Both mar­ginal micro-literatures and mys­ticism offer them­selves as a modus loquendi a way of speaking, and a modus agenda (a way of acting) that com­ments upon or speaks to a center and speaks it oth­erwise. It trans­lates the space of a center (a logos or a law) into a way of speaking.  In this way, mys­ticism is related to a poetics, but its space is not lit­erally, that of the center/margin of textual space. Rather, the insti­tu­tion­ality that pro­duces the appa­ratus of spatial dis­tri­b­u­tions is put into question. Mys­ticism redis­tributes the authority of the center into a dif­ferent topog­raphy. It works by means of the rein­vention of spatial authority and, espe­cially with women mystics, the ren­dering spatial of an inte­ri­orized embodiment. 

Michel de Certeau reminds us that is only starting with the sev­en­teenth century that mys­ticism becomes a noun in and of itself (la mys­tique) – and that beforehand mys­ticism (i.e. the mys­tical) was only used as an adjective that mod­ified some­thing else and could alter or affect all the forms of knowing and objects according to a reli­gious world. He notes that the rendering-substantive of the term in the first half of the 17th century is the sign of a cutting (a découpage) or a splitting oper­ative (on a broader scale) at the level of knowledge and of hap­penings (faits) or facts. From that moment on, a space begins to delimit a mode of expe­rience, a genre of dis­course, a region of knowing. At the same time the word mys­ticism appears, it con­sti­tutes itself in a space apart. It cir­cum­scribes or dis­cerns iso­latable hap­penings (faits) — extra­or­dinary events; mys­ticism begins to become more socially pro­nounced as a cat­egory, and it becomes co-extensive with a form of knowing. When we speak of mys­ticism before this cut and this for­mal­ization of a kind of knowledge, we refer to a kind of way of speaking and an affective modality of knowing that is still, so to speak, both within and outside a larger cul­tural practice. The fact of “mysticism’s” adjec­tival status, that “mys­tical” is, in the Middle Ages, one des­ig­nation in a mode of approaching divinity gives us a dif­ferent sense of its status, not yet par­ti­tioned off in the same cul­turally rec­og­nized way.

A “mys­tical” way of approaching divinity has some­thing to do, as we know well, with a form of prox­imity: of sensing the prox­imity of the divine. The sacred is not only to be found in sacra­ments, in the precinct of the corpus mys­ticum (the mys­tical body of ecclesia, the virtual com­munity of wor­shippers). Rather, the mystery of the sacred is trans­posed into the terms of an expe­rience: an ecstatic expe­rience of a limit. The cen­trality of “authority” decenters its subject. This bor­derline (decen­tering)  expe­rience –is also of the body: of a bor­derline body.  It is “here” at this border crossing that mys­ticism touches on the poetic. How does the “poetics” of mys­ticism relate to the recording of this expe­rience?  To its immem­o­ra­bilty? To its inscribing some­thing that cannot be appro­priated, recorded, or spoken for? To its opening up that blank space (on a page, for example), of an open secret or a space for the other? An aletory space that may be wounding (as Derrida speaks of the hedgehog)?

In any case, to return to the question of the “space” of poetic expe­rience, we have veered off the page. What strikes me with the idea of micro-literatures is that there is some relation of margin to center at play that works in the logic of a poetics, of a decen­tered authority. And that this can also teach us some­thing about the space of the lit­erary, so to speak. 

We will not be keeping to the path of mys­ticism as our only via, but we will think about its com­mon­al­ities, rather than its exceptionality…