Bartleby and the Non-Particularity Problem

The lawyer is really quite an interesting character in Bartleby
. He is “preeminently safe”, but I don’t actually think, on second analysis, that he is entirely cynical
. He stands at the nexus of letters, in the same way that Bartleby once did, and with some measure of authority
. What we’ve been interested in was the way in which … rigor is “materialized”
. Rigor should not be understood as a holistic vision or a kind of epiphany, but rather, it is in some way hollow, not predetermined
… In fact, what we called “power-rigor”, which was the way in which rigor discovers it’s manifestation in tradition, can be further generalied
— namely, to include these mediums of transport, the letter, these material mediums of accomplishing things
. I mean, most generally, what is most … “private”, what is most “rigorous”, possibility, honesty, etc. — we’ve long known that it wasn’t “systemic”, but rather “external”
. We’ve thought, for example, about “heliotropic rigor”
. But the most general understanding of this is actually this “oppurtunism” of rigor, this emptiness of rigor.

Regarding the lawyer, what interests me is the way in which he is not dishonest, despite his safety, etc.
. in fact, we’ve already remarked how the lawyer is a kind of gambit by Melville
— I remember what they said about Madame Bovary, which applies here as well: something to the effect of, “think about the most boring, non-romantic, dull subject — adultery…”
. in a similar vein, the lawyer is this safe, dull, non-romantic person, who, nonetheless, is not merely someone we can brush aside as being evil, heartless, profiteering, nihilistic, etc. — or, most relevently, dishonest
. So, as we were saying, the lawyer stands at a kind of nexus of letters — the documents that handles are many — many like the countless letters that would arrive at a post office
. And he meets Bartleby, his kindred spirit — and our discussion above, about the emptiness of rigor, can really be reformulated simply as: that we will always meet someone that challenges us in a very intimate way, that we are forced to respond to
— so that the real question here is, what kind of otherness are we here speaking of?

At the end of the last essay, we ended up talking about the non-particularity of Bartleby
. this actually arises from our own attempt to understand the particularity of rigor
. We declared, first of all, that we weren’t really interested in the relationship between form and technics
. But rather interested in the relationship between rigor and “transport“, these materialistic paths open to us — and that is really a parallel question
. So that the project of reading would really be the attempt to answer the question of how particularly rigor appears before us or is influenced by these mediums
. But, in the above, we noted that “rigor” was mostly inevitable
. and furthermore, we realize that the movement from the lawyer to his double, Bartleby, does not, in fact, the movement from absence of rigor to presence of rigor
— it’s not that simple! — the lawyer is not exactly condemnable
. rather, it’s a movement from one form of rigor to another — from a living letters office to a dead letters office perhaps
. or, and this is what seems most striking to me — from the many to the one, from the particular to the non-particular

This reminds me also of the Faulkner story Was
. Which was about this hunting … game, basically, initiated by the two old McCaslin males, almost as a kind of tradition
. a tradition which is not, again, condemnable, which is not really dishonest, and which really does seem to involve rigor
. And in the hunting stories, too, there is always this emphasis, perhaps, on a kind of “bravery”, or at least, on a kind of “otherness” that one has to confront or always be aware of in order to be a man, if you will
. And so, in the midst of this tradition is Toney’s Turl, …

TBC: Bartleby’s Non-particular Rigor


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