Beyond Bartleby and Bad Faith: Thinking Critically with Sartre and Deleuze

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    This essay argues that important critical and political perspective can be gained on Deleuze's famous essay, ‘Bartleby; or, The Formula’ by viewing it as an attempt to move beyond the Sartrean framework of ‘bad faith’. The argument comprises four sections. In section one, I contextualise Deleuze's essay in terms of contrasting readings of Bartleby, from a prior account by Georges Perec, to contemporary accounts indebted to Deleuze, from Hardt and Negri's Empire to Gisèle Berkman's recent L'Effet Bartleby. The argument of this section is that a problematically reductive image of Bartleby has emerged in the wake of Deleuze's essay, but that this can be challenged in favour of a more nuanced and politically significant reading by contextualising the essay as an attempt to overcome bad faith. In section two, I develop this by drawing out the nature and relevance of the threat posed by bad faith through a focus on Sartrean, Deleuzian and Badioucan critiques of Bartleby, before arguing, in section three, that attention to the concept of a ‘logic of presuppositions’ developed in Deleuze's essay shows how bad faith can be overcome. These sections all build towards the fourth and longest section, which draws out the wider political significance of what it means to overcome bad faith. To do so, I pay attention to how logics of presupposition function in Bartleby's story, and consider Deleuze's essay in relation to his work on ‘control societies’ and ‘collective assemblages of enunciation’.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)83-105
    Number of pages22
    JournalDeleuze Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


    • Deleuze, Gilles, 1925-1995
    • Badiou, Alain
    • Sartre, Jean-Paul
    • Perec, Georges
    • Logic of Presuppositions
    • Bad Faith
    • Image of Thought


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