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Showing posts from February 13, 2011

the outside and the inside of a hat: the decline of aura

So much depends upon the hat… When Raphael is explaining the prison of debt into which he is forced in order to court Foedora, he speaks of a spectre that haunts him: “In the midst of poetry, in the midst of an idea, or at dinner, surrounded by friends, with happiness, with sweet raillery, I see enter the room a man in a chestnut colored suit, holding in his hands a dilapidated hat (un chapeau râpé). That man will be my debt, my letter of credit, a specter who will wilt my joy, who will force me to quit the table to speak to him…” It is the dilapidated hat in the hand of the specter, in the hand of debt itself, Raphaël’s double – for the man is the spirit of Raphaël’s signature on the letter of credit – of which I’d like to speak. If a hat, in the Freudian dream language, is an augur of castration, what further effect is put into play by the delapidation of the hat? Balzac has already alerted us, at the very beginning of Peau de Chagrin, that much will depend on the hat. In the