Nathanael West has been hailed as “an apocalyptic writer,” “a writer on the left,” and “a precursor to postmodernism.” But until now no critic has succeeded in fully engaging West’s distinctive method of negation. In American Superrealism, Jonathan Veitch examines West’s letters, short stories, screenplays and novels—some of which are discussed here for the first time—as well as West’s collaboration with William Carlos Williams during their tenure as the editors of Contact. Locating West in a lively, American avant-garde tradition that stretches from Marcel Duchamp to Andy Warhol, Veitch explores the possibilities and limitations of dada and surrealism—the use of readymades, scatalogical humor, human machines, “exquisite corpses”—as modes of social criticism. American Superrealism offers what is surely the definitive study of West, as well as a provocative analysis that reveals the issue of representation as the central concern of Depression-era America.
Proposes an entirely new socially and politically conscious way of reading.
Ato Quayson explores a practice of reading that oscillates rapidly between domains--the literary-aesthetic, the social, the cultural, and the political--in order to uncover the mutually illuminating nature of these domains. He does this not to assert the often repeated postmodernist view that there is nothing outside the text, but to outline a method of reading he calls calibrations: a form of close reading of literature with what lies beyond it as a way of understanding structures of transformation, process, and contradiction that inform both literature and society.
Quayson surveys a wide array of texts--ranging from Bob Marley lyrics, Toni Morrison's work, Walter Benjamin's Theses on the Philosophy of History, and Althusser's reflections on political economy--and treats a broad range of themes: the comparative structures of alienation in literature and anthropology, cultural heroism as a trope in African society and politics, literary tragedy as a template for reading the life and activism of Ken Saro-Wiwa, trauma and the status of citizenship in post-apartheid South Africa, representations of physical disability, and the clash between enchanted and disenchanted time in postcolonial texts.
Ato Quayson is director of the African Studies Centre, lecturer in English, and fellow of Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge.
Control of the Imaginary was first published in 1989. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
In Control of the Imaginary Luiz Costa Lima explains how the distinction between truth and fiction emerged at the beginning of modern times and why, upon its emergence, fiction fell under suspicion. Costa Lima not only describes the continuous relationship between Western notions of reason and subjectivity over a broad time-frame—the Renaissance to the first decade of the twentieth century—but he uses this occasion to reexamine the literary traditions of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, England, and Germany. The book reconstructs the dominant frames in the European tradition between the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century from the perspective of a Latin American who sees the culture of his native Brazil haunted by unresolved questions from the Northern Hemisphere. Costa Lima manages to synthesize positions from philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, linguistics, and history without separating the theoretical discussion from his historical reconstructions.
The first chapter situates the problem and grounds the emergent distinction between truth and fiction in a very close analysis of one of the first European historians, Fernao Lopes, who sets the tone for the condemnation of fiction in the name of the truth of history and the potential for individual interpretation. Costa Lima pursues these notions through the aesthetic debates of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the writings of the French historian Michelet. He also devotes an illuminating chapter to the invention of the strictures imposed on fiction.
From the origins of modern copyright in early eighteenth-century culture to the efforts to represent nature and death in postmodern fiction, this book explores a series of problems regarding the containment of representation. Stewart focuses on specific cases of "crimes of writing"—the forgeries of George Psalmanazar; the production of "fakelore"; the "ballad scandals" of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the imposture of Thomas Chatterton; and contemporary legislation regarding graffiti and pornography. She emphasizes the issues that arise once language is seen as a matter of property, and authorship is viewed as a matter of originality. Finally, Stewart demonstrates that crimes of writing are delineated by the law because they specifically undermine the status of the law itself: the crimes illuminate the irreducible fact that law is written and therefore subject to temporality and interpretation. This valuable and pioneering work, originally published in 1991 (Oxford University Press), will be of interest to literary and legal theorists, folklorists, anthropologists, and scholars of eighteenth-century and postmodern culture.
Literal Figures is the most important work on John Bunyan to appear in many years, and a significant contribution to the history and theory of representation. Beginning with mainstream Puritan responses to a challenge to orthodoxy—a man who claims he has been literally transformed into Christ and his companion who claims to be the "Spouse of Christ"—and concluding with an analysis of The Pilgrim's Progress, which John Bunyan described as a "fall into Allegory," Thomas Luxon presents detailed analyses of key moments in the Reformation crisis of representation.
