The Empire of Agoraphobia
"Bartleby the Scrivener, A Tale of Wall Street" puts into circulation the story of a man about whom "nothing is ascertainable." Because "no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man," the "few passages in the life of Bartleby" related by the narrator represent the life of Bartleby. Transforming this very impediment to biography into biographical copy, Herman Melville's 1853 story of the "unaccountable Bartleby" both thematizes and reproduces a market-economy ontology: Bartleby's history is a tale of the marketplace and, like other market productions, significant because circulating, effective because communicative and commercial. Melville's entry into mass-magazine circulation after the commercial failures of Moby Dick and Pierre , the tale exemplifies the mechanisms by which life in and of the marketplace is forwarded.
Unlike the moving copy the tale creates and disseminates, Bartleby himself is "a motionless young man" (45), "singularly sedate" (46), "stationary" (69). The curiosity "the inscrutable scrivener" provokes and the story he thus provides issue from this mysterious immobility, from "his great stillness" (53), his affinity to what is static in Wall Street: the walls of the buildings and offices where the circulation of property is ratified in deeds and titles, where changes in proprietorship are codified and copied. Amidst this conveyancing, Bartleby remains in his partitioned office cubicle—walled in, facing more walls through his window, in his own "dead-wall reveries" (56). This enigmatic stance by which Bartleby removes himself from circulation also occasions his biography; "Bartleby the Scrivener," a tale of a stationary man, thus includes within its commerce a protest against commerce, and moreover makes commerce of that protest, translating a wall into a scrivener, the scrivener's inscrutability into market reproduction.
Reiterating the market imperative to move, the circulatory fate of Bartleby demonstrates the crucial productivity of immobility. In the tautological procedures of the marketplace, Bartleby's static, even ahistorical, status, when transposed into literary currency, reprises life in the marketplace where movement is all. Melville's tale describes an itinerary of what might be called the immobility principle, the reproduction of circulation through tableaux of the stationary. Bartleby's arrested motion is one such tableau in the nineteenth-century American iconography of stillness featuring invalidism, woman, and home (and conflations of these) as predominant figures of restfulness. The frail, sentimental heroine whose domestic angelicism marks her for death, imprinted in the American imag-
ination by Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 invention of Little Eva—reproduced on the stage for the rest of the century—inaugurates and sustains this idealization of worldly retreat by a commercial society. Resembling the retreat of the invalid heroine into her home (Eva speaks of dying as going home to heaven), Bartleby's withdrawal invokes the domestic tableau in order to investigate its commercial peregrinations. How Bartleby's immobility moves is thus the story of how American culture deployed domestic stations and spaces of seclusion.
In order to understand how Bartleby's resistance ultimately enters and typifies commerce, or, to put it another way, how walls move, it is necessary first to see how and why, in nineteenth-century America, ordinarily mobile humans might become "dead-walls." The preeminent figure of immobility for the nineteenth century is the hysteric, whose strange postures freeze normal bodily motion and activity. While Freud derived a theory of female sexuality from hysteria, American doctors focused upon the characteristic hysterical symptoms of paralysis and nervous exhaustion. Nervous attitudes and hysterical presentations fit into a recurrent imagery of paralysis and exhaustion in American medical literature on nervous disorders. This discourse of immobility treats nervous poses and symptoms as social practices, as variant implementations of a customary iconography. Postulating an evolutionary psychology in which mental diseases accidentally resuscitate formerly useful animal instincts, William James in 1890 associated "the statue-like, crouching immobility of some melancholiacs" with the "death-shamming instinct shown by many animals," the self-preservative immobility of "the feigning animal." This instinctual etiology, James believes, explains "the strange symptom which has been described of late years by the rather absurd name of agoraphobia ." "When we notice the chronic agoraphobia of our domestic cats, and see the tenacious way in which many wild animals, especially rodents, cling to cover, and only venture on a dash across the open as a desperate measure," we are witnessing a prototype of the agoraphobic, who in "terror at the sight of any open place or broad street which he has to cross alone . . . slinks round the sides of the square, hugging the houses as closely as he can."
This concern with the protection of walls and enclosures recurs throughout nineteenth-century case histories of agoraphobics appearing after the classification of agoraphobia as a nervous disease in 1873. A Connecticut man treated by Dr. William A. Hammond "would not go out into the street unless he went in a carriage," and, "in passing from the vehicle to the door of a house, he required the support of two men—one on each side of him." The agoraphobic dependence upon walls of some kind is epitomized in nineteenth-century medical literature by a story about Pascal. After a 1654 carriage accident in which he was thrown into the Seine, Pascal "had the morbid fear of falling into a large space." To protect himself from chasms he imagined at his side, Pascal ever afterward
kept a screen beside him. Nineteenth-century French doctors posthumously diagnosed Pascal as agoraphobic. The agoraphobic dependence on enclosures or adjacent fortifications kept most sufferers within the walls of houses, safe from their terror of the street, where "everything was in motion."
Many observers of the nineteenth-century American scene did not find such anxious house-hugging the anachronism James theorized but rather a symptom specific to the conditions of American economic life. The democratic opportunity and competition for economic advancement, the very mobility of American society, Alexis de Tocqueville worried in 1835, was apt to render the individual "stationary." Agreeing with this evolution of anxiety from economic freedom, Dr. George M. Beard declared in 1881 that the recent inventions of steam power, the periodical press, and the telegraph, as well as developments in the sciences and the increased mental activity of women, "must carry nervousness and nervous diseases." New technologies of transportation and communication enable "the increase in amount of business" that has "developed sources of anxiety." In the case of the agoraphobic man from Connecticut, Dr. Hammond noted that "there had been excessive emotional disturbance in business matters." The anxieties and responsibilities of commerce, the famous Dr. S. Weir Mitchell believed, explain the "numerous instances of nervous exhaustion among merchants and manufacturers." According to Mitchell's notebooks of the 1880s, "manufacturers and certain classes of railway officials are the most liable to suffer from neural exhaustion"; merchants and brokers are the next most likely sufferers. In the latter half of the century, the railroad figured prominently in American, German, and French lawsuits for mental health damages; it appeared to have created a fear of itself, the new phobia of railway traveling.
