Volume 46, Number 2 (Summer 2014)



Toward a Counter-Poetics of Quixotism

This essay proposes a “counter-poetics” of quixotism, focusing on quixotic figures as characters, and on the character of quixotism itself in prose fiction, to explain the prominent role of quixotic characters in what we call the “rise of the novel” in eighteenth-century Britain.  To achieve this “counter-poetics,” the essay begins by demonstrating the problems of conflation and precision in the usage of “quixotic” as a genre descriptor.  It then introduces, through an examination of the first principles of character of Don Quixote and others, a theory of quixotism as an exceptionalist character attribute.  Finally, it argues that the exceptionalist character of quixotism was instrumental for the exceptionalist role of the novel as a form deeply invested in declarations of its own originality and difference.

Recreating Genre: Structure, Language, and Citation in Nathaniel West’s The Dream Life of Balso Snell

Though Nathanael West’s work has received significant attention over the past few decades, The Dream Life of Balso Snell, West’s first novel, has been largely forgotten. This lack of critical attention is in part due to the novel’s curious structure. The novel’s metafictive narrative is composed of a disorientating intersection of styles and literary forms—and throughout the novel West cites and references historical and contemporary literary genres. This article proposes a critical reinvestigation of West’s work by examining the extent to which the novel’s narrative structure employs irony, parody, and pastiche to call into question the role of genre in the Modernist novel. In other words, I argue West’s novel employs an innovative narrative structure that serves as a critique of generic conventions in the 1920s and ’30s. Turning to Bakhtin’s and Derrida’s work on citation, I posit that West’s novel is an attempt to renew and reinvigorate genres that have grown stale.

The Citizen’s Progress: Irony, Agency, and the Evolution of the Bildungsroman in Américo Paredes’s George Washington Gómez

The article offers a reappraisal of the ideological implications of literary form in Américo Paredes’s novel George Washington Gómez.  In particular, it argues that the irony that critics have correctly identified  as a distinctive formal departure from traditional Bildungsroman is neither dramatic nor epiphanic, as has frequently been maintained, but is instead adaptive and accommodatory.  Rather than resulting in the failed subject formation that readers have frequently asserted, the novel's irony helps to establish a resolution that provides for a unified subject—although the terms of both this resolution and its subject's unification are markedly different than those found in traditional Bildungsroman.  Accordingly, the reading serves as a case study suggesting the need for more attention to the ways in which we might broaden and more accurately remap accounts of the conceptual and formal evolution of the US Bildungsroman along both temporal and spatial axes.

Redefining Shared Narrative in Lisa Fugard’s Skinner’s Drift and Zoë Wicomb’s Playing in the Light

In recent South African fiction, efforts to promote reconciliation by creating shared narratives have often reinscribed a desire for control over those narratives. Emphasizing commonality of experience, many novels deflect attention from different ways of experiencing the same events and ongoing inequalities that underlie such differences. Lisa Fugard’s Skinner’s Drift and Zoë Wicomb’s Playing in the Light explore alternatives to this quandary. Like their contemporaries, Fugard and Wicomb insist on the responsibility to confront the history of apartheid. Yet they intimate that shared narratives with the power to catalyze reconciliation require ceding control over the limits of one’s own story in a necessarily incomplete responsibility for the voices of others. At the same time, Wicomb complicates this vision, suggesting that an ethics of self-dispropriation through hospitality to another person’s story wars with the need for those who still face unequal opportunities to reappropriate their identities and surroundings.

Double Visions and the Aesthetics of the Migratory in Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project SONIA WEINER

Aleksandar Hemon’s recent novel, The Lazarus Project (2008), exemplifies a migrant consciousness epitomized by a fractured yet facilitating perspective instigated by the rupture of migration. I will explore the ways in which the fragmented consciousness of the migrant finds expression not only in the subject matter of Hemon’s novel, but also in its structure, which is characterized by a series of dualities, ruptures, and fractions. As such, the novel illustrates both the “experiences of transition as well as the transition of experience itself into new modalities, new art work, new ways of being” (Durrant and Lord 12). Rupture and fragmentation are introduced by Hemon through the inclusion of photography within the narrative structure, initiating a dual—verbal and visual—storyline. Given that photographs inherently embody rupture and fragmentation—by means of their subject-matter as well as by their unique representation of time—their inclusion within the framework of the novel underscores the concept of rupture as a central theme of Hemon’s work.

The Omnicompetent Narrator from George Eliot to Jonathan Franzen

Critics reexamining the concept of “omniscience” have yet to distinguish a type of omniscient narrator that has become widespread in recent years: what I call the omnicompetent narrator. This type of narrator, whose scope of all-knowingness extends beyond the thoughts and emotions or pasts and futures of characters, is often associated with writers such as Don DeLillo, Zadie Smith, and Jonathan Franzen (novelists sometimes accused of showing off how informed they are). But this omnicompetent narrator, I argue, has roots in the nineteenth century, and specifically in the fiction of George Eliot. Concerned that the rise of professionalization was encouraging overspecialization, Eliot developed a narrator who could remind readers of the value of generalist knowledge. In recent years, novelists like Franzen have embraced the omnicompetent narrator to a similar end, although this time in response to the overspecialization accompanying a high-tech knowledge economy.



Reading for the Knowable and the Unknowable: Thinking, Feeling, and Learning in the Victorian Novel



BOLT, David, Julia Miele RODAS, and Elizabeth J. DONALDSON. The Madwoman and the Blindman: Jane Eyre, Discourse, Disability

COALE, Samuel Chase. The Entanglements of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Haunted Minds and Ambiguous Approaches

COLE, Sarah. At the Violet Hour: Modernism and Violence in England and Ireland

GOLDSTONE, Andrew.  Fictions of Autonomy

GOTTLIEB, Evan. Walter Scott and Contemporary Theory

PETERS, John G. Joseph Conrad’s Critical Reception

PIZER, Donald. Writer in Motion: The Major Fiction of Stephen Crane: Collected Critical Essays

SANBORN, Geoffrey.  Whipscars and Tattoos: The Last of the Mohicans, Moby-Dick, and the Maori.

SMITH, Chloe Wigston. Women, Work, and Clothes in the Eighteenth-Century Novel.