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The ghost of Spartacus

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2011
JournalThe Journal of War and Culture Studies
Journal number3
Volume4
Number of pages13
Pages399-411
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The spirits are, insists Derrida. Humanity is a 'series of ghosts' (Derrida 1994: 138). Since every identity has, beyond its actual existence, a virtual continuity with the past and the future, becoming 'can only maintain itself with some ghosts', certain others, who are no longer or not yet present but nevertheless real (1994: xvii). Indeed, any event, any occurrence of the new, carries with it an injunction to remember, to keep up the 'conversation' with the ghosts, although this conversation lacks reciprocity (1994: xviii). Every time one looks beyond the actual, present life, one evokes ghosts. Thus the tangible intangibility of the ghost never disappears; 'a ghost never dies, it remains always to come and to come-back' (1994: 99). With a spectre, after all, the question is always, at once, to be and not to be, actual phenomenality and virtuality (1994: 11, 17). In this sense all history is repetition, every historical gesture deals with a virtual idea, reiterating, repeating the ghosts of the past, in order to produce difference. How to repeat, then?
How to speak of, with and to the ghost? Dealing with this question, the article focuses on Kubrick's Spartacus (1960), a film that seeks to look beyond its own society during the Cold War. In this, the film demonstrates, at once, a desire for repetition and its failure.