In these accounts of nervousness and anxiety, the mechanisms and modes of commerce ultimately immobilize the individual. Beard and Mitchell's association of such conditions with economic developments in nineteenth-century life reflects anxieties about the effects of commerce notable in literature ranging from medical advice books to popular magazines such as Putnam's where "Bartleby" first appeared. In this context agoraphobia, the anxiety and immobility occasioned by the space and scope of streets, by the appurtenances and avenues of traffic, is an anticommercial condition—literally, fear of the marketplace. The nosology of the condition as it emerged in America in the latter half of the century suggests, contrary to James, the aptness of the term agoraphobia ; what inhibits the agoraphobe is the commerce that inhabits American life.
From the symptomatology of immobility observed in nervous cases, an agoraphobic disposition emerges in social and medical discourse as a hallmark of American personal life. The agoraphobic recourse when outside the house to the protection of interiors or companions or shielding edifices represents an effort to retain the stability and security of the private sphere. Reproducing the enclosure and stillness of home in the deportment of the individual, agoraphobia
approximates domesticity, often proclaimed the nineteenth-century antidote to commercialism. The antagonism between self and world manifest in agoraphobia reflects and replays the opposition between home and market upheld by domestic ideology. By maintaining the integrity of the private sphere, this opposition sustains the notion of a personal life impervious to market influences, the model of selfhood in a commercial society. In his propinquity to walls and in his preference for his own impenetrable postures, Bartleby presents an extreme version of such a model: in "his long-continued motionlessness" he achieves an "austere reserve," the ideal of domesticity within Wall Street.
Just as hysteria translated into an anatomy of the self and its desires in Victorian society, agoraphobia furnished Victorian America with a paradigmatic selfhood associated with female experience—or more specifically, summarized and reproduced the tradition of selfhood established by domestic ideology. For nineteenth-century America, women signified the stability of the private sphere that Bartleby's wall-like stance exhibits, the standard of self-containment that the hysteric melodramatized. Thus the physicians who worried about the immobilizing effects of commerce direct much attention to preserving the tranquility of women and home, treating market-stricken men by attending to the maintenance of domestic womanhood. Both Beard and Mitchell decried nondomestic activity by women; Mitchell's Wear and Tear; or, Hints for the Overworked treats the deleterious effects of commerce with advice on women's health. "It will not answer to look only at the causes of sickness and weakness which affect the male sex," Mitchell believes, because "if the mothers of a people are sickly and weak, the sad inheritance falls upon their offspring." To strengthen mothers for the American future, Mitchell designed his famous rest cure for nervous diseases. After undergoing a regimen of constant bed rest and severely restricted activity, women patients were to return to tranquil lives as wives and mothers. The rest cure countered the marketplace with a fortified domesticity.
This fortified domesticity finally fortified the marketplace. The interest of physicians in the immobilizing effects of the marketplace signifies not an antimarket program but a foregrounding of domesticity from other images of the stationary. As the symptomatology of immobility proliferates domestic attributes, its cure reiterates and recommends conventional domesticity. The aim of the rest cure, then, is not to limit market mobility but to reinforce a select domestic stillness, to underscore the healthy function of the stationary. In restricting women to bed, the rest cure in a sense demobilizes the domestic in order to recharge it for reproductive service to the market. This interdependence of domesticity with the market emerges with greater specificity in nineteenth-century feminist critiques of the rest cure.
Women like Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the autobiographical narrator of her "The Yellow Wallpaper," whose nervous prostration did not benefit from the rest cure, used immobility to parody and protest against domestic confinement,
to withdraw from household business. The protagonist of "The Yellow Wallpaper" withdraws into the world she sees in the wallpaper; oblivious to all else, she becomes indistinguishable from the paper and the woman she imagines behind it. It is impossible to distinguish where the woman "creeping" around the walls of her room is; her association with the wallpaper involves a traversal of boundaries in which she simultaneously creeps along the walls of her room on both sides of the wallpaper and outside the house in "the long road under the trees." The uncertainty of this woman's place, her identification with both the woman she imagines creeping behind the paper and the woman she imagines "creeping along" "in the open country" suggest that domestic borders vary and waver, that walls and women move (30–31).
In Gilman's portrait of its intensive domesticity, the rest cure results in changing and disappearing walls, in a marketlike domesticity. It is this delivery from home to market that nineteenth-century feminists from Charlotte Brontë to Charlotte Gilman explicated and elaborated in their reinterpretations of domesticity. The feminist point of "The Yellow Wallpaper," and of other madwoman-in-the-attic figures, is that domestic confinement ultimately destroys not only the woman but also the house; the real curative property of domesticity, then, would seem to be its elimination of barriers to the outside. The final situation of the woman in "The Yellow Wallpaper" as she creeps "around the path by the wall" (36) is continual circulation.
