Språk och litteratur
crisis of representation
figures of discourse
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AbstractAbstract: This thesis examines the non-dominant and self-subversive aspects of visuality in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 through the lens of the philosophical discussion on representation, particularly in its post-structuralist context. The present research is grounded in the conviction that 2666 embodies the 20th-century crisis of representation and approaches the novel through an analysis of different aspects of the text’s visuality, because, ever since Plato’s Republic, representation has been conceptualised mostly in terms of vision. The aim is to address the famously unsettling character of Bolaño’s last novel by exploring the barely perceptible dimensions of the visual, such as the system of unconscious perceptual habits, dynamics that erode the contours of the image, and semantic overdetermination. The analysis of specific instances where the coherence of mimesis seems to be undermined elucidates what in this thesis is perceived as an endeavour, in 2666, to destabilize the authority of some transcendent truth that governs the very idea of representation as a philosophical concept.The first chapter approaches the technical images in 2666, such as TV and photography. These are important apparatuses within the present scopic regime, which have a significant, yet widely disregarded influence on ways of perceiving reality and interacting with it. This is mirrored both in the diegetic world of Bolaño’s fiction and, as this thesis observes, in the profound structure of the text, which in this way stages the mechanisms of communication and meaning production typical for the visual culture of the late capitalism. This chapter recognizes two strategies that 2666 employs to subvert the hegemony of the ever-present images: saturation and obstruction of vision in its formal treatment of the victims of the Mexican femicide. On the one hand, when readers experience boredom amidst the repetitive and detailed forensic descriptions of the female corpses, their habit of passively consuming images of suffering is revealed. On the other hand, the reduction of a victim to a standardized depiction of her bodily remains protects her life and pain from the voyeuristic gaze of the fiction and of its consumer.The second chapter of this thesis examines the form and structure of dreams in the novel and, considering their disparity, proposes to conceive them as participating in an underground flux of dynamic imagination that passes though all five sections of the novel, in spite of their diegetic framework. Some of the dreams, moreover, seem to visualise the movements of that clandestine current, which places them on the threshold between the represented world of fiction and the underlying mechanics of the text that describes that world. The profound undecidability of the dreams in 2666 thus undermines the stability of the mimetic representation, laying bare its mechanisms, without disrupting its suggestive power.The last chapter addresses the cracks in the text as representation, that is, the instances in which the logic of meaning-production is destabilised by overdetermination. This thesis suggests that what can be perceived in the hesitation of language is the silence of absolute otherness that surpasses accessible categories and concepts. The traces of that silence are an inherent element of Bolaño’s text in its material visuality, as it operates with blank spaces that do not simply organise the novel’s content but furthermore introduce the unspeakable into its core. The present research proposes to consider such an inclusion of otherness in the space of representation as a major ethical gesture that disarms the violent objectification of the other as fully knowable and describable. Thus Bolaño’s last work, within the context of representation, should be thought of in ethical terms: a representation that erodes itself, corroding the hegemony of vision.