Secrets Can Be Murder: How to Write the Secret in <i>De Profundis</i>

E. S. Burt

in Regard for the Other

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780823230907
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235575 | DOI:
Secrets Can Be Murder: How to Write the Secret in De Profundis

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De Profundis, Wilde's autobiographical letter, is motivated by a double silence, and with it, a double secret and a double responsibility that say much about Wilde's concept of the I in its relation to the other. These two silences, which bring us into the arena of autobiography yet also bar entrance to it because muteness threatens to make confession problematic, are divided over whether that relation is under the aegis of conditional or unconditional laws, repeating the same division found in the discussion of hospitality in De Quincey. This chapter considers these two cases together in Wilde's foray into “the egoistic note” he associates with modern art. The discussion of hospitality in De Quincey touched briefly on violence, and more especially, murder as an underside of hospitality in both its forms. In this chapter, murder and violence—what Derrida calls in a book on the secret, “the giving of death”—will surface as an important connecting thread because the secrets that silence portends in Wilde are generally lurid.

Keywords: Wilde; De Profundis; autobiography; conditional laws; unconditional laws; hospitality; De Quincey; modern art; murder; violence

Chapter.  16818 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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