Le cercle carré: On Spying and Reading

in Policing Literary Theory
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The question of power legitimacy and violence justification opens this discussion of the logic, epistemology and rhetoric of espionage. Going from the logical status of the statement “I spy” to Peirce’s abduction and to Descartes’ methodical doubt, the argument leads to disjunctions between policing and spying, and to a discussion of the “reading in the crossfire,” a characteristic of modern cultures of suspicion. Spy fiction is focused on in the last section of the article, which contains forays into two types of spy-readers: Ian Fleming’s entertaining James Bond and, more significantly, John le Carré’s melancholy George Smiley. In his methodical trappings, Smiley shows to be as crafty as Ur-detective Oedipus in his defusing of both the Sphinx and himself.

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