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  • Ghost Parrot(ing):Re/Deconstructing Order through Psychic Mimesis, Revenge Justice, and Conjuration in Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy
  • Paul Piatkowski (bio)



In the introduction to their anthology Ghosts: Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis, History, Peter Buse and Andrew Stott claim that "spectres, apparitions, phantoms and revenants have been eclipsed in the popular imagination by a rage for aliens, extra-terrestrials, conspiracy theories, Martian landings and all manner of paranormal occurrences apposite to millennial fever" (1). This might be an odd statement when inserted at the beginning of a volume that deals exclusively with ghosts, yet Buse and Stott proceed to emphasize that, though spectrality may be less in vogue as a speculative reality in the present, ghosts insistently haunt culture. Their volume proposes to "diagnose the persistence of the trope of spectrality in culture" which "continue to enjoy a powerful currency in language and thinking, even if they have been left behind in belief" (3). Indeed, spectrality becomes most apparent as a means of explaining daily phenomena, a means of describing what cannot otherwise be described, and it appears, as Buse and Stott recognize, in such material events and experiences as "phantom pregnancies, limbs, and phone calls, ghost-writers, 'a ghost of a chance', televisual ghosting, and so on" (3). The ghost becomes a useful tool in linguistics and in thought for describing and understanding both material and abstract phenomenon, ranging from the dealing with loss of a person close to another to the residual presence of certain concepts (e.g. imperialism, communism,1 xenophobia, etc.) that continually reoccur throughout the world's history.

In his Specters of Marx, Derrida muses on the spectral presence—the revenant2 of an idea or figure that lingers on to occur again and again, manifesting in the real through a type of parroting3 and mimesis, a repetitive haunting that conflates both the genuine originary event and the simulated repeated realities that follow.

How to comprehend in fact the discourse of the end or the discourse about the end? Can the extremity of the extreme ever be comprehended? And the opposition between 'to be' and 'not to be'? Hamlet already began with the expected return of the dead king. After the end of history, the spirit comes by coming back [revenant], it [End Page 113] figures both a dead man who comes back and a ghost whose expected return repeats itself, again and again.

(Derrida 10)

Derrida shows the spectrality in this way of haunting not just of Old Hamlet,4 but also of his overall subject, Marx, who is himself haunted, as Europe itself is haunted, a point Marx makes in the first line of his Manifesto. Nigel Mapp5 aptly explains in reference to Derrida's thoughts on the specter that, "[a]ll presence is haunted" (110). Everywhere one looks, feels, or thinks, there exists some ghost, some specter. The specter—the haunter—remains a residual presence even when its physical presence is no longer visible. The haunt originates at a point already in the past and repeatedly returns, or at least a version of the haunt returns, or perhaps the haunt has never actually gone. I use the word haunt here because it is essential at this point in the discussion to make a distinction between the ghost and the returning ghost. Each initial return contains differences, and these differences suggest subtle changes to each earlier version's conduct, perception, and meaning. This, then, is the method of haunting—to have the appearance of a cycle but, in fact, to always progress and to never actually proceed identically from the previous cycle. This cyclical movement also implies an omnipresent link of connection between the originary and its myriad repetitions. It is similar to a palimpsest, except the new writing on top of the remnants of the old attempts to replicate the original, though it never can be the same once it is no longer the exact originary point. Derrida terms this logic hauntology6 and explains, "this logic of haunting would not be merely larger and more powerful than an ontology or a thinking of Being (of the 'to be,' assuming that it is a matter of Being...


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pp. 113-134
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