Ubi Cogito, Ibi Sum: Paranoid Epistemology in Russian Fiction 1833-1907
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CitationMarquette, Scarlet Jacquelyn. 2013. Ubi Cogito, Ibi Sum: Paranoid Epistemology in Russian Fiction 1833-1907. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractThis dissertation addresses two questions fundamental to Russian nineteenth-century intellectual history: 1) Why does literature about paranoid psychosis figure so centrally in the nineteenth-century canon? and 2) How did the absence of an epistemological tradition of reflexive self-consciousness influence the development of Russian ideas of subjectivity? I propose that the presence of paranoia in Russian fiction extends beyond the medical or psychoanalytic aspects of character traits or themes. I argue that literary representations of paranoia perform fundamental philosophical gestures and function as "epistemological speech acts." Russian narratives of paranoia (e.g., Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Garshin, Sologub) constitute a means of exploring the operations of a self-reflexive consciousness, familiar in the West through the Cartesian Cogito. In other words, the theme of paranoia in nineteenth-century Russian fiction actively responds to the regnant philosophical discourse and functions as a praxis for the exploration of philosophical questions. However, this is done in an alternative discourse to the propositional language generally favored in philosophical texts; as a result, the philosophical function of the fictions of paranoia has gone unrecognized, and the genre has been "exiled" from philosophical discourse. I argue that Russian texts of paranoid psychosis should be reconceived as venues for the play of the transcendental ego outside social or communal axes. Paranoia emerges as the Jakobsonian “dominant” within these texts, in that it is paranoia that engages with other narrative components and transforms them. Further, as prose fiction, these texts had the discursive and social capacity to resonate and divagate in ways impossible to philosophical texts. Ultimately, these narratives of paranoia are meta-epistemologies that interrogate their own discursive function and status. They raise critical questions not only about the ways in which we represent truth but about the ontological status of truth itself.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10950365
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