"The Speech of Dasein: Heidegger and Quotidian Discourse"

Boundary 2 (2):75-93 (2017)
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In § 35 of Sein und Zeit Heidegger’s denunciation of Gerede, idle talk, is confident and scathing. It sounds so sinister and threatening. What could Heidegger be talking about? One could cite numerous fictional characters (e.g., Pecksniff, Mrs. Gamp, Skimpole, Podsnap – all in Dickens), characters whose speech is very nearly an idiolect of bad faith. And yet there is something so fascinating and creative in their speech, an exuberance in their dissimulation, that one wouldn’t want to miss them. Could idle talk in Heidegger’s sense contribute to the theoretization of Bakhtin's idea of the dialogic and heteroglossia and to the notion of discours as it has been developed by Benveniste, Barthes, and Genette? In prose fiction language is valorized (often implicitly) in terms of meaning/nonsense, serious/non-serious, full/empty. When in fiction language that is deemed low, formulaic, or “empty”-- gossip, chatter, prattle, idiotismes – comes to the fore the narrative elements falters, “nothing much” is said. But a kind of speech as act and process is foregrounded. It is this kind of inadvertence in language, its “idling” state, that Gerede points to.

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Alexander Gelley
University of California at Irvine


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