This article provides a comparative reading of “Las Meninas,” Michel Foucault's opening essay in The Order of Things, and the historical novel Q, written by the Italian collective known as Luther Blissett. Foucault's opening chapter, a close reading of Diego Velázquez's 1656 painting portraying the royal family of Spain, is the narration of an epistemological break through the analysis of an image. In a similar fashion, Q, composed in 1999 by the four writers of the Italian collective, the Luther Blissett Project, takes a fictionalized visual representation as a point of departure for a tale of historical and epistemological transformation. Following this idea, the article shows how the use of visual tropes to create meaning and definition (in a word, to name) is inherent to the narration of the epistemic rupture, and more specifically, it analyzes how this epistemic change, interpreted as if it were complete within the frames of Las Meninas, is still indeterminate and “in the making” during the age immediately preceding: the age narrated in Q. If Foucault's The Order of Things takes as a point of departure the closure of the episteme from the point of view of the new system of knowledge epitomized by Las Meninas, the collective novel Q concentrates on the passage from one age to another. The lack of a unified author for the novel reinforces this notion of displacement by multiplying the narratives, the characters, the historical references. The article furthermore reflects on the nature of these narratives as paradigmatic of the ages they strive to represent, particularly in their implied resonance on class and power structures: an age of nameless history, where individuality is characterized by blurred signifiers and collectivity is the founding element of everyday social relations, ends in an enclosed frame, a limited and specified space where names and signatures (and by extension power, property, hierarchy) become the domain of the individual.
Sabrina Ovan; Nameless History Before and After Las Meninas: Luther Blissett's Archaeological Fiction. Genre 1 December 2012; 45 (3): 423–441. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-1722962
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