“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lee Edelman: After Queer, After Humanism Liveblog 6

One week later: Hardesty wrote about how Bartleby continued to resonate. Reading of Bartleby ensued at OWS.
Library Journal reported on the reading, Molly McCartle: “the character's profound aloneness” as an issue. Rejection of family and connections. Protest against nuclear and patriarchal stuff. Occupy all about solidarity. New societal structures.
Pointing towards the queer. That very singularity, the pathos of Bartleby's exclusion from every role apart from that of employee, that suits him so well to OWS.
Iconic function of Bartleby: in story and in OWS, derives in dignity of his resistance to power, his refusal of demands, his poignant lack of connection to the world that would make him comprehensible.
“one of those beings from whom nothing is ascertainable”
life's withdrawal into a stillness beyond itself; poised between life and death
radical refusal to be or to be known; even his copying habits; silence, paleness, mehcanicalness
“singularly sedate”; “in a singularly mild, firm voice”—the radical assertion of “I would prefer not to” is also his lack of recognizable affect in his voice; “not the least uneasiness...”
no trace “of anything ordinarily human”—this lack will have to be made to enable his embodiment of the human
the paradigm of the human
the narrative that begins with the flattest of statements, concludes with a famous outburst of passion
what moves him is his triumph in moving from the first explanation to the second (reading B as a figure for humanity as a whole)
B's impenetrability can speak to a universal situation
The mystery of a being at a limit of the human, and gesturing towards its own beyond
the narrator thus defines the human as inherently self-transcendent and thus as what no human can purport to embody
B's unfathomability submits at last to being fathomed... (cont.)

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