DAVID LEE MILLER
Marshall Grossman’s contribution to this collection is the snapshot of a brilliant mind cut off in midstride. Marshall was, clearly, following up on his 2009 essay, “Whose Life Is It Anyway? Shakespeare’s Prick,” which in turn builds upon Joel Fineman’s seminal work in both The Perjured Eye and The Subjectivity Effect.1 This is characteristic: Marshall’s arguments often emerged from an extended meditation on the unfinished project he calls “Fineman’s short but intense career.”2 There is an oppressive irony in the way the present occasion repeats the essential structure of that dialogue, irony wrought to a higher pitch by the turn to Hamlet’s exchange with Claudius and Gertrude, that opens “Inserting Me.” If I take this occasion to speak despite the burden such irony adds to the loss of a loved friend, it is because the silence to which I am drawn would betray the lifelong commitment to language on which, and within which, that friendship thrived.
This commitment takes a powerful, characteristic form in the poststructural postulate with which Marshall’s essay begins: “[T]he self can be possessed and confirmed only through and as acts of predication in which the immediacy of the self is sacrificed to the hegemony of its signifiers.” Marshall offers this formulation as the “profoundly linguistic discovery” shared by Shakespeare and Donne; it is also, of course, a methodological principle shared by Fineman and Grossman. To propose that the self is irreducibly mediated by language is not, however, to deny the possibility of pre- or extra linguistic subjectivity; on the contrary, it leads to the inference that the self in its immediacy may either resist or accede to the alienating identification with its signifiers. This struggle between resistance, which carries the risk of slipping out of language into silence, and acceptance, which carries the alternative risk of finding oneself bound to an alienating