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Secrets Can Be Murder: How to Write the Secret in De Profundis

Secrets Can Be Murder: How to Write the Secret in De Profundis

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Writing Death, with Regard to the Other

the poisoner Thomas Wainewright, or the clandestine execution of the

condemned man in the ‘‘Ballad.’’ In each case, the secret consists in withholding knowledge of a violent death from others. But even the apparently

anodyne secrets of the inhabitants of Wilde’s late-Victorian drawing

rooms entail violence through their performative force: To possess oneself

of a secret is to turn language from a tool into a veil, to void words of their

agreed-upon communicativeness, and to choose them with reference to

maintaining power over the content. The secret keeper infringes upon the

social space by hollowing out the message-bearing potential of language,

creating pockets of silence in the public sharing of information, holding

out the promise of something to be known by withholding it.

There is benefit in such secrecy. Through the establishing of a formal

reserve, the subject symbolizes herself and her right to an intact privacy

and freedom. She puts forward appearances, signifiers as masks, as just

that. As D. A. Miller puts it, secrecy’s ‘‘ultimate meaning lies in the subject’s formal insistence that he is radically inaccessible to the culture that

would otherwise entirely determine him.’’2 One might think that the move

to bring a secret out in the open would reclaim meaning for the social

space. But paradoxically—and Wilde is nothing if not a miner of such

paradoxes—the restoration is also felt as a violence because the individual

subject symbolized by the secret appears violated when that secret is exposed. One cannot divulge a secret and restore meaning without also

exposing the repressiveness of the accepted meaning system and the violence of society in having imposed it. In the dynamics of the secret, there

is a pressure to keeping it, given that it is through its reserve that the

subject has constituted itself. It is presumably in establishing and drawing

upon just such a reserve that the autobiographer is involved in confessing.

One of the recent influential works treating the secret in Wilde, Eve

Sedgwick’s remarkable Epistemology of the Closet, goes far toward exploring

such a social understanding.3 Indeed, for Sedgwick, the closet is above all

a social, cultural problem. With the homosexual closet, a cultural construction of gender identification is replaced by a sexual identification that

captures the body as a free signifier open to new determinations, thereby

transgressing ‘‘an entire cultural network of normative definitions.’’4 It is

worth looking at Sedgwick’s argument in closer detail to uncover the

stakes of the social account of the secret, as well as what, if anything, might

be missing for an understanding of autobiographical discourse in De Profundis from such an account.

Her argument would bear looking into for its own sake. A groundbreaking account for Wilde studies, Sedgwick rejuvenated almost singlehandedly a field that was stuck in moral disapproval of Wilde’s life or in

How to Write the Secret in De Profundis


belittling Wilde’s work. In one of his boutades, Wilde said that he reserved

his genius for his life and his talent for his work, and most critics before

Sedgwick have tended to agree with him, judging his work brittle and

stylishly superficial in its aestheticist pose.5 But Sedgwick found the homosexual secret could provide a transition between the biographical Wilde

and the fictional Dorian that unlocked a new dimension to the text: It

was to the staging of the structure of the closet and a homosexual subject

producing itself as such that both fictional character and real-life author

were devoted.

The homosexual secret could link life to art because it was a secret that

disclosed a knowledge that does not exist prior to its disclosure, while yet

having an empirical equivalent through the fixing of the knowledge structure to sexual identity. In this sense, Sedgwick agrees with such historians

of sexuality as Foucault who make homosexual identity—although not

same sex relations—a relatively modern phenomenon.6 Through her insistence on performativity, Sedgwick provides a hermeneutics in which the

speaking subject stages as the disconcealment of a hitherto unknown form

of the secret the audience recognizes as its own. The closet is not a prefabricated structure in which something is hidden away, but rather comes

into existence by the act of withdrawing something from view. Through

it, a situation presumed natural—heterosexual identity—is undone; and a

second situation—the chosen homosexual identity signaled by the decisive

resignifying—takes its place. Wilde’s flamboyant life provides examples of

such an emergence; so also do the secrets that recur throughout Wilde’s

work. This story among men can be seen as a situation prototypical for

autobiography where the confessional subject constitutes itself the holder

of a secret. As such, it may have something to confess to an authority,

along the Augustinian model, because it has stolen power by appropriating

and hiding knowledge. But it also has something to confess to another

subject, a brother from whom it has kept the mechanism of its access to

power secret.

