Writing as the (still living) dead

In the chapter on ‘The Double’ in Nicholas Royle’s The Uncanny, the writing confronts a selfish, impossible paradox – that your name, that ‘thing’ following you through life, so distinctly ‘you’ – whether loved or hated – belongs to another (the Other) in The Same way. But it is my name! ‘But it is also about an engagement with the fact that death, machine-like repetition and otherness are always inscribed in the workings of the name and signature’. Both the name and the signature are always already a repetition – with the signature its repeatability is its very ‘essence’, it must be repeatable, so that the legitimacy of its repetition can be dutifully counter-signed.

The text of Cryptomimesis: The Gothic and Jacques Derrida’s Ghost Writing by Carla Jodey Castricano suggests that ‘in the case of the proper name, which is “not to be confused with the bearer,” one writes as the (still living) dead’.

I am ‘the bearer’ of the forenames of both my grandmothers, and I bear the ‘full’ married name of my father’s mother. When I write, specifically when I act as signatory to a text, any text, is she writing as the (still living) dead? This is a haunting question, partly because I never met her, but also because of all the insurmountable ‘distance’ between us, which this ‘never-having-met-her’ is an effect of… I not only did not meet her – Eileen Pollard did not meet Eileen Pollard – I did not know her either, and what I do ‘know’ is necessarily refracted and partial – meeting her myself would have produced a different ‘partial’ narrative, but it would have been ‘my’ partiality.

And yet despite all this – no meeting, no ‘knowledge’ – she is ‘there’ every time I sign my name – and she is particularly there as I push against the academic edifice with papers and articles etc. Her ‘presence’ during these signatures is two-fold; it is because this world forces philosophical reflection about your name, and ‘making’ your name, and also because it was not her world. Eileen Pollard did not attend university. She did not have that privilege. This ‘I’ – one of the few awkward shortenings for the name Eileen (Ei, Eye) – that I wish to lay claim to wholly, mastering it finally with the name Eileen Pollard – did go to university, enough times for both of us! ‘I’ is privileged.

‘Knowing’ that the desire for this mastery is impossible and also is to miss the point – makes the whole ‘making your name’ tedium more bearable, more funny and it definitely makes Eileen Pollard laugh!

About ejpollard

I was awarded my PhD from Manchester Metropolitan University, UK in December 2013. My thesis explored the notions of origin and ellipsis in the writing of contemporary British novelist Hilary Mantel. I want this blog to express the ideas I have in and around my academic writing. View all posts by ejpollard

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