Nichole Kypreos

Nichole
Kypreos

LITMO 145

Earl
Jackson, Jr.

November 9, 1998

Earl’s Preface:

[This is a terrific example of outreach and accessing
and realizing resources. This young scholar is making great use of the
section she is in, but she decided to reach out and ask me my opinion on
her engagement with Derrida’s deconstruction, which she is currently studying
in the Critical Theory Course with Dan
Selden
. I post  Nichole’s paper without my interference first.
I link this to another page which contains this paper and my feedback.
So think of this as an example of several things:


[1] How to formulate a question

[2] How to network within an intellectual community,
a community you help create by networking within it


[3] How to set into dialogue continguous parts
of your intellectual endeavors


[4] How to go out on limbs as part of the ethics
of critical engagement – where it’s not reckless but responsible.


[5] How to wonder constructively without becoming
overwhelmed by the questions


[6] How to have a conversation.]

Narrative Deconstruction
in The Killer Inside

The written text often times tells of its own
limitations as a mode of expression and interpretation. Deconstruction,
the term coined by Jacques
Derrida
in the late 1960s, is the mode by which language forms, namely
speech and writing, overlap and transgress one another.

The relationship becomes nonexistent as the two
are so closely linked that they join in sharing similar
semiotic
features. Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me, a representation
of a murderer’s mind, closely resembles the above theoretical concepts.
The narrative structure questions itself, suggests its limitations and
ultimately subverts itself as an intelligible mode of expression and means
of interpretation. This particular unintelligibility effaces itself from
an epistemological standpoint as the novel’s conclusion problematizes narrative
structure as a successful phenomenological means of communication.

I must first address what it means to deconstruct a
text. The term seems to be used loosely in regards to undergraduate studies
(the majority of upper division literature courses offered at the
University of California, Santa Cruz, in my experience)
in textual
analysis, that is, picking apart a text piecemeal in
a series of
close readings. Each part is then examined in a kind
of hermeneutic
tradition in which aspects such as author intention
and historical
relativity are discussed to produce a determinate meaning.
Jacques
Derrida produced his groundbreaking Of
Grammatology
in the mid-1960s
and had it published in 1967. He uses the western philosophical
tendency which privileges the spoken word to the written.
From
Saussure
to Rousseau, he reverses the notion of writing as an
externality to speech. In his deconstruction, writing
becomes the
catalyst to language formation and evolution and takes
an emphatic
precedence over the spoken word. In his final analysis,
Derrida
states that writing is „always already“ speech in that
the concept of
form (i.e. Saussure’s binary model of the sign) „permitted
a
distinction between formal difference and phonic difference.“
(57).
He maintains that the exteriority of writing and the
interiority of
speaking are one of the same; they are of the same
language and are
inextricably joined; there exists no boundary between
the two. In
applying this theory to Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside
Me, a book
that can perhaps be best described as a Freudian venture
into the
relations between the conscious, preconscious, and
unconscious, I find
that the plot becomes a problematic discourse about
the limitations of
a first-person narrative and written language. The
narrative
ultimately folds in on itself on the last page of the
novel, and it is
that instance that I would like to highlight for inspection
and a
possible deconstruction.
Lou Ford, the deputy sheriff of Central City, Texas,
is a hypocrite.
He does exactly what he says he would not do. He explains
how he
kills Amy Stanton on Saturday night, April 5th, 1952
by leading the
reader on an up and down of path to knowledge, leaving
him/her in a
state of anticipation of the actual event. Just as
he begins to tell
the story of the murder, he retreats back into the
past to give the
history behind his murder. In a particular „down“ time,
he mentions
the act of writing and how many writers tend to dramatize
events to
the point of incoherence. He matter of factly states
that in the
books he has read, „the writer seems to go haywire
every time he
reaches a high point. He’ll start leaving out punctuation
and running
his words together and babble about stars and sinking
into a deep
dreamless sea.“ (179-180). He evades his presence as
a writer,
however he raises himself to the status of story-teller.
By
contrasting his construction with those of other writers,
he at first
seems to place himself in the position of the writer.
Consequently,
this means that the narrative would be a written one
and could
smoothly fit into the first part of the aforementioned
Derridian
model. Lou, however, makes a decisively clever move
and moves out of
the realm of the written and into a narrative that
seems untenable and
absent in construction. He says on the same page, „But
the way I see
it is, the writer is just too goddam lazy to do his
job. And I’m not
lazy, whatever else I am. I’ll tell you everything.“
(180). If Lou
had inserted „but“ instead of „and“ in his statement
about his not
being lazy, he would have elevated himself to the level
of the writer.
He, in contrast, views himself quite differently from
the writer,
which problematizes the status of his narrative. The
question
remains, if his story is not speech and he dismisses
it as writing,
then what could it possibly be. Moreover, Lou must
keep to his word
in order for his narrative to be an aggressive text
outside of speech
and writing. In other words, he must tell the reader
everything in a
clear and orderly manner to give himself a presence
between the two
seemingly separable entities. To elaborate further
on the above
quote, Lou does, in fact, tell the reader everything,
and that becomes
the crux of the narrative’s problem. I will return
to this later.
Earl,

This is as far as I could
get without feeling as though my thesis wasteetering on the precipice between
reason and wacky interpretation. 


The plans, however, for the
rest of my paper are as follows:

 

1. I intend to
compare the above passage w/ the last few paragraphs of

the novel to see if, in fact, Lou holds up his end of the bargain.
I

am going to show how Lou’s words do seem to sink into a „deep

dreamless sea.“ The punctuation and lack thereof help to show this
as

well as the words incoherent meaning(s). Does Lou really die? (He

does in my interpretation). If he does, then how does he go on

„speaking?/writing?“ the last and ending paragraph?

 

2. I am going
to try to thoughtfully show how the narrative’s

improbability and unintelligibility (in a Foucauldian
epistemological

sense) is that very thing that deconstructs it. The unintelligibility

reveals how Lou’s narrative is neither speech nor writing but both. 

I’m going to use some more Derrida theory as well as the fact that
the

The Killer Inside Me text is written. Lou’s ambivalence to writing
is

also a topic of interest.

3. What does this
say, then, about writing as a medium for expression?

What does this say about the success of the first
person narrative? 

What does this say about the transparency of language?
I’m not quite

sure yet, but I have some ideas.

What do
you think about all this, Earl? Am I going out on a crazy
Derridian limb?
Will you have this read before Tuesday’s office hours,

because I’d
like to come talk to you about it. If not, can we perhaps

make an
appointment
?

Thanks for your help,

Nichole Kypreos

For Earl’s response to Nichole’s paper, Click This.

Works Cited

Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology.
Corrected Edition. Baltimore:

Johns Hopkins UP, 1997.

De Man, Paul. Allegories of Reading.
(need more info.)

Thompson, Jim. The Killer Inside Me.
New York: Vintage Crime/ Black

Lizard, 1991

Back to Suspense
Fiction Syllabus

To the Cyberpedagogy
Page
. Where I [Earl]
explain what we’re
doing
and why.


For Earl’s response to Nichole’s paper, Click This.