For Sedgwick, the individual homosexual’s proliferation of effects of

style is the inventive side of the closet structure. A plethora of details, all

of which serve to foreground appearance as such, announce a thing to be

known. They point to an artifice injected at the level of nature, stiffening

it into a pose.7 Such a strategy brings out the freedom of the signifier

against the conventional relation between sign and thing. As transgressive

performatives, moreover, the gestures elevate the dandy-like subject above

the crowd as the master of individuality itself, one who anticipates a meaning experience may not bring: ‘‘Ordinary people waited till life disclosed


Writing Death, with Regard to the Other

to them secrets, but to the few, to the elect, the mysteries of life were

revealed before the veil was drawn away.’’8

Sedgwick comments that next to the creativity of producing a secret,

the act of emerging from the closet in a confession is disappointingly blank

and self contradictory. To tell the homosexual secret is to make the signifier, so powerful and infinitely suggestive of the individual’s freedom when

reserved, into a label attached to a set of beings sharing the same revealed

secret; it is to flatten the secret into a content, emptying it of all meaning

as act. In her shrewd analysis, the power flows to the original detainer; and

if homosexual panic surfaces at disclosure, that is because in the disconcealment of the knowledge structure, as it catches more that one conforming face in its mirror, it disempowers the secret’s sharers from selfelevation through similar acts of withholding. The identification of the

individual detainer of the secret as a homosexual at the precise moment

that uniformity shows up causes fear in the insecure onlooker, who, fascinated by the display of power over the signifying system, suddenly sees

the identity form as encapsulating him. For Sedgwick, the closet structure

contains ‘‘both the most generative and the most murderous plots of our

culture’’ (Epistemology 90).9

The differences Sedgwick notes between the stylizing performatives of

silence and spoken performatives notwithstanding, by understanding silence as a performative, she ultimately defines it as discourse; and more

specifically, as part of a dialogue to be had in encounters with like subjects

in the name of knowledge. It has been noted that the play of the signifier,

while experienced as liberating with respect to the constraints of representation, in fact is powerfully stabilizing because it determines the knowable

referent of all texts as language.10 That appears to be the case here, with

the subject becoming possessed of a determinate secret to which all its

actions point. An example of this sort of secret would be the famous green

carnation Wilde wore to the opening of Lady Windermere’s Fan: The carnation signifies to others a secret which becomes, in Sedgwick’s parlance,

an open or empty secret, because the act of signaling a secret is sufficient

to set into play the closet structure’s ‘‘I know you know’’ structure of recognition among like subjects (EC 164).

We may wonder, however, whether silence is always to be understood

as a moment in a discourse, and whether all secrets are knowable as contents by subjects. The subject’s silence as designating the possession of a

secret may be at odds, for instance, with another sort of silence: the sort

we found exemplified in Rousseau, where the pressure to confess was felt

as an outrage against the child’s moral being. When Henry James, writing

How to Write the Secret in De Profundis


of Marcher in ‘‘The Beast in the Jungle,’’ calls his secret ‘‘unspeakable,’’

we can understand him to mean it is not a topic suitable for public discussion. However, we can equally well see James opposing speech to some

other sort of language—writing, for example—where the problem is not

the suitability of the topic for publicity but whether language is limited

to the spoken utterance.11 At the very least, the religious dimension to

formulations such as the unspeakable, the unnameable, and so on suggests

a need to consider the secret as defining the relations of the self to the

absolute.12 Silence and speech may indeed be conceived as belonging to

the single ‘‘self-contradictory field of force’’ (EC 9) of knowledge and

identity formation to which Sedgwick limits them. But according to another logic, incompatible with the first, silence is a caesura in discourse

and it opens onto an ethico-religious logic where the secret is for the other

with whom one does not share in a dialogue.

It is this possibility that Derrida addresses in the title essay of Donner

la mort, in the context of a consideration of the history of the secret proposed by the Czech philosopher Jan Patocˇka. For Patocˇka, the heterodox

Christian secret, unlike the Platonic secret, is not in the subject’s keeping.

