Literature as Encounter: The Downpour of Accidents


  • Laurence Sylvain Université de Montréal


"In one of his strangest texts, “Le courant souterrain du matérialisme de la rencontre” (1982), Louis Althusser attempts to retrace a clandestine philosophical tradition dating back to Epicurus’s rain (pluie) of atoms - and Lucretius’s reading of Epicurus in his De rerum natura - a tradition he claims to observe in the works of other philosophers such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Rousseau, Heidegger, and Marx. While Althusser’s depiction of this illicit tradition is specifically anchored in philosophy, what he proposes here is extremely fruitful in rethinking the knot of the literary phenomenon. Considering literature as rain, as a downpour, that is to say, as something that falls, not unlike Epicurus’s atoms raining in parallel to each other and from time to time accidentally encountering each other, allows us to see literature not as an object or as a tool for interpretation, but as a manifestation of encounters, operating an important shift in any form of hermeneutics. The aim of this article is to propose a rethinking of the literary phenomenon derived from Althusser’s conception of the encounter."