I'd prefer not to: Bartleby and the excesses of interpretation

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This paper engages with Herman Melville's short story Bartleby the Scrivener, as well as contemporary discussions thereof, so as to consider a peculiar concept of excess suggested to us by its main character. Our discussion focuses upon three of the most prominent contemporary Bartlebys: 'The Politicized Bartleby' of Slavoj Zizek, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri; 'The Originary Bartleby' of Gilles Deleuze; and 'The Whatever Bartleby' of Giorgio Agamben. On the basis of these interpretations we derive a concept of excess as the residual surplus of any categorical interpretation, the yet to be accounted for, the not yet explained, the un-interpretable, the indeterminate, the always yet to arrive, precisely that which cannot be captured, held onto nor put in place. This particular discussion of Bartleby is connected to a more general discussion of a management and organization studies that has become increasingly reliant upon literary texts. On this topic, we pass a not altogether optimistic commentary, itself informed by the excessive demand of adequately interpreting Bartleby.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCulture and Organisation
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)171-183
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 01.06.2007
Externally publishedYes