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Updated Up To 23/01/2018
Volume 12, Issue 2 (June 2014) : 355-374
“I Know He Knows I Know He Knows I Am”
Suspension of Disbelief in A. L. Kennedy
Ortwin de Graef
Rubric A: Literature and Theories of Love
Rubric B: Twentieth-Century Novel



Sampling Coleridge’s “suspension of disbelief” in her 1995 novel So I Am Glad, A. L. Kennedy invites us to read this “disbelief” as skepsis not about some supernatural set-up or other but about the other-than-natural fictions humans live by — pre-eminently the fictions of love. Niklas Luhmann’s ambitious historico-sociological account of the reconfiguration of intimacy in modernity as a “normal improbability” offers a helpful frame for an articulation of the critical thrust of Kennedy’s re-invention of love. By matching her twentieth-century mindblind protagonist with the seventeenth-century libertine Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, Kennedy increases the unlikelihood of love and grants us an experience of the unreadability of the other not as a pious trope but as a fact that we must preserve even as we learn to disbelieve it through the material neurotechnics of mindreading. Resisting the privatization of sentiment diagnozed by Luhmann, So I Am Glad also seeks to release love as care for the world, but realizes that such release requires suspending the disbelief in death that bodies in love are blessed with against their better knowledge.

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