Laurent Milesi

(H)allophonies: Cixous and Others on the Line

Keywords: Cixous, Derrida, telephony/graphy, gramophony, distancing

[Full transcripts appearing online for the duration of Telepoetics (27 May – 5 June 2020) have been reduced to excerpts of approx. 750 words.]


Cixous and others on the line

Allô can you hear me in French it means ‘hallo’ but also ‘other’ as a combining form in the Hellenic language: allo-.

I pick up the call and already the communication becomes an exchange, a thread drawn between idioms that accord with one another telepathically from afar…

         1st n° – Fil(iation)s

‘In the beginning was the telephone, yes, at the beginning of the phone call’, says Derrida in ‘Ulysses Gramophone: Hear Say Yes in Joyce’, soon before allusively recalling the famous sequence in ‘Proteus’ in which telephone and umbilical cords intertwine their biotechnological genealogies in order to connect their generations of fils ([fil] or [fis]), like these ‘telephone cords whose mark is borne by all mammals’ in Hélène Cixous’s Messie. I cut and quote from the third chapter of Ulysses:

The cords of all link back, strandentwining cable of all flesh. […] Gaze in your omphalos. Hello! Kinch here. Put me on to Edenville. Aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one.

To dial the access code to the Jardin d’Essai in Genesis and its generations to come, please key in twice the initial letter of the Hebrew and Greek alphabets, then digitize 001… ad infinitum. Here writing ‘does a number’, switches into telephony during Stephen’s mental peregrinations full of virtual conversations which in true Protean fashion transmogrify the lived events in the surrounding world. The following sequence, from Hélène Cixous’s essay ‘Writing Blind’, fully discloses the potentially abyssal contamination between telephony and writing, an interruptive dialectic of unending repetitions cutting off and parasiting one another in an undecidable phonography or gramophony:

Now the telephone rings. And it’s you. […] I was in the process of writing: But the telephone rings. And I wrote: and it’s you. (I mean the telephone itself.) It was then that the telephone rang, this one here, and it was you. It was you! […] And it was you and I say to you: o my love I was in the process of writing: but the telephone rings. And it’s you. And you say to me; no way! […] And you say to me: but are you sure this happens outside, or is it in the text? […] This is what happens when one writes what happens.

H. C. for Life, That Is to Say… later defined telephony as a telegraphy to the nth power, and it is worth recalling that the French adjective téléphoné, in the sense of something predictable and mechanical, translates as ‘telegraphed’ in English. Thus, the autobiographical ring of its ‘nous nous écrivons’, picked up and developed from ‘Contes de la différence sexuelle’, can be morphed into ‘nous nous appelons’, i.e. we call each other (object; outside) but also ourselves (reflexive; inside), in a mixed telephonography conveyed through crossed lines. And if the line drops, nous nous rappelons, i.e. not only we call each other again but also, as an echo of auto-affected memory, we remember ourselves/each other.

         — I reconnect to the Derridean gramophone while dialling B for Bloom and

         Being. —

For Derrida Bloom’s Dasein or being-there ‘at-the-telephone’ in the ‘Aeolus’ chapter of Ulysses convokes the Heideggerian being-called, ‘who only has access to itself from the Call’. It is also from this problematic that one must hear the famous ‘coup du téléphone’ in Cixous’s OR, les lettres de mon père, recalled in H. C. for Life, since Heidegger’s Ruf is (a) given, like Being in the primordial proposition es gibt Sein. This variation on an inaugural coup de don can explain otherwise the writer’s essential debt and bond (liaison) to the receiver in ‘Writing Blind’: ‘I owe books and books to the telephone and I will give at least one back to it.’ Or again in ‘Ulysses Gramophone’, in a passage underlining the essentially telephonic nature of the grain or gramme of the voice

At the same time, in the same way, from the first phone call and the simplest vocalization, from the monosyllabic quasi-interjection of the ‘oui,’ ‘yes,’ ‘ay.’ And a fortiori for the ‘yes, yes’ that the theoreticians of the speech act propose as examples of the performative and that Molly repeats at the end of the so-called monologue […]

‘In the beginning was the telephone’, which I echoed earlier, is distorted into ‘In the beginning, there will have been the invention of the telephone’ in H. C. for Life, a future perfect whose temporal disjunction – it is tensed between a not yet and an already there – records the preterition just announced (‘I would have liked to keep talking to you, to keep you on the telephone.’) as well as bears witness to the instant speed of telephony as soon as the voice detaches from the sender. A scene of genesis to which H. C. replies from afar, in Tours promises: ‘What would I do if the telephone, that is to say, God, had not been invented?’