Why did Puritan Christianity repeatedly turn to allegorical forms of representation in spite of its own intolerance of "Allegorical fancies?" Luxon demonstrates that Protestant doctrine itself was a kind of allegory in hiding, one that enabled Puritans to forge a figural view of reality while championing the "literal" and the "historical". He argues that for Puritanism to survive its own literalistic, anti-symbolic, and millenarian challenges, a "fall" back into allegory was inevitable. Representative of this "fall," The Pilgrim's Progress marks the culminating moment at which the Reformation's war against allegory turns upon itself. An essential work for understanding both the history and theory of representation and the work of John Bunyan, Literal Figures skillfully blends historical and critical methods to describe the most important features of early modern Protestant and Puritan culture.
In Mimesis and the Human Animal, Robert Storey argues that human culture derives from human biology and that literary representation therefore must have a biological basis. As he ponders the question "What does it mean to say that art imitates life?" he must consider both "What is life?" and "What is art?"
A unique approach to the subject of mimesis, Storey's book goes beyond the politicizing of literature grounded in literary theory to develop a scientific basis for the creation of literature and art.
Fifty years after its publication in English, René Girard’s Deceit, Desire, and the Novel (1965) has never ceased to fascinate, challenge, inspire, and sometimes irritate, literary scholars. It has become one of the great classics of literary criticism, and the notion of triangular desire is now part of the theoretical parlance among critics and students. It also represents the genetic starting point for what has become one of the most encompassing, challenging, and far-reaching theories conceived in the humanities in the last century: mimetic theory. This book provides a forum for new generations of scholars and critics to reassess, challenge, and expand the theoretical and hermeneutical reach of key issues brought forward by Girard’s book, including literary knowledge, realism and representation, imitation and the anxiety of influence, metaphysical desire, deviated transcendence, literature and religious experience, individualism and modernity, and death and resurrection. It also provides a more extensive and detailed historical understanding of the representation of desire, imitation, and rivalry within European and world literature, from Dante to Proust and from Dickens to Jonathan Littell.
Between life and the art that imitates it is a vague, more shadowy category: images that exist autonomously. Pygmalion’s mythical sculpture, which magnanimous gods endowed with life after he fell in love with it, marks perhaps the first such instance in Western art history of an image that exists on its own terms, rather than simply imitating something (or someone) else. In The Pygmalion Effect, Victor I. Stoichita delivers this living image—as well as its many avatars over the centuries—from the long shadow cast by art that merely replicates reality.
Stoichita traces the reverberations of Ovid’s founding myth from ancient times through the advent of cinema. Emphasizing its erotic origins, he locates echoes of this famous fable in everything from legendary incarnations of Helen of Troy to surrealist painting to photographs of both sculpture and people artfully posed to simulate statues. But it was only with the invention of moving pictures, Stoichita argues, that the modern age found a fitting embodiment of the Pygmalion story’s influence. Concluding with an analysis of Alfred Hitchcock films that focuses on Kim Novak’s double persona in Vertigo, The Pygmalion Effect illuminates the fluctuating connections that link aesthetics, magic, and technical skill. In the process, it sheds new light on a mysterious world of living artifacts that, until now, has occupied a dark and little-understood realm in the history of Western image making.
René Girard's Mimetic Theory
Wolfgang Palaver Michigan State University Press, 2013 Library of Congress B2430.G494P3513 2013 2003 | Dewey Decimal 203.4
A systematic introduction into the mimetic theory of the French-American literary theorist and philosophical anthropologist René Girard, this essential text explains its three main pillars (mimetic desire, the scapegoat mechanism, and the Biblical “difference”) with the help of examples from literature and philosophy. This book also offers an overview of René Girard’s life and work, showing how much mimetic theory results from existential and spiritual insights into one’s own mimetic entanglements. Furthermore it examines the broader implications of Girard’s theories, from the mimetic aspect of sovereignty and wars to the relationship between the scapegoat mechanism and the question of capital punishment. Mimetic theory is placed within the context of current cultural and political debates like the relationship between religion and modernity, terrorism, the death penalty, and gender issues. Drawing textual examples from European literature (Cervantes, Shakespeare, Goethe, Kleist, Stendhal, Storm, Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Proust) and philosophy (Plato, Camus, Sartre, Lévi-Strauss, Derrida, Vattimo), Palaver uses mimetic theory to explore the themes they present. A highly accessible book, this text is complemented by bibliographical references to Girard’s widespread work and secondary literature on mimetic theory and its applications, comprising a valuable bibliographical archive that provides the reader with an overview of the development and discussion of mimetic theory until the present day.