That the domain of female circulation is madness would appear to reaffirm the etiologies of the doctors who treated men suffering from the deleterious effects of commerce. The chronology unfolded by "The Yellow Wallpaper," however, illustrates a different movement: the domestic appropriation of the market, the mapping of its space within the interiors of home. The nervousness manifest in moving walls and in the dislocation of self replicates the conditions of commerce from which those walls customarily and ideally barricade the individual. Woman's nervousness thus bypasses the market outside, proceeding to a circulation of her own.
Gilman's subversion of domesticity launches a utopian transformation of the market, elaborated in the socialist-feminist redesigns of domesticity and collective households she advocated in her subsequent writings. Raising market nervousness to a feminist power, "The Yellow Wallpaper" exploits the negative logic of commerce chronicled in accounts of American nervousness, revealing the market reflected and lodged in the walls of home. This extenuation of the mechanics of immobility delineates and summarizes developments already visible in late-nineteenth-century domestic architecture: the accentuation of open space within the domestic interior, the de-emphasis on fixed enclosures in Frank Lloyd Wright's innovative windows, walls, and floor plans. Before Wright's new homes appeared in the 1890s, the century's best-known domestic ideologue, Catharine Beecher, had advocated in the 1840s the advantages housekeepers might enjoy
from open rooms and moveable walls by which they could change the organization of domestic space to suit their various activities. So the mutability of domestic walls and the embrace of unbordered space described by "The Yellow Wallpaper" realize the value of mobility, the ethos of the market, already present in the domestic blueprint.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" and "Bartleby" are key moments in and representations of the mobilization of immobility that characterizes nineteenth-century American culture. If Gilman's story images both a consonant and revisionary conclusion to an agoraphobic definition of selfhood, Melville's tale predicts and protests the circulation of the stationary that allows for such a conclusion. In the case of Bartleby, who doesn't creep and whose walls don't move, Melville depicts an intransigent agoraphobia that admits no entry to the market, a tableau of the stationary in which walls stand still. The scrivener's motionlessness removes him from all forms of circulation, not even achieving the mobility of the woman who creeps around her room. To forestall the return of the agoraphobic to circulation, to circumvent the border movements of "The Yellow Wallpaper," Bartleby images an agoraphobia recalcitrant to the publicity in which the reformative discourses of disease would place it. At the threshold of the American women's movement and the economic expansion of the latter half of the nineteenth century, "Bartleby" presents an anxiety about the market anxieties that would propel physicians and feminists, as well as other commentators on American life, in the succeeding decades.
In the following exposition of nervousness about American nervousness, it will become clear that the agoraphobic model of self-integrity instantiates market destiny of domesticity. The informing principle of domestic sanctuary, agoraphobia epitomizes the structure of individuality in a market economy. What finally makes agoraphobia paradigmatic, however, is not the domestic stillness it reproduces but the home/market circuit its theatrics of interiority restage. Agoraphobia's incarnation of commerce thus assures the market's future, the acceptance of its natural movements.
The logic animating Bartleby's motionlessness emerges with greater clarity in another nineteenth-century discourse inspirited by the agoraphobic imagination, the antifeminist rhetoric of home protection. Nineteenth-century advice literature, sentimental novels, and women's magazines defined the home as a refuge from commercial life, an antithesis to the masculine marketplace. Domestic literature such as Godey's Lady's Book , the century's most popular women's magazine, dedicated itself to the consolidation and cultivation of "the empire of home." Against men's struggle "for the mastery of the world," editor Sarah Josepha Hale urged women to stay home and engage in "a higher pursuit than the industrial arts afford," their "mission" as "guardians of whatsoever is good, pure, and lovely." Concurrent with the emergent consumerist role of women in the Amer-
ican economy, Godey's circulated an anticommercial rhetoric on the virtues of staying home; stories celebrated heroines who eschewed the glamors of social life and the pleasures of shopping for their "quiet office" and frugal economies in "the empire of home."
Like the physicians Beard and Mitchell, the Lady's Book worried about women's part in contemporary economic revolutions, about the proliferation of commerce in women's work in the extradomestic world. Antifeminist polemics of the late nineteenth century amplify this concern in their scientistic characterizations of women as mentally inferior to men and subject to their reproductive function. This claim of biological determinacy advocates one form of reproduction over another; in opposition to the reproduction of commerce displayed by women's exercise of mental capacities and mobility, domestic traditionalists stressed "woman's nature" and "ministry at home." Woman's participation in other occupations signals a degenerative movement, Godey's warned; "It is as though a star should strive to come down from its place in the calm sky and take the station of a gaslamp in a crowded city street."
To keep women from the crowded city streets, Godey's promoted domestic values and "never admitted any article . . . which is not intended to instruct either by example, sentiment, hints, or warnings." As the American market economy developed and expanded, and as women entered nondomestic situations, the magazine's instructive articles continued to hint and warn against the dangers of the business domain. These anxieties about women in the marketplace surfaced most strikingly in an anonymously authored story of 1870 entitled "My Wife and the Market Street Phantom." The stereotypical other woman opposed to the wife in the title is not a romantic rival, not a mistress or previous wife, but a "lady capitalist." The scandal is not sexual indiscretion but indiscreet business affairs.
