Now X: Freud Writing after Derrida/Vergil Reading before Augustus



Publication Details

I. Willis (2011). Now X: Freud Writing after Derrida/Vergil Reading before Augustus. University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, 7 October.

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As Derrida saw, Freud’s work - especially the concept of Nachträglichkeit - entails a transformation of temporality such that a "Now X" can interrupt the successivity of linear time (Now A, Now B, Now C…) (Of Grammatology, p.67). Here I sketch the workings of Nachträglichkeit in Ingres’s painting "Vergil Reading the Aeneid Before Augustus" or "Tu Marcellus Eris." The painting shows Vergil reading from Aeneid 6 to Augustus and Octavia, telling how Aeneas, in the Underworld, sees Octavia's son, Augustus' heir, Marcellus, who had recently died. Ingres shows Octavia swooning at the words tu Marcellus eris (“you will be Marcellus”), undone not by her son's present pastness but by his past futurity. In reading this scene’s temporal complexity - the anachronistic play through it of inheritance, succession, desire, and mourning - I ask: what does Freud's writing after Derrida give us to read in Vergil's reading before Augustus?

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