How does literature imagine its own powers of representation? Françoise Meltzer attempts to answer this question by looking at how the portrait—the painted portrait, framed—appears in various literary texts. Alien to the verbal system of the text yet mimetic of the gesture of writing, the textual portrait becomes a telling measure of literature's views on itself, on the politics of representation, and on the power of writing.
Meltzer's readings of textual portraits—in the Gospel writers and Huysmans, Virgil and Stendhal, the Old Testament and Apuleius, Hawthorne and Poe, Kafka and Rousseau, Walter Scott and Mme de Lafayette—reveal an interplay of control and subversion: writing attempts to veil the visual and to erase the sensual in favor of "meaning," while portraiture, with its claims to bringing the natural object to "life," resists and eludes such control. Meltzer shows how this tension is indicative of a politics of repression and subversion intrinsic to the very act of representation. Throughout, she raises and illuminates fascinating issues: about the relation of flattery to caricature, the nature of the uncanny, the relation of representation to memory and history, the narcissistic character of representation, and the interdependency of representation and power.
Writing, thinking, speaking, dreaming, acting—the extent to which these are all controlled by representation must, Meltzer concludes, become "consciously unconscious." In the textual portrait, she locates the moment when this essential process is both revealed and repressed.
Centers on the discourse of the liberal intellectual as exemplified in the novels of George Eliot, whose awareness of her aesthetic and social task was keener than that of most Victorian writers.
"Daniel Cottom has produced a readable, well-researched, and thoroughly referenced work that speaks to a broad scholarly audience composed of philosophers, psychologists, sociolinguists, literary critics, historians, sociologists, and anthropologists, to name but a few." --Anthropology and Humanism Quarterly
There are thousands of books that represent the Holocaust, but can, and should, the act of reading these works convey the events of genocide to those who did not experience it? In Textual Silence, literary scholar Jessica Lang asserts that language itself is a barrier between the author and the reader in Holocaust texts—and that this barrier is not a lack of substance, but a defining characteristic of the genre.
Holocaust texts, which encompass works as diverse as memoirs, novels, poems, and diaries, are traditionally characterized by silences the authors place throughout the text, both deliberately and unconsciously. While a reader may have the desire and will to comprehend the Holocaust, the presence of “textual silence” is a force that removes the experience of genocide from the reader’s analysis and imaginative recourse. Lang defines silences as omissions that take many forms, including the use of italics and quotation marks, ellipses and blank pages in poetry, and the presence of unreliable narrators in fiction. While this limits the reader’s ability to read in any conventional sense, these silences are not flaws. They are instead a critical presence that forces readers to acknowledge how words and meaning can diverge in the face of events as unimaginable as those of the Holocaust.
In this ground-breaking work, one of our foremost literary and cultural critics turns to the major figure in English literature, William Shakespeare, and proposes a dramatic new reading of nearly all his plays and poems. The key to A Theater of Envy is Girard’s novel reinterpretation of "mimesis." For Girard, people desire objects not for their intrinsic value, but because they are desired by someone else – we mime or imitate their desires. This envy – or "mimetic desire" – he sees as one of the foundations of the human condition.
Bringing such provocative and iconoclastic insights to bear on Shakespeare, Girard reveals the previously overlooked coherence of problem plays like Troilus and Cressida, and makes a convincing argument for elevating A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the status of a chaotic comedy to a masterpiece. The book abounds with novel and provocative interpretations: Shakespeare becomes "a prophet of modern advertising," and the threat of nuclear disaster is read in the light of Hamlet. Most intriguing of all, perhaps, is a brief, but brilliant aside in which an entirely new perspective is brought to the chapter on Joyce’s Ulysses in which Stephen Dedalus gives a lecture on Shakespeare. In Girard’s view only Joyce, perhaps the greatest of twentieth-century novelists, comes close to understanding the greatest of Renaissance playwrights.
Throughout this impressively sustained reading of Shakespeare, Girard’s prose is sophisticated, but contemporary, and accessible to the general reader.