George, the narrator, relates the story of the strain placed on his marriage by his reliance on creditors in his merchant business. He takes out a ninety-day loan to carry him over what loan offices now call a cash-flow problem, until he can collect on his own extensions of credit. His loan is passed on by one creditor to the dreaded Market Street Phantom, a "lady capitalist" notorious as much for her business methods as her success. The lady's notoriety follows not only from the fact that she "is definitely a woman out of her sphere" but also from what the narrator calls her "peculiar style of doing business." When she buys up a loan note, she investigates the debtor:
She would look with the keenness of a merchandise broker at a stock of goods, count the boxes on the pavement before a store, inquire into the bank account of the drawer or city endorser, ascertain whether he was married or single, find it out if he kept a fast horse, and get a good look at him to see if he himself seemed to be a fast man. (340)
Then she enters into a familiar relation with the debtor, persistently calling on him to remind him of the due date on the note, assuming terms of "the most
annoying cordiality" with him on every possible occasion. The worst of the Phantom's habits was "that she recognized all her debtors when she met them, that she spoke of them as her friends." For the duration of the loan period, the debtor is plagued by her presence—he is "under the spell of the Phantom." George compounds his predicament by not telling his wife the truth about his business affairs. The Phantom pays a call at the man's office the same day his wife is there. The wife immediately perceives her husband's embarrassment and is further disturbed when her husband refuses to tell her the truth about the Phantom's identity and her relation to him. Until the loan is repaid the marriage is in trouble and "agony." Finally, George pays his debt, confesses to his wife and brother-in-law, and "all the clouds that lowered upon our house were lifted." The three laugh over the misunderstanding and in the future the husband goes to his brother-in-law for business loans.
The narrator has learned his lesson—the perils of credit in the marketplace and the perils of withholding in the marriage. His mistake was to conduct business affairs he could not reveal to his wife; he should have entrusted his business problems to domestic care. The conflict between credit and family is resolved not by the termination of the credit economy, as one might expect in a moral tale about the dangers of credit, but by the domestic circle's absorption of credit relations. So the story finally rejects not the principle of credit against which it protests but the extrafamilial phenomena that credit represents. That is, credit relations within the family are fine but on Market Street are scandalous, akin to adultery. The narrator triumphs over his situation when he is able "to cut the Phantom dead!"—when he is able to extricate himself from exogamous relations. Domesticity withstands the impingement of marketplace immorality by simply nullifying the existence of extradomestic phenomena. The story thus consolidates the family state.
But while the story domesticates credit, it does not domesticate the lady capitalist. The lady capitalist is a homebreaker because she threatens to reverse the power relations that uphold domesticity. In a culture where woman can only be recognized as domestic, the lady capitalist is not merely aberrant but subversive. The story reconciles the opposition between home and market in the home's acceptance of credit as a component of domestic life. The Phantom reverses the order of this accommodation: she brings the home under the aegis of the market. In assuming intimacy with her business relations, the Phantom behaves as if the market were the home; she insists upon a chain of relations normally governed by domestic etiquette. She represents an untenable premise—not merely a woman out of her sphere but domesticity outside the home.
Making the domestic an integral part of market relations, the Phantom makes explicit the continuity between home and market that domestic rhetoric disguised. And she does this by subsuming the home into the market, familiar rela-
tions into credit checks. When George's brother-in-law replaces the Phantom as family creditor, the proper hierarchy is restored. Instead of the home being invaded by the market, the home annexes the market.
But this domestic campaign itself risks the disappearance of domestic boundaries in the family's incorporation of credit practices. In order to safeguard against this blurring of distinctions between home and market, the story fortifies the domestic by scapegoating the lady capitalist. Imaged as a state of being besieged, domesticity appears under attack from the female creditors who advance commerce, yet the ultimate enemy this domestic defense strategy addresses is the home's own undomesticity. When poltergeists haunt the marketplace, they are following the excursions of the home into the world. Thus, the goal of the effort to ostracize the lady capitalist is to deny both the Phantom's and the home's excursions, to affirm domestic integrity and isolationism. Home protectionism reaffirms domestic borders by disseminating fears of market manifestations.
For readers of Godey's , the "cutting dead" of the Phantom eliminated anxieties raised by their consumer role about the integrity of the domestic sphere; exorcising the Phantom meant purifying the home. In this fear of the marketplace, this literal agoraphobia, the Phantom is a bogeyman whose expulsion enforces the division between home and market. Like bogeymen in the closet or under the bed, the Phantom's potential reappearance offers a continual opportunity for reasserting domestic safety and tranquility. Although she figures as the credit economy's threat to the family, the lady capitalist in fact ensures the family's acceptance of credit. In this way she functions as the facilitating anxiety of the home's accommodation of change. The Market Street Phantom is thus the agoraphobic spirit governing consumerist domestic ideology.
What Godey's cautionary tale provided its reader was a reassurance of the existence of a frightening exterior world from which to preserve herself, reaffirming the need for domesticity. The tale circulates the production of domesticity as a state of anticipatory defense. This construction of a vigilant domesticity that absorbs exterior threats is of course a model of capitalist consumption: the realization and reinforcement of personal life in the acquisition of things believed to be necessary for self-sufficiency. What is sold by the story of a threatened domesticity is reinforced domesticity. This marketing of domesticity, the raison d'être of magazines like Godey's , shapes the consumer role of women in the American economy. In order that the domestic remain a principle of stability, domestic consumerism requires the remapping of the home's boundaries, their extension into commercial spaces.
Reenacting this implementation of domesticity against its own changeability, the department store first attracted late-nineteenth-century women shoppers by designing and advertising itself as a magnified model home, as the unlimited possibilities of domestic space.Godey's performed a similar negotiation: the magazine introduced women to products and established continuity between consum-
erism and housekeeping. The market thus seemed in service to domesticity. The woman at home, Thorstein Veblen's model of conspicuous consumption, came to represent the foundation of the market economy, her demands and needs its motivating purpose—or, in the more positive, progressive version, her virtues signified the economy's idealist aims: philanthropy, comfort, progress.
