Re-inscribing De Quincey's palimpsest: the significance of the palimpsest in contemporary literary and cultural studies

Sarah Joanne Dillon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In 1845, Thomas De Quincey inaugurated the substantive concept of 'the palimpsest'. Since then, this concept has frequently occurred in creative, critical and theoretical texts across the fields of literature, philosophy and cultural studies. This article brings together some of those diverse texts in order to draw attention to how the palimpsest is reinscribed in and by a range of contemporary critical discourses, including deconstruction, psychoanalysis, postcolonial theory, feminism and queer theory. Moreover, the palimpsest is crucial to these discourses' rethinking of such key contemporary issues as the subject, time, history, culture, gender and sexuality, and the processes of reading and writing themselves. The movement of elucidation here is reciprocal and simultaneous: the palimpsest reifies and aids the understanding of current ideas and concepts; at the same time, those ideas enable a reinscription of the palimpsest that sophisticates our understanding of its complex structure and logic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-263
Number of pages23
JournalTextual Practice
Volume19
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005

Keywords

  • Palimpsest
  • Palimpsestuous
  • De Quincey
  • Derrida
  • Crypt
  • History
  • Reading
  • Queer

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