Specters of Marks: Elements of Derridean Hauntology and Benjaminian Politico-Historical Eschatology in Frankenstein, Heart of Darkness, and The French Lieutenant's Woman
AuthorMontgomery III, Erwin B.
Committee ChairBerry, Laura
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe present work explicates the concept of "the messianic" as it figures in the work of Jacques Derrida and Walter Benjamin in order to establish the foundation of a useful (and, one hopes, potentially innovative) critical approach to the works of Mary Shelley, Joseph Conrad, John Fowles, as well as to novelistic fiction generally. This foundation rests on a common quality of the messianic as it figures in Derrida and Benjamin's respective corpora. In their conception the messianic refers not to some individual of divine, semi-divine, or even mortal origin who is charged with functioning as the world-historical agent by whose deeds history itself comes to an end, and a new holy, paradisiacal order is thereby founded, but to the aspirational tenor to humankind's orientation to futurity. The messianic finds expression in the myriad instantiations of human beings' future-oriented activity. As such, it achieves a sort of spectrality--or, to borrow the term Marx applies to the commodity, a phantom-like objectivity--having a somewhat intuitive apprehensibility, if in fact not form or substance.Novelistic fiction, which exploits its own spectrality in a bid for arranging impossible arrangements, realizing impossible realities, ordering impossible orders, attempts to occupy an impossible-to-occupy space between on one hand, the catastrophic present and the messianic future, and on the other hand, the future to come and the future as it is wished to be. Wracked by the tension created by its allegiance to chance, the contingent, and the aleatory on one side, and to the deterministic, the necessary, and the climactic or teleological on the other side, novelistic fiction achieves its particular character precisely through pursuit of its abortive program, just as humanity achieves its character, to the extent that such a notion is legitimate, precisely through its abortive program, which is nothing more no less than survival, than living on.