Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas

By Enrique Vila-Matas

In Bartleby & Co., an greatly relaxing novel, Enrique Vila-Matas tackles the topic of silence in literature: the writers and non-writers who, just like the scrivener Bartleby of the Herman Melville tale, in resolution to any query or call for, replies: "I would like no longer to." Addressing such "artists of refusal" as Robert Walser, Robert Musil, Arthur Rimbaud, Marcel Duchamp, Herman Melville, and J. D. Salinger, Bartleby & Co. can be defined as a meditation: a jogging journey in the course of the annals of literature. Written as a sequence of footnotes (a non-work itself), Bartleby embarks on such questions as why can we write, why will we exist? the reply lies within the novel itself: advised from the viewpoint of a airtight hunchback who has no success with girls, and is himself not able to put in writing, Bartleby is completely attractive, a piece of profound and philosophical good looks.

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2002) The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). Dyer, R. (2003) Now You See It: Studies in Lesbian and Gay Film (London: Routledge). Edelman, L. (2004) No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive (Durham, NC: Duke University Press). Freeman, E. (2000) ‘Packing History: Count(er)ing Generations’, New Literary History, 31(4), 727–44. Freeman, E. (2007) ‘Introduction’, GLQ, 13(2/3), 159–76. Freccero, C. (2006) Queer/Early/Modern (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).

35) suggests that ‘appropriation, misrecognition, disidentification: these terms that queer theory has highlighted all point to the alterity within mimesis itself, the never-perfect aspect of identification’. Our way of being bad scholars might serve to point out that scholarship depends on identification of various sorts, none of which is entirely satisfactory. Other critics have contested the contemporary fetish of sexual difference as a basic belief of research into sexual history. In the introduction to their collection of essays on medieval sexualities, Louise Fradenburg and Carla Freccero engage with ‘the debate about the (hetero) normative “split” between identification and desire’ by asking ‘how does the “same” – even, or especially, a constructed, adopted, performed “same” – in the figure of “same-sex” love … align itself with respect to the deep reserve about the construction of sameness operative elsewhere in cultural studies’ (Fradenburg and Freccero, 1996, p.

Hamlet is always too late, a king-to-be already doomed never to become king. In this context, the ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy acquires a new meaning: ‘to be’ in the future sense of whether he is to be someone, whether he has a future, or not. He forgoes his future by rejecting patrilinear progression and by refusing to forget the dead, and thus chooses co-presence with the past over future orientation. Nielsen’s Hamlet achieves a different kind of co-presence. Even as an infant, she has already had to incorporate her father and assume the male gender in a way that makes it co-present with her own female personhood.

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