This essay considers through a string of three fables—a classic wolf trap in La Fontaine, Poe’s story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and contemporary French novelist Eric Chevillard’s Sans l’orang-outan—the animal as the paradoxical, derealized figure of a passing. Drawing on Jacques Derrida, Thomas Keenan, and Maurice Blanchot, among others, the essay understands this passing as a duplicitous logic (that is, one involving a fold, a lag, and a return that precedes a turn) that has the animal standing on certain telling thresholds vis-à-vis the whole, responsible (human) subject. Whether naively eavesdropping at the door, criminally entering an apartment, or tragically exiting the world, the animal is somehow always not yet or no longer in the place of accountable agency that a narrative might bear. This logic can in turn be understood as a function of un-equality, for the animal marks a point at which language or narrative is unequal to itself. The singular, constitutive thresholds or folds of these fables in turn betray something of how language or narrative might work, in what nameless bodies—and even bodiless names—it secretly trades.
Thangam Ravindranathan; Unequal Metrics: Animals Passing in La Fontaine, Poe, and Chevillard. differences 1 December 2013; 24 (3): 1–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-2391941
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