Philosophy and Rhetoric 38 (1):41-71 (2005)

Russell Ford
Elmhurst College
Introduction: Another Diction The hack. The salesman. The fired cop. The drifter. The betrayed criminal. Each of these constitutes a novel literary invention; each gives a new sense to the investigative character. They are not modifications of the classical model, stamped with the rational imprimatur of Sherlock Holmes, C. Auguste Dupin, or Joseph Rouletabille – there is no line of filiation from these to Vachss’s Burke, Pelecanos’s Nick Stefanos, or Himes’s Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones. Even Lacan’s powerful psychoanalytic reading of Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” reveals Dupin to be a genius only in a game whose dialectical structure is given in advance. Although the subjects that come to occupy this structure only acquire determination through the assumption of their places, the dynamic form of the dialectic is itself “foreclosed” by the phallus whose circulation organizes the system. Dupin understands the circulation of the signifier only because this circulation is the figure of the law. Rejecting the phallocentric rationality of the mastermind, the new figurations of Vachss, Pelecanos, Himes, and others retain only in order to parody the grand orchestration of reason – their language is slang not deduction. They are not detectives but “dicks”: a name that incorporates within its reduction an empirical transformation of the transcendental. In fact, it is a transformation of the very sense of inquiry that requires this new type of conceptual personae in order to traverse its contours. The philosophical project of Gilles Deleuze – which he characterizes as a “transcendental empiricism” – is directed toward freeing thought from its determination by the philosophical traditions that constitute its history. Such a freeing would allow for a philosophical conceptualization of present events that are no longer able to be adequately conceptualized by that history. The distinctive character of Deleuze’s project comes from his insistence on the discontinuity between the tradition of thought and the new formulations that it is called upon to generate. For Deleuze, the philosopher is the one who asks about the generation of new concepts and thereby places herself in a double bind. On the one hand, the philosopher is historically conditioned, thrown into a tradition whose tools present a limited number of possible conceptual resolutions of a particular event. On the other hand, this conditional determination of philosophical thought is repeated, perpetually, so that the philosopher is always a parody of herself: solving the question of the determination of a present event by resolving the question of the determinability of the present by the past. This situation of parody is the limit of thinking; it is where thinking develops according to the vicissitudes of history.
Keywords Deleuze  Literature  Detective Fiction  Philip K. Dick
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DOI 10.1353/par.2005.0003
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