Fiction and Concept: the Novel`s Supplementation of Philosophy in

Fiction and Concept: the Novel’s Supplementation of Philosophy in Late Twentieth
Century America
Joshua Comyn
Leaving off from a statement by Alain Badiou that the novel has stood in for philosophy
when the latter has found itself weak—the 19’th century Realist Novel for example
supplementing the weakness of philosophy between Hegel and Nietzsche—I would like to
think the status of the novelistic Fiction in relation to that of the philosophical Concept as a to
phronein that is also a to kharein.
To do this I propose to discuss the work of three American novelists, William Burroughs,
Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Pynchon, and the manner in which their works perform a
trial—a pre-eminently philosophical drama—of the becoming subject of the reader of these
works. Given that the novel is the preeminent art of the modern subject qua individual, I will
seek to elaborate the manner in which the Fiction of these works performs the pleasure of
thinking and the thinking of pleasure insofar as these concern the question of the (merely
possible) becoming subject of the reader, and furthermore how these enquiries are lent an
urgency by the ever present threat of nuclear annihilation so that the threat of the individual’s
symbolic immolation by the texts that they read stands in direct relation to the threatened real
conflagration of the world in which they live.