Friday, April 29, 2005

Possible rambling: taken from my thesis notes

The text (Poe's "The Purloined Letter") is a little too sure of itself, a little too self-evident. The text dogmatically interprets itself. The text tries to offer set rules of reading and interpretation, tries to shut down the interpretative act, tries to limit the number of reading strategies, tries to too formally offer itself as a game with Poe/the narrator/Dupin setting the rules. Three games: queen/minister, minister/Dupin, narrator/Dupin, narrator/reader. The text is so self-reflexive that it offers its own solution to whoever reads it. The text says, “Be like Dupin. Interpret like Dupin.” Johnson, Derrida, Lacan say, “I’m like Dupin or even more self-aware than Dupin.” Yet, why cannot we interpret like the prefect? The prefect didn’t lose the game of the purloined letter. He probably made money off the purloined letter/Dupin and did little work (well… his policemen did much work in the minister’s residence). What am I trying to get at: an interpretive stance that does not try to be outside the system. Does not try to be like a Hegelian synthesis. A modest interpretation – a modest camera/thesis (think of the veil). A truly “scientific” or “skeptical” interpretation. An interpretation that truly is at odds with itself, that truly doubts itself, that truly does not want to be the last word. An interpretation that is “open-source” – a project that anyone can join and add to. A democratic interpretation. A non-monarchical interpretation. Dupin is a partisan of the queen. An interpretation without claims to the absolute – without reference to the divine or divine right.

What is at stake: where do we go from here with our interpretations? How do we respond to absolutist/fundamentalist/capitalist/neo-liberal/patriotic interpretations that delimit the analytic activity? Where do we move beyond when the only two options seem to be relativism (we all play our own language-games) or absolutism (God/ruler/me/you sets the rules of the game, discover the “true” text, and there is no real contestation)? Everyone seems to be sure of their reading technique: the narrator and prefect really believe that the minister has won the game (they are so flabbergasted when Dupin pulls out the letter), but then the prefect believes he has won the game because he has corrected the situation and earned money, the minister is still sure he has won the game because he doesn’t even know that the letter he has is a facsimile, Dupin believes he has won the game because he has returned the evil favor done to him by the minister.


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