Lee Edelman, “Occupy Wall Street: ‘Bartleby’ and the Humanities”
Fletcher Chair of English at Tufts
Queer Theory and the Death Drive (2004)
Lee thanks the organizers, Derek and Alanna. The performers of Genet.
August 11, 2011: Mitt Romney. “Corporations are people, my friend.”
“Too big to fail” vs ordinary citizens
September 17. Occupy Wall St. began.
Hundreds, then thousands showed up. People sacrificed for big banks and huge corporations.
October 11. Blog post on Bartleby by Hannah Gersen.
The complaint that there is no demand is irrelevant. The point of OWS is to put a face to America's dwindling middle class.
Bartleby gives a face to OWS. Supplementing personhood with a figure whose pathos can underscore subordination to commercial interests.
To counter the prerogatives of corporate personhood, the protestors insist instead on the preeminent rights of the natural person. But with the figure of Bartleby, an artificial being.
This quickly gained a life of its own. New Republic essay by Nina Martyris. “The patron saint of civil disobedience.” “The power of no.”
Bartleby as an educated homeless vegan.
Bartleby t-shirts. Essay by Michele Hardesty. Evocative but not perfect: “such a rich story could never ... provide brief slogans.”
Second irony. Imperfections expressed as the surplus of literary over political interpretation.
Income inequality vs literature! Impoverishment of politicization... “such a rich story.”
aesthetic worth exceeding the political
distance from the reduction inherent in the ostensible referential transparency of politics
Betrays a corporate logic. Irony from literature or politics?