The institutionalization of women as consumers accomplished by the incorporation of consumerist sites into women's sphere established the primarily public nature of women's new domestic performances, the visibility denoted in Veblen's "conspicuous consumption." So now, more than a century after the invention of the department store, the store itself figures as the dreaded open space in agoraphobic episodes. And women, who traditionally frequent shops and markets, predominate among agoraphobic cases. Most agoraphobic attacks take place within the walls of department stores or in vehicles on the way to stores. What might seem an environment more inducive of claustrophobia creates the same anxieties nineteenth-century agoraphobes associated with streets and open areas, and similarly causes retreat into houses. Staying home, "playing a paragon of Victorian femininity," the female agoraphobic identifies and fears the store's quintessential market character.
Recognizing the refusal to leave home as a refusal to shop, contemporary behaviorist treatments of agoraphobia conclude with a celebratory shopping spree at a department store. The behaviorist aim to make women shop reinforces as it remarks the market agenda inscribed in domesticity during the nineteenth century. In returning women to the market, the behaviorist treatment updates Mitchell's rest cure to suit a consumerist domesticity; returning women to the department store is identical to returning women to their domestic sphere. These rearrangements of domestic space in the treatments of agoraphobia and nervous diseases are reflected in the strategically changing geography traced by contemporary agoraphobics. The agoraphobic lives according to a world map delineating safe and dangerous zones; often she will alter the boundaries of safe spaces so that she might venture beyond home to a friend's house or some other selectively domesticated hostile territory—for example, one side of an unsafe street. Conversely, and as usually happens in the debilitating process of the agoraphobic condition, the danger zones in the outside world multiply and eventually include even activities that connect the home and external world, such as telephoning and correspondence.
Expansions and contractions of safety sites, agoraphobic manipulations of domestic borders continually manufacture the certainty of safe places, thereby reproducing domesticity. This productive circulation of domesticity elaborated in home-protectionist rhetoric consolidates not only home but the marketplace where home is sold. The alternate house-hugging and border crossing in agoraphobic practice manifest an uncertainty about where the market is, suggesting that what is most terrifying about the market is its ubiquity, its inescapability. With
each new retrenchment of barriers, the marketplace advances ever nearer. For, if home in fact embraces the world, there is finally no place for the agoraphobic to go except to market. A continual border operation, agoraphobia always assumes the traversal of the boundaries it sets, always presumes that the limits can or will change. Mirroring the market economy's circulatory generativity, agoraphobia ultimately multiplies and magnifies the marketplace. Through its logic, through the productive persistence of domestic threats like the Market Street Phantom, the market circulates and expands.
A scenario of besieged domesticity, "My Wife and the Market Street Phantom" demonstrates this market-economy expansion. The economy associated with the Phantom triumphs when the family welcomes credit practices, reconstituting market relations as domestic ones. The wife takes the place of the Phantom in her husband's thoughts and, in resuming that place, offers him credit from her brother. In this transposition, domesticity subsumes the business of the ubiquitous lady capitalist, an assimilation perhaps most tellingly represented in Gilman's image of domesticity as woman's creeping confinement.
Replaying the mechanics of market expansion demonstrated in the Godey's story, the circulation of the woman "round and round and round and round" her room also reiterates the agoraphobic association between selfhood and domestic enclosure. The woman in "The Yellow Wallpaper" finally doesn't "want to go outside"; having locked herself in her room, she prefers to stay where her "shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall" (35). Declaring "you don't get me out in the road there!" she continues creeping on her "path by the wall" (35), just as Bartleby continues his agoraphobic behavior in prison, taking up a "position fronting the dead-wall" (72). These agoraphobic figures of self-preservation exemplify a more tenacious house-hugging than domesticity recommends; both retain their absolute interiority by identifying with and preserving themselves in the walls. But Bartleby's self-possession is more assured: when confined in prison (for the supremely ironic charge of vagrancy), "his face toward a high wall," he emphatically states "I know where I am" (71). This is a knowledge the woman cannot, and need not, claim because her attachment is to the moveability of walls; attaching herself to the wallpaper that changes and moves, she identifies with the wall she traces and traverses. Gilman's regrounding of female identity in unstable domesticity, in the uncertainty of a female form of commerce, imagines the benefits of not knowing where you are. Once the wall the woman becomes disintegrates in her domestic demolition project, she doesn't need to go out because she has already attained a sphere of selfhood, however bizarre.
Gilman is offering this female circulation as a feminist point d'appui , as the situation from which to reimagine female roles. In her later utopian Herland sto-
ries, the idea of female circulation culminates in the vision of a self-generating, all female culture. The exorcism of the Market Street Phantom by the Godey's parable precludes such an alternative relation between women and economics. What haunts the agoraphobic imagination in its management of the market, however, is not specifically the feminist appropriation of circulation but the terminus of circulation an alternative economy might institute. This is the real fear in the agoraphobic imagination: circulations beyond even those of the female agoraphobic and "The Yellow Wallpaper" heroine, the prospect of a utopian circulation, which amounts to circulation nowhere, or no circulation, the immobilization of mobility.
Against this possibility of an altogether different form of life, the capitalist agoraphobic imagination summons the specter of the lady capitalist, a woman out of her sphere. The home-protectionist elimination of the lady capitalist limits and stabilizes the expansionist market; eliminating the lady capitalist is an intervention that prevents the eventual evolution of the market into something different, to check mobility from its own possible extremes. The feminist progress suggested by the Phantom—her market perambulations—signifies the chaos and unfamiliarity of not only a woman but a market unmoored from the modulations of immobility. Without the tableaux of the stationary performed by women and domesticity, the market approaches the uncertain state of the woman in "The Yellow Wallpaper." Against its own transformation into a feminist or foreign circulation, the market economy incorporates feminism as a regulatory mechanism for its own continuity. Premised as another threat to domesticity, feminism becomes the phantasm inspiring home defense. The ménage à trois husband, wife, and Phantom other woman—or market, home, and feminism—thus perpetuates the hegemony of consumerist domesticity.
