Trakl calls on the deer to assume this role of witness in regard to the stranger.

the steps of the stranger
rang through the silver night.
Would that a blue deer were to remember his path.39

Heidegger asks, “who is the blue deer that the poet calls out to? An animal? Certainly. Only an animal? By no means. For it is supposed to remember [gedenken]” (GA 12: 41/OWL 166, tm). The remembrance of the deer is a looking past the present in two ways, first by remembering what it has seen, and second by seeing what is not simply present, but instead is likewise drawn out into the between along these twilight paths. This memory, this capacity for witnessing, makes the blue deer something other than an irrational animal. The deer is past the present in its recollection and this redefines its animality. “The blue deer is an animal, whose animality presumably does not rest in the animalistic, but in that observing recollection” (GA 12: 41/OWL 166, tm). The animal becomes the deer in looking beyond itself, certainly past any “disinhibiting ring” that would confine it.

To be sure, the transformation in question is a break with all manner of confinement for the animal. Heidegger’s new understanding of the animal is on the basis of its exposure to blueness, i.e., in terms of the between. 40 This means breaking with the traditional abstractions and oppositions of metaphysical animality whereby it is set against the rational and intelligible. In the Trakl interpretation, this animal–rational diremption is thought of as a “curse” that has befallen us, though Heidegger is quick to explain that “not duality [das Zwiefache] as such, but rather discord [die Zwietracht] is the curse” (GA 12: 46/OWL 170, tm). Duality and difference are the gift of existence for us, modes of relating. Concomitant with that gift, however, is the curse of discord. The differences all too easily reify into antagonistic oppositions, not simply dividing the separated parties but urging them on to their utmost extremes. Animality becomes sheer wildness, with Heidegger observing that “due to this [to discord] each of the clans [Geschlechter, sexes, races, generations, tribes] is drawn into the unbridled uproar of the always isolated and sheer wildness of the wild game [bloßen Wildheit des Wildes]” (GA 12: 46/OWL 170, tm). Discord isolates each pole of the opposition that it institutes against the other—animality against rationality, for instance—such that the poles are deprived of all contact with each other. Animality is opposed to the rational and becomes sheer wildness and revolting brutality. “Out of the uproar of blind wildness it [discord] carries each clan into a diremption

39 Trakl, “Sommersneige,” Dichtungen, 137/Poems, 155, tm, cited at GA 12: 39/OWL 164, tm.

40 Calarco views part of Derrida’s concern with the animal to be that “working through the question of the animal at this level, at the level of protoethical exposure, will challenge the metaphysical grounding of modern ethics and politics and reorient thought along alternative lines” (Calarco, Zoographies, 119–20). We believe the observing recollection of the blue deer to have gone no small distance along these same lines, and this already within Heidegger’s own work.

Andrew J. Mitchell - The Fourfold

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