The recipient of the annual Award for Outstanding Book in Theatre Practice and Pedagogy from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, This Is My Body realigns representational practices in the early Middle Ages with current debates on the nature of representation. Michal Kobialkai's study views the medieval concept of representation as having been in flux and crossed by different modes of seeing, until it was stabilized by the constitutions of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. Kobialka argues that the concept of representation in the early Middle Ages had little to do with the tradition that considers representation in terms of Aristotle or Plato; rather, it was enshrined in the interpretation of Hoc est corpus meum [This is my body] -- the words spoken by Christ to the apostles at the Last Supper -- and in establishing the visibility of the body of Christ that had disappeared from view.
Michal Kobialka is Professor in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota.
Time and Narrative builds on Paul Ricoeur's earlier analysis, in The Rule of Metaphor, of semantic innovation at the level of the sentence. Ricoeur here examines the creation of meaning at the textual level, with narrative rather than metaphor as the ruling concern.
Ricoeur finds a "healthy circle" between time and narrative: time is humanized to the extent that it portrays temporal experience. Ricoeur proposes a theoretical model of this circle using Augustine's theory of time and Aristotle's theory of plot and, further, develops an original thesis of the mimetic function of narrative. He concludes with a comprehensive survey and critique of modern discussions of historical knowledge, understanding, and writing from Aron and Mandelbaum in the late 1930s to the work of the Annales school and that of Anglophone philosophers of history of the 1960s and 1970s.
"This work, in my view, puts the whole problem of narrative, not to mention philosophy of history, on a new and higher plane of discussion."—Hayden White, History and Theory
"Superb. . . . A fine point of entrance into the work of one of the eminent thinkers of the present intellectual age."—Joseph R. Gusfield, Contemporary Sociology
In volume 1 of this three-volume work, Paul Ricoeur examined the relations between time and narrative in historical writing. Now, in volume 2, he examines these relations in fiction and theories of literature.
Ricoeur treats the question of just how far the Aristotelian concept of "plot" in narrative fiction can be expanded and whether there is a point at which narrative fiction as a literary form not only blurs at the edges but ceases to exist at all. Though some semiotic theorists have proposed all fiction can be reduced to an atemporal structure, Ricoeur argues that fiction depends on the reader's understanding of narrative traditions, which do evolve but necessarily include a temporal dimension. He looks at how time is actually expressed in narrative fiction, particularly through use of tenses, point of view, and voice. He applies this approach to three books that are, in a sense, tales about time: Virgina Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway; Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain; and Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.
"Ricoeur writes the best kind of philosophy—critical, economical, and clear."—Eugen Weber, New York Times Book Review
"A major work of literary theory and criticism under the aegis of philosophical hermenutics. I believe that . . . it will come to have an impact greater than that of Gadamer's Truth and Method—a work it both supplements and transcends in its contribution to our understanding of the meaning of texts and their relationship to the world."—Robert Detweiler, Religion and Literature
"One cannot fail to be impressed by Ricoeur's encyclopedic knowledge of the subject under consideration. . . . To students of rhetoric, the importance of Time and Narrative . . . is all too evident to require extensive elaboration."—Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, Quarterly Journal of Speech
In the first two volumes of this work, Paul Ricoeur examined the relations between time and narrative in historical writing, fiction, and theories of literature. This final volume, a comprehensive reexamination and synthesis of the ideas developed in volumes 1 and 2, stands as Ricoeur's most complete and satisfying presentation of his own philosophy.
Ricoeur's aim here is to explicate as fully as possible the hypothesis that has governed his inquiry, namely, that the effort of thinking at work in every narrative configuration is completed in a refiguration of temporal experience. To this end, he sets himself the central task of determing how far a poetics of narrative can be said to resolve the "aporias"—the doubtful or problematic elements—of time. Chief among these aporias are the conflicts between the phenomenological sense of time (that experienced or lived by the individual) and the cosmological sense (that described by history and physics) on the one hand and the oneness or unitary nature of time on the other. In conclusion, Ricoeur reflects upon the inscrutability of time itself and attempts to discern the limits of his own examination of narrative discourse.
"As in his previous works, Ricoeur labors as an imcomparable mediator of often estranged philosophical approaches, always in a manner that compromises neither rigor nor creativity."—Mark Kline Taylor, Christian Century
"In the midst of two opposing contemporary options—either to flee into ever more precious readings . . . or to retreat into ever more safe readings . . . —Ricoeur's work offers an alternative option that is critical, wide-ranging, and conducive to new applications."—Mary Gerhart, Journal of Religion