At stake in this stabilization of circulation is the maintenance of a domesticity in which one knows where one is. The dizzying circulation "round and round and round and round" the room in "The Yellow Wallpaper," an extreme version of the domestic enclosure of the Market Street Phantom's perambulations, marks the uncertainty of a self defined by walls that inevitably move. A self dislocated by permutations in the standard tableau of the stationary signifies the continual risks to and relocations of selfhood induced by the capitalist agoraphobic imagination. The regulation of market progress introduced by the Godey's story stems the advance of the wall-moving woman of "The Yellow Wallpaper," which reveals in turn that the greater risk in capitalist agoraphobia runs through its own regulatory movements: that its propensity to change borders undermines the construct of a stable self. Shifting the walls that situate the self, agoraphobia is inevitably not agoraphobic enough. The emblematic market mechanism, it swerves too far from house-hugging to sustain the ideal of self-preservation its postures of immobility suggest. This is why the most thoroughgoing resistance to
nineteenth-century consumerist domestic ideology and market operations comes from a figure antithetical to movement—the stationary, radically agoraphobic Bartleby.
It is within these politics of agoraphobia, the dynamic between home and world manifested by consumption, that the meaning of Bartleby's negations and mysterious isolationism emerges. Bartleby, who in Elizabeth Hardwick's paraphrase "shuns the streets and is unmoved by the moral, religious, acute, obsessive, beautiful ideal of Consumption," insists upon a noncommercial domesticity. In preferring "to be stationary" (69), Bartleby achieves an impenetrability the lawyer narrator cannot alter or enter. What the lawyer recognizes as Bartleby's complete self-possession—"his great stillness, his unalterableness of demeanor under all circumstances" (53)—obviates the very notion of exchange or intercourse, denying any form of commerce, including the conversation and charity the lawyer would readily extend.
In his agoraphobic responses, or rather lack of responsiveness, Bartleby follows female agoraphobic modes of evading domestic consumerism and repudiating intercourse between private and public realms. The encounter between the lawyer and the scrivener is one between two competing models of domesticity: commercial and truly agoraphobic. In this context, the narrator appears as a kind of Wall Street housekeeper; however, his domesticated business practices are undermined by Bartleby's renunciation of the domestic pretensions of the "eminently safe man" in his "snug business" on Wall Street (40).
Although the lawyer belongs "to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even . . . turbulent," he permits "nothing of that sort . . . to invade [his] peace." He attributes to his office "the cool tranquility of a snug retreat" (40). The business of the lawyer's domestic commercial sphere chiefly involves overseeing and compensating for the unhealthy gestatory habits of his copyists. Turkey drinks and cannot perform his duties during the afternoon; his fellow worker Nippers suffers from morning indigestion and doesn't work efficiently until afternoon. The office boy Ginger-nut seems to function mainly as "cake and apple purveyor for Turkey and Nippers" (45). For the lawyer, these concerns with food and drink are labor/management issues: what his employees consume directly affects what they produce. In this office in the image of home, the eccentricities of appetite are incorporated into the business routine.
Into this domestic colony on Wall Street comes the "motionless young man" Bartleby (45), who initially seems to suit perfectly and even optimize the narrator's domestic economy. The lawyer thinks "a man of so singularly sedate an aspect . . . might operate beneficially upon the flighty temper of Turkey and the fiery one of Nippers" (46). Bartleby's habits "at first" appear the model of balance between work and diet, consumption and production—his work is ingestion. "As if long famishing for something to copy," the lawyer notes, "he seemed to gorge himself on my documents . . . without pause for digestion" (46).
Indeed, Bartleby so much epitomizes for his employer the successful union of economic and individual attributes that his place in the office—in a screened corner of a partition, facing a window with a view only of a brick wall—makes a "satisfactory arrangement" in which "privacy and society were conjoined" (46). The lawyer thinks of Bartleby's office carrel as "his hermitage" (50), and Bartleby literalizes this domestic fantasy. His insistent denial of every request directed at him, his removal of himself into his "dead-wall reveries" (52), effectively achieves the hermitage and privacy that the lawyer imagines his establishment provides. Making the "office his constant abiding place and home" (56), Bartleby purifies his employer's domestic economy. While the lawyer attempts to domesticate business, to accommodate the fluctuations of production and consumption within the walls of his establishment, Bartleby seeks to empty the domestic of the economic, to establish an impregnable privacy. Counter-spirit to the Market Street Phantom, the "apparition of Bartleby" "haunting the building" (53, 68) enforces the rhetorical boundaries of the private sphere.
Making the office home in fact, Bartleby is a missionary agoraphobic, incongruously claiming the walls of Wall Street as the protective borders of the private domain, preferring to the congenial agoraphobia of the narrator a doctrinaire, absolute one whose primary feature is not so much that he "never went anywhere" but that, as the lawyer observes, "he never went to dinner" (50). Rather than follow, in the fashion of the lawyer, the logic of agoraphobia, which ultimately admits and embraces the market, Bartleby "lives without dining" (73), perfecting the agoraphobic condition in anorexia, where the borders between world and self are traced (and ultimately erased) on the individual body. This radical refusal to partake of, and participate in, the world makes Bartleby "self-possessed" (54) and impenetrable, the traditional goal of domestic life. Simultaneously fulfilling and negating the logic of agoraphobia—establishing selfhood in the extinction of commerce—anorexia secures the agoraphobic division of self from world, home from market. A strict and rigid observance of this division, anorexia realizes the hermitage agoraphobia cannot obtain; eliminating consumption, it halts agoraphobia's inevitable progress into the marketplace.
