to idealism but as an approach to the puzzle of what it means to live in relation to existence under the radical poverty of gift, one aspect of which is the prevailing indifference of givens. This demands an inflection of naturalism, which, while not opposing its essential contingency, asserts a frail contiguity with spiritual values rendering naturalism's self-understanding problematic. Is it possible to project a relation with what there is to give or should we remain immersed within the myriad relata of an autopoetic earth? There is certainly a danger of any inflection of what might be given to existence falling back on reductive abstraction or oppressive dualism. Humans, however much given to life, can feel very ungifted, prone to disaster, indifference or a distinct lack of promise. Any sense of gift has to emerge as a scarcity in the face of this, but one already intimate with setback and loss as part of its precariously visitational mode of presence.[x] It's not that scarcity declares any shortage of givens, only that the intuition of gift, though instantaneous and acclamatory, is co-attuned to conditions of resistance and duress, wounded by the defeasibility of the natural world which alone can mediate gift: it is this tension, intrepid but damaged, between gift and what can be understood to be given which elicits the sense of the sacral, and of the enigmatic traverse between the two. So scarcity maintains its lineage of excess desire but one purged of a possessive plenitude or anything outside what is offerable from the given-to. The capacity of things to be dedicated, their sacral horizon, doesn't deny their origin from nothing but affirms a differential less than nothing: the paradox of lessness mutates toward a perception of gift; indifferent void is figured as emptiable-before. As fragility is to the material, a condition and predicament of becoming, so scarcity is to the numinous, a condition of disparity and slightedness integral to paying any enchanted attention to the world. The scarce occurs as the persistent non-identity of excess with plenitude and so interposes its own difference, its own slights, before any reduction of the world to an alterity too unconditional for the particularity of promise. In this light, Derrida's "messianic" moment radically open to the shock of the incoming other is indeed hyperbolic but neutrally so, an exposure to the given which courts surprise and dread but does not take the risk of a scarce (ungrounded) intuition of gift ( 36-7).
Patrick Curry acknowledges how, in the difficult arena of the theory and practice of pluralism, what matters "is one's relationship…with it" (62). Even ecopluralism as a methodology can suffer "an infinite regress" or be subtly one-sided in its very plurality (62). The problem is that any prevailing naturalism, however inclusive, snags up on the aporia of a self-fulfilling "relationism", which I read as the assumption of sheer contiguity conferring a sufficiency of value. It is in that light that naturalism needs to be suspended by an emergent (so still dependent) sense of gift. What is greater-than abides by the condition of the less, and so can only be paradoxically present, as the frailer-from rising up before. The sacral can't be suffered to be outside the range of plural perspectives, but it has to differ from the sheer dynamic intricacies of such natural givens, in order to offer a relation with what provides for relation itself, however phantasmic in that very openness, precariously expounded (and expended to a point of scarcity) in the wellings-up of ritual and art:
A lean mark on behalf of, care, distributed on all sides of the gathering
ring, open to heal – scab of resilient seal. (Dickinson 8)
An ecocriticism grounded in pragmatic circuitry is conceptually inclusive but remains haunted by the spectre of an infinitely-finite self-enclosure. The sacral hints at a yet more radical openness: to the gift as a locally communicable unknowable (this paradox rehearses scarcity itself). Excess shows up within the least contingency and determines a motivated poverty of address beyond the ontological evasions of the multiple per
se. Curry conceives of a second-order nature arising out of our participation in contingent nature, distinguishable but dependent on it and ultimately returning to it (59). If the natural is the already given-to, culture becomes the continuously given-through, arbitrary though non-autonomous, but at whose hands gift becomes peripheral unless deliberately re-invoked: culture is charged with exploring how it can never give itself to itself. This implies a second nature taking on a "third nature" of ontological offering, acutely so where its own schematic relations break down. So our sense of a "more-than-human-world" (Abrams quoted Curry 54) evokes not just a reversal of species domination but a surpassing of contingency's imperviousness, though without claiming the privilege of standing over against it: it is to invoke the chances of an "on-behalf-of" newly pervaded by gift.
