CriticaLink | Spivak: Echo | Reading Guide for Pages 26-27

Let us now consider this figuring of Echo in two related but different ways. . . .

Pursuing her object to read the Echo and Narcissus myth as emblemmatic of the ethical situation of cultural criticism, Spivak develops an analogy between the position of cultural critics and the people they seek to understand and the position of the analyst and the patient. In the position of the analyst, however, she locates not the cultural critic, but Echo.

Spivak returns here to the grammatical aporia in Ovid's original Latin text (the discrepancy between forms of the verb "to fly") to suggest that a gap always opens between the questions the cutural critic asks and the truth of the "reality" toward which the question is directed. Echo's punishment is turned into a reward--a potential for deconstruction, to make productive use of the difference between the cultural critic's question and the subaltern's response. Echo's "echoing" comparable to Derrida's concept of différance: her echo at once differs from the original utterance (Narcissus's) and defers it (she is not the "right person to ask").

Spivak combines the idea of the "truth beyond Intention" she borrows from Matilal and the "radical counterfactual future anterior" time (25) toward which Echo's experience points to describe the deconstructive "leverage" : Echo is not a consciously resisting agent, but her situation is one which can be wielded within a deconstructive analysis. The "reward" inherent in her punishment of disempowered echoing is its deconstructive power to differ and defer from the utterance to which Echo is subjected. Echo repeats, but with a difference.

This passage contains a methodological lesson: we don't always need to assign intentionality or "will" to figures whose behavior we analyze; we must attend to their situations, to the potential power of their actions, even if they are not fully intentional. Here, though, is another instance of the dilemma Spivak is discussing: in not "needing" to ascribe intentionality to the subjects of our observation, do we deny them their subjectivity, turning them into silent objects of our own theoretical (and narcissistic) speculations?

In the next section, Spivak turns to examples to attempt to illustrate the kind of resistance that occurs in the "future anterior," a time in which "Echo will not have been dragged into the circuit of political imitations" (27)--the verb is in the future anterior. This sentence is echoed on page 28: "Echo will not have been dragged into the circuit of adequate political imitation." What kind of imitation--representation in the sense of mimesis--does Echo's situation resist?