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Fallacy Corner #3: Hooray for Oudelogistics!

Want some writer to have said something, but having trouble finding it in her texts?  Not a problem!  Just add a dash of oudelogistics.

You must have had this experience at some point in your life: you’re so in love with a book and so in love with an idea that you can’t believe the idea is not in the book.  Isn’t de Beauvoir, in The Second Sex, mostly concerned with changes in the pudding industry?  Can’t we find something Jesus said that proves he was thinking about dentists?  Why shouldn’t Diderot’s Jacques the Fatalist be secretly about Capability Brown, the famous landscape gardener?

Well worry no more: the great technique of oudelogistics (TM) is here to save you.  Oudelogistics (from ouden, nothing, and logos, word) is the branch of criticism dealing with all the things that are not referred to in a given text.  What the oudelogicians brilliantly realised is that texts do not have to refer to things in order to be about them.  On the contrary: since, as we know from Freud, what we repress is always the most important material of all, a text is even more about the stuff it doesn’t mention than it is about the stuff it does.  Hooray!

Worried that Kafka never once alludes to late-phase capitalism?  Forget it!  “Kafka is the cryptogram of capitalism's highly polished, glittering late phase, which he excludes in order to define it all the more precisely in its negative.” (Adorno, “Notes on Kafka”)

Concerned that Plato is almost never talking about writing?  Pshaw!  “Writing is not named at this point but that does not prevent—on the contrary—its relation with all the aforementioned concepts from remaining systematic.” (Derrida, “Plato’s Pharmacy”)

Having a little qualm about the fact that 90% of myths do not involve scapegoats?  Relax!  “Myths, they would say, are not about scapegoating because they don’t talk about it.  But that’s just the point: they don’t talk about it; they disguise their generative center.” (Girard, “The Anthropology of the Cross”)

Isn’t this fun?  Just think of all the things you can do with oudelogistics!  Moby-Dick is in fact about flower-arranging (it just disguised its generative center).  Anna Karenina is about doilies (which it excludes in order to define them all the more precisely in the negative).  And this blog post is, of course, about football.  What else?


Joshua Landy's picture
Joshua Landy is the Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French and Professor of Comparative Literature at Stanford University, where he co-directs the Initiative in Philosophy and Literature. His books include Philosophy as Fiction: Self, Deception, and Knowledge in Proust (Oxford, 2004), How to Do Things With Fictions (Oxford, 2012), and (as coeditor) The Re-Enchantment of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age (Stanford, 2009).