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Discourse 24.1 (2002) 185-186

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Introductionless Death 1

Jalal Toufic

In Stoker's Dracula, Harker loses consciousness as he approaches the vampire's castle: "I must have been asleep, for certainly if I had been fully awake I must have noticed the approach of such a remarkable place"; in Murnau's Nosferatu, Harker loses consciousness while leaving the vampire's castle. The frontier, the place of entry of the labyrinthine realm of undeath is inaccessible since hidden by the trance that seizes one there (entrance n. 2. A means or point by which to enter, entrance v. tr. 1. To put into a trance [American Heritage Dictionary]). 2 If someone who is not a spiritual master is not entranced at the entrance of a place, this indicates that it is not a labyrinth. The entry into and exit from the realm of undeath occurs in a lapse, hence is missed. With the exception of the yogi/Zen master, one is always already undead. 3 You can neither enter nor leave the labyrinth; and you've always been lost in it, that is you cannot be found there. Are you then ever in the labyrinth from which you cannot leave? The labyrinthine has aura. On a map, a labyrinth is formed of one line that meanders on and on, twists and involutes, forming a fractal object with a dimension between one and two, with the following two consequences. First, the labyrinth is all border, hence one cannot be fully inside it: if one can hide in the labyrinth, it is not because one is inside the labyrinth, for the labyrinth maintains one on the outside (thus it has aura), [End Page 185] but because it is in the labyrinth that one is lost. Second, lapses are sure to occur to one in the labyrinth since it does not have a dimension of 3, is not a full volume.


Jalal Toufic is a writer, film theorist, and video artist. He is the author of Distracted (Station Hill, 1991; 2nd ed., Green Integer, forthcoming 2002), (Vampires): An Uneasy Essay on the Undead in Film (Station Hill, 1993; 2nd ed., Station Hill/USEK, forthcoming 2002), Over-Sensitivity (Sun & Moon, 1996) and Forthcoming (Atelos, 2000). His videos, installations and artworks include CreditsIncluded: A Video in Red and Green (1995), 'Acircumflexshûrâ': This Blood Spilled in My Veins (1996), Radical Closure Artist with Bandaged Sense Organ (1997), Overlooking the Unsightly to See (2000) and Two Posthumous Resumes (2000). He co-edited the special Discourse issue Gilles Deleuze: A Reason to Believe in this World, and edited the special Discourse issue Middle Eastern Films Before Thy Gaze Returns to Thee. Toufic has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, USC, and California Institute of the Arts.


1. This postscript is largely based on a paragraph in the section "Lapses" in my book (Vampires): An Uneasy Essay on the Undead in Film.

2. In Herzog's Nosferatu and in Coppola's Dracula, Harker's hypnosis at the entrance to the castle is implied by the door that opens on its own (automobility of objects is a phenomenon encountered in hypnosis, e.g., the hand of the entranced subject that levitates outside his control following the lead of the hypnotist). The vampire seldom entrances his guest by staring him in the eye, but by not appearing in the mirror or by the automobility of objects (door, ship, etc.) that his freezing allows. That the door opens on its own for Harker in Coppola's film indicates that he is at that point hypnotized and that the door is the entrance to the labyrinth, or viceversa: the passivity of the guest of the vampire as the door opens or closes on its own before or behind him does not remain at the level of action but becomes extended to the complementary level of intention and will: he or she becomes hypnotized—in this sense, the automobile object hypnotizes me.

3. Probably this is what drew me, an aphoristic writer, to death: it is the exemplary realm of the absence of introductions.



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