Denotative, literal, and technical language—transparent and lacking in resonance—seems to be the opposite of literary language. A vigorous reading of the former, we argue, should seek to realize its opacity and difficulty, its nonidentity with itself. To do so requires a revised and expanded sense of denotation, a rethinking of reference, the dereification of writing, an appeal to more expansive and heterodox archives, a historicism that forestalls or delays the figural, and more reading. Unlike recent literary critical attempts to restrict the field of reading, the practices sketched here seek to remove all limits to that which can be read, researched, and made into meaning.
Ghostly reference is a malleable aspect of representation, a formal nexus that allows for the free play of belief and the production of worlds—two necessary conditions for the formation and sustenance of the liberal subject. In various fictions and one historical circumstance, this essay tries to take ghosts literally, to ask what they are as well as what they mean.