Paul Ricoeur writes that "the task of ethics…is the re-appropriation of our effort to exist. Since our power has been alienated, however, this effort remains a desire, the desire to be" (quoted in Kearney 176). And for Richard Kearney, this recoverable affirmation, the "word of existence – which affirms the goodness of being despite its multiple estrangements – speaks according to the grammar of the ana" (176). Here an "ana" returning to existence is the only condition which makes the option of faith in the sacral as an "ana-theism" possible (176). Such estrangements make affirmation strange or scarce to itself, one could add. Nothing is lost in anatheism, Kearney claims. Though we have lost the God of providence and overcome nostalgia for a father figure, "what is lost as possession can be retrieved as gift, revisited after the salutary night of atheistic critique." (177). Though we are short of possessibles, we do own a capacity to rededicate the given as gift out of which a freely bestowed (and so actively resistant) naturality emerges. "Anatheist desire" Kearney continues, is "a love that answers desire with more desire – and death with more life,…desire surely reveals "God" as another name for the "more", the "surplus" that humans seek" (182). Or in the words of a contemporary poet:
[E]ach step we make inclusive of surrounds; each small belonging, each tentative
slip of root clings to each miniature so slight informs aslant, humility to sheer minor but only because of this humble round…worn refuge of words ruminating patterns of remit in finite burrs. L-o-v-e. (Dickinson 12)
For this poetry, more becomes the surprise or strangeness of the less, so that surplus is not meaningful unless it points to the exceeding of givens by gift. For Rowan Williams (interpreting David Jones) the task of art is to give attention to what is given, but with it arises a need to "thin out" the given materiality so as to re-embody what it is that is given and yet eludes the original embodiment (63). Just as an excess of response overshoots its object, however, so the meaning-free blankness of materiality can be recessive, drawing response along with it so as to slighten it. This slighting finally enables differentiated response, an on-behalf-of whose lessness-before is no longer identical with non-entity. What is given distributes the ambivalence of good and harm, the ill-given and the well-given, but retains a prophetic or counter-factual reserve glimpsing the otherness of gift, one which in suspending naturalism deepens the ethical horizons of what remains to be chosen in contingency.
Timothy Morton reminds us that "instead of imagining limitation outside…we recognise internal limits". For Morton, internal limits are a matter of mediations (mainly social) which ward off a "dreamy quality of immersion in nature" which would keep us separate from it (202). Truth to the natural makes itself scarce before our reverie, it seems, but this is a recessive quality which draws relation in rather than casting it off. Critical truth is scarce as ungroundable, but scarcity as persisting relation suspends the penalty by means of an incommensurability neither ground nor abyss but the remissive aura of the gifted itself. Morton ends his trenchant study with a (transgressive) call to arms:
We choose this poisoned ground. We will be equal to this senseless actuality.
Ecology may be without nature. But it is not without us. (295)
By "poisoned ground" Morton intends the duty to politicize the aesthetic, but the phrase is also readable as the contaminated state of the earth correctively stunned out of enchantment. The defiance of "we will be equal to" gestures toward an impossible identity, since to be human is to sense actuality, not reproduce its senselessness (however subject to its reproductions of us, whence our vulnerabilities before it). "Ecology may be without…" is at once an ironic permission and a scarce letting-be: to be with what nature is without is to be in scarce relation to it. Morton's last words (which might refer either to ecology or nature) offer the mysterious addition of an "us" which has no other role than to make an offer. A world without humans might survive better but what is it humans bring to nature in ecological guise (not for nothing is it syntactically impossible to distinguish between ecology and nature here)? Morton leaves us at a brink which beckons echoes of address and dedication. Any human otherness from nature is empty (or vicious) unless it can be reoffered to the givenness of the natural, however much "givens" are subject to critique. This is the voice of a non-dominant intervention or coming-to which if it tender relation can only make itself scarcely present, but as such alters the ratio between dark and light in holding open the over-determined gap between givens and what gives:
For all nature is a winter shadow
and an exultant transfer (Milbank 55)
Buell, Lawrence. Writing for an Endangered World: Literature, Culture, and Environment in the U. S. and Beyond. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 2001.
Chrétien, Jean-Louis. The Call and the Response. Trans. Anne A. Davenport. New York: Fordham UP, 2004.
Curry, Patrick. "Nature Post-Nature." New Formations 64 (2008): 50-64.
