In previous editions of ILS, David Bartine forwarded dissonant counterpoint as a creative means to rethink stagnated modes and problems. This article reads theoretical works by Judith Butler, Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Rancière, and David Graeber against three literary examples—God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Mean Streets, and David Copperfield—that seem to forward contrapuntal models of debt as potential theoretical responses to the U.S.'s debt of exception. Because it does not have to be repaid under the same conditions as do other debts, I argue that this debt of exception can be leveraged all the more effectively against Jacques Rancière's conception of demos. As such, social ontologies of debt in these literary examples become momentary if ultimately limited or negative potentialities against the incursion of a debt of exception into nomos.

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