It sets the I into a dissymmetrical relation to an other with whom no exchange is possible. It is ethical and religious in import and is not a matter

of knowledge and stable identity:

God sees me, he looks into me in secret, but I don’t see him, I don’t see

him looking at me, even though he looks at me while facing me and not,

like an analyst, from behind my back. Since I don’t see him looking at me,

I can, and must, only hear him. But most often I have to be led to hear or

believe him [on doit me le donner a` entendre], I hear tell what he says, through

the voice of another, another other, a messenger, an angel, a prophet, a

messiah or postman, a bearer of tidings, an evangelist, an intermediary who

speaks between God and myself. There is no face-to-face exchange of looks

[pas de face-a`-face et de regard e´change´] between God and myself, between

the other and myself. God looks at me [me regarde] and I don’t see him and

it is on the basis of this gaze that singles me out [ce regard qui me regarde]

that my responsibility comes into being. Thus is instituted or revealed the

‘‘it concerns me’’ or ‘‘it’s my lookout’’ [c¸a me regarde] that leads me to say

‘‘it is my business, my affair, my responsibility. . . .

It is dissymmetrical: this gaze [ce regard] that sees me without my seeing

it looking at me. It knows my very secret even when I myself don’t see it

and even though the Socratic ‘‘Know yourself’’ seems to install the philosophical within the lure of reflexivity, in the disavowal of a secret that is

always for me alone, that is to say for the other: for me who never sees anything


Writing Death, with Regard to the Other

in it, and hence for the other alone to whom, through the dissymmetry,

a secret is revealed. For the other my secret will no longer be a secret.

(GD 91)

Derrida insists that I bear a secret that pertains to me without being

available to me. This secret is not one I keep from others, who share a

language and a discursive situation—or what Derrida calls, following Levinas, the ‘‘face to face.’’ It is a dissymmetrical secret, one that I do not even

know I have, to which I have no direct access and that I have to hear about

from an intermediary. It is certainly not one I can perform for others

because it is not a secret I know anything about, and is indeed not really

‘‘my’’ secret at all if the I is thought as a sovereign subject, possessor of a

knowledge it is free to reveal or conceal. It is more mine (mon propre secret)

than any of the secrets I might possess or come to possess, but only insofar

as c¸a me regarde (it looks at or concerns me) without my ever having a

chance of knowing it, insofar as it remains a secret for me but not for

the other. Derrida links this secret to the possibility of my own language

becoming unintelligible to me, to the gap between signifier and signified

that lets my words show patterns unrelated to what I say, and thus to

reveal a hidden interiority. We cannot conflate the dissymmetrical secret

with the homosexual secret, which is a secret that captures signifiers to

refer to a single content and limits the open-ended indefiniteness of a

‘‘secret that is always for me . . . who will never see into it.’’ The passage

from Derrida suggests this by the differentiation between God’s facing

gaze and the analyst’s look ‘‘from behind my back,’’ in the position Derrida identifies in La Carte postale with homosexuality.

The dissymetrical secret seems to make autobiography conceived as a

project of genuine self-revelation impossible. How am I to reveal the secret that I am for the other, a secret that I do not detain, with which I

cannot identify? Yet how can an autobiography worthy of the name not

seek to speak about it as central for understanding the I and its responsibility? Donner la mort is a critical text for us in locating and exploring in

Wilde’s autobiography its address to a silence where identity and subjecthood are endangered. For Derrida sees responsibility, ethics, starting here,

where the I ceases to be a responsible subject: that is, one capable of performing its subjectivity as the constitution and revelation of a defined secret for others:

How can another see into me, into my most secret self, without my being

able to see in there myself and without my being able to see him in me?

And if my secret self, that which can be revealed one to the other, to the

How to Write the Secret in De Profundis


wholly other, to God if you wish [Dieu si l’on veut], is a secret that I will

never reflect on, that I will never know or experience or possess as my own,

then what sense is there in saying that it is ‘‘my’’ secret, or in saying more

generally that a secret belongs, that it is proper to or belongs to some ‘‘one,’’

or to some other who remains someone? It is perhaps there that we find the

secret of secrecy, namely, that it is not a matter of knowing and that it is

there for no-one. A secret doesn’t belong, it can never be said to be at home

or in its place [un secret n’appartient pas, il n’est jamais accorde´ a` un ‘‘chez soi’’].

(GD 92)

This notion of a secret that doesn’t belong to me or to any subject, that is

available only to the other, that is not to be found anywhere ‘‘at home,’’

and that is not an object of epistemological inquiry, brings us into the

neighborhood of the absolutely other, of ‘‘God if you wish,’’ and thus of

the question of religion.

