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Étienne Souriau: An Instaurative Event of the Work To-Be-Read

Sat, April 29, 2:45 to 4:15pm, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Floor: Meeting Room Level, Room 221 C


The theoretical framework of this chapter begins with exploring an existential and ontological pluralism of relations, put forward by a much forgotten philosopher, Étienne Souriau, who proposes an infinity of modes of existence (beyond subject, object and the symbolic) which do not wind up in One. For him, all beings (real and virtual) posses no substance and in as much as they persist, it is due to the fact that they are always being invented anew.

The purpose of this chapter is to explore his concept of instauration (of the how of a passive ‘construction’ of a coming into being of existence) as a mode of inquiry, in order to look at how a pedagogy of reading might be explored as an event and an inhuman power of obligation and risk. For Souriau, just as for Alfred N. Whitehead before him and Gilles Deleuze after, the completed work is always a discovery, a surprise even. Souriau proposed that the mode of existence of the “work to-be-made” is different from the completed work and both of these modes are autonomous in as much as they are operating indifferently of the intentions of both the artist and the ‘final’ work of art. There is always an unstable equilibrium between the intentions of an artist and the obligation that the potential or virtual work of art presents the artist with. In a sense, this means that rather than conceiving reading in literacy education as a process of interpretation, construction, representation or differentiation which restores meaning to the subjective self, we look at indifference as that which harbours an effectively inhuman force of discontinuity, detachment and disconnectedness. That is, this reading as a nexus of assemblage is conceived in its multiplicity of details (actual) and potentialities (virtual) that are nonetheless incompossible and destructive. Thus the provocation exists as a contrast (rather than opposition, which assumes the either/or disjunction) between what has been read, what might have been read, and what will have been read. What becomes constructed, welcomed, exchanged or prehended in an event between a work to-be-read and a child in a process of reading is a novelty and an actuality in its own truth and existence, indifferent of the parts that constitute the event of reading.

Reading Souriau with Claire Colebrook, I go on suggesting that the concept of instauration as a mode of inquiry can be understood as assuming a certain passive vitalism (linking Souriau with the vitalism of Deleuze, Whitehead and Ruyer) at work in singular events of reading where indifference rather than difference makes felt the continuum between contingent actualities.

The scholarly significance of this theoretical essay is then twofold; to problematize the prioritizing of the notion of the vital and creative becoming over inert and virtual being in the various ‘new’ turns in education (affective, material, posthumanist, vitalist ect.); and to introduce the currency of some of the aspects of Souriau’s philosophy to the readers in the field of “posthumanist” educational theory and philosophy.