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Spinoza/space/speed/sublime: Problems of philosophy and politics in the post-colonial fiction of Gerald Murnane

journal contribution
posted on 2013-12-31, 00:00 authored by Patrick WestPatrick West
This article takes account of the ‘spontaneity’ of the post-colonial fiction of Gerald Murnane within the ‘dominating space’ of the philosophy of Spinoza. My use of Paul Carter’s terms here is strategic. The compact of fiction and philosophy in Murnane corresponds with the relationship of spontaneity to the dominating organization of desire in Carter’s rendering of an Aboriginal hunter. Carter’s phrase “‘a figure at once spontaneous and wholly dominated by the space of his desire’” worries Ken Gelder and Jane M. Jacobs, who suggest that it subjugates the formation of Aboriginal desire (incorporating spontaneity) to impulses of imperialism. The captivating immanence of Spinoza’s philosophy in Murnane’s fiction, which I will demonstrate with various examples, puts pressure on the fiction to occupy the same space as the space of the philosophy. Here is a clue to why Murnane’s post-colonial thematics have been little explored by critics with an interest in post-colonial politics. The desire of Spinoza’s philosophy creates a spatial textuality within which the spontaneity of Murnane’s fiction, to the degree that it maximizes or fills the philosophy, is minimized in its political effects. That is to say, the fiction shifts politics into an external space of what Roland Barthes calls “resistance or condemnation”. However, the different speeds (or timings) of Murnane and Spinoza, within the one space, mitigate this resistance of the outside, at least in respect of certain circumstances of post-coloniality. It is especially productive, I suggest, to engage Carter’s representation of an Aboriginal hunter through the compact of coincidental spaces and differential speeds created by Murnane’s fiction in Spinoza’s philosophy. This produces a ceaseless activation of desire and domination, evidenced in Murnane’s short story ‘Land Deal’, and indexed by a post-Romantic sublime. What limits the value of Murnane’s fiction in most contexts of post-colonial politics, is precisely what makes it useful in the matter of Carter’s Aboriginal hunter.



Journal of Postcolonial Cultures and Societies






1 - 15


Guild of Independent Scholars


Celina, Ohio







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article

Copyright notice

2013, Guild of Independent Scholars

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