This essay builds on previous criticism highlighting the semiotic dimensions of Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping to identify in its metaphors of spirit and spiritual haunting a performative logic of social implication. This logic appears within a metaphysics of subjectivity that the essay draws out in the novel with the help of Derrida's meditations on religion and Nancy's revision of dialectical reason. The “house” of identity, the essay argues, is for Robinson less an enclosure than “a way of going outside” that reveals the negative ground of every determined or external difference. “Keeping” house, then, is figured in leaving it, at a formal level of indistinction between inside and outside. At this level, the novel suggests a model for thinking agency, or decision, predicated on the uncertainty of identification and the need for self-critical reflection on the thetic foreclosure (or forgetting) of the negative ground. Housekeeping is only incidentally about outsiders who escape the conventional world and insiders who do not. In the first instance it concerns the space of unknowing, where we always are, or live, however normative our actions or emphatic our positions (or oppositions) might be. “Drifting Decision” seeks to open up this space in the novel, with an eye to its ethical significance for readers and writers alike.
Research Article|December 01 2008
Stefan Mattessich; Drifting Decision and the Decision to Drift: The Question of Spirit in Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping. differences 1 December 2008; 19 (3): 59–89. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2008-010
Download citation file: