Bartleby and Haunting

Rigor, basically, is ‘ruleness without rules’ — that’s what we mean by ‘critical’ too
the above sounds like a Kantian formula …
there is a similar formula, ‘necessity without being necessary’ — but I actually, somewhat confusingly, use this to refer to the way in which ruleness without rules is also without necessity or ground
It is the human condition that that which we *feel* to be necesary (rigor) is itself not grounded in rules, is not necessary

We spoke about avoiding ‘religiosity’ in the last entry, but I’m not all that sure now if that is all that important
… we ponder this as we think about Bartleby, who cannot be reduced to a teacher, to a natural force
But, in a preliminary way, we consider him to be a *thinking* — but not, mind you, of the lawyer, but rather of the ‘land’
Land in quotes because the land may also include those who work on the land — but we will get to that below
(so, in particular, it is not a ‘critique’, not a teaching, not ‘religious’)

The ‘dead letters office’ is a vital clue, the idea is that that is the only place Bartleby ever works at
The difference between ‘life’ and ‘death’ is … something we will have to address, but in general — while being wary of religiosity — Bartleby seems to be allied with ‘death’ … *reading* seems allied with death — while the lawyer with life
In any case, the two are not opposites

So what happens in the law offices, not only with Bartleby in fact but with the other clerks as well, is that — it is as though they were all working right on top of one another
Doing their own things — almost unrelated to one another — I mean, how much do any of them have in common?
Maybe Bartleby can come across as a critique of property — but while keeping in mind that Bartleby is not occupying some kind of natural, outdoorsy place, but rather, the law offices — which he thinks of as belonging to nobody
I had a chat about the Great Gatsby the other day and — perhaps all these books are starting to blur together — and I haven’t read GG in a long time either — but from what I remember, that whole book seems to be about people walking in a kind of haunted world
Gatsby occupies this enormous place, he occupies this alien personality … so it is as though they were moving amongst the dead
And this is Bartleby too — he occupies the law offices as if the proper owners had vacated long ago
This occupation is actually part of his *thinking* of the law offices

Let’s go back to this notion of ‘land’ — what is the land here?
Well, many people work on some common land, despite the managerial structure — the office
But Conrad spoke of a ‘city of death’ — and this feels like the Great Gatsby too — everyone carries on, whether they are scrivners or lawyers, but without really knowing what they do
So that they seem always to be haunted by the dead, so that the dead, more than living systemic connections determines the world, or that we are determined or located by our relation to the dead
I feel this to be related to what we called above ‘the human condition’: the fact that what we feel to be necessary (rigor) is never attached to nature, never grounded in necessity
I called this in my notes the ‘dizzying freedom of rigor’
And this is basically because rigor is always related to ‘the dead’

Well … let’s actually backtrack a bit here
We were actually talking about the land, about Bartleby’s occupying of this land as if property could not exist (because the true owners are long gone).
And about Bartleby’s occupation as a *thinking* of this ‘land’
A land that is, in fact, haunted by the living, and that involves the living as dead
I mean, the distinction is blurred here, between the living, the dead, and the land
The land itself is not only the text of the legal documents but also the entire office
As well as the people there who carry on there — Nippers, Turkey, Ginger, the Lawyer, Bartleby
Is Bartleby, then, talking with the dead? Not so much transcendental pretension as calculated interaction?
Or should we account for the political or interventional aspects of Bartleby — either on behalf of the dead, in a place where the distinction between life and death are not certain?


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