The anorexic, almost always a woman, avoids the world by refusing the most basic form of consumption. By starving herself she suppresses her menstrual cycle, shutting down the process of her own reproductive functions. She maintains in her body the fantasy of domesticity Bartleby enacts: a perfect self-enclosure. While anorexia hardly seems an ideal condition, it is the fulfillment of the ideal of domestic privacy, a state in which complete separation from the demands and supplies of the world is attained.
Anorexia, somewhat contrary to its name, is not the condition of being without desire but the enterprise of controlling desire. That is, the anorexic wants
to not want and to this end tries not to consume, or to undo consumption. She devotes all her energy and efforts to regulating the passage of food to and from her body. Most anorexics do in fact succumb to eating binges and become bulimic, inducing expurgation after every meal. Or they adopt intensive exercise regimens and ingest large amounts of laxatives and diuretics. One anorexic reported to her therapist that she masturbated one hundred times each evening, believing the constant pressure would strengthen her sphincter muscles, thereby facilitating release of food through defecation.
This effort to eliminate or control food frequently involves preoccupation with the buying, preparation, and serving of food. An anorexic will insist upon cooking for the family and produce elaborate meals whose consumption she supervises but herself forgoes. One anorexic was brought to treatment by her mother who was concerned about the weight gain her daughter was inflicting upon her. In this dedication to others' consumption, the anorexic bizarrely imitates the mother's housekeeping role. She thus controls the desire to consume that she recognizes as essential to the family. Another anorexic so insisted on having dominion over food that her wealthy father built her her own kitchen, separate from the kitchen where the family cook worked. Here the girl maintained her perfected domestic province, where she performed the central housekeeping role without consuming. This case makes clear the anorexic's radical claim to domestic space, her Bartleby-like insistence on a privacy without commerce. The anorexic kitchen literalizes domestic ideals, perfecting domesticity in antidomesticity.
Anorexic practices, like agoraphobic strategies, manifest domestic functions in extreme forms. Not surprisingly, some recent analysts and interpreters of anorexia read in this hyperbolic condition a radical realization and indictment of cultural dictates upon women's bodies and functions. Anorexic body ideals seem to coincide with the contemporary valuation of female slenderness (another marketing of domesticity), prompting observers of anorexia to note the current "popularity" of this disease, its distinctive appeal to adolescent, middle-class girls. While cases of anorexia in the latter half of this century clearly reflect and address specific cultural values, the anorexic strategy in "Bartleby" stresses another agenda: the rejection of consumerist domesticity. Bartleby's anorexia would remove agoraphobia from domestic commerce, making impossible the connection between these diseases and domestic consumerism that nineteenth- and twentieth-century feminists and physicians variously register.
First recorded in a 1689 treatise on tuberculosis as "A Nervous Consumption," anorexia nervosa did not become a specific clinical entity until 1873, the same year agoraphobia was first classified, twenty years after the publication of "Bartleby." The difficulty nineteenth-century doctors encountered in diagnosing anorexia, in identifying it as a specific disease, lay in the similarity between the symptoms of anorexia and consumption, now remembered as the great
nineteenth-century disease. Though an incorrect paradigm for anorexia nervosa, the initial clinical classification of anorexia with consumption unwittingly points to the connection between these illnesses as metaphors, to the way the diseases, or the descriptions of the diseases, both exemplify economic models. Susan Sontag has pointed out the isomorphism between the economies of tuberculosis and nineteenth-century expanding capitalism. Tuberculosis exhibits "the negative behavior of nineteenth-century homo economicus : consumption; wasting; squandering of vitality." The fluctuations characteristic of the illness—dramatic variations in appetite and energy—aptly reproduced marketplace disequilibrium and concomitant anxieties about saving and spending. Tuberculosis mysteriously consumed the body from within; the consumptive sufferer seemed to replicate upon the body an apocalyptic view of economic progress, a state of simultaneous voraciousness and exhaustion. No Camille-like martyred heroine to this economy, the anorexic chooses illness as a repudiation of the marketplace and an expression of self-control. A refusal to replicate the economy in the body, anorexia is the paradoxical antidote to consumption, the negative behavior of femina economica .
The anorexic enactment of the self-destructiveness of self-denial surpasses the deaths of angelic, tubercular heroines like Stowe's Little Eva and Louisa May Alcott's Beth, translating domestic angels into skeletal women. Taking to the limit the sentimental ideals of true womanhood, the anorexic appears the sentimental self-denying heroine par excellence. A macabre mockery of domesticity, anorexia, like agoraphobia and hysteria, appears to offer another figure of resistance to domestic ideology, another feminist type of the madwoman in the attic.
But since the anorexic opposes the economy of consumption of both feminist and traditional versions of domesticity, the anorexic resists canonization as a sentimental or feminist heroine. Indeed, feminist visions of women in the world epitomize the commercial possibility in home/market relations from which the anorexic retreats. The circulation of the woman in "The Yellow Wallpaper" exhibits the tendency to mobility in agoraphobia that anorexia would eliminate. Unlike agoraphobic or hysteric stances, anorexic body language refuses to represent any form of commerce. A purging of agoraphobia, anorexia replaces the economy of consumption with abstinence. Disappearing from sight and space, the anorexic creates her own purified version of nineteenth-century tableaux of the stationary, an approach to complete privacy and stillness.