There is a potential for viewing the I as bearer of a secret for God in

Wilde, where we often find the term secret given an ethico-religious valence. His heterodox insistence—Oxford interest in Catholicism and

deathbed conversion notwithstanding—that ‘‘my Gods dwell in temples

made with hands, and within the circle of actual experience is my creed

made perfect and complete’’ warns us that if this second secret is religious,

it is to at any rate not to be thought of in terms of metaphysics.13

For first evidence of such a secret in Wilde and one that can moreover

provide a glimpse of its interest for Wildean autobiography, consider the

picture guarded so jealously by Dorian and called the ‘‘mirror of his soul’’

(PDG 169) and ‘‘his conscience’’ (PDG 169). By hiding the picture, Dorian

has acted in defiance of an injunction from God, who has ‘‘called upon

men to confess their sins to earth as well as to heaven’’ (PDG 169). The

injunction to confess, as revealed by Dorian’s sinful act of locking up the

picture, in fact involves two contradictory logics. With respect to the confession owed men, Dorian fails to be autobiographical enough: His holding secret the portrait that registers his sins is tantamount to a refusal to

reveal himself to other subjects to whom the truth is owed. But, with respect to God, the same action has to be thought as too autobiographical.

By hiding the picture, he has read it as if it belonged to him and as if the

dissymmetrical secret, which Wilde elsewhere calls ‘‘his very secret’’ (DP

109), could be located in a determinate place. To appropriate the picture

as a portrait is a sin against the very secret, which belongs nowhere and to

no one and which has to be promiscuously available to the first comer (un

secret n’appartient pas, il n’est jamais accorde´ a` un ‘‘chez soi’’). In reading the


Writing Death, with Regard to the Other

picture as a self-portrait, he has reduced the very secret to a piece of information and sinned against the soul. There is an aporetic logic in the relation between secrecy and confession: Secrecy sins against the openness of

the very secret, which commands confession; the identificatory moves of

confession denature or silence the very secret they purport to reveal by

locating it and treating it as determinate.

The Crisis in Telling the Secrets That One Knows:

Letters to Reading Gaol

In the autobiographical letter De Profundis, Wilde is concerning himself

with these paradoxes even as he meditates, as from one literary man to

another, on the problem of how to write the secrets one knows. There, he

lays out a version of the distinction between the secrets an I possesses and

its secret for the other in terms of the violences attendant upon silence.

The ‘‘strange silence’’ (DP 23) of Wilde’s intimate and lover Lord Alfred

Douglas, familiarly called ‘‘Bosie,’’ is the focal point. It was on account of

this love relation that Wilde was put on trial and landed in prison, where

he was finishing up to two years’ of hard labor at the moment the letter

was written. Among the rare correspondence he had been allowed to receive in prison, nothing had come from Bosie. De Profundis is an accusatory letter, meant to incite Douglas to break a silence that Wilde finds

personally painful—‘‘your silence has been horrible,’’ he says (DP 54).

It is significant that De Profundis was written in prison, where Wilde

was, as the French say, mis au secret, locked up with a little group away

from human society, where communication with the outside and with

other prisoners was all but forbidden. Wilde was allowed to receive and to

write one letter per quarter, with each letter having to be read and cleared

by the Governor of the prison. The prisoner thus had to decide which of

the various letters sent him over the course of a three-month period he

was to read during his sentence and which others would keep their secrets

until his release (DP 54). Prison exacerbates the paradoxes and demands

of secrecy. In prison, it seems that there can be no more secrets and, conversely, that there are only secrets and secret-keeping. There are meant to

be no secrets of the discursive sort among the prisoners, each of whom has

been de-individualized so far as possible. ‘‘I myself had no name at all. In

the great prison where I was then incarcerated I was merely the figure and

letter of a little cell in a long gallery, one of a thousand lifeless numbers, as

of a thousand lifeless lives’’ (DP 42). Each wears a uniform, has a number,

How to Write the Secret in De Profundis


accomplishes a uniform set of tasks, eats a uniform meal at a uniform time,

and retires to rest at a designated hour, ‘‘each dreadful day in the very

minutest detail like its brother’’ (DP 46). There are to be no dandified

subjects wearing green carnations in Wandsworth Prison or Reading

Gaol. And yet if there is a disappearance of discursive secrecy, one can also

say that that is because with the prison there is a hyperbolical secrecy, with

the prisoners themselves become the content held secret by state, which

manifests its power by withholding them from exchanges and effectively

locking them into immobilized attitudes of assent to its power and their

own disempowerment. The writer of a letter to prison faces a crisis: how

to write secrets to a beloved other where the letter has to pass under the

eyes of the Governor and the love for that other is the reason for incarceration?14 It is significant that Wilde should have chosen to solicit an autobiographical letter from Douglas so close to the end of his stay, in

circumstances where frank confession does not appear possible and the

barest hint of a mystery would presumably raise concern in the authorities.

