Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Animal Transference: A "Mole-Like Progression" in C.J. Cherryh

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Animal Transference: A "Mole-Like Progression" in C.J. Cherryh

Article excerpt

This essay brings several science fictions together. It follows what Derrida calls the "becoming literary of the literal" ("Freud" 230) through a particular novel by C.J. Cherryh, Forty Thousand in Gehenna. That is to say, it seconds Derrida's insistence that psychoanalysis should pay greater attention to writing. "Science fiction" stands here both for the genre inhabited by Cherryh and also as a name for Freud's own writing, perhaps all writing, after Derrida. The essay gives emphasis to the delay that Derrida finds in Freud, but without the reassurance that that incidental delay will sometime soon be met, if not exactly on time. Rather, that delayed letter, message, sign, affect can always be lost in the post. This postal principle is at work in every transition, transmission, transference. This essay takes particular account of the latter. The print metaphor that vehicles Freud's understanding of transference as a "new edition of an old desire" ("Observations") reminds us of the series of mechanical models drawn in, only to be expelled at the last, to his attempts to clarify the workings of the psyche through an analogy made famous in his "Note Upon the 'Mystic Writing Pad.'" Derrida, of course, finds the technical supplement unable to be so readily expelled, drawing the text and the psyche into inextricable relation through their commonality as writing machines: his insistence upon a certain originary technicity is well known. In recent years (including within two special issues of Mosaic on "The Animal"), it is Derrida's attention to our relation to "the animal" and to animals that has not only generated debate but forcefully signalled that writing is no simple output registered to only one, properly human, address (The Animal That Therefore I Am).

One further reference point has enabled the enquiry of this essay, and that is an essay by Nicholas Royle, first delivered at that Cerisy-la-Salle colloquium on L'animal autobiographique. Royle's "Mole" ironically reminded Derrida of his own delayed engagement with the animal in Specters of Marx, even as the animal would, as he predicted, "become massively unavoidable" (Derrida, qtd. in Royle 245). He also excavated an intriguing animal figure used by Derrida himself but not given much attention in the latter's animal autobiography of hedgehogs, rams, silkworms, monkeys, ants, wolves, asses, and more. (In The Animal That Therefore I Am Derrida devotes several pages to reminding the reader that he has not suddenly made an animal turn [35-38]). The "mole-like progression" ("Freud" 214) that Royle unearths provides a figure whose traces suffer from the continual risk of undermining themselves. This figure is perhaps less amenable to those who read The Animal That Therefore I Am rather quickly, seizing upon Derrida's insistence that the cat to which he refers really existed and paying less attention to Derrida's necessary reminder that, performative reassurances notwithstanding, the nature of text is such that readers can find no cornerstone of proof within it, that we will not finally be able to safeguard this cat to (an ideology of) realism. Royle's deconstructive mole troubles the edges of figural and realist ambition; it is tricky to re-deploy. The "subterranean toil" of this mole gives a sense of an unconscious without a secret store of presence that is only displaced or delayed from our conscious grasp and figurally links with the non-human species that writes on the surface of the planet Gehenna in Cherryh.

Animality, technicity, and writing come together in the pre-posthuman writing of C.J. Cherryh. If this essay hesitates on the before and the after of "pre" and "post," that is for several reasons: one is that there is no present-human, no isolated endpoint fully formed as such, and there never will be such a being. Another reason is the prescience of Cherryh's work in speaking to debates currently functioning under the name of posthumanism (Wolfe). …

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