“아 바틀비여! 아 인간이여!”: 허먼 멜빌의 ｢필경사 바틀비｣에 나타나는 부정성
- “아 바틀비여! 아 인간이여!”: 허먼 멜빌의 ｢필경사 바틀비｣에 나타나는 부정성
- Other Titles
- “Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity”: Negativity in Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener”
- 바틀비; 멜빌; 지젝; 부정성; 시차적 간극; 과잉; Bartleby; Melville; Žižek; negativity; parallax gap; excess
- Issue Date
- 비평과이론, v.17, no.1, pp.111 - 135
- This essay aims to investigate the diverse aspect of “negativity” and its ethico-political potentialities in Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” In The Parallax View, Slavoj Žižek focuses on the negative preference in Bartleby’s motto of refusal (“I would prefer not to”) arguing the significance of Bartleby’s ethical and political act to affirm “negativity.” For Žižek, negativity as a reconceptualization of Hegel’s dialectic signifies the incessant negation of the self-sameness (synthesis) that is assumed to be achieved by the negation of thesis, and works as the only hope of redemption. This study would explore Žižek’s such an idea of negativity, insurmountable gap and antagonism within itself, in “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” by examining the mutual relationship between Bartleby and other characters (lawyer-narrator, Turkey, and Nippers). In doing so, this approach would find Žižek’s idea of negativity at various levels, which is not fully explored by his own analysis because of his exclusive attention to Bartleby’s representative motto.
First, this essay refers to Sigmund Freud’s metapsychology and Žižek’s another notion of the “parallax gap,” a key term in The Parallax View, in order to find the multiple aspects of negativity within the text. Arguably, the relationship between the lawyer-narrator and Bartleby can be understood as the relation of the parallax gap: the Ego/the Id, the pleasure principle/death drive, and repression/satisfaction. In this relationship, the latter is not simply the negation (resistance) of the former but the fundamental excess or “negativity,” as a (im-)possible condition of it. Next, this essay would focus on the narrator’s possibility of change from a flat character into a round (complex) one, as an evidence of the ethico-political impact by the Bartlebyian negativity. The narrator’s observation of the green and soft grass growing through the chasms at the Tombs and his remarks about his “emotions” in the grammatically plural form with regard to Bartleby implicate his self-distantiation from his previous egotistical and defensive attitude toward Bartleby. More important, the narrator’s belated disclosure of Bartleby’s past career at the Dead Letter Office suggests not only Bartleby’s own ethico-political identification (subjectivization) with the Dead Letter, an excess reminding us of the malfunction of the socio-symbolic network, but also the narrator’s similarly ethico-political awareness of the event, another basis of his possible sympathy with Bartleby.
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