It is all the more significant because he seems to see the situation as a

proving ground that will force him to make strides in writing and that

might help the apprentice poet Douglas as well. An examination of De

Profundis lets us investigate the crisis in secrecy insofar as it uncovers responsibilities and provides new possibilities for the writer.

When it finally reached him, Bosie did not answer Wilde’s letter and

indeed later claimed never to have received it.15 Yet, one has to feel for the

unhappy Douglas because at the same time that it calls for an autobiographical response, Wilde’s letter will already have stepped in to take responsibility for the interlocutor, to answer in advance, to witness for his

secret in his place, and therefore, violently, unpardonably to silence him

anew. As in any system of exchange where substitution rules, Wilde’s accusation of Bosie for his withdrawal can be quickly turned into an accusation

against Wilde for his usurping of the interlocutor’s position. This is established right away in the paragraph of address, where a strange formulation

makes the decision to write a letter to Bosie all but synonymous with the

reception of a letter from him:

Dear Bosie, After long and fruitless waiting I have determined to write to you

myself, as much for your sake as for mine, as I would not like to think that

I had passed through two long years of imprisonment without ever having

received a single line from you, or any news or message even, except such as

gave me pain. (DP 3, my emphasis)

By writing to Bosie, as Wilde anticipates, he will have received a line

from him, Bosie will have said what he would have said in response, even


Writing Death, with Regard to the Other

to the point that Wilde claims to have written Bosie’s life story in his

place: ‘‘You see that I have to write your life to you’’ (DP 35); ‘‘if you have

read this letter as carefully as you should have done you have met yourself

face to face’’ (DP 105). Part of what makes the letter so self-laceratingly

terrible can be traced to its tendency to bring about the very situation of

silence and abdication of responsibility it finds so painful. Not only are the

charges so overwhelming as to make an adequate response difficult but

also, should Bosie respond, he could only repeat the confessions Wilde

has made for him. Through the performative, Wilde takes over the scene

of language, which is the scene of responsibility in his text, and silences

his lover by seemingly speaking his secret ‘‘for’’ him. The ethical implications of the act of assuming the I in discourse, implications discussed in

earlier chapters in connection with Benveniste and Levinas, are worked

out by Wilde in his relationship with Bosie. As I, as subject of discourse,

he speaks for Bosie and for every subject; in doing so, he does violence to

the other as subject, reducing all to silence by taking over the scene of

language and responsibility. The usurping violence entailed by this mastering is very near the surface in De Profundis in the violence against the

other as potential subject deprived of speech (tu tu) by the speaking I. It

should be noted that Wilde is not interested in bringing Bosie to account

only: The structure is specular; and in accusing Bosie of irresponsibility,

Wilde calls himself to account for his own responsibility for the other to

whom as for whom he speaks.

Richard Ellmann has rightly called De Profundis a love letter, however,

and despite the panoply of strategies it deploys to reduce Bosie to an echo,

an almost unbearable note of urgency and longing indicates another dimension to silence, also Levinasian, with implications for the very secret.16

Even with all that Wilde has done to ‘‘[take] into account the silent recipient’s supposed responses’’ (DP xi), as Ellmann puts it, the speaker still

cannot explain ‘‘the secret of your strange silence’’ (DP 23): ‘‘What I must

know from you is why you have never made any attempt to write to me’’

(DP 116). After 100 pages of hearing about Bosie’s irresponsibility, we

are right where we started, still waiting to hear the reasons for his nonresponsiveness. In the end, no one but Bosie can answer for Bosie. This

gap between Wilde’s tortured attempt to anticipate Bosie’s responses and

his ultimate failure ever to speak for the other constitutes, as Ellmann says,

an avowal of love. The other is loved as bearer of a secret that remains

secret against all the I’s proleptic thinking and discursive prowess. In Ellmann’s reading, Bosie’s silence has a function disparate to the exchanges

of dialogue, as an index of the solitude of each one and of the infinitely

How to Write the Secret in De Profundis


unknowable and desirable very secret for which a given other stands, and

which can only be read in the gap between what is said and what is meant

that the silence represents.

