Enumerology: Accountability and the Culture of Enumeration
Abstract: My project examines the power of written, spoken, and visual modes
of enumeration to shape culture, politics, and sociality. It begins with the assertion that
enumeration is paradoxically constituted by imagined states of inclusiveness, wholeness,
and objectivity. Though such an objective, documentary form carries forward Enlightenment
fixations on rational mastery, enumeration's ... read moreprecision remains a fantasy of both
interlocutor and audience—disguising the necessary elisions or remainders that will always
plague the compilation. I term the cultural faith in such inclusiveness "enumerology"—a
term whose link to "numerology" evokes occult fascinations with the quantitative; and the
project explores literary and historical figures ("enumerologists") who deploy enumeration
as a mechanism for eliding cultures, groups, and beliefs that fall outside the ideological
spectra propping up American conceptions of nationhood and the nationalized citizen. Though
my chapters are grounded in 19th- and 20th-century American literature, I consider the
referenced literary texts within a deeper historical and geographical continuum, whose
strategies are then adapted to the language of American nation-building at critical
junctures. The project is anchored by chapters on Mark Twain, Djuna Barnes, Cormac
McCarthy, and Leslie Marmon Silko; and for each, I develop my analysis of his/her literary
response to enumerology through the lens of a specific genre of enumeration. In Mark Twain,
we see a fin de siècle critique of the enumerologist from the perspective of an author
simultaneously critical of and implicated in national narratives surrounding exceptional
individualism and an intrinsically American brand of domestic imperialism. In Djuna Barnes,
a Modernist's perverse enumerations illuminate queer temporalities which speak out against
the almanac genre's historical role in propagating masculinized temporal economics. Cormac
McCarthy takes Judge Holden's ledgerbook as synecdochic of broader national and cultural
conceptions of "accountability" and thought itself—ultimately undoing the stability of
those orders by figuring an "unaccountable" or "unreckonable" world beyond comprehension.
Finally, Leslie Marmon Silko offers new ways of approaching enumeration (specifically
almanacs and Linnaean taxonomies) which foreground enumerative instability via the
palimpsest—a multivocality that forecloses structures of monologic authority necessary to
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2017.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisor: Lisa Lowe.
Committee: Jess Keiser, Nathan Wolff, and Susan Gillmann.
Keywords: American literature, American studies, and American history.read less