Modernity at Sea: Melville, Marx, Conrad in Crisis

By Cesare Casarino | Go to book overview
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FIVE
The Labor of Race; or,
Heterotopologies of the Third Man

IN THE END is the beginning, and we return full circle here to the sea narrative that opened these investigations, namely, The Nigger of the “Narcissus”. We return to this text, however, not without casting yet another parting glance in the direction of The Secret Sharer. When reflecting on the previous chapter, one has the strange feeling of having written oneself into the corner of the very text one wanted to open up for all to see, of having written all around oneself a textual closet in which to be alone with one's own redoubled selves, of having obeyed ad litteram the injunctions of The Secret Sharer. Far from abjuring the desires of that chapter much like the narrator of The Secret Sharer abjures the desires of his own narrative in the end, I wish to push his and my desires also in a different direction here. To undo The Secret Sharer in a different manner entails no less than rethinking the sublime of the closet by articulating its historical-political conditions of possibility within modernity. Whereas the previous chapter focused primarily on the modalities of being of the romance between the narrator and Leggatt, I want now to investigate the narrative presuppositions of that romance: in that chapter, I read what was there on the page for all to see rather than what had already taken place behind the narrative scenes. Here, we turn to the question of Leggatt's murder: it is about that murder—about whom, why, and how Leggatt killed—that questions need to be formulated so as to read

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