Wilde’s request for an answer to the letter is thus tantamount to a

prayer that the other share the secret of its reserve as other with the I:

‘‘Remember that I have yet to know you’’ (DP 117). The secret of the

other as defined here is his irreplaceability, what makes it that no one can

respond for him. Wilde has much at stake in Bosie’s silence. No one can

speak for Bosie means also that no one can speak for Wilde. The intimation of the uniqueness of each one comes through the mediating silence

or reserve of the other, which is not a matter of a determinate content

withheld but of death anticipated through the sacrifice of discourse as the

scene of subjective triumph.17

Wilde’s letter thus has a double aim, in keeping with the aporia of the

secret and responsibility Derrida discusses in Donner la mort. On the one

side, Wilde wants to persuade Bosie to confess his secrets so as to resume

their neo-Platonic dialogue in an atmosphere of openness; on the other

hand, Wilde wants to bring him news of Patocˇka’s heterodox Christian

secret to inspire the neophyte writer to a similar effort. Recognized as well

is a double obligation, taken up as such, with respect to the interlocutor’s

silence in De Profundis. On the one side, the other’s silence must be respected because it is through a silence significant of the other’s solitude

that the news of irreplaceability emerges. On the other side, the other

must be made to break his silence and to give his reasons because until he

does, the I will be speaking for him, with the universality of the I’s discourse silencing all other subjects, taking over the dialogue and eradicating

the possibility of exchange. Responsibility and the secret play out between

the two in a paradoxical injunction:

Each must respond to the other and, addressing the other, explain himself as subject by making his secrets known, even at the price of taking over the scene of language and occupying it entirely so that the

other cannot respond.

Each one must respond for himself and for himself only, as before God,

in the name of the irreplaceable uniqueness of each one.

Still to be considered, however, is the relationship between these injunctions and how to write them in a letter. Here, the lack of a letter from

Bosie represents a particular problem. Is the missing letter the equivalent

of a silence in an ongoing conversation? Is it rather a sign of a writer

shrinking from dealing in the deeper silence that writing brings, and not


Writing Death, with Regard to the Other

knowing how to manage his dissymmetrical secret without confessing it as

the secret of a forbidden love? Wilde investigates Bosie’s unresponsiveness

as a means to get at the writer’s responsibilities in saying the secrets one

knows, looking to Bosie’s parents for the models from which the latter has

learned his bad writing habits.

One responsibility concerns the decision of when to write, given that

writing imports its nonresponsiveness into discourse. Consider the letters

of Lady Queensberry whose fault is to have written to Wilde when she

ought to have spoken to Bosie:

Instead of speaking to you about your life, as a mother should, she always

wrote privately to me with earnest, frightened entreaties not let you know

that she was writing to me. You see the position in which I was placed

between you and your mother. It was one as false, absurd, and as tragic as

the one in which I was placed between you and your father. . . . All the

underhand and secret communications with me were wrong. What was the

use of our mother sending me endless little notes, marked ‘‘Private’’ on the

envelope, begging me not to ask you so often to dinner, and not to give

you any money, each note ending with an earnest postscript ‘‘On no account

let Alfred know that I have written to you’’? What good could there be from

letters such as your mother used to send me, except that which did occur,

a foolish and fatal shifting of the moral responsibility on to my shoulders?

(DP 97–8)

Lady Queensberry writes when duty dictates that she speak her message

in a maternal discourse of counsel to her son. ‘‘The first duty of a mother

is not to be afraid of speaking to her son’’ (DP 98), and Lady Queensberry

has not only neglected that duty but has shifted responsibility for speaking

to the writer Wilde.18 From the examples, we can deduce that writing where

speaking is an obligation falsifies intersubjective commerce: The mother’s

intimate dialogue with her son takes place through an intermediary; Wilde’s

love for Bosie is falsified by his role as parental counselor; their shared homosexual secret will be masked by the heterosexual secret introduced by the

private correspondence between a man and a woman; De Profundis itself is

ventriloquized, appearing as a parental discourse of admonishment. What

is more, Lady Queensberry traduces and trivializes the very secret whose

paraphernalia she adopts. Notice the indications of a simulated very secret:

Lady Queensberry fears an encounter with her son as Kierkegaard’s Abraham trembles before the absolute; she chooses an intermediary to deliver

news of her wishes for Bosie’s conduct; she writes postscripts recommending a supplementary secrecy where writing is concerned, as if to say that a

letter is more than a mere accessory. Although her actual dealings are with

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