[ilds] Durrell, Lacan, Bladerunner, etc...

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Wed May 30 12:40:28 PDT 2007

Beatrice makes a good point here:

> But Durrell's Freud is very much Lacanian since it
> is concerned with the "writing of the unconscious"
> (I won't elaborate here since it will take us too
> far afield). Later Durrell talks also about reading
> Lacan; but his association with Denis DeRougemont,
> an author discussed extensively by Lacan, and the
> way it came about does it not bespeak Durrell's
> investment or familiarity in the same context of
> issues? Also, Maurice Girodias, son of Durrell¹s
> first publisher of the Black Book and Durrell¹s
> publisher in Paris in the late fifties, was also
> publishing Bataille in the forties and fifties

I suspect Beatrice and I differ slightly on how to read the psychoanalytic
dimension in Durrell, but on the whole, I think we'd argue for virtually
identical approaches.  It's worth noting just how many small links there are
between Durrell and the developments in French thought from the 1930s onward
-- for instance, Durrell's close friend David Gascoyne makes a highly
favourable mention on Lacan in his early book _Introduction to Surreallism_,
which we know Durrell read.  Whether or not Durrell followed up on that, I
don't know, but it would certainly have been in character, and he was in
contact with Gascoyne extensively at this time as well as during his time in

> Unfortunately, both Durrell biographies do not seem
> to document French readings and contacts as well as
> the Anglo-American ones. Voracious reader that
> Durrell was, I think he kept up very well with what
> was going on in the Paris of his youth, filtering,
> understanding, misunderstanding, modifying and raising
> objections to things.

As Charles, Bill, and I have been privately chatting about for a while, I
catalogue of Durrell's known reading materials and his library (as well as
marginalia) would be a very genuine boon.  Also, the reverse may apply.
Given Lacan's highly favourable references to Henry Miller, I would find it
surprising if in his vast reading he never opened the pages of a French
edition of Durrell...

> The same people who chose to ignore this are the ones
> who clamor to keep Durrell out of the discussions to
> which his work is relevant.

I've often bit my tongue from saying this so directly, but it is viable.
Durrell has been very, very oddly absent from the discussions to which his
contribution would be most valuable.  Even his influence on the subsequent
authors who are then taken up in several current theoretical modes of
literary study remains largely muted.

I suspect Beatrice will have something substantial to remedy this problem in
the nearing future...  I'm waiting and watching for it.

And, Beatrice, you've been reading my mind.  I recall in my notebooks
jotting down several observations when I last (slightly drunkenly) watched
_Bladerunner_ when I was considering using it in a class again:

> Durrell's text was indirectly responsible for bringing
> about the whole cyborg issue (what did was _Do Androids
> dream of Electric Sheep_ or _Bladerunner_ the movie,
> which is clearly indebted to Durrell's _Revolt_).

This is yet another fertile field for discussion.  I think the influence on
Bladerunner is far stronger than has been noticed, both on the surface and
in the execution.

> Ask not what the academy can do for Durrell, but what
> Durrell can do for the academy

Huzzah!  I think the academy is reluctant to let him...  Personally, I've
found some of the silences most palpable at the points where Durrell would
trouble the necessary assumptions for key paradigms.  Why doesn't Said
mention Durrell?  Why don't we find Durrell in pyschoanalytic readings of
literature (what would Zizek do, for example?)?  When not Durrell in studies
of narratology?  When will Durrell break into reader response?  I suspect
his absence speaks a great deal to his ability to disturb the accepted norms
of these academic fields in ways that many critics simply do not want to
deal with.  Hence, even where he's ostensibly the ideal subject, he's oddly
absent, as if he both wouldn't fit the mould and might even ask if the mould
is flawed.

James Gifford
Department of English
University of Victoria
Victoria, B.C., Canada

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