It is finally death, the termination of self, rather than self-circulation through the elimination of cultural obstructions, that anorexia seeks. This cult of death differs from popular sentimentalist celebrations of death like Harriet Beecher Stowe's glorification of Little Eva's consumption that circulated in nineteenth-century domestic literature. Whereas sentimental death seeks the world and an audience, demanding a public space in the world, anorexic death flees the world; the anorexic economy of self-denial redefines death as divestment from the mar-
ketplace. To realize the fantasy of controlling desire—to deny the existence of an outside, of anything exterior to the self—the anorexic inevitably must want to die. By rejecting the body she hates for its contiguity with the world, for its reminder of the desire to consume, the anorexic finally triumphs over desire. Paradoxically, her abstinence permits pure selfishness. Preferring not to eat, like Bartleby, she detaches herself from the world and finally from the body that borders it, the last semblance of walls contiguous with the world. In the logic of anorexia's perfection of agoraphobia, death best preserves the self.
These are the anorexic politics of Bartleby's radical employment of immobility. Stringently restricting the agoraphobic imagination to its ethic of immobility, Bartleby elaborates death as the best method of self-preservation. He leaves the world in order to keep himself. If properly understood, this choice of divestiture, despite the obvious disadvantages of the disappearing self, is a powerful one. What better critique of domestic difficulties than the decision to live no longer? But as inevitable as the cult of death is for the anorexic is the sentimentality of interpretation to which death is submitted and consequently misread. When Bartleby, entombed within the Tombs, sleeps "with kings and counsellors" (73), the narrator attempts to account for the bizarre life and death of his scrivener. In telling the scrivener's story, he accepts the invitation to investigate and interpret this successful agoraphobic. The "vague report" (73) he offers as an epilogue satisfies his curiosity about Bartleby's motivations. If Bartleby worked in the Dead Letter Office in Washington, then his condition might be understood as a response to such close association with death. For do not dead letters "sound like dead men?" (73). Bartleby's condition seems to the narrator an intensified experience of human mortality. He therefore commemorates Bartleby's passage as a testament of the human tragedy, joining the man and the crowd in his closing lament, "Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!" (74).
The narrator's sentimental closure to Bartleby's story links Bartleby with the very chain of existence he preferred to avoid. This conjunction of Bartleby with humanity—the agoraphobic's nightmare—also elides the differences between the domestic preferences of Bartleby and of his employer, thus diffusing the force of Bartleby's renunciation of commercial domesticity. By ignoring the alignment between circulation, life, and death that Bartleby signifies, the narrator's solution preserves the commerce his version of domesticity tacitly transacts. The narrator would have us believe that Bartleby, continually witnessing letters on doomed errands of life, speeding to death, suffered from an overexposure to death, when death is precisely what Bartleby sought. The very idea of an errand—of letters reaching their destination—is anathema to Bartleby, who evades every form of intercourse, whose preferences cannot even attach to an object. The anorexic tries to deny food and body of any relation by transforming objects of consumption into threatening, alien forces; she asserts the body's independence from the
objects of its desires. Similarly, Bartleby detaches himself from things and all activities involving things, refusing even to commit himself to predicates that would signify subject-object relations, that would connect his negation to something external to himself. Bartleby hardly exemplifies the tragedy of death; his anorexia attests to the tragedy of circulation. What impels him, or rather what inters him, are not the disconnections caused by death but the connections produced by life.
The success of suicide missions depends on the proper interpretation of the suicidal intention. Bartleby's final act of refusal secures him no recognition for his cause, no canonization by fellow adherents. Despite the intended enunciation of the scrivener's death, the lawyer interprets the tragedy as a confirmation of his own sentimentality. Whereas Bartleby sought to dissociate himself from all forms of economy, the narrator returns the copyist to the sentimental economy. Imagining Bartleby among kings and counselors, the lawyer invokes Job's artificial death wish. In his lament on the misfortunes of his life, Job cries that he would have been at rest with kings and counselors if he had died in the womb, or if his birth and nurturance had been prevented by the knees and breasts. This lament almost comically shifts both the responsibility for Job's unhappy life and its points of termination; the logic of his wish delivers him to a resting point only imaginable in history, only possible for having lived. So Job doesn't wish that he had never been born—but that is precisely what Bartleby wishes when he prefers not to. The lawyer would return Bartleby to history when Bartleby would prefer not to have sucked, to have aborted his existence altogether.
The lawyer's interpretation of Bartleby's death, the tale's circulation of Bartleby's life, subsumes the radical act into the chain of existence and chronicle of history, into literary currency. This final domestication implies that the elimination of the body achieves only partial secession from the commercial. Interpretation invades death's privacy, taking death as a communiqué. Bartleby's imagination of an aborted self, a broken circuit, offers to the sentimental imagination an annexation of the unknown, the widening boundaries of what we think of as the world and women's sphere. In the agoraphobic imagination structuring selfhood in a market economy, death becomes another province, another border to be crossed—the final domestic station to be mobilized. The narrator's attempt to find a transcendent meaning in the Bartleby enigma is thus precisely the triumph of sentimentalism and consumerism: the perpetuation of the preoccupation with private property and personal provinces.
Even death, whether imagined as an escape by Bartleby or invoked as a principle of coherence by the lawyer, repeats the expansion and contraction patterns of the various sects of domestic perfectionists. The agoraphobic structure of domestic ideology, which Bartleby takes to the limit, includes and utilizes mortality within the logic of home protection. The life and death of Bartleby recir-
culates the imagination of being besieged that persists in shaping and defining the economies of capitalism and of private life. Even in death, commerce continues; this is the errand of life on which letters speed to and from death.