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UBC Theses and Dissertations

In Derrida’s dream: a poetics of a well-made crypt Castricano, Carla Jodey


This question usually arises out of Derridean deconstruction: what is the relationship between writing and death? This dissertation, however, explores Jacques Derrida's evocation of the living-dead for purposes of theorizing what might be thought of as Derrida's "poetics of the crypt." The first section, "The First Partition: Without the Door," proposes the term "cryptomimesis" to describe how, in Derrida's writing, (the) "crypt" functions as the model, method and theory of a formal poetics based upon the fantasy of incorporation. Cryptomimesis is a writing practice that leads one to understand language and writing in spatial terms of the crypt-a contradictory topography of inside/outside. Such writing also produces a radical psychological model of the individual and collective "self" configured in terms of phantoms, haunting and (refused) mourning. This dissertation also argues that Derrida's poetics of the crypt exist in a certain relationship of correspondence with the Gothic and examines how Derrida's writing intersects or "folds" into that genre, taking as a premise that each is already inhabited, even haunted, by the other. Sections such as "'Darling,' It Said": Making a Contract With the Dead," and "The Question of theTomb," develop this notion of "correspondence" by examining a set of texts written by two American Gothic writers. The discussion posits that the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King give insight into Derrida's preoccupation with inheritance and legacy while illuminating his concern, in terms of writing, with the uncanny institution of architecture. This dissertation attempts to theorize Derrida's writing practice in spatial terms by drawing upon Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok's theory of the phantom and the crypt. It demonstrates how cryptomimesis involves the production of an uncanny imaginary space by playing with thetic referentiality. Final sections, "An Art of Chicanery" and "Inscribing the Wholly Other: No Fixed Address," develop the notion that to suspend the thetic relation is to confound (classical) distinctions between subject and object or "self" and "other." Above all, this dissertation attempts to demonstrate how, in Derrida's work, cryptomimesis is about writing the other and how such writing, predicated upon revenance and haunting, problematizes notions of the "subject," "autobiography," and "transference" and, therefore, problematizes textuality itself.

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