- Le Double: littérature, arts, cinéma: nouvelles approches ed. by Erica Durante and Amaury Dehoux
Arising from a comparative literature conference at KU Leuven in 2012, the ten essays contained within this volume draw on a range of disciplines to reappraise the figure the double in literature, thought, and the visual arts. In their Introduction, Erica Durante and Amaury Dehoux note that while the motif of the double is most readily associated with Romanticism, it has nonetheless figured as a persistent literary trope since antiquity, serving to mediate shifting relations between the real and the fantastic. In keeping with the titular ‘nouvelles approches’, the volume seeks a more contemporary and capacious understanding of this trope by bringing it into conversation with questions of technology, politics, and the burgeoning field of the posthumanities. Extending the pioneering work of contributing author Jean Bessière, literary theory is supplemented by a wide range of methodological perspectives (from politics to mathematics) and brought into dialogue with a wide range of cultural objects (from the nineteenth-century novel to blockbuster cinema). The first section surveys the paradoxical status of the double in the Western literary tradition. Contributions by Bessière and Patrick Marot understand processes of doubling as symptomatic of a series of complex and dynamic relations surrounding questions of identity, subjectivity, and epistemology, while Massimo Fusillo turns to a broad array of film and literature to mine the political significance of duplicity. The question of the posthuman comes into greater relief in Part Two, which contains essays on such diverse topics as the nexus of literature and mathematics (Dominique Lambert), the challenge that reproducible technologies pose to the limits of the human (Dehoux), and science-fiction film (Denis Mellier). Part Three, on the poetics of doubling, comprises closer textual analyses, with a reading of Raúl Ruiz’s cinema alongside the writing of Borges (Maude Havenne), and an exploration of madness in the twentieth-century European novel (Thibaut Vaillancourt). Completing the volume is an original short story by Carl Havelange entitled ‘Le Faussaire’. His creative meditation on the perils of academic life re-animates, with self-reflexive acuity, the themes of doubt and uncertainty that readers encounter throughout the book. Overall, the volume makes a compelling case for the reappraisal of a theme that might otherwise be considered conceptually exhausted, and is to be commended for the breadth of its textual objects and cultural contexts. Yet, given that the study works across media forms, it would perhaps have benefited from a more incisive account of the links between doubling (as reproductive mode or textual practice) and questions of medium specificity. For instance, while the editors invoke early adaptations of Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to argue for the centrality of doubling to cinema (p. 9), I found Mellier’s brief reflections on doubling, digitality, and cinema’s ontology more compelling. On the proviso that readers are not expecting a compendium of close readings but rather a suggestive call to move beyond existing theorizations of the double, this volume will be of use to scholars and students of comparative literature and visual studies in search of new thematic agendas.