Bartleby and Inheritance

OK, so Bartleby is about passing on something, from Bartleby to the lawyer or to the reader.

Passing on becomes a problem only when we consider the question of “guaranteeing”: Ie, how can a mourner be sure that he is mourning the right thing? He can’t be, which means 2 things:

(1) Mourning is only half the process: well, it is writing, and the other half is reading

(2) The matter is not the object of trnasmission but rather the transmissible. It is not, in other words, a matter of the specific violence that I (eg, Bartleby) have faced, but rather, any trauma which is capable of being transmitted.

Bartleby can only, in a sense, transcend the human limitation of forgetting what he mourns, and can reach a kind of absolute objectivity, even, only because he transmits the transmissible, and because of our participation.

Let’s just go all the way here! Let’s consider transmission in the most concrete of senses, social transmission, transmitting a person, or an event, transmitting some moment.

… Now, what is the original event? Even though we sense it may not matter that much, we still have to consider this problem. The original event is basically the humanity of Bartleby. It is the … multiplication of life, the building of a society — but for our purposes the society needn’t be actually built, I mean, it need not be fact. I guess you can compare this to the origin of dead letters. The original event is some moment of trauma, some notion that Bartelby is onto something: well, he is perhaps a christlike figure? Somehing about individualism?

We will have to think about the the entire world that seems to spring into existence about Bartleby, about his insight (which will remain unspecified). “There must be clerks,” was how Conrad put it, there must be people who sort of make all this real. The fact of living, for Bartleby, is how this original event becomes manifested.

I guess Bartleby himself can be considered a clerk, one wo copies legal documents, who sort of lends a kind of — well, I called it “epicness” — but perhaps even objectivity to all this. “The difference between good and bad literature,” I used to say, “is the epic story in good literature is in the subtext.” So I called it “epic” there, but we might as well call it “ojectivity”, the objectivity of an imagined clerk working for some mysterious organization, in the weird facticity of remaining alive. … the nonchalance of a clerk that is epic in precisely the banality with which he treats this remarkable affair.

Bartelby is basically the limit, the logical limit of Melville’s own performative enterprise. With Bartleby the story we are talking about an epci subtext. But with Bartleby the person we are talking about someone for whom the content has entirely been subsumed by the … “subtext”, so that it does not matter (but it matters a great deal!) whatever documents he may copy. The text is so thoroughly fagmented — and do not think, in this case, a new “phenomenal” understanding of reading, maybe we should rather say “ironized”, err, become ironic — that *each word* matters. Think of Bartleby as writing an absolute glossary. So epic and liminal as to be mundane.

Well, we need not reach that absolute state, I mean. And we wonder — I mean, as in the introduction — whether such an absolute state is even possible, I mean, how much it would make sense for someone to always “have their eye”  on the origin in that way (it isn’t) — or basically, I mean, it is impossible to maintain sucha  gloassary in such a way without reestablishing coherence once again, and reestablishing grammar, content, structure, etc. And so the real issue, I believe, is thinking about the … particular vibe of Bartleby, and how this vibe is reflected in the attentiveness of the text to certain words: TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT PART


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