Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 1, 2008

The Apocatastasis of Community in Late Burroughs

John Vanderheide
From the journal

The experimental novels of William S. Burroughs approach the idea of community from a functionalist perspective. For Burroughs, any form of organized communal life must be understood as “an artifact designed for a purpose.” Throughout his career, Burroughs opposed “control societies” that exploit the many to empower the few with alternative “partisan” formations that strive to realize the evolutionary potential of the human species. But to appreciate fully Burroughs's vision of both control societies and their revolutionary counterparts, readers need to familiarize themselves with the complex “mythology” that the novels embody. This mythology both diagnoses the reason for humanity's “fall” into control, and suggests the remedy by which it can wrest itself free. Burroughs constructs this remedy – the purpose of the revolutionary community – as a kind of “apocatastasis,” a concept that has had divergent applications in both “pagan” and Christian metaphysics. Burroughs exploits various elements of both applications to produce a unique theological-political notion that contemporary enlightenment thinking would do well to incorporate into its critical arsenal.

Published Online: 2008-09-01
Published in Print: 2008-August

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