The Doppelgänger: Literature's Philosophy

The Doppelgänger: Literature's Philosophy

The Doppelgänger: Literature's Philosophy

The Doppelgänger: Literature's Philosophy


The Doppelgänger or Double presents literature as the "double" of philosophy. There are historical reasons for this. The genesis of the Doppelgänger is literature's response to the philosophical focus on subjectivity. The Doppelgänger was coined by the German author Jean Paul in 1796 as a critique of Idealism's assertion of subjective autonomy, individuality and human agency. This critique prefigures post-War extrapolations of the subject as decentred. From this perspective, the Doppelgänger has a "family resemblance" to current conceptualizations of subjectivity. It becomes the emblematic subject of modernity. This is the first significant study on the Doppelgänger's influence on philosophical thought. The Doppelgänger emerges as a hidden and unexplored element both in conceptions of subjectivity and in philosophy's relation to literature. Vardoulakis demonstrates this by employing the Doppelgänger to read literature philosophically and to read philosophy as literature. The Doppelgänger then appears instrumental in the self-conception of both literature and philosophy.


A project that has been carried out, in various stages and in different places, for almost a decade will inevitably be indebted to a large number of friends. At the same time, this makes it difficult to acknowledge everyone. Thus, only those with the most immediate impact on the book can be mentioned here. Tina Weller’s help has been invaluable. Walter Veit has offered wise counsel and support. Thanks to Gail Ward, Carlo Salzani, and Sabina Sestigiani for their friendship. Leslie Hill has been instrumental in forging the presence of Blanchot in these pages. Chris Danta’s intellectual insights have always been highly valued. the input by Stathis Gourgouris, David Ferris, and Ewa Ziarek has been crucial in bringing this project to completion. An Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, undertaken at the Peter Szondi-Institut für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft, at the invitation of Winfried Menninghaus, made it possible to complete a full draft of the manuscript. the final draft was completed during a sabbatical that was organized by Peter Murphy and the School of English, Communication and Performance Studies at Monash University. Sarah Anderson was a supportive companion during the writing of this book.

Finally, this book was supported by the College of the Arts, University of Western Sydney.

The spelling of the German word “der Doppelgänger” has been normalized to the English spelling “doppelgänger,” except when German texts are cited.

In the absence of a reference to a published translation, translations are mine. On occasion, cited translations have been altered in order to amend mistakes or to retain terminological continuity or the stylistic tenor.

All references to Jean Paul’s works are to the Norbert Miller edition . . .

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