[ilds] RG Justine 1.1

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Sat Apr 7 16:09:51 PDT 2007

I would like to make certain that we treat the ways in which the 
dedication, the NOTE, and the twinned epigraphs linger as ghostly 
presences as we readers step across the paratextual threshold and enter 
/Justine /proper.

Others may feel free to ponder how the dedication, NOTE, and epigraph 
chart a network of biographical, cultural, and intertextual allusions.  
LD invokes some sort of textual lineage with his epigraphs, calling up 
Freud and De Sade as precursors while also drawing attention to his 
work's difference via juxtaposing the quotations, putting them into 
conversation with each other as they had not done before.

But I am especially drawn to the notion that we might use the epigraphs 
as a twinned fulcrum by means of which we can pivot and shift and change 
the text that follows in interesting ways.  For example:

        There are two positions available to us--
        either crime which renders us happy, or the
        noose, which prevents us from being un-
        happy.  I ask whether there can be any hesi-
        tation, lovely Thérèse, and where will your
        little mind find an argument able to combat
        that one?

That last question mark certainly catches my attention.  The hook of the 
inquisitor's crook reaches far into the text of /Justine/, I think.  
Faced with so much unknowing, so many paratectic references in /Justine 
/1.1, I fancy that most first time readers feel themselves cast into the 
role of "lovely Thérèse"--who is speaking here?  how did he get to "this 
island"?  why?  who is this child?  who are Justine and Nessim, Melissa 
and Balthazar?  what is the ethic, what is the moral economy of this 
narrator who asserts that "none of us is properly to be judged for what 
happened in the past"? 

How do our "little minds" make sense of 1.1?


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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