Evert Jan van Leeuwen | Public Similarity or Private Difference: Genre, and the Construction of Individual Identity in Jane Austen and Charles Brockden Brown

17.2/3 Diversen

Abstract

This essay responds to Richard Handler’s work on individual identity construction in Jane Austen’s novels. Handler describes the mode of identity construction in Austen as a process of public recognition of similarity to others in society, and argues that this was the dominant mode of identity construction in Austen’s time. An analysis of the Gothic novel Wieland, by Austen’s American contemporary Charles Brockden Brown, will show, however, that through his utilisation of the Gothic trope of the mysterious wanderer, the novel is able to offer a dissident model of individual identity construction based on the private recognition of difference to others in society.

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June 14th, 2014

David Herman | From Narrative Narcissism to Distributed Intelligence

17.2/3 Diversen

Abstract

This essay focuses on ways in which the final episode of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (sometimes called “the ricorso”) exhibits a deep, constitutive reflexivity. At issue is a propensity for self-characterization that surfaces in repeated specifications of Joyce’s text by the text itself. Despite the chapter’s reflexive (and more specifically recursive) profile, however, my essay disputes the further inference that the text’s self-specifications are tantamount to hermetic self-enclosure. The Wake is not, I contend, a metafictional or proto-metafictional experiment marked by semiotic introversion—e.g., by a bottomless stratification of the text into (self-replicating) levels. Instead, adapting a phrase from Louis Mink and drawing on research pertaining to distributed cognition, I suggest that Wakean reflexivity functions as a cognitive instrument—specifically, a tool for distributing intelligent activity through time and space. Precisely by commenting on its sources and detailing its own compositional mechanisms, Joyce’s final episode suggests the porous-ness of the border between textual artifacts and their interpretive contexts. In this sense, the reflexivity of the chapter can be characterized as “lateral” in nature. Focusing on the linguistic, textual, and narrative protocols required for its own processing, the episode enhances its own capacity to distribute intelligence among textual designs, interpreters making sense of those designs, and the larger, transindividual environment or gestalt in which the activity of making-sense-of-textual-designs unfolds.

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June 14th, 2014