Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Crossings: An Interview with David Farrell Krell

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Crossings: An Interview with David Farrell Krell

Article excerpt

In March 2005, David Farrell Krell (DFK) was the guest of the University of Manitoba as Distinguished Visiting Lecturer. The following interview was conducted on that occasion (17 March 2005). Mosaic is honoured to publish this interview, which originally appeared in Mosaic 39.1 (March 2006).

DM "Crossings" is the title of a series of Mosaic interviews that explores intersections of the critical and creative, their chiasmic relation, what you described to me once and better as "this strange double position of philosophy and fiction." Let me start with a question that I know is too big: how do you account for this strange double? Is this doubling a folding of literature into philosophy such that, as you put it in Lunar Voices, literature is philosophy's "duplicitous twin"?

DFK You start with an easy question [laughs]! I love the play on double, doubling, and duplicity. A lot of the work I've been doing on Schelling's reception of Greek tragedy has to do with the multiple senses of the double. Doubling always causes some kind of trouble because our thinking, at least in philosophy, tends to be monistic, wants to go back to "the one" or to a twosome that always will be united in a third--which equals "the one" in philosophy. I like to think of the double that literature is for philosophy as somehow duplicitous, involving a fundamental difficulty for philosophy. For example, when you consider Plato's banishment of the tragedians, his insistence that they should be removed from the republic, that they endanger the city and philosophy: there you have a sense that literary imitators or "doublers," as it were, pose the most subversive threat to philosophy. And philosophy always wants to tame literature, to reduce literature to an inadequate mirroring of the "one" that so fascinates it. Literature, even the literature of the monologue and the soliloquy, is always doubling over on itself, always opening onto the other and the otherwise. It seems to me that there can't be literature without engagement with this trouble, the welcoming of this trouble, double trouble. That probably was in my mind when I wrote in Lunar Voices about the duplicitous twin.

Let me add a word about the romanza that persists in philosophy--that at its best, philosophy is never written, never approaches its duplicitous twin. We should all be Socratic, and that means only speak, never write. This is something that Derrida addressed so effectively early on in his career that I only need to repeat it here: there's something dirty about literature as far as philosophy is concerned, something ink-stained, something demeaning. The philosopher's phantasm is that he or she speaks with a tacit, silent voice, and so remains "pure," right up against the soul and the ideas within the soul. Literature can only soil pure philosophy. It's as though philosophers never ever wrote a book, as though their books are just accidents, that the essence of their thinking is unspoken, written solely on the heart or in the soul.

DM How far back in your own work would you trace this double? Is it already there as an issue for you in the seventies when you were doing your early work? How does it figure, how did you contend with it, in your early writing?

DFK When I was in graduate school in the sixties, I proposed to write a thesis on memory. What fascinated me about memory at that time was the way in which the writing down of early recollections would open up details concerning things I had no idea were in my memory. I'd forgotten them utterly. This was an experience of the double or of the doppelganger that the unconscious always is. Or let's just say that forgetting somehow retains all these things we eventually remember. The play between remembering and forgetting was a very early experience of doubling for me.

Narrative, the writing of narratives, was for me a very early way of recapturing something that I eventually felt certain was a memory, that I was convinced was a memory rather than a phantasm or a fancy, even though I had no way of proving it, no way of demonstrating to myself that what I was writing had ever actually occurred. …

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