Chapter

“Bartleby,” or Decision: A Note on Allegory

Peggy Kamuf

in To Follow

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780748641543
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652136 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641543.003.0002
“Bartleby,” or Decision: A Note on Allegory

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This chapter approaches Melville's incomparable short work and asks it to decide the question of decision. How is it, according to ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’, that a decision is possible – assuming that it is ever possible? What happens when someone decides or, as one says in French, se décide? In numerous places, Derrida has pointed out that the concept of decision, which is indispensable for any reflection on ethics or politics, requires a thorough recasting and deconstructing to the extent that it presupposes the identity and the presence to itself of a subject. It is argued that Melville' tale convokes us to such a reconstruction. The fact that it is precisely a narrative which does this is not insignificant.

Keywords: Melville; decision; Derrida; reconstruction; identity

Chapter.  4795 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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