This chapter begins to explore what Herman Melville’s 1853 “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” offers to Queer Times, Black Futures.With its setting being Wall Street, New York City,its title explicitly referring to that center of finance, and Bartleby’s occupation as a legal copyist directly implicating the story in questions of law and governance, “Bartleby” has inspired philosophical concepts relevant to the spatiotemporal entanglements of concern throughout this project.The ensuing sections on “Bartleby”also call attention to the story’s interplay of sound and vision in ways that might be of interest to those who are thinking with and through the digital regime of the image in societies of control, and how the story raises questions about the American enterprise that might generate imaginative formulations of the errant possibilities it harbors. Finally, I argue that what Gilles Deleuze refers to as Bartleby’s “queer formula”—“I would prefer not to”— can be understood as a mode of radical refusal, a de-creative, unaccountable, ungovernable, and errant insistence that confronts such violences head on in search of an expressive realization of existence beyond measure.
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