Bye Bye Bartleby and Hello Seeing, or On the Silence and the Actualization to Do … Not

  • Kristof K. P. Vanhoutte


Herman Melvelle’s fictional character Bartleby, the New York scrivener who had the deadly habit of answering every question he received with the solemn “I would prefer not to,” has become one of the central paradigms of political philosophy. José Saramago’s novel Seeing has, recently, been portrayed as reiterating a similar political plotline. This chapter, by means of a comparative investigation of the activity performed by Melville’s scrivener and Saramago’s mostly nameless population of the (former) capital, and the interplay between silence and vocality in both tales, intends to demonstrate that this comparison is inaccurate. Saramago’s novel is not about (passive) resistance like Bartleby. Seeing, on the contrary, is a true heretical tale in the “original” meaning of the word airesis.


José Saramago Herman Melville Bartleby Resistance Heresy Daniele Giglioli 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristof K. P. Vanhoutte
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa
  2. 2.Pontifical University AntonianumRomeItaly

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