Derrida, Jacques. On the Name. Ed. Thomas Dutoit. Standford, Calif.: Stanford UP, 1995.
Dickinson, Mark. Species of Community. Scarborough: Meta-Press, 2009.
Hart, George. "A New Green Script: Reading The Book of the Green Man Ecocritically." Ronald Johnson: Life and Works. Ed. Joel Bettridge and Eric Murphy Selinger. Orano, Me.: National Poetry Foundation, 2008.
Jager, Colin. The Book of God: Secularization and Design in the Romantic Era. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.
Marion, Jean Luc. Being Given: Toward a Phenomenology of Givenness. Trans. Jeffrey L. Kosky. Stanford, Calif: Stanford UP, 2002.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Visible and the Invisible. Ed. Claude Lefort. Trans. Alphonzo Lingis. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1968.
Milbank, John. The Legend of Death: Two Poetic Sequences. Eugene, Or.: Cascade Books, 2008.
Morton, Timothy. Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 2007.
Potkay, Adam. "Wordsworth and the Ethics of Things." PMLA 123.2 (2008): 390-404.
Rigby, Elizabeth E. "Earth, World, Text: on the (Im)Possibility of Ecocriticism." New Literary History 35 (2004): 427-42.
Schwartz, Regina M. Sacramental Poetics at the Dawn of Secularism: How God Left the World. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford UP, 2008.
Wheeler, Wendy. "Postscript on Biosemiotics: Reading Beyond Words – and Ecocriticism." New Formations 64 (2008): 137-54.
Williams, Rowan. Grace and Necessity: Reflections on Art and Love. London: Continuum, 2005.
Winspur, Steven. La Poésie du Lieu: Segalan, Guillevic, Thoreau, Ponge. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006.
Zwicky, Jan. "Lyric Realism: Nature Poetry, Silence and Ontology." Warwick Review 2.2 (2008): 37-46.
[i] For an illuminating overview of postmodern gift theory, see Kevin Hart, “The Gift: a Debate,” in Postmodernism: a Beginner’s Guide (Oxford: Oneworld, 2004), pp. 129-54.
[ii] For the idea of reserve as the approach of the unrealisable, see Kevin Hart, “The Profound Reserve,” in After Blanchot: Literature, Criticism, Philosophy. Eds. Leslie Hill, Brian Nelson, Dimitris Vardoulakis. (Newark, NJ: U of Delaware Press: 2005), pp. 35-57.
[iii] William Desmond posits four hyperboles of finite being: the sheer idiocy that anything should exist, aesthetic astonishment, the erotics of self-surpassing and the promise of agapeic community. See his God and the Between. (Oxford, Blackwell, 2008), pp. 11-12.
[iv] For William Desmond the “between” is crucial to a “metaxalogical” notion of difference neither dialectical nor subversive. See his Art, Origins, Otherness: Between Philosophy and Art. (Albany: State U of New York Press, 2003), pp. 257,270.
[v] Morton challenges ecological scarcity as such, seeing the problem more one of “a badly distributed and reified surplus” (109). Surplus might well be more unruly and subversive, but I am suggesting an ontological scarcity in the face of natural abundance which mitigates unlivable excess and mediates the desire for plenitude through what a poverty of the given-to intent on relation can promise: itself nothing frugal or self-contained.
[vi] For a discussion of the eco-ethical implications of this passage see Peter Larkin, “Relations of Scarcity: Ecology and Eschatology in The Ruined Cottage.” Studies in Romanticism 39 (2000): 347-64.
[vii] Paul H. Fry argues that poetry’s characteristic utterance of “ostension” is one which “temporarily releases consciousness from its dependence on the signifying process.” See his A Defense of Poetry: Reflections on the Occasion of Writing. (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford UP, 1995), p. 13.
[viii] See his Is There a Sabbath For Thought? Between Religion and Philosophy (New York: Fordham UP, 2005), p. 36.
[ix] Is There a Sabbath For Thought? Between Religion and Philosophy (New York: Fordham UP, 2005), p. 48.
[x] For a sketch of the ontology of the “visitational” see Peter Larkin, “Tutelary Visitations” in David Jones: Artist and Poet. Ed. Paul Hills (Aldershot: Scolar, 1996), pp. 347-64