the value of the prefix “avant” (“pre”) does need a few words of clarification. I do not endorse a sort of primitivism in which anteriority would imply clumsy sketch (as it does in Lucien Levy-Bruhl’s nonchalantly baptized “prelogic” [prélogique] in his 1922 La Mentalite primitive). Nor would I give to preliminary writing the prestigious and inaugural character of being a text’s first intuition, localizable in a native state, such that the later work would amount to a mere embellishment upon it. No, what is before the published text is already text and already the text. The text in the imperfect tense can be read; it is not devoid of structure and it is not a paraphrase of the text in the future tense. Of course, one can also see preliminary writings as texts in the conditional or in the subjunctive, but one must nonetheless treat them in their present tense.

Let us examine this. I am calling “avant-texte” the totality of the material written for any project that was first made public in a specific form. Since the term “textual” designates the closed field where a reading meets a writing so as to make the latter signify its unexpected and unpredictable possibilities, regardless of the author’s intentions and the pressure of social and biographical history, I will say that to attend to an avant-textual document is to read, continuously with the text and without any presuppositions, the totality of formulations that, as previous possibilities, have become part of a given work of writing.

